Aunt Sally, a sweet and caring pensioner from a sleepy English town full of small shops, went to see a lunchtime concert held by music students at her local church last week. Though she liked the concert, particularly the pieces by Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, she was very disappointed with a new piece written by a famous living composer.
“It was all very plinky plonky,” she said. “Also, though I love vertiginously sparse chordal textures and enchanting serial manipulations as much as the next girl, I really feel we have had more than enough pulseless explorations of atmospheric timbral effects and we could do with a more vigorous sense of musical narrative and cogent thematic development.”
Pointing to the lack of a relatable structure and general paucity of invention, Aunt Sally says that the music simply failed to satisfy her broadly pluralistic, pan-tonal artistic ideals. “If you dispense with form, harmony and melody, you have to do something else to convince me that your politically relevant soundscape isn’t just random noise made by musicians guessing their way through some indecipherable scrawls not even the composer can tell apart. I don’t have time for that crap.”
John Man, the composer who wrote the piece, says that Sally’s objections to his music can easily be ignored with a couple of ad hominem attacks based on her musical tastes. “Anyway, she didn’t even read my programme notes,” he complained, “so it’s no wonder she didn’t understand my music.”
Aunt Sally says that she hopes contemporary music can enchant, surprise and fascinate her rather than make her want to squirm and do something else. “I’m not really keen on popular music, so I look to the world of classical music for inspiration. But if I hear one more violinist scraping his bow on a toilet seat or just making endless, recycled bird noises I think I might go and listen to Taylor Swift or something, because haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”