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Musical Terrorism

  • Kathleen
    Kathleen Elarte

    At the WHC in Amsterdam, Lavinia Meijer played a world premiere of a piece

    of 3 movements composed by Jacob ter Veldhuis, entitled Cities Change the

    Songs of Birds (three urban songs for harp and boom box)

    (1) Lying Piece of Shit about a drug addicted woman, homeless, in the      

    streets of New York;

    (2) From the time she was a Baby about a drug addicted mother, 31, and her

    17 yr old daughter both just released from jail, and

    (3) That's it your honour".

    Lying Piece of Shit (the actual title of the piece), did not disappoint and

    Ms Meijer's music lived up to every word of the title and then some!

    It is a fact that there is protest music, and music that make statements.

    However, what Ms Meijer hopes to prove by her music is beyond me. The music

    had in stereo overhead (boom box), the voice of a woman who had been

    deprived of her "fix" and in her erratic agitated state, was screaming

    obscenities, which Ms Meijer duplicated in a high-strung voice like a

    banshee.  Only difference was that this woman was screaming implicitly in

    desperation for her "fix" but I fail to understand what the message of Ms

    Meijer's music depicts, or what she was screeching for or against!

    More surprising that this piece is funded by the Dutch Fund for the Creation

    of Music.

    The composer writes: "I analyse sound bytes from the media from people in

    emotional situations regarding their melodic and rhythmical quality and

    build my compositions around it.  In this case the subject is the fringe of

    society, young American women, struggling to survive in a world of drugs and

    crime, without home or in prison.  Urban songs about a harsh reality of

    today.  The harp comments, plays a dialogue or just accompanies the voices

    of these desperate women"...

    In today's volatile world where violence and sex seems to dominate

    (especially on tv and movies), Ms Meijer, who's bio reads "is always

    searching for new music" is actually targetting the "fringes of American

    society" by depicting this desperate woman in her state of frenzy, while in

    Amsterdam, Holland's own drug addicts are in blissful oblivion of what's

    happening while they snort, sniff or inject by needles also provided by the

    Dutch Govt in a nearby park set aside especially for this activity!  This

    kind of "shitty music" only propogates the hate towards Americans by

    targetting their fringes of society. As she explained, this was aimed at

    depicting "American" drug addicts, and the voice was an actual reality, not

    done by an actor". She does not stipulate whether this in fact,
    reflects all of North American society or mainly the USA! But as the
    Lying Piece of Shit points out, it is in the "streets of New York".

    It is unfortunate that new harp music by this world premiere has stooped to

    this degree and brought the harp to the gutter. How low can you go Ms Meijer?

    The harp as we all know, is an instrument of beauty, of worship (as depicted

    in the Dun Huang caves in China & in the Bible).  To see it in the centre of

    this atrocity just goes towards promoting more hate toward American society

    and is, in my opinion, just another form of Musical Terrorism!

    On the other hand, Gweneth Wyntink (also NL), gave a stupendous rendition of

    Ginestera's concerto and brought the house to standing ovation! What a world

    of difference between classy and class-less.

    I sincerely hope that this "world premiere" of this piece will also be its

    swan song and that we never have to be subjected to, nor have this type of

    "shit" imposed upon us ever again.

    Kathy Elarte

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    replies to "Musical Terrorism"
    • David
      David Ice

      BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO Kathy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Thank you for your courage in posting this. 

      I have always had a bee in my bonnet about this sort of "audience abuse" and good heavens, I don't think I could have resisted shouting back at the performer during the concert!

      A few years ago I wrote a published editorial for the Harp Column, which I will quote here.  Obviously my plea fell on deaf ears.  I would have thought that the world of harp and harp composition would be the ONE place that would be immune from the gutter of rap "music" language and epithets that cannot be uttered on broadcast television. 

      I have one question....how many people stormed out of the hall after this "performance" never to return?

      Bless you, Kathy!

