Poster by Rafael Alberti for the 1990 Summer Courses
of the Complutense University of Madrid
El compositor y la sociedad: importancia del entorno en la creación musical / The composer and society: importance of the environment in musical creation
Lecture given within the Encounter "Musical creation today" (Summer Courses of the Complutense University, El Escorial, July 24th, 1990)
The content of this communication will be twofold, since there are two terms in which this Meeting is planned. On the one hand, a reflection on the musical aspect of "mass culture" as a result of the global action on the society of the media. On the other, an exposition of some of the factors that, in my opinion, can most influence a tendency towards individualization on the part of the composer of our days. Regarding this second point, I will not develop it in its entirety as a consequence of the first, as the approach of the Encounter seems to suggest, given that the antecedent-consequent relationship in which the terms mass culture-individualization of the composer have been presented. It does not seem essential to me, but secondary, compared to other reasons that I consider essential., a prior reflection As regards the first point, any reflection on "mass culture" requires, as a sine qua non condition on the very concept of culture, condemned in turn to lead to a profound revision of its semantic content.
And since who warns is not a traitor, I want to warn before entering the matter that the content of my words will consist, in essence, in the relationship of a series of truisms. I know that expressing oneself on the basis of such terms is not sophisticated and therefore not highly regarded; I apologize for this, and I hope it is understood that I am not doing it in a spirit similar to that of the scientist or the grammarian, who by enunciating them feel how "the pleasure of discovery itself is mixed and enhanced by the smiling disappointment of verifying, in the midst of the pretensions of Science, the elementality of their own ignorances" (1), but because I consider that Truism Truth is the most effective weapon to combat and eradicate the Truism Lie, a true scourge of humanity on the part of humanity itself, which in recent times has come to find an ideal terrain to spread in the field of culture. Expressly or implicitly -someone has spoken from this very platform, if we believe what the press tells us, very early in these Summer Courses- I will refer to one and the other, as time and your kindness allow me.
It seems that the already somewhat outdated notion of "culture" as "the result of cultivating human knowledge and refining itself through the exercise of man's intellectual faculties" (2), a definition with strongly archaic resonances, and clearly tending to consider some activities as superior for the fact of showing a certain perfectionist channeling in a certain direction, is increasingly far from our way of thinking. Such an idea of culture was particularizing: it was not the knowledge or intellectual faculties of the human being that was considered its object, but the cultivation of the same. It was, therefore, based on the existence of minimum requirements, from which we proceeded towards higher levels. On the contrary, it would seem that our society is looking for a more generalized concept of culture in which, of course, the former is encompassed, but in which progress is made from that minimum level to lower levels.
Philosophers seem to agree on the culture/language interrelation, when they affirm that the former only occurs out of the existence of a semantic vocabulary endowed with Proper Names (3); this would be equivalent to placing its starting point at a stage close to consciousness, while the remaining parts of the language apparatus (phonemic system, rules of order, prosodies, endings ...) would be found in lower strata, progressively closer to the subconscious. From the point of coincidence between language and consciousness -namely, from the appearance of the possibility of "culture"-, it is now impossible to set limits to its diachronic development, although each epoch is characterized by certain easily determinable synchronic features, The task of each generation is to place their qualitative bar higher than the previous one. However, if from the minimum level required for "culture" we proceed not only to higher levels, but also to lower levels, what we will be doing is creating a divergent bar, which will progressively bring down the lower level and create, consequently, a growing space between what should be considered as the upper and lower levels: the field of culture would therefore extend in both directions.
