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Finding new music to love

One of the expected and desirable aspects of this early internet culture we're all living through is that people are able to find things they really love, and to follow them as deeply as they want. Which is pretty great. But one of the unexpected and undesirable effects has been that we can surround ourselves with only things we already love (or points-of-view we already agree with, and so forth). Which is not so great.

Especially when it comes to creative work, serendipity, the unexpected, and the unfamiliar can all lead people to fall in love with and find great meaning in works or styles or genres or etc. that they never would have selected to engage with themselves.

The Daily Music Break is a great place to find music you may have never looked for, but may love. As the site says,

Today, everyone has their own channel. Somebody who is nuts for big band jazz can choose to listen to nothing but Woody Herman and Count Basie. Classic rock fans can avoid everything but Cream and Hendrix. Madrigals your thing? No problem…

That’s fine. To each his or her own. But there is a price: Listening to what we know we like keeps us from hearing what we know nothing about. In art, the unknown always is a great thing.

Check it out, you might find something unexpected that you love!

Mind the gap: exploring great music in the middle

Re: Matt's recent post about the repertoire of the Metropolitan Opera over the past century

For a while now, Matt and I have been talking about and exploring what a truly American opera company might look like, and what its repertoire might be. It's a fascinating question, and for me the answers are strongly influenced by examples like the Modernist populist composers, whose work was both substantial and accessible, subtly-crafted yet firmly populist in origin and/or appeal. Examples would include Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, or Leonard Bernstein. (Kyle Gann wrote a great post about a largely unknown but terrific American composer cut from this cloth, Marc Blitzstein, the only composer to study with both Boulanger and Schoenberg.)

The schism between American opera and popular culture was driven to a great degree by repertoire choices. But it was also driven by rejection or avoidance of, e.g., inventions and outcomes of industrialization, like technology or socio-political shifts in the early 20th century. Specific examples include something as prosaic as the microphone (which, ironically, made possible the very first ever radio broadcast ever which was a performance of the Metropolitan Opera in 1910) or the massive cultural influence of pervasive electronic media, led by the radio (invading American homes since around 1920), and the democratization of culture it enabled.

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