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


Second, revised and expanded edition published by Dover Publications, New York, in 2017 (first edition by the Scarecrow Press / Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham / USA in 2013)


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.

In this text the philosophical and aesthetic position of new classical composers is explained, a position which is sometimes misunderstood because the music does not sound like the usual ‘new music’ as musicians and audiences have been taught to expect. One reason is the misunderstandings which still surround modernism, the movement which countered great difficulties in terms of acceptance within the central performance culture, with the result that ‘new music’ has created its own, alternative space at the margins of the cultural sphere. The heart of the text is the description of the difference between music and sonic art, from which the negative reputation of much new music becomes understandable and new classical music can be seen as an attempt to heal the breach between contemporary music and the central performance culture. Also the labels of ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ are analysed and shown to be no longer appropriate for the current situation in music life.

All art forms are mimetic, which means that they are a representation of reality as aesthetically experienced by man. This means that, in contrast to science, the arts are subjective by nature: they include the personal interpretation of one human being (the visual artist or composer) to be communicated to another human being (the viewer or the listener) whereby the emotional (subjective) factor is essential. In the last century, new art forms appeared which either took distance from reality (abstract painting) or presented fragments of reality itself (concept art). In music – the subjective art form par excellence – instead of expressive interpretation as it had been practiced since medieval times, a quasi-objective kind of music appeared without mimesis, sonic art. This new sound art never found a welcome place in the general performance culture because of its fundamental difference from music; ignoring this difference results in unfair and distorting assessments of both sonic art and music.

In this extended essay, the difference between music and sonic art is shown to be the reason of the rejection (in the central performance culture), by audiences and musicians alike, of this kind of ‘new music’ since its inception by Schönberg in the twenties of the last century. Because sonic art, after the Second World War, pretended to be the only way new music was developing, the reputation of new music within the central performance culture sank to a record low. The rejection of past practice and all forms of tradition resulted in a loss of expressive possibilities, and even while nowadays many composers seek a way back into the fundamental norms of music (often borrowing from pop and world music), only a reinterpretation of the tenets of tradition can reinstall the high quality standards which form the basis of the canonic repertoire as practiced in music life. In this context, the concept of tradition is seen as a living, dynamic and flexible process, focussed upon practice, and not as a prescriptive orthodoxy based upon a linear reading of music history along progressive lines.

The purpose of the book is to invite debate about the nature of new music and its role in the broader context of contemporary culture and about related issues like cultural identity, meaning and beauty. New classical composers are increasingly successful in the central performance culture because they offer a fresh approach to the problems that still surround contemporary music, where a ‘new music establishment’ with outdated ideas still holds a grip upon production, reception and funding of new music.



               Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised and Expanded Edition


Introduction: Classical music – a dying culture?

Chapter 1: The classical revolution: the shock of the old

Chapter 2: The fallacy of modernism, I

Chapter 3: The fallacy of modernism, II

Chapter 4: Temples of delight: how not to build a concert hall

Chapter 5: The enduring presence of the past

Chapter 6: The search for meaning

Chapter 7: The cultural shopping mall: pluralism and choice

Chapter 8: Conclusion: the debate about beauty

Chapter 9: Some composers




Information on Amazon

For the American market:

For the British market:

And for the German-speaking lands:

Revised and expanded edition, with quite a lot of new composers at the back – but never enough – and at a very reasonable price.


Reviews – thus far – of this second edition:


From the Aristos Website:

July 2020


John Borstlap
The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century, rev. ed.
Dover Publications, 2017

Borstlap’s Gauntlet

Challenging the Musical Avant-Garde

by Frank Cooper

With the publication of this new edition of his book The Classical Revolution, first published in 2013, John Borstlap [more] (b. 1950) has again thrown down the gauntlet to the music world’s avant-gardists–fearless, I suspect, of the jousts he will provoke.

A serious composer and informed “opinionist,” Borstlap offers readers a careful analysis of the causes of Modernism in music since 1900. He dissects the fallacies that were put forth by the movement’s pioneers and have been bandied about ever since as cant-ridden immutabilities. He also considers the long-standing influence of Pythagoras’s discovery of the overtone (or “harmonic”) series, as well as the development of tonality from modality. In addition, he examines what some considered to be the crisis in Late Romantic thinking about the future of musical harmony. Finally, he explains how meaning has always been conveyed–and will continue to be conveyed–through the faculty of hearing in human beings.

