(Okay, I'm pretty sure alot of people are scoffing at the title of this thread. )
Since almost the very beginning of my introduction to classical music (A few years ago, though it practically consumes my life now), I have been aware of atonal composers and few of their works. Studying composition myself, I have always been told by teachers and professors that Atonal music or near atonal music (sorry I don't have a better term for this genre) is the only way to push forward with music.
I have made an effort on a few occasions to really listen to atonal music and witness the superior range of expression contemporary composers claim it has. In general, I find most of what I listened to is just kind of terrifying and sometimes annoying. For instance, in Nono's piano concerto, I was either finding humor in how random some moments were, or being terrified by the sounds I was hearing. There is such a focus on this genre of music with musicians and composers now that I just don't understand.
Classical music is dying, and composers are writing this.
I understand that composers are always supposed to push the limits and find their own voice in their writing, but if that Sciarrino piece represents the new voice of music, who will want to listen to it? It's true that good music should stimulate and challenge it's audience, but how challenging should it be to enjoy an artist's expression? In all of the different phases and evolutions of classical music, ours is certainly the age of challenged listeners.
I could write more, but I don't want to drag this out into a huge essay. I guess my questions to those that enjoy (and perhaps also compose!) atonal muisc would be: Have you ever heard an atonal work that expressed joy, or another emotion other than sorrow or violence, that you could relate to? Do you feel strongly enough about the music to suggest that a friend should listen to it? What is the point of writing without tonality?