There's a wonderful article in the LA Times by Chloe Veltman, Eric Whitacre soars beyond world of choral music. Chloe quickly talks about the "popularist" stance of Eric Whitacre with a focus on ear pleasing sounds, although he definitely has a style all his own.
This article brings to mind my concept of accessibility in music. Whitacre's music has melody and often recognizable chords, but doesn't always move in traditional ways. There is something about the various lines that feel familiar and yet seem new and fresh.
Accessibility doesn't mean popularist. It means audiences can understand the music, grasp a sense as to what the music is attempting to do, even though a deeper sense of the music may take years to really understand. Britten's Cello Symphony is one such piece, beautifully written and on first hearing able to grasp elements of the structure and flow of the music. But only through analysis can the heart of the music be understood. Beethoven's Große Fuge is the same and then some. First hearing can be a bit daunting, but still there is something to appreciate. But only after serious analysis and performance can the depth in the music be appreciated --and I'm not sure anyone still really understands the full complexity of this piece.
Film Composers John Williams and James Newton Howard are often criticized for their neo-romantic styles and yet, they are some of the most widely performed living composers. Phillip Glass and John Adams are not film composers, but their minimalist style is all about accessibility (at least initially). But if you've ever listened to Adam's City Noir you know his music is not at all simple (or trite).
Even the most recent Bang on a Can Marathon was comprised mostly of accessible music and SURPRISE widely popular from all segments of the classical music world and beyond. I've listened to a number of the pieces available on the net and again, there is a sense of accessibility, something listeners can grasp on first hearing.
side note: Maybe I need to move to NY and get involved with this collection of composers!!!