March 26, 2005


The distinction between form and content informs many discussions on music. Musicians throughout history can't seem to agree which is more important to music (if one should even be more important). Western art music's roots in the church among the so-called "quadrivium" of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy gave its early history a certain scientific slant.

Some remarks in the Guardian on Boulez's recent birthday show that this stance is still alive and kicking today. In fact, Oliver Knussen compares him to a "medieval monk." Among the respondants, no one contests his skill as a craftsman, but several find the content of his music sorely lacking. What's interesting isn't that Boulez polarizes audiences (this has been established for some time), but that the composers called upon mostly focused on either form or content as exclusive entities. Only Thomas Ad├Ęs really acknowledged that in art there is a dialogue between form and content. If this blog has a "mission," it is to be sensitive to how the two interact and balance each other.

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