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[DISCUSSION] The role of contemporary?


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4 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

 

 

It isn't difficult to translate these effects into the realm of music. So, what does everyone think about avant garde music? Is it real music? Is it true artwork? And, ultimately, what is its role in society?

 

 

This evokes another point that I've pondered on. Is composing about process or result? (Again the same could be said of all art forms.) If a work is aimed at an audience the result is important. However there's plenty of evidence around that some composers derive much pleasure from the process of composing itself, then try the result on listeners and shrug at an indifferent reception, suggesting that process is more important to them.

I'd listen to the BBC's "Hear and Now" broadcasts of a Saturday night - avant garde contemporary. My reactions varied but I wonder how many of those composers really knew what they'd composed. Had their work been commissioned by the BBC through contacts in academia? Did someone at the BBC sightread the score or tried it out on a piano if that was possible? The fact that errors in performance didn't matter finally dimmed my interest. Alas, too many were premières as well as dernières on the same night.

I'm reminded of Pierre Boulez claiming that Messiaen's Liturgies were like "brothel music". WHAT.....? What kind of brothels did Boulez go to to find that out? I also remember he wrote a piece "Le Marteau sans Mâitre" roughly translated as "a hammer out of control". The music sounds like that too.

Who of the music listening public remembers any of Boulez' music?

 

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MOD NOTE: This thread was originally locked with posts removed insofar as they became or led to inciting remarks for further review from me and OP. I will admit that this was a hasty decision and I do

To me these questions are among philosophical questions for which I can’t find an answer. The same could be asked about fiction, poetry, dance, contemporary film, spectator sports - perhaps even fine

The role of composers is supposed to be, as all the arts were before modernism, to create beauty and cultural affirmation. Today, the main thing composers are seeking to do is be a part of corpor

7 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

I think we all agree that the standards of art have changed, in that they've been removed altogether. I'm not sure that it really matters what any of us composers on this forum classify as art or non-art, good or disgusting, cacophonous or lyrical. Absolutely a painting with menstrual blood cannot objectively compare to the likes of such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa, but I'm afraid that's the point—there is no objectivity because our society does not value objectivity. Those of us who still value objectivity may argue with those who do not until we're blue in the face (or fingers), and to what end? We're not going to change someone's values. All we can do is try to understand them—and hopefully, with time, come to a point of mutual respect.

It's not that people don't believe in objectivity in general, the pervasive nature of scientism proves that. Science supposedly deals with the objective, and so it has taken the place of religion for many today. You see this every day now to the point it's a meme: A guy in a labcoat or someone with a degree on TV can say literally the most insane things, and people believe it because of the objectivity of "science".

What this leads people to believe is that no objective value judgement can exist, because everything is just brain chemicals and neurons firing, and so none of this really matters; the consequence of viewing everything as a mechanics of nature is a complete lack of standards and even morality. Don't feed your kids because you want to just play video games? Perfectly valid choice, because nothing really matters and it's just biology that makes most people value kids more. Paint some lines and shapes in a random pattern with period blood? Just as good as anything else, because our reactions are all in the mind and so none of it is really real anyway.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9637619/young-brits-life-lacks-purpose/

That is ultimately what feeds this idea of "there is no good or bad" and art and music are made to reflect that as well now, because aspiring to high standards and the aesthetics of the past civilizations tends to pull one out of that nihilism and appeals to people's higher spirits and idealism. 

and that's the last thing the corporate elite want you to have, because people with a sense of pride and seeking something more and better don't make for good consumerist worker drones.

 

 

 

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I feel that the questions you are asking are at the very heart of modern classical/ contemporary music. Right out of the gate I will say I find the music of Cage Schoenberg and Webern very unmusical and more academic than actually music, though of course that is just my opinion. 

I also see those experiments as why composers must go to absurd lengths to justify the choices in their compositions other than "it's what they wanted to write" not they must be inspired by some obscure ancient myth about the world being an egg in some birds stomach or some nonsense like that. I do believe that this has caused music to ascend to the "elite" areas. because most "modern" composers must produce an essay to explain their work other than the fact they had a really cool idea for a symphony. 

