Part Two has led me down a surprisingly challenging path, not so much in the content or requirement of the work but in my ability to keep up and understand the music presented. In this I feel that I’ve only been partially successful. I suspect that my primary fault is my continued deep entrenchment with tonality and a prejudice against anything in which I can’t find an explicit pattern.
After the fragmented nature of Part One’s content, it has been nice to be able to look at specific genres of music in slightly more depth, spending some time with the composers and the works in question. Comparative listening is a lot easier when one is sticking to an area for a while.
I’ve noticed myself shying away from the Internet and moving back to books or publications for information. I’m lucky enough to work in a school with a good library and free rein of whatever the music department has on its shelves. I’ve also been buying recommendations from Amazon and being able to cross-reference information between books turns out to be a surprisingly gratifying experience. Both “The Cambridge Music Guide” (Sadie) and “A History of Western Music” (Grout and Palisca) are splendid resources.
Part of our enjoyment of music lies with its ability to spark emotion and cause comment and this happened several times during Part Two, on both the positive and negative sides of the scale. I’m well aware that my lack of exposure to many of the diverse landscapes of music has left me ignorant but however I look at it I really can’t see any need, desire or justification for “Graphical Scores”. Why should we want a method of communication that is only really understood by the author? I feel that it’s this kind of artistic posturing that gives art music a bad name and hinders its wider consumption.
Aleatoric music is interesting as an academic exercise but I do feel that it’s been given too much leeway. Serious listeners of music get upset when composition or performance is helped along with the use of computers or sequencing hardware as it’s seen as taking some of the humanity away, yet conceptual pieces that allow chance to dictate the output have been lauded as revolutionary. David Cope’s work with computer generated composition upset a lot of people but the result was (and is) definitely musical.
On the other hand, the work of the minimalist composers that I was ready to dismiss became something of a revelation and I’ve started listening to more from Glass and Reich away from my desk, along with more Britten, Sibelius and Stravinsky. My recording of 4’ 33” was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one that I’ve gleefully shown to bemused friends and family.
Overall, my personal experience of Part Two has been a success and I can happily come away from it knowing that I’ve benefitted from the experience and broadened my horizons. Having said that, I won’t be sorry to move into the nineteenth century and back to a period of music with which I am already connected.