Regarding the apparatus of the language, there is a clear consensus in not modifying the concept of the minimum level from which it is possible to speak of culture. This is not the case in other fields of human knowledge, and specifically in that of art in general, and music in particular, for which society does not seem to want to set limits on their exposure to the qualitatively inferior. I do not think that the recent tendency to consider as culture certain activities and certain artistic productions that in past times would not have had the essential requirement of having the minimum qualitative level required in every moment can be understood in any other way. That this was then something unquestionable was nothing more than a true reflection of a society organized from equally unquestionable hierarchical strata; but the profound changes (political, economic, religious) suffered by it during the last two hundred years, have brought with it a parallel renewal in the cultural sphere that has gradually broadened the field of view of the various arts, to accommodate in it to the new society in whose service they came to be. However, the object of "culture" hardly suffered, in principle, modifications, being from the second half of our century when these began to occur vertiginously, affecting both its theoretical meaning and its application in practice, and creating the most generalizing concept of "culture" as "everything made by man, both in the field of material transformation and in that of social, mythical, artistic, religious, scientific, ethical, philosophical or political creations."
Personally, I think that such a transformation has been due to a very recent exploitation of the semantic ambiguity of the term "culture". This term had been applied, in normal speech, with either of its two usual meanings: one, globalizing, with the sense that I have just enunciated, and a second, more particularizing, reserved for a higher level of human activity and knowledge. The first encompassed both the "popular" and the "cult", while the second only contemplated the "cult." And precisely in that chain of the evolution of the linguistic term of which "culture" and "cult" are not more than two links, a semantic break occurs at some point that is more than enough for one of the terms to carry (or may carry) a different meaning from the other. Thus, "cult" is an adjective that implies a certain erudition, being an attribute, therefore, of a high level; "culture", for its part, presupposes only knowledge, which may even be rudimentary, being capable of encompassing all levels of its development, including the higher one or erudition. We speak of primitive "cultures", in which erudition is not given, but we do not say that the people who develop them are "cult", as this adjective is attributable only to individuals belonging to developed cultures.
By virtue of this amphibology of the term, our society has been applying it to an increasing number of human activities (artistic or not), progressively more and more pedestrian. The relentless descent of the lower bar has been completely divergent from the continuous rise of the upper one, with the consequent greater distance between both and a considerable broadening of the "cultural" objective, as I said before. It would be naive not to see, after all this, a political background with clear socializing nuances, by which the oppressed classes have come to take possession of a common good, exclusive before of the oppressive classes with which the "cults" were generally identified, however progressive his ideas were. Unfortunately, the various terms that initially served to qualify the new activities ("infraculture", "subculture", "pesudoculture" or "counterculture") quickly fell into disuse, since they all consisted of prefixes that denoted a clear pejorative nuance, which it seems to me perfectly valid to designate, within the new concept of "culture", its belonging to the lowest strata, or lower level. The consequence was that the term "culture", when applied to such activities without exception, came to have the current generic meaning, which in turn caused, by extension, a "false egalitarianism that produces two social classes in the field of culture: those who are cultivated and those who are not" (4), to whose unmasking any classification that is attempted of what is understood today by "culture" should contribute as much as possible. It will be convenient to speak, then, of a higher level that will consist, basically, of the object of culture in its classical sense, and a lower level, in which everything that refers to the new concept of it will have to be encompassed. This can be applied, generically, to all artistic activities; I will now refer to the musical field exclusively, designating the upper level as "art music" and the lower level as "consumer music", thus following the terminology used by Adorno in his Philosophy of the New Music, which, without seem completely accurate to me, it is better than the common "classical" and "light" music, absolutely confusing.
Thus, a classification of "culture" in its musical sense would have to encompass various subdivisions or strata (to use a geological simile), of which the highest of the upper level, purely of art, would be what we usually designate as avant-garde, by running the trial, through experimentation, of the appropriate path for upward expansion, down to the lowest stratum of the lower level, purely of consumption, composed of music with certain primitivist tendencies both in music and in literary simplicities that are usually accompanied of. Between both extremes would fit all the remaining aesthetic-musical attitudes, giving rise to strata as disparate as the conservative of "art" music, "popular" music, the various purely consumerist music, or the eloquently called "classical music for those who don't love classical music" (5).
