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Some post-1945 music to pay attention to

Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt, John Adams.

This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.
This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.

“It sounded like a bunch of random sounds.” This was the answer my 18-year-old daughter gave when I asked her what she thought of the new piece of music performed by the San Diego Symphony at their concert on Friday, June 25. My 15-year-old son concurred. I agreed.

Over the years of their childhood and adolescence, I have selected concerts for them to attend so that they can have a good classical music experience. So far, the operas they’ve attended have been more successful than the symphonic concerts.

Video:

Gorecki – Symphonia No 3,

Beth Gibbons & Polish National Radio Symphony

Beth Gibbons & Polish National Radio Symphony

There is a simple reason for this. The opera you choose to see is the opera you see and that’s it. Nothing is shoe-horned in, except by the production. However, the music is the music.

With a symphonic concert, you might want to hear Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 but you are often forced to hear a new piece of music you’ve never heard of and therefore don’t care about. In my experience, the new pieces of music I’ve heard, save two, have gone from something I’ve never heard of and don’t care about to something I’m disappointed in.

Video:

John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine"

San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony

This has been going on since about 1945. If asked to choose a favorite post-WWII composer, the average concertgoer will have an answer. John Williams. If movie music is removed as a category, the average audience member will be at a loss. An erudite classical music lover will be able to answer with a composer such as Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt, or perhaps John Adams.

The defining characteristic of those three composers is that their most popular music makes sense. It agrees with itself. Nothing is perceived as, “a bunch of random sounds.”

Video:

Harmonielehre composer:john adams

conductor:Edo de Waart

conductor:Edo de Waart

Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 sat in obscurity until a recording was released in 1992. The recording sold over a million copies. That was unheard of for the classical music recording industry. This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.

The symphony makes sense to audiences while the rest of Górecki’s music does not. I happen to enjoy his Beatus Vir even though the opening is indicative of his Symphony No. 2 which I don’t enjoy.

John Adams’s most popular pieces of music, Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Harmonielehre make sense. There is a clear structure to the music and it moves forward in harmony with itself.

Unfortunately, these pieces are rare exceptions in the graveyard of modern compositions. For a piece of music to work for an audience, it needs to have a discernible structure that takes the audience from point A to point B.

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This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.
This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.

“It sounded like a bunch of random sounds.” This was the answer my 18-year-old daughter gave when I asked her what she thought of the new piece of music performed by the San Diego Symphony at their concert on Friday, June 25. My 15-year-old son concurred. I agreed.

Over the years of their childhood and adolescence, I have selected concerts for them to attend so that they can have a good classical music experience. So far, the operas they’ve attended have been more successful than the symphonic concerts.

Video:

Gorecki – Symphonia No 3,

Beth Gibbons & Polish National Radio Symphony

Beth Gibbons & Polish National Radio Symphony

There is a simple reason for this. The opera you choose to see is the opera you see and that’s it. Nothing is shoe-horned in, except by the production. However, the music is the music.

With a symphonic concert, you might want to hear Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 but you are often forced to hear a new piece of music you’ve never heard of and therefore don’t care about. In my experience, the new pieces of music I’ve heard, save two, have gone from something I’ve never heard of and don’t care about to something I’m disappointed in.

Video:

John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine"

San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony

This has been going on since about 1945. If asked to choose a favorite post-WWII composer, the average concertgoer will have an answer. John Williams. If movie music is removed as a category, the average audience member will be at a loss. An erudite classical music lover will be able to answer with a composer such as Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt, or perhaps John Adams.

The defining characteristic of those three composers is that their most popular music makes sense. It agrees with itself. Nothing is perceived as, “a bunch of random sounds.”

Video:

Harmonielehre composer:john adams

conductor:Edo de Waart

conductor:Edo de Waart

Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 sat in obscurity until a recording was released in 1992. The recording sold over a million copies. That was unheard of for the classical music recording industry. This third symphony has become loved by audiences around the globe but the rest of Górecki’s music is largely ignored.

The symphony makes sense to audiences while the rest of Górecki’s music does not. I happen to enjoy his Beatus Vir even though the opening is indicative of his Symphony No. 2 which I don’t enjoy.

John Adams’s most popular pieces of music, Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Harmonielehre make sense. There is a clear structure to the music and it moves forward in harmony with itself.

Unfortunately, these pieces are rare exceptions in the graveyard of modern compositions. For a piece of music to work for an audience, it needs to have a discernible structure that takes the audience from point A to point B.

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Comments
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Healey Willan (a very good 20th century composer) on modern music: "I hear only strange sounds which surprise and disturb me."

July 8, 2022
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
July 15, 2022

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