Neil Rolnick is extremely soft-spoken and self-effacing, but for over 30 years he has helped to create a much changed musical landscape in the United States in terms of musical aesthetics and the application of technology in concert performance.
There have been many purposes for music—dance, worship, military formations, political campaigns, etc.—but listening can make all of music available to you whether or not you partake in those activities.
The so-called passive mode of experiencing information—music, books, theatre, film, visual art, lectures—enabled me to pay attention to others and offered me world views that can span any place or any time. All of this would have been completely out of reach to me otherwise.
Throughout his latest CD, Romance, Buenos Aires-born and Brooklyn-based Fernando Otero ratchets up the contemporary classical music allusions that were already in evidence on his post-Tango Nuevo 2008 Nonesuch album Pagina de Buenos Aires. But on the new disc, he also explores and combines many other musical idioms ranging from jazz to musical theatre and beyond.
“Only the really good stuff survives. Can you name anything that’s still popular from over a hundred years ago that’s no good?” a friend of mine asked almost rhetorically, pretty much convinced that I would not be able to come up with something to refute his claim.
Is paying complete attention to someone else (e.g. listening to their music quietly) an act of subservience that ought to be discouraged? Or does a passive though total experiential immersion allow for a greater understanding of the world and all the disparate people who inhabit it? Might the latter sometimes also lead to the desire to create something that we hope that others would want to pay attention to?
Although the legendary musical revolutionary Edgard Varèse would be his lifelong mentor, Chou Wen-chung is a consummate traditionalist who has devoted his entire life to reconciling the disparate musical legacies of East and West.
Two songwriter friends of mine who don’t self-identify as composers claim that it is much easier for them to write music than it is for them to write words. Perhaps songwriters have a much easier job of it than folks who only write music since the words they are writing music to are already theirs.
Justin Rubin’s penchant for triple meter and lush harmonies yields a music that exists somewhere between tonal and non-tonal realms; it is not quite comfortable being limited to either paradigm but totally comfortable in the ambiguity.
Before I ever got interested in classical music, it baffled me that dead composers were more of a draw than living ones, but perhaps that’s why classical music doesn’t capture the interest of more of the general public.