Comfort music comes in many different forms
A comment added to a recent post asserting that the "Problem with this article is that Mahler symphonies are so much more listenable than anything by, say, Malcolm Arnold" deserves a response. Let's leave aside that Mahler was a major influence on Sir Malcolm and that there are many similarities between the two composers: for instance the Mahlerian resonances in the second movements of the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. More troubling is the assertion that 'listenable' or not - defined as 'easy or pleasant to listen to' - is now how we judge art music. Comfort music comes in many different forms, and they do not all fall into that definition of easy or pleasant to listen to.
We now live in a new dark age. A few weeks ago I hiked from Imlil up the slopes of Mount Toubkal in Morocco's High Atlas, and the next day I stood with my wife and our daughter at the point where shortly afterwards security forces and the world's media gathered following the horrendous murders there. Absolute evil is always the evil inflicted by humans on humans. Comfort in this dark time has been provided by Missy Mazzoli's Vespers for a New Dark Age. This distorted, wild, blasphemous and, at times, unpleasant to listen to take on the traditional Vespers service uses fragments of Matthew Zapruder's poetry. The text of the opening movement is so painfully relevant:
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If the heart makes
the sound of two violins
sleeping in a baby carriage,
then new technologies
cannot make us
both more loyal and free
Wayward free radical dreams,
I want to be loyal,
I say it once into the darkness.
Come on all you ghosts,
try to make me forget you.