What do you think of "completists"?

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piston
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What do you think of "completists"?

Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 1:16 pm

"Hello! My name is piston and I am a completist. It all began during my youth, not long after I drank my first bottle of Claude Debussy. A couple of bottles later, I couldn't help it and became addicted." :roll:

Seriously, I wonder if some of you share this curious habit of acquiring at least one recording of a composer's entire opus, from his/her first steps in classical music to the very last composition. It seems as though once I have adopted a preferred composer I even get frustrated by the fact that not everything gets to be recorded. :shock:
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:01 pm

I don't own at least one recording of absolutely everything by J.S. Bach (I don't have the lute suites, for instance, and my old and excellent recording of the viola da gamba sonatas went astray), but in principle it would be very desirable. There is not very much surviving weak Bach. Ironically, I do own that because you automatically get it when you buy boxed sets of the complete organ works. Further ironically, I didn't need to learn that the hard way because at one time or another in my formation I've played all the "weak Bach."

Other composers worth owning in substantial completion are Beethoven, Brahms, and, don't laugh, Debussy, who also left us very little of secondary interest.

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Post by rasputin » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:21 pm



I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:26 pm

rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Meaning, I suppose, that you have the classic Music from Marlboro recordings of the sextets under Casals. I am impressed.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: What do you think of "completists"?

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:27 pm

piston wrote:"Hello! My name is piston and I am a completist. It all began during my youth, not long after I drank my first bottle of Claude Debussy. A couple of bottles later, I couldn't help it and became addicted." :roll:

Seriously, I wonder if some of you share this curious habit of acquiring at least one recording of a composer's entire opus, from his/her first steps in classical music to the very last composition.
I do this more with authors, A. & C. Black books from the turn of the century, certain singers, and certain EM groups than with composers. When I happened on H. V. Morton's In Search of Scotland in the Arlington county library, I had to have everything he wrote. This was in the mid-70s, before the 'net made book sleuthing so easy. I already had a permanent association with Transatlantic Books, then located in Matawan, N.J. That turned me into the hopeless addict you see before you.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:38 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I don't own at least one recording of absolutely everything by J.S. Bach (I don't have the lute suites, for instance, .
Try John Williams on guitar for that one (although the 3rd suite is the 5th Cello Suite and the 4th Lute suite is also the solo violin partita BWV 1006)

Never have aimed for complete works myself, although some composers with modest output, like Dutilleux and Webern, I am coming close

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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:43 pm

rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.

P.S. It would prove extremely difficult to acquire his ballade à la lune because, along with several other early works, it is "lost" :cry: But that doesn't mean it won't turn up somewhere one day.
Last edited by piston on Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:50 pm

piston wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.
Perhaps a third, less pathological version exists which I suffer from. I have to have a representative body of work by nearly every composer from every period.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:54 pm

piston wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.
Then I assume you are also an afficionado of the etudes, in my opinion his greatest piano pieces and relatively neglected.

Now I am about to drive you crazy. As you probably know, Debussy sketched a second opera, "La Chute de la maison Usher," based on the famous story by Robert Louis Stevenson (just seeing if anyone is paying attention :) ). A grad student colleague of mine whose name for once I will mention for she is quite a distinguished scholar, Caroline Abbate (pronounced as thought there were an accent aigu) wrote a completion of it for a performance in New Haven. I don't know whatever became of it, but if you are a true completist it might be worth tracking down. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:56 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
piston wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.
Perhaps a third, less pathological version exists which I suffer from. I have to have a representative body of work by nearly every composer from every period.
You're right. Same here, although the body is not always representative enough. More like a sampling of works, for the time being.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:02 pm

piston wrote: You're right. Same here, although the body is not always representative enough. More like a sampling of works, for the time being.
Unfortunately, the difference between sampling and representative body for some composers, as this thread itself has implied, is the difference between random picking and choosing and the complete works. Perhaps we can consider ourselves lucky that there are some composers like Bizet, Franck and Faure who really did only write a few works of great stature.

What I really mean, of course, is thank God we don't need to bother about all 500+ K numbers of Mozart. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:11 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
piston wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.
Then I assume you are also an afficionado of the etudes, in my opinion his greatest piano pieces and relatively neglected.

