How Are We To Listen To Contemporary Classical Music?
Jaime Green | May 10th, 2013
Recently I went to Carnegie Hall for, I believe, the second time in my life, to see Gabriel Kahane and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra perform Gabriel's "Guide to the 48 States." I went to college with Gabriel, where our closest contact was probably when I was an assistant stage manager on a musical he co-wrote. Since then he's established himself as a songwriter, singer and composer, one of the polymath hopes of classical music. The New York Times Magazine called him “a one-man cultural Cuisinart.” He's composed concert music for himself, string quartets, and orchestras; he wrote the music and lyrics for a musical at the Public Theater; he first attracted attention for a gorgeous art song cycle called "Craigslistlieder," settings of text from Craigslist posts. But what I have come to love is his, for lack of a better word, pop music. He's put out two albums of beautiful, lush, interesting songs, simultaneously catchy and complicated. The only way I know to explain it is by analogy to books—on the spectrum from literary to commercial, Gabriel's songs are way at the literary end.
The fact that I don't know that musical equivalent, that I'm not sufficiently versed in the context, the terminology, really the field as a whole, reared its head and its implications at Carnegie. I went there to see a musician I love do a different kind of his music, and the difference was an obstacle.
I felt like I was missing something. Like I should like this music. Like I should get it. So I've asked for help.
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