      Dave Ice


      The Emperor Has No Clothes

      By David M. Ice


      I know this will get me into a lot of hot water with a lot of people, but I feel this must be said. I am not picking on any particular composer, teacher, school, method, or artist. I am trying to finally acknowledge the proverbial "elephant in the living room" that nobody seems to have the courage to comment on.

      It was so exciting to hear some of the finest talent in the world at the AHS Summer Institute as well as the World Harp Congress. But it seems that, at every conference, there is always one thing that has to be endured: "new music."

      Now I’m not against new music per se. Heaven forbid that all we ever play is Bach, Mozart or Beethoven! It would be a horrible world if we could not play any harp music unless it was 200 years old. I play principal harp with an orchestra that specializes in new music, so you can’t say that I’m not hip.

      But sometimes this new harp "music" is beyond new, experimental, or even cutting edge. So please indulge me this mini-rant, as I desperately try to find a rationale for this assault on the eardrums.

      I remember Dorothy Remsen saying years ago "We’ve heard a lot of new music this conference—and hopefully, most of it we will never have to hear again." Why is it that new composers seem to feel that to be contemporary or "happening" their music has to swear off all tonality, melody, hum-ability, or even structure?

      Not all modern music is awful. At this World Harp Congress I heard some absolutely fabulous new music, such as the Duo Harp Concerto by Karl Jenkins (2002) that had people almost dancing in the aisles! A concert of music by film composer Michele LeGrand had the orchestra itself nearly giving a standing ovation to the harpist! There is a lot of deserving music out there that needs to be heard. Contemporary composers such as John Adams, Steve Reich, Don Davis and Michael Torke are symphonic writers with interesting, engaging scores. With the exception of Davis, none are film composers, so they are unfettered with commercial restrictions on their work. And their work is accessible.

      But it seems that every harp conference, be it AHS or World Harp Congress, has it’s share of moments that…..well, as one well known harp person told me, "Do you get the feeling that this is the first—and last—time this piece will be performed?"

      I guess my question is this: if everybody acknowledges that a piece of music is awful, then why play it? Now, please don’t tell me "Oh, we need to let new composers be heard." Yes, we do…but to a point. If the music is atonal and bizarre, then let’s have concerts clearly labeled as "An Evening of Experimental Music." Trust me, people—including harpists—will most likely stay away in droves.

      All in know is that if I were to play these pieces at any gig, I would be fired on the spot.

      Take for example, one performance ensemble at the World Harp Congress. Now I’m not trying to pick on anybody in particular. What follows is just one of the more recent examples. Out of professional courtesy I will not name the composer, harpist, or the name of the ensemble, even though in my opinion they did not earn that courtesy! Their set ran an intermidable 45 minutes, an agony even if you weren’t suffering from jet lag.

      How bad was it? Let’s just say that I could not possibly satirize it, as anything I’d do on the harp would be actually better than the actual music. And this went on for fourty five minutes. My favorite was the five minutes of "music" where it looked like the harpist attacked the 3rd octave strings with a soda straw from McDonald’s.

      Harpists in the audience were openly groaning when, after a few measures, we knew we were in for another "torture the harp" composition. After 30 minutes, we couldn’t even keep up any pretext of professional interest.

      When directly questioned, one of the instrumentalists said, "This piece is (expletive)!" If the performing musicians (who were all excellent musicians in their own right) feel this way about a piece, then why on earth inflict it on the rest of us? Especially when we have spent a great deal of time and money to attend such an event? There are so many excellent, contemporary pieces that deserve our attention and hearing!

      After this concert, I asked everybody I could for their opinion. Not one person said, "Oh, David, we need to be tolerant and listen." To a harpist, everybody thought it was horrendous.

      Yes, I know that at one time Debussy was considered avante guarde, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring caused riots at the premiere—but at least they were tonal!

