Monday, March 23, 2015
The loss of faith made music mute. . .
That said, it burns me up when I go to the Symphony and end up with half a program of atonal, modern music that seems to explore every aspect of music but melody. The program notes are often replete with words describing what was in the author's mind in composing the piece and sometimes he is sitting in the audience with me. The patrons are gracious and too many standing ovations are born of a deep desire to support classical music rather than exemplary composition. The symphony players are wonderful and I am sure they playing the notes correctly -- but the notes sound more like an accident than a design. That is not true of all modern music but it is true of too much of it.
In discussing this at home we have found ourselves longing to hear more old music than new because the atonality and melodic deprived nature of too much modern music leaves you with little but regret that you spend so much money to hear it. I wonder how many of these pieces will be on programs in fifty or a hundred years but I have no doubt that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Barber, and too many more will continue to be played. Then I read a piece by Oliver Rudland in the March 2015 issue of Standpoint magazine (you can read it online here).
Rudland charts the eruption of music that accompanied the growth of the nation state but noted that a deeper set of convictions united the composers of this 19th century phenomenon -- the states and the music was predicated upon Christianity. When in the 1960s the seismic shift of culture and authority raised its challenge to Christianity and gave birth to a sexual and moral revolution, music changed. Popular music shifted the focus onto the feelings, the highs and lows of the casual relationship, and the unchained desire that had previously been merely hinted at in music. Worse, it seems the classical music seems to have either died or entered a coma. Rudland calls this a "God shaped hole." Where classical music continued to live and breathe, it was fostered and sustained in the church. Think of the exceptions -- Eric Whitacre, for example. No, Rudland is absolutely correct. Musical genius flourished under the inspiration of the faith and the tutelage of the Church. Absent the belief and confidence in the value and virtue of our Christian identities, our music has gone mute -- except for that which glorifies and is preoccupied with sexual desire (too often under the guise of love).
Some will surely insist that I am wrong and Rudland mistaken but I think the erosion of the Christian foundations of culture and society have done far more damage than we care to admit. They have left us without the song that inspires and ennobles us as people. Instead we look down into the gutter to express when previous generations knew was better left hidden. Either for lack of taste or ability or inspiration, modern music has failed to produce musical genius to compare with other points in history. And that, my friends, is a sad state of affairs for us all -- even those who would never darken a symphony hall.