Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Civilized Discussion -- on YouTube!

Many folks I know don't think much of YouTube. In their minds, it's all skateboarding dogs and painful pratfalls. And the comments that accompany them are even worse -- The Onion's recent article "Local Idiot to Post Comment On The Internet" is more truth than fiction.

But YouTube videos encompasses the entire range of human experience, from the lows to the highs.

I recently ran across a video of Anton Webern's "Symphony, Op. 21." For those not familiar with Webern's work, he was part of the Second Viennese School of composition. Following the lead of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Webern sought to move from a tonal-based system of composition to one where all twelve of the notes in the scale are of equal weight (the dodecaphonic system).

At the same time, Webern continually distilled his music down to its essence. His symphony lasts less than ten minutes and often has just one instrument playing at a time. But every note is absolutely critical, often serving several different musical functions simultaneously.

Webern's music doesn't sound like anybody else's. And though it was written over sixty years ago it still challenges many.

Now someone's made a video of Webern's symphony.

What I find most interesting are the comments that follow the video. They're literate, polite, and often informative. Instead of comments like "Haha wtf?" and "yall haters is salitiee," we get this:

"I feel Boulez is hugely underrated not only as a conductor, but as a composer also."
"Recall that Beethoven, one of the most original of composers, went to Vienna "to follow in the footsteps of Mozart". He did not self-consciously try for originality: he was original because he had an original mind and personality. Setting out to be original on purpose is death to genuine creativity."
Thanks to poldi24 for creating the video and sharing it. Looks like you've prompted some good discussion. And on YouTube, no less!

- Ralph

Day 60 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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