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The Paradox Of Dissonant 20th Century Music

  Of course, many concertgoers are stubbornly conservative folk who want to hear pleasingly euphonious sounds at concerts , as well as equally conservative opera fans .  Their ideal is the richly melodious music of Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Rachmaninov , and other Romantic composers . If a conductor has the audacity to program something by Arnold Schoenberg or other atonal and 12-tone composers , or even tonal but harmonically spicy music by the likes of Prokofiev ,Shostakovich ,Bartok, and other 20thcentury composers ,
it's the aural equivalent of a root canal for them .

   Likewise, many
 opera fans want their beloved staples of the operatic repertoire such as Carmen, Aida, Faust, Lucia Di
Lammermoor,  Rigoletto, La Traviata  and La Boheme.  But many would not be caught dead at a performance of Berg's great atonal 20th century operas Wozzeck and Lulu , or even worse, Schoenberg's  thorny  Biblical masterpiece Moses & Aron . 

   Yet, paradoxically , many of them hear harshly dissonant music all the time whenever they go to the movies
or watch television , or  watch movies on DVD.  And it doesn't bother them the least bit.  Why? Because they're hearing the music which accompanies the film ,  and it adds to their enjoyment of that film .  When you watch horror or adventure movies where the zombies are attacking, hostile aliens have landed on earth ,  a guy is turning into a werewolf , or  when Indiana Jones is going through his adventures ,  the dissonant music  doesn't bother you at all, unlike sitting through it in the concert hall. 

   Some of this music is written by film composers , and some is taken from music not originally meant for film .  Here's an example.  In Stanley Kubrick's  unforgettably spooky "The Shining ",based on the Stephen King novel ,  the music of the great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was used in several scenes. 

   In particular, this was his masterpiece "Music For String, Percussion and Celesta ,"  a work which is not atonal but  often very spiky harmonically .  The third of its four movements was used in the film , the
eerie slow movement, which is full of  the most creepy nocturnal sounds you could ever imagine . The music was perfect for the film . 

   But unfortunately , many concertgoers will find this great work to be  a very unpleasant experience in the concert hall , which is a pity .  Do try this work by Bartok on CD ,  especially with the recordings of such great Hungarian conductor as  Sir Georg Solti and Fritz Reiner, who knew Bartok personally .

Posted: Oct 25 2011, 06:27 PM by the horn | with no comments
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