One composer I am glad who does not follow this pattern who I am surprised I have not seen on here is Alma deutscher. she is very unapologetic in her writing. and just writes what she wants. I hope this paves the way for the next generation of composers to truly write pieces for the sake of beauty rather than academia.

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3 hours ago, Bradley Scarff said:

I do believe that this has caused music to ascend to the "elite" areas. because most "modern" composers must produce an essay to explain their work other than the fact they had a really cool idea for a symphony. 

Yeah, it's just literature. Artspeak meant to dazzle and confuse; to turn one against their instinctual reaciton.

3 hours ago, Bradley Scarff said:

One composer I am glad who does not follow this pattern who I am surprised I have not seen on here is Alma deutscher.

Indeed.

I remember Alma popping up on some other forums and she triggered some serious boomer rage.

The main criticism was the Greenbergian Jargon favorite of "it has nothing to say™" a meaningless statement unto itself, but these people can never seem to explain exactly how music is made better by these trite games of trying to figure out the puzzle of what the composer is "saying".

The best part of that, I notice, is that it is generally the same people who believe "good and bad" are subjective, who will denounce composers as bad for not having enough "to say", because while quality is supposedly subjective, the "meaning" of a piece apparently is tangible, we're all just too dumb to see it, and therefore it must logically be objective...

It's almost like those people are relativists when and where it's convenient for them

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15 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

At this point in the thread, the major theme appears to be that of modern vs. traditional standards of art.

This is usually what happens when children are involved.

 

I don't really understand the point of being antagonist towards other people's tastes in music, plus, writing music in different styles and aesthetics is usually a powerful learning tool.

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8 hours ago, Bradley Scarff said:

One composer I am glad who does not follow this pattern who I am surprised I have not seen on here is Alma deutscher. she is very unapologetic in her writing. and just writes what she wants. I hope this paves the way for the next generation of composers to truly write pieces for the sake of beauty rather than academia.

Personally, I really dislike Alma Deutscher. Not for her music, it's up to yourself if you want to write music in galant style. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it seems that she is from a very elite background lacking a broad horizon in music. Deutscher goes to far in my opinion by trying to restore a tradition that is over. She is young, yes, and I will keep following her career and progress she makes, but I fear that her elite background and high-class family will prevent her to find her own way. Also, the pressure on her must be great.
Yes, she writes joyful music, but most of it sounds kitsch, fake, artificial to me, because she is composing in galant style.

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11 hours ago, Quinn said:

This evokes another point that I've pondered on. Is composing about process or result? (Again the same could be said of all art forms.) If a work is aimed at an audience the result is important. However there's plenty of evidence around that some composers derive much pleasure from the process of composing itself, then try the result on listeners and shrug at an indifferent reception, suggesting that process is more important to them.

For me composing is about the result. Through the process there will be a result, so the process should take into account the result.
I am not a support of writing for the audience. What is the audience, who is the audience, what will they think? Writing for the audience, which means that you continuously need to take into account opinions and assumptions that are filled in by yourself, prevents me from focussing on my goal namely the music itself.
Composing that there will be an audience is key to a succesful situation for both the composer and the audience.

Not thinking at all about the audience seems kind of selfish to me: you compose, because it is about the process, you do not think about the audience, but still you expect the audience to listen to your music?

11 hours ago, Quinn said:

I'm reminded of Pierre Boulez claiming that Messiaen's Liturgies were like "brothel music". WHAT.....? What kind of brothels did Boulez go to to find that out? I also remember he wrote a piece "Le Marteau sans Mâitre" roughly translated as "a hammer out of control". The music sounds like that too.

Well, it is Boulez. Boulez was hating on anybody he did not find progressive enough. At a certain point he even started to exclaim that Cage,with whom he had been good friends, was not avant-garde enough. Boulez was a dreamer in his own world, an egocentric composer. He was disrespectful to anybody, imagine calling your teacher's music ''brotherl music''.

6 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

The main criticism was the Greenbergian Jargon favorite of "it has nothing to say™" a meaningless statement unto itself, but these people can never seem to explain exactly how music is made better by these trite games of trying to figure out the puzzle of what the composer is "saying".

