New to Robinson Music Library starting next week will be a series of events titled the Robinson Music Library (RML) Discovery Series. We will be screening/playing works of music that fall outside of what we consider the standard musical repertoire. After each screening, we will be holding discussions that I (Patrick) will be leading, which will give a chance for students, faculty, and staff in attendance to really talk about music. But when there is already an overwhelming amount of excellent music that we already have to learn in the “standard” repertoire, why should we spare valuable time looking at these other works?
One of the beautiful aspects of our formal music education is the thorough exposure we get to the standard repertoire for our respective instruments, voice types, etc. We learn the myriad sonatas, songs, and cycles for which we are the new ambassadors in our musical generation. But with so many works demanding our attention, it is easy to forget that there is a great deal of music out there that is not widely performed or widely known at all (save for a few scholars or performers breathing life into these pieces every few years). The same can often be said of the music being composed today. Our modern composers are forced to fight constantly against the titanic memories of great composers past at every turn just to get a nod. And unfortunately, performances of their new works often do not receive the time, nor the preparation, given to pieces that are imbued with the weight of history and repetitious recognition. This isn’t particularly fair to them, or us, in the long run.
It is important, in the process of developing our musical identities, to take in as much music as possible. Similar to the way we eat a variety of foods to ensure we get a proper balance of nutrients in our diet, it is likewise important to vary our musical diets as well. Try new things, sample new composers, listen to repertoire for other instruments… Even explore styles you may think you dislike or have no interest in at all. Be radical in your exploration. You never know, you could very easily find your new favorite composer or piece when you step outside of your listening/viewing comfort zone. Just as it is important to hear all of these varied works, styles, instrumentations, etc. it is also important to actively digest the new music you are consuming.
It’s easy to sit and listen (if you carve out the time to do so), but the next step is to engage with what you’re hearing/seeing. What better way to do that than sit with other musicians and talk critically about music?
We don’t often get a chance to sit with our peers and really talk about music outside of class. I’m sure we all chat as groups after orchestra concerts or other performances, but usually this kind of cursory discussion is commentary on who made what mistake or how shockingly fast/slow the conductor took the final movement. We don’t necessarily take the time to dig in though, learn the music and its context, and really ponder things. That’s where I come in!
We’ll be piloting these sessions a few times throughout the semester (all on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 p.m.). The first one up is Tuesday, September 22nd at 6 p.m. To kick things off, we’re going to take a look at Carlisle Floyd’s Willie Stark, an opera that premiered in 1981 and received a revival in 2008 thanks to the opera department at LSU. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Floyd’s work, give a listen to soprano Renée Fleming singing an aria from arguably his most popular opera, Susannah: https://youtu.be/hl_Hs4PNT-c. We’ll be down in the Media Center group rooms; drop in to see us!
So, let’s sit and listen to awesome/unusual/controversial music. Let’s discuss it and see what we can come up with—there are no right or wrong answers, just our thoughts! Let’s find out what new things we like, what we can’t stand to listen to again, what we disagree about… Let’s discover some new music together!
Check out our Facebook event page for more details and materials to check out in advance: https://www.facebook.com/events/1637418219831332/. If you haven’t liked our page yet, do so to get all the details about RML!