第16章現代音楽「What to Listen for in Music」を読む

16. Contemporary Music 

16. 現代音楽 


Over and over again the question arises as to why it is that so many music lovers feel disoriented whey they listen to contemporary music. They seem to accept with equanimity the notion that the work of the present-day composer is not for them. Why? Because they “just don't understand it.” As a nonprofessional phrased it recently, “Far too may listeners still flinch when they are told that a piece of music is 'modern.'” Formerly - up to the middle twenties or thereabouts - all new music of progressive tendency was bunched together under the heading “ultramodern.” Even today there still persists the idea that “classic” and “modern” represent two irreconcilable musical styles, the one posing graspable problems and the other fairly bristling with insoluble ones. 



The first thing to remember is that creative artists, by and large, are a serious lot - their purpose is not to fool you. This, in turn, presupposes on your part an open mind, good will, and a certain a priori confidence in what they are up to. Composers vary greatly in range and scope, in temperament and in expression. Because of that, contemporary music imparts not one kind, but many different kinds of musical experience. That too is important to remember. Some present-day composers are very easy to understand, others may be very tough. Or different pieces by the same composer may fit into one or the other category. In between are a great many contemporary writers who range from being quite approachable to being fairly difficult. 



To label all this music under the one heading “modern” is patently unfair, and can lead only to confusion. It might be helpful, therefore, to bring some order into the apparent chaos of contemporary composition by dividing some of its leading exponents according to the relative degree of difficulty in the understandind of their respective idioms. 



Very easy: Shostakovitch and Khachaturian, Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie, early Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Virgil Thomson. 




Quite approachable: Prokofieff, Villa-Lobos, Ernest Bloch, Roy Harris, William Walton, Malipiero, Britten. 




Fairly difficult: Late Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Milhaud, Chavez, William Schuman, Honegger, Hindemith, Walter Piston.  




Very tough: Middle and late Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Varese, Dallapiccola, Krenek, Roger Sessions, sometimes Charles Ives.  




It is not at all essential that you agree with my comparative estimates. These are meant merely to indicate that not all new music ought to be thought of as equally inaccessible. The dodecaphonic school of Schoenberg is the hardest nut to crack, even for musicians. For the later Stravinsky you need a love of style, precision, personality; for Milhaud or Chavez a taste for sharply seasoned sonorities; Hindemith and Piston demand a contrapuntal ear; Poulenc and Thomson a witty intelligence; and Villa-Lobos a feeling for the lushly colorful. 



The first essential, then, is to differentiate composers, trying to hear each separately in terms of what he wishes to communicate. Composers are not interchangable! Each has his own objective and the wise listener would do well to keep that objective in the front of his mind. 



This clarification of objective should also be borne in mind when we distinguish between the musical pleasures to be derived from old and new music. The uninitiated music lover will continue to find contemporary music peculiar so long as he persists in trying to hear the same kinds of sounds or derive the same species of musical enjoyment that he gets from the great works of past masters. This point is crucial. My love of the music of Chopin and Mozart is as strong as that of the next fellow, but it does me little good when I sit down to write my own, because their world is not mine and their musical language not mine. The underlying principles of their music are just as cogent today as they were in their own period, but with these same principles one may and one does produce a quite different result. When approaching a present-day musical work of serious pretensions, one must first realize what the objective of the composer is and then expect to hear a different sort of treatment than was customary in the past. 



In dealing with the elements and forms of music, various instances were cited to show how recent composers have adapted and extended our technical resources for their own expressive purposes. These extensions of conventional procedures necessarily imply the ability, on the listener's part, to lend himself by instinct or training to the unfamiliar idiom. If, for example, you find yourself rejecting music because it is too dissonant, it probably indicates that your ear is insufficiently accustomed to our present-day musical vocabulary, and needs more practice ― that is, training in listening. (There is always the possibility that the composer himself may be at fault through the writing of uninspired or willful dissonances.) 



In following a new work, the melodic content ― or seeming lack of it ― may be a source of confusion. You may very well miss hearing the straightforward tune that can be hummed. Melodies nowadays can be “unsingable,” especially in instrumental writing, if only because they go far beyond the limitations of the human voice. Or it may be that they are too tortuous, or jagged, or fragmentary to have any immediacy of appeal. These are expressive attributes that may, temporarily, perplex the listener. But the composer, given the expanded scope of contemporary melodic invention, cannot return to the plain and sometimes obvious melody writing of an earlier day. Assuming a gifted composer, repeated hearings should make clear the long-range appeal of his more intricate line. 




Finally there is the reproach that is repeated more often than any other, namely, that today's music appears to avoid sentiment and feeling, that it is merely cerebral and clever rather than emotionally meaningful. A brief paragraph can hardly hope to deal adequately with this persistent misconception. If a contemporary composer's work strikes you as cold and intellectual, ask yourself if you are not using standards of comparison that really do not apply. Most music lovers do not appreciate to what an extent they are under the spell of the romantic approach to music. Our audiences have come to identify nineteenth-century musical romanticism as analogous to the art of music itself. Because romanticism was, and still remains, so powerful an expression, they tend to forget that great music was written for hundreds of years before the romantics flourished. 