Candidly acknowledging that reviews of the book’s first edition dubbed him “an idiot” and “vilified” his thoughtful consideration of multiple points of view, as well as his insights into them, the author boldly confronts his critics again. He reasons with exponents of biased institutionalized lore and urges the hide-bound to think afresh about aesthetic matters as important as–hold your breath–beauty.

Clearly a humanist, Borstlap dares to venture further–into such subjective areas as music’s valuable role in emotional experience. He even delves into ideas of “self” and “soul” both within and beyond religious doctrines. Dante-dark territory that, and anathema to mere “sound-crafters” (or “objectivizers”)–who, he deems, are not true practitioners of musical art.

“A work of art,” he writes,

is the creation by a human being for other human beings: the maker, the work itself, and the human being at the receiving end all belong to the same system of signals and communication and hence, of meaning. The material side of this system . . . is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Understanding the means is thus something different from understanding the end, it is the difference between the understanding of the gynecologist and [that] of the lover.

In sum, Borstlap enters multiple frays of fact and opinion, tilting his intellectual lance at diverse targets. Classicism and what he terms “the shock of the old” fallacies besetting the evaluation of Modernism; then-and-now concert-hall concepts, design goals, and contributions to progressive failure of some musics in recent decades; the specter of the “enduring presence” of music from the past (a closely argued section); fruitless searches for meaning where few can exist, in our state of cultural relativism (its roots deep in the “humus” of colonialization, later Fascism) and its resulting lack of systems for value judgments; and, our Lewis Carroll-reasoned choices as from a “cultural shopping mall” with its commercialized, vulgar consumerism.

Curiously omitted from Borstlap’s discussion, despite evident similarities, is The Agony of Modern Music, the 1955 polemic by Henry Pleasants–which was bitterly attacked and is still ridiculed, except by jazz aficionados. Borstlap’s alternative to the avant-garde lies not in the immediacy of jazz, as it did for Pleasants, but in the “new classical music” created by composers such as John Adams (b. 1947), Samuel Barber (1910-1981), John Corigliano (b. 1938), Richard Danielpour (b. 1956), Frank Martin (1890-1974), David del Tredici (b. 1937), and Ned Rorem (b. 1923). Page length may have played a role in limiting Borstlap’s examples and citations: his text is 137 pages, with ten additional pages of annotated “Further Reading,” while Pleasants argued his way for 176 pages, with a two-page list of bibliographical sources.

Despite their relative brevity, both titles present countless ideas to stimulate fresh debate where it is most needed, among the informed who truly care for music as a humane attribute of civilized society.

[Links added by the editors.]

Frank Cooper [more] is Research Professor Emeritus in Musicology at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, and founder of the Festival of Neglected Romantic Music. Numerous Cooper-related videos can be viewed on YouTube.


‘The Classical Revolution’ – A Contrarian Perspective

In “The Classical Revolution: The Shock of the Old,” this trenchant book’s opening chapter, Dutch composer John Borstlap boldly introduces the term “new classical music.” As one who has long battled the avant-garde and championed the cause of traditional ‘contemporary’ arts, I welcome Borstlap’s contrarian perspective, which makes him a worthy recipient this month of a retroactive Aristos Award, primarily for his succinctly argued 192-page book that sheds light on the very nature of music.

Featured in the same July Aristos as Borstlap’s award citation is an equally succinct review by musicologist, emeritus professor, and musician Frank Cooper that cuts to the quick of what distinguishes Borstlap and his argument. Cooper’s concise, informed commentary is tailor-made for general readers and specialists alike.

In “Borstlap’s Gauntlet: Challenging the Musical Avant-Garde,” Cooper notes, for example, that “Clearly a humanist, Borstlap dares to venture further . . . into such subjective areas as music’s valuable role in emotional experience. He even delves into ideas of “self” and “soul” both within and beyond religious doctrines. Dante-dark territory that, and anathema to mere “sound-crafters” . . . who, he deems, are not true practitioners of musical art.” He’s right!

