New Spin on Classical Music

Jeremy Quintin

Elm Staff Writer


The best way I can think to describe Pedja Muzijevic’s piano performance this past Friday is as a musical juxtaposition which contrasts the concepts of sanity and lunacy from classical compositions to modern makes of madness. While this is a bit more flowery than Muzijevic describes his own act, it is certainly the theory behind it. With a piano recital such as the one at Gibson, what people stereotypically expect is the classics, Mozart and Beethoven. Not only does Muzijevic shatter this expectation by placing side-by-side olden compositions with more recent works, the soundness of mind that went into each piece seems to fluctuate as well.

Of course Muzijevic doesn’t work alone on stage. Each composer is responsible for bringing something different, such as John Cage’s In a Landscape, a very ambient piece in comparison with the rest of what was played. John Cage is notorious for having created a song that is literally four minutes of silence. He is also noted for, “looking anywhere and saying, what about that?” as explained by Muzijevic. Certainly this was the idea in Muzijevic’s head all throughout the night.

However, Muzijevic didn’t just dive straight into a barrage of different sounds, as it might seem. He gradually brought the audience into his performance with a classical introductory piece, Sonata in F Minor, K. 519, by Domenico Scarlatti, and from here moved the evening in and out with classical creations and avant-garde conceptions.

The change in pace from one piece to the next, however, was not always a fluid motion. In a moment, colorful melodies uplifting in nature would shift dramatically into somber stretches of time. The comparison between pieces is rather interesting too, and even humorous. Whereas Scarlatti’s modestly described “exercises” flew across the piano in incredibly intricate combinations of notes, Morton Feldman’s Intermission pieces in turn would hold maybe twenty notes in three minutes time.

The dichotomy is startling and determining whether this juxtaposition is good or not comes down to a lot of personal opinion. I’m not the type to listen to a single genre all day long. I have to mix up my Drumstep with Post-Rock, Ambient, and crazed Experimental Music. At times, this kind of mix is satisfying, but at other times it can be a wild collision of sounds. It seems the same can be said about Muzijevic’s own mix of music; at times it sacrifices good transitions in order to give service to each song individually, rather than as a whole production.

At the same time, Muzijevic, without a doubt, did great service to each piece on that individual level. He played each piece immaculately (and by memory), providing the listener with an emotional journey and vision every time. Listening to Scarlatti’s Sonata in A Major, K. 113 is like listening to a feuding couple, and listening to Franz Liszt’s Bagatelle sans tonalite is like being caught out in the rain, with the notes literally raining down on one’s face.

The image obtained by the listener varies, of course, and that is part of what Muzijevic discussed on stage before beginning one of his pieces. “So much of art is really a dialogue,” he says. Art isn’t simply handed over with the artist’s full interpretation passed along. Its true value is made by how art is given and how the spectator reacts to and interprets it. In the case of music, it cannot just be played, it has to also be heard, and how it’s heard varies, making a single musical piece almost infinite in its expression.

Muzijevic’s performance was rather unconventional, but this isn’t to say bad. On the contrary, he gave a spectacular show, and watching his radical movements as he became more involved in his music was just as entertaining as the songs themselves.

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