Looking at the past century

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karlhenning
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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:27 am

This line all on its own is golden:
jbuck919 wrote:Brahms did not avoid producing a symphony because it would be in the shadow of Schumann.
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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:30 am

Jack, Jack, do you listen to yourself when you write this stuff?
Jack Kelso wrote:Swiss oboist, composer, conductor and musicologist Heinz Holliger recognizes Schumann as the REAL revolutionary of the 19th century.
What, there can only be one "REAL revolutionary of the 19th century"?

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:32 am

BTW, Jack, you do realize that you have allowed your personal obsession with one 19th-century composer, to derail a thread about "the last century" (i.e., the twentieth) into discussion of Schumann.

Damn it, Jack, go take your propaganda machine for the precious Schumann elsewhere.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by some guy » Fri Mar 28, 2008 12:30 pm

Or just drop one of the "n"s and put "Bill" in front.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Post by karlhenning » Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:27 pm

some guy wrote:Or just drop one of the "n"s and put "Bill" in front.
:-)
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James

Post by James » Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:36 pm

Anton Webern wrote: When charlatans like Stockhausen or John Cage are considered great then you know things have gone well past the braking point.
I wouldn't necessarily lump these 2 together...granted some of Stockhausen's pieces of over-the-top theater seems to get (sadly) the most attention (ie. helicopter quartet - an act from one of his operas)...he was worlds beyond Cage (the posterboy of the charlatans)...

Cage talked a lot and came up with half-baked ideas & processes that generate 'sounds' but the results are 99.9% unconvincing. Stockhausen on the otherhand (who was well learned in the musical past and had a deep reverence for it) did produce some very striking music and his pioneering, important and groundbreaking work in electronic music at the very least makes him great, but he did a lot else too.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Mar 28, 2008 2:55 pm

Cage was an artist who had grace & humor about the wilder stuff he did.

He certainly enjoyed the attention and shock, but in a very good-natured and bemused way.

The world would have been a poorer place without him

Anton Webern

Post by Anton Webern » Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:01 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:Webern acknowledged Schumann as his most powerful influence from the 19th century;
Got a reliable quote?

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Post by slofstra » Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:24 am

jbuck919 wrote:Every composer since Brahms and Wagner has had to come to terms with those two. The current "canon" (the new Viennese school, Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy, Shostakovich, perhpaps one or two others) had to find ways of putting notes on paper that retained the complexity and integrity of composition. (Though I do not believe that twelve-tone composition is exactly that, Schoenberg told his disciples that he was rescuing German music for the next 1000 years.) One thing I'll bet they'd all agree on: Composing is harder now, not easier, both to compose and to listen to, and no matter the tenor of a composer's output, it must create a sense of complexity tempered with artistry that one does not find everywhere.

That is why I am always pushing Roger Sessions, a rare bird who succeeds in this matter but who is anything but easy to listen to and have even compared him not unfavorably to the "real" Copland, not Copland the arranger of folk music. This may also be at the root of what Hindemith non-disparagingly termed "Gerbrauchsmusik," i.e., skillfully composed to the occasion. Some "composers" swerved from the problem by introducing what until 1950 or so would be considered extraneous elements (John Cage, the composers for synthesizer, the minimalists).

However, I would not call diversity per se the vivifying force behind contemporary music. No rules anything goes still does as little for art as it ever did.
We've done a pretty good job of kicking at whatever props might be weak in this statement, but that leaves quite a bit that is intriguing.
John, this may be the first time I've heard you say something positive about a composer after Brahms. I may have the wrong impression about this: is this new for you? You've rendered judgement on Sessions and exposed a bias on good versus bad Copland. Can you expound a little more on what you do and don't like in 20th C music?

I'm not greatly troubled by the statement about Brahms and Wagner. It has implied assumptions, for example, that we don't think polka music is the closest we come to the divine in music.

The last paragraph about 'diversity' as a vivifying force is quite perceptive. Diversity is certainly not a force; it is a characteristic. This conversation is proceeding at several levels. More in my next post.