The best part of that, I notice, is that it is generally the same people who believe "good and bad" are subjective, who will denounce composers as bad for not having enough "to say", because while quality is supposedly subjective, the "meaning" of a piece apparently is tangible, we're all just too dumb to see it, and therefore it must logically be objective...

You point out a crucial issue: that music should say something social, political, emotional, programmatic. I am really proud and fortunate that I have three students from Louis Andriessen as my teachers: Martijn Padding, Calliope Tsoupaki and Cornelis de Bondt (check them out). What I like about the attitude they have is that their music is focussed on music that stands on its own. It does not need an explanation. There is an explanation, but it is not necessary. They found a golden mid-way between making what people can understand and want to listen to and making music that you want to write.
 

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1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Personally, I really dislike Alma Deutscher. Not for her music, it's up to yourself if you want to write music in galant style. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it seems that she is from a very elite background lacking a broad horizon in music. Deutscher goes to far in my opinion by trying to restore a tradition that is over. She is young, yes, and I will keep following her career and progress she makes, but I fear that her elite background and high-class family will prevent her to find her own way. Also, the pressure on her must be great.
Yes, she writes joyful music, but most of it sounds kitsch, fake, artificial to me, because she is composing in galant style.

 

I believe that it is more important to write what you feel rather than what academically you should. composition is a very subjective skill and one should never try an bog people down because of it. they should be free to experiment and make their own choices. I feel the modern academic way of studying composition is absurd. and way to philosophical with the whole "what is music" nonsense. 

and in reference to Alma is that her works will mature. this is the equivalent of the young Mozart pieces. they will get better than they already are as in my opinion she is producing true music rather than academic works. it's the reason she can sell out Carnagie hall and most modernist composers cannot.

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1 minute ago, Bradley Scarff said:

I believe that it is more important to write what you feel rather than what academically you should. composition is a very subjective skill and one should never try an bog people down because of it. they should be free to experiment and make their own choices

This is just why I am feeling sorry for Alma, because she lives in such a private, elite atmosphere, it is hard for her to go outside the box of what her environment offers her.

3 minutes ago, Bradley Scarff said:

composition is a very subjective skill and one should never try an bog people down because of it.

Of course, but you said you wanted a new generation of people that would write beautiful music again, assuming that you mean going back to traditional music and the style Deutscher writes in. I disagree with this hope, I strongly hope not we go back to the days of Mozart and Beethoven.
Instead, I prefer to find beauty in different musical languages than the ones that were. Therefore, I am a great admireror of Messiaen. He seeks for beauty in his own language, which is not that far from tradition as it seems.

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26 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

This is just why I am feeling sorry for Alma, because she lives in such a private, elite atmosphere, it is hard for her to go outside the box of what her environment offers her.

Of course, but you said you wanted a new generation of people that would write beautiful music again, assuming that you mean going back to traditional music and the style Deutscher writes in. I disagree with this hope, I strongly hope not we go back to the days of Mozart and Beethoven.
Instead, I prefer to find beauty in different musical languages than the ones that were. Therefore, I am a great admireror of Messiaen. He seeks for beauty in his own language, which is not that far from tradition as it seems.

 

Of course people are able to find their own voice. and I am aware music evolves. my wish is people write what they want over what academics push for them too write in the hopes of creating abstract art rather than art for art's sake. people should have the right to express themselves rather than be choked by having to explain their position in-depth. and explain why each note was placed where it was. I was asked by a teacher why I chose C minor for the key of the first movement of my concerto. I didn't have an answer, I just chose it because it's what I felt like. there was no abstract reason. 

I feel people are moving away from the "traditional style" because a lot of what can be composed has been perfected by various people. this of course does affect what people write Brahms was the first person to write a symphony some 50 years after Beethovens ninth if I remember correctly (don't quote me on that) 

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2 hours ago, Bradley Scarff said:

Of course people are able to find their own voice. and I am aware music evolves. my wish is people write what they want over what academics push for them too write in the hopes of creating abstract art rather than art for art's sake. people should have the right to express themselves rather than be choked by having to explain their position in-depth. and explain why each note was placed where it was. I was asked by a teacher why I chose C minor for the key of the first movement of my concerto. I didn't have an answer, I just chose it because it's what I felt like. there was no abstract reason.