Now I am about to drive you crazy. As you probably know, Debussy sketched a second opera, "La Chute de la maison Usher," based on the famous story by Robert Louis Stevenson (just seeing if anyone is paying attention :) ). A grad student colleague of mine whose name for once I will mention for she is quite a distinguished scholar, Caroline Abbate (pronounced as thought there were an accent aigu) wrote a completion of it for a performance in New Haven. I don't know whatever became of it, but if you are a true completist it might be worth tracking down. :wink:
From what I read in his catalog, this first draft of "La chûte de la maison Usher only consists of a "brief prelude", the first scene, and the "beginning" of the second scene. Your friend must have been remarkably creative in completing such a work! By the way, that was Debussy's third opera project, the very first being "Rodrigue et Chimène," an opera in 3 acts composed between 1890 and 1892, but also "inachevé".

But I am very much interested in finding the Poe inspired opera.....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:18 pm

piston wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
piston wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Yes. There are two kinds of completists: those who collect all the recordings of the same body of works (e.g., Debussy's Preludes for the piano), and those who mainly seek good recordings of all a composer's works (e.g., from Debussy's early "Ballade à la lune" (1879) to his "Ode à la France" (1918-1917). My addiction is of the latter type.
Then I assume you are also an afficionado of the etudes, in my opinion his greatest piano pieces and relatively neglected.

Now I am about to drive you crazy. As you probably know, Debussy sketched a second opera, "La Chute de la maison Usher," based on the famous story by Robert Louis Stevenson (just seeing if anyone is paying attention :) ). A grad student colleague of mine whose name for once I will mention for she is quite a distinguished scholar, Caroline Abbate (pronounced as thought there were an accent aigu) wrote a completion of it for a performance in New Haven. I don't know whatever became of it, but if you are a true completist it might be worth tracking down. :wink:
From what I read in his catalog, this first draft of "La chûte de la maison Usher only consists of a "brief prelude", the first scene, and the "beginning" of the second scene. Your friend must have been remarkably creative in completing such a work! By the way, that was Debussy's third opera project, the very first being "Rodrigue et Chimène," an opera in 3 acts composed between 1890 and 1892, but also "inachevé".

But I am very much interested in finding the Poe inspired opera.....
I knew the minute I sent it that I had incorrectly implied that she completed the whole opera. What she did was flesh out the existing sketches with an orchestration.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Haydnseek » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:24 pm

I'm a sucker for box sets, especially cheap ones, which offer the complete whatever by whomever. Like Corlyss, books are my real weakness and I have several "Complete Works of ..." sets which actually do provide me with most of my reading material.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:30 pm

Haydnseek wrote:I'm a sucker for box sets, especially cheap ones, which offer the complete whatever by whomever. Like Corlyss, books are my real weakness and I have several "Complete Works of ..." sets which actually do provide me with most of my reading material.
I have a few of those, and some of them are for the "wrong" reason. The complete orchestral works of Richard Strauss, for instance, because I had to get it over with while enduring the least pain. Some day maybe I'll do the same for Bruckner and even Sibelius.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:42 pm

(avoiding a lengthy quote-quote-quote :D )
In that case, George Pretre and the Orchestre de Monte Carlo previously recorded some 22 minutes of music from this incomplete opera, on the Musical Heritage Society label. Yes, the twelve Etudes are splendid pieces, Debussy's last major piano composition, and distinct as well because contrary to most of Debussy's piano works, I would not characterize them as impressionist pieces.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by rasputin » Mon Feb 05, 2007 4:37 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
rasputin wrote:
I don't know if I qualify as a completist, but I've all Brahm's
chamber instrumental works on historical versons (meaning from 78 and LP eras). :) :)
Meaning, I suppose, that you have the classic Music from Marlboro recordings of the sextets under Casals. I am impressed.
Well,no. Have the 2 sextets by Menuhin,Masters,Aronowitz,Wallfisch,Gendron and Simpson,the first by Casals,Foley,Menuhin,Gerecs,Tuttle and Wallfisch (from Prades).and the second by the Budapest and by Heifetz with gests.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:25 pm

I'm a semi-completist so I don't have a problem and need no help.

I do have all the specific works of certain composers, such as all their symphonies and concertos. But I certainly don't try to get everything Anonymous composed, a neverending and bankrupt inducing endeavor.

