V.com weekend vote: How modern is your modern music?

October 29, 2016, 10:54 AM · This week I had the great pleasure of witnessing a world-premiere performance of a new solo violin partita, and it made me want to see the music for and check out more like it.

It hasn't always been my reaction to new music, though I'd like to think of myself as open-minded. When it comes to new music, I'd argue that classical music went off the rails for a while, and frankly it left audiences and even players reluctant to try anything new. If it's going to be a painful, ear-bending, non-meaningful experience in a completely foreign-to-most-humans musical language, no thanks! There are limits to the openness of my mind. If it's just noise, I can get that by standing next to the highway.

Yet plenty of wonderful and worthy "new music" was written in the last 50 years, and in the last century. The piece I heard Wednesday was Antón García Abril's "Partita No. 4," written for and premiered by Hilary Hahn. (Here's the review.) It occurred to me that a piece such as this, written in 2016, is a piece written in the second decade of the 21st century. Yes, we are in the second decade of the 21st century! Can one still really be calling Stravinsky "modern music"?

I've certainly played some 21st-century music; much of the newest would fall under the category of film music, fiddle music, teaching music, church music - not the "official" compositions written for an orchestra, though I've played a few of those as well.

How recent is the most modern piece that you have played? What was it, and by whom? I'm wondering how much 21st music people are playing, and what are some of the modern works you recommend, or that you have played? Please share in the comments section.


October 29, 2016 at 08:22 PM · If modern is less then five years ago, then what is contemporary, and what is post-modern? Does modern mean recent, or does it refer to a specific genre that is fixed in time?

October 29, 2016 at 09:06 PM · Good question! What do the academics say?

October 29, 2016 at 11:07 PM · Is this what I play for private practice or what I play in a church/other orchestra/band?

October 30, 2016 at 12:10 AM · played it last weekend - Michael Daugherty's "Viola Zombies", 1991.

... and this summer, a piece y Micahel Kimber "Relfections", 2001.

October 30, 2016 at 12:39 AM · John, it can be anything that has been recently written for violin!

October 30, 2016 at 02:30 AM · My collaborator is a pianist who is also a composer. Strongly attracted to 12-tone (not my favorite) he does branch out occasionally. I'll be playing in a piece he wrote for 2 violins and piano on a program Friday; he wrote the piece 5 months ago. It's kind of neat.

October 30, 2016 at 01:46 PM · An example of the "painful, ear-bending" that Laurie mentioned is a piece by Xenakis for cello and clarinet. I found it by accident on YouTube when I was looking for cello-clarinet duets for one of my grand-daughters. If anyone is interested it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNa9JrRDtBk, and is one of those videos with a scrolling score.

Another Xenakis composition, this time for solo violin, is performed on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifxs3TBSSAs, again with scrolling score. There is another one for solo cello, again much the same genre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BW7vsIRYls.

There is a story that Xenakis was commissioned to compose a piece for an international cello competition; problem was, none of the fine young professional cellists in the competition could play it :), which I can well believe.

Is it any wonder that my favourite violin music predates 1820, and well before!

October 30, 2016 at 10:08 PM · While I said I have played a piece composed within the last five years (actually, several of them), the STYLE, HARMONIES, and MELODIES of those pieces could have come from TONAL works written more than a century ago. I am traditionalist, and don't really like much "modern" music, so I play older music, or new music that follows the older guidelines.

October 31, 2016 at 10:03 AM · I've always included new violin works in my repertoire and have been fortunate to have some great pieces written for me by James MacMillan, Michael Nyman, Jonathan Harvey, Anne Dudley and many others. The latest is a project by the UK based Severnside Composers' Alliance who have written so many works for me they've had to put on a second concert! - on St Cecilia's Day (patron saint of music) written in the last year, which I'm combining with that sublime classic, Beethoven sonata no.10 op 96.

Madeleine Mitchell, violinist


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