...continued from page 2
She teaches at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; years before, she founded Vivace Press to publish music by "underrepresented composers."
The reason is obvious. Composition students who believe what their music professors teach come out writing music that nobody in their right mind wants to listen to, except to be able to tell their friends that they did.
Symphonic music has moved almost entirely to the realm of film scores, but the
problem there is that film scores tend to be repetitive and irresolute. It serves the story, as edited; the music can't go where it needs to go for its own sake.
Barbara Harbach is somewhere in between. There's plenty of music in this CD collection that proves her credentials as a survivor of American university musical indoctrination. But even the most "experimental" is quite listenable.
Because somewhere along the way, Harbach apparently missed the memo about how all the beautiful, powerful music has already been written, so serious composers are all required to write music that is painful or annoying.
She actually writes beautiful music now and then. And clever, jesting music. And well-constructed, satisfying pieces. What a shock. A modern composer who thinks it's OK to create music that regular people might actually enjoy.
Look, if you already don't care about classical music, for heaven's sake don't start with Harbach. Start with Barber's Adagio for Strings. Start with Copland's Appalachian Spring.
Harbach's music is in the middle of the conversation; it only makes sense if you know what has come before, what she's answering with her music, what she's rebelling against.
But if you've been listening to classical music for a while now, and you can tell in a few measures whether a piece sounds like it comes from the Baroque, Classical or Romantic period, if you can tell Satie from Bach and like them both, then you'll be delighted with Harbach.
It's as if she's taking a runaway horse and heading it back toward the road. It's not there yet. But it's heading in a good direction. A direction that might get civilians back into the concert halls for new music, and not just the standards.