Yes, I think that this atmosphere that exists in some academies is really unhealthy for the development and motivation for the composer's creativity and its output. However, it depends per place. I went to Berlin to look if I liked the conservatory, indeed it was too academic to me, also too theoretical. Paris I also found too academic. The Dutch and English conservatoires are in my experience much more affected by this negative situation that you describe.

2 hours ago, Bradley Scarff said:

This of course does affect what people write Brahms was the first person to write a symphony some 50 years after Beethovens ninth if I remember correctly (don't quote me on that)

I don't know where you read that, but that is just wrong, nonesense.

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7 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

 

I don't know where you read that, but that is just wrong, nonesense.

 

As I said I couldn't remember whether it was true or not. but the effect of such a big event did change the course of composition.

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9 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

I don't know where you read that, but that is just wrong, nonesense.

Brahms was intimidated from writing his own symphony because of Beethoven's reputation for quite some time, but other symphonies were, indeed, definitely written in that period (Mendelssohn, Schumann, etc.)

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4 minutes ago, Bradley Scarff said:

As I said I couldn't remember whether it was true or not. but the effect of such a big event did change the course of composition.

The impact was great indeed. Many composers realised that they now had to deal with a whole new standard in symphonies.

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19 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

The impact was great indeed. Many composers realised that they now had to deal with a whole new standard in symphonies.

 

I believe this is where most people went wild and tried to invent new styles and systems so they didn't have to compete with what had come before, giving rise to Avant Garde, 12 tone and spectralism. all of which I disagree with. 

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Bradley Scarff said:

I believe this is where most people went wild and tried to invent new styles and systems so they didn't have to compete with what had come before, giving rise to Avant Garde, 12 tone and spectralism. all of which I disagree with. 

Artists have always pushed the envelope of their craft, and composers are no exception to that rule. We can surmise all day about "whence cometh these changes?" The bottom line is they stuck. Schönberg was an innovator, and such an influential one that three generations of composers have recognized his genius. Others have come after him, each taking his thought experiments further, or else devising their own. You or I may not like what his music sounds like, but we cannot deny his impact on Western classical music simply because we don't agree with his methods. We would do well to at least understand his methods and acknowledge them as the forerunners of modern Western classical music.

People like Schönberg seem to happen only once a century or so. Perhaps classical music is due for its next major influence. Maybe that someone is you, or somebody else on this forum.

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10 minutes ago, Tónskáld said:

Artists have always pushed the envelope of their craft, and composers are no exception to that rule. We can surmise all day about "whence cometh these changes?" The bottom line is they stuck. Schönberg was an innovator, and such an influential one that three generations of composers have recognized his genius. Others have come after him, each taking his thought experiments further, or else devising their own. You or I may not like what his music sounds like, but we cannot deny his impact on Western classical music simply because we don't agree with his methods. We would do well to at least understand his methods and acknowledge them as the forerunners of modern Western classical music.

People like Schönberg seem to happen only once a century or so. Perhaps classical music is due for its next major influence. Maybe that someone is you, or somebody else on this forum.

 

As you say, pushing the boundaries is what artists always have been doing. It is a natural given to seek for progression, expansions, development. It may sound far-fetched, but the emotional need to push further, explore more is instinctive. 

Perhaps music in the 20th century expanded our borders too quickly, perhaps it went in a wrong direction. A nice question : did 20th century music go in a fatal direction? Can we change this direction or should we start from scratch again? 

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3 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Perhaps music in the 20th century expanded our borders too quickly, perhaps it went in a wrong direction. A nice question : did 20th century music go in a fatal direction? Can we change this direction or should we start from scratch again? 

 

I believe we can change the direction. incorporating different styles into ones pieces so that everyone is individual again. each person needs to develop their own style and incorporate it into their own. 

It's why I've been thinking of doing a diabelli, variations-esque idea. where I submit a theme and challenge you all to write your own variations. as it would really open up how each composer is different and views their music

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I'm going to jump in now. Perhaps it's too late to be of value to the original question, but here's my view anyway.

