Classical Column. The Composer Speaks: Pablo Santiago Chin
Paraphrasing Berg’s article “Why is Schoenberg ‘s Music so Hard to Understand?”, it seems that this question is more relevant today than ever before if it is to be applied to “abstract” music. I use the term “abstract” after hearing a professor of composition of a prestigious American university expressing his regrettable opinions on avant-garde music. The mentioned professor (and composer) believes that Shostakovich’s music is more human and expressive than Boulez’s music, and supports his argument in the fact that Shostakovich is played all around the world while Boulez is only played in selective circles.
First of all, what do the words “human” and “expressive” mean for this professor? Isn’t this a terrible and deliberate generalization of such misunderstood words? Such a statement points towards a popular tendency today to encourage the “pretty”, the “easy”, the “excessively accessible” and to exclude the “innovative”, the “different”, the “progressive”, the “truly creative”.
Isn’t this “musical racism” in a sense? What’s even worse in the above statement, is the supportive argument (more people listen to Shostakovich than to Boulez = Shostakovich is more “human” and “expressive” than Boulez). Doesn’t this argument reveal how this tendency towards the “easy” responds to marketing and mass consumption? So, Shostakovich sells more than Boulez, then Shostakovich is more expressive! … How sad! (here I must clarify that I love Shostakovich’s music).
Why such sensitive composers (as I found them) as Boulez, Lachenmann, Ligeti or Grisey (among others) are so hard to understand?
Pablo Santiago Chin is a costarican composer that resides in the city of Chicago, Illinois.