For certain works I am driven to accumulate multiple recordings, e.g., Mahler's symphonies. But I can stop acquiring new releases at any time without any help.
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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:43 pm

It's good to know that you are not addicted, Ralph. But I don't fully understand the reference to Mr. Anonymous. In the case of Debussy, for instance, the sick completist that piston is couldn't stop with the instrumental and the orchestral; he also wanted the melodies, all of them, including the early ones. But if one were to refer to a composer such as Moshei Weinberg as an Anonymous, then I'm really sick! He was greatly respected by Shostakovich and, in any case, I find his orchestral skills truly fine. So it makes sense to me, the linear completist (as opposed to the collector of multiple recordings of the same work), to "complete" Shostakovich with Weinberg, his most direct musical heir. That Weinberg will never measure up to Schumann or Brahms because his music is not romantic, is a question of taste, not of artistic quality. So, here I am working on my Weinberg "collection" in the same way I once worked on my Debussy "collection".
regards
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Feb 05, 2007 6:56 pm

If we know who they are they are not Anonymous, who seemed to be awfully long-lived as well as profuse. But the artist as celebrity is a more modern phenomenon than in days of yore.

I was cured of any desire to be a completist when I saw the Complete Mozart edition from Phillips a few years back. I even picked up the box set of concert arias. I may listen it again someday, who knows? There were some excellent pieces in there, as I dimly recall.

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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:08 pm

Brendan wrote:If we know who they are they are not Anonymous, who seemed to be awfully long-lived as well as profuse. But the artist as celebrity is a more modern phenomenon than in days of yore.

I was cured of any desire to be a completist when I saw the Complete Mozart edition from Phillips a few years back. I even picked up the box set of concert arias. I may listen it again someday, who knows? There were some excellent pieces in there, as I dimly recall.
Could this be because Mozart's music, particularly its symmetrical attractiveness to numerous listeners today, gets.... repetitive in one round of listening to all of it (how much time would that exercise require :) )? Then, the issue is one of versatility but it does not preclude finding versatility in a single composer (a quality I also admire in a composer). Wouldn't you be interested in following a composer's artistic progress over time, from youth to maturity to versatility?
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:05 pm

piston wrote:Could this be because Mozart's music, particularly its symmetrical attractiveness to numerous listeners today, gets.... repetitive in one round of listening to all of it (how much time would that exercise require :) )?
"It does?" she stammered, incredulous.
Wouldn't you be interested in following a composer's artistic progress over time, from youth to maturity to versatility?
Nope. I either like a composer or I don't. What state he was in when he composed is of no meaning, with the possible exception of Mendelssohn who rather recapped musical development from Bach to Schubert and leaned a tad into Grieg and Debussy before he popped off.
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Post by piston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:25 pm

Personally, I don't dislike or hate composers from the Baroque or Classical periods. There must be something unusual about the twentieth century to generate such negative emotions in people. Curious, though. It is, after all, America's century.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:53 pm

piston wrote:. There must be something unusual about the twentieth century to generate such negative emotions in people.
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Curious, though. It is, after all, America's century.
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
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Re: What do you think of "completists"?

Post by Gurn Blanston » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:03 pm

piston wrote:"Hello! My name is piston and I am a completist. It all began during my youth, not long after I drank my first bottle of Claude Debussy. A couple of bottles later, I couldn't help it and became addicted." :roll:

Seriously, I wonder if some of you share this curious habit of acquiring at least one recording of a composer's entire opus, from his/her first steps in classical music to the very last composition. It seems as though once I have adopted a preferred composer I even get frustrated by the fact that not everything gets to be recorded. :shock:
Yes, sadly, I am a completist. :(

Not with every composer, of course, but with my favorites (Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak and Beethoven right now). I am of the type who attempts to get a very good, representative recording of every work. Every work. I don't really care to have the "best" recording because I don't believe in that concept. Of other composers that I like (and there are many), I realize that collecting their complete works is futile at best, since the bulk of Ditters (for example) languishes unrecorded for now. But I have hope, for without it, I might as well simply give up and listen to rock'n'roll. ;)

8)
Regards,
Gurn

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:09 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Funny how official Soviet musical doctrine matches yours tastes better than mine.
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
now you could not make a more blatantly false statement could you? The USA was of course a leading source of modernism.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:16 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Funny how official Soviet musical doctrine matches yours tastes better than mine.
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
now you could not make a more blatantly false statement could you? The USA was of course a leading source of modernism.
To paraphrase an old joke about typing speed, I am not fast to agree with Corlyss, nor am I slow to agree with Corlyss. Actually, I feel half-fast everytime I halfway agree with Corlyss.

