Saturday, December 27, 2008

marymajor's Diary: December 30

I've been thinking about talented musicians that I know, in particular, classical music composers and interpreters of such. The ones that I know feign modesty, but they do think they are pretty hot and keep their "brilliance" "under wraps." Some think they are kind of new modern day Beethoven's or Mozart's or something. Like I said, not actually too modest.

But if so, why is there not public acclaim for the works they produce, except among themselves? Friends writing reviews for friends and so forth. A very small percentage of Americans even listen to classical music. Why is that? I know, they figure Americans are the great unwashed country listening heathen. However, should not genuine prodigy command attention if it is so good? My friends do not have a clue, as talented as they may be.

I'm not a classical fan or expert (even when I took a few piano lessons it was Debussy or nothing for me; I'm just not into classical), but I know people and I know talent like nobody else. Here's what they don't understand.

All of the great composers lived in a time that was saturated with sincere belief in God. All of them were believers at some level, even if not personally devout. One cannot write a Requiem, for example, without having an underlying belief in both the Deity and the institution that one is writing about, and that the listeners of your music also believe in. This extends to all classical music. When those several generations of giants of classical music composition lived, they were lifted in their talent by their faith. Their aim at genius was true, because they aimed high. It is impossible to ever recreate the environment of the genius of these composers and the faith of the times that they composed in, and thus the mindsets they all had toward God, their music, their gift, their patrons and their audiences.

That is why there will never be another Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Hayden and so forth. That is why no one, no matter how talented or having inspiration or musical genius, can reproduce the level of genius and ever lasting relevance of their music.

Modern composers of the last century up and including now and those of the future are too self consciously concerned about the level of their output, rather than aiming for the sublime while actually believing in the sublime, and knowing that their audience does too. They have been infected by what they consider to be rational enlightenment, and the details of production and marketing in a God-omitting secular world. Of course they cannot ever achieve the brilliance of the masters! Duh!

Further, for "what if" fans, suppose you had brilliant atheist composers during the golden years of classical composition. Think about it; they would still be composing for audiences that are not atheists, in venues that are not atheist, and for purposes that are not atheist. The environment of faith that everyone lived within would have uplifted their work for legacy too. But it was people of faith who subscribed to and patronized the prodigies, who listened to their music, who appreciated the reach for the sublime rather than listening to those who are self consciously trying to be all on their own brilliant, innovative and cunning.

That is why when I must listen to classical, or actually am in the mood, it is so painfully obvious to me how the golden age of the composers can never be achieved again, either on an individual level or on the whole.

I think if my friends and acquaintances truly want to reach for the sublime and unlock the "inner genius" that they so modestly (not) think they have, they must understand this holistic view of composing. The composer is within the belief system of the time, and it shapes his or her music, just as it shapes their mind and the focus of their attention. If one is attending to the very highest, to God, even if one is writing a "secular" piece, it will be aligned for genius. None of the composers of the golden eras, even with the big egos, ever thought of themselves outside of a deeply believing environment and thus were lifted up beyond themselves as they composed.

When one is relentlessly focused on one's own "talents" and "interpretation" and "skill" and pseudo-spirituality, the results are painfully low since the bar is set so low. That is why we will never again see what was produced in music, and art, during the time of the great western believing, of faith in God being the obvious environment within which they created.