Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Do you feel that the future of classical/serious music

Largely rests on music composed from the Baroque period to about 1940 (Rachmaninoff)
5
13%
Will live into the future based on music written in the mid-to-late 20th- and 21st centuries, i.e. more "modern music" to feed the minds of today
3
8%
Both will feed the future EQUALLY
8
21%
Traditional classical will continue on as the leader
14
37%
20th/21st century music will endure EQUALLY as traditional
8
21%
 
Total votes: 38

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17391
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Lance » Sat Jan 08, 2011 8:55 pm

Just a quick poll to see how the AVERAGE music lover today feels about "classical/serious" music of the future. Don't necessarily base it on your OWN feelings, though that is sure to happen. Note that I purposely did NOT add a third option of having BOTH serve the future (equally).
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:06 pm

I voted for the 2nd choice "Will live into the future based on music written in the mid-to-late 20th- and 21st centuries, i.e. more "modern music" to feed the minds of today". When an art form ceases to grow, it dies.

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by piston » Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:33 pm

Not to be difficult, Lance, but I believe that the "classical music" of the future will be no less different from that of the 20th century than the music of the 20th century turned out to be different from that of the Baroque to the late Romantic period. I'm not a prophet but I'm willing to bet that a lot of new media will influence music (taste, the nature of composition) and the very concept of "performance" could also be dramatically transformed.
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)

Ricordanza
Posts: 1694
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:52 am

piston wrote: I'm not a prophet but I'm willing to bet that a lot of new media will influence music (taste, the nature of composition) and the very concept of "performance" could also be dramatically transformed.
Point well taken, in which case none of these categories suffice. Nevertheless, my prediction at this point is that "traditional" classical music will lead the way. Why? Because humans are essentially hard-wired for responding to melody, harmony and rhythm. To the extent that "classical" music moves away from one or more of these building blocks, a substantial portion of the audience turns away or turns to other kinds of music.

And what about "today's" audience? Keep in mind that for those in my age group (60) and older, the classical music of our youth was Schonberg, Webern, Boulez, etc. Despite "growing up" with that music, did it find it's way into the concert programs or record/CD favored by this age group?

Jack Kelso
Posts: 3004
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 11:52 pm
Location: Mannheim, Germany

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:06 am

Contemporary "classical" music has totally lost its public. As Schostakowitsch, Britten and Hindemith as well as other great composers said almost fifty years ago, 12-tone composers can't write a whistleable tune that one can remember when exiting the concert hall.

While I enjoy an occasion atonal work, I must admit that the spiritual uplift that the older music gives me generally outweighs the adventure of the new.

Extreme atonality can go only so far. If modern composers wish to create new music they should get back to the standards of the past....at least in part.

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

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:42 am

Audiences of the future aren't going to give two sh!ts for Beethoven, or Schumann, unless there's also someone from their own time period to enjoy.

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:51 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Contemporary "classical" music has totally lost its public. As Schostakowitsch, Britten and Hindemith as well as other great composers said almost fifty years ago, 12-tone composers can't write a whistleable tune that one can remember when exiting the concert hall.
Fifty years ago, people said Shostakovich, Britten and Hindemith couldn't write a whistleable tune. Now you're using them to support the status quo.

maestrob
Posts: 5255
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by maestrob » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:15 am

I frankly don't think twelve-tone is the issue: it's a fashion that has now passed and has become just another tool in a contemporary composer's toolbox.

When composers want to reach out to a larger audience, that audience will come to them and respond with applause. When the same composer wants to write for a more sophisticated audience, that audience will come to the (smaller) performance and reward said composer with praise.

Thus, the future of classical music depends on both streams of music, and both will be written.

As for the future of symphony orchestras in larger halls, well, that depends a lot on the established canon of great music, which, I think, is here to stay.

As well, the future depends on a steady stream of new music, out of which a few great pieces will be chosen for repeat performances on a steady basis (Adams' Harmonielehre comes to mind.). These will be added to the "canon" of music conductors choose to perform and record.

THEHORN
Posts: 2544
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 8:57 am

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by THEHORN » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:43 am

Trying to predict the future of classical music is an exercise in futility.
What we call classical music is a continuum of works ranging from more than 400 years ago to the present day. Worrying about the supposed lack of popularity of contemporary music is a waste of time,because the vast majority of all the symphonies,concertos,sonatas, operas,oratorios,cantatas etc written over the centuries have been forgotten anyway. It's simply too early for us to know which works by which composers written in recent years will "survive".
We've only just entered the second decade of the 21st century. There is absolutely no way to predict how classical music as a whole will evolve.
Those music lovers,critics and scholars who we born a century before us and were alive a century ago had no way of knowing how music would change. Saint-Saens was 75 years old a century ago,and lived until 1921.
This was around the time that Stravinsky was working on his revolutionary Sacre Du Printemps, a work which he found indescribably shocking when he first heard it.
Brahms died in 1897 and could have lived long enough to hear Le Sacre.
What would he have thought of it? He would have been 80 in 1913 when the legendary scandalous premiere of Le Sacre took place in France.
Today,old and new music coexist,as they should. Currently,there is greater diversity of repertoire being performed and recorded than ever before in the history of western classical music.
Those who complain that we concentrate too much on the music of the past don't realize that there is absolutely no lack of new music today.
Classical music is in constant flux. It is in no way "ossified" as many claim.

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:57 pm

THEHORN wrote:. . . Classical music is in constant flux. It is in no way "ossified" as many claim.
Well, it would ossify if the demand is that it get back to the standards of the past. The horse has long been out of the barn; and wishing that the horse would happily stay in the barn is . . . insanity.

And I certainly think that maestrob nails it with his remark; I frankly don't think twelve-tone is the issue: it's a fashion that has now passed and has become just another tool in a contemporary composer's toolbox.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

slofstra
Posts: 8900
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:23 pm
Location: Waterloo, ON, Canada
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by slofstra » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:58 pm

I'm having trouble understanding the difference between the 3rd and 5th choices above. Anyway, one of those would get my vote.
Pick up a typical survey book of classical music and over half the composers are post-1900. This list will winnow down in the listener's mindshare as the year's go by. But the best of the 20th C will be on equal footing with the best of any earlier century.

