Posted at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2007
by Don Lee
After awhile away from the blog, I just got caught up on the interesting exchange under the heading "Not clear on the concept."
By coincidence, Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques (mentioned in the comment string) was on Saturday night's St. Paul Chamber Orchestra program, which I happened to take in. So was the (at least) equally challenging Dialogues for Piano and Large Ensemble by Elliott Carter.
Both came after intermission, so I was curious to see how many concertgoers would use the break to vote--in advance--with their feet. Most of the row in front of me bailed, but that was about all I noticed.
Afterward, a friend volunteered a thought that bears on the question of new music's place on the radio, which John Clare raises in the comment string. My friend found that the Carter concert performance engaged him in a way that a radio broadcast of the piece would not have done.
I was glad to hear this observation come, unbidden, from a non-radio guy. We need new music infused into the classical bloodstream, so I've sometimes felt like an apologist when I've said the same thing to defend decisions not to broadcast certain pieces of new music. But I know the observation is valid. A piece like Carter's Dialogues demands total attention. For the 14 minutes it takes to play it, who among us will put down the op-ed pages, turn up the radio and just listen?