Funny how Schoenberg is still "contemporary".
There is some good new stuff amongst the academic dreck, but the time and money you need to spend to find it isn't worth it, from my point of view. Especially as there's so much "old" music I haven't heard yet.
I had a wonderful conversation with a 90 (!) year old woman after a performance of the Berlin Philharmonic (Webern-Berg-Schoenberg) in Salzburg. http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2010/09/notes-from-salzburg-festival-15th-and.html
Outside the Festspielhaus an old but sharp lady approached me, shaking her head about that ‘modern, newfangled music’, and how she could not be expected to like it, or applaud after it. Since I wasn’t going to pretend to agree, I tried to make the Second Viennese School slightly more palatable to her in the gentlest terms possible, suggesting that if she—by her own admission—could find it impressive or even rousing, just not beautiful, she was already three quarters of the way down the road to appreciating it. ‘Beauty’, in the conventional sense, isn’t the point of these works, but then that isn’t the point of something like Le Sacre (which she likes), either. And I couldn’t help point out that, and I went about this tactfully, the music she just heard and found so awfully ‘new’ was older even than she. There we are: A century later, Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg are still poster boys for “New” music.
Re: Tom Service:
It's really a rather sloppy article... especially points 2 & 4.
The accessibility of the Beatle's deliberately primitive pop is hardly a great argument for how accessible Stockhausen is, however much he influenced certain aspects
of their (or others') music. And it doesn't make Ferneyhough easy listening, either.
Much the same goes for simply claiming contemporary music is not irrelevant and then citing non-classical music as the reason behind it. In fact, it weakens the argument.
Point 5 finally is a classic straw-man. Come up with an absurd question, then debunk it. Hooray! Victory.
"All his music was composed with social and political consciousness at its heart." Oh Gawd... that's usually the worst
music. Just think Henze. Whenever he becomes political, the music turns shite. Ditto Eisler. Hanns Eisler–Music as a Weapon
Or Dessau. http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2010/05/reviewed-not-necessarily-recommended_15.html
It takes more effort, and a bit of intelligence, and acknowledgement of the first half of your second point ("There is some good new stuff amongst the academic dreck
, but the time and money you need to spend to find it isn't worth it, from my point of view. Especially as there's so much "old" music I haven't heard yet.") to make the case for contemporary music.
I agree with you that it takes time and money to wade through the stuff, but I disagree with you about whether it's worth it -- if you meant that as a general, rather than personal, statement. It's hugely important not to let classical music become a taxidermist's effigy... and contemporary music (and challenging the ears) is part of that. If that's true for any type of music, it's also true for classical. And frankly, there's so much bona-fide excellent contemporary classical music out there (especially now, that the ideological trench-warfare of the avant-gardists has become a thing of the albeit recent past) that it doesn't take that
much time and effort.