New compositions...

     I spend a lot of time driving. It's just the way my life is and I'm okay with it. Luckily, Maine has a great NPR affiliate and I can usually get pretty good reception in the car. Other than taking a break from the news, I frequently listen to NPR's comedy and music shows, as well as the occasional public affairs show. What, you might ask, is a folkie, rock and roll obsessed dude doing listening to "classical" music shows? 'Cause it's music, that's why. I'm feeling the need to rant so here I go. Please imagine my voice in the exasperated tones made famous by Lewis Black.

     First of all, if it isn't music composed between 1750 and 1820 or so, it isn't classical music. Dear "classical" music snots, please use the proper terminology if you're going to be so pretentious in your handling of music. I don't care if the sheeple have been misinformed for generations, you should know better. Don't you dare introduce an Aaron Copeland or Gershwin piece during your "Classical Music Mornings" program. That's as dumb as anyone taking up Dick Cheney on an invite to go hunting. 

    Second of all, musicians are musicians, whether it's Mozart or Def Leppard. That Bach guy knew how to party and we all know the legend of W.A. Mozart's party prowess. And just say Bach, you don't need to cough up a phlegm ball every time you say his name. I swear I heard a pretentious "classical" music commentator drag out the last part of Bach's name for five minutes one time. You could almost see him looking down his nose at the filthy masses, even through the radio. 

     Thirdly, what happened to melody? I tried my best last Thursday evening to listen to an NPR program where a composer had been asked to compose a piece to honor Beethoven's Ninth by the same organization that had commissioned the Ninth Symphony from Beethoven himself. The result was crap. Harsh, you might say? Harsh it right. It sounded like a group of fourth grader learning to tune their violins for the first time. 

     I'm sorry, that was mean. The fourth graders sounded much better than what was on the radio. 

    This lack of melody is a big think. We can blame it on rap and hip hop but I don't think they deserve all the credit. Some of the bass lines and stolen loops in the back round of rap pieces (yeah, not singing so it isn't a song) are pretty musical. I think a lot of this responsibility can be placed on 20th century composers who couldn't just compose good music but had to come up with gimmicks, like the 12 tone system. While it is artistically interesting, it still sounds like poop. 

     I'm sorry, that was mean. Many times, if poop is accompanied by farts, it sounds way better than 12 tone compositions. 

     So modern composers, please understand this. Just writing a bunch of random notes all over the score doesn't make it a composition. Find your melody or get off the stage. If you want to write mood music, go compose back round music for television and film (Please Note: John Williams knows melody). So many people fawn over this modern garbage and I don't understand why. Gabriel Faure didn't either. He was one of the few music journalists who didn't go nuts over Wagner's material. Faure made the trip to Germany, listened to the stuff, the wrote about how it wasn't a big deal or really any good. I like Faure. As for Wagner, he ruined opera. He and Bugs Bunny. Now everyone thinks that opera is only large, nay, obese ladies screaming their heads off whilst wearing blonde braids and horned helmets. And while the Ride of the Valkyries is one of the more memorable melodies, mostly because it has been used to emphasize comedic scenes, especially the flying Pinto full of Nazis in the Blues Brothers, most of the rest of Wagner's stuff is still crap. And too long. 

     I'm sorry, that was mean. Crap, especially long ones, are much better than Wagner.

     So why are our kids listening to pop music that has little originality, little melody, and little class? Because most of the new popular music, whether it's a top 40 or a pretentious "classical" music show, is lacking melody. Will our grandkids be able to sing? Will they be able to harmonize in consonant ways? Will they be able to feel free to express themselves playing a Pete Seeger tune, then a Chopin etude, then a piece they wrote? I hope so but the future isn't sounding so good.

     On a positive note, the melody is still out there, it hasn't been vanquished yet. Share someone you know, in the comments below, who is fighting to keep melody alive.


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