Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wandering a Desolate Heath

So much contemporary music has a desperate sound and feel to it. The usual response might be that this is a result of the techniques used, but that is no answer. Why must contemporary music sound like the soundtrack to King Lear? I can understand why in the 20th century it reflected the desolation of that horrific century, but this is a new millennium. Listening to the warmth and good-natured joy of Haydn's music I wonder why can't we access those things in our music? My life is full of pleasures and joys and I don't see why the music can't as well.

This thought was prompted by listening to a clip of Eliza Brown's String Quartet No. 1. This seems like a fine piece, nothing against it. But it does seem, like so much other contemporary music, to be rather "high-altitude desolate". Sure, I'm coining metaphors here, but I'm trying to capture the feel of the music, the aesthetic of it. Here it is, played by the Spektral Quartet:

The best of 18th century chamber music seemed to capture the feel of a intelligent and witty conversation. Must all 20th and 21st century chamber music be like the agonized cry of a lonely soul, lost in the wilderness? (Allow me some exaggeration for rhetorical effect!)

Philip Glass seems one of the few to capture, if not real warmth, at least a kind of bright, cheerful energy. Here is part of his String Quartet No. 5, played by the Kronos Quartet:

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