Monday, September 26, 2016

Elemental in effect - a great symphony of the 20th century

That rock formation was photographed by me in the Zakros Gorge in the remote east of Crete where I am currently staying. The gorge is known as the Valley of the Dead because of the Minoan cave burials that have been discovered there. After hiking through the gorge yesterday I read John McLaughlin Williams' astute observation on Facebook that Arnold Bax's Fifth Symphony is “elemental in effect.... this is one of the great symphonies of the 20th century”. Bax's Fifth is clearly influenced by Shostakovich without being derivative, just as the symphonies of Malcolm Arnold – the tenth anniversary of whose death has just passed - are influenced by both Mahler and Shostakovich. Contemporary audiences appear to have an insatiable appetite for both Shostakovich and Mahler; yet the cartel of celebrity musicians, agents and concert promoters that controls classical music does not give audiences the opportunity to hear Bax and Arnold. If classical music really wants to expand its reach it should heed these thoughts from the Buddhist teacher Rama-Dr Frederic Lenz*:
Human beings usually train their young to run way from things that they don't understand. It is an old bad habit. They teach their children to hide from, rationalize and be unduly afraid of, death, the immensity of life, and the experience of the spirit. When human beings live this way, they shut out both the high and low frequencies in their lives. This leaves them with the boring midrange experiences in daily living that they perceive to be safe. In this way the world of human experiences is reduced to a world of feeding, toiling for a living, reproducing and continuously fending off the unknown.
* Rama-Dr Frederic Lenz (1950-1988) was a controversial spiritual teacher, sometime record producer and best selling author. He left an $18 million estate which included two homes and two Range Rovers; the proceeds from this have been used to support many Buddhist organisations in the States. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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