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Condemned to Music

“Condemned to Music” is the famous description of the Russian conductor
Evgeny Mravinsky: His single-minded life was one orchestra, a severely limited, carefully selected repertoire and an overall sense that this was his only possible path.
I have been similarly sentenced – luckily.  (Excpt that my repertoire isn’t so limited.)
The world isn’t a very dependable place. Pets die, friends move to LA and your life savings disappears when the stock market fails. What is there left?
Not just any music, but music with durability, that doesn’t consume more energy than it gives back. I’m not talking about accessibility; I mean art that exists on multiple levels and takes on a relevant function in the society it inhabits.
This is a blog about music without triviality – or music with so many implications outside itself as to demand entry into your psyche – whether by merit of its substance or through the meaning we bring to it. The authors can be like innocent middlemen, or -women. Could Anton Bruckner, in his final symphonies, have known how deeply he was tapping into an anguish far beyond his own?
I love cultural roadkill: Failed but earnest experiments, or pieces that had an intense but limited shelf life in the public consciousness. Such artifacts aren’t found; they find you. Say, a disc of anguished Chinese punk rock (good, pungent stuff) left in a rental car or the rarely-seen Kenneth Branagh film version of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute, crazily set amid the trench warfare of World War I. (That one jumped out at me in a Madrid department store.)
Most of all, I look for art that helps me navigate life. J.S. Bach tells me that everything is connected – if I look hard enough. Morton Feldman reminds me there are times when the less there is, the better it feels. Claude Debussy is a testament to the constructive refinement that’s possible in the human mind. And on. And on.

an ArtsJournal blog