      Actually, I loved the program notes. I quote them here—and I’m not making this up:

      "Music that is ‘without transcendency’, is devoid of any ‘perpetuity’; is and as the composer insists, always has been, in every culture—a focal, existential field that threatens tough dogmatic materialism. However, in its deepest root, music remains a realistic representation of the world through its temporal nature." Oh.

      In order to keep my brain from atrophying, I spent most of my time during the performance trying to understand what these program notes really said. After about 30 minutes I decided it boiled down to: "Art reflects life, and life reflects art. And anything you like, your parents will hate." The underlying subtext was "We know this music is junk, so we’ll try and confuse you with lofty prose."

      In short, I feel the composer and the ensemble were deliberately insulting the audience.

      The upshot is that fully one third of the audience evacuated the auditorium at intermission, never to return—and this included paying customers from the general public. These are people who will never ever return to a harp recital based upon this horrid experience.

      How was the harp helped? How will we ever recover the damage done to the general public, who you just knew would tell everybody, "Don’t ever go to a harp recital. It’s AWFUL!" Show me one person who left at intermission who said, "Gee, I can’t wait to take harp lessons so I can play music like that!"

      I guess my point is this: know your audience. Above all else, remember that you are playing to them and for them, not against them.

      I don’t care if the structure of your music equals the square root of the extended overtone frequencies which in turn spells GUATEMALA backwards….if the music isn’t reaching the audience, you’ve failed as composer and/or performer.

      Let me illustrate my point: at the World Harp Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1993, I got together with my former high school foreign exchange student. Kirsten is now a PhD in child psychology, and I invited her to the WHC concerto night at Trivoli gardens.

      Well, there was a lot of "new" music on the first half of the program. And I clearly remember Kirsten saying to me, sadly, at intermission: "I thought it would be pretty!"

      We play one of the most gorgeous instruments in the world. We need to remember that. An occasional startling effect is okay, but we needn’t make the harp sound like a chainsaw or a drowning dolphin. Remember that the public is counting on, demanding beauty in sound and vision from you.

      It’s an awesome responsibility, and an honor!

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    • Christian
      Christian Frederick

      Kathy.... thanks for speaking up. The worst so-called harp music I've ever heard, and offensive to my musicality has been "world premiers" at WHC conventions.

      My question... I read that Suzanne McDonald is the "artistic director". She is a world class harpist and harp teacher. Why is it that every time I hear this offensive harp music, Suzanne McDonald is the artistic director? Is this from the dark side?

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I've been thinking about this very interesting topic for 24 hours (off and on!), and I believe that there are many considerations to be made here.

      I speak often of Kodaly, who was a sort of idol in my mind in terms of pedagogy. Roughly paraphrased, he believed that all "musics" should be taught, but that only the best of all "musics" should be used in teaching.

      I hope it's comfortable to all of us to put the idea on the table that we all have favorite kinds of music, and prefer it to other kinds, and dislike other kinds, and perhaps strongly dislike them.

      I'm not sure though, if we can allow our sense of what is beautiful and well done  to preclude experimentation by others. To me, there's not a great offensive ghastly leap between Mozart and Beethoven, but the music revues of the time were pretty clear that some of Beethoven's later music was pushing in an undesirable direction.

      For my ear, and speaking for my ear only, the music that is the subject of this thread is not within the area of music I would seek to listen to as an experience to cause pleasure. On the other hand, I'd be willing to force myself to listen to such music as an academic exercise if I felt that it was a reasonably sincere intent by the composer, and if I felt that by hearing it my awareness of the harp and its uses might be increased/broadened.

      One of the reasons that I have come to love listening to harp music is the fact that I have very, very sensitive hearing, and loud harp music is about as loud as I want music to be, so it sounds as though I would have wanted to be warned about this piece because it might have caused me physical discomfort because of the volume of it. I doubt that I would have been happy to have been at the performance without an alternative performance to listen to.

