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Music vs art

If you are an avant-garde artist you can become incredibly rich like Damien Hirst or famous like Tracy Emin.

Damien Hirst poses next to Promise of Money part of the Requiem exhibition in Kiev
Hirst has made millions from his art

But if you are an avant-garde classical composer you probably won't be rewarded with fame or money.

Why should we find modern music so difficult to appreciate - but not modern art?

David Stubbs, author of Fear of Music - Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen, points out that the Tate Modern is one of the most popular galleries in Europe - but that an audience presented with the equivalent in music tends "to screech".

"There is something inherently distressing about dissonant music which people find hard to assimilate; [but]...abstract or minimalist art sometimes makes good decoration," he says.

He points to large corporations which use abstract art to make a statement, in a way that cannot be done with music.

And he says that the huge sums that a Bacon or a Pollock gain at auction is another way that such art is exposed to people.

Gabriel Prokofiev, a composer and producer who runs an avant-garde record label, says he uses club nights to expose younger crowds to different forms of music.

He plays classical music and some "leftfield, electronic music" - as well as more challenging contemporary music.

Composer David Stubbs has chosen some of those pieces of music which should be appreciated alongside works of art - and explains why.

Debussy - Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun

First performed in 1894, and based on a poem by Mallarmé, this 10 minute piece is beautiful and evocative and yet is considered, retrospectively to be the first piece of "modern" music in that structurally, it departs from the rules of tonality and harmonic function which had governed classical music hitherto.

Edgard Varese - Ameriques

The Corsican born Varese emigrated to America where between 1918 and 1921 he worked on this piece, which takes as its inspiration the energies of New York City.

"Vertical" shafts of sound erupt like skyscrapers, while sirens evoke both the hectic urban metropolis and introduce the element of "noise" into modern music first suggested by the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo.

The plural Ameriques is deliberate - new worlds, multiple new possibilities.

Bartok - Music For Strings, Percussion & Celesta

Parts of the third movement of this piece were used by Stanley Kubrik in his 1980 film The Shining.

Although Bartok is considered a very jagged, angular musical proposition, suitable for this sort of soundtrack, this element of his music demonstrates the influence of Hungarian folk in his composition, which adds to its earthy vigour.

Stockhausen - Kontakte

This 1960 piece, 35 minutes of meticulously planned yet spatially liberated electronic music has been of huge subsequent influence on the electronic and studio-based popular music ever since.

Its influence stretches from The Beatles's Sergeant Pepper (on whose cover Stockhausen appears - Paul McCartney was a great fan) to modern techno - though Stockhausen himself never took any interest in pop.

Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel

An example of the link between contemporary art and contemporary music, this beautiful piece was written in 1971, a year after the artist Mark Rothko's suicide and intended to be performed in the non-denominational Rothko Chapel, which houses many of his works.

It is an example of the way in which, similar to composer John Cage, modern composition draws on sound the way an artist draws on his palette.




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