Either it has come up in conversation with a colleague or you’ve overheard the sentiment somewhere before: “In one hundred years, my music will finally be understood.” Ahem. Bollocks!
Please indulge me as I skirt the contentious issue here, a point I’m sure many would disagree with—the fact that music carries no intrinsic need for comprehension in the first place. Whatever the case may be, the unsettling idea in the statement above, to me, is that century-long time frame. Really, if it’s bothersome that listeners don’t “get” your music in the here and now, what makes you think a collective epiphany will somehow occur long after you’re dead? I certainly wouldn’t count on it. Besides, it’s gravely presumptuous to assume that anyone would actually perform or listen to your music after you kick the bucket.
The whole notion of composing for posterity is troubling. I’ve never given a second thought as to how I might position my music to survive through the ages like, say, the monoliths of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. I can’t say the same about a few of my colleagues, many of whom aspire to such a mantel of excellence and a place in the history books. To me, in the best case scenario, it seems rather artistically trapping, either that or preposterous pipedream.
A concern for creating something to withstand the test of time only yields art hyper-aware of its own self-importance, which ultimately overshadows any visceral significance the piece might radiate. Such a predicated mentality dooms the art to the canonical round-shaped filing cabinet.
There are a few certainties that composers can count on: Music that is relevant today may or may not resonate in the future—and certainly never in quite the same manner. Music created in the present that is not relevant will most likely never be. I’m looking to impact listeners in my lifetime. Otherwise, why even write music?