I don't think most people here would be dismissive of 20th century music to that extent. Let me illustrate with a vignette example. In graduate school, I had a professor named Alan Forte (he is famous of course, and only retired about two years ago) whose taste was draw-dropping infallible, not because he agreed with me, but because it was impossible not to agree with him, and about how many fellow music appreciators do I say that? Unlike myself and others who run around ranting and raving about their favorites and dys-favorites, he simply held his opinions quietly until he was ready to sock you with an unexpected one-two punch. One day he pulled out a song by Schoenberg that no one elase had heard. It was not from Das Buch der Haengenden Gaerten, just a song with piano accompaniment pulled more or less out of thin air. He distributed the score. He put on the recording. He said, "I think we can all agree, that is a very beautiful song." Schoenberg, totally characteristic Schoenberg, and it would have been impossible for anyone with the slightest musical sensibility to disagree with Forte's simple statement. (No, I am sorry I cannot remember what it was.)

On the other hand, I don't give American classical composers much credit for feeding into whatever passes for the mainstream of classical composition, twentieth century or otherwise (this is where I am being half-fast by agreeing with Corlyss).

[While I'm here, I have another Forte anecdote which indicates what type of Schoenberg connoisseur he really was. I had purchased my first recording of Moses und Aron, I want to say Michael Gielen conducting, and I happened to notice that the English translation of the libretto was unusually literate while still being faithful to the original, a very rare accomplishment. I remarked on this to a fellow student as I walked into a Forte seminar the next day. That night I listened again, and I happened to notice the author of the translation--Alan Forte. I'm sure he heard my remark and thought I was kissing behind.]

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:20 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Funny how official Soviet musical doctrine matches yours tastes better than mine.
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
now you could not make a more blatantly false statement could you? The USA was of course a leading source of modernism.
To paraphrase an old joke about typing speed, I am not fast to agree with Corlyss, nor am I slow to agree with Corlyss. Actually, I feel half-fast everytime I halfway agree with Corlyss.

I don't think most people here would be dismissive of 20th century music to that extent. Let me illustrate with a vignette example. In graduate school, I had a professor named Alan Forte (he is famous of course, and only retired about two years ago) whose taste was draw-dropping infallible, not because he agreed with me, but because it was impossible not to agree with him, and about how many fellow music appreciators do I say that? Unlike myself and others who run around ranting and raving about their favorites and dys-favorites, he simply held his opinions quietly until he was ready to sock you with an unexpected one-two punch. One day he pulled out a song by Schoenberg that no one elase had heard. It was not from Das Buch der Haengenden Gaerten, just a song with piano accompaniment pulled more or less out of thin air. He distributed the score. He put on the recording. He said, "I think we can all agree, that is a very beautiful song." Schoenberg, totally characteristic Schoenberg, and it would have been impossible for anyone with the slightest musical sensibility to disagree with Forte's simple statement. (No, I am sorry I cannot remember what it was.)

On the other hand, I don't give American classical composers much credit for feeding into whatever passes for the mainstream of classical composition, twentieth century or otherwise (this is where I am being half-fast by agreeing with Corlyss).

[While I'm here, I have another Forte anecdote which indicates what type of Schoenberg connoisseur he really was. I had purchased my first recording of Moses und Aron, I want to say Michael Gielen conducting, and I happened to notice that the English translation of the libretto was unusually literate while still being faithful to the original, a very rare accomplishment. I remarked on this to a fellow student as I walked into a Forte seminar the next day. That night I listened again, and I happened to notice the author of the translation--Alan Forte. I'm sure he heard my remark and thought I was kissing behind.]
What I really want to know is how well Forte could identify PC sets while listening to Schoenberg.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:50 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:What I really want to know is how well Forte could identify PC sets while listening to Schoenberg.
You just had to know about that, didn't you?

The answer is, no better than I can construct a Schenkerian graph in my head while listening to a piece by Beethoven. Except that Schenker's analyses represent profound insights for listeners who seek deep structural levels and have their appreciation enhanced when they are revealed. Me, I've always been a naive (meaning non-analytical) listener in spite of my apparently fancy education, which is probably why I didn't complete my Ph.D. at Yale. Sometimes I wonder why I really do like Beethoven better than Delius.

