The Bonfire — An Appreciation, Pt. 2

After Wurdz Boy Ricky Ballboy wrote his appreciation of the first entry in Nerd Bait’s Brooklinburgh Liederbuch, our composer and multi-instrumentalist Professor Paul delivered the following additional thoughts to Ricky’s apoplectic.me site. We hope you find them enlightening.

But first, a reminder of what The Bonfire sounds like, with Science Steph providing the vocals, as always:

OK. Have at it, Prof . . . .

. . .First, very thought provoking. The “Happier post middle age” is something I very much hope is correct. Sounds right, though. I’m having fun writing some music with you all, and it’s sort of nice to not care if anyone likes it or not. [Nerd Bait hopes very much that you enjoy The Bonfire. Ed.] Freeing! I mean, would we really write operatic lieder if we wanted to win friends and meet the ladies?

With his sexual physique Jah know Strauss well built
Mr. Boombastic sez: “What you want is some boombastic romantic fantastic, Lover.”

But I also want to give you (and the readers) a thought. We have this false dichotomy of “classical” and “pop” music. I sort of dislike both terms. Some of the “pop” music I like isn’t very popular, or poppy. And some of the “classical” music I like would be more suited for a party than some of that pop.

So I’ve sort of started using the phrase “composed music” more to refer to what people often call “classical”. A few thoughts on this

First, “classical” is a well defined period from about 1780-1820. So calling all orchestras “classical” is, if you want to be pedantic, a bit wrong. Common usage, though, has literally decimated that distinction, almost exponentially, so I’ll give up that fight.

But “classical” also brings thoughts of sitting quietly with a brandy listening to a composition, unmoved. No I have nothing against listening to music with a brandy. But unmoved is the bit I find exception with. Sort of like “middle age should be boring”, think that “Beethoven is dull”. Both silly.

Nah, that's clearly Peter Murphy
Hold on. Isn’t that Mussorgsky?

“Composed” music, though, is more what’s going on. Some Nerd Bait material is definitely composed, but some (like “Brain Herniation”) is just stuff I made to your words up and didn’t write down. But that act of picking notes and the flow of emotion is important.

Also, there’s often a break between the composer and the performer. That addition of individuals interpreting the music, intermediated by a score, is an interesting factor.

So short version: If you are out there thinking “yeah, I don’t like classical music” you aren’t alone. Haydn and Mozart (early classical period) don’t do it for me, really. Too twee.

All that said, Penderecki’s Threnody is still hard going. If are intrigued by the idea of composed music and differently-shaped ensembles, let me encourage you all to check out this live performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians which is, well, super cool.

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