      I hope that no one thinks that I'm in any way taking a position in disagreement with anything that has been said previously, but as someone who was never ALLOWED to listen to jazz because it was "offensive to the ear", I do feel that there is a certain amount of room for a slightly different view.


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    • Kimberly
      Kimberly Houser

      It sounds like this piece was very offensive.  There is a lot of modern art that is offensive in all mediums. (painting, sculpture, film)  I think it is a cultural thing right now to see just how offensive you can be before you lose the audience.  You do not have to like it, but it does have the right to exist.  There is a place for this sort of expression.  Ms Meier is a brave harpist to go to this dark place.  Remember though that she did not actually WRITE this piece.  She agreed to play it.  Often one plays things that they do not agree with if that is what is required.  In this case it was a Dutch harpist playnig a work by a Dutch composer., at a Dutch WHC.  You can see how that may have been an interesting collaboration to get involved in.  Also remember that not all agree that the harp as to be all sweetness and light and angels.  I do not know of another instrument that self-limits its expression to only light colors based on religious allusions.    I am not defending the piece, I am just saying it has a right to exist.

        There is an opposite effect  in music composition for the harp as well, if  a composer does come along (who is not already famous) and writes something that is lyrical, and is well constructed, it is often not considered "modern" enough.  There is a prevailing opinion that it is not modern harp music if it does not involve torturing the harp in some way.  So, to get taken as a serious composer you have to write something that is ugly or exploitive.  If you wish to write something that is actually likable, then you get labeled as a popular composer and you are not taken seriously, unless you are already famous like LeGrande, Jenkins or Williams, who are considered as "lighter" style composers.   

      I am looking at both sides of this argument. Maybe if artists were not judged harshly by their peers for creating works of beauty, then we would get more works of beauty from them?

      Anyway, wouldn't a John Adams or Phillip Glass harp concerto be cool?


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    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Kathy and Christian,

      I would suggest writing a letter (not email) to the person in charge of the music choices for the conferences and make your concerns known.  (In this case, it may be Susann McDonald.)  Even a few well-written letters can sway opinion.  This is the only way that I can think of that a participant in the conferences can affect change in the system.


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    • David
      David Ice

      Hi Kimberly and Ann,

      Your arguments are thoughtful and well reasoned, and I do agree with much of what you say.  I have heard firsthand the critical snobbery of something being "too commercial" (translation:  too slick or too pretty, and hence unworthy of our time).  

      I certainly do not advocate censorship, but I think Kimberly is dead on--it seems that there are those who think that art exists to solely push the envelope of what is deemed acceptible.

      I play with the Musica Nova Symphony, and one of our concert series was "Music Banned by the Nazis."  One piece was banned because it "contains every perversion known to mankind." 

      It was New Orleans Jazz....beautifully written out (and with a funky harp part, to boot!)

      Closed mindedness (and ideological goals) are poor reasons for censorship, but most those in society have a sense of self-limiting behavior, and for good reason.

      Trust me, I used to deal with this on a daily basis when I was a full time film editor.  And I developed my own admittedly commercial and pragmatic guidelines:

      In terms of Art:  I am reminded of the scene in BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE where Eileen Heckart has a conversation with a very avante-garde stage director.  He is insisting his admittedly tasteless nudity, et all, is "showing life and reality."  Heckart's retort:  "So is diarrhea...but I hardly consider that entertainment."

      In terms of Commercialism:  I am reminded of a quote by Gene Roddenberry, creator of STAR TREK.  "Ultimately, you must always keep in mind that all of your art, hard work, and creativity is designed to sell hemmorhoid creme."  Meaning that, ultimately, you MUST satisfy your sponsors and producers.  AND YOUR AUDIENCE.

      Would you play a piece of music for your friends? Your church? Your club? At a wedding? A funeral? A corporate gig? For your demo CD? For the mayor? 

      You are certainly able to play anything you wish for anybody, but if you don't reign yourself in at somepoint, you are going to be a very unpopular and unemployed harpist...assuming this isn't your objective.