Between contiguous strata, the lack of definition of borders allows the frequent passage or transfer of individuals from one to another, in both directions. This is commonly the case, for example, between the two highest strata of the upper level: the avant-garde and conservative art music; the same can be said of the lower level, where the boundaries are not entirely clear. But they are between both levels, qualitatively speaking, although many times the market interests of publishers or record companies make us believe we see superficially consumerist structures, which in no way can prevail over the deep underlying artistic structures. Perhaps it is this clarity of borders that makes it more difficult -or at least less frequent- the passage of individuals from one level to another. Naturally, the superior is globalizing, while the inferior is particularizing, in terms of the degree of knowledge and technical and aesthetic preparation that each one implies. For this reason, the passage from the lower to the higher is practically non-viable, but the opposite direction is perfectly viable, and we have an example of this, without leaving our country, in the expansion of the field of action of our most distinguished singing figures, who in addition to continue cultivating the genre that has enshrined them and in which they have demonstrated an internationally recognized mastery, they have come to enjoy the favor of a very different public, which due to their desires and affinities we cannot hesitate to qualify as an adept of consumer music and belonging, therefore, to an authentic "mass culture" (6). What is thus lost in quality is gained in quantity, and all this is done -economic considerations aside- in the name of the semantic ambivalence that the term "culture" has come to acquire ... Contemporary bad music used to hide behind a "anything goes" self-justifying. Today much of our society relies on "everything is (or can be) culture" to place comics on a level with Shakespeare. The error is not, of course, neither in the existence of comics, nor in that of consumer music, which are necessary for their audience, but rather that such parcels of "human knowledge" are presented to society on a par with others of very different and superior quality, to the point that they are confused in such a way that for some people they can become the same, or have a similar rank. In summary, I not only believe that it is necessary to speak of an authentic misappropriation of the concept of culture, as public heritage that it is: I also believe that the most intellectually defenseless layers of our society are being subjected, for the benefit of hidden fundamentally mercantilist interests, to a continuous cultural rape.
Of the consequent new cultural pyramid, only the strata close to the base –that is, to the lower level– can be associated with the massification resulting from a global action on the society of the media. The same cannot be said of the layers corresponding to the higher level, to which I do not think there is any doubt that we, the composers participating in this Encounter, belong; this is due to the fact that for these media, in general, our activity either does not exist or, if it does exist, it does not meet the infracultural qualities necessary to be admitted within what constitutes its sphere of influence. To verify this, it is enough to take a simple look at the very little attention that the media (press, radio, television) devote to art music, compared to that paid to consumer music (7). It will be seen immediately that these media do what they can and more to favor a mass culture related to the latter, by virtue of interests in which the economic prevails over the artistic. And this can already be seen from the television programs aimed at a majority childhood, whose content has been peppered lately with the broadcast of the most innovative "video-clips" on the market. With this, of course, the interest is captured of a defenseless public that tomorrow will have to be an unconditional public, which is doubly serious, since that musical culture of consumption is not counteracted by the presence in the school of a minimum Musical "culture" of art, which continues to be questioned by those responsible for our education, who, as worthy heirs of the intellectual deafness of the men of '98, seem to continue to believe that there is no possible art beyond the arts plastic. Add to all the above the general tendency today to apply criteria of some specialties or activities to others that are quite different, in a display of misunderstood abstraction. The mass media act in this sense with extreme lightness, highlighting the aspect of maximum popular participation of certain cultural activities and applying that scale to the rest. It would seem that, for these media, the culture that must be promoted and favored is one that manages to fill a stadium like the Vicente Calderón with the public, confusing the essence of that culture with the degree of expectation it arouses, and pretending to make believe that the goodness of the former is directly proportional to the size of the latter. Thus, and as Tàpies already denounced in his day, to any democratic spirit with socializing concerns (and not too many lights) it will be very easy to demonstrate, through a simple rule of three, that a greater participation, quantitatively speaking, corresponds to a better distribution and higher quality of culture, when, in reality, "without valid principles to justify it, without a correct ideological basis, both in art and in politics or whatever you want, participation is no guarantee of goodness. It can also be a sham, unfortunately not only useless, but counterproductive" (8).
