Ready for the mainstream

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After the Berlin Wall came down (in 1989, I believe), the global media became interested in the music of some composers from Eastern Europe such as Gorecki and Arvo Paart. The record business started investing money in promoting recordings of their works and their pieces actually managed to show up in the mainstream charts, for record sales. The genre was given a marketing name – “Holy Minimalism” and suddenly their music was regarded by many as trendy.

It’s unlikely that those composers created their best known works with the knowledge that this phenomenon would come to pass. They probably just followed their individual muses, dealt with the breaks they were given in life and created music that was somehow evocative of what life was like in their communities before Gorbachev’s revolution (who remembers him now?)

Listeners could hear recordings and performances of some of those works, and use them as sonic symbols of the capacity of the human spirit to endure hardship and repression, from the vantage point of the part of the world where I live.

Meanwhile, some established Western composers expressed snooty views about the fact that the world was focusing attention on music from the Eastern Bloc, possibly because they were envious of the attention these composers were receiving. I was fortunate enough to attend a concert performed by a famous violinist that featured several works by those composers. Hearing the music made me realise that it makes sense to speak one’s truth, regardless of what the prevailing trends might be. Those composers had their moment and now their names and works are established in the international canon of contemporary art music, regardless of the opinions of rivals or critics