      Playing weird or sickening music is certainly anybody's right--but being utterly pragmatic and dare I say, crassly commercial, if I spend over two grand to attend concerts in Amsterdam I would expect to hear music that I could at least learn and play for almost any audience.

      Right or wrong, it is what they are expecting.  And I need to eat.

      To be vulgar and ugly simply for it's own sake is so self defeating.  Did ANYBODY, even ONE person, rush out to buy CD's of this composer's music after this performance?  If not, why?  Isn't this self defeating?  And as I said earlier, how many of the general public would leave this concert and tell everybody, "Oh God, never go to a harp concert!"  This is really helpful--NOT!

      So....where is the line that shouldn't be crossed?  Urinating on stage?  At what point does Art cease and Vulgarity reign? 

      Yes, we all need to be challenged....but shouldn't there be some sort of insulation for this most beautiful of instruments?  Has anybody seen somebody gasp when they enter a home and say, "Oh, you have a PIANO?!?!?"  But I'm willing to bet people do when they enter your house and say, "Oh, you have a HARP!!??" 

      Yes, Ms. Meier is to be commended for having the courage to actually tackle this piece.  But similarly, I have the right to walk out on it. 

      And if 90% of your audience feels the same way, well, perhaps they are on to something.

      David Ice


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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      At least we may be grateful to the composer and performer for provoking this VERY interesting discussion.

      David, I have what I suppose is a sort of morbid fear of the sort of mind control that allows totalitarian government to ban any sort of artistic expression. It is having the right to vote with our voices, our pocketbooks, and our feet that I guess seems so valuable to me. You do, absolutely, have the right to walk out on any artistic expression that you find repugnant, and so does everyone else here. To me there's something glorious about that. I was absolutely nauseated over the Cross-in-the-urine art that created an awful uproar a few years ago, but I think more people went to see it because then Mayor Guilliani made an effort to have it banned. I don't know if they paid to get to see it or not, but I don't see that "style" of expression making much headway in the art world, at least on the northeast coast.

      Years ago, I played the debut of an instrumental piece, Apocolyptica, done as a commission for my college wind ensemble by George Rochberg. It was to be played as part of an annual composer's symposium that was held annually on the campus. I thought it was cacophony, and I don't think there was one of us among the nineteen or so who played it that could get through it without laughing. If I had the opportunity to hear it played today, I might, if I had absolutely nothing better to do. Maybe it was one of Rochberg's lesser works. I know that he used the ideas (whatever they were), in a later work that was considered one of his successes. I found the piece unpleasant and pointless.

      With what I hope is the wisdom of time, I respect George Rochberg's desire to compose something meaningful, and as such, I'm  happy to have been able to interpret his piece in the best way I was able, and I didn't hear any complaints after the performance, more like bemused curiosity. Did I see some comment in the original posting about the composer's intent? I hope there was some intent, because that would justify what was done, in my opinion.

      I am SO much closer to those who like things written with a sense of purpose closer to mine. I'm still waiting for someone to say something about the new Previn Harp Concerto. But did Previn spend too many years having to convince musicians that he could do more than movie scores?

      In the long run, is more damage done by restricting what is seen and heard, or by allowing what is truly badly done to be lost in the company of what is better and of higher purpose. WOW- I sure don't even want to attempt to pretend I have the answer for that question!


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    • Katerina
      Katerina King

      My 5 cents in general:

      There is a very thin border between an avangard music and (pardon) chromatical masturbation about "those sick sad world". The last one has nothing to music. And a harp, meaning it is healing and peacefull instrument because of it's acoustic species, is not a brain-crushing instrument. Archetypes? Probably - but you can never imagine bloody drugged ugly punk riping the harp strings. Only in nightmare - but you need to have a sick sad (tm) inner world for this. Some archetypes must stay untouched. There are too much shit in a world and there's NO reason to express it with the only one instrument, which is the incarnated tenderness even in pfysics and lyrics both.

