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Kris Christenson

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Music doesn't have to convey an emotion.

So often music is spoken of as the" language of emotion" and people often define the difference between sound and music as the emotion conveyed. But is the emotion what makes it music or is emotion something that becomes associated with it later? Many composers (myself included) write music that explores an idea or concept but has nothing to do an emotional state. Is what they're doing not music then?

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  • Oct 22 2012: [KC] Accessibility is an excuse for unoriginality

    Seriously? Are you are saying that composers who try to engage with their audiences are unoriginal?

    Clearly, composers of western music are using the notes of a chromatic scale differently to each other and using the same notation system does not carry any implication that they are unoriginal.

    Your use of the term 'unoriginal' in the pejorative sense underpins your position... I translate it as old = bad, and new = good. Accessibility in music is about the connection the piece performed manages to make with its audience. Composers who want to eat are likely to want to compose work that is easily understood. Complexity in music is not necessarily a virtue. Opaque and impenetrable structures, which may require a lifetime of study to enjoy, are not going to appeal to the widest of audiences.

    I can hear some tonality in Stockhausen's work (currently, I am listening to Licht) and while being able to see something of where the composer is taking me (the piece's accessibility?) I am not sure that I would buy this piece of work.

    I don't want to suggest that movement in art should not take place. I do want to say that where the existing audience is not carried forward on the new wave of movement, that the composer has failed to keep the audience interested.
    • Oct 22 2012: You misunderstand what I mean. What I mean is that most composers who take the standpoint of "accessibility is most important" create works that at best are reworkings of music already created. And being accessible is not the only way to engage with your audience. Anytime music is heard the composer is engaging with their audience. The thing is, music is a means of communication. Throughout the years several different languages have been created to communicate certain ideas. But if what you have to say cannot be properly articulated with any already existing language then what do you do? You can change what you have to say, bastardize what you have to say, or use a different, possibly completely new, language. This new language will lead to unfamiliarity for the listener. But unfamiliarity is not a bad thing and shouldn't be treated as such, it should be welcomed. That's something I shouldn't have to go into too much detail about on a TED forum, I'd hope that you get the importance of the unfamiliar from just about any of the talks.
      Now, a given musical language can only say so much. Some can say a lot, some are very limited. Regardless of how much they can say at some point everything will have been said. At that point working within that language cannot be truly original. Since your description of accessibility involves familiarity, it also involves working within a language that the public has been exposed to enough to be familiar with. That's where the unoriginality kicks in, when people start to say what others already have for the sake of accessibility.
      As for your allegations on my musical taste, you're close but wrong. There is no good and bad in art, only subjective levels of interest. When I find something about the music interesting, I engage with it. My personal tastes do tend toward the new, but that's mostly because I've become bored with the old. Study music for four years and you'll start to get a sense of what I mean. cont.
    • Oct 22 2012: cont.
      The "classics" like Mozart and Haydn are no longer interesting to me because I understand them too well. It's just not enjoyable to listen to music I can predict so easily. However, much of the music by J.S. Bach, Johannes Ockeghem, Hugo Wolf, and several others are still very intriguing to me and they're Baroque, Renaissance, and Late Romantic, respectively. I still enjoy their music because there are elements that I don't fully understand and can continue to engage with it in a way I enjoy. I tend to prefer new music because I find the unfamiliarity exciting, I have fun "decoding" a piece that uses a language not before used. That, of course, is a subjective matter and is really mostly unrelated to my philosophy on what new music should do.

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