But prospective readers can make up their own minds to a certain extent by taking advantage of Amazon’s useful “Look inside” feature that makes generous portions of ‘The Classical Revolution’ instantly available (see the link directly above the book’s cover image).

Louis Torres, Founding Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts); Co-Author,  ‘What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand’  (Open Court, 2000); and author, “The Interminable Monopoly of the Avant-Garde” in  ‘After the Avant-Gardes: Reflections on the Future of the Fine Arts’  (Open Court, 2016), ed. by Elizabeth Millán.


Reviews of the second edition on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars:

My favorite book on this subject

With everyone going on about the classical music crisis, there is a great need for books like Borstlap’s that clearly addresses the major issues in this complicated subject. He writes from his direct experience as an internationally known composer who went head-on with the Dutch government’s new-music funding apparatus. His experience reveals the way state funded art undermines true creativity and the kinds of music one would hope would be promoted. His writing here is concise and interesting, making this a great read for anyone in the classical music business.


5.0 out of 5 stars:

Brilliant vision for creating new classical music

Clear-eyed and elegantly written with a strikingly original premise. Why has “modern art music” been such a disaster, and what can we do about it? Borstlap recommends reconnecting to classical principles of musical art and tonality. He includes amusing slaps at the follies of an outdated modernist aesthetic, and a wide cultural perspective. Persuasive, fascinating and powerful. Recommended for musicians and music lovers.


5.0 out of 5 stars:

Excellent & engrossing

A percipient assessment of the current state of affairs in the world of new concert music, which leave a lot to be desired. Borstlap writes with incisive clarity and makes a compelling case against the banality of empty modernism. This should be required reading in all conservatory composition departments!


5.0 out of 5 stars:

Must read on modern classical music

Sir Roger Scruton called the Dutch composer John Borstlap “one of the truly remarkable intellects of our time, a serious and inspired composer”. Such an accolade, coming from one of the rare Renaissance men of our age, immediately arrests attention, particularly since Borstlap is not widely known. On the evidence of Borstlap’s The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century (Dover Publications), it is well-deserved praise. He has written a brilliant, highly literate book that displays an astonishing breadth of culture in all its forms. It not only touches upon classical music but also on all the arts and the deeper questions of Western civilisation. It provides both a diagnosis of our ills and a remedy for them.


5.0 out of 5 stars:

The information that John Borstlap puts forward in his book will offer many opportunities for discussions with my musical friends and former colleagues! Pro and con!


Review in ‘Das Orchester’, German specialized magazine for the orchestral circuit:

John Borstlap ist Komponist. Weder frustriert noch im Elfenbeinturm lebend analysiert er in seinem ursprünglich 2013 erschienenen und jetzt überarbeiteten Buch die jüngsten Entwicklungen und die aktuelle Lage neuer Musik. Einleitend stellt er fest, dass irgendetwas falsch gelaufen sein muss in den vergangenen hundert Jahren. Etwas, das dazu geführt hat, dass die sogenannte zeitgenössische Musik in einer Sackgasse feststeckt, überwiegend nur noch von Spezialensembles für Spezialpublikum aufgeführt wird, sich aus einem breiteren Musikgeschmack und -betrieb letztlich verabschiedet hat. Starker Tobak also für die Rihms und Lachenmanns dieser Welt. Andererseits habe auch die einst so bewundernswerte klassische Aufführungskultur Europas vielfach Züge eines Museums angenommen, wenn man sich die Konzertprogramme anschaue.

Eine Lanze bricht Borstlap für die „neue klassische Musik“, die immer mehr Menschen (vor allem jüngere) anspricht, weil sie tonal und zugänglich ist wie z.B. Filmmusik. Diese werde von zeitgenössischen Komponisten mit einer gewissen Arroganz und vom Feuilleton mit Argwohn betrachtet. Überhaupt sei die Abkehr von der Tonalität nach Schönberg wohl eines der zentralen Probleme neuer Musik. Denn Tonalität als solche sei ja keine menschliche Erfindung, sondern ein physikalisches Phänomen. Natürlich gebe es auch in Anlehnung an die Popkultur in der neuen Klassik „Kitsch“ (wie in jeder Kunstform); dieser sei jedoch bloße Imitation ohne tieferen künstlerischen Wert. Im Konzertbetrieb wirkten Begriffe wie „zeitgenössische“ oder „moderne“ Musik fast schon wie Warnsignale an das Publikum. Nach dem Motto: „Das ist nichts für mich.“

