Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Friday, June 15, 2007

Again, and Again

I honestly believed that the whole "classical vs. jazz" as high vs. low art was a departed debate, both facing the same troubles, both populated with those who want to push forward contra those who want to stay put. But then, of course, the Times--or Bernard Holland in specific--publishes this, apropos a new Gershwin record:

"It was the misguided ambition of jazz geniuses like Duke Ellington to write so-called classical music, as if the concert hall were some pinnacle toward which lower musical orders yearned to climb. We have learned better, I hope. Ellington’s jazz repertory, divorced from his uneasy stabs at symphonic forms, occupies the high ground these days, with the vast body of American classical music stretched out below it."

I just don't get it. When Ellington wanted to write classical music (the Queens Suite, say) he only wrote the so-called stuff, but when he stuck to his (to him) less ambitious work he was in fact unimpeachable? Or now we dismiss the entire canon of classical music for one tune, "Take the A train" being far and away above, say, Copland's entire output or the whole minimalist movement or concert works by Bernstein, Corigliano, Kernis, Carter, Harris, Schuman, etc. We have learned better (he hopes)? We used to think Ellington low and now we, if we are lucky enough to be so enlightened, realize that his (to him) less lofty impulses were what put him above Samuel Barber?

Perhaps I sound the tempest in the teapot, but this to me is like rallying the troops for a Yankee/Dixie split. Seems like an old battle being fought. I'd like to think that we'd actually leanred better.


Blogger Brooklyn Kitchen said...

Who cares what this Mr. Holland has to say? What is a lower musical order? Is music and art a caste system replete with untouchables? I resent people like Mr. Holland who attempts to put music into cubbyholes, labeling, dismissing, and organizing stuff that shouldn't have to compete, but exists side-by-side without his lame attempts at disambiguation. I believe that music and art exist for human enjoyment so when I listen to Samuel Barber or Ellington or Neil Young or Black Flag (fer Christ's sake)I do so for different reasons, getting pleasure from each of my choices. Because I have vested interest in music as a career, I tend to respond to it viscerally. Perhaps it makes me cry, or makes me laugh, or matches my pissed-off mood. I'll listen to what I want, when I want. It's that way for most of the art I consume, not just music, so I tend to ignore the high-low debate. My art-buffet is so welcoming it might put a boiled hot dog on the same table with a perfectly grilled trout with mango salsa, but that's okay. Some times a simple hot dog beats the hell out of a trout. It's all up to me anyway, right?

7:05 AM  

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