21st Century - A New Beginning
"Beyond the Discords"
by Don Robertson (2005)
“I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a universal musical mind. Any true music speaks with this universal mind to the universal mind in all people. The understanding that results will vary only in so far as people have or have not been conditioned to the various styles of music in which the universal mind speaks. Consequently, often some effort and exposure is necessary in order to understand some of the music coming from a different period or a different culture than that to which the listener has been conditioned.”
– Bill Evans (1929-1980), Jazz Pianist
We have entered not only a new century, but a new millennium. As I point out in my on-line book called Music Through the Centuries, in the Western classical music tradition, each century has its own musical style and purpose.
I believe that these will be some of the characteristics of the new classical music of the 21st century:
1) It will encompass all meaningful traditions and genres. Today’s composers more fully understand the music traditions of other periods and cultures and listeners are increasingly accepting them, as witnessed by the success of such previously obscure music as Gregorian chant, Qawwali, and Celtic testifies. The 20th century was the century of electrical and mechanical revolution. Automobiles hit the newly paved roads; power and telephone lines spread themselves across the land; radio, telephone and television came into being; and people began experiencing the kind of stress that comes with such radical changes. The 21st century has now dawned with the miracle of the worldwide internet piped into most homes, a growing number of cell phones, and fuel for last century’s automobiles becoming a luxury item. We are clearly on new turf. What will take place in this century will not be another mechanical revelation. As the internet continues to grow, everything will be at our fingertips, wherever we are. We will have a wealth of information and culture available to us that would have been unimaginable a hundred years ago. And this is where the younger generations of composers will learn their craft. No longer will they need to rely on CD/DVD stores and megasized-corporation-sponsored AM and FM radio for their musical input. The finest and greatest music and art that our world has produced will be available everywhere for those who are ready for it.
2) It will return to the essentials: the overtone series and natural harmony.
3) The new music will spell the end to the avant-guard… which was “so twentieth century.” After all, this movement has been hanging around since 1917, when Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in an art show. Artists no longer need to shock or feel so insecure that they must demonstrate how original they are. It’s going to be all about healing, feeling, and real genius.
4) Feelings will be fully expressed. Because you express love in music will not define you as a retro-19th-century romantic reactionary, nor will it brand you as a panderer or (Gawd forbid) a pop musician!
5) There will be a surge of great composers and great music: You know…. like what happened during the later half of the 19th century.
6) There will be a realization of the purest role for art and music: its ability to heal and provide a spiritual catalyst.
7) There will be a resurgence in acoustic music: I know, technology is great, but such music as Celtic and bluegrass and other acoustic genres will have a big place in public performance, and the fulfillment of the orchestra and choir will take place in society, bringing us performances of the great works that will require new acoustically designed buildings. Oh, and by the way, when I talk about acoustic, orchestral, and choral music, I am saying that microphones and speakers will not be used for stage performances. Electronic music (as opposed to acoustic music) is (by definition) ANY music that is comes out of a speaker!
8) Acceptance of musical performance as art, not just mere entertainment. This is the revolution that Wagner began.