40 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Perhaps music in the 20th century expanded our borders too quickly, perhaps it went in a wrong direction. A nice question : did 20th century music go in a fatal direction? Can we change this direction or should we start from scratch again?

To be honest, this leads back to the question about whether contemporary (or any) music can be judged objectively. You can only call it a "fatal" direction if you disagree with it (or a "wonderful" direction if you agree with it etc.) It's too late to "undo" what happened during that period. But is Schoenberg still relevant? People tend to lump him with all other atonal and post-tonal composers as "modern". The first atonal compositions are over 100 years old now. I digress.

To be honest, whenever there is a discussion about contemporary music, I am biased by the fact that I dislike a lot of it and choose to write in what is largely a Romantic style. People call the style a thing of the past, which I personally disagree with. The Romantic era itself was of course historical, but what about everyone writing music in that style nowadays? Even on this forum, there are many members that do.

Onto Alma Deutscher. I like most of her music. I don't like her standing up at a ceremony and making a speech which said (or at least strongly suggested) that modern music was "ugly". Some people like it; some people don't. Art is subjective. What will be interesting to see is if her style changes as she moves into adulthood, and if once she is no longer a "child prodigy" (a few months younger than me and having performed to a sell-out audience in Carnegie Hall!) she will still be popular.

Now to answer the original question. I'm going to agree with the belief that music doesn't hold the same place now as it did in centuries past. Anyone can access classical music these days, and composers have the potential to be writing for a wider audience than ever before. I'm going to leave you with an adapted quote (can't remember the exact wording) from a workshop that I attended which concerned 21st Century Music:

"It's no longer me, who was born in the 70s, who is writing the future of music. It's you [speaking to a group of teenagers] who are the 21st century composers who will help to dictate the direction that music takes."

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1 hour ago, Bradley Scarff said:

I believe we can change the direction. incorporating different styles into ones pieces so that everyone is individual again. each person needs to develop their own style and incorporate it into their own.

I am reading through the lines - correct me if I am wrong - some kind of neo-[insert]isms. As I said earlier, we should be cautious of this, since imitating the styles that were can make the newly made less in quality. Of course there are exceptions, but we must consider that building on a style as a foundation for a style that is based on that same foundation can result into odd, unlogical, unnatural styles. There is a chance of imitating rather than composing. When I was younger I also wrote sonatas, symphonies, concertos with the idea that I could learn by imitating the works of 200 years ago, I believed Brahms: one should learn through imitation. However, I came to the conclusion that, although it taught me a lot, the music itself is not worth much: it is an imitation, a bad imitation.

40 minutes ago, aMusicComposer said:

I don't like her standing up at a ceremony and making a speech which said (or at least strongly suggested) that modern music was "ugly".

Exactly this. In one interview she sounded like a manifesto against all contemporary classical composers. We should only have beautiful music, no mess. I could smell some arrogancy from her side too, her thoughts about beauty are very narrow too. She is seen as the flag bearer of the new generation by traditionalists. She is put in that position while she did not even develop herself personally, physically, brain-wise. She is in her teens and putting so much pressure on her will affect her voice, keep convincing her that she is doing the right thing, but in the core she was turned into something that could make what people wanted. I find it a really sad story.

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47 minutes ago, aMusicComposer said:

"It's no longer me, who was born in the 70s, who is writing the future of music. It's you [speaking to a group of teenagers] who are the 21st century composers who will help to dictate the direction that music takes."

For me it is evident that there should change something in the general composer's mindset.
Experimentalism and conceptualism have become the centre of art, they also have become the end. I believe that in the end art must stand on its own, experiments and concepts can be in there, but they must not be requisite to let art be.

