Here’s a fabulous rant I got during an e-mail exchange with Michael
Wittmann, a physicist and college-radio DJ. As Michael
says, “we indie kids (I’m 34, grew up with Dead
class=SpellE>Kennedysand Beethoven in equal amounts during the 80s,
etc.) have our own art music.” By which he means bands like Sonic Youth. But he’s
also into new classical music, and like many people who know both worlds, knows
that there’s a powerful potential (and often actual) crossover between them.
But let him say it:
I am completely convinced that the
highbrow, "stuffy shirt" classical music world is missing out on the
fact that totally f$%#ing intelligent young
listeners, raised on genre hopping eclecticism and soundtracks which push the
limit of tonality are able to listen to this music but don’t know where to find
it. The labels aren’t there (though going electronic like eMusic
or iTunes is an excellent way to get things out, as
are free downloads and viral marketing), the venues
aren’t there or are too expensive, etc.
I just saw Ethel [a terrific new
music string quartet] do a matinee show, with kids in the audience, and they
rocked. Songs were difficult at times, but short. They chatted
it up between songs. They wore no formal clothing. They played their asses off.
They found personal things to say. They were cool in a way that
class=SpellE>Yo class=GramE>Or Sonic Youth.
class=SpellE>YoLa Tengo is cool.
class=GramE>Or Sonic Youth.Did I mention they played their asses off? I
get free music from labels, and went and bought their music, anyway.
I’ve written to you before, on the
topic of promoting "indie classical" in the
indie rock vein, and I remain convinced that it’s the
way to go for the future. After Ethel, we need bands Martha, the String Youth,
and Horse Hair Whip. The Cold Blue label has small ensembles; they could rent a
school bus and get on the road, call it the Cold Blue Traveling Festival. Kyle
Gann could become a promoter and send out the MetaMetric
Musical Revue. The Philip Glass Ensemble still plays 50 shows a year, and the
guys in it still earn their living off those shows. Baseball players stop
practicing once the season starts, they just perform. When was the last time a
quartet hopped into a van and crossed the country, playing shows to 10 people
because that’s all who showed up, driving half the night to make it to the next
place? I had friends in semi-successful bands (I came from the Chapel Hill NC
area, a scene with Superchunk, Flat Duo Jets, Archers
of Loaf, and Ben Folds, all of whom were more successful than my friends were)
and they worked their asses off and eventually got day jobs. But for a while,
they fed a scene. The scene goes on, but classical music has no such scene.
Concert halls should open up to the traveling chamber music indie
Classical music organizations: Wake up! This is an important
part of your artistic future.