To step beyond music

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony 

To step beyond music

Music has not outgrown itself, but has it stepped into an extra-musical realm?

There has been so much written about the language of music and comparing music to language; example – Language is a set of symbols used to signify concrete things and abstract concepts. So, is it the same with music? The chances are yes, because music and language do similar things.

However, has the music of today stepped beyond music? If you had lived around the 1700s, you probably could have asked yourself the same question, or of any period really, because music has always developed, but there’s usually been a common denominator, and that’s musical notation.

If you could take a score of Peter Sculthorpe’s music back to the 17th century, the rank and file musician would have been able to play most of it. But, could the same be said for a score of American composer George Crumb, or Australian composer Katia Beaugeais? I don’t think so; their music is of an extra-musical realm.

The extra-musical realm was always going to happen. The same way that taking a step beyond in literature, visual art and dance have happened, it’s there in the music of today. But, as most of this music is denied a voice in our time, and the development of this music has been rejected and hidden from society by the gatekeepers, some people react with fear of the unknown when they hear it.

Don’t blame the composers for making the music they do, they want to create something unique in their own voice, just like every composer has ever done. Blame the gatekeepers of music for not allowing you to hear it and to grow to understand it, and maybe even like it. Blame the directors of orchestras and the people who program music for concerts, radio and TV producers and concert promoters, blame them for not having the guts to try something new.

Thing is, they have been cutting their own throats all this time. They could have developed an audience for new music if they allowed it to be exposed. They could have been making profits and that would have helped develop their business and the artist's careers, but no, they were focused on short-term profit; same old story.

Katia Beaugeais 

Katia Beaugeais is a composer and saxophonist. Her music explores that extra musical realm. Beaugeais music is a bit like new journalism, which was developed in the 1960s and 1970s. It used unconventional techniques to get its story across but still told an entertaining and at many times, an important story.

The unconventional articulations, techniques and styles in Beaugeais music add something extra to the overall quality and feel of the music. When these extra-musical inventions are applied to music and especially in her compositions for the saxophone or wind orchestra, it can tell a story of greater colour and shading, allowing for a more subtle and expressive experience of her chosen subject. Such as in her First Light at Uluru.

The story of the wind, the wildlife, the sun and that special place of Uluru, come alive through her use of extra-musical technique. Combined with the glowing and warm sounds she has written for this piece; this music tells a greater story than what would have been possible if she had used only conventional composition techniques.

Just like in much of the “New Music” of today, there are ample things to explore and find in the music of Katia Beaugeais, if you want a greater musical experience.