LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
‘We all need
— Avi Avital
our folk roots
While the luster of popular music fades with subsequent hearings, a masterwork only gains in brilliance. The classical canon, from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, is unique in that it is built on the backs of composers — rather than interpreters — and includes only those works that have proven durable
through the years. Inclusion in the repertoire arrives not through rote repetition but thanks to
a richness of craft and substance within the composition itself that permits it to be viewed from
so many angles that a fresh interpretation is always within the realm of possibility.
Yet what is the foundation of classical music? Now performed in concert halls, classical music
can of course be traced back to humbler, more populist origins. The Greek violinist Leonidas
Kavakos (page 68) asserts that “the role of folk music has always been fundamental in classical
music” and argues that amateurs’ approach to folk music is instinctive rather than learned. “I
feel [folk music] is the root of a tree,” he says. “We don’t see the roots, but we know they’re there.”
Our summer cover boy, Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital (page 36), explains that his instrument
has an “ancient-culture” quality owing to its roots in traditional music from across the globe.
His latest album plays with “the unexisting border,” as Avital terms it, between folk and classical.
For Avital, the border is porous because classical and folk serve the same function. “We all need
that spiritual component in our lives,” he says, “and art is one way to add that value. That’s how
I see my role when I play classical concerts. Folk music, traditional music, shares that same
function in life.”
Some see classical music as the apex of the musical pyramid, but genius knows no genre; music
is a continuum, rather than a hierarchy; and the building blocks are old, old songs by unknown
composers, passed down through generations over millennia.
Editor in Chief
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