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 09, 2011 2:58 pm

Maybe the third choice means that both 20th and 21st century music "will feed the future EQUALLY"? :)

IcedNote
Posts: 2960
Joined: Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:24 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by IcedNote » Sun Jan 09, 2011 3:39 pm

I voted: Traditional classical will continue on as the leader

But it's interesting thinking about the role of 20th-century music even now. Plenty of "modern" composers have made their mark, but perhaps they're still not as ubiquitous as the "classical greats." For example, how many pieces by Beethoven are staples in the repertoire? I think it's hard to argue anything less than "quite a few." :) But then take, say, Messiaen. How many staples has he written? One? Three? So I think plenty of composers will continue to make dents here and there, but just like before, only a select few will really come to dominate the repertoire and truly enter the canon.

I thought about voting for "they'll contribute equally," but I don't see the public at large embracing modern music any time soon. Meaning...for someone who wants classical music in their homes on a Sunday morning, they'll continue to reach for Beethoven before Messiaen.

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

absinthe
Posts: 3574
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:13 pm
Location: UK

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by absinthe » Sun Jan 09, 2011 3:39 pm

diegobueno wrote:Audiences of the future aren't going to give two sh!ts for Beethoven....
Ooh, I don't know. He's still quoted on the FTSE100, isn't he?
Still quite profitable.

;)

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26378
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:18 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:As Schostakowitsch, Britten and Hindemith as well as other great composers said almost fifty years ago, 12-tone composers can't write a whistleable tune that one can remember when exiting the concert hall.
All three of them said that? Extraordinary! :wink:

There is no precedent for continuous appreciation of an auditory art form over a period any longer than we have in fact been appreciating Western music, and its first two golden ages (chant, Renaissance) have already been relegated to the status of specialist interest. There is still strong continuity with everything composed since 1700--someone once laid out for me my lineage back to Bach as an organ student, which unfortunately I did not make note of. When it comes to the fate that awaits the great masters we now enjoy in a more distant future, there are some things I'm just as happy I will never live to know.

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

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:22 pm

And I'll say again that "whistleability" is of no use as a touchstone. I've written music for percussion ensemble which is not in the least "whistleable."

OTOH, I can whistle the latest Taylor Swift hit. It must be great music! ; )

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by piston » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:26 pm

If you've listened to the June 2010 keynote address I posted elsewhere, it could prove a terrible mistake to assume that all things will be equal between successive generations. The new media have already generated what is called a "partial attention span" which, to my mind, implies that grandiose works such as Mahler's might not find a receptive audience in the future.

Again, new generations are born and they are vastly different from previous ones. Isn't it why Bartok became so popular in the sixties, seventies, and eighties? A new generation? But our perspective here is that of aging baby boomers who, almost by definition, get more and more conservative with age. What future generations will think of and want from classical music is ... what they will need, themselves! Not what we aging geezers believe they should need. :roll:
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)

slofstra
Posts: 8900
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:23 pm
Location: Waterloo, ON, Canada
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by slofstra » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:47 pm

diegobueno wrote:Maybe the third choice means that both 20th and 21st century music "will feed the future EQUALLY"? :)
No, it means that choice 1 (traditional) and choice 2 (20/21st) will feed the future equally. Whereas under choice 5 the 20/21st will be equal to traditional.
I think we could solve this by adding a 6th choice, which is that both 3 and 5 are correct.

Jack Kelso
Posts: 3004
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 11:52 pm
Location: Mannheim, Germany

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:34 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:As Schostakowitsch, Britten and Hindemith as well as other great composers said almost fifty years ago, 12-tone composers can't write a whistleable tune that one can remember when exiting the concert hall.
All three of them said that? Extraordinary! :wink:

There is no precedent for continuous appreciation of an auditory art form over a period any longer than we have in fact been appreciating Western music, and its first two golden ages (chant, Renaissance) have already been relegated to the status of specialist interest. There is still strong continuity with everything composed since 1700--someone once laid out for me my lineage back to Bach as an organ student, which unfortunately I did not make note of. When it comes to the fate that awaits the great masters we now enjoy in a more distant future, there are some things I'm just as happy I will never live to know.
I believe Schostakowitsch said it, Hindemith and Britten chimed in agreement.

If "contemporary" music is going to have a chance for a larger public than just certain professional musicians, then the education systems in public and private schools world-wide must start to offer better, greater and more well-rounded musical education----otherwise by the year 2025 societies will be even more dominated by mind-numbing pop culture than they are at present!

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

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:48 am

Jack Kelso wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:As [Shostakovich], Britten and Hindemith as well as other great composers said almost fifty years ago, 12-tone composers can't write a whistleable tune that one can remember when exiting the concert hall.
All three of them said that? Extraordinary! :wink:

There is no precedent for continuous appreciation of an auditory art form over a period any longer than we have in fact been appreciating Western music, and its first two golden ages (chant, Renaissance) have already been relegated to the status of specialist interest. There is still strong continuity with everything composed since 1700--someone once laid out for me my lineage back to Bach as an organ student, which unfortunately I did not make note of. When it comes to the fate that awaits the great masters we now enjoy in a more distant future, there are some things I'm just as happy I will never live to know.
I believe [Shostakovich] said it, Hindemith and Britten chimed in agreement.
Doesn't much matter, really. Can you whistle any of the Kammermusiken, Jack? Because that's probably about my favorite Hindemith.

Secondly, when and in what context did Shostakovich say this? There were long decades in which Shostakovich had no freedom to offer any public opinion about music of which political authorities in Moscow did not approve. So at the outset, let's point out the shaky foundation of your idea here, that such a statement from Shostakovich is necessarily possessed of some kind of ‘authority’.

Related to the second point: If there is a difference between Shostakovich's pronouncements, and his private opinion, where might we find it? Among other possible places, in his music. And we find, actually, that later in his career, as he found slightly more ‘give’ in the environment, he employed ‘unwhistleable’ twelve-note ideas in some of his pieces. Can you whistle the xylophone tattoo in “On Watch” from the Fourteenth Symphony?

