9/22/08

Tomatoes or Roses?

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Kent Nagano, stepped down from his position, after 30 years. Nagano was a champion of new music, which made his final program choices a bit odd, at least to Contra Costa Times critic Sue Gilmore. Instead of his usual pushing of the envelope, he programmed two symphonies, by Mozart and Bruckner.

Sue recounts the concert:

In rambling opening remarks, the maestro, a mere 28 when he took the reins three decades ago, acknowledged having lately recast his own concept of what makes music "contemporary." A recent trip to the Arctic Circle where his Inuit audiences reacted with explosive joy to their first exposure to Mozart, and headlines from Bruckner's late-19th-century era that could have been ripped from yesterday's New York Times, convinced him, Nagano said, that contemporary music is...

Full of not-having-a-dictionaryness:

...Nagano said, that contemporary music is "whatever people who are living today can relate to in our contemporary times."

I’m not sure if I want to throw tomatoes or roses. You?
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10 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

Contemporary...but not literally? Bruckner? What?

gustav said...

Well, I think we all understand why he might deserve "roses" for such a statement, but geez, you never want to give people ammo to not listen to music written during their lifetime. There are many who will just see a statement like that as justification that Mozart really is superior to anything in the 20th century, so why should they ever bother to learn it.

And like SA said, Bruckner? Really?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Tomatoes from me.

johnsonsrambler said...

So if somebody (an Inuit, say) might find it 'contemporary', it has potential contemporary-ness for all of us? I'm loading my tomato gun right not. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that only new music, music being written at the moment, might be described as 'contemporary' because it is new and is therefore something we all have to relate to in our contemporary times. Screw that relativistic pussy-footing around with "can relate to if we can be bothered to".

johnsonsrambler said...

... right now.

Empiricus said...

Where did you purchase your tomato gun?

AnthonyS said...

I vote tomato. The lycopene is just an added bonus.

cereal_music said...

I think there's a lot of truth in this statement-- and for the record, I must admit I'm a fan of Nagano's conducting. I think people desire "things" that are new, but newness is (and always will be) relative to the quality of the experience.

BTW, anyone here hear the lastest Du Fay recording? I heard it kicks ass.

Marc Geelhoed said...

At every classical concert, there will be someone there who has never heard something on the program. It's new music to them, and will sound new to them, whether it was written in 1708 or 2008.

Joshua Kosman said...

What Big Marc says is true but irrelevant. The issue here is not listeners' experience, but simple nomenclature. Words either mean something or they don't, that's all.

Nagano's unilateral attempt to redefine "contemporary" to mean "stuff I like" is self-evidently horseshit. Although it's not without precedent — a few years ago I heard Steven Stucky (whom I admire greatly) give a lecture at UC Berkeley in which he attempted to redefine the term "modernism" to mean "20th-century stuff I like."