The business of art is to communicate. If it doesn't, what's the point? And though modernist music has sometimes adopted a "high art" indifference to its audiences, as with Schoeberg's Society for Private Musical Performances, which forbade vocal expressions either pro or con and critics as well, it has paid a high price. Most people like music that connects with them on a deeply personal level. Audiences may have resisted pieces by Bartók, like The Miraculous Mandarin (1918-19), and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring when they were new, but many of these resisted, even reviled works now speak to audiences worldwide. I'd like to say that Earplay's first concert of its 2007-2008 season, which took place at Herbst Theatre last Monday, had works of that intensity or caliber, but this sadly was not the case. Few of the six pieces, all by living composers, four of whom were present, had moments of seductive or emotive force that make great music. Instead, they mostly used modernist cliches. Bartók, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg were compelled to write the way they did, but most of the composers here — academics all — seemed to be just going through the motions. And that's a shame when you consider that Earplay, now in its 23rd year, has programmed pieces by heavy hitters like Witold Lutoslawski and Ralph Shapey. The biggest heavy hitters here were local light Wayne Peterson, and Peter Maxwell Davies, who has been considered a major player for years. Davies' six-minute Economies of Scale (2002), for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano, encapsulated what was wrong with the concert. Although described by the composer in his program notes as a piece written to honor the Nobel-winning economist James Mirrlees, it didn't sound the least bit celebratory. Instead it came off as a dour exercise in postwar modernist techniques, which is sad, because Davies has written thrilling pieces like the famous Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969). Peterson's Duo (1993) for violin and piano, sounded difficult yet hardly captivating, and you shouldn't have to read a composer's program notes to hear what he did with bebop standards by Bill Evans and Errol Garner.