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Post by slofstra » Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:48 am

some guy wrote:
slofstra wrote:Lutoslawski's later compositions were indeterminate to an extent.
Lutoslawski's later compositions were aleatoric, which means that the composer retains control mostly, allowing some isolated freedoms within an otherwise determinant piece.
slofstra wrote:which significant musical performances of the 20th C are a) indeterminate and b) something I'll listen to more than once.
Not sure I understand the a) part. There were numerous performances of indeterminate pieces in the twentieth century. As for b), which seems to be about recordings (as a piece that's indeterminate of performance will vary from performance to performance, sometimes unrecognizably so). As to which recordings of Atlas Eclipticalis or Four Systems or Rainforest or Durations you'll want to listen to over and over again, I have no idea!
slofstra wrote:My working hypothesis is that much modern Visual Art and Music is really just playing with interesting ideas; they provide little that is pleasurable to the eye or the ear.
OK. But the experience of pleasure that some others of us get from much modern Visual Art and Music means that you could better, more accurately, only say that they provide little that is pleasurable to your eye or to your ears.
slofstra wrote:Don't get me wrong. Potentially, those ideas could and sometimes they do in fact lead to something worth hearing. But not necessarily - an intellectually compelling idea may just be a 'dead end' as far as the sounds it is able to produce. The proof is in the pudding.
This is to miss the point of indeterminate music. The idea there is that you, the listener, have been given a task to perform. You are the pudding. You are invited (invited, only!) to listen, actively, to everything around you, without categorizing it into "musical" and "non-musical," without insisting that music be something worked up for you by someone else into a structure that you can then appreciate.
slofstra wrote:So my challenge to you is - list something I'd be willing to load in my CD player with indeterminacy as a key aspect of the performance.
As you probably have already realized since you wrote this, I wouldn't be able to list anything that you'd be willing to load into your CD player, not without knowing what you already enjoy. (Would you be willling to load Hymnen into your CD player? Or Hyperion? Or Frankenstein Symphony? I simply do not know.) The challenge is, therefore, impossible by its nature.

My challenge to you may also be impossible (not by its nature, anyway!), but here it is, anyway. Sit down somewhere, anywhere, and listen, intently, until you enjoy what you're hearing.
First, it would be useful to know the composers of the pieces you mention.

I've been thinking about your approach and answer to this question. My approach, which is greatly lacking in depth, is to think about the great pieces I've heard, and also some of the things I've read about the development of music, and try to examine which of those effects I actually see manifested in music that moves me, and which I like. If there was nothing 'atonal' which I liked, I wouldn't think it significant. But of course, there is much I do like.

So I was taken aback by this answer - indeterminacy. We certainly do not see that indeterminacy has taken up much of the mindshare of listeners of serious music. That doesn't deprecate your answer though, but puts it more in the area of a prediction. I admire you for being able to look at music at more than a superficial level (my approach) and come up with such an answer. I'll certainly keep my eye on 'it'. And yet, I have serious doubts about it. OTOH, how do you relate algorithmic music and indeterminate music, because the former - to me- does have great potential.

Lastly, back to the idea of linearity. Next post ....

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Post by slofstra » Sat Mar 29, 2008 11:04 am

some guy wrote:Simply put, atonality did not replace tonality, serialism did not replace atonality, electronics did not replace instrumental music, Fluxus did not replace symphony concerts, and neotonality is not nor will it ever replace any of the preceding.
Linearity doesn't have to imply replacement or obsolescence. It's just that at some point an approach to music leaves nothing more in the way of invention. At that point the progenitors of that particular approach are craftsmen not inventive geniuses. The latter are always striving to create something new, and not only new but better.
So the creative impulse itself generates a linear progression in technical development, in instrument design, always embracing newness.

But for us looking back over the course of this development does not mean we consider that the music created by someone 300 years ago exhibits less genius than something written today.
And what I think you're really objecting to is that. Specifically, suggestions that the book on 'modern' music is now closed and what is happening today is 'better' in some way.
I have been somewhat of that opinion, but look at things a little differently now. Because I do think the book has pretty much closed on 'atonality' and its influence in composition. But in performance that music will spring forth ever new, and the merits of its various practitioners will be considered, argued and revised for some decades to some. For listeners such as myself the enjoyment and appreciation of the music of the early to mid part of the last century is just beginning to open up.
The door on any given period of music never actually closes; the new does not 'replace' the old, it just adds to it.

