According to NPR, it’s been a bad time for classical music. The United States is losing theaters left and right, from symphony orchestras to operas; something is going on in this nation, and the delicate golden braid between audience interest, artistic endeavor and funding is being thrown into flux. In an age of Netflix and Hulu, how can traditional theater, in any of its mediums, including ballet, symphony, opera and drama hope to survive?
Sadly I don’t have the answer for that. It merits further discussion, and I’ll strive, in later posts, to do it justice.
For the mean time, while I agree that we must respect what has come before, existing mediums can be the vehicles for new work, and that new work can be—has to be—just as brilliant as Mozart, Graham or Shakespeare. New dramas must be written, new dances must be choreographed, new symphonies must be written, and to that latest end I will share with you a composer whom is doing some of the most amazing work at the moment, assisted here by the Golden State Pops and cellist Tina Guo.
“Woven Variations” is an arrangement based on the score for the Playstation 3 game Journey, composed by Wintory. I chose this track over one of the game score rips for a few reasons, one of which being the support of the live symphony, clearly visible in the recording, and the celebration of talent such as Tina Guo’s. But don’t stop here; if you enjoy the whimsical feeling of these snippets, here’s how you can support the artist.
Journey was one of the art-wave titles of the aughts, along with Braid, Bastion, Flower, and other titles. Within the first few notes of the Variations piece, which are taken from the track “Nascence,” the listener can feel a tugging, as though the music was offering to take them…someplace, though where exactly is left open to interpretation. The vast wastes that compose much of the game Journey might only be a suggestion; good music like this allows the listener to instead take an inward journey and find the odysseys hidden within their own imagination.
What follows the opening volley is a delightful sampling of tracks from the rest of the soundtrack; if I had any wish, it would simply be…more. My fear is that we bounce too quickly from thought to thought, never being allowed to develop a clear picture before the music snaps to a new atmosphere. This isn’t to say the transitions need work; they’re very well-defined, but I’m not sure that this piece yet can stand on its own, or that it even should. I wish it could, but that may be entirely selfish, for like a trailer that reveals the entire plot of a movie or TV show, were it to stand entirely alone, I might then find myself saying, “Well, why would I listen to the whole thing then?”
We like to believe that what is classic was always great. Secretly, I think we all fantasize that those lines, “Two households, both alike in dignitie…” were just magically installed into the world’s memory. But at one point, Romeo and Juliet opened for its first audience, alongside a number of plays of varying caliber. There was a time when the first notes of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor were new and wild and wonderful. We cannot know what the next four hundred years will hold for popular art (or care, really, for we won’t be there to enjoy it, surely); what we have is the here, the now, writers in these mediums doing what we cannot fathom will one day be classic, and if Wintory continues on this path, maybe it will be these Variations, or some other work of his doing, but whatever the case may be, he may find himself counted in that number. I am incredibly grateful to be living in a time where new, amazing work is still being made.
Photo: Manoj Kengudelu/Flickr