      I migh be not right, but that is my opinion.

      *went back to learnings of my beloved Stefano Landi's works. Make love, not war. Peace, people.*

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    • Christian
      Christian Frederick

      Here is a youtube clip that someone posted once before on harpcolumn.com. I think "The Recital" is better than ANYTHING I've ever heard in the "New Music" category at WHC conferences.


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    • David
      David Ice

      Christian, that is DEAD ON...and I swear I've heard that piece at a harp conference!!!!   And humor always springs from truth...

      Dave Ice

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    • Zep
      Zep of the Cross Strung

         Hi.  I'd just like to put in my 2 cents here.

      I'm a little disturbed by the sensationalist term "musical terrorism."   No one, so far as I know, is blowing anything up, extorting governments by holding hostages, killing innocent civilians.  There just playing music you don't like, or with messages you don't like or agree with.

      Next, there is nothing inherently sacred about the harp.  Its based on your associations.  Hey, I  love harp playing.  But its a kind of machine designed to produce sound, with aesthetic and hopefully pleasing acoustic qualities.  There is nothing that says that you can only use the harp to play certain musics, at certain volumes, and that you must not modify or alter the "pure" sound.

      There are a lot of musics out there, under a lot of different traditions.  The western tradition, which is very varied, is just one small bit of it.  Many serious musicians have tried their hand at atonal music, and have certainly used what has been considered "discord" to good advantage.  Some of this may be an acquired taste, especially for those not used to listening to it.  Also, not all music has equal amount of commercial value, but that is not necessarily related to other values it may possess.

      Mike Rockowitz

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    • Diane
      Diane Michaels

      This has been a facinating thread to read, and I'm glad to see some really thoughtful and well-worded points.

      Two quick thoughts:  music criticism (or any other type of criticism) is not based on whether the critic approves of the piece.

      Also:  the new music scene in Europe, and the Netherlands specifically, is very different from the US.  One close friend, a composer, moved there years ago because of the support he'd receive from musicians and audiences.  So the notion that 90% of the audience would have wanted to walk out, as one poster commented, doesn't take into consideration that much of this audience was probably European, and the non-harp related concert go-ers where likely to be Dutch supporters of new music.

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    • David
      David Ice

      Hi Michael,

      I would agree that there is nothing inherently sacred about the harp.  Many composers have successfully cast the harp "against type," especially film composers.  Scores from composers like Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Alberto Iglasias, even Stephen Sondheim, have used harp in wonderfully weird, even twisted ways.   By the end of JAWS II, the audience is terrified any time a harp starts playing.  Hermann uses harp in TAXI DRIVER to perfectly mirror the shattering of sanity.  And Sondheim's SWEENY TODD (at least the film version's orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick) uses the harp in a terrifying (and ironic) counterpoint for what is going to happen.  I find these orchestrations and harp use thrilling and beyond intriguing. 

      But (and this is my own opinion) I have to wonder if sometimes, some composers must have spent too much time in academia.  To where the music is so overanalyzed and so deliberately "cutting edge" that the intended effect is to be "cool" because audiences either won't understand it or are offended by it.

      It would be a simple fix to have an evening of "Experimental Music".   And it would be interesting to see the attendance figures.

      Howard Hansen, the famed composer/teacher, had a mantra he used to sermonize with his students: "Melody, melody, melody!"--the musical equivalent of "Location, location, location."  It seems that many times his wisdom has been lost.  I certainly have played my share of modern music.  But when the composer can't even hum the tune to me.......

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    • John
      John Bernard

      You may want to skip this response. It's from a non-musician (a harp husband, or harp widower, to be precise).

      You have reminded me of a piece comissioned for the AHS convention in Lubbock, Texas, in the 1970's, which was partially supported by the Institute for Arid and Semiarid Land Studies. That harp work was, appropriately, somewhat more than semi-arid. I haven't heard of it, much less heard it, since.