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Post by some guy » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:54 pm

slofstra wrote:First, it would be useful to know the composers of the pieces you mention.
Well, that's easy enough.
Atlas Eclipticalis--John Cage
Four Systems--Earle Brown
Rainforest--David Tudor
Durations--Morton Feldman

Although those guys are all from the U.S., there were also important experimental composers elsewhere, most notably Roman Haubenstock-Ramati in Italy and (early) Cornelius Cardew in England. Also there were important groups, MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) in Italy and AMM (AMM) in England.
slofstra wrote:My approach...is to think about the great pieces I've heard, and also some of the things I've read about the development of music, and try to examine which of those effects I actually see manifested in music that moves me, and which I like.
Yes, this approach will not produce good results for you with indeterminate music.
slofstra wrote:We certainly do not see that indeterminacy has taken up much of the mindshare of listeners of serious music.
Many people who listen to "serious music" do not spend much time with indeterminacy. Composers, yes. Listener, not as much. But there are some of us. Enough to justify concerts and recordings. Enough to keep ensembles (like AMM) formed in the sixties still going and even organizations like Fluxus still going. And new ones made all the time. (Most of the concerts I attend in Portland are of indeterminate music.)
slofstra wrote:OTOH, how do you relate algorithmic music and indeterminate music, because the former - to me- does have great potential.
I think that these are two different kinds of things. Indeterminacy isn't a type of music, it's an attitude towards sounds. It produces different types of music--live electronics, theatre (from happenings to Cage's Europeras to the events of Fluxus), drone minimalism, noise music, graphic scores, and music in which indeterminate methods are used to produce a piece that is determinate of performance. Algorithmic is more of a technique for producing determinate musics. (I could be wrong about this. Better to say that the people I know who use algorithms are using them to produce determinate music. Maybe there are other ways to use algorithms.)

As for linearity, a linear view of twentieth century music will miss the century's chief characteristic, diversity. It will miss that all the diversity has happened and continues to happen simultaneously. And it will encourage a kind of developmental view of the arts which, as you've already pointed out, doesn't really capture the truth that recent art doesn't replace older art (as recent physics replaces Newtonian) but simply adds to it.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Post by karlhenning » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:57 pm

slofstra wrote:Linearity doesn't have to imply replacement or obsolescence. . .

But for us looking back over the course of this development does not mean we consider that the music created by someone 300 years ago exhibits less genius than something written today. . . .
Key points.
slofstra wrote:Because I do think the book has pretty much closed on 'atonality' and its influence in composition.
I don't see how we are in any position to say such a thing. It is one of a number of influences which I happily engage in my own work.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by greymouse » Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:10 pm

My first music theory teacher promoted the idea that the history of classical music follows the overtones series of a musical note, so I'll make a long boring post about that and at the end tie it in to the 20th century:

The overtones for those who don't know are the natural harmonics that quietly sound at pitches above the played note with all instruments. It's easy to find these on a string instrument by dividing the string in halves, thirds, fourths, etc. and pinching harmonics, and these overtones largely determine the tone color and preferred consonances of music.

The first overtones for a C would go roughly in the order:

C, C, G, C, E, G, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G, Ab ... etc. now they're densely packed together.

Gregorian Chant would be the lower end of this series. Unison, some plain octaves, and at times perfect fifths (organum).

When the E comes, there's enough for a triad. Renaissance madrigals are mainly triadic harmony.

When the Bb comes there's enough for a dominant seventh, and this allows for the key changes and tonicism of the Baroque and Classical era.

The D allows for appogiaturas and suspended harmonies of the Romantic era that nevertheless remain in the context of tonality.

The F# is the fifth of a whole tone series, and this features in some early 20th century music such as Debussy.

Above that is chromaticism and dissonance suggested by 3 half steps in a row. This is featured heavily in 20th century classical music.

Finally, the subsequent overtones are almost totally inaudible microtones and this is suggested by silent music (Cage) or exotic divisions of the octave (Partch).

The idea that classical music followed this overtone series seems interesting, but according to that theory it's all played out (at least harmonically). There can only be hope if the theory is a total sham. Nevertheless, it's kind of elegant and fascinating if the concepts behind it are geekily understood. :twisted:

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Post by Chalkperson » Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:45 pm

Hey Henry, I think it's time you started listening to some Morton Feldman...it will change your life... :wink:
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

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Post by slofstra » Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:54 pm

Chalkperson wrote:Hey Henry, I think it's time you started listening to some Morton Feldman...it will change your life... :wink:
I've heard him live.

By the way, I'm not poo-poo'ing indeterminacy but I'm trying to challenge the idea of its importance and see what 'some guy' comes up with.

