moments before the wind.

May 1, 2006

EMP Pop Conference #9

Filed under: authenticity, folk, music, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 1:35 pm

Alex Ross has this sort of overarching disregard for genre.  What I've always liked about him is the way he treats music as music, as a cultural force and an artistic pursuit, no matter what market it pertains to.  His affinity with "classical" music is more than pronounced, but his whole attitude is so inclusive and open.  As a result of my classical piano upbringing and my Music degree, I am well aware of the kinds of influences that  classical music has on my personal tastes, talents, and ideas about music i listen to as well as write.  As in most instances of favorite writers, it feels like he is putting my own thoughts into words. 

So obviously I went to hear his talk this weekend about 20th century music.  It was long, and as densely packed as a combination of two or three different courses I took in college: 19th Century Music, 20th Century Music, and Music and Computers.  It was cool to hear him travel easily between Wagner's "Tristan Chord," Communism and James Brown – and it made complete sense, of course.  He equated Schoenberg with abstract expressionism, and when he played a clip of a Boulez piece I literally saw  Pollock's "Number 1."  He used the word "ostenato" to link minimalism to Dylan ("Maggie's Farm") and Phillip Glass.  He highlighted musicians who crossed over in both "classical" and "pop" genres – Brian Eno, John Cale.  A key point that came across is the role of technology and what we call electronic music; as an avant garde pursuit it began in the "classical" genre, and where it has led to today is more direct than people generally acknowledge. 

I eagerly await his book on the topic of 20th century music, not due for another year I think.  But we have his blog –, which i often post about here in moments.

My favorite part of the whole lecture was during a clip Ross played of Hanns Eisler's "Der Heimliche Aufmarsch," a shouty protest against fascism from 1930.  (His own thoughts here)  The piece was absorbing, sure, but there was something precious about watching Ross bob his head in silent solidarity with those agitated Germans of old. 

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