Sunday 22 July 2018

My Contemporary Experience - a guest posting from a young violinist

Samson who writes the blog
Samson who writes the blog
Samson is a 16 year old African-American violinist who writes a blog, and here he writes a guest posting for us about his journey to contemporary music.

My journey with music started when I was ten years old. It was summer time, the humidity in the air nearly choking me to death. I wasn’t used to the wet heat, being from Nevada, and was beginning to loathe my family’s decision to move here. That’s when I was handed a violin.

When I was a beginner I heard (and played) much of the regulars, Mozart, Beethoven, some Haydn, but as I became a more mature musician things began to… well, change. Not only was I becoming more accomplished as a musician, I was discovering musical styles I never thought even existed. African rhythms, Puerto Rican Bomba, and even folk music. However, there was one thing that stuck out to me: Contemporary Music.

Now when I say “contemporary music” I mean everything from 1945 to present day. I can’t recall the details of my first run in with contemporary music, but I’ll give you the gist of the experience in one sentence: “Is this even music?!?” Insert face of utter disgust here.

In all seriousness, what I heard that day was very hard to listen to.
I couldn’t relate all of the clashing dissonance, ambiguous tones, and feeling of utter disarray to anything musical. So I left it alone. Then someone tells me about Philip Glass.

“He’s a great contemporary composer, nothing like that other stuff.”

So I go on YouTube, type in his name and listen. It was true, he was nothing “like that other stuff”, but it wasn’t better than it either. Halfway through his first violin concerto I had turn it off. Listening to his music was like I was going through a dreamscape, always travelling, but never landing, and I did not like it. From that point on I decided to stick to the old stuff, Mozart and Beethoven never hurt nobody.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. I’m at a music camp and hear that we’re going to be playing a newly composed piece, a contemporary one. I mentally groaned as I sat down for orchestra that day; not only did I have to listen to it, I actually had to take part in putting out such disastrous sounds. One hour later I sat with a deep feeling of satisfaction, but why?

Well in that time I discovered the real meaning of contemporary music vs contemporary styles. What I played that day was still contemporary music, as it was just made about two weeks before, but the style was a lot different than Philip’s minimalism or Atonalism. I discovered that everything from movie music to video game music was contemporary, and I loved it.

My experience got me thinking about some of the prejudices that some classical musicians have against contemporary music. Many have had experiences just like my own but haven’t been as fortunate to discover the different styles of contemporary music and I’ve come to realize that this is what’s next for classical music. We can’t move forward with the times if we’re stuck exclusively in the past. Yes, I will always love and cherish Haydn and Vivaldi, but I’ve come to realize they’re not enough.

So, here’s my challenge to you: Get someone one the contemporary boat. Whether they be a musician or just a friend, help them to see that contemporary music is beautiful.

Samson writes the blog

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