Thursday, January 24, 2013

The End Starts Here: On Loving the Past While Embracing the Future... and how few can do both.

Every facet of contemporary life was now up for grabs. Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra had already been completely overrun by Rock and Roll, and unfortunately the world and its critics did not seem able to accept one along with the other. There seemed to be very little room for both. To be in the know, one had to choose.

So on that fateful day in 1968, Robert Anderson received an early copy of the review of his play, by Clive Barnes of The New York Times. He panned it as old fashioned with sentiment too powerful for the modern world. This masterpiece of a play closed after 124 performances. Robert Anderson, after this play, could never again get a favorable review from The New York Times. His time had come and gone. A man I loved and admired had been rejected. His voice was no longer needed or heeded. His accomplishments represented the past, and the future had no room for him or many of his contemporaries.

Sure there were revivals and accolades, but the world was ready to discard and leave Robert Anderson and his contemporaries behind. It was a new day.

Especially poignant these days.

The past is so lost to so many it could inspire. Yes, being contemporary is important. We all want to be 'relevant'. We want to be 'in the know' as it is said.

As a young composer, I was enamored with the contemporary works of the day. Even Stockhausen was a bit old for me... I was reveling in the music of Roger Reynolds and Milton Babbit.

A very good friend and mentor, Dr. David Cohen and I were having coffee and chatting one evening when he asked me if I had listened to Mozart's last piano concerti.

"I only like new stuff..." was my off handed way of taking a pass.

"Oh, so you have heard them", he said.

I looked at him a bit oddly and said, "no, I only listen to new music."

He smiled and said, "Well, if you haven't heard them, they will be new to you."

That was the exact moment when a ton of bricks of bullshit that I had been spewing all fell on top of me. I can remember that moment like it was yesterday.

I love Mozart's Concertos, and John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Eliot Carter, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Adele, Keith Jarret, Garth Brooks and Luthor Vandross.

If you haven't seen it or heard it, it is new to you.


Contraction is for imbeciles and statists.

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