New music is a cultural necessity

People often whine about new music. No-one listens to it; it's just crunching chords, it's impenetrable noise, it's elitist, there are no tunes - you get the drill. We don't need composers moaning on about being impecunious when the money is better spent elsewhere.

I disagree. Strongly. Contemporary music speaks to us in the language of today and, if we're lucky, in the language of tomorrow, which we have to learn to grasp. It shines a light on current issues; think of Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, or Turnage's buxom Anna Nicole. We might not like the shadows the torch-beam of musical scrutiny casts, but it certainly makes us consider them. A progressive, forward-thinking culture is one that drives us to look ahead rather than behind us, to evolve rather than to stagnate as we wallow in rosy-hued recollection of things past. New music can carry a strong political message, address social issues, raise money for charity. Best of all, it makes people react, rather than simply passively consume. New music provokes a reaction, it makes us respond, it reminds us that we are alive.

The latest report from Sound and Music shows that composers are currently creating more music for less money. This is a terrible condition; composers, writers, artists and performers who create a language of and for now are a resource that needs to be valued, to be treasured. They make us look at ourselves, make us consider our values, our beliefs, our consciences; they stop us from being mindlessly manipulated by televison, by politicians, by newspapers; they remind us that we have the power to think for ourselves. 

We need to look after them. Now.

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