To begin with, in the 21st century, the convergence of academic and popular music has increased.
If earlier in world practice, academic composers went into film music, now the trend is reversed – film composers and even computer game composers are moving into academicism. They write music for ballets that are staged in the world’s leading theaters, write solo programs for symphony orchestras with the addition of modern instruments. Their music has become cinematic in both good and bad ways. From the cinema, they took the diversity of material, frequent mood swings, so as not to “load”, that is, they change pictures more often, they entertain more.
Cinematic effects, so common in cinema, inevitably influenced the music. It has a lot of frightening elements, sound jokes, and, of course, mysticism. How to get by without mysticism in computer video games! It’s all sweet compared to overburdened, overly serious classical music, but used without measure.
It left a heavy legacy of minimalism. Minimalists made a revolution in their time, creating naive, repetitive music. As if a schoolgirl at a break plays simple songs to her girlfriends in the assembly hall. But in the context of the time it appeared, it was very bold. After all, the structural, atonal, speculative, formal music of numbers has dominated the highest academic instances since the beginning of the 20th century. It dried up both performance and perception. Minimalism then matured, but somehow it lingered too much in the musical space. His naivety is no longer new, and his composing technique has become impoverished. Thematicism was replaced by motives with demanded decadent pathos and mysticism.
In the 21st century, minimalism has taken on a romantic tone and become many times more vulgar, so that the line between amateurs and professionals has blurred. Priority in the choice of authors and works remained only funding and communications. It’s time to move away from minimalism!
The most daring modern, venerable academically Western musicians do not hesitate to say that they grew up on jazz and rock.
Many of them even played in youth squads. And many say that if they had achieved success in this direction, they would never have switched to measured academicism. A huge advantage of these trends that appeared at that time is that they developed a strict language. The past era of romanticism and subsequent musical experiments nurtured and cultivated the ideas of individuality in musical creativity. This brought confusion and disunity into the activities of composers. Giftedness began to question the craft, which began to have a bad effect on the quality of works. Oddly enough, but jazz and rock have become closer to early music with their standard musical solutions and a school that directs everyone in about the same direction. There was something similar to the order, giving the opportunity to learn.
Modern cult of academic composers in their youth “cooked” in this atmosphere of the formation of the musical language, and understand it. Younger composers, of a lower rank, imitate them, not knowing the origins, that is, rock and jazz. They have a very superficial understanding of these directions. We are sadly surprised by the snobbery of academic musicians and composers, who, without hesitation, “climb” into this area, causing their attempts to smirk at connoisseurs and squeamish fun from masters. Classical musicians who try to play jazz, or composers who try to inject a fatal character into their works, are almost always, with the rarest exceptions, a pitiful sight and complete helplessness. It is clear that it is difficult to achieve results without having experience in these areas, but this requires special education. We need sane methods that would explain the structure and ideology of such music. For a long time I have been teaching contemporary music to graduates of conservatories and colleges according to my own methodology, as I have worked professionally in both academic and jazz, rock and mixed ensembles. The results come surprisingly quickly.
In addition, composers must write music that permeates the world in which they live. Do not forget that the classics acted in the same way – they reflected the dominant melos. So modern composers need to be at least modern, and not greenhouse plants that live only in special conditions.
The same is true with folklore. Folklorists are also annoyed by the formal transfer of folk music to the unprepared ground of academic, jazz and rock music. It turns out some kind of farce. Therefore, academicism, jazz, rock and folk should treat each other seriously, without arrogance. To do this, it is necessary to study these areas in depth, with specialists, or to have an authoritative methodological base that has been released by carriers, that is, professional musicians of these areas.
