April 28, 2006

Future still bright for classical music

By Steph Mostaccio

Although contemporary classical music does not receive much recognition today, there is a future for it.

That was the message Marvin Rosen, an artist faculty member at Westminster Conservatory, communicated during his Lunch Box lecture, “Exciting Sounds of the 21st Century,” in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on Wednesday, April 26.

“People generally have a preconceived negative notion about contemporary music,” he said. “They think it is going to be atonal, dissonant and not very pleasing to listen to.”

But Rosen added that contemporary music is popular among students.

“I’ve noticed in my teaching that students love the music of our time,” he said. “The music of our time is new, and it’s something young people can relate to.”

However, an audience composed only of young adults is not enough, according to Rosen.

“I’m here to tell you that contemporary music and new music are not only exciting, but I feel can have a very major audience if it was just given a chance in our concert halls,” he said.

In order to promote contemporary music, Rosen serenaded the audience by playing several foreign contemporary pieces on the piano. Composers from many countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Slovakia and South Africa, have already written contemporary music that is moving and “very listenable,” he said. Rosen stressed that exposure to the music of other countries can provide a window to their cultures.

“There is so much we can learn about countries by just simply listening to their music,” he said.

Rosen exposed the audience to the music of Slovakia. He played the piece, “Obscured Temptations,” for the spectators, which was composed by Peter Machajdik in 2003.

According to Rosen, Machajdik’s music is very powerful. The Westminster pianist had a surreal experience the first time he heard the Slovakian composer’s piece, “Namah,” he said.

“For 10- to 15-seconds of the song, I was totally transformed,” said Rosen. “I don’t know how to describe it — I was in another world.”

Rosen also played the 2001 Estonian piece, “Idée Fixe,” composed by Rene Eespere. Rosen said he loved this short, quick-tempo composition.

“When I was learning it, I couldn’t stop playing it,” he said.

In addition to the music of Slovakian and Estonian composers, Rosen also performed the music of Australian composer Betty Beath. He played Beath’s 2003 piece, “Merindu Bali” (Bali Yearning), which she dedicated to the victims of the Bali terrorist attack on Oct. 12, 2002.

Rosen emphasized the importance of performing the music of a female composer, since such performances tend to be left out of the spotlight.

“We cannot forget our women composers,” he said. “There are hundreds of them and they, like so many other people, deserve to have their works performed.”

The Westminster pianist concluded his tour of world music by visiting the sounds of Belgium, Ukraine, New Zealand and the United States.

Members of the audience enjoyed Rosen’s lecture and performance. Lawrenceville
residents Julie and Bob Weinberg said it was interesting because it changed their impressions of contemporary music.

Rosen also promotes contemporary music from around the world on his radio program, “Classical Discoveries,” which broadcasts on Wednesdays at 6-11 a.m. on 103.3 FM WPRB. Last year, he had the honor of receiving the Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award presented by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for his radio

Frank James Staneck, an American composer and friend of Rosen, called Rosen a “true champion of music.”

“He has a wonderful way of spreading all this music,” Staneck said. “We need this guy. He plays music that would rarely ever be heard on other radio stations or in concerts.”