Britten used similarly ‘unwhistleable’ pitch constructs in, for example, The Turn of the Screw. Set that aside, though: How much of Peter Grimes can you whistle, Jack? Are those parts of the War Requiem which you can whistle more musical than those parts which you cannot?

Thirdly, you write: I believe [Shostakovich] said it, Hindemith and Britten chimed in agreement. Thank you for illustrating anew the wholly fantasist nature of your musicology.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

Jack Kelso
Posts: 3004
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 11:52 pm
Location: Mannheim, Germany

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:16 am

Well, gosh Karl----I'm awfully sorry if there are other opinions from great 20th-century composers that don't agree with yours. And yes, I can hum or whistle quite a bit from various Hindemith, Bartok, Stravinsky (etc.) works, since their music is (largely) tonal.

There is also much music by Henze that is just wonderful. I love the 12-tone symphonies of Humphrey Searle, too. But my wife and I are among the very few people who can appreciate "modern" music.

Please don't knock my knowledge of musicology. I have read and do read a great deal---in both English and German. It's not a sin to quote any composer; and they all have different standpoints, and these are no doubt all defendable.

We must respect all differences of opinion---as long as they are reasonable and informed.

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

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:58 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Well, gosh Karl----I'm awfully sorry if there are other opinions from great 20th-century composers that don't agree with yours.
Ad hominem and specious, Jack. This is not about who agrees with me; it is about the facts.

You must consider, Jack, whether you are interested in the facts, or only with what quite pleases you.

Jack Kelso wrote:Please don't knock my knowledge of musicology. I have read and do read a great deal---in both English and German. It's not a sin to quote any composer; and they all have different standpoints, and these are no doubt all defendable.
But you are entirely amusing here, Jack! As if you have quoted any composer! As if you have brought forward a citation from your reading! All you've done is trotted out your stale opinion, and dressed it weaselly in false authority. And then you pretend that you have brought forward matters of fact, but I am weeping in my bitters that, sniff, sniff, there are composers who do not agree with me. This hearty laughter is a great gift, and I thank you for it.

My dear fellow, what exactly did Shostakovich say, and when? Here is an opportunity for the musicology which you are so concerned I should not knock.

Here, I'll show you what musicology is about, Jack. Let's go to sources.

Shostakovich was sent to New York as a Soviet delegate to the Cultural and Scientific Congress for World Peace which took place between 25 and 28 March 1949. Nicholas Nabokov, émigré composer and brother to the famous writer, met Shostakovich for the first time at this Congress.

N. Nabokov wrote:When, after several trying and ludicrous speeches, his turn came to speak he began to read his prepared talk in a nervous and shaky voice. After a few sentences he broke off, and the speech was continued in English by a suave baritone. In all the equivocation of that conference, Shostakovich's speech was the least direct. Written in the style of the Agitprop speeches, it was quite obviously prepared by the 'party organs' in charge of the Waldorf-Astoria conference, on the Soviet side of the picture. In it these 'organs', through their mouthpiece Shostakovich, condemned most Western music as decadent and bourgeois, painted the glories of the rising Soviet music culture, attacked the demon Stravinsky as the corrupter of Western art (with a dig at Prokofiev) and urged upon the 'progressive Americans' of the conference the necessity of fighting against the reactionaries and warmongers of America and . . . and admitted that the 'mouthpiece' (Mr Shostakovich) had itself often erred and sinned against the decrees of the Party.

I sat in my seat petrified by this spectacle of human misery and degradation. It was crystal clear to me that what I had suspected from the day that I heard that Shostakovich was going to be among the delegates representing the Soviet government was true: this speech of his, this whole peace-making mission was part of a punishment, part of a ritual redemption he had to go through before he could be pardoned again. He was to tell, in person, to all the dupes in the Waldorf conference and to the whole decadent bourgeois world that loved him so much that he, Shostakovich, the famous Russian composer, is not a free man, but an obedient tool of his government. He told in effect that every time the Party found flaws in his art, the Party was right, and every time the Party put him on ice, he was grateful to the Party, because it helped him to recognize the flaws and mistakes.

After his speech I felt I had to ask him publicly a few questions. I had to do it, not in order to embarrass a wretched human being who had just given me the most flagrant example of what it is to be a composer in the Soviet Union, but because of the several thousand people that sat in the hall, because of those that perhaps still could not or did not wish to understand the sinister game that was being played before their eyes. I asked him simple factual questions concerning modern music, questions that should be of interest to all musicians. I asked him whether he, personally, the composer Shostakovich, not the delegate of Stalin's government, subscribed to the wholesale condemnation of Western music as it had been expounded daily by the Soviet press and as it appeared in the official pronouncements of the Soviet Government. I asked him whether he, personally, agreed with the condemnation of the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Hindemith. To these questions he acquiesced: 'Yes," he said, 'I completely subscribe to the views as expressed by . . . etc. . . .' When he finished answering my questions the dupes in the audience gave him a new and prolonged ovation.
Here is an eyewitness account of a fellow composer who had an actual exchange with Shostakovich at a public event where the ideas were discussed. It underscores my point that, if Shostakovich said something negative about twelve-tone music, there are fundamental questions about the degree to which it could be taken as his personal opinion.

None of what you have had to offer really harmonizes with Nabokov's account here, does it? For one small instance, it seems hardly credible that Hindemith should chime in with agreement in condemnation of himself.

So I shall ask you again, Jack: What exactly did Shostakovich say, and when, to which you refer? What better place to display the solidity of your musicology than in this discussion, eh?

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:53 am

karlhenning wrote:What exactly did Shostakovich say, and when, to which you refer?
An added bonus which would go far to repairing your musicological credibility: bring forth the sources to support your contention that Britten and Hindemith "chimed in" with agreement.

What exactly did Britten and Hindemith say, and when?

