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Contemporary composers: pretentious and tuneless

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Categories: british composers, composing today, contemporary classical music, music profession

A recent poll carried out by YouGov for the Symphony Hall Birmingham revealed that over 80% of those asked are of the opinion that classical music must change or wither.
Among views collected was this observation that the music of contemporary composers does less than nothing to draw in new concert-goers.
OK, so since when was a pile of bricks, or half a cow in formaldehyde or an unmade bed not unpretentious and out of tune with Joe public?

How about contemporary theatre – that can be shocking or incomprehensible; and who hasn’t described contemporary dance as angular or inelegant.

What is the purpose of contemporary art and the role of contemporary artists if it is not to refect, challenge and celebrate contemporary life?
Or, do the arts exist only to entertain, provide distraction and blot out the real world?

By all means choose your cosy, diatonic comfy-blanket but by doing so, don’t think for a minute that you are helping classical music to have a vibrant and exciting future.
Far from it! This view takes us in the direction of sound preserved in aspic; dust-settled rooms of archaic museums; luddite listening!

If scientists had stopped at Newton’s apple our world would not be less pretentious and less out of tune, it would be more threatening, more incomprehendable and far smaller.

It is no great step for pretentious to become imaginative and for tuneless to become riveting, but it does require an open and enquiring mind and a seeking heart!

Read more of the results of the YouGov poll here.



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