What Steve is talking about, for those who do not know, is the concept of of pitch class (PC) set, which Forte invented in order to give to classic-atonal music a la Schoenberg the same "legitimacy" supposedly owned by tonal composers because the latter happened to be amenable to graphic analysis, a concept invented and brilliantly though eccentrically propagated by the early 20th century Germany music theorist Heinrich Schenker. Schenkerian analysis is an elaboration of long-standing aspects of musical structuralism such as figured bass and in its finest manifestations has a great deal going for it, which, I am sorry to say, pitch class set analysis does not.

Pitch class sets are collections of pitches partitioned within a piece on the assumption that similar partitions and their inversions form a structural basis for the piece. For instance, if I have the essentially atonal chord G-G#-A-Ab, I can expect it to occur in prominent ways throughout the piece. The problem is, if you allow all the transformations Forte allows, four adjacent semitones can be transformed into anything, which means that a beautiful piece that many people would think of as atonal has to have pitch class set coherence going for it because it is impossible not to find it.

I think I understand where Forte was coming from. Nobody who studies music theory wants to think that naive appreciation is as far as we can get, that sophistication in loving beautiful music does not always have an articulable intellectual element. It would be tempting also to say that he was trying to make a career, but Forte was of the generation where he did not even have a Ph.D. and was already securely tenured as a full professor way beyond the publish or perish stage when he published his book on this. Unfortunately, of course, all his students had to take his course and pretend to buy into this nonsense. We did our duty, and made fun of it, but not him, over supper.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:08 pm

But if you read his book and look at the music he analyzes - Stravinsky, Bartok, the 2nd Viennese School - evidence does support that these composers thought in terms of pitch sets. The most blatant is Elliott Carter who mapped out Forte's whole system a few years before Forte did. Carter explicitly bases pieces on sets. For example, the Piano Concerto focuses on the entire collection of three note chords, the 3rd string quartet focuses on 4 note chords, the concero for orchestra the 5/7 note sets and the Symphony of Three Orchestras focuses on 6 note sets. After this Carter moves into 12-note chords and his later period.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:37 pm

piston wrote:It's good to know that you are not addicted, Ralph. But I don't fully understand the reference to Mr. Anonymous. In the case of Debussy, for instance, the sick completist that piston is couldn't stop with the instrumental and the orchestral; he also wanted the melodies, all of them, including the early ones. But if one were to refer to a composer such as Moshei Weinberg as an Anonymous, then I'm really sick! He was greatly respected by Shostakovich and, in any case, I find his orchestral skills truly fine. So it makes sense to me, the linear completist (as opposed to the collector of multiple recordings of the same work), to "complete" Shostakovich with Weinberg, his most direct musical heir. That Weinberg will never measure up to Schumann or Brahms because his music is not romantic, is a question of taste, not of artistic quality. So, here I am working on my Weinberg "collection" in the same way I once worked on my Debussy "collection".
regards
*****

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Post by Lance » Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:28 am

Yep - count me a completist. Once I'm attracted to a composer's work, I want to hear everything that's available. I think my tendency to do this started with the music of Mendelssohn ... and on recordings in those early days of LP when you could have all his solo piano music with a wonderful pianist such as Rena Kyriakou. It then moved on to Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, etc., but oddly, not Bach nor Handel even though I love those composers equally. There's really nothing wrong with being a completist. It helps to develop your knowledge of that composer's work.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Feb 06, 2007 4:10 am

BWV 1080 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Funny how official Soviet musical doctrine matches yours tastes better than mine.
Eh? I know you are trying to be insulting, and I want to get the full flavor of it, but the meaning of your comment escapes me. Please, try again.
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
now you could not make a more blatantly false statement could you? The USA was of course a leading source of modernism.
I'm sure I could if I tried, but I'm not trying here. I don't happen to agree with you as far as the "leading source of modernism" part. Aside from jazz, which was civilized by the French and made acceptable in "classical" music, and rock, which, to the best of my knowledge has not been a major factor in modern "classical" music (revolutions is another matter), Americans haven't contirubted anything even remotely original to modern "classical" music. Not a single thing.
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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:06 am

By no means a "completist", I AM coming dangerously close to possessing all the works of Schumann. All I'm lacking is a few of the relatively minor piano works (mostly posthumous) and some lesser-known groups of songs.