Personally, as a composer who delights to study music history, I find that the facts of music history yield a gratification all their own.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

some guy
Modern Music Specialist
Posts: 1625
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:00 am
Location: portland, or
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by some guy » Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:44 pm

IcedNote wrote:Plenty of "modern" composers have made their mark, but perhaps they're still not as ubiquitous as the "classical greats."
No matter how much time goes by, you're still going to be younger than your parents. Why is that?
IcedNote wrote:For example, how many pieces by Beethoven are staples in the repertoire? I think it's hard to argue anything less than "quite a few." :) But then take, say, Messiaen. How many staples has he written? One? Three?
For example, Beethoven was born in 1770; Messiaen in 1908. Interesting that those birthdates won't ever change....
Piston wrote:The new media have already generated what is called a "partial attention span" which, to my mind, implies that grandiose works such as Mahler's might not find a receptive audience in the future.
Eliane Radigue, Phill Niblock, the Futura Festival. Three recent examples of length--the two composers of long works, the festival of a marathon concert (the last of the festival) that runs all night long. And these are only three of the dozens of examples of long works or marathon concerts.

LaMonte Young. Eric Satie's Vexations. Lengthy operas by Lachenmann and Eötvös and lengthy music theatre by Goebbels.

I think that the people whose attention spans are short (and whose short spans have perhaps been shortened even more by complicitous media) are probably not listening to Francisco López anyway. And I'm more than sure that the people whose attention spans are short are not the only people in the world.
"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

IcedNote
Posts: 2960
Joined: Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:24 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by IcedNote » Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:55 pm

some guy wrote:No matter how much time goes by, you're still going to be younger than your parents. Why is that?

For example, Beethoven was born in 1770; Messiaen in 1908. Interesting that those birthdates won't ever change....
Well damn...I guess we should all be thankful that the universe didn't collapse onto itself when the Rolling Stones were able to equal the popularity of Elvis...or Michael Jackson was able to equal the popularity of the Beatles...or Justin Bieber was able to equal the popularity of George Michael...

-G
Harakiried composer reincarnated as a nonprofit development guy.

some guy
Modern Music Specialist
Posts: 1625
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:00 am
Location: portland, or
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by some guy » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:17 pm

In regards to how popularity works, the so-called popular music, from which you pulled your "rebuttal," is closer to how things worked in Mozart and Haydn's time. More recent works were more performed and more popular.

Once the notion of a "canon" really got going, in the early nineteenth century, all that would change for "classical" music.
"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

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:41 pm

karlhenning wrote:Shostakovich was sent to New York as a Soviet delegate to the Cultural and Scientific Congress for World Peace which took place between 25 and 28 March 1949.
. . . in New York, BTW (in case this was not clear from the reference to the Waldorf-Astoria in the quotation).

More facts in the case of Shostakovich, regardless of anyone's agreement or disagreement:

Laurel Fay wrote:Critics remarked on the novelty in form, language, and technical means in the new quartet [the Twelfth], on the composer's unique ability to remain himself while exploring new horizons. There was, indeed, a great deal here that was new and unexpected for Shostakovich's music, not least of which was the considerable dependence on twelve-tone rows for its thematic material, within a broadly tonal context. This was not the cutting edge in Soviet music. Though revered as its elder statesman, a living legend, by now Shostakovich was no longer seen as a pioneer. From the late 1950s through the years of official bluster by the leadership of the Union of Composers—including Shostakovich himself—proclaiming the dangers of dodecaphony and alien avant-garde styles, genuine interest among Soviet musicians in the contemporary trends filtering in from the West had increased steadily, especially among young composers and performers. So had the volume of homegrown "experimental" scores. Shostakovich was not oblivious to these developments. Composer Nilolai Karetnikov even credited him with lending his support and authority to overcome the resistance of the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, one of the most conservative bastions of musical tradition, to te staging of Karetnikov's twelve-tone ballet score, Vanina Vanini in 1962.

Shostakovich's adaptation of aspects of twelve-tone writing was not an aesthetic volte-face. Isolated examples of twelve-tone rows had already appeared in Seven Verses of A. Blok and in the Second Violin Concerto. His propensity for chromatic melody writing was longstanding. Queried by Tsyganov about the serial elements in his Twelfth Quartet, the composer is said to have commented: "They can also be found in Mozart." In an interview concerning young composers that appeared just before the Twelfth Quartet received its initial screening, Shostakovich's comments highlighted the consistency of his present practice with his lifelong principles:
Dmitri Dmitriyevich wrote:As far as the use of strictly technical devices from such musical "systems" as dodecaphony or aleatory is concerned ... everything in good measure. If, let's say, a composer sets himself the obligatory task of writing dodecaphonic music, then he artificially limits his his possibilities, his ideas. The use of elements from these complex systems is fully justified if it is dictated by the concept of the composition.... You know, to a certain extent I think the formula "the end justifies the means" is valid in music. All means? All of them, if they contribute to the end objective.
Nothing in this passage supports the assertion that Shostakovich was of the opinion that music which you cannot whistle is worthless.

I wonder where and when Shostakovich said any such thing? Aye, I wonder.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26378
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:25 pm

karlhenning wrote:Nothing in this passage supports the assertion that Shostakovich was of the opinion that music which you cannot whistle is worthless.

I've kept out of this because the fact that I can't imagine Shostakovich saying something so Philistine doesn't mean someone can't show that he did so (remember what Dumas Malone said about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings--he was just too noble a guy for that). However, one of my college professors once attended a conference with Aaron Copland at which Copland did say that he couldn't imagine a good composition without a "pretty tune."

I would be happy not to have to undergo the revisionist thinking required if this--as I propose characteristic--difference between Shostakovich and Copland were not maintained by forthcoming evidence.

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

scytheavatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon May 18, 2009 10:45 pm

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by scytheavatar » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:20 am

There's a limit to how many hours of music you can listen to, and how many hours of music you can program to a concert. And as the demand for classical music continues to drop and small orchestras go bankrupt you can be sure that the hours given to contemporary classics will suffer much more than that of the Beethovens and Mozarts. Like it or not, there's already more than enough music from the 18th century and 19th century legends to last most classical music fans for a lifetime.

