5. MUSICAL AFTERTHOUGHTS
This summer, during the interval of a Prom, I was talking to an acquaintance when I was asked whether
I liked the contemporary work I had just heard. I replied that it wasn't my way of conceiving Music but that it was a very well
constructed work, with excellent orchestration and pleasing to the ear, though to say the real truth my mind had wandered
off a little during the performance. The acquaintance replied with satisfaction that it was a very "effective" piece.
I had heard this reply very often in recent times. On my way home, I thought of how many times I had been to the Royal
Festival Hall, as well as to contemporary music concerts in Italy, my home country......how many years had passed......and
how things had changed, even the use of words. During the seventies, when at concerts as a student at the Conservatorio
of Milan, or during a few summers at Dartington and quite regularly every year at the Proms, the word constantly used by
everyone had been "interesting". I don't know what words may have been used by concert goers and musicians during the
times of Monteverdi, Beethoven or Debussy, but I doubt either words were regularly pronounced to describe contemporary
works. To ignorant and unaccustomed people in 1913, the Rite of Spring may have been "horrifying", and to those few
intuitive persons, literally "extraordinary", (though neither words mean much for they do not describe the contents of the
work but merely the personal experience of the listener). "Interesting" and "effective" are even worse, for they hardly
involve personal judgment. One feels happily protected when using these words. During the last few decades, exasperated
Analysis has brought about personal detatchment when understanding or judging works, but, in the first place, it has
brought about personal detatchment when composing (except for a handful of exceptions). The return of music that
"communicates" (Minimal, Inter-Ethnical, and, more recently, music creating "effects") has in no way improved the situation.
"Sound effects" were also used a few decades ago. Though the common ear may find the recent sounds more pleasing,
the Musical intent has not changed. It is not sufficient to replace Atonal sounds and noise with agglomerations of more
Tonal sounds, which, through seemingly new techniques and intellectual processes, are really a surrogate of the great
Music of the past. The latter communicated the Composer's deepest "feelings" about his experiences of life and death
through his high emotional involvement. For in the end, that is what "Man's" life is all about and any form of "Art" of the
past has always been expressed in this way, though at different depths. Till "Man" exists, till he reproduces himself
physically and spiritually, till he laughs and cries, he will feel the need to leave a "Poetic" testimony of his existence.
The greater the spiritual involvement, the greater the depth of the work of Art. The techniques used, the external stimuli
and the texts or ideologies that have inspired works of Art have never been an end in themselves but just a means and
a pretext to develop and express the inner emotions of the Artist. Amongst the various, presumably serious, tentatives
to make Art, one often notices that the outer, more superficial emotions are those that only express lower forms of entertainment,
yet often mistaken as forms of Art. Let us not mistake conceptually superficial, though seemingly uncommon sounds, (as well
as words), for deep, uncommon thought, both musical and philosophical. The "Poetry" of Art is something else. Where has
the true spiritual involvement of the genuine Artist gone?