Someone has decided the music menu you choose from. Get over itmain
Reader’s Comment of the Day comes from Byrwec Ellison:
No matter what radio station you tune into, no matter what streaming service you subscribe, no matter the music publisher you buy your sheet music from or the concert series you attend — your music is curated for you. Even if you subscribe to the Idagio streaming platform with its 2 million albums, I guarantee there’ll be composers and works you won’t find there.
Someone decided the menu you would have to choose from. The music director of your local symphony orchestra decided what composers you would hear next season. Someone decided to make it a whole lot easier to hear Giacomo Puccini every year at your neighborhood opera house than Giacomo Meyerbeer — and downright hard to hear Gaspare Spontini in any given year. Even Ruth Leon was happy to recommend something for you to see and hear every day.
Our “standard” repertoire is a great start, and in fact, there are many artists and listeners whose musical explorations start and end there. But if you’re hungry to hear something new, an unsung voice, the unusual find, then you might find that repertoire severely limiting.
The good news is that any path you want to take to discovery is a valid one. You can take the chronological “music appreciation” drive through history from Gregorian plainchant to post-minimalist Bang On A Can — or you can focus on Impressionists and branch out from there.
It’s no less valid or valuable to attend a concert of composers of one ethnicity than it is to hear an all-Russian program or one by all composers of Russian-American-Jewish-Brooklynite extraction. If an all-woman concert leads you to discover the works of Grazyna Bacewicz, Dora Pejacevic, Rebecca Clarke or Galina Ustvolskaya, your musical experience will be enriched for it.
Maybe you reject Portuguese fado and Senegalese mbalakh on principle. Maybe you don’t care that William Grant Still married the blues with sonata-allegro form in his Afro-American Symphony. Maybe the Pacific drumming traditions of Taiko, Kapahaka and Rarotonga that explode out of Gareth Farr’s exhilarating “From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs” do nothing for you.
But the history of this art form we call “classical music” has deep veins of rejection running all through it. Rejection of new styles, new composers, new music, foreign sounds. If ever there were an art form whose creators needed to be nurtured, needed listening forums where they could work to improve their craft, it’s this art of writing complex music — music of rhythmic or melodic or harmonic or structural or color complexity.
The consumers of other art forms — dance, theater, poetry, painting — are hungry for new works. They welcome new artists and authors. They anxiously await the latest works by their favorite creators. How many of us follow the latest works of John Adams or Magnus Lindberg?
“Politically correct” is an Orwellian pejorative for “considerate” or “sensitive” — language intended to make a vice out of something virtuous. “Inclusion” is another way of saying “magnanimous” or “welcoming” — which ought to be an aspiration, not an object of derision. So by all means listen to what you want, but define your taste by what you like — what you think is good — and not what you reject.