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:44 am

jbuck919 wrote:[ However, one of my college professors once attended a conference with Aaron Copland at which Copland did say that he couldn't imagine a good composition without a "pretty tune."
Yes, I'm here! :twisted:

So, you're still spreading that little chestnut around, are you? I suppose Copland illustrated this point by humming a few of the pretty tunes from Connotations and Inscape. Assuming that Copland actually said what your prof claims he said (not likely), Copland must have had a pretty broad definition of a "pretty tune".

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:52 am

But I'll add another story to this -- and this is just as much heresay as the Copland story:

In 1954 Ralph Vaughan Williams visited Cornell University and gave a seminar in which he looked at and commented on student compositions. One student brought in a post-Webern serialist piece. RVW looked up and said in his most grandfatherly tone of voice "now son, if a melody should ever occur to you, don't hesitate to write it down".

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:27 am

jbuck919 wrote:
karlhenning wrote:Nothing in this passage supports the assertion that Shostakovich was of the opinion that music which you cannot whistle is worthless.
I've kept out of this because the fact that I can't imagine Shostakovich saying something so Philistine doesn't mean someone can't show that he did so (remember what Dumas Malone said about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings--he was just too noble a guy for that). However, one of my college professors once attended a conference with Aaron Copland at which Copland did say that he couldn't imagine a good composition without a "pretty tune."

I would be happy not to have to undergo the revisionist thinking required if this--as I propose characteristic--difference between Shostakovich and Copland were not maintained by forthcoming evidence.
I've actually enjoyed revisiting the Fay as a result of this thread, and while there are a couple of recorded remarks against "dodecaphony" which seem a legitimate reflection of Shostakovich's opinion, the record is more interesting, and his opinion is more nuanced (and probably somewhat changeable over time) than Jack's unfortunate 'summary' suggests.

The context of even quite a sharp remark, is interesting (and non-Philistine). It will be a while before I can get to it, though . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:33 am

scytheavatar wrote:There's a limit to how many hours of music you can listen to, and how many hours of music you can program to a concert. And as the demand for classical music continues to drop and small orchestras go bankrupt you can be sure that the hours given to contemporary classics will suffer much more than that of the Beethovens and Mozarts. Like it or not, there's already more than enough music from the 18th century and 19th century legends to last most classical music fans for a lifetime.
Like it or not, if the orchestras program a surfeit of Beethoven or Mozart, the brass and percussion players will be bored out of their skulls by the second season; and talent of the woodwind players will be criminally underutilized.

There are entirely good and musical ways in which the art has progressed from "the Beethovens and Mozarts."

Like it or not ; )

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by piston » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:45 am

In any case, there's the particular issue of "dodecaphony" and atonal music and there's the more general, far more subjective, issue of "dissonnance." The reaction of a more conservative public in recent decades has been as much about the latter than about the former.

And do I perceive a contradiction here with the "elitist" thread where it was stated that the complex nature of classical music intrinsically separated a cultural elite from the crowd of loving pop music? If the goal is to listen to a hummable melody, there's always "classic" rock 'n roll out there! :mrgreen:
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)

John F
Posts: 19346
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by John F » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:54 am

And it's not even dissonance per se. "Le Sacre du Printemps" is now standard repertory, and while there may still be some out there for whom its modernisms are too much, they're surely a small minority.

While extremely dissonant in places, "Sacre" does not reject assonance. Indeed, it begins with a tune that's largely in the major. Alternations between assonance and dissonance go back centuries, with dissonance normally resolved into assonance, though "Sacre" and much modern music doesn't do that. But some does, notably Berg's "Wozzeck" and violin concerto, which end in the major. It's not for nothing that Berg is the most widely played and appreciated of the Schönberg/Berg/Webern trio.

Unrelieved dissonance, as in "Erwartung" which has been mentioned here, is another matter, and though that piece is more than a century old, it's still too hard a nut for many ordinary listeners to crack - probably most of them, I should think, myself included.
John Francis

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:00 am

Too much to the point to let it wait, though:
Fay, p.88 wrote:In his high-profile role as model young Soviet composer during the year leading up to the condemnation of Lady Macbeth, Shostakovich had been candid about the influence the music of such contemporary composers as Berg, Schoenberg, Krenek, Hindemith, and especially Stravinsky had exerted on his development, especially in the three years after completing Conservatory. Just a few weeks before “Muddle Instead of Music” appeared, Shostakovich commiserated with Sollertinsky on the recent death of Alban Berg: “His passing grieved me no less than you. The deceased was a genius. I am convinced that sooner or later he will be appreciated.”
I don't see any fastidious concern about whistleability here.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:05 am

John F wrote:Unrelieved dissonance, as in "Erwartung" which has been mentioned here, is another matter, and though that piece is more than a century old, it's still too hard a nut for many ordinary listeners to crack - probably most of them, I should think, myself included.
Only just more than a century old! : ) And not premiered until 86 years ago (in Prague).

Erwartung grabbed me from my first hearing, so I'm not sure what to suggest, John. It is an intense listen, certainly.

Think I'll give it another spin now . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl

Wikipedia wrote:Philip Friedheim has described Erwartung as Schoenberg's "only lengthy work in an athematic style", where no musical material returns once stated over the course of 426 measures.
RTWT here
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

John F
Posts: 19346
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by John F » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:22 am

Well, you're no ordinary listener, Karl. :) From what I've read, I believe that composers may listen to music differently from ordinary music-lovers, from a different perspective certainly and perhaps also with different purposes. An interesting topic which I'm not qualified to discuss, but you and the other composers here might like to.
John Francis

some guy
Modern Music Specialist
Posts: 1625
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:00 am
Location: portland, or
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by some guy » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:27 pm

But shouldn't the goal be to become an extraordinary listener? Indeed, I've seen it argued before that classical listeners are already out of the ordinary, if ordinary is Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga and Eminem.

On a personal note, I've never understood why "ordinary" and "average" and "typical" get to be privileged in conversations like this. "Well, the average listener doesn't like Schoenberg, so...."

I would finish that off with "what?"

Otherwise, assonance is a poetic term referring to internal rhyme. (As in "born" and "form." End rhyme would have to be "born" and "horn." And front rhyme would be "born" and "bask."

