As a music reviewer, I tend to shy away from using genre names; I’d prefer people heard the music for its own qualities rather than because it fit into a certain box.  And the truth is, much music doesn’t fit into a genre-box very comfortably.

But I have to say, when reviewing new music shows and CDs, it would make my job a lot easier if some such commonly known “genres of new music” existed.  Of course we can talk of avant-garde, or experimental, or minimalist, but all of these genre names are pretty broad, and certainly don’t communicate much to someone encountering new music for the first time.

So how would it look if musicians and music lovers alike had a way of quickly describing the overall sound of new music pieces?

Here are two possibilities, for your consideration:

Cinematic music gives the feeling of narrative; the music is telling a story that becomes a part of the listener as s/he interprets its codes.  I’m using cinematic here in the Greek sense of the word: motion, with a dash of the English sense of the word (cinema and movie being generally synonymous): narrative.  Acknowledging of course that the word in English is more literally linked with cinematograph, or, movie-projector.

For example, LAD, pt. 2 by Julia Wolfe

Mediatory music gives the sense that the music is between the composer and the listener.  It is not narrative based, which is probably why many people have a hard time understanding it.  The impression is often of sounds occurring in succession in an arcane manner, and listeners are free to interpret the music in their own way.

For example, Hinterstück by Matthew Hough

Well, what say you?  Let’s ask our resident composer, Michael Andrew Doherty!  What do you think, Michael?  Do new music pieces need these monikers?  Or am I over-simplifying a necessarily complex matter?

Best to all,

Meg