Friday, October 14, 2005

Music as environment

These quotes come from an Edward Abbey book. It really highlights for me in some respects how when music is brought out into the natural landscape, it is more beautiful and whole. To the environmental Abbey, music was viewed by whether or not the composer was influenced by the outdoors.

-I think of music, and of a musical analogy to what seems to me the unique spirit of desert places. Suppose for example that we can find a certain resemblance between the music of Bach, and the sea; the music of Debussy and a forest glade; the music of Beethoven and (of course) great mountains; then who has written of the desert?

-Mozart? Hardly the outdoor type, that fellow -- much too elegant, symmetrical, formally perfect. Vivaldi, Correlli, Monteverdi? -- cathedral interiors only -- fluid architecture. Jazz? The best of jazz for all its virtues cannot escape the limitations of its origin: it is indoor music, city music, distilled from the melancholy nightclubs and the marijuana smoke of dim, sad, nighttime rooms: a joyless sound, for all its nervous energy.

-In the desert I am reminded of something quite different -- the bleak, thin-textured work of men like Berg, Schoenberg, Ernst Krenek, Webern and the American, Elliott Carter. Quite by accident, no doubt, although Schoenberg and Krenek lived part of their lives in the Southwest, their music comes closer than any other I know to representing the apartness, the otherness, the strangeness of the desert. Like certain aspects of this music, the desert is also a-tonal, cruel, clear, inhuman, neither romantic nor classical, motionless and emotionless, at once and the same time -- another paradox -- both agonized and deeply still.

-- Edward Abbey "Desert Solitaire"

Note: Score ratings in bold are Select Reviews, and "( )" the authors cited.