Die Ausbildung jeglicher Form von Klangkunst („sonic art“) in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten versteht Borstlap als Frontalangriff auf Musik als Kunstform. Bloße akustische Klangflächen würden beim Zuhören gerade nicht eine psychologische Dimension oder eine tiefere Bedeutung erzeugen. Die Arroganz neuer Musik gegenüber der Vergangenheit sei vor allem nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg und in Folge der 1968er Bewegung entstanden. Das Bewahren von Traditionen war bei der jüngeren Generation verpönt. Aus dieser Zeit stammen dann auch Beschreibungen des Konzertsaals als „Mausoleum für abgenudelte Klänge“ oder des „Silbersees“ für ein überaltertes und aussterbendes Publikum, welche über Jahrzehnte die kunstpolitische Debatte bestimmten.

Borstlap sieht einen Ausweg aus dem Dilemma neuen Musikschaffens in einer Besinnung auf eine neue europäische Identität.

Gerade vor dem Hintergrund von Flucht und Migration könne auch Musik hier eine wichtige Rolle spielen und sich dabei ruhig auf die Vergangenheit beziehen. So wie die römische Kunst sich einst auf die griechische bezog. Neue klassische Musik könne die Menschen ansprechen und damit insgesamt eine neue Relevanz gewinnen. Wen diese Überlegung überzeugt, der wird das Buch mit Gewinn lesen, sollte allerdings über gute Englischkenntnisse verfügen.

Gerald Mertens

How the avant-garde ruined music

Robert R Reilly     in ‘The Catholic Herald’ (USA)

14 March, 2019

Modern composers have been assaulting our ears with inept noise, says Robert R Reilly

Sir Roger Scruton calls the Dutch composer John Borstlap “one of the truly remarkable intellects of our time, a serious and inspired composer”. Such an accolade, coming from one of the rare Renaissance men of our age, immediately arrests attention, particularly since Borstlap is not widely known. On the evidence of Borstlap’s The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century (Dover Publications), it is well-deserved praise. He has written a brilliant, highly literate book that displays an astonishing breadth of culture in all its forms. It not only touches upon classical music but also on all the arts and the deeper questions of Western civilisation. It provides both a diagnosis of our ills and a remedy for them.

The word “revolution” comes from the Latin revolvō, which means to roll back, revolve or return. The classical revolution of which Borstlap writes is a return to music as the high spiritual art it had been before the catastrophic derailment caused by the 20th-century avant-garde.

Anyone who has had to suffer at classical music concerts assaults of noise, usually packaged between pieces of real music, can get their revenge by buying and reading this book. It is certainly one of the most delicious, delectable eviscerations of the musical avant-garde ever written. Borstlap now joins ranks with Roger Scruton as one of the most eloquent expungers of the modern orthodoxy of ugliness.

The book is really an autopsy, because the avant-garde is already dead, although it still displays nervous reflexes, twitching like a snake with its head cut off. Or perhaps more appropriately, it should be compared to the undead – a zombie seeking living flesh, knowing it no longer has any itself, but refusing at the same time to admit that it actually is dead.

Also, zombies, being incapable of speech, can only moan and screech hideously. However, even when not undead, the musical avant-garde could only make those same sounds, so the differences between the living and the undead can be difficult to detect aurally.

Unfortunately, the undead avant-garde can still apply for grants and teach on music faculties, while real zombies can’t. Borstlap provides the horrific details of how the Dutch musical establishment sponsors the undead instead of giving it a decent burial.

Actually, Borstlap is slightly more generous to the avant-garde than I am, though he limns the musical establishment as the “institutionalisation of incompetence”. He is willing to grant “art” status to its sonic events, so long as it doesn’t refer to them as music – for the very good reason that such agglomerations of noise are not comprehensible as music. He is able to explain why this is so since, as a composer, he speaks from inside the belly of the beast. In terms easily accessible to a layman, he eloquently describes how music works – in fact, how it must work in order to be music at all. I should add that his humour and sarcasm are hilarious. John Cage, apostle of noise, was not a composer, writes Borstlap, “he was rather a decomposer”. How I wish I had written that.

