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Classical music has taken me on a long journey. I started off listening to Tschaikowsky, Ravel, Wagner, and Bach as a child. In my high school years, I moved on to slightly less famous composers such as Vaughan Williams and Sibelius. I had moved all the way from the Baroque to the Late Romantic periods, and was ready for something new and different.

Then, I stumbled across Stravinsky. And Schoenberg. And Honegger, and Messiaen, and Gorecki, and Penderecki, and Cage. These works overstepped the musical boundaries in many ways. Some music was difficult to make sense out of. Some of it sounded harsh to the ear, or was rhythmically confusing. But as I continued to listen to this music day after day, I slowly realized I had gotten used to it.

A vast amount of 20th century "avant garde" music seems inaccessible to most people today. Why is this, and what makes it so difficult to listen to? Have you listened to music by these 20th century composers, and if so, do you think this music can be beneficial, both to the musical conneiseur and to the casual listener? All thoughts are welcomed.:)
 

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Hi celloman; great thread topic!

Firstly, one should try to have an open mind, and even then, one will have personal preferences. Also, I think it helps if one already knows a fairly large amount of classical music from all eras. Music evolves, so it`s beneficial if one can see/hear the evolutionary process involved. Of course it`s not absolutely necessary in order to enjoy a work, but one can understand it better, perhaps.

I think it was Hexameron who was commenting in another thread about getting to really know a piece in order to appreciate it fully. Many of the works by these composers need many listens to be fully enjoyed and understood. Not everyone has this kind of time or patience.

That being said, I love a lot of 20th century music. If I was to suggest some fairly accessible works for people new to the genre, I would mention works by Arvo Part, Philipp Glass, some things by Messiaen. For Stravinsky, I would not necessarily start with Rite of Spring, but maybe Petrushka, or the Firebird. Although I love all three works...

I also try not to dismiss the bulk of a composer`s works just because I don`t like one of them. For example, I love Ligeti`s 'L`escalier du diable', but some of his other works are not really worth hearing more than once (imo). (100 metronomes....) And serial works (in general) don`t do much for me; to my ears, they just sound random. But there`s so much stuff; I`m sure most people could find something they like...
 

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A vast amount of 20th century "avant garde" music seems inaccessible to most people today. Why is this, and what makes it so difficult to listen to? Have you listened to music by these 20th century composers, and if so, do you think this music can be beneficial, both to the musical conneiseur and to the casual listener? All thoughts are welcomed.:)
There are three main questions here. Why is avante garde inaccessible? What have you listened to? Can this music be beneficial?

My respective answers are:

1. It sounds completely different from earlier classical which I much prefer based on the very limited amount of avante garde I've heard.

2. I have not listened to much, partly because I don't like it enough, and it's not played on the radio to give much of chance of trying it out before buying.

3. I don't know since I haven't heard enough (and I'm not sure what is meant by "beneficial").

Sorry that these responses are rather circular, but that's the best I can do.

Topaz
 
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I agree that you must keep an open mind, some of to-days composers are to my taste and others are not, after all music is very subjective.
Some of Glass I can listen to, others such as Crumbe drive me up the wall, I heard one piece where the musicians were expected to either cough or sniff for so many bars, that by my standards is not music, and suggests that the composer is bereft of ideas, I could add more to this but I believe in keeping things short and simple LOL.
 

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I think it is because no music is a bit like most of the avant-garde stuff, people like what they have heard before.
Most people have heard some Mozart and Bach, but nothing more except Film-music, which is nothing more than; Wagner, Holst, Dvorák, Ravel and Prokofiev in disguise, and I really think that after the popularity of "Lost", Stravinsky's Rite of Spring will sound better (more familiar) to many 'untrained' ears.

In the beginning of the 20th century composers began starting something entirely new, and thus, not "building" on earlier eras (of course there are exceptions, like the neo-classicists/romantics). Messiaen began building on bird-song, Bartók on folk-music, Schoenberg on... nothing e.t.c. , and I think anyone familiar with the concepts those new composers build on can enjoy them more than those who aren't. I have heard theories that link the fundamentals of classical music (before 20th century) to the human voice. And everybody has a voice and can sing, so it shouldn't be a surprise that, if it is correct that people like what they are familiar with, music based on that is the most popular one.
 
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