Friday, April 27, 2012

Bernstein's Credo on Tonality and the Future of Music

. . . Let me condense my feelings into a sort of credo. I believe that a great new era of eclecticism is at hand, and eclecticism in the highest sense. And I believe that it has been made possible by the re-acceptance of tonality, that universal earth out of which such diversity can spring. And no matter how serial or stochastic, or otherwise intellectualized music may be, it can always qualify as poetry as long as it is rooted in earth.

I also believe, along with Keats, that the poetry of earth is never dead, as long as spring succeeds winter, and man is there to perceive it. I believe that from that earth emerges a musical poetry, which is, by the nature of its sources, tonal. I believe that these sources cause to exist a phonology of music that results from the universal known as the “harmonic series,” and that there is an equally universal musical syntax which can be codified and structured in terms of symmetry and repetition, and that by metaphorical operation there can be devised particular musical languages that have surface structures noticeably remote from their basic origins, but can be strikingly expressive as long as they retain their roots in earth.

I believe that our deepest affective responses to these languages are innate ones that do not preclude additional responses that are conditioned or learned. And that all particular languages bear on one another, and combine into always new idioms perceptible to human beings, and that ultimately these idioms can all merge into a speech universal enough to be accessible to all mankind. And that the expressive distinctions among these idioms depend ultimately on the dignity and passion of the individual creative voice.

And finally, I believe that all these things are true, and that Ives’ Unanswered Question has an answer. I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know the answer, and the answer is “Yes.”

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