Consonance is what you meant, I'm sure. This is a poetic term, too, and describes something about the sounds of the words. Consonance in music describes the response of a listener, not anything about the music itself. Funny how that works....
"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

Jack Kelso
Posts: 3004
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 11:52 pm
Location: Mannheim, Germany

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:04 pm

karlhenning wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:Well, gosh Karl----I'm awfully sorry if there are other opinions from great 20th-century composers that don't agree with yours.
Ad hominem and specious, Jack. This is not about who agrees with me; it is about the facts.

You must consider, Jack, whether you are interested in the facts, or only with what quite pleases you.

Jack Kelso wrote:Please don't knock my knowledge of musicology. I have read and do read a great deal---in both English and German. It's not a sin to quote any composer; and they all have different standpoints, and these are no doubt all defendable.
But you are entirely amusing here, Jack! As if you have quoted any composer! As if you have brought forward a citation from your reading! All you've done is trotted out your stale opinion, and dressed it weaselly in false authority. And then you pretend that you have brought forward matters of fact, but I am weeping in my bitters that, sniff, sniff, there are composers who do not agree with me. This hearty laughter is a great gift, and I thank you for it.

My dear fellow, what exactly did Shostakovich say, and when? Here is an opportunity for the musicology which you are so concerned I should not knock.

Here, I'll show you what musicology is about, Jack. Let's go to sources.

Shostakovich was sent to New York as a Soviet delegate to the Cultural and Scientific Congress for World Peace which took place between 25 and 28 March 1949. Nicholas Nabokov, émigré composer and brother to the famous writer, met Shostakovich for the first time at this Congress.

N. Nabokov wrote:When, after several trying and ludicrous speeches, his turn came to speak he began to read his prepared talk in a nervous and shaky voice. After a few sentences he broke off, and the speech was continued in English by a suave baritone. In all the equivocation of that conference, Shostakovich's speech was the least direct. Written in the style of the Agitprop speeches, it was quite obviously prepared by the 'party organs' in charge of the Waldorf-Astoria conference, on the Soviet side of the picture. In it these 'organs', through their mouthpiece Shostakovich, condemned most Western music as decadent and bourgeois, painted the glories of the rising Soviet music culture, attacked the demon Stravinsky as the corrupter of Western art (with a dig at Prokofiev) and urged upon the 'progressive Americans' of the conference the necessity of fighting against the reactionaries and warmongers of America and . . . and admitted that the 'mouthpiece' (Mr Shostakovich) had itself often erred and sinned against the decrees of the Party.

I sat in my seat petrified by this spectacle of human misery and degradation. It was crystal clear to me that what I had suspected from the day that I heard that Shostakovich was going to be among the delegates representing the Soviet government was true: this speech of his, this whole peace-making mission was part of a punishment, part of a ritual redemption he had to go through before he could be pardoned again. He was to tell, in person, to all the dupes in the Waldorf conference and to the whole decadent bourgeois world that loved him so much that he, Shostakovich, the famous Russian composer, is not a free man, but an obedient tool of his government. He told in effect that every time the Party found flaws in his art, the Party was right, and every time the Party put him on ice, he was grateful to the Party, because it helped him to recognize the flaws and mistakes.

After his speech I felt I had to ask him publicly a few questions. I had to do it, not in order to embarrass a wretched human being who had just given me the most flagrant example of what it is to be a composer in the Soviet Union, but because of the several thousand people that sat in the hall, because of those that perhaps still could not or did not wish to understand the sinister game that was being played before their eyes. I asked him simple factual questions concerning modern music, questions that should be of interest to all musicians. I asked him whether he, personally, the composer Shostakovich, not the delegate of Stalin's government, subscribed to the wholesale condemnation of Western music as it had been expounded daily by the Soviet press and as it appeared in the official pronouncements of the Soviet Government. I asked him whether he, personally, agreed with the condemnation of the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Hindemith. To these questions he acquiesced: 'Yes," he said, 'I completely subscribe to the views as expressed by . . . etc. . . .' When he finished answering my questions the dupes in the audience gave him a new and prolonged ovation.
Here is an eyewitness account of a fellow composer who had an actual exchange with Shostakovich at a public event where the ideas were discussed. It underscores my point that, if Shostakovich said something negative about twelve-tone music, there are fundamental questions about the degree to which it could be taken as his personal opinion.

None of what you have had to offer really harmonizes with Nabokov's account here, does it? For one small instance, it seems hardly credible that Hindemith should chime in with agreement in condemnation of himself.

So I shall ask you again, Jack: What exactly did Shostakovich say, and when, to which you refer? What better place to display the solidity of your musicology than in this discussion, eh?

Cheers,
~Karl
Fact is, Karl---I don't remember in which article or book I read that about Schostakowitsch, Hindemith and Britten. It's been a long time. But I DO feel flattered that you take it so seriously as to have done all this research! Hindemith and other composers who felt as he did had no use for the serial technique. That does not mean that 12-tone composers were all wet. Perhaps you take these things too personally.

My dear fellow, there is nothing wrong with "my musicology" just because I cannot pinpoint a quotation. Far worse things have been said here about great composers in the past----without anyone feeling the need to throw insults or try to force someone into a corner.

So just relax, Karl. Pour yourself a nice glass of red wine, light some candles and put on a Handel concerto grosso (No. 5, op. 6 is spiritually very uplifting!).

And it can be whistled. And hummed.

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

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:55 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:Fact is, Karl---I don't remember in which article or book I read that about Schostakowitsch, Hindemith and Britten. It's been a long time. But I DO feel flattered that you take it so seriously as to have done all this research! Hindemith and other composers who felt as he did had no use for the serial technique. That does not mean that 12-tone composers were all wet. Perhaps you take these things too personally.

My dear fellow, there is nothing wrong with "my musicology" just because I cannot pinpoint a quotation. Far worse things have been said here about great composers in the past----without anyone feeling the need to throw insults or try to force someone into a corner.

So just relax, Karl.
Entirely relaxed, but thanks, Jack! This was no deep research; these are titles I have ready to hand. Which, really, any musician worth his salt can say of his library (well, not necessarily these titles, but you take the point).