It's always interesting to hear how a great composer sounds when he's not at his very best, but in this case it's difficult NOT to find sublime sections in even the unpublished stuff!

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by pizza » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:07 am

Corlyss_D wrote: Aside from jazz, which was civilized by the French and made acceptable in "classical" music, and rock, which, to the best of my knowledge has not been a major factor in modern "classical" music (revolutions is another matter), Americans haven't contirubted anything even remotely original to modern "classical" music. Not a single thing.
You apparently don't know anything at all about Charles Ives or you wouldn't make such a ridiculous statement. I have neither the time nor the inclination to enlighten you, but the literature is readily available.

And if one considers Varese an American composer, as many musicologists do, then your statement is doubly uninformed.

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Post by moldyoldie » Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:32 am

I can't afford to be a completist, but like good professional critics, I find them useful in pointing me toward a recording of a theretofore unheard piece by a favorite composer, or which will allow me to hear a favorite piece "differently". Good written or oral communication is key here. It helps if we have a common reference.

I also love reading informed online reviews by amateur critics who appear to be either completists or semi-completists on sites such as Amazon and this very forum.

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Post by Sergeant Rock » Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:41 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music.
Huh??? Ives, Ruggles, Copland, Gershwin, Barber, Harris, Diamond, Schuman, Piston, Bernstein, Carter, Herrmann, Glass, Adams, Reich, Hovhaness...the list goes on and on.

Sarge
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Post by karlhenning » Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:53 am

Jack Kelso wrote:By no means a "completist", I AM coming dangerously close to possessing all the works of Schumann. All I'm lacking is a few of the relatively minor piano works (mostly posthumous) and some lesser-known groups of songs.
I suspected, Jack; I confess that I suspected :-)

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:59 am

Corlyss_D wrote:. . . Americans haven't contirubted anything even remotely original to modern "classical" music. Not a single thing.
Setting this aside as a tendentious mini-rant unworthy of serious considerayion, it does touch upon one of the most interesting questions about music.

What is it in a composer's work which is original? What is that is "original" in (say) the work of Mozart?

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by miranda » Tue Feb 06, 2007 10:39 am

I can't afford to be a completist either, plus, I simply do not have the storage space. I only buy cd's and lp's--in any genre--that I know I'll be listening to regularly. I am close to being a completist where certain jazz artists are concerned, such as Sun Ra--I have over 40 of his albums, on cd and vinyl, but this is just a fraction of his recorded output, much of which is out of print, or impossible to find. As far as classical recordings go, I am also not concerned with getting the "best" recording of a work. As long as the recording is a very good one, I'm happy.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Feb 06, 2007 11:37 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Yes. Cultivated ugliness, every bit as grim and unyielding as Soviet architecture.
Funny how official Soviet musical doctrine matches yours tastes better than mine.
Eh? I know you are trying to be insulting, and I want to get the full flavor of it, but the meaning of your comment escapes me. Please, try again.
Shostakovich almost lost his life for writing music deemed too modern. Tonality, comprehensibility and "beauty" was the mandate from Stalin (and Hitler for that matter)

Well, America is a virtual no-show in the field of 20th Century "classical" music. So you will have to blame the Germans, Austrians, French and a couple of Russians.
now you could not make a more blatantly false statement could you? The USA was of course a leading source of modernism.
I'm sure I could if I tried, but I'm not trying here. I don't happen to agree with you as far as the "leading source of modernism" part. Aside from jazz, which was civilized by the French and made acceptable in "classical" music, and rock, which, to the best of my knowledge has not been a major factor in modern "classical" music (revolutions is another matter), Americans haven't contirubted anything even remotely original to modern "classical" music. Not a single thing.
[/quote]

As others have said, Ives, Cowell, Varese, Carter, Babbitt, Cage, Crumb, Partch, Feldman, Reich, Riley, - The list of American modernists is a long one. Cage, Feldman and Carter are as important as Boulez or Stockhausen to 20th century music.

