...all of my conversations keep coming back to one central theme; all people need is to cross paths with someone that already has an appreciation for classical music. The more people they can come into contact with, the more their appreciation will grow. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to start learning and there aren’t any prerequisites needed to facilitate enjoyment, but there is a need for a convergence of minds...
While I don't attend concerts particularly for social reasons, I do end up being influenced by other listeners--case in point, my current exercise of immersing myself in five CDs from the library. In this exercise, the composers I've ended up being most interested to the point of not just listening to but doing some extracurricular reading about have been Conlon Nancarrow and Frederic Rzewski. I was already familiar with their work and roughly knew their biographical background and yet I wanted to pursue it more. I'd like to say it was the music itself that got my attention but it was also due to some fresh interaction with Angus at I Feel Love (on Nancarrow) and Pete Dako (on Rzweski).
In contrast, I bought the current Fanfare magazine today ("The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors") and while there are topics of intellectual interest (ads for new American CDs, the usual contentious letters to the editor, a review of Antheil's "lost" sonatas, and a review of Walter Simmons' book on American neo-romantic composers), given that I have no personal contact with any of the writers, it's harder for me to engage in what they have to say due to the abstractness of the information, sophisticated as it may be. Of course, it is not an either/or situation; I'll continue to read blogs and read Fanfare and listen to random CDs with no prior knowledge and (when I can) attend concerts and out of all that, I'll find music worth hearing and re-hearing. I'm just surprised the influence blogs and their social approach already have on my attention. And I suspect I am not alone e.g. I just ran across this thread on LiveJournal about people trying to guess which American composer should be considered an impressionist. I see people of presumably varying levels of musical knowledge interacting, to everyone's benefit, which leads back to the Drew McManus article mentioned at the beginning.
Ok, finally back to the music of Frederic Rzewski. North American Ballads is a work for piano in four movements:
• Dreadful Memories
• Which side are you on?
• Down by the Riverside
• Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
I'll quote Fanfare's Paul Ingram from a review of a recording by David Jalbert, on the last movement:
...a long, transcendent movement that manages to be both entertaining and magnificent, before vanishing like smoke up a chimney.
And after a week of listening to the piano music of George Antheil, the work doesn't sound contaminated by the brashness of "modernity." To paraphrase Fanfare terminology: recommended, if not deserving of the highest recommendation.
Disclaimer: For someone who used to read Fanfare religiously, I'm now surprisingly ambivalent about it.