(Video available below.)

Regarding Béla Bartók’s ‘Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, one Youtube listener writes, “can anyone tell me what is so great in this music ? I’ve heard many possitive opinions about this concert, but noone can explain it to me and personally i thing it’s just mess of sounds, but guess it’s beyond my scope.”

Someone attempts to explain, “This is Bartok’s style. It sounds strange and hectic because of the use of dissonant sounds…Admittedly, this is a very austere piece, not ‘enjoyable’ in a common sense of the word.”

Another view:  “I still fail to comprehend how ‘pop’ music manages to hold the attention of millions when alternatives such as this exist.”

My take:  A lot of interesting questions are raised in these posts.  The first point is, what makes a piece of music great?  Along those lines, must a piece of music be “great” in order to be understood and appreciated?  Must music make a positive impression on everyone, or can it sort of have a life of its on without ongoing mass appeal?  Of course, the answer to all of these questions is “No,” and everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes musical greatness anyway.  At the same time, saying this music is “beyond one’s scope” doesn’t add up, either.

The problem with so-called “dissonant sounds” and avant garde sounding arrangements is that they indeed challenge the listener.  It is also not so much a problem if you’re into that sort of thing.  It can be an acquired taste, but once a taste is acquired, many other forms of music — such as modern pop — might seem especially bland and boring.  Similarly, many people will find all classical music boring, or they’ll here a more dissonant and frantic sounding piece like this and think it’s an obnoxious mess.

This is the last point I wish to address:  Creating a mess of sounds is not necessarily a bad thing.  Again, it depends on the audience.  While I don’t hear Bartók that way usually, it’s not something I’ll listen to obsessively, either.  My ears want to hear a variety of things.  However, I do myself a favor and come back to Bartók from time to time, because I like the semi-unpredictable nature of his mind.  Meanwhile, you have plenty of boring, intentionally generic and overly repetitive pop crap available.  Have your pick.