An interesting blog in the NYT by David Lang (one of the founders of Bang on a Can) making an analogy to Baseball and Classical music. I posted a response at the cello chat forums, but thought I’d include it here for those interested.
A nice piece–and for the record, I’ve always loved David Lang’s work ever since I first started listening to Bang on a Can. And one of the main reasons I decided an orchestral career wasn’t for me was primarily the lack of focus on new music, or music being composed today.
I think the analogy fails in many ways (or obfuscates issues–which is really what analogies are designed to do–heighten similarities but lessen the differences, eh?). I think the biggest differences between sports and classical music deal with the end performance (and here, I think it might be helpful to point out that Baseball’s popularity has waned over the decades especially in light of the Basketball/Football). But sorts teams are attempting to re-create past games–each game is a new one. Same set of rules, for sure, but the script isn’t already set (nor are the players in most cases). I think John Zorn wanted to highlight that aspect of a “game with rules” in his game piece compositions–which obviously include hefty amounts of impovisation (to specific rules) that is no longer a part of classical music training and performance.
He does address it at the end of his piece, but having a baseball game that’s a re-creation of a past game isn’t functionally a whole lot different than scripting a new baseball game that needs to be played pitch-for-pitch (pun intended) exactly as the score (also, pun intended) dictates. It’s a set of rules to improvise to, which classical musicians are some of the most ill-trained folks to be attempting. While I would be VERY interested in seeing a full symphony orchestra try something like this, it would require a completly different kind of training for the musicians.