From performing La Monte Young’s Composition 1960 #7! It was a unique performance experience. I would have liked to have put together a bit of an ensemble for the performance, but nothing coalesced so we performed the piece on two electric keyboards. On one electric keyboard we held a drone, and the other keyboard was available for improvisation over the drone, limited to the pitches of B and F#. My pianist friend Melissa and I took turns in sets, playing. The instructions for the piece were to "hold" the drone "for a long time". It would have been nice to have a whole different bunch of droning instruments for the performance, but instead I took a raga-like approach to the piece, beginning simply and then gradually adding more complex figures and rhythms (only using B and F#, though!) whilst expanding the register use of the keyboard. As for "a long time", the performance was to coincide with the duration of another performance piece, White for Governor Wallace, which also had variable time lengths. First performance took 1.5 hours, second only 15 minutes, third half an hour, etc..
It was eye-opening working with such minimal material- the bare essence of an open fifth.. I was interested in how different people reacted to the performance.. some people peeked their head in the door, some people stayed for 10 minutes.. one woman stayed for 40 minutes. I’m not sure what thoughts were running through their heads.. probably boredom, but I was interested in opening people’s minds to the concept of performance.. particularly with Young’s work, wear the Eastern philosophies in his music have blended the concept of performance and ritual. It was
"It bears repeating: at the Met, the most expensive opera tickets are indeed expensive, but you can stand behind the orchestra section—or even sit at the upper reaches of the house—for less than the cost of an IMAX showing at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 multiplex up the road. This persistent fiction of “elitism,” and contemporary classical music’s supposed inaccessibility, is one of the strongest propagandistic tools ever devised by the titans of corporate pop culture. They would prefer you not ever cost-compare a Family Circle seat to Satyagraha alongisde a 3D screening of Transformers 3."
-- Seth Colter Walls source: http://www.theawl.com/2011/12/at-satyagraha-and-occupy-lincoln-center
Unfortunately, almost all of classical music and composed music bears the stamp of elitism in our culture. This is primarily the cultivation of ideas propagated by composers, listeners, classical musicians and orchestras.. but also by pop media, who do a pretty good job at telling you what you're supposed to like. Since classical and composed music has been pushed to the margins of society within the last 50 or so years, many organizations adopt the elitist stance as a method with coping with the fact that only a small percentage of people attend our concerts, but hey, look! We're still being funded because we're culturally important despite the odds.
But the other question is, does the pop media trick you into think you're not smart enough/rich enough/sophisticated enough to attend a classical music concert?
Tyler Versluis is a composer and pianist.