In view of all the foregoing, I believe that, if in the composer's activity a certain tendency towards individualization has been observed, in general, this is not a direct product of that "mass culture" resulting from the global action on the society of the mass media, but, in any case, an indirect result of it, as a contrary attitude, of rejection of the mass consumerism that has invaded the art world in recent times. To escape from it, artists have been raising ideological and aesthetic barriers, inaccessible to the average individual, given the high doses of complexity and dissuasive crypticism that they consist of.
In any case, this attitude, somewhat more pronounced today than in the past, can only be relatively individualistic: on the one hand, it does not prevent communion and association with individuals who share the same ideas and concerns; on the other hand, in practice it cannot become anything more than a simple initial impulse, an attitude of opposition or confrontation with a medium, an environment that, although it can sometimes become hostile, is in any case indispensable. Otherwise, isolation is essential for the work of any artist, as it is, returning to Tàpies, "the leisure necessary for all concentration, for all "contemplation"..., or economic tranquility, recollection and "laisser faire". And all these things will always be considered individualistic pride or antisocial attitudes ..." (9) On the other hand, few artistic activities can occur in which the creator needs more from society than music, in which absolute isolation ends with the ability to conceive and consequently make the score, which is essentially nothing more than a project, a plan or a notebook of instructions to be followed to obtain the final artistic product. From then on, it corresponds to the different parts of society (interpreters, public, critics) to become both executor and collective heir of an activity that only at first can be individual.
For this reason, and also because this individualistic attitude is not at all exclusive to the current moment, I believe that it would be more appropriate to relate it not to "mass culture", but to the environment of the own cultural level in which the composer of our days develops his activity, since I consider that only that environment can influence a possible tendency to isolation, through an exclusive path of the present moment: that of confusion and subsequent disappointment in the face of a series of negative aspects in their social and professional relationships, which are accused especially in those composers who have made common cause with the position, so widespread in our century on the other hand, of "art for art's sake", as well as in those who have decided to serve in the most advanced position of the higher level, by not conforming to the trite and wanting to open new paths for society through languages whose morphological, syntactic, rhetorical and formal aspects require large doses of research, experimentation and speculation.
Of the innumerable factors of confusion and disappointment, I will attempt an analysis of those that seem most eloquent to me, as they are especially representative of the current situation. The limitations of time and space force me to make a scrupulous selection, and for this reason I will stick to reflecting aloud on a couple of them -to which I am especially sensitive- in a somewhat more extensive way, simply stating others. In the first place, I will refer to the composer's social environment, as well as the role that contemporary music plays within it; then, to his professional environment, examining the negative influence that certain attitudes may have on certain aspects that, such as musical training or the diffusion of contemporary music, are vital for the full development of the composition.
By referring to the two extreme levels of the current concept of "culture", I was speaking of their continuing divergent expansion. Something similar, on a smaller scale, happens between the two main strata of the upper level, the advanced and the conservative of art music. that show nowadays a clear tendency to separate more and more from each other. This manifests itself in various ways, perhaps the most representative of which is the growth of the so-called "classical" or "traditional" repertoire. Although it is repeatedly affirmed that the usual repertoire that configures the programming of orchestras, soloists and chamber groups is sufficient, quantitatively and qualitatively speaking, to guarantee the musical nutrition of future generations, this is not entirely true. Perhaps this repertoire can constitute a base, a solid foundation, but both the public, such as the performers themselves, such as concert and festival organizers, such as those responsible for the programming of radio stations or record companies, unanimously want its expansion through the inclusion of unknown works that, subjected to his audition repeatedly, begin to swell it. Naturally, this has happened at all times, and thanks to the attitude of the various classes that make up the "musical society", what is usually understood by "repertoire" constitutes a sample of the music composed during the last centuries, including the 20th: Ravel, Stravinsky, Bartók ... are just one example of authors without whom it would be impossible to talk about the current repertoire.