      I am also reminded of the Salzedo prelude, musically excellent in my non-professional opinion, called "Lamentation," composed in the teens of last century. It achieves effects which hard rock bands match only with the help of high-wattage amplification.

      I am one somewhat narrow in taste, but broad in tolerance. To illustrate by analogy, I am a strong supporter of free expression (for adults), including the right to burn the flag, or use it in critical art. Yet I get really worked up when "patriotic citizens" display the flag in violation of simple flag etiquette, as when it might be allowed to become ragged or torn, or dislplayed after sunset without adequate lighting (equivalent of sunlight). So I suppose I'm supporting those of you who spoke of composer's intent, as well as those who supported the right to walk out.

      Thanks for letting a non-harpist indulge in a bit of nostalgic prattling.

      J Bernard

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    • Zep
      Zep of the Cross Strung


      I couldn't agree more that there is some music that I find vapid, unbearably stupid, cliched, amateurish, sterile, or just plain ugly.  I certainly recognize that your experience of it may differ.

      There is definitely music that takes getting used to.  I now like some rap, having been exposed to it through my teenage daughter - but she knows that there is some of it I object to, like videos/music that clearly glorify the exploitation of women, or the use of weapons.  There is still a lot of pretty pop music being written, much of which, however, is being financially rewarded far beyond what I think of as its genuine musical merit. I recognize that's an opinion on my part.

      I know much more about jazz than I do "classical" western musics.  There are a lot of jazz and bossa tunes that have a limited melody, but very interesting harmonic structure (Coltrane's Equinox comes to mind).  Others have such a chromatic structure, or such complexity, that most folks would have a hard time humming them ("Well you needn't" comes to mind, by T. Monk).  Obviously, lots of jazz, during the improv, is not readily hummable.

      There are lots of aspects that make up any given piece of music.  As a result, something I appreciate of a given piece of music may be lost on you, and visa vera.  Are there absolute values, such that any given piece of music may be weighed against?  This is a tough one - as soon as we come up with examples, I'm sure someone will come up with exceptions!


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    • Carl
      Carl Swanson

      I'm not going to respond directly to posts that have been put on this thread because I have not read all of them yet. But I do want to say that there is a larger picture. I own a copy of 'The concise(meaning the shorter version) Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. It's over 1100 pages long. I have no idea how many composers are listed in there. But 99.9% of them you've never heard of. The point is, in every age, less than 1% of the music composed makes it into the standard repertoire. We too have to suffer through many bad pieces in order to hear the occasional good one. And I don't think anyone, critics included, can predict which pieces are going to last.

      At the same time, I believe there are hidden gems that are waiting to be rediscovered. Yesterday on our local classical music station I heard a Symphony by Hans Rott. He composed it when he was 20 in 1878 and was hailed by Mahler and other major composers of the day as the greatest new composer of the age. The symphony was absolutely riveting; a gigantic piece that bore an uncanny resemblance to symphonies that Mahler would later compose. I stopped what I was doing in the shop, turned off the machinery and stood there listening to this glorious symphony for almost a half hour. I never do that. Rott died by suicide at the age of 24, having burned many other pieces that he had composed. So almost nothing remains today of his music. What an incomprehensible tragedy. I got out my copy of Baker's and Rott is not even in there! Only time will tell with any composer what will survive and what will not.

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    • Kathleen
      Kathleen Elarte

      Take a bowl of your bodily fluids and body waste, mix some blood, get
      Your Government to fund it, entitle it "The fringes of MY society".
      Present it at a WORLD Harp Congress as "new" music and impose it on a
      World audience.  More power to you and your Govt. You have
      avant-garde music acceptable to Your society and perhaps the world's

      Take the same concoction, get Your Govt to fund it, entitle it another
      country's Fringe of society.  Depending on which country you name,
      you could be subjecting your whole society to a hit list, decimation,
      attacks on your Embassy, blood baths etc.  This to me, is
      hate-music and like hate-literature, is in my opinion, a form of
      Musical Terrorism!

