Avatâra

‘Borstlap’s Avatâra: a demanding piece in a rather impressionistic idiom, combining an extremely fast basic element with the utmost refinement and subtlety of expression.’ NRC Handelsblad More »

Fantasia

‘In his Fantasia, Borstlap turns towards a form of new tonality. Sonorous homophonic lines....... expressive and melancholic arpeggio’s..... A magic sound texture.’ Heilbrunner Stimme More »

His music

‘In his music, John Borstlap combines great craftmanship with the utmost original thematic material. It is remarkable how refreshing new tonal music can be.’ Mens & Melodie More »

Hyperion’s Dream, Night Music and Capriccio

‘Hyperion’s Dream, Night Music and Capriccio (a traditional horn trio) are works which seem closer to Brahms and Schumann than to the threshold of the new millenium. More »

Psyche

John Borstlap’s ‘Psyche’: A sonorous piece, based upon a theme by Wagner but worked-out in a very personal way, and in a more or less late-romantic style....... with interesting, often soft, sound colours emerging from the orchestra.’ Tubantia More »

Sinfonia

‘Unusual piece....... Borstlap’s Sinfonia succeeded remarkably well in establishing a contact with the audience..... Work of great quality.’ Utrechts Nieuwsblad More »

Sonata

‘The sonata by John Borstlap is a remarkable work with a seemingly improvisatory, refined and effective, shadow-like texture.’ Haarlems Dagblad More »

THE CLASSICAL REVOLUTION Thoughts on new music in the 21st century

 

Published by the Scarecrow Press, New York, in 2013

Description:

The subject matter of ‘The Classical Revolution’ is the current emerging of a new music, which is rooted in premodernist tonal traditions. In painting, figurative realism – which was marginalized by modernism (abstract art, concept art) but never entirely disappeared – is enjoying a revival; a couple of contemporary architects are increasingly successful in recreating something of the classical tradition in building (Krier, Terry, Adams, Greenberg), in spite of fierce opposition from a conventional establishment. And now also in serious music, ideas of revival and restoration are appearing – somewhat later than in the other art forms, as usual. There has already been written about new figurative painting and new classical architecture, but new classical music is still a rather virginal territory.

Prescribing art

“Making and consuming art lifts our spirits and keeps us sane. Art, like science and religion, helps us make meaning from our lives, and to make meaning is to make us feel better.”

That the arts can be benefitting for our health, has been known for ages, in fact: in Antiquity this was already common understanding. Now, a report in the UK has offered some more concrete evidence:

www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jul/19/arts-can-help-recovery-from-illness-and-keep-people-well-report-says

Aesthetic perception and nature

Some strange facts of life have a strong meaning, for example that proportions in nature conform to certain mathematical principles, which in turn can be grasped by the human mind – i.e. in the human mind there is a receptive system of mathematical properties which lay at the heart of natural formation. Our mind is part of natural evolution and the laws along which it proceeds. This implies, among other things in the cultural field, that tonal relations in music are grounded in nature, and that the beauty of musical works is related to both how the human mind works, and how nature is structured.

Classical music and humanism

Classical music is often considered as an art form which embodies humanistic and ethic ideals, and is supposed to inspire moral awareness in its listeners. This aspirational vision of serious music is one of the results of the Enlightenment as it developed at the end of the 18th century, when in aesthetic theory ‘the artist’ became an ‘independent entity’ and no longer a mere craftsman in the service of church, court and nobility. This vision formed an important strand in 19th culture, where it had to struggle with the reactions its sometimes dry rationalism provoked, inadvertedly stimulating romanticism with its vague but profound  emotional urges, so strongly disqualified by Goethe.

Neuroscience and aural confusion

Some research in neuroscience appears to support the claim that confusion, resulting from listening to postwar avantgarde atonal works, is not due to lack of musical understanding and a conservative taste, but the logical result of works without structural patterns that relate to the mind’s hardwired, pattern-seeking abilities. But of course, acculturation plays a role, but not the only one.

Beige and abstract convention

There is an increasing number of observations demonstrating something of the emerging of common sense about the established art history of the last century, as found in an article on the website of ‘The Smart Set’:

Quote:

20th-century modernism marked the transition from a world of regional civilizational artistic traditions to the bright, shiny, new, universal society of airports, hotels, and office buildings which are the same everywhere on the planet, with the same color-blob paintings in the lobbies and corridors and the same metal tripod or other abstract sculpture out front.

Permitting waste in the realm of verse

The Literary Review newsletter of 2/11/16  held a review of a biography of Jonathan Swift, exposing one of the striking cultural prejudices of the last century, which still hangs in the air of our own times:

“In his everyday life Jonathan Swift was fastidiously clean. In his writing, however, he was capable of what was disapprovingly called an ‘excremental vision’. Yet this at least showed him to be less hypocritical than his ‘grubbier’ contemporaries, who ‘refused to permit the filth, decay and human waste around them to enter the realms of verse’, suggests Freya Johnston in her review of John Stubbs’s ‘sensitive and capacious’ new biography of Swift.”

Predicaments of pluralism

Pluralism and freedom of discussion are of fundamental importance for culture; where societies become dominated by populism and / or rightwing extremism, this pluralism is under serious threat, and the arts will become politicized, open to blackmailing and manipulation, of which history offers many examples. In the Western world, the freedom of pluralism is under threat, both in the USA and in Europe, where the central performance culture is an integral part of society, especially in the German-speaking lands. Will it be strong enough to resist the threats which are also appearing in the heartland of the classical repertoire?

A new movement?

While working on an extension of a chapter in my book, as a preparation for its 2nd edition by Dover – it is the chapter where a number of new tonal composers are mentioned by way of examples – there appear to be many more of such composers than imagined before. One wonders who else is out there, of whom hardly anybody has heard, and whose efforts are valuable contributions to the art form in spite of not being performed. Herbert Paul’s fascinating study ‘Two Centuries in One’….

http://www.musicweb-international.com/books/Pauls_two_centuries_in_one.pdf

….. already revealed the richness of the field, but my impression is that not all of these composers – having been performed, having enjoyed successes – will have achieved the artistic level that can survive the erosion of time, in other words: there will have been works which do not invite repeated hearing. But that goes for all music produced in any age, the general production provides the context within which the great works can blossom.

Rise of authoritarianism

Authoritarian, rightwing regimes who want to increase their power over society as much as possible, use the disguise of ‘defending traditional values’ to achieve their aim. We are reminded of the tactics of the nazis in interbellum Germany, manipulating the volatile and traumatized population, especially the masses who lost their jobs, their security, their sense of ‘belonging’.

Context, dynamics, and intrusion

Why exactly does a modernist, or postmodernist, or contemporary ‘hip’ work that rubs shoulders with pop music, not fit in a classical orchestral programme that also holds, say, a Tchaikovsky symphony and a Ravel concerto? Why do audiences, used to a very varied ‘classical repertoire’ that covers a stylistic palette from Haydn to Hindemith, up till and including the Stravinsky of the ‘neo-classical’ period, react negatively, or at best: politely, but almost never enthusiastically, to such works? Can that only be explained as conservatism?