Is it the product or the process that makes for good art?

One time my husband and I took our daughter-in-law, a Chinese electrical engineer to an art show and she was frankly puzzled by the paintings. She asked, “why would you paint a landscape when you can have a much more accurate picture with a camera?” Neither the idea of preserving an artistic practice, nor any theories about the value of an individual’s vision rendered in paint on canvas cut any ice with her. To her scientific mind, only the product was important, and the more efficient the process, the better.

That experience came back to me as I read an article by Ryan Blitzstein about software created by David Cope to compose music. David Cope has taken serial music to the next level, in which a computer program generates whole works based on the algorithms supplied. While there is a human factor deciding what to put in and what creations to save or accept, is this different than the decisions of a photographer? While we accept that photography can be an art, it is a very different art form from painting. Has David Cope developed a totally new art form with his “Emmy” software. Do we accept his contention that the impact of the composition on the listener is more important than the creative process of the composer; that it is “just dots on the page” and “there is no soul in the music” itself.

Is it the container or the thing contained that makes, art? Is Cope correct that a composition contains nothing but arithemetical progressions of notes and what is made of them is in the mind of the listener.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Alain Trudel reaches out to young Canadian composers

I have thought for a long time that Alain Trudel is one of Canada’s greatest musical assets. He can conduct, he can sure play trombone, and he has great programming ideas. Isn’t it great that he also is concerned about the future of Canadian music? I just had to post this newsrelease that just came into my inbox.

The Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO) and TSYO Conductor Alain Trudel announce two opportunities for young Canadian musicians. Composers aged 30 or younger can submit their orchestral composition to the TSYO Open Call for Canadian Works, and musicians between the age of 12 and 22 can apply to audition for the 2009.2010 Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra season.

TSYO Conductor Alain Trudel started the TSYO Open Call for Canadian Work as an opportunity for young composers to have their work performed by a full orchestra. “Winning this competition invites young composers to take the next step with their work,” says Alain Trudel. “Hearing your composition with full orchestration brings the work to life and allows the winner to receive feedback from professional conductors and coaches.”

The deadline to submit compositions to the TSYO Open Call for Canadian Works is September 18, 2009. For details on how to apply, visit http://www.tso.ca/season/youth/youth19.cfm

The Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra is also now accepting applications for the 2009.2010 season. Musicians aged 12-22 are invited to apply to this high level training programme using the application form at http://www.tso.ca/season/youth/youth06.cfm. Application forms are due by August 7, 2009. Juried auditions for the TSYO 2009.2010 season will be held on September 11-13, 2009. The TSYO selection jury includes Alain Trudel (TSYO conductor) and TSO musicians Keith Atkinson (TSYO Woodwind Coach), Harcus Hennigar (TSYO Brass Coach), Young-Dae Park (TSYO Violin Coach), Daniel Blackman (TSYO Viola Coach) David Hetherington (TSYO Cello Coach), Paul Rogers (TSYO Double Bass Coach) and David Kent (TSYO Percussion Coach).

To learn more about the TSYO, please visit http://www.tso.ca/season/youth/youth02.cfm

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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The Purpose of Music


An acquaintance recently stumbled across some old musings of mine on the Arts Journal site. It brought memories flooding back of memorable conversations with enigmatic, deep, controversial composer John Tavener.

originally posted @ August 6, 2004 10:46 am as a comment on Arts Journal

During two years as General Manager of Soundstreams Canada, a new music concert presenter in Toronto, Canada–the conversation we hosted that most animated the music community here was a lecture given by Sir John Tavener. He was in town at our invitation for a concert we were presenting of his music. It might be added that unlike the small attendance at most new music concerts, this was an SRO concert. We crowded about 1200 into an 1100 seat cathedral and had to send hundreds home in disappointment. Clearly this is a voice that is reaching people musically.

Prior to John’s arrival, he and I had discussed by phone, the fact that both the music community and the theological community wanted to sponsor a lecture and there was insufficient time in the schedule for two such events. At his suggestion, and with the cooperation of the two sponsoring faculties, we had combined the two into a lecture entitled, “The vocation of the sacred artist”.

In the lecture Tavener presented the view that music had a purpose and that purpose was to reach the soul of individuals in an uplifting, encouraging and enobling way. The purpose of music was fulfilled when the audience left the concert hall feeling troubles lifted and with a desire for a better world, filled with beauty. He continued in voicing the opinion that music had lost its way when composers began to use music as a way to express their personal tragedy and turmoil, unloading that depression and tortured visions on the audience. In so doing, he continued, the composer was contributing to a negative world-view and the entropy of a corrupted civilization.

Although I found myself uncomfortable with a certain black-and-white nature to his arguments, I found myself fundamentally agreeing. The idea that “if the world is to be saved, it will be saved by beauty”– a Tavener quote that so struck me that I made it the featured quotes in our marketing campaign–was certainly the central theme to my own love of music and what I want to achieve in music and also what is at the root of my own assessment of “good music” and “bad music”. I don’t necessarily want music to make me “feel good” but I want to leave the concert hall with the sense that my soul has been touched and nourished.

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Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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