Tunes in New Music

One wonders what you have been listening to. Some of the greatest “tunes” have come in the last 50-75 years of music. It is true that their timbre, range and intervals may be a bit beyond the average whistler’s musical ability, but one of the wonder’s of modern technology is that we are no longer dependent on singing and whistling to meet our musical needs.

While there is much contemporary music that is not specifically motivated by thematic concerns, I would challenge anyone to spend some quality time with John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes and not think these are some of the greatest melodies ever written.

There is no end to great themes in the music of Shostakovich and Messiaen, although the unusual rhythms of Messiaen might make them harder to recall until you make the adjustment.

The themes of Kancheli’s Mourned by the Wind or Gorecki’s Third Symphony are very haunting and beautiful. If great rhythms are what you are looking for Alberto Ginastera and Hector Villa-Lobos will certainly fit the bill. I also think that Webern and Boulez wrote some great tunes, but that, I suspect, is a personal preference.

The real problem is not the lack of melody but lack of effort. One time through an unfamiliar recent composition is not really enough. If one would listen to a contemporary work as many times as you hear most pop songs you would probably walk away humming the tunes as well.


~ by severalfourmany on December 10, 2005.

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