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Post by johnshade » Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:57 pm

.
I believe that I have almost all of the recorded works of Bartok and Richard Strauss and I have a great collection of Beethoven and Mozart (so much, so much). I don't ignore other composers, but I do not know a lot about the music before Bach and after Bartok. I am also addicted to different versions of what could be called my "guilty pleasures".
JS
The sun's a thief, and with her great attraction robs the vast sea, the moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches from the sun... (Shakespeare)

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Post by jbuck919 » Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:57 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:But if you read his book and look at the music he analyzes - Stravinsky, Bartok, the 2nd Viennese School - evidence does support that these composers thought in terms of pitch sets.
I'm sure you noticed that I was not defending Forte's method and that what you said is consistent with my own assessment. I didn't know what you wrote about Carter but it could explain why the only time his name was ever mentioned at Yale was to refer to the fact that he got his money from the family fortune in patent medicine (Carter's Little Liver Pills).

The pitch class set theory was Forte's one great blind spot. I remember once thinking that I might suggest in seminar that some atonal or "apparently atonal" music acquires its conviction from having contours that still suggest their tonal antecedents, if only rhythmically and in a superficial sense structurally. Fortunately, I didn't get a chance to open my mouth before Forte brought up this idea, which he called "gestural analysis," himself and roundly and soundly dismissed it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Feb 06, 2007 2:01 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:But if you read his book and look at the music he analyzes - Stravinsky, Bartok, the 2nd Viennese School - evidence does support that these composers thought in terms of pitch sets.
I'm sure you noticed that I was not defending Forte's method and that what you said is consistent with my own assessment. I didn't know what you wrote about Carter but it could explain why the only time his name was ever mentioned at Yale was to refer to the fact that he got his money from the family fortune in patent medicine (Carter's Little Liver Pills).
John! You don't mean to keep trotting out that erroneous rumor? The Carter family were lace-importers:

Elliott Carter in Interview

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue Feb 06, 2007 10:18 pm

karlhenning wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:But if you read his book and look at the music he analyzes - Stravinsky, Bartok, the 2nd Viennese School - evidence does support that these composers thought in terms of pitch sets.
I'm sure you noticed that I was not defending Forte's method and that what you said is consistent with my own assessment. I didn't know what you wrote about Carter but it could explain why the only time his name was ever mentioned at Yale was to refer to the fact that he got his money from the family fortune in patent medicine (Carter's Little Liver Pills).
John! You don't mean to keep trotting out that erroneous rumor? The Carter family were lace-importers:

Elliott Carter in Interview

Cheers,
~Karl
I'm sure it was laced with something. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Steven » Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:08 am

It`s not always absolutely necessary to buy the complete works of an individual composer on CD. The BBC have broadcast the complete works of Bach and Beethoven in the past and next week they are broadcasting every note of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. I`ll record the lot straight to my hard drive. That`ll give me a couple of years worth of listening. Mind you, I`m still going through the first twenty four hours of the Beethoven, bliss.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:10 am

karlhenning wrote:What is it in a composer's work which is original? What is that is "original" in (say) the work of Mozart?

Cheers,
~Karl
Certainly every "great" composer is to some extent original (even J. S. Bach :D ), but Hans Pfitzner stated that "no composer ever began his career with such originality as did Robert Schumann." Pfitzner was referring to those new harmonies, rhythmic patterns and melodic lines that are now unmistakenly "Schumannian".

Mozart, whom you mention, also developed his "own language", based largely on Handel, K.P.E. Bach, Gluck and Haydn.

In his own way, Chopin equalled Schumann's originality----as did Berlioz. Then we have the 20th century.....oh-oh...

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by anasazi » Wed Feb 07, 2007 3:40 am

Once, twice, but a while back anyway. But now, well nobody's perfect.

I do agree with Jbuck, even though Debussy's name is in the first post of this thread, he is one of the few composers who left no dreggs behind. Possibly Ravel also. Mahler?

Does it come down to who wrote the least music? Then Dukas for certain.

When you're a Bach and you write something new every week for church, that can't possibly compare to a composer who writes something every year or two for fun can it?
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Post by Gurn Blanston » Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:26 am

We seem to have two, totally unrelated discussions going on here. Perhaps the "completists" need to decamp to another thread to continue that discussion? We could call it "Influence of American composers on 20th century music", then we could be assured of being left altogether alone :roll: :D

8)
Regards,
Gurn

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:30 am

Well, Gurn---it's not unusual here that "in-between" questions or comments crop up on any thread. I assure you, we haven't lost track of the original theme---I was just responding to a question.

No harm done.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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