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Being A Composer Nowadays

Post published on January 27, 2009
Being A Composer Nowadays

Nowadays, the values of classicism are — unfortunately — left absolutely out of consideration. It is so common to mistake classicism for academism, will of being understood for laziness and convenance. Art — or what we call “art” — has become either merely conceptual — even though art cannot and must not be referred to as such — or oversimplified, thus being qualified as common.

No happy medium. No balance.

But let’s remember what Verdi said: “For he sake of fashion, for the desire to come up with something new, for the interest to acquire knowledge, we deny our art, our instinct, our know-how; that’s absurd and stupid”. Even if Mahler draws our attention on the fact that “tradition means laziness”, let’s stop always trying to come up with something new; this newness coming out of nowhere. This newness doesn’t appeal to our senses anymore. And after all, what might serve the newness for?

The test of a great composer is to use old notes in a new way. Leonard Bernstein

It is true that we’ve hardly came out of this “époque”, generated by Schönberg, where one of its most representative exponents, Pierre Boulez, wrote in 1967, in Relevés d’apprenti: 
“All musicians who have never felt the necessity of dodecaphonism prove themselves to be absolutely worthless”. If we admit that dodecaphonism is inevitable, the idea expressed by the word “necessity” — meaning that this stage is, logically, far from being revolutionary — I assert that there’s no point for the artist to be useful: he is, by himself and under any circumstance, necessary. The term “worthy” reflects neatly the erroneous vision of progressive art. And I assert, again, that in art there is no progress. To conclude, we could say that if the dodecaphonism proved to be necessary, the artist who makes use of it is not more worthy than another who doesn’t.

Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

There is a certain and somewhat frequent drift to analyse art as a science. Art is certainly based — just like science is — on knowledge and technique and we could dare to say that art depends on these in a certain manner, being constrained by them. Like science, art will obstinate to elevate people’s spirits, to turn us into illuminated human beings. Still, art primarily remains the expression of an emotion: that of beauty; an emotion felt by an individual – the artist who creates with the only aim to reveal it to the public. There’s no science in all this. They who wish to make their art become science will turn into mere heartless and talentless artists, in whose works beauty is totally absent. Their appearance will be that of mediocre, clumsy and consequently worthless savants.

If science tends to decipher Universe, the artist aims to show us its beauty.

Love! love! love! That’s the soul of genius!” said Mozart. We, the composers, exist only in order to try to touch the heart and the soul of our fellow creatures. True art accessible to every sensible and sensitive being — this is the real challenge for a composer at the beginning of the 21st century.