As a student of composition, I am often asked, “what type of music do you write?” Typically I just say, “concert music,” meaning that I’m not a singer-songwriter and don’t write music for movies and video games. This usually leaves people perplexed, though. The music they’re accustomed to hearing in a concert hall is by figures such as Beethoven, Stravinsky, Bach, Tchaikovsky, etc. The newest thing that most people think of as classical music might be Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin or dissonant, post-war expressionism by Schoenberg (which, I might add, is beautiful, if not necessarily pretty). That there is new “classical music” being written today that is not (what most would call) “esoteric modern art” is known to very few people. Part of the reason is that new composers are simply no longer writing for the traditional orchestral and chamber ensembles only, and their music does not show up on the main stream commercialized classical music feeds (i.e. classical music radio stations, classical music pandora, a symphony hall, a jingle-playing Hallmark card). A large reason for this is that “classical music” has come to mean a very specific canon of musical literature written by the types of composers listed above, into which canon and style most new composers just don’t fit.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the readers of this blog to some examples of contemporary (post 2000) “classical music” in the hopes that they might find something they like and start searching for great art beyond what pandora and the local radio station has to offer.
Bone Chapel (from O Death)
by Oscar Bettison
Written by my current teacher, this is a suite written around the spiritual, O Death (remember O Brother Where Art Thou?)
by Arvo Part
Also listen to his Stabat Mater, Fratres, Beatitudes…and just everything.
by Kaija Saariaho
One of my all around favorite composers today. Get to know her music!
by Julia Wolfe
An instrumental telling of the ballade Cruel Sister
by Paul Richards
A lesser known composer, but some beautiful music.
It pains me to stop here, as I feel this hardly touches the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it sparks some interest.
Until next time,