Just Because It's Tonal Doesn't Mean It's Bad
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Listeners, there will come a time when you meet a composer or new music enthusiast with a little bit of attitude – an attitude that suggests that the spiky, abrasive, modernist language that we all know and love is the only true lingua franca of new music, and that those who write tonal music do so naively, without considering the weight of history that tonal music carries. (Consider Alex Temple's recent discussion of this topic on New Music Box)
Let's let such an attitude fade away! In the eyes of The Brothers Balliett, the chosen language is only one aspect of what makes a piece current, moving, coherent, or, indeed, enjoyable. As easily as a new masterpiece could be painted using traditional values in perspective and lighting, composers are still creating masterworks in which every note claims a clearly-defined role within the guidelines of tonality.
Today the Brothers explore a handful of such pieces, beginning with Christos Hatzis's Four Songs, based on poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. Surely these songs would be recognized as wrought-with-craft by both Bach and Stravinsky, but they still manage to surprise and delight with unexpected settings and pop-tinged catchiness. Valentin Silvestrov pays homage to Schumann (both explicitly and implicitly) in his mammoth, aptly-named Naive Music, and David Maslanka's Wind Quintet No. 2 manages to update the whole genre while still respecting a firm tonal center.
If you can listen to this show and not be convinced that the tonal system still has some serious juice left in it, be in touch and we'll hash it out!