Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Possible Guest Editorial for a University Newspaper

This is an editorial I would like to send to our local university paper, eventually:

When I first moved here in 1985 I was surprised to find a town with a remarkably lively musical community. I was welcomed by scores of people who were thrilled that an experienced musician from the East had come here to live. I found people to play with right away (a baroque triosonata group, no less), and started giving concerts that were quite well attended by members of the university community and members of the local community. A surprising number of faculty members from departments not connected with music would come to concerts regularly. They came because they liked listening to music.

During the ten years that John David Moore and I have been giving concerts together, we have watched our audience dwindle from a healthy crowd to just a handful of individuals. A number of people have retired and moved away, and a number of people have died.

I suppose that most people on the faculty are busy with obligations and commitments, and some might consider "going to hear someone perform" just another commitment. I am surprised that people who devote their time to the study of English literature and/or History are not excited about the mini concert series that John David and I are playing this Fall. Who wouldn't want to hear music written by British composers on either side of World War I? Do they fear that British 20th century music would be discordant or too intellectual for them to understand? Are they afraid that they won't like the music because it is music written by composers they have never heard of? Are they afraid that they will be bored? Are they afraid that the music won't be played well (after all, the people playing live in this community, and they're offering these concerts for free)? Would they feel ill at ease, and not know what to do?

Never fear. The British composers working during the first two decades of the 20th century did not embrace the progressive musical developments that were gaining popularity on the European continent. Nobody British wrote anything atonal until the 1930s, and even then it was rare. Most British composers saw nothing wrong with doing what they could with traditional melody and traditional harmony--with a few lush extensions. Because the British composers were considered backward by people on the European continent, most of them have been ignored by music scholars (aside from Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Holst, who are extremely popular--go figure).

We are eager to share this music because it is beautiful, interesting, and closely connected with the literature that John David is teaching this semester in his senior seminar. It is music that was current (and very much in the air) when many of the great pieces of 20th-century English literature were being written.

British music from the early 20th century has never held an important place in the general academic musical canon. It still doesn't get the recognition it deserves. I can assure you that nobody in the audience will have heard any of the music on this program (recordings are rare and mostly no longer available), so you will be sharing a unique experience with your fellow audience members. After the concert you will know the music. You will have experienced it in real time and in real space (about an hour and a half, including intermission). It will be a part of you.

I can promise you that John David and I will do our very best to make sure that the music sounds good. We hold ourselves to very high standards, and we put a great deal of time and effort into preparing our concerts. Music is our vocation. We play these concerts in order to create fulfilling lives for ourselves, and to share what we do with our community.

It is easy to be anonymous at a concert. A concert is not a designated social occasion, and you don't need to talk with anybody, unless you want to. Everybody will be listening during the concert anyway. If you're afraid that you won't know when to clap, just follow the lead of the other people in the audience. Hopefully there will be more than just a handful.

No comments: