Sunday, June 07, 2015

In praise of music it is worth hearing now and then

Today's binary culture forces everything - including art - into the dualistic framework of 0 or 1, good or bad. A classical work is either a masterpieces or an also ran, and as a result audiences are denied permission to like unfamiliar music. In the bibliography of Be Here Now Ram Dass uses the less exclusive taxonomy of books to hang out with, books to visit now and then, and books its useful to have met. Every composer anniversary cloud has a silver lining, and the Scriabin centenary brings Decca's laudable budget priced Scriabin: The Complete Works. Among the 18 CDs there is music it is useful to have met such as Alexander Nemtin's contentious realisation of the monumental Preparation for the Final Mystery - described by the composer's biographer Faubion Bowers as a “cataclysmic opus to end the world and its present race of men". Then there is music to visit now and then such as the three symphonies, which include the overexposed Poem of Ecstasy. And then there is music to hang out with, notably the solo piano works. Surely the key to both reaching new audiences and consolidating the all-important existing audience is restoring the balance between music that it is comfortable to hang out with, and music it is worth hearing now and then.

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