What is shocking is that the expansive trend of this repertoire is not occurring, as in "better" times towards the future (to speak metaphorically), but towards the past, and not necessarily the immediate one. The very recent recognition of the so-called ancient music confirms this; and in the regular programming of our orchestras we can see the regressive expansion of the repertoire in the increasingly frequent appearance of authors who seemed to have been definitively left out of it: Glazunov, Nielsen, Roussel, Zemlinsky, Bloch, Chausson... Their growing presence in the programming is a consequence of the current rise of a more than dubious taste for post-romantic symphonism. This would not have anything wrong, of course, if it were compensated by the habitual presence in the programming of those same orchestras of names such as Varèse, Boulez, Ligeti, Berio, Nono or Stockhausen, to name consecrated authors whose aesthetic attitude clearly corresponds to the most advanced parto f the upper level, and without which a minimal understanding of contemporary music is practically impossible. To this it can be objected that, in any case, the radio and the records make up for their absence in other areas; but it is not destined to those media for which it is written, normally, and that traumatic disproportion between the ideal and the real is a factor to take into account in the study of the confusion and disappointment of the composer, who not only no longer knows well what is his work for, but he also ignores who it is intended for.
Faced with this negative attitude, contemporary music is forced to hide behind the defensive position of concert programs and monographic and specialized festivals. I see it frankly difficult that this route is adequate to spread said music beyond the borders of an initiated public, with a prior interest in it, since through such acts it is not likely that the language of the new music reaches the general public (10). I believe that today's composer works in the hope of one day occupying a place in the same History of Music that includes Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner or Debussy. His desire is to reach the same audience that is faithful to the great masters of the past, using the same concert halls and making his music sound basically through the same instruments and ensembles that they used. The ghetto, therefore, does not seem to me the most suitable destination, and I do not believe that any composer seeks it, except as a lesser evil. Personally, I think that contemporary music will have a hopeful future the day it manages to enter, in its own right, into the usual repertoire: for this, isolated performances of works that, because they have been programmed once, seem to lose the right to be played again, will not suffice. That is already being done now, with results that fail to expand the repertoire in that direction and favor its expansion in a divergent sense, as I said before. As long as all this does not happen, contemporary music will continue to be for today's society something similar to what esperanto is to the range of natural languages: an almost esoteric product, with hardly any social significance.
Naturally, the causes of the composer's isolation, confusion and disappointment are not only in the act of the concert and its surroundings. Before reaching a professional status, a series of factors can negatively affect the adoption of a position more or less consistent with the surrounding reality. We all know how insufficient the teaching of contemporary music is within the curricula of our conservatories. This is in itself serious in terms of both practical and theoretical teachings, based primarily on the study of music corresponding to the tonal period. Against this fact the main representatives of the most advanced aesthetic positions have raised their voices, and perhaps society would have agreed with them if their various attitudes had consisted not so much in requesting the almost abolition of certain aspects of traditional teaching, by virtue of the which disciplines such as classical harmony or counterpoint, for example, should be considerably diminished, as in joining forces to exert strong pressure for a greater presence of contemporary music in conventional music education. I believe that, in this way, the result would have been more positive than what has been achieved so far in that sense, which is practically nothing, and I advocate that joint actions with that objective come out of meetings like this one.
Not even the most illustrious minds of current musical thought have been spared from expressing themselves in that abolitionist sense. Boulez himself, whose intelligence quotient is not suspected of being low, cannot escape this temptation when he says, in Points of reference (p. 97 of the Spanish edition), things like the following: "As far as I know, at school they haven't taught us seventeenth-century French grammar, on the pretext that it signals an apotheosis of classicism and elegance. Yet that's what it is done with music." A few pages before, the author of those words had launched his harshest invectives against those who apply criteria from other specialties to music, but here Boulez does not waste the opportunity to make an unfortunate comparison between language and music, or their corresponding grammars. and styles. As is well known, it is not only the concept of "culture" that has been modified by its semantic ambiguity. The term "academicism" has been acquiring an exaggeratedly pejorative patina for more than a century when it refers to traditional musical training, when in reality "everything that manages to stabilize and last, whatever its radicality, can’t help but become academic" (11); a similar fate seems to run "eclecticism" which, after a time of general condescension, is gradually falling into the misfortune of a negative semantic interpretation. And even the very concept of language has suffered similar intellectual manipulations, inevitable on the other hand, when applied to music (12).