Indeterminacy seems to involve taking almost a transcendent approach to listening to sounds of various kinds. For example, if I sit on the back porch and listen to wind chimes, a distant dog barking, horse hoofs clopping (a very nice sound we used to hear when we lived in Mennonite country), I'm engaged in listening to a kind of indeterminate music. And I might even look to that as a musical experience, in fact, when I lived there I often did just that. (This is a whole lot more fun to contemplate than the Muslim question I can tell you that - gotta stay out of that Corner Pub). Now, when the young kid a few doors down starts up his old beater with no muffler and interrupts this idyll of sound - I should just go with the flow - it's just part of the music of life - now I feel better. Am I getting there, some guy?

Some guy gave me some invaluable advice earlier this year as my sleep at that time was troubled incessantly by the noise of city traffic after our move out of the country. I had asked him if there was a way to mask the noise with some kind of sound or white noise generator. He consulted with the experts and came back with this advice. Listen to the traffic. I tried that and it took a while but it worked! Now I don't even hear the traffic, and when we had a room overlooking 23rd St and 8th Ave in NYC, I still slept like a baby.

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Post by some guy » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:02 am

slofstra wrote:...if I sit on the back porch and listen to wind chimes, a distant dog barking, horse hoofs clopping (a very nice sound we used to hear when we lived in Mennonite country), I'm engaged in listening to a kind of indeterminate music. And I might even look to that as a musical experience, in fact, when I lived there I often did just that....Now, when the young kid a few doors down starts up his old beater with no muffler and interrupts this idyll of sound - I should just go with the flow - it's just part of the music of life - now I feel better. Am I getting there, some guy?
Hah. You are so already there, it's not even funny!

Glad the traffic advice worked, too. :D
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Post by slofstra » Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:04 pm

some guy wrote:
slofstra wrote:...if I sit on the back porch and listen to wind chimes, a distant dog barking, horse hoofs clopping (a very nice sound we used to hear when we lived in Mennonite country), I'm engaged in listening to a kind of indeterminate music. And I might even look to that as a musical experience, in fact, when I lived there I often did just that....Now, when the young kid a few doors down starts up his old beater with no muffler and interrupts this idyll of sound - I should just go with the flow - it's just part of the music of life - now I feel better. Am I getting there, some guy?
Hah. You are so already there, it's not even funny!

Glad the traffic advice worked, too. :D
Thanks. :) :) :D

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 9:01 am

FWIW re Schumann, Elliott Carter, who can often be shockingly dismissive of 19th century icons, has mentioned Schumann's Kriesleriana as an inspiration and model for his solo piano piece, Night Fantasies. He also spoke of studying Schumann's Piano Quartet in preparing to write his.

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Post by karlhenning » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:15 am

Actually, that fits the playbook, too, Steve: set aside the traditional Big Names, as bones which have already been picked over; and find something of musical interest in an overlooked composer.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:19 am

karlhenning wrote:Actually, that fits the playbook, too, Steve: set aside the traditional Big Names, as bones which have already been picked over; and find something of musical interest in an overlooked composer.

Cheers,
~Karl
True, and as the other quote indicates, Webern learned all his orchestration from Schumann :)

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Post by BWV 1080 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:32 pm

FWIW re Schumann, Elliott Carter, who can often be shockingly dismissive of 19th century icons, has mentioned Schumann's Kriesleriana as an inspiration and model for his solo piano piece, Night Fantasies. He also spoke of studying Schumann's Piano Quartet in preparing to write his.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Apr 01, 2008 12:42 am

Strange---Karl jumps on me thinking I'm obsessed with Schumann, but says nothing to John Buck when he goes on-and-on about how great he thinks Brahms is. Like anyone else here, I get my dander up when the playing field isn't level.

If John Buck thinks Schumann's symphonies are just "lovely pieces" a Bruckner fan comes along and finds Brahms' symphonies full of "charming tunes". These types of comments are silly and just meant to aggravate.

There is absolutely NO reason not to mention Schumann in a discussion of 20th-century music. He is at least as much a key player as Beethoven or Wagner. I'll have to research the source of the quote about Schumann's impact on Webern and/or Berg, but my memory tells me Hans Zender said it in a radio interview. But there are no doubt multiple sources, for sure many on the Web. The inside sleeve on John Daverio's book on Schumann also states it.

PEACE! :D

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

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