But underlying the humour is a cri de coeur. Borstlap has paid a price for not complying with modern musical orthodoxy: neglect. This is why so few have heard of his music.

So, is his book a case of sour grapes? I don’t think so. I am personally acquainted with a number of contemporary composers whose beautiful music has been neglected precisely because it is beautiful. They have been shunned by the musical establishment. Borstlap fits this type. All I can say is that if this man’s music is as good as his writing, I can’t wait to hear more of it. (You can listen to brief samples at

Finally, we must ask: to what is the “classical revolution” returning? Borstlap answers with one of the most elegant descriptions of the artistic vocation I have encountered: “The beauty we recognise … is not of this world; it is the fingerprint of a sacred presence, a creative force ‘behind’ reality, to remind us of where we came from and to where we, eventually, will go. It is the task of the artist to illuminate, to beautify and ennoble our life experiences, including its pain, so that our inner life stays alive… Beauty keeps the inner connection with our destiny intact.”

He continues: “The experience of masterly music is very close to the experience of real human love: in both, a spiritual factor is at work, confirming the immortality of our inner being.”

As can be seen in these lines, this book itself is a work of beauty. Even if classical music is not your primary field of interest, if you are concerned about what went wrong (in all the arts) and what needs to be rectified, this is the book for you.

Robert R Reilly is the author of Surprised by Beauty: A Listener’s Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music


Review in the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies:


Reviews of the first edition:

The recent Musical Opinion article by Dutch composer John Borstlap on the problem of gaining exposure for music written in ‘pre-modern’ tonal traditions is developed in his new book, taking as a starting-point the Orwellian epigram: ‘In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act’, a view Hans Keller might have shared in 1985 on describing the BBC’s Broadcasting in the Seventies proposal as ‘a major exhibit in the evidence of the decline of the West’. Is the restoration of musical traditions desirable or even possible in today’s multi-cultural Europe? How may traditionally-based music reach a wide audience in overcoming today’s pervasive pop/tv-driven culture and ‘academic, almost sterile, atonal tradition’? Is this the price we continue to pay for Nazism and a once-great universal art’s destruction? Borstlap’s solutions form a challenging argument that all who care about music and its place in society should absorb. Musical Opinion

Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century is rich in arguments, worthy of discussion…. Because of the numerous issues raised (including the relationship of originality and aesthetic quality, the relationship with non-European cultures, the importance of spirituality), Borstlap’s book about the current issues of composition and a new classicism is an important contribution to musical aesthetics. Die Tonkunst

In ‘The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century’, John Borstlap offers an excellent and expansive view of where we now are in the larger world of contemporary art music (music in the tradition of Western classical music), both in America, and from his vantage point, in Europe. Academic Questions

Since the 1960s, new ‘classical’ music in the West has been dominated by atonal modernism as conceived by Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) and his followers. This is not because they are popularly appreciated but because government-funded art establishments have decreed tonal composition outdated and passé. In this wonderfully eloquent book, Borstlap, a Dutch composer, describes how the modernist break with tradition and its rejection of the mimetic nature of true art has resulted in a tremendous loss – of musical competence and beauty. But in the same way that we are witnessing a modest resurgence of traditional realism in painting and classical architecture, Borstlap suggests that the ‘pre-modern’ tonal tradition in music is ready for a comeback as well. The European Conservative

Reviews of the first edition on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars

A cultural rift explored

May 20, 2013

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book. It deals with a wide range of cultural questions surrounding the issue of modernity. John Borstlap has a passion for the subject and communicates with great precision and thoroughness. He is not afraid to argue his points with force but, I think, always with dignity and a dash of humour.

This book reveals the extent to which modernist ideology has inhibited (after reading Borstlap, I’m tempted to say `prohibited’) any alternative aesthetic principles. It’s a real eye-opener; I hadn’t realised the extent of the problem.

Despite its controversial findings and forthright tone, ‘The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on new music in the 21st century’ exudes optimism and can be enjoyed by the non-musician. In fact, anyone with an interest in the cultural activity of our times, with an eye to the future, should read this book.


