Melody is the audience's take-home pay

Instead of addressing a limited, intellectually-oriented audience, [Lou Harrison] reached out for the average concertgoer, seeking beauty through expansive melody and captivating rhythms. "Melody is the audience's take-home pay," he'd quip; and indeed his slow movements typically feature undulating, and frankly sensuous, melodic expression.
That extract comes from Leta Miller's sleeve essay for a CD of Lou Harrison's Chamber and Gamelan works. Today classical music strives desperately to reach beyond its traditional limited, intellectually-oriented audience. Yet Lou Harrison's music remains virtually unknown, presumably because his backstory does not click the right boxes. If any proof is needed of his genius for reaching out to the average concertgoer it is the Rondeaux slow movement of his String Quartet Set as persuasively advocated on this disc by the Kronos Quartet - audition via this link. For larger forces Lou Harrison's equally unknown Second Symphony, Elegiac (listen here) and Third Symphony (listen here) offer audiences take-home pay in abundance. Surely space can be found even in today's genderly correct* concert programmes for Lou Harrison's richly rewarding music.

* Does the adverb 'genderly' exist? Debatable; but I claim it does as evidenced by common usage. New Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


Warren Cohen said…
I think Lou Harrison might be better known and represented than you think. I live just outside NYC and you do get a fair amount of his music played, at least in the States, and certainly around here. Maybe in other places he is less well known.

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