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The Classical Music of the Twenty-First Century
by Don Robertson
© 2000 and 2005 by Don Robertson

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What's Ahead?
Now that the 21st Century is upon us, it is necessary to examine our concepts and behaviors and attempt to understand why we are even using such historical terms as jazz, classical, new age, and county to classify our music when it has become so obvious that the crossover between these styles grows day by day. In fact, we have become caught up in our sub-categorization of sub-categories: I fully imagine terms such as "retro-ethnofusionary techno-rap" and "neo-industrial ambient gospel music" becoming terms that some marketing type would likely dream up.

Instead it is time to look at music as music, and judge it by its merits, usefulness, and emotional quality.

We need an art music that will contribute to the evolution of mankind: something that is advanced enough to provide the emotional nourishment for the people of this new century. After all, this is what took place in each of the past five centuries. The 16th Century gave us the treasured renaissance sacred music music, the 17th Century gave us magnificent baroque music, the 18th Century gave us classical-era music of Mozart and Haydn, the 19th Century gave us those amazing romantic compositions, and the 20th Century gave us negative music!

I believe the emotional tone of 21st Century classical music should be one of spiritual unfoldment: music that has a positive influence, that stimulates those areas in the human psyche that are uplifting and pure, that give comfort, hope, and feelings of spiritual unfoldment; the opposite of the feelings invoked by the negative and intellectual classical music of the 20th Century. And we need to reexamine the now-ingrained ideas we teach to the younger generations about the music of the last century: ideas that have been unconsciously propagated by each generation such as "Igor Stravinsky, the World's Greatest Composer!" Baloney. Stravinsky was a selfish, irritable old man who sat in his Hollywood home writing unbearably ugly distortions of music on his horribly out-of-tune piano.

When I talk about spiritual unfoldment, I am talking about a process that has nothing at all to do with religions, which were invented by men and end up serving those who seek power. Not that there isn't truth in religion, and not that one can not receive a spiritual experience in a church, masque, or temple. The supreme being, intelligence, consciousness...whatever you wish to call it...is, after all, everywhere. In places of genuine worship, this supernormal presence can be amazingly strong. But religions, in addition to the good they serve, also help keep us divided, and that is not the way of the spirit, that divine presence.

I talk about unfoldment as an experience that I understand, as do others. And only those who have had genuine spiritual experiences can grasp what this means. The world's great music is a product of a spiritual anointing. That's the way it works. Paul McCartney understood that when the song Yesterday came to him in a dream. Some Christians in the South of the United States, where I currently reside, will take issue with that song having anything to do with spirituality, but it did, and it remains an important step in human evolution, like it or not. I have been in churches with these same Christians and experienced tremendous movements of spirit, as have they, and I have experienced tremendous healings. Its all there, always... and always in different dress. Stravinsky may talk about his spirituality, but those who understand the spirit, no matter how little of it they comprehend, would recognize that it just isn't present in the religious music that he wrote during those final years in Hollywood.

Music must resonate with this spirit, spiritual energy, or whatever you want to call it. And to do so, it must resonate with the harmonic overtones of our creation. This is the most important thing that I can say, my most important message. This is the most difficult thing for so many musicians to grasp. When we were led away from the consonances, the major and minor triads, the thirds and sixths of music...  the pure overtones of sound... by men such as Stravinsky, Schönberg and Cage, and by Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, we departed from the light accepting the darkness instead.

In the meantime, the art of classical music lost ground. It became amorphous, undefined, unaccented, and unimportant. Polluted by years of abuse, the abuses of the Cages and the Schönbergs, it slipped into meaninglessness and dilettantism. Then it was preempted in our high schools by rap, which is largely simple beat and rhyme. How crazy it is that we send our kids to many of our public schools to learn nothing of the arts, the only subjects that will provide real inner stability and harmony.

I have stood alone in what I have been saying for forty years, with only a few individuals standing beside me. I have been called everything in the book, yet I continue to speak because I know that what I am saying is the truth, and I know that I am here to speak this truth and that gradually this truth will radiate out into the world to the extent that it will help create a change.

For in this 21st century, we no longer need a music that expresses the stress and frustration of the 20th Century. Its music was a product of electricity being harnessed, of machinery, of bombs and petrol fumes. These became constant irritants. We were fixated on war, on pain, on separation, on hatred. Look at what we have created for ourselves to watch on our miracle called television! I don't have to spell it out. Why do we need to return to consonance and to the music of composers who, like those of older times, resonate on a higher level? Because all those stress-inducing influences (prognosticated by Anton Webern near the beginning of the 20th Century in his Six Pieces for Orchestra) are still here, and there are even more to come. 

The music of the 20th century was a necessary step in our evolution. Now that we know what negative music is, and once we realize what positive music really is, then we can achieve a balance.

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