Powerful vs. Powerless

"Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all.”

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Monday, May 16, 2011

New York is still bustling with festivals, festivals, festivals! This week in particular, there's some impressive programming courtesy of one of our favorite chamber ensembles, eighth blackbird. The versatile sextet has set up a short festival, called Tune-In beginning this Wednesday at the Park Ave Armory, based on Stravinsky's famous quote: "Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all.”

They then set up a kind of a debate-team-style pair of core shows; one concert argues Stravinsky's side (called powerless), and one argues the just the opposite (powerful). This is a pretty cool idea, but even cooler is their lineup! We're talking Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, Kurt Schwitters, David T. Little, Stefan Weisman, Matt Marks, John Luther Adams, Bora Yoon, I could keep going!

This week's shows will be inspired by this really cool set of events. There will be a lot of John Luther Adams! But also a ton of performances by the stellar ensembles involved in the proceedings.

How do you feel about Stravinsky's quote? I find it almost enraging, actually! I am one of the biggest Stravinsky fans I know, and yet this quote seems totally out of place given the way his music moves me. What do you think?

Hosted by:

Nadia Sirota

Comments [2]

Bernard Chasan from jamaica plain MA

These comments are not to be taken seriously. I seem to recall that the grat novelist Nabokov made similar claims about literature.
Music is just notes on paper but then the notes magically are turned into sound waves and then these sound waves are detected by a listener. What happens after that is no longer under the control of the composer and independent of his or her intentions.
Which may be a good thing.

May. 20 2011 01:26 PM
Dan Leeman from Ottawa, ON Canada


I am inclined to agree with Stravinsky.
I will go one further and say," music
is just notes on paper". Let the listener
make of it what they will.

May. 16 2011 04:03 PM

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