I was never into the music of Steve Reich until I attended a concert by Nexus, where they brilliantly performed his Dance Patterns and Mallet Quartet. I always knew Reich was one of the most important living composers, and as I continually mull over the future of concert and composed music, I realized what his music meant to me. Reich taught me that the future doesn't lie with a firm separation between "elitist" modern classical and "banal" pop music, and now I see today that the divide between these two worlds is slowly collapsing, for better or for worse.
My belief is that the central differentiation of these two genres lies in musical notation: Art music will continue to use notation while pop music will continue to do without it. Likewise, art music cannot exist without notation, since that world has always relied on it: it's been a pinnacle and a pride of Western art music since the Middle Ages.
If this grows to be the case, we're in for a new experience of lots of cool music from a variety of backgrounds, but we're also positioned in a time of incredible instability, especially for concert musicians and composers.
Here's some great minimalist music I've been listening to!
Etude for three mirrors, for chamber ensemble (1982). Laszlo Melis
9 Through 99, No. 20c, for alto sax, tenor sax, violin, cello, marimba, vibes and piano (2003/2005) Peter Adriaansz.
Bubblegum Grass/Peppermint Field, for string quartet and gamelan elektrika (2011) Ang
Whether you view it as a positive or negative force, the face of classical music and even new art music and concert music is changing. As a composer, I'm always dwelling on how my music is perceived by listeners: do I lump myself with other "classical composers" such as Bach and Beethoven, or am I part of something musically different, completely unrelated? Over the past few years a number of manifestos have popped up on the Internet that call for a new change to the face of art music. This change is arising almost as a means of survival due to an aging classical audience, plummeting ticket sales and bankrupt orchestras.
The first such manifesto I read is written by "Eidelyn", and is quite lengthy, but very interesting. I personally don't agree with everything Eidelyn has written about in his manifesto, but he raises many critical and valid points. Read for yourself and decide:
Ah, mid-October... Nothing but midterms, long rehearsal times and of course, a lot of coffee to keep things running smoothly. Along with all of these things, I'm in the midst of applying for graduate programs in composition, while I finish my undergraduate degree at Brock University.
I'm currently working on two pieces of music, my commission for the St. Catharines Chamber Music Society, which is a work for string quartet and baritone. While I'm composing, I have to remember that baritones aren't tenors, and that they aren't fond of ledger lines in their parts!
The other composition is a lighter work for string trio, and is a continuation of my current fixation with stringed instruments.. first my quartet "Hidden Knowledge", then this commission, and now this trio. And I'm also learning to play the viola, I'm getting my fix, for sure!
This blog will be about my compositions, as well as any little musical things I periodically stumble upon. Stay tuned!
Tyler Versluis is a composer and pianist.