Here's a video of an extraordinary conversation which yesterday aired on an extraordinary segment of (and for) PBS's Charlie Rose Show in celebration of the 100th birthday of composer Elliott Carter: A Conversation With Elliott Carter, Daniel Barenboim, and James Levine. Carter showed himself to be still sharp as a tack mentally, and, if you ask us, doesn't look a day over 80.
For us, one of the most telling moments of that conversation was Barenboim's explanation of why Carter's notoriously complex atonal music is perceived by audiences as genuine music. His explanation — which runs from 13:25-15:10 on the video — although expressed more eloquently, sounded remarkably like what we had to say in our 24 April 2008 post, "On Music And Gibberish"; viz.,
It's not atonality per se — i.e., the music's lack of a triadic tonal center(s); a "home base," so to speak — [that makes so much of atonal music sound so unmusical; even non-music], nor is it the almost unrelenting, unresolved harmonic dissonance that's the hallmark of the atonal. It's something much more fundamental: the lack of a perceptible and coherent musical narrative from work's beginning to end, which is to say the lack of the work's saying comprehensibly something beyond and exclusive of commentary on its own processes and methods which are — or ought to have been and be — but mere tools used in its making.
To put the matter more bluntly and much less eloquently, a composition absent a perceptible and coherent musical narrative from beginning to end is gibberish and not music.
And that's the test — the touchstone — that determines whether a work as a whole is genuine music or gibberish. Flashes of musical brilliance — even a sustained series of such flashes from work's start to finish — simply won't do to make that work a work of genuine music unless those flashes conspire to produce a perceptible and coherent musical narrative [from work's beginning to end].
That's genuine music's sine qua non — even its very definition.
This exceptional 32-minute video is well worth your time viewing in toto.