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Saturday, January 22, 2022

What shouldn’t change in classical music

In our ever-amplified, streamed and digital world, vibrant spaces that perfectly perform classics are precious reserves of natural acoustics.

Of course, we must be careful that the atmosphere of these experiences does not appear thin, as if the public were entering sacred temples. However, even newcomers I have invited to listen to the famous orchestra at Carnegie Hall are often overwhelmed by the flickering, resonant sound. Perhaps today we are missing the opportunity to sell a classical music concert as a break from the routine, as an invitation to turn off the devices and sit in silence among others – listening, sometimes for a long time, to works that require our attention, music that can be majestic. , mystical, crushing, gentle, agonizing, frantic, dizzy, or all of the above.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, electronic resources have dramatically expanded the range and palette of sounds and colors. Olivier Messiaen, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Osvaldo Golidzhov and many other composers have created works that creatively combine electronic sounds into traditional ensembles – with stunning results.

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However, I hope that composers and performers will never give up the magic of unamplified sound in natural acoustics. Think of how the Broadway musical has changed since the early 1960s, when amplification became commonplace, often over the top. I can only imagine how great it must have been to hear Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers in Mad Girl in theater without amplification – or John Wright, who might have been Verdi’s baritone singing Billy’s Monologue in Carousel. “Those days are over.

While writing in this field, I was constantly impressed by the entrepreneurial energy of artists who, realizing that traditional career paths were becoming limited and that large institutions were overlooking new generations of creators, risked leaving on their own. … They have formed songwriting and performing groups and ensembles such as Bang on a Can, which hosts concerts and experimental music festivals; and the International Contemporary Ensemble, founded by the flutist Claire Chase, with a passionate voice urging young musicians to create their own bands and play concerts anywhere and anyway.

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