Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The Rise of Sugary Snacks
Even we, we who fancy ourselves members of an elite art music establishment, are in fact sullied by all we hear and see and touch, the music and the noise and the screens and speakers everywhere that carry it all, a spray of seed that oft finds a fertile womb. We try to impose our rules, our concepts, our ideas of the future of music, but we find ourselves changed by the process, more affected than affecting.
But I do wonder why the aforementioned agents of cultural imperialism have been as successful as they have? Maybe, like the Frosted Flake, dripping with sugar, a mouth feel unmistakeable, a quick and agile crunch between the teeth, they are addictive. Maybe, like the Coca-Cola, we find that, after drinking quarts at a time, every day followed by every day, there is an itch, almost a burning in the back of our throats that water will no longer satiate. In a taxi in Ghana, I am listening to Bob Marley, and when I mention I am from California the driver says "West Coast! Tupac!" and I think how strange this is, but then I remember that I am here because my son plays in a Ghanaian drumming ensemble back home, and that those concerts are so much better attended than anything I have ever done, and again I wonder who is stealthfully and insidiously penetrating whom?
But I've finished the score for the new opera and am looking at a stack of them waiting to be delivered to the performers. Now that I am done, and I go through it, it surprises me. Where is the avant-garde boy I used to be? It's all so sweet, chords that my grandmother would have recognized as chords, and even the rhythmic complexities subtler than usual: a hemiola here and there, a confusing accent, a few meters flowing into others. Somehow I have been tainted by the songs of my youth, the poor imitations of sophistication and what we know to be the true delight that one has in great and high art, those fluff balls offered by my friends, pushed forward by the relentless pressure of the unseen and amorphous but so sharply felt peer group, a spear through the heart. But, on the other hand, just maybe I am in fact standing at an edge looking out over uncharted territory, some new veldt whose short grass will soon be replaced by another amalgam of this and that, all stolen from somewhere and everywhere.