Eliminate - or even reduce - from our current teaching curricula of the system in which practically it is written all the music on which our society is nourished, both as regards the music of the past that makes up the repertoire usual, as most of what is still written, both for the concert and for purely functional purposes (film, television, incidental music, hymns, advertising...), it would be tremendously far-fetched. That together with them others are being written, purely of art, which in turn occupy the top of the cultural pyramid, amply justifies the presence of the latter, of their already very experienced techniques and of the new aesthetics that they entail, in the current curricula, but by no means the elimination of the study of the previous language, which is still fully in force in the consciousness of the people. That part, let's say, linguistic of the environment is a decisive factor in the composer-society relationship, since out of the choice between an aesthetic attitude that is based on linguistic-musical bases common to both interlocutors or the opposite depend artistically secondary factors, if you want, but of enormous importance in the psychological, sociological or economic. The risk of the choice will be very different for each artist, according to his or her talent, and we can find, even in the same individual, a very varied range of attitudes that go from the most reactionary conservative position to the most sophisticated avant-garde, passing through all the nuances of the aesthetic and ideological kaleidoscope.
In any case, the belligerent attitude towards the teaching of traditional music in its theoretical aspect by leading figures of contemporary creation, together with a good dose of messianism, have resulted in a socially unnecessary hyper-bloom of composers, mostly young people, who enter the professional field with considerable gaps in their musical training, with the consequent risk of future confusion due to their own ignorance of a basic training. Besides, from my point of view, a gross error, because the existence of the previous is part of the current, as a part of yesterday's "linguistic" elements is denied today. And returning to the thread of Boulez's argument: seventeenth century French grammar is not taught in school, because it is not the current one; but without his knowledge, that of today's French would be impossible for the philologist. In the same way, to understand why Spanish today is the way it is and works the way it works, it is necessary to have prior knowledge of Latin on the part of the student, not of the layman. And the composer must belong to the group of linguists, and not only that of speakers (the comparisons are worth), for which his knowledge of music, past and present, must be as complete as possible.
Therefore, I think that only the full knowledge of the basic material enables the composer to choose, in due course, one of the two paths that, somewhat manicheanly, offers him the current environment: a conservative one, clearly linked to tradition, and another advanced, who intends to escape from it. Today, fortunately, the social environment is undergoing a considerable change that offers undoubted advantages: a composer who was active in a conservative aesthetic could see a few years ago (and not many) how his work was almost systematically rejected by the most important circuits of the contemporary music. Today that rejection is less, because the conservative attitude of the majority public has ended up benefiting the trends that said public likes, imposing them on programs that would have been unthinkable years ago.
This conservative influence, which is fundamentally part of that audience that contemporary music had almost lost and which it is making a supreme effort to recover, has also benefited a greater percentage of the presence of tradition in music composed by authors than until quite recently only militated in the advanced stratum of the higher level, and that by virtue of this new relationship with the past (it is not, here, neoclassicism) they now have to place themselves halfway between both strata of that level. A good part of the composers present here, including myself (13), have "bitten" the bait of this new possibility, since both Halffter, Bernaola, Marco, and Aracil, let alone Maestro Rodrigo –true "advanced" in this field–, like myself, we can present together a good number of works in which the presence of the cultured musical tradition (and sorry for the adjective), from our country and abroad, is superimposed, juxtaposed and/or opposed to the music of our days, with a musical result I do not know if coherent, but of course highly communicative, judging by the favorable reaction of the average public to this type of work. But beware!; I do not believe that the road to the future goes in that direction, because that is a regression, and a regression can never open doors, but in any case close those that had been left ajar. The fact that similar works have been composed and still have to be composed is, in my opinion, a symptom, an alarm signal that something is not right, that something is not working in our musical organism. Add this use of the material of the past together with that of the present in art music to the remaining "regressive" factors that we have been enumerating: expansion of the repertoire towards the past, expansion of culture towards the pedestrian... and then you will see that the red light is multiple: the symptoms are turning into syndrome.