5.0 out of 5 stars

Superb summation of classical music today

January 3, 2017

By far one of the very best books to encapsulate the state of classical music today. The author works his way around each and every aspect of the music business, particularly the philosophical pitfalls that has driven this art form on to the endangered species list.

4.0 out of 5 stars



Schönheit statt Zerstörung

19. Juli 2014

Dieser Band eröffnet eine von Walter Simmons herausgegebene neue Reihe zu moderner traditionalistischer klassischer Musik. Während sich bisherige Schriften dieser Geisteshaltung auf die Kritik an der Avantgarde konzentrierten, so verspricht diese Reihe eine Beschäftigung mit der jahrzehntelang unterdrückten Alternative.

Borstlaps Kritik richtet sich in erster Linie gegen atonale Musik; dabei zeigt er sich diplomatisch, indem er ihr den Kunstwert nicht abspricht. Er nennt sie „sonic art“ (entsprechend dem deutschen Begriff „Klangkunst“), sagt jedoch, dass es sich eben nicht um „Musik“ handle: „Klang als solcher unterscheidet sich von Musik, denn Musik transformiert Klang in emotionalen, seelischen Ausdruck; sie geht weit über seine physikalische Präsenz hinaus, während die Klangkunst dort stehenbleibt“ (S. 39 – alle Zitate von mir übersetzt). Tatsächlich wäre Klangkunst bzw. Atonalität vor dem 20. Jahrhundert schwerlich als „Musik“ bezeichnet worden, und es ist das gute Recht des Autors, eine Erweiterung des Musikbegriffes nicht zu akzeptieren. Ich würde mich dagegen eher der Erweiterung des Kunstbegriffes verweigern, aber durchaus von Musik im Sinne gestalteten Klanges reden. Neben dieser neuen Musik oder Nicht-Musik kritisiert Borstlap auch die „Minimal Music“, die zwar „oft recht nett klingt“, während aber „ihre Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten sehr beschränkt sind und sich ihre Effekte mit der Dauer abnutzen“ (S. 4).

Der „modernism“, also die atonale Musik, „ist seiner tiefsten Natur nach ein totalitäres, auf den Kopf gestelltes Glaubenssystem, künstlich, antihumanistisch, antizivilisatorisch, und unbeabsichtigt ein passender Ausdruck der totalitären Gesellschaften, die Europa im vorigen Jahrhundert zerrissen haben“ (S. 8). Das „Klassische“ dagegen ist „ein dynamisches Konzept, eine Idee des Wiedererschaffens einer großen Kunstform, eine der größten Gaben an die Menschheit. ‘classical music’ ist demnach als ein Begriff zu verstehen, der die westliche Kunstmusik von ihren frühesten Anfängen mit dem gregorianischen Gesang bis zum Ausbruch des Modernismus im 20. Jahrhundert“ (S. 11) beschreibt. Dabei ist die Schönheit („beauty“) „eine normale, wenn nicht stets die wichtigste Zutat“ (S. 121).

Belege für die Absurditäten der Avantgarde (Borstlap verwendet den Begriff nicht, aber bei uns ist er geläufig) gibt es in diesem Buch weniger als in anderen, doch ein aktueller Fall sei herausgegriffen: Da ließ ein Komponist seine Kinder auf dem Keyboard herumklimpern, speiste es in ein Notensatzprogramm und schickte es an einen niederländischen Kulturfonds, der ihm dafür 3.000 Euro überwies (S. 4) und (wie man in einem Youtube-Video erfährt) gleich noch den Auftrag für eine Oper erteilte. Kein Wunder, dass Borstlap für solche „Experten“ nicht viel übrig hat: „Die ‘Experten’-Komittees […] bestanden meist aus Leuten, die in klassischer Musik nicht mehr zu hören vermögen als ein Haustier – Spezialisten, die nicht die Musik hören, sondern nur die Töne, die sie produziert (S. 61)“. Wenn überhaupt, möchte man hinzufügen, kommt es doch vor allem auf wichtigtuerisch-kompliziert aussehende Partituren und ideologisches Begleitgeschwafel an.

Getroffene Hunde bellen, und so wurde das Buch auch prompt in der „Neuen Zeitschrift für Musik“, dem selbsternannten „Leitmedium für zeitgenössische Musik“, verrissen; nicht ohne beiläufige Schmähkritik an Borstlaps eigenen Kompositionen, die übrigens überhaupt nicht konservativ klingen, wohl aber Musik sind statt „sonic art“.