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I think you're all taking this way too seriously. Music that doesn't affect you doesn't matter, because nobody else is you. 
If you're championing people who want to write what they want, are we not already doing that? Why hate on Adés, Schönberg, and Xenakis and the type when they did, in fact, write what they wanted to write, theoretical as it may be? Conversely, if there is an objective standard to hold music to (and the composers I just mentioned don't adhere to it), then why allow people the laissez-faire musical option in the first place? Commercial composers/songwriters don't have that luxury, not necessarily because they can't, but because it's their job to write what people like. And why deny audiences that enjoyment?
When we teach composition, we teach students to effectively translate their ideas on "paper" (that's the objective part, what we mean by "good") and expose them to ideas they might have not considered before. After all, why would a student even consider criticism if they didn't know other options existed? The styles past 1920 might be too much for them, who knows? But at least they know it's an option, that it can (not does) have a narrative purpose, even if it isn't yours. 

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4 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

For me it is evident that there should change something in the general composer's mindset.
Experimentalism and conceptualism have become the centre of art, they also have become the end. I believe that in the end art must stand on its own, experiments and concepts can be in there, but they must not be requisite to let art be.

 

 

10 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

I am reading through the lines - correct me if I am wrong - some kind of neo-[insert]isms. As I said earlier, we should be cautious of this, since imitating the styles that were can make the newly made less in quality. Of course there are exceptions, but we must consider that building on a style as a foundation for a style that is based on that same foundation can result into odd, unlogical, unnatural styles.

Exactly this. In one interview she sounded like a manifesto against all contemporary classical composers. We should only have beautiful music, no mess. I could smell some arrogancy from her side too, her thoughts about beauty are very narrow too. She is seen as the flag bearer of the new generation by traditionalists. She is put in that position while she did not even develop herself personally, physically, brain-wise. She is in her teens and putting so much pressure on her will affect her voice, keep convincing her that she is doing the right thing, but in the core she was turned into something that could make what people wanted. I find it a really sad story.

 

I am firmly of the belief one should compose what they wish. the wider audience will address whether they like it or not. there's a reason people go to concerts playing Beethoven over Schoenberg because it is more popular because it is more accessible and less academic. which is my problem with "modern art" which is there must be a reason behind everything. I couldn't care less what you write so long as you are putting should into it. people will be aware if your piece is a shameless knockoff of beethovens fith or of Mozarts string quartets. because people arnt stupid. truly great composers only come around every so often but far less in recent years that are memorable. I think people should have a right o to compose what they want and have it be performed.

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18 minutes ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Exactly this. In one interview she sounded like a manifesto against all contemporary classical composers. We should only have beautiful music, no mess. I could smell some arrogancy from her side too, her thoughts about beauty are very narrow too. She is seen as the flag bearer of the new generation by traditionalists. She is put in that position while she did not even develop herself personally, physically, brain-wise. She is in her teens and putting so much pressure on her will affect her voice, keep convincing her that she is doing the right thing, but in the core she was turned into something that could make what people wanted. I find it a really sad story.

Yes. I as a composer write music that, perhaps, appeals to the "masses" more than much of the contemporary music written (this is not designed to say that contemporary music holds little value, but let's face it, we see from Alma that audiences appreciate galant/romantic music. I don't write it for that purpose, but because it is the style that I like most. This discussion could easily turn into the atonality vs tonality; classical vs contemporary; subjective art argument, but, please, we've had that discussion many times before.

How many people start their composing career writing modern music? Many of us here must have written something that is an imitation of a Classical style (You, Maarten, said that you did.) It was by chance that Alma happened to be prodigious. Add the fact that her parents have good musical connections, and she is set on a path for life, writing music in the style that she started in. As she grows, intakes more music, and gains more independence, she may easily change to write "new" music. But there is a pressure on her, and as you say it could be quite tragic.

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MOD NOTE: This thread was originally locked with posts removed insofar as they became or led to inciting remarks for further review from me and OP. I will admit that this was a hasty decision and I don’t wish to set a precedent of merely halting conversation upon the first sight of danger, though comments that are primarily inflammatory in nature quickly become irrelevant and are socially unwelcome. I want to be clear that my actions were not intended to silence opinions, but quell the heated argument; in this case, my attempts to make peace overstepped and failed. This thread is now reopened as the previous discussion was good, and while I deeply apologize to those involved that I cannot replicate the removed comments, I do hope the conversation can continue as it was, civilly and thoughtfully.

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