To the editors:
Brava to Ms. Morehead for her comments in "The Care and Funding of Chamber Music" [January 17]. Her insights into the obstacles which the music of today faces were illuminated further by Ms. Miller's painfully typical opinions. One who would blanket "most" of the music written in this century as "egregiously cacaphonous" probably needs to do a lot more listening. As for the difficulty of Benjamin Britten's music, as they say, no pain, no gain. Nobody ever said it would (or should) be easy.
Having just experienced four years of music school, I am unsure if the problem is (as Ms. Morehead suggests) inadequate training, or just plain old apathy. The fact that musicians can be more hostile to the living repertoire than nonmusicians surely indicates a problem. It seems to me that chamber music may be part of the solution. A composer hoping to have an opera or major orchestral work performed is in for a lot of trouble, with a great chance of never actually hearing the work. Music for much smaller ensembles, however, is much easier to get from paper to performance, and in a group with a diverse selection of instruments, a tremendous range of sound is possible.
There still remains the fact that new music is a "financial risk" in the classical music world. Perhaps it should not be marketed as "classical music." The obvious example is the Kronos Quartet. They market themselves as a rock group, present a hip image, play at hip places, and what do you know, people decide the music is hip, and end up listening to a lot of things they wouldn't be caught dead hearing played by a more traditional group. Sneaky, yes, but it does appear effective. As it seems unlikely that audiences will give up the security of the standard repertoire, perhaps it is up to performers to be as creative in marketing as they are in playing. And fortunately for us in Chicago, we have people like Ms. Morehead and CUBE willing to think forward, not backwards.
Bryan Miller replies:
Anyone who could misread my statement regarding "egregiously cacaphonous" new music as "blanket[ing] 'most' of the music written in this century," rather than quoting (or thinking about) what I actually said, probably needs to do a lot more reading. Mr. Heaton seems much more interested in enjoying an opportunity to wax publicly indignant than in accurately citing my words and sentiments.