pure torture

My friend just returned from POW training*. During part of the simulation, loud, obnoxious music was piped in to prevent sleep. My friend found part of it recognizable, and eventually realized they were hearing Berio’s Sequenza for piano. And then the next track, which sounded like a woman making random ridiculous sounds, turned out to be the Sequenza for voice.

Let that sink in: Berio’s Sequenzas used as an instrument in torture simulation. Luciano Berio, one of the most notable, important, and most famous composers of the last century. Invoked in one of the most stressful, dangerous, taxing trials a person can undergo.

(Personally, I think this is hilarious but would have been better if it were Stockhausen, not Berio.)

Now, I could make about a thousand points about this:

About how far classical music seems to have deviated from commonly-accepted aesthetic norms;
About the dichotomy between contemporary classical music and common-practice classical music;
About the dichotomy between contemporary classical music and popular music, or pop culture;
About the value of aesthetics versus structure/process;
About how structure/process needn’t be sacrificed to maintain aesthetics;
About how we define and value “aesthetics”;
About how contemporary classical music can be perceived as “torture” and how this came to be;
About the implications of contemporary classical music being perceived in such a light;
About whether or not we want to be perceived this way;
And about whether anybody actually does care if we listen.

I could go on. I could write a volume on each point. But I’m not, because I choose to make it Not My Problem. I will let other people make it their problem if they wish. Instead, the only point I will make is:

Now they know how I feel when I have to listen to Katy Perry.

*Everything but the most salient information redacted for the security of everyone involved.


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