Borstlap ist bei weitem nicht der einzige klassische moderne Komponist. Im Anhang stellt er zehn weitere vor, denen aber jeweils nur wenige Zeilen gewidmet werden. Auch wären Notenbeispiele, auf die in diesem Buch leider zur Gänze verzichtet wurde, hier besonders wünschenswert gewesen. Dass man über die eigentlichen Protagonisten der „klassischen Revolution“, über ihre Schwierigkeiten und vereinzelten Erfolge kaum etwas erfährt, ist der einzige Minuspunkt dieses Buches; angesichts der Erwartungen, die der Titel weckt, kein ganz geringer, und deshalb vergebe ich nur vier „Sterne“. Zwar kann man sich im Weltnetz weiter informieren, doch ein Teil der potenziellen Leser hat diese Möglichkeit nicht.

Ohne das Weltnetz wäre kaum zu ahnen, wieviele klassische zeitgenössische Komponisten es tatsächlich gibt, auch wenn sie sich oft mit künstlich erzeugten Klangbeispielen behelfen müssen, um ihre Musik vorzustellen. Denn noch ist die Avantgarde-Lobby mächtig: „Wo aber sind die Musikfestivals, die eine Plattform für neue klassische Musik mit Konzerten, Debatten, Erkundungen, Seminaren bieten? Wo ist der öffentliche Raum, der von den Fackelträgern eines neuen musikalischen Jahrhunderts erhellt werden kann?“ (S. 119). Eine Frage, die unbeantwortet bleibt.

„The Classical Revolution“ ist ein schöner Titel, aber eine Revolution wird es vermutlich nicht geben. Wahrscheinlicher ist, was sich dank des weitgehend unzensierten Mediums Weltnetz bereits andeutet: ein allmählich wachsendes Interesse an klassischer zeitgenössischer Musik, und eine Rehabilitierung jener Komponisten des 20. Jahrhunderts, die sich der Avantgarde verweigert haben. Hier wäre etwa Walter Braunfels zu nennen, dem diese Ehre bereits zuteil wurde; freilich vor allem deshalb, weil er als „Halbjude“ bei den Nationalsozialisten unerwünscht war. In einer Musikgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, die nicht nach politischen, sondern nach künstlerischen Gesichtspunkten zu schreiben wäre, würde die von der Politik und der Kulturförderung aufgeblähte Avantgarde nicht mehr als eine kuriose Fußnote sein.

„Wenn jemals ein wirklich großer Komponist erscheinen würde […], würde er genau all jene Kräfte und Mittel der Meisterschaft anwenden wollen, welche die Kunstform anbieten kann; und nur in der Vergangenheit würde er sie finden, und unvermeidlicherweise würden sie sich alle auf die Möglichkeiten der Tonalität beziehen und somit auf die innere Welt menschlicher Erfahrung. Das letzte was er sein wollte, wäre ‘modern’ in dem Sinn, wie es im letzten Jahrhundert formuliert wurde“ (S. 54). Solche Komponisten sind nicht ausgestorben; man muss sie nur entdecken. Dazu allerdings müssten die tonangebenden Gremien mit Leuten besetzt werden, die das Zufallsgeklimper von Kindern von richtiger Musik unterscheiden können.

Dem Buch und den weiteren Bänden der Reihe „Modern Traditionalist Classical Music“ ist auch ein deutscher Übersetzer und Verleger zu wünschen, denn nirgends dürften solche Botschaften wichtiger sein als hierzulande. „Der Schatten des Holocaust sollte nach einer Periode der Trauer die Schönheit nicht länger daran hindern, wiederzuerstehen und zur Heilung der europäischen/westlichen Zivilisation beizutragen. […] Wenn wir der Klangkunst erlauben, Musik zu sein, vollenden wir das Zerstörungswerk, das Hitler und Stalin in Gang gesetzt haben“ (S. 123). Damit verdeutlicht Borstlap, dass ästhetische und moralische Belange nicht voneinander zu trennen sind. Die „klassische Revolution“ ist nicht nur wünschenswert; sie ist notwendig.