Of course, there remain many aspects of the environment that are worthy of study, and that can contribute to a very high degree to the current confusion and disappointment of the composer. The limitations of time and space make a careful examination of them unfeasible, but I would not like to end my words without referring to at least a couple of them.
After the individual act of creation, the composer requires, as has already been said, a first contact with a reduced social environment, which acts as an intermediary between him and another broader social environment, constituted by the public, the ultimate recipient of work. The presence of these intermediaries, unavoidable in all the arts, is clearly determining when it comes to music. We can divide them into a quantitatively large block, but of little social importance, made up of the performers, and a second, much smaller block, but of enormous importance, because its members have the handle of the artistic frying pan in their hands, which, like all the handles of all the pans, is none other than that of economic power. Music publishers, record companies, entities (public and private), concert and festival organizers... belong to this second block of "intermediaries". The recent behavior of both sectors towards contemporary music leads me to think that little can be expected of them for its further diffusion in the future. Neither the performers (who were not interested in it during their training) are interested in including it in a possible expansion of their repertoire (Pollini or Rostropovich are, apparently, examples not to be followed), nor do music publishers seem wanting to risk anything for said music, judging by that strange attitude that has led them to become mere administrators of a series of economic benefits that the works report, without offering in exchange (except for the honorable exceptions of rigor) the counterpart of helping its diffusion through the printed edition (which is possible, of course, thanks to a new semantic ambiguity thanks to which it is no longer necessary to edit to be an editor).
In short, a set of attitudes on the part of society, the composers themselves, those responsible for musical education, performers, publishers... that place the current composer on the verge of deep aesthetic, ideological, social or linguistic crises, which will plunge him into a deep confusion, from which a very great tendency towards an individualism can be derived which, despite its content being largely metaphorical or symbolic, will in any case pose a serious obstacle to cordial relations between composers and society. Full understanding between the two interlocutors requires a joint effort from each of them: it is useless for artists to abandon their individualistic positions, if society "does not in turn provide the appropriate means (that is, an adequate aesthetic education of their artists members) for such emotional communication to occur." (14).
Jose Luis Turina
Madrid, June 1990
(1) Agustín García Calvo: Speaking of what speaks (Ed. Lucina, Madrid, 1989), p. 207.
(2) Definition of "culture" given by the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, 1970.
(3) See Agustín García Calvo, Op. cit., p. 19 and fwd.
(4) Antonio Fontán (cited in the article The Fall of the Classics (El País, "Education" supplement, June 26, 1990).
(5) The consumerist origin of this type of music would have to be found in those record by-products that, with the generic titles of Reader's Digest Selections or Frank Pourcel and his greatest hits, proliferated a few years ago, and which made their buyer believe that its possession assured him the entrance through the great door in the world of the knowledge of the music of art. The music in question has experienced a great emergence lately in our country, being enormously popular the "arrangements" (of very low quality and infinitely more tacky than those mentioned above) of "famous pages" of the classical repertoire made a few years ago.
(6) That the media play a prominent role in making this possible is unquestionable, given the continued presence in them of these singing figures. Their popularity has grown so much in recent times that it seems that it has exceeded their expectations, judging by the so strange activities that they are forced to develop, parallel to operatic and concert music in relation to art music, and to which they also develop within consumer music. As a sample, the press echoed at the end of last June the commitment recently acquired by Plácido Domingo to promote the candidacy of the Aragonese city of Jaca as the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics, which will entail the projection of a video about that town during a series of recitals that the singer will star in soon. Such things lead, of course, to a progressive loss of prestige of such figures among the public of art music, which, on the other hand, goes in inverse ratio to their prestige –popularity, better– among the public adept at the consumerist level.
