Well, that was fun.
In most cases, I end up preparing/presenting a month or so of posts as a program, building around an idea or connecting things by some underlying concept. But not this month. Also, drop down below to the honorable mentions lists and a small soapbox moment below it.
As discussed in the intro to this series, there were a few high points of ‘things I should have gotten around to before now,’ like Vivaldi and Paganini, violinistic Italians, but also C.P.E. Bach. There was also some more stuff I was excited to get around to, names to get up on the blog, like John Field, Robert Simpson, Egon Wellesz and Alfred Schnittke. There will eventually be more from just about everyone on this list, but I’d like to get to some honorable mentions.
Originally, I had a plan, a quick one, and the ‘month of new composers’ roster filled up quickly. There was some music on the list(s) that I was quite forthright about not liking, but wanted to get some names up on the board to say I’d done them. Others had been recently performed at concerts, or more obscure things I stumbled upon. In any case, the composers who almost made this month’s tally but didn’t are:
For orchestral works:
For chamber works:
- Mel Powell
And currently none of them are on any roster coming up through at least the spring of next year, but that could well change. Now I can throw those sticky notes away.
I was speaking just yesterday (at the time of this writing) with a friend about music, and maybe being a little bit overzealous with music recommendations, but there’s so much music out there to listen to, and it is at once almost entirely risk-free and can be monumentally gratifying.
I’m sure that people have nostalgic associations, sentimental memories associated with a specific song (or if you’re really musically serious, a whole album), but think of a book you got really into, one that you couldn’t tear yourself away from but read a long time ago. That book, the things you experienced vicariously through it, have no, whether you like it or not, become a part of you and your experience. You had an emotional response, a connection, an interaction with that stimulus, and you can recall it with fond or bitter memories.
Music can be, and often IS that way. Whether you put on $300 headphones and sit in your fancy recliner or your iPhone headphones (my choice) while you’re ironing clothes or running errands, there’s almost zero downside to giving some time to experiencing music. In the podcast episode featuring Bob Lord, CEO of PARMA recordings, he spoke briefly of “entry points”, saying for him it was Bartok and Stravinsky, not Bach or Handel.
Find something you think you’ll like, or more interestingly, something you think you won’t, and learn a little bit about it.
Living in today’s media-saturated, over-connected world, the ubiquity of pop culture, tabloid celebrity media crap or political drivel can be overwhelming, but one wonderful advantage we have is that of ready access to music and resources about it. Think of it like a blind date with a new hobby. You’re not paying the bill, and you’re not even being inconvenienced because it’s wherever and whenever you want it to be. Pick out a Beethoven symphony, a Shostakovich concerto (violin or cello, I’d say), a song cycle from Schubert, a Bartok quartet. Something interesting, historical, unfamiliar, whatever, and listen to it, read about the composer, make an itty-bitty project of the work and/or things related to it.
You have almost literally nothing to lose. I was quite interested in listening to the piece below, and was considering buying a recording of it, but didn’t know which one. I’d never even heard the piece, but know the composer and am curious to get to know him better.
YouTube is free. So I listened there. And to be honest, it satisfied my curiosity enough. I haven’t bought a recording yet, but the score is there, as is some feedback from other listeners (in the comments, a dark place in the online world).
YouTube is free! Find something and put it on and listen while you’re playing Angry Birds (or whatever the cool kids play these days) or solitaire or doing a mildly engaging but not distracting task. Finding new music you love and learning more about it is one of the most satisfying and resource-unintensive things you could possibly do.
I listened to some new music this month (sort of; I picked it because I kind of knew it) and enjoyed it. Find a place to start, pick something, do a bit of reading, and enjoy. There’s so much amazing stuff at our digital (and literal) fingertips.