Monday, July 6, 2009

The Word 'Repertoire'

There's got to be a better, less snobby and obstructive word than "repertoire" to mean the same thing. I find myself over and over resorting to that word to describe a certain body of work--"standard repertoire," "Classical repertoire," "piano repertoire." The words that come easily to mind--"canon," "literature" and the Anglo "repertory"--are all equally, shamelessly and needlessly snobby. The word should be generic, like "stuff" or "collection".

The word "stuff" has a derisive quality. But that almost seems to fit with my personality. Maybe I'll use it from now on. "The orchestra performed largely standard stuff with one contemporary work thrown in, by a composer well-versed in the 20th century modernist stuff."

Then again, maybe not.

"Collection" makes every concert appear like a museum. "The band played two little-known symphonies drawn from the classical collection." You have to scrape the dust off that sentence to see the meaning.

The word "stream" is used to define contemporary musical styles in jazz or classical traditions. But it hardly serves with traditional … stuff. Although, there are moments where it could be appropriate. "The audience was caught in the net of Schubert 'Trout" Quintet and another from the Romantic stream, Dvorak's String Quartet No. 1." But not every concert is going to supply me with an opportunity to put on my waders.

Likewise "fare" is a word I steer clear of. I'm not even sure how "fare" ever got to be applied to food. It means something akin fo "offering" and, in effect, it mineralizes whatever it touches, turning the finest gourmet into a subway token.

The word "style" and "genre" really are misleading and the latter is just as stuffy as the worst word in my stuffy repertoire of stuff. "Category" is scientific, but overly so. "Lineage" sounds like they're all holding a nylon rope on the mountain road of history.

"Repertoire" isn't so limiting as any of those, although it does make the stuff sound like the library of an exclusive club. But still, most everybody knows what it means. I suppose I should just resign myself to it--join the club.

But why oh why does it have to be so … French?


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