(7) Among the abundant Madrid press, and except for the honorable presence of a weekly supplement that, with the title of "Classical Music", has been appearing in the newspaper ABC in recent months, art music has hardly any place, while sections dedicated to rock, pop and other consumer music are not only more frequent, but much more extensive, quantitatively speaking. The data is even more discouraging when it comes to the world of radio and televisión, if we except the presence on Radio Nacional de España of a channel (Radio 2) that dedicates 24 hours a day to art music. In the remaining radio or television stations, both public and private, the presence of art music is practically non-existent. Televisión Española, as is known, relegates art music to the off-peak hours, and within the somewhat more cultured programming of its Second Program. In the First channel, the appearance of a symphony orchestra only occurs once a week, and it does so framed by the retransmissions of the "Holy Mass" and the "People of God" program, which is still symptomatic of the place that art music occupies in the minds that govern the destinies of Spanish public television, and on the other hand confirms the hypothesis of music as an object of worship and reverence, so often denounced by the most iconoclastic avant-garde.
(8) Antoni Tàpies: Art against aesthetics (Ed. Planeta-Agostini, 1986), p. 88.
(9) Antoni Tàpies: Op. cit., p. 186.
(10) In the last Madrid season of concerts, the monograph dedicated to the composer Luciano Berio stood out due to his very special interest. After auditioning four of his Sequenze for various soloists, the composer himself conducted the Spanish premiere of his Ofanim cantata. Despite the character of an event that such an act had, the National Music Auditorium of Madrid presented a discouraging shortage of public; the same can be said of the performance of Witold Lutoslawski at the head of the ONE, last spring.
The lack of interest of the general public towards this type of acts related to contemporary music is not only influenced by the scarcity of general "musical culture" in our country. Also the attitude of music professionals is negative in that sense by not programming it, as is that of those responsible for criticism in the media, by ignoring or postponing it in the face of more "popular" events. This is how practically all of Madrid's critics worked on the occasion of one of the most important contemporary music events held in Madrid in recent years: the integral music for instrumental ensemble by Anton Webern, by the Círculo Group conducted by José Luis Temes, within the concert season of the Center for the Diffusion of Contemporary Music. This concert had the misfortune to coincide on the day and time with the premiere of Rigoletto's latest production, presented in the opera season at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, a place where the full critics gathered to be able to have their readers on time informed of the excellent state of the voice of Alfredo Kraus, and his no less splendid interpretation of La donna è mobile... No comments.
(11) See Francisco Calvo Serraller: The sculpture after the "minimal" (El País, supplement "Artes", June 30, 1990).
(12) Thus, in a very recent discussion conference on issues of link between Linguistics, Logic, Mathematics and Music that, under the direction of Agustín García Calvo, took place in Madrid, the speakers did not reach any agreement on the recognition as "language" of the musical fact. Although the character of formal language was recognized in its written aspect, as well as the existence of various superficial elements common to all languages (morphology, syntax, form and rhetoric), its deep structure seems to present an insurmountable fault: the lack of semantic possibility, which is more than enough so that what we usually designate as "musical language" does not go beyond being a pure metaphor. Curling the loop of ambiguity, one of the speakers, the professor Raymond Monelle, went so far as to affirm that music is "a signifier without a signified, which, by simplification, makes it the signifier of a signifier."
(13) The other composers present at the Meeting were Cristóbal Halffter, Carmelo Bernaola, Tomás Marco, Franco Donatoni, Beat Furrer, Alfredo Aracil and Jorge Fernández Guerra. It was also attended by Joaquín Rodrigo.
(14) Antoni Tàpies: Op. cit., p. 164.