WE CREATE THE CANON
A gallery of contemporary masterpieces
(a very little selection of things
that could be canonical
if anything still were)
Are there Great Works now?
And does that even mean anything?
First: I’m not actually suggesting the ‘Canon’ concept is right for our age. So before going on about it, here’s why that is:
The Canon is a 19th-century idea. It sets the music of previous centuries as a progress leading to the work of Beethoven, Brahms and beyond. It means there is just one tradition evolving. That’s no longer true or desirable.
It kinda works OK up to the 20th century, although it’s limiting, and sometimes a bit arbitrary. It leaves us digging up, over and over again, the fabulous music that didn’t end up in the repertoire (so-called ‘little-known works’ and ‘minor composers’). But from the early 20th century onward, musical purposes and philosophies diverged and ramified explosively. The core repertoire soon contained widely divergent musics, and there ceased to be a central progression of ‘canonical’ works. We’re clearly better off without the idea.
After all, composers up to Haydn wrote for their own times (and often for the glory of God), and I’m sure that’s much healthier than wracking our consciences about our legacy!
However, the canon of great works showed up mastery and excellence, profundity and importance, however selectively. It is like a culture’s bookshelf, or CD library, where we retain and acknowledge the music that makes our spine tingle with passion, our tears flow with sympathy, our hearts and minds open with empathy or introspection, or our eyes open in sheer admiration of the achievement we are listening to.
We rarely reach that acknowledgement with the music of our own time – the 21st Century.
Because it’s half-baked? Silly? Badly performed?
No, it’s chiefly because we don’t listen! We hear the clips that are available to us. Longer pieces go to the background, as we browse, type or work. No wonder we don’t absorb and appreciate.
But here’s the great thing: we human beings have not lost the capacity to listen well! We have not ceased to be able to absorb an extended musical dialogue. We just, often, don’t bother. But try a well-played piece of good contemporary music as the accompaniment to your jog, your drive to work, or your bath… and you will soon be alive with the satisfaction of realising music is still a living, breathing, borderless human language that touches every single part of you!
We create the canon. It’s always been so. What we play, choose, buy, borrow, livestream, retweet, publish, read, and talk about, is what gets acknowledged and established – as a Thing. …At least for a time, and that’s what matters. Disclaimer: I don’t really imagine I’m discerning Great Works of our time! (That’s a role for all of us… and for nobody.) Some tracks you’ll find posted here are just very good accomplishments. I simply want to help give thankful recognition to excellence in contemporary music. It needs it!
Thanks for reading the spiel - now check out the tracks!