Comment | Contemporary music tends to be more recognizable and original

New music only makes sense if it doesn’t care about the listener. At least that’s what John Nieuwenhuis says NRC (Why should contemporary music be ‘accessible’?, 6/20). But that’s nonsense.

The so-called ‘inaccessibility’ of ‘modern music’ has been widespread throughout the last century. Who is inaccessible? For so-called ‘primary music audiences’, they are used to music of the established repertoire. For example, R. New works by Strauss, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartók, Prokofiev were often received with surprise at first performances, but these works quickly found a place in the same repertoire that initially seemed revolting. And this is despite the often very large differences in style, expression and aims of that repertoire. The concept of ‘accessibility’ is therefore not a simple matter and is subject to historical circumstances and individual aesthetics.


According to Nieuwenhuis, recognition can only be fake, and Matthijs Vermeulen does not deserve the prize because Vermeulen never compromised on recognition or public taste. The property of good music now is that it can build a bridge for the listener to be considered part of a musical culture that consists of three parties: the composer, the performer and the listener. The balance between those parties is a fragile one, because the parameters are never fixed and are subject to various influences.

All composers who are now ‘regular composers’ had the listener in mind, not to appeal to his or her stated taste, but to share their inner musical vision.

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Even among the most individual and idiosyncratic composers ‘recognition’ is applied to the fundamental dynamics of the art form without which the transmission of music is impossible: the internal dynamics that make expression possible.

It illustrates a curious combination of stylistic deviation from the recognizable convention of internal dynamics that characterizes music learned from compositions ranging from Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to Mahler, Debussy, and many other 20th-century composers. No one wrote for study, all wrote for the public, any public. If necessary, future visitors.

Progress: canned stools, tops that spin to music

However, in the last century, following a misunderstanding of composer Arnold Schoenberg’s inner dynamics, a movement arose that sought ‘innovation’ in turning against existing composition and exploring possibilities regardless of existing musical culture. past tense’ (which was no longer seen as relevant), and certainly not with existing listeners. At most, ‘progressive’ composers could imagine future audiences and think and listen as far ahead as they did. We owe it to the ideology of ‘progress in art’, a giant folly of spirited corpses, recorded excrement and blaring spinning tops, and generously funded by the Fonds Podiumkunst in the Netherlands. Under the guise of ‘renewal’.

read more: Why should contemporary music be ‘accessible’?

An underdeveloped audience

Now that all of this is considered completely outdated and irrelevant, composers – and members of the Performing Arts Fund NL and Vermeulen Prize jury – are trying to regain the public interest by making concessions to the tastes of underdeveloped audiences – ie say: not mainstream classical audiences.

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Matthijs Vermeulen is a bad composer, not because he makes concessions or doesn’t, but because of a lack of talent, as every musician with some degree of training notices immediately: great enthusiasm, but no sense of the orchestral medium; Its polyphony is a muddy uncooked soup; His ‘message’ is a powerless, nagging scream. But because he was so ‘progressive’, in the Netherlands he became a symbol of a composer ahead of his time – the old Beethoven complex: the cow is an animal, therefore every animal is a cow.

But how are we supposed to see recognition, innovation, originality when new music is so flat and falls into cheap kitsch? How can an organization like the Performing Arts Fund contribute to new music? At least not with the current interpretation of the concept, which is very superficial and shows a lack of knowledge of musical culture. Contemporary composers can be well-recognized and present original work, in other words: music that has never existed in that form, but that will certainly appeal to regular audiences. To give a few examples: David Matthews and James Francis Brown in the United Kingdom; Nicolas Bacri and Guillaume Connesson in France; Paul Moravec, Bright Sheng and Reza Walley in the US. All new music that is successful in a normal conventional concert setting is music that engages an audience while displaying a clear personal signature and is often very complex.

Ferdinand Woolridge

 "Subtly charming analyst. Beer maven. Future teen idol. Twitter guru. Lifelong bacon fan. Pop culture lover. Passionate social media evangelist."

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