      Why do Americans have to be the target (and negative at that), of any
      one country's funding such musical crap, and targetting one society (in
      this case, she states, "New York City"), when drugs is a global
      problem.   Had Ms Meijer or the composer targetted Canadian
      society, you can be sure that I, for one, would be dancing on the Prime
      Minister's roof, picketing the Netherlands Embassy in Ottawa, and
      generally protesting the WHC correspondents and Artistic Director.

      Yet when America is targetted, hey, this is "new" avant-garde
      music.  Maybe the Senator of New York (now that she has much free
      time on her hands) needs a cause. I know if I was American, I would not
      take this sitting down. I would be inundating the World Harp Congress
      with protest letters.

      What does it take to make Americans wake-up? Another 9-11? Or just the
      trend of Western countries now joining the ranks of the "Let's target
      America" with our hate-music?

      Kathy Elarte

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    • Tony
      Tony Morosco

      " I know if I was American, I would not take this sitting down. I would be inundating the World Harp Congress with protest letters."

      Well, as an American I have a lot more important issues to worry about than some musical composition played at a relatively obscure music conference (how many non-harpists even know what the WHC is?), regardless if it is brilliant or garbage.

      My country is facing some very serious issues right now and I just can't find the energy to get that pissed off over some piece of crap music composition that probably no one will ever hear again.

      "What does it take to make Americans wake-up? Another 9-11? Or just the trend of Western countries now joining the ranks of the "Let's target America" with our hate-music?"

      Please, the hyperbole is getting out of hand, and I actually find the comparison and linking of things like this and terrorism to be highly offensive.

      It's a piece of music. It may be garbage (to be honest when a critique is as emotion laden and over the top as the one that started this thread I have a hard time taking it seriously) but it is just music. People have taken pot shots at others through music through the history of music (even if you want to call this a pot shot. Having lived in several major US metropolitan areas including NYC the fact is that there IS a higher incidence of drug use in these places) and to suggest that it can be a direct lead in to terrorism is just going too far in my opinion.


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    • Christian
      Christian Frederick

      I withdraw my comment "Kathy...thanks for speaking up".

      It's beginning to sound like she listens too much to Sean Hannity.

      I prefer Carol Burnett reruns, and I only look at "new music" from an artistic level, not political paranoia.

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Wow. Finally, a really challenging and stimulating artistic discussion. It's been a long time. Briefly, I will say that relying on grants tends to lead to this sort of ridiculous "music" because a proposal has to look good on paper. It's also the kind of thing that indirectly lost us NEA support for classical music. Most people who call themselves composers are not, or at least, it does not mean they are musical or talented. Some of the least talented composers I have come across have been the most successful. And some, like Michael Torke, are lacking in taste and sensibility. Anyone who incorporates rock music and electric instruments into classical music is someone who does not think. Except about success and money. Most composers seem to be in it for the money, oddly enough.

      I find it difficult for some reason to "get my music out there." I think it is because I am a bit shy, it is truly beautiful and therefore needs protectiveness, it seems, and my limited energy is directed to writing new pieces rather than promoting. With performers too, because they probably don't practice much, the worst people seem to promote themselves the most, with results that help them but help destroy the harp's status, roughly speaking. It is our modern world, where people have little education or sensibility, we are stuck with a legacy of worshipping novelty for its own sake, as well as egoism and celebrity-seeking behavior.

      Is Meijer covering for a lack of musicianship, or taking chances?

      Will I get my music accepted to a World Harp Congress?

      Will Tim Conway ever play the harp again?

      These questions, and many others, will be answered on the next installment of "As the Harpist's Stomach Turns."

      I do believe that time will sort out some of the dreck and the dross, and we will recognize as the great ones the composers who were sensitive to the natural acoustics of music, and incorporated them into their music. (Don't ask me for a list of them right now.)

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