If so happens that a considerable proportion of today's music has closer aesthetic ties with that earlier music than it has with the romantics. The way of the uninhibited and personalized warmth and surge of the best of the romanticists is not our way. Even that segment of contemporary composition that clearly has romantic overtones is careful to express itself more discreetly, without exaggeration. And so it must, for the self-evident truth is that the romantic movement had reached its apogee by the end of the last century and nothing fresh was to be extracted from it. 



The transition from romanticism to a more objective musical ideal was a gradual one. Since composers themselves found it difficult to make the break, it is not to be wondered at that the public at large has been slow to accept the full implication of what has been happening. The nineteenth century was the romantic century par excellence ― a romanticism that found its most characteristic expression in the art of music. Perhaps that explains the continued reluctance of the music-loving public to admit that with the new century a different kind of music had to come into being. And yet their counterparts in the literary world do not expect Andre Gide or Thomas Mann or T. S. Eliot to emote with the accents of Victor Hugo or Sir Walter Scott. Why then should Bela Bartok or Sessions be expected to sing with the voice of Brahms or Tchaikovsky? When a contemporary piece seems dry and cerebral to you, when it seems to be giving off little feeling or sentiment, there is a good chance that you are being insensitive to the characteristic musical speech of your own epoch. 



That musical speech ― if it is truly vital ― is certain to include an experimental and controversial side. And why not? Why is it that the typical music lover of our day is seemingly so reluctant to consider a musical composition as, possibly, a challenging experience? When I hear a new piece of music that I do not understand, I am intrigued ― I want to make contact with it again at the first opportunity. It's a challenge ― it keeps my interest in the art of music thoroughly alive. If, after repeated hearing, a work says nothing to me, I do not therefore conclude that modern composition is in a sorry condition. I simply conclude that that piece is not for me. 



I've sadly observed, however, that my own reaction is not typical. Most people seem to resent the controversial in music; they don't want their listening habits disturbed. They use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be used as a soporific. Contemporary music, especially, is created to wake you up, not put you to sleep. It is meant to stir and excite you, to move you ― it may even exhaust you. But isn't that the kind of stimulation you go to the theater for or read a book for? Why make an exception for music? 



It may be that new music sounds peculiar for the sole reason that, in the course of ordinary listening, one hears so little of it by comparison with the amount of conventional music that is performed year in and year out. Radio and concert programs, the advertisements of the record manufacturers and their dealers, the usual school curricula ― all emphasize the idea, unwittingly, perhaps, that “normal” music is music of the past, music that has proved its worth. A generous estimate indicates that only one-quarter of the music we hear can be called contemporary ― and that estimate applies mostly to music heard in the larger musical centers. Under such circumstances contemporary music is likely to remain “peculiar,” unless the listener is willing to make the extra effort to break the barrier of unfamiliarity. 



To feel no need of involvement in the musical expression of one's own day is to shut oneself off from one of the most exciting experiences the art of music can provide. Contemporary music speaks to us as no other music can. It is the older music ― the music of Buxtehude and Cherubini ― that should seem distant and foreign to us, not that of Milhaud and William Schuman. But isn't music universal? What, you may ask, does the living composer say that will not be found in somewhat analogous terms in an earlier music? All depends on the angle of vision: what we see produces wider extremes of tension and release, a more vivid optimism, a grayer pessimism, climaxes of abandonment and explosive hysteria, coloristic variety ― subtleties of light and dark, a relaxed sense of fun sometimes spilling over into the grotesque, crowded textures, open-spaced vistas, “painful” longing, dazzling brilliance. Various shades and gradations of these mood have their counterpart in older music, no doubt, but no sensitive listener would ever confuse two. We usually recognize the period a composition belongs in as an essential part of its physiognomy. It is the uniqueness of any authentic art expression that makes even approximate duplication in any other period inconceivable. That is why the music lover who neglects contemporary music deprives himself of the enjoyment of an otherwise unobtainable aesthetic experience. 



The key to the understanding of new music is repeated hearings. Fortunately for us, the prevalence of the long-play disk makes this entirely possible. Many listeners have attested to the fact that incomprehensibility gradually gives way before the familiarity that only repeated hearing can give. There is, in any event, no better way to test whether contemporary music is to have significance for you. 





Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony (RCA) 


StravinskyLe Sacre du Printemps (”The Rite of Spring”) 

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Philharmonia Orchestra (Sony) 


Britten ― Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings 

Britten conducting, with Peter Pears, Barry Tuckwell (London) 


Bartok ― Quartet 1- 6 

Emerson Quartet (Deutsche Grammophon) 


Schoenberg ― Quartet No. 4 

Arditti Quartet (Disques Montaigne) 


Ives ― Piano Sonata No. 2 (”Concord”) 

Gilbert Kalish (Nonesuch) 




ピエール・モントゥ指揮 ボストン交響楽団RCA) 



エサ・ペッカ・サロネン指揮 フィルハーモニア管弦楽団Sony) 



ベンジャミン・ブリテン指揮 ピーター・ピアーズ(テノール) バリー・タックウェル(ホルン)