Musical performance is always very much like a sport. You can even partly attribute it to a specific field of sports. It is understandable that a musician who has devoted his life to constant practice on the instrument wants to demonstrate his achievements. Composers, wanting to get themselves a famous performer, go on about their sportiness and deliberately and unreasonably saturate their works with difficult-to-perform moments. In this collective blindfold, a huge amount of music has been created and is being created, which is intended only for judges, but not for the public. The quality of the music, however, is usually not high. This also applies to a huge amount of classical music written by the most authoritative composers in the status of geniuses, and performance at the level of approach to the projectile at athletic competitions. I don’t want to offend athletes, because the best of them have more artistry than some virtuoso musicians. This is a vicious circle, from which, in order to break out, you need to have enough courage. Composers and performers of these “sports” opuses with a share of superiority and contempt condemn simple and understandable music and are offended that they listen to it, but they don’t. The sport moment should be dosed, and the performers should understand that the technique is required to reveal the stylistic features of the work, and is not an end in itself.
In the field of concert activity, especially among academicians and jazzmen, the visual range is often at some flawed level. The scenes remained archaic, the chairs creaking, the light unchanged. The distance from shows and video productions of pop music is monstrous. True, in many European opera halls there is some progress, but in the general mass of performances there is not even an attempt. And if they try to make performances more spectacular, they turn to outdated theatrical clichés.
I am always surprised by the ignorance of many musicians, and almost all academic musicians, of the basics of studio work and the possibilities of modern audio and video technology. Classical composers owned this, but at their own level. They knew how to seat the orchestra, how to achieve a balance between the groups of the orchestra by varying the number of participants. Of course, they had failures, which subsequent conductors tried to mitigate with their work. But in general, they mastered sound engineering, and then it was called instrumentation and conducting. Today, new sonor problems have appeared that are solved using various computer programs. It also requires a separate education with experienced studio specialists.
In pop music, decades of dominance of electronics and the excessive use of sequencers (devices that allow you to record music without the participation of musicians) have significantly reduced the level of performers, especially improvisers. The thread of transmission of the basics of improvisational skill was interrupted. The schools based on jazz, rock and folk have been forgotten, and the offended old masters do not want, and cannot, pass on their secrets, the presence of which young musicians, as well as their teachers, do not even know. So in the pursuit of new quality lost the very quality. But we’ll fix it. The technologies have remained; it’s just that their simplified versions are in the trend, as they give a faster, although not very high-quality result. It is enough to resurrect this knowledge and introduce it into the educational course for at least some privileged part of the students.
I know from experience how difficult it is to change the mindset of classically trained composers in order to retrain them for contemporary music. Classical music is a theoretical museum. You need to study it in order to increase your erudition, in order to adopt some orchestral techniques. But in the real modern world of music, its ideology is already incomprehensible and not close to the listener. It is not present in the daily life of people; it has long been at a distance. For aesthetic reasons, it is better to keep silent about this, but, in fact, for the production and implementation of modern music, one should not unconditionally take the classical heritage on faith and, moreover, inspire awe in students towards it. Everything has changed a lot, and especially the customer.
Until the 20th century, professional music was addressed to a very, very narrow circle of rich and noble people, for whom music was like an addition to dessert in a luxurious life. Of course, the music had to match – harmonious and beautiful. Since the 20th century, after social democratic changes, simpler people with their mundane attitude to life have become customers. Beauty and luxury began to irritate. This was reflected in literature, and in painting, and in music. The aesthetics of the ugly came into life at that time. So the theory that gave recipes for creating harmonious, beautiful music has lost its relevance. Now we need to create music of any dramatic quality, including ugly, and know how to do it. The tasks of modern theory have expanded.
As you can see, we have problems, as always, with the inheritance, which we cannot properly divide in any way. And the solution lies in a thorough professional study of every detail, every component of our work. In modern music production, one cannot rely only on inspiration, one’s own taste. Styles dictate the laws that must be known and performed, no matter what kind of music, no matter how understandable and simple it may seem. The task is only to mix styles in the required proportions, adhering to their own ideology. Modern thinking is a polystylistics, consisting of indisputable musical elements.