Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 11. 1961
Sir,—Jancist in her article on Contemporary Music considers that "modern" music presents us with a very insecure foundation upon which to base the art of musical composition. She believes It to be "revolutionary, transitory and experimental."
May I ask her how closely she has studied the works of the contemporary schools that she thus condemnes? I question her right and her ability to expound such an opinion How closely has she examined for example the works of Stravinsky, Bartok or Schonberg (to mention only three of a much larger group)? Perhaps in her haste to condemn them as being unable to teach us anything valuable she has overlooked such vital factors as Bartok's contrapuntal techniques, Stravinsky's fascinating orchestration and word-setting, or again, the exciting rhythmic conceptions of our age.
Can she really justify herself in calling these developments "revolutionary?" I suggest that this word implies far more than what is nothing more than a natural development in the growth of any art. Certainly 20th century composers have reacted violently against the Romantics, but in opening up seemingly new paths in composition. They have, nonetheless drawn from past styles and led quite naturally into the next stage in musical development.
"Transitory?" By no means! Let me point to only one of many examples — Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms"—which possesses elements that will be marvelled at for as long as anything by Beethoven, Mozart or Bach.
"Experimental?" Only in so far as any great artist—if he is truly great will experiment.
Far from being left on the shelf and ignored, therefore, I am certain that contemporary music must play a vital part in the education of music students. The course would be incomplete if it was omitted and it is for this reason that the Music Department wisely includes it in our earliest stages—and in our final year expects us to be writing in its idioms.
L. J. Burns.