Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Few Articles on Music

Here are two interesting articles about music and contemporary music. The first deals with the influence of music on infants. There we learn it's not so much the Mozart Effect as the Wide Variety of Music Effect -- that the important thing is to have complex and simple music across the spectrum. The article ends with Steven Pinker dismissing the value of having your children listen to music by referencing Judith Rich Harris's idea that parents have no effect on their children's personalities or tastes -- which if true, I would be a huge fan of 80's hair metal and/or country music and not The Beatles. Teens and people in their 20's may stray away from their parents in rebellion, but in the end, older adults come around to become who their parents were trying to raise.

The second article deals with the fact that nobody really likes new classical music. Though people like Schoenberg have been around for 70 years now, they're still not actually popular. This is certainly enough time for people to have been raised on the music, yet still it's not considered popular. Babies don't like it, and don't seem to get used to it. In fact, it seems that there is a range within which we appreciate music, and much new classical music is outside that range. So why the "popularity" of new classical among critics and art elites? Precisely because the average person can't stand it, they love it. They don't actually love it, of course, but they insist they do, and that it makes them better people to love it, precisely because no real human being can stand it. It's a way to maintain their elite status, by insisting that bad music is good.


Rafe said...

In his autobiography "Unended Quest" Karl Popper reported that when he was about 20 years old he was a member of Schoenberg's progressive music group in Vienna because he felt that he should try to keep up with modern developments. He never gained any real pleasure from the experience and the last straw came when he was turning the score for a performer who was playing a new Schoenberg piece and he accidentally turned over two pages at once. When he apologised, Schoenberg said "It does not matter". The young Popper decided that if it did not matter that two pages of the piece were left out, he would stick to the classics that he loved.

Troy Camplin said...

I believe I heard that story too. We have a narrative expectation in our works of art. If you can skip pages, there either isn't a narrative, or isn't a very strong one.