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ARCHIVED TOPICS => The listener => Topic started by: Dundonnell on October 26, 2018, 12:29:03 pm

Title: "Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music"
Post by: Dundonnell on October 26, 2018, 12:29:03 pm
Walter Simmons is a distinguished American writer about music. He has written a splendid book about the American composers William Schuman, Peter Mennin and Vincent Persichetti ("Voices of Stone and Steel"), which I read with enormous pleasure, and another on romantic Americans ("Voices in the Wilderness") which I have not yet read. He has championed the music of Arnold Rosner. Walter and I have communicated for some years. His website is (

Walter has now written an article for Musicweb entitled "Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music". It makes for fascinating reading and I strongly recommend it to others. At the very least the article is thought-provoking and hopefully will provoke discussion. (

Title: Re: "Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music"
Post by: Gauk on March 03, 2019, 09:24:23 pm

I would make two observations:

1) One should be able to say of a piece of music, "This is very good but I don't like it", and conversely, "I love this, but it's dreadful".

2) There is a real difficulty in evaluating unfamiliar music is distinguishing between a bad composition and a bad performance. Obviously, none of the critics at the premiere of Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony could do this, and the course of music history might have been different if they could have.

Title: Re: "Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music"
Post by: Dundonnell on March 04, 2019, 12:10:28 am
Thank you for those comments. When I posted the article I said that hopefully it would provke discussion. Sadly, it didn't :(

I agree very much with both of your comments :)

1) The reaction "this is good music but I don't like it" is my reaction to most, though not all, atonal music and "This is dreadful but i like it" is my reaction to most Sviridov.

2) I think your second point touches on a problem which is even wider than you suggest. Almost inevitably the music of most obscure composers is first encountered, either in the concert hall or, more probably these days, on cds in performances by orchestras and/or conductors who are audibly "feeling their way" into the music. So many times I have thought how much "better" the music would sound if performed by an top-class international orchestra. 

Title: Re: "Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music"
Post by: jimmatt on March 04, 2019, 04:29:04 pm
One way I listen studiously to new music is to listen to the overall composition, then go back and listen to the "edges" of the music where it seems I can better hear such things as counterpoint more clearly.