Who Says Everybody Hates Modern Classical Music ?
There's an interesting discussion at the classical music blog 101cds.blogspot.com called "Why Nobody Likes Modern Classical Music" . This blog is an excellent and informative guide for classical newbies on how to go about starting a classical CD collection, and it usually discusses famous classical works with suggestions for CDs to aquire.
But the latest post asks the question"Why is new or recent classical music usually received with such hostility or indifference by audiences?" Good question. But what exactly is "modern classical music"? This is a very broad field, with an enormous number of composers in the past 50 years or so writing an enormous amount of music in a bewildering variety of styles. You have the austere serialists such as Pierre Boulez,writing music which is about as easy to listen to as a treatise on nuclear physics is easy to read for laymen. Then you have neo-romantic composers writing in a more traditional style (sort of) modeled on the music of the past.
Then you have the minimalists,such as Philip Gl;ass, Steve Reich and others who devosed a kind of music which is seductively hypnotic to some and maddeningly repetitious to others. There have also been composers such as the late American Lou Harrison, who studied and were influenced by non-western musics such the Indonesian Gamelan tradition, and other trendy non-western influences.
The fact is, that of you attend any concert by one of our symphony orchestras where a new or recent work is played, and you talk to different audience members, you'll get a variety of responses. Some may say they hated the new piece, some might really like, others may say"Well,I'm not sure.I'll have to hear it again", and others might be just plain puzzled. So it's not true that everybody hates modern classical music. It depends on the audience and what is being played.
For example, when PBS presented the the New York premiere of John Adams' recent opera "Doctor Atomic" at the Metropolitan Opera, the audience reaction was obviously very enthusiastic. When the composer took a bow before the audience, he was greeted with nothing but cheers. Elliott Carter, who turned 100 this past December, has been having amazing success in his Indian Summer, and his centennial was widely celebrated all over America and Europe. Mind you, Carter writes music that is incredibly dense and complex, and that looking for hummable melodies in his music is like looking for lush vegetation on the moon.
New American operas such as "Dead Man Walking" by Jake Heggie,based on the famous book about a nun who befriended a death row prisoner, Mark Adamo's "Little Women",based on the classic novel, Andre Previn's operatic adaption of the famous play"A Streetcar Named Desire", "The Ghosts of Versailles" by John Corigliano , and "Cold Sassy Tree" by Carlisle Floyd,are only a few of the operas that have been successfully performed recently in America and elsewhere.
Composers such as Americans Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, John Harbison, Charles Wuorinen, Christopeher Rouse, Joan Tower, Steven Stucky and others are being performed everywhere, and audiences are not always hostile to their music. So it's important to keep a historical perspective; most of the classical music written over the centuries has been forgotten anyway, so if many works written recently don't make in into the"Canon" of classical music, it's no big deal.