My wife had an ex-boyfriend who was a jazz snob. (I disliked him anyway because they were dating and I wanted her to be dating me, which very happily did end up happening.) He was pedantic about music. I made some remark about liking classical music once, and he corrected me saying “you mean such-and-such music?” I can’t remember what the term was because when I think about him the back of my brain is too busy making juvenile insults and mocking vocalizations which are not words. He had a point, though. Classical music is a misnomer for music played by orchestras.

Nowadays my wife has a hookup that often gets us free tickets to the orchestra. It’s really awesome. We went three times this week. We see the symphony way, way more often than we see rock bands and given how much of our time and emotional energy has been spent on – and is still spent listening to, talking about, reminiscing about – rock (punk, really, but I’m trying to be a little more … whatinthehellisitcalled … oh yeah – inclusive), that marks quite a change. My wife’s becoming pretty knowledgeable, or what seems to me to be knowledgeable, about classical music from reading the programs every time we go. I do that too but I don’t retain it. She made what struck me as an interesting observation one night.

We had tickets to some performance with a name that conjured up dull show tunes to me. Tribute to New York or Music of New York or One Great City or something like that. I was all “maybe I can sleep through this one.” Talk about wrongheaded. Turns out, it was a program of all 20th century US composers, a few people I’d heard of – Bernstein, Cage – but couldn’t name a piece by, and several people I’d never heard of (including Charles Ives, who is phenomenal). Attendance was low compared to a lot of nights, and a lot of people left at intermission. My wife noted, if you judged by the apparent tastes of the average concert-goer, you’d think think it was a dead form. Which is a real shame. That night after intermission they played work by still living (and still composing) composers. One of the pieces was (I think, like I said, I don’t retain the content of the program despite reading it) “Blur” by Todd Levin. Whatever it was, it was like early techno only played by an orchstra. It had that beat, that one that you recognize as techno as soon as you hear it. It had figures that sounded like 303 or 808 loops. It was awesome. (Along similar lines, a friend gave me a CD called Acoustica, which is a classical – or whatever it’s called – music ensemble playing songs written by Aphex Twin. Highly recommended.)

Last weekend we heard a new piece called “Il Piffero della Notte” by a composer named Skrowaczewski, a very dissonant piece featuring an alto flute. I’d never heard of or seen such a thing. It was like a flute but longer and less … whiney. The piece was dissonant and loud, both qualities I generally like. This past Friday we went to the performance of the orchestra’s composer’s institute, heard several pieces by young and emerging composers. Also really good. In general, as with any genre, I like things that are fast and loud. I like dissonance too, but I prefer it to have a hook like in a pop song. Several of these pieces had all of those elements (well, except the hook). It was a bit depressing that several of the composers were clearly a few years younger than me (when did that happen? that people younger than me started doing like awesome and impressive things? like things that are cooler than pretty much anything I’ve yet to accomplish? I wish they’d knock it off), but the music was fantabulous. The only thing that’d make it better is if there were more dance beats and the performance took place in a space with a dance floor and alcohol served (since I can’t dance while sober). The event was called “Future Classics.” Clearly not classical music, but whatever the stuff is called, it’s really good.

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