I think part of your difficulty in pin-pointing the "quote" is, that (a) Shostakovich never said what you've written, but (b) what you wrote is somehow how you "read" . . . something or other. At best, Jack, that's poor musicology.

And indeed, since it was Shostakovich's misfortune to be made to say things in public which not only were not his opinion, but in some cases must have truly galled him (denouncing Stravinsky, for only one instance), honestly I think it a bit tawdry to take what is clearly a Jack opinion, and ventriloquize it with a Shostakovich doll.

Now, fact is, I don't have a transcript of everything the composer said or wrote. If he really said any such thing, I should find it of historical interest to know just what he said, and what the context was. If you've read the sources I've cited here, you understand why anyone who isn't Jack would be very sceptical that Shostakovich said what you claim he said. I consider that unless (a) you locate the quote, or (b) own that whatever Shostakovich actually said was something rather different than you have here represented, this is unfinished business of the sort which really makes it impossible for me to take seriously anything you have to offer as "musicological" remark.

Just saying.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I've kept out of this because the fact that I can't imagine Shostakovich saying something so Philistine doesn't mean someone can't show that he did so (remember what Dumas Malone said about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings--he was just too noble a guy for that). However, one of my college professors once attended a conference with Aaron Copland at which Copland did say that he couldn't imagine a good composition without a "pretty tune."

I would be happy not to have to undergo the revisionist thinking required if this--as I propose characteristic--difference between Shostakovich and Copland were not maintained by forthcoming evidence.
Not at all on the order of the Copland, let alone on the "whistle" comment, but here is a passage with some negative comment on dodecaphony:
Fay, pp.214-15 wrote:Another theme raised repeatedly during their American visit [22 Oct - 21 Nov 1959], according to an account attributed jointly to Shostakovich and Khrennikov, was the Soviet attitude toward dodecaphony, with the (preposterous, so they claimed) allegations that not only was it not performed in the Soviet Union but Soviet composers were officially forbidden to compose dodecaphonic music and, therefore, were denied artistic freedom. The opening of channels for cultural exchange had ushered in a new era of cultural competition. On his return from Italy and France the previous year, Shostakovich had reported that "the leading French masters are deeply troubled about the future of music in the West. They are troubled by the dissemination of false 'avant-garde' trends — like the notorious dodecaphony or 'concrete music' — among their youth. This still-born art gains no recognition from the broad public, it attests to the ideological impasse, the crisis of bourgeois culture." Such phrases, coupled with tributes to the adherents of genuinely "progressive" music responsive to the needs of the broad listening public, figured increasingly in Shostakovich's lexicon, as mouthpiece of official Soviet aesthetic policy.

In an interview given to a Polish journalist during the Warsaw Autumn Festival but published subsequently in Sovetskaya muzyka, Shostakovich preached at length of the perils of dodecaphony, which he felt had unreasonably monopolized the programs of the festival:
Dmitri Dmitriyevich wrote:I am firmly convinced that in music, as in every other human endeavor, it is always necessary to seek new paths. But it seems to me that those who see these new paths in dodecaphony are seriously deluding themselves. The narrow dogmatism of this artificially invented system rigidly fetters the creative imagination of composers and deprives them of individuality. It is no accident that in the entire legacy of Schoenberg's dodecaphonic system there is not a single work that has gained wide acceptance.... Dodecaphony not only has no future, it doesn't even have a present. It is just a "fad" that is already passing.
Soviet music, he asserted by contrast, was evaluated not by its degree of experimentation or by its deviation from tonality but by whether it was good, that is, whether it was rich in substance and artistically consummate.

This is not the place to debate the Soviet failure to acknowledge the aesthetic "inevitability" of the Second Viennese School and Serialism. In hindsight, the stance, though dogmatic, seems considerably less wrong-headed and regressive than it was thought to be in the West. At least in Shostakovich's case, it should not be assumed that he was ignorant of the musical styles he was condemning. Nor can it be taken for granted that the official line he was obliged to toe was completely alien to his real preferences and convictions. Shostakovich was an exceptionally sensitive and literate musician. In Warsaw, in America, and on his frequent foreign jaunts, he was provided with ample opportunity to meet composers, listen to their music, and assess the international picture. He stocked up on recordings whenever he traveled.

His son Maxim has recalled that scores sent by composers or musical organizations could always be found in their home and that Boulez's Le marteau sans maître, the late works of Stravinsky, and a couple of pieces by Xenakis were among the works he admired. In March 1959, as it happens, Shostakovich presented his old friend Shebalin with a score of Le marteau for his birthday. Denisov recorded in a diary entry for 1957 Shostakovich's private comments about his dislike of the music of Schoenberg and his feeling that Messiaen's Trois petites liturgies were rather saccharine. After having been singled out in one of Shostakovich's speeches as the "arch-representative of 'decadent capitalist culture,'" Karlheinz Stockhausen subsequently received a private letter from the composer professing admiration for his music and encouraging him to visit. Still, if his tastes in music were more catholic than his sometimes strident rhetoric might suggest, Shostakovich nonetheless favored more conservative contemporary idioms, the music of Benjamin Britten, for instance. His distaste for dry, inepressive music and his opposition to composition by rational system of mathematical formula were genuine. Direct engagement with his listener, the need to connect through his music with ordinary people remained a central concern for Shostakovich.
I emphasize the above, not that it is at all the most important thing in (what, as a composer myself, I find) an unsurprisingly balanced assessment, but simply lest it be overlooked in the present discussion.

Cheers,
~Karl

EDIT :: fixed a couple of typos which were a severe eyesore
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:35 am

Also, I am struck by the microcosmic illustration above in the case of Stockhausen: there are referenced both the public, "official" denunciation, and the private expression of musical esteem. (I am doubtful that much of Stockhausen's music even at that early time was particularly "whistleable.")

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:05 pm

If I had been a bit better organized, I could have arranged those three citations in chronological order.

As it is, though, I chanced upon comment spanning his career; and in particular a neat distribution over three decades later on. Thus, we have this warm endorsement of Berg (whose Wozzeck was obviously a strong example to Shostakovich for Ledi Makbet) in late 1935:

Fay, p.88 wrote:In his high-profile role as model young Soviet composer during the year leading up to the condemnation of Lady Macbeth, Shostakovich had been candid about the influence the music of such contemporary composers as Berg, Schoenberg, Krenek, Hindemith, and especially Stravinsky had exerted on his development, especially in the three years after completing Conservatory. Just a few weeks before “Muddle Instead of Music” appeared, Shostakovich commiserated with Sollertinsky on the recent death of Alban Berg: “His passing grieved me no less than you. The deceased was a genius. I am convinced that sooner or later he will be appreciated.”

We have a pitiful picture of Shostakovich as Stalin's "cultural ambassador" in New York in 1949, the year after the Zhdanovshchina, the denunciations at the Congress of Soviet Composers in April 1948; Shostakovich was a newly shaken man, having been dismissed from his professorships at both the Moscow and Leningrad Conservatories as of 1 Sept 1948:

N. Nabokov wrote:When, after several trying and ludicrous speeches, his turn came to speak he began to read his prepared talk in a nervous and shaky voice. After a few sentences he broke off, and the speech was continued in English by a suave baritone. In all the equivocation of that conference, Shostakovich's speech was the least direct. Written in the style of the Agitprop speeches, it was quite obviously prepared by the 'party organs' in charge of the Waldorf-Astoria conference, on the Soviet side of the picture. In it these 'organs', through their mouthpiece Shostakovich, condemned most Western music as decadent and bourgeois, painted the glories of the rising Soviet music culture, attacked the demon Stravinsky as the corrupter of Western art (with a dig at Prokofiev) and urged upon the 'progressive Americans' of the conference the necessity of fighting against the reactionaries and warmongers of America and . . . and admitted that the 'mouthpiece' (Mr Shostakovich) had itself often erred and sinned against the decrees of the Party.

I sat in my seat petrified by this spectacle of human misery and degradation. It was crystal clear to me that what I had suspected from the day that I heard that Shostakovich was going to be among the delegates representing the Soviet government was true: this speech of his, this whole peace-making mission was part of a punishment, part of a ritual redemption he had to go through before he could be pardoned again. He was to tell, in person, to all the dupes in the Waldorf conference and to the whole decadent bourgeois world that loved him so much that he, Shostakovich, the famous Russian composer, is not a free man, but an obedient tool of his government. He told in effect that every time the Party found flaws in his art, the Party was right, and every time the Party put him on ice, he was grateful to the Party, because it helped him to recognize the flaws and mistakes.

After his speech I felt I had to ask him publicly a few questions. I had to do it, not in order to embarrass a wretched human being who had just given me the most flagrant example of what it is to be a composer in the Soviet Union, but because of the several thousand people that sat in the hall, because of those that perhaps still could not or did not wish to understand the sinister game that was being played before their eyes. I asked him simple factual questions concerning modern music, questions that should be of interest to all musicians. I asked him whether he, personally, the composer Shostakovich, not the delegate of Stalin's government, subscribed to the wholesale condemnation of Western music as it had been expounded daily by the Soviet press and as it appeared in the official pronouncements of the Soviet Government. I asked him whether he, personally, agreed with the condemnation of the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Hindemith. To these questions he acquiesced: 'Yes," he said, 'I completely subscribe to the views as expressed by . . . etc. . . .' When he finished answering my questions the dupes in the audience gave him a new and prolonged ovation.

We have a snapshot during the much more composed period after Stalin's death, from 1959 and the early 60s:

Fay, pp.214-15 wrote:Another theme raised repeatedly during their American visit [22 Oct - 21 Nov 1959], according to an account attributed jointly to Shostakovich and Khrennikov, was the Soviet attitude toward dodecaphony, with the (preposterous, so they claimed) allegations that not only was it not performed in the Soviet Union but Soviet composers were officially forbidden to compose dodecaphonic music and, therefore, were denied artistic freedom. The opening of channels for cultural exchange had ushered in a new era of cultural competition. On his return from Italy and France the previous year, Shostakovich had reported that "the leading French masters are deeply troubled about the future of music in the West. They are troubled by the dissemination of false 'avant-garde' trends — like the notorious dodecaphony or 'concrete music' — among their youth. This still-born art gains no recognition from the broad public, it attests to the ideological impasse, the crisis of bourgeois culture." Such phrases, coupled with tributes to the adherents of genuinely "progressive" music responsive to the needs of the broad listening public, figured increasingly in Shostakovich's lexicon, as mouthpiece of official Soviet aesthetic policy.

In an interview given to a Polish journalist during the Warsaw Autumn Festival but published subsequently in Sovetskaya muzyka, Shostakovich preached at length of the perils of dodecaphony, which he felt had unreasonably monopolized the programs of the festival:

Dmitri Dmitriyevich wrote:I am firmly convinced that in music, as in every other human endeavor, it is always necessary to seek new paths. But it seems to me that those who see these new paths in dodecaphony are seriously deluding themselves. The narrow dogmatism of this artificially invented system rigidly fetters the creative imagination of composers and deprives them of individuality. It is no accident that in the entire legacy of Schoenberg's dodecaphonic system there is not a single work that has gained wide acceptance.... Dodecaphony not only has no future, it doesn't even have a present. It is just a "fad" that is already passing.

Soviet music, he asserted by contrast, was evaluated not by its degree of experimentation or by its deviation from tonality but by whether it was good, that is, whether it was rich in substance and artistically consummate.

This is not the place to debate the Soviet failure to acknowledge the aesthetic "inevitability" of the Second Viennese School and Serialism. In hindsight, the stance, though dogmatic, seems considerably less wrong-headed and regressive than it was thought to be in the West. At least in Shostakovich's case, it should not be assumed that he was ignorant of the musical styles he was condemning. Nor can it be taken for granted that the official line he was obliged to toe was completely alien to his real preferences and convictions. Shostakovich was an exceptionally sensitive and literate musician. In Warsaw, in America, and on his frequent foreign jaunts, he was provided with ample opportunity to meet composers, listen to their music, and assess the international picture. He stocked up on recordings whenever he traveled.

His son Maxim has