"Monk" Hucbald rants about newness and provocation as musical goals and expects composers to be rigorous with respect to prior music:
The composers who I consider to be the greatest - Perotinus, Palestrina, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Taneiev - were walking, talking, and composing musical summations of everything that came before them. By those standards, the overwhelmingly vast majority of contemporary composers who are lionized and spoken of in hushed and reverent tones... don't know dick.
Do composers like Phill Niblock or La Monte Young consider themselves part of the tradition? Do they even care? Intriguingly, composer Oliver Knussen echoed Hucbald, albeit more positively, in an interview this week with Joshau Kosman:
"The richest tonal music being written today -- which is by John Adams, David Del Tredici and others -- is by composers with the most sophisticated awareness of what preceded them. They have worked through that in a very rigorous way, and I would like to think I have been similarly rigorous in working through the things that have made me what I am today -- the architectural aspect of Britten's music, or the detailing and formal structure in a composer like Berg, or the unbelievable careful patterning in Ligeti and Boulez."
I chose as title for this post Adams' Chamber Symphony. In that particular work, I find Adams' mashing together of Schoenberg and cartoon music an unsatisfying trick, even if it shows his assimilation of 20th century music.
Update: Ok, I was projecting my own interests. I agree Adams is obviously influenced by 19th century music. For example, a commenter points out he orchestrated Liszt (although countered by a Busoni piece), and was influenced by Sibelius and Wagner. Maybe Adams is truly a neo-traditionalist. Still, hearing Shaker Loops twenty years ago planted the seeds for my current apathy re: European classical music after Bach and before Busoni -- The Black Gondola, which I greatly admire, notwithstanding. And certainly, I never expected Schubert's music to lose its emotional power, but there you go...
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