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Zeal for discovery…

April 19, 2009

I’ve been reading on and off Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence for a while now.  Its essentially a book about the entirety of Western Culture and Ideas since 1500.  I’ll pick it up, read it fairly religiously for a while and then put it down for a long time.  Luckily the book is so heavily cross-referenced and noted that its possible to do this (its essentially its own self contained wiki).  I was going back into earlier pages recently and came upon this quote:

In the next two centuries [1100-1300], the ars nova(new technique), as it was called by its first theorist, Philippe de Vitry, added voices and tempted composers in northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands (called for short the Flemish School) to play with the technique for the sole pleasure of exploring its possibilities.  This complex art developed luxuriantly to the detriment of expressiveness.  Zeal for discovery rather than use is a repeated occurrence in all the arts.

I thought that was a quote that really hit close to home for a lot of early 20th music.  It also reminds me that its hard to really make sense of  what is of the now and very very new.  If it wasn’t for these musicians, its possible to think that we never would have Bach.  Perhaps the many new techniques developed in the twentieth century need to be thought of as creating the toolbox for a golden era of creative music.  Really, we live in an era that could be extremely exciting for art music.

Popularity for music ebbs and flows, and anyone who is really concerned with the state of classical music needs to keep that in mind.

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