Who's Afraid of Living Composers? The Joys of Playing New Music
Imagine being the first person to bring life to the notes of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. In your hands you hold the map of a new sound world--one that you get to birth to the world. The music is like virgin snow--pure, clean, untouched by others' ideas of how the piece should be played. It's just you and the notes. You and Beethoven.
This experience, right here, is why I chose to devote much of my career to playing new music. No Dead Guys was a tongue-in-cheek name that I first applied to a music series and now to this blog. It's not a dismissal of the masterworks of the past, but rather a decision to step outside the "holy museum" and the weight of history and create fresh paths.
It's ironic. I, like many people, thought I "hated" contemporary classical music. The atonal stuff I was taught to revere sent me running back to the lush melodies of the 19th century. It wasn't until I shook off the dust of university that I discovered a smorgasbord of delicious music that begged to be played. As a friend once said, "there aren't enough pianists to play all the music that needs to be played."
My journey out of standard repertoire began, in part, with the discovery of Yvar Mikhashoff's tango CD, Incitation to Desire. It made my hair stand on end. I listened to it for two weeks straight. Then I started searching for scores. Through this CD I discovered Chester Biscardi and Scott Pender--two of my favorite composers who's music I feature regularly on this blog. Over the years they've both become personal friends of mine. The title of this lushly beautiful piece by Scott Pender comes from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. It embraces Romanticism and places it firmly in the 21st century--proof that contemporary classical music can be romantic, lyrical, intellectual and accessible.
It's time to free contemporary classical music from inaccessibility and snobbery. It's time to find and champion well-written pieces that won't cause audiences to shut down and walk out. It's time, in other words, to liberate it from the "shoulds" and "have-tos" and embrace music played for the sheer beauty of it.
For a copy of this Etude, visit Scott Pender.