An Essay on the String Quartet No.1 in E Minor composed by Ali Helnwein
Ali Helnwein’s quartet is a journey through a set of ineffable moods – classical and honoring all traditions of classical structure but made for a new millennium. It is excellent proof that classical music has no reason to play dead. And neither does modern classical music have to exist purely of dissonant and intellectual sounds that you need a college degree to listen to. “Modern art” of whatever shape, form or size should not be concerned with being an erudite celebration of things that only a few people can feel snug about because they’re holding a martini glass and made some sense out of some metal stick protruding from the wall of a gallery. Art has only one purpose: to move. To move on all levels. You should never walk away from a true piece of art and be left the same – un-dented, un-changed, with nothing new floating about in your head.
Moderm classical music, just like any category of art, still has the power to blow your mind and splatter it against the wall behind you. I think Ali Helnwein is one of the few composers who knows this to be true.
You might be sitting somewhere in the sweltering heat of midday Los Angeles – maybe in traffic, under billboards and advertisements that remind you that this is the era of cheap subsititutes – blunt, cynical, clumsy. But you are also sitting in a town whose underground sometimes produces genuine products of a new romantic movement. . .
March 22, 2006