I Hate to Be Out of Step: Have the Dividing Lines Among Musical Genres Disappeared?

I have had many a conversation about how the dividing lines among musical genres (and other arts disciplines) were “breaking down or blurring.”

So, as I was watching this video about a really swell festival taking place next month, “Sonic: Sounds of a New Century” by The American Composers Orchestra, I was quite struck by John Schaefer talking about the group of young composers (and I would add performers) for whom the dividing lines have simply disappeared.

Take a look at this terrific teaser video, and follow the link below it if you have an iPad, to download a very cool musical app, which will be featured prominently in the festival.

Read about and download Sonic Thicket iPad App: http://sonicfestival.org/node/208

Now, here’s one more really interesting piece to listen to, from Studio 360. It’s an interview with composer/performer Gabriel Kahane, primarily on how he surfs the genres, and by the way, he does it quite well, click here for The Two Worlds of Gabriel Kahane.

5 responses to “I Hate to Be Out of Step: Have the Dividing Lines Among Musical Genres Disappeared?”

  1. It is all so transparently desperate – all on which music schools thrive – as for the
    Dewy21c philosophy spare us !!!! It might get one a better position in life with
    like minded souls it is also so self serving and banal .

  2. Whether institution or individual, we ignore cultural change at our peril. Whatever stand we take should be with eyes wide open, not willful blindness.

  3. As I become exposed to more young composers and their genre bending and technology embracing approaches to traditional forms, I feel two very strong reactions simultaneously – one, of exhilaration and excitement to see that creative art in music is alive and well.

    The other, a deep worry that there is so much passing trendiness and ephemeral elements baked in to new music. It’s as though what’s exciting focuses on “right now” while the past appears musty and dank.

    The 20th century (the old world) was full of exhilarating experimentation with technology and music. The ondes martenot, the Buchla synthesizer, the use of tape and live electronics seemed so fresh and cutting edge. Now, the word “tape” is antiquated and has been all but replaced by digital recording and playback technology.

    Ableton Live version 8 is really fresh and exciting technology, Cycling 74 has recently released Max 6. The Arctic Monkeys and The Wombats create inspiring stems cells that can be grown in a string quartet environment (mixed with mangled material from Reaktor).

    But what about 20 or 50 years from now? How will it hold up? What about ten years from now or even five? Will we roll our eyes at old photos of artists with shaggy beards, black plastic framed glasses and Macbook Pros?

    Do composers today even care about durability? Maybe planting a garden of enduring artistic work is “old think.”

    • Wow, great post Eric. It’s also interesting to think about how the “canon” of great works is not something fixed, but living. If you were to look at what was programmed regularly by orchestra, for example, you would find that the so called canon has changed. There are Schubert, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky symphonies played often then, but rarely now. Mahler was ignored, and I could go on. Sure, much of this will prove to be empeheral, on a basis of quality, taste, or some other quirk of fate such as what happens to composers who can’t promote themselves effectively. I would argue that there is a large body of wonderful music that doesn’t get played because people don’t know or care to know about it.

      And of course, one could take a more Cage-like perspective on the whole thing…