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Kendall controversy

img  Tobias

Nicolas Kendall is one of the brightest young stars of Classical Music. The 27-year old violinist made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the tender age of 15, won the 2002 Young Concert Artists International Audition as well as a string of other awards and is now a renowned and sought-after soloist. His efforts to get Classical Music back into the limelight and young people back into the concert halls is exemplary and deserves admiration, his trio "Time for Three" is a fascinating experiment in blending different styles. Still, we have something to bemoan. It's all about two remarks Kendall made shortly before appearing at the Breckenridge Festival two days ago. The first was: "I've always had an interest outside classical music. Sting, Cream, Mahler, Mozart - it's all coming from the same place. It's about pain, misery, character flaws and confusion in life." The second: "I'd love to be able to demystify what my instrument is. The music I'm playing (tonight) is music anyone can understand."

At mouvement nouveau, we'd be the last not to acknowledge that Classical Music and modern sounds can fit together and even appeal to the very same person. Actually, we'd like to encourage this attitude. Only, claiming that it's all the same just doesn't cut the cake. Whether pain, misery, character flaws and confusion in life are truly the main forces behind art (or rather of a romanticised version of it) is only one problem with this first quote. On a more important note, we simply don't agree with the point that "it all comes from the same place". If music is a reaction to what others have composed (and it almost always is), then of course it shares a common creative pool. And because its creators personality is always a part of music (it's actually a part of everything this person does) and human beings share the same basic needs, even very different music will find a shared basis of emotions/experiences/patterns of behaviour. But that doesn't mean that an atonal symphony originates at the same point as a techno track. And just because "They dance alone" and the "Andante Moderato" from Mahler's sixth can both be called "sad", it doesn't mean they're even close. There's matters of form, there's the time in which a piece was written.

And secondly, "demystifying" is the last classical music needs. By this we don't necessarily mean that it's wrong to lead an audience closer to the music they're listening to or to connect the aural pleasure to information about its origin. But what remains of "Mahler and Mozart" once they're demistyfied? "Understanding music" is a difficult phrase anyway (eve though it is very casually used), but it certainly doesn't mean that the joy of listening originates in "comprehension". Actually, we'd like to claim the opposite: Some of the most popular works are the ones, that most people do not understand (even experts still dig deep into Beethovens Symphony Number 9).

We'd like to offer two terms instead: People can love Classical Music and Pop because of empathy - the capability to feel what others went through, even if it does not comes from the same place. And they can get the meaning of a piece of art, without actually understanding it because of intuition. Neither empathy nor intuition are worthless - they have rather been neglected for far too long. But it's still an important distinction to make.

We're not really attacking Nicolas. He's too much of a bonus for Classical Music for that. But his remarks sadly share the same simplistic tone that makes the current debate so hollow and tiresome. And that's a shame.

And now, decide for yourself.

Homepage: Nicolas Kendall
Source: Nicolas Kendall at Summit Daily News

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