John Man, classical music historian and moderate camper, is reportedly disappointed with the work of most contemporary composers.
“This is the sort of music I listen to, not write about,” he said. “Sometimes I can’t even fit a composer into a Hegelian timeline at all, not even a little bit.”
Man says that when he receives a package of new CDs and scores to review, he typically sighs with a forbidding sense of duty rather than smiling with keen, unabashed excitement. “I had to review one piece last week that was just a traditional string quartet; it didn’t even submerge the violins in water or anything. I mean, what am I going to say about that? Maybe if the score had a helicopter in it, or perhaps a rigorous atonal harmonic system or an especially lively gimp, well…that article would just write itself.”
Sadly, Man reports that the composers themselves are also uninteresting, with biographies that feature long periods of study and a consistent output of work but hardly ever an epic life-long battle with some type of apparently unbeatable yet relatable problem. “Most of the music being written now doesn’t even have any coded messages defying totalitarian regimes,” he said. “Composers typically don’t even live in totalitarian regimes these days. Honestly, the crap I have to deal with…”
We asked Man if he had a particular process to help him overcome these unfortunate obstacles. “When I first hear about a new composer, I usually ask a couple of questions,” he told us. “Does he have a drug addiction? Did he once have a drug addiction? Is he a drug-dealer in his spare time? Look, all I’m saying is, do you have any drugs on you? Where are the drugs?”
If the situation does not improve, Man says that he may have to change jobs altogether. “This has been fun and all, but if I can’t start writing about really interesting stories I may have to move into marketing where I can basically tell any story people will believe. Any story at all.”