A neoclassicist musical criticism might differ from modernism in several important ways. For one, the shibboleth of supreme originality would be discarded. The imprimatur of artistic validity in a new work would no longer be granted only on account of novelty. Musical culture would begin to be unafraid of music that is strongly connected to the past or to other contemporary works. Concerns about “plagiarism” and the shunning of the “derivative” would be muted. The music critic’s ﬁrst criterion would not be, Is the work original? Instead, it would be, How beautiful and skilled is it? Where there is innovation in the work, the critic might ask, What good purpose does this innovation serve? Does it serve beauty, clarity, meaningfulness, or catharsis (the goals of classicism)? Or again, the critic might ﬁrst ask, How is the message of this work made clear, while being beautifully rendered? The critic’s assessment of novelty would be distinctly secondary.From Webster Young's Can There Be Great Composers Anymore? from the Spring 2008 issue of The Intercollegiate Review.
In this way, innovation would not come at all costs, and the highly skilled use of common materials would become acceptable and appropriately honored. Critics and audiences would not be taken aback by something that sounds similar to another new work—or even an old work. The real question would concern the meanings and possibilities involved and the skill of presentation. The old would be welcome as long as there is present within it a grain of the new. This new element might not at ﬁrst seem very novel, but nonetheless might constitute the seed of things to come. It would be available to all as common material—something that could have meaning and be of use to other artists in a process of reﬁning the art towards a common and beautiful and profoundly human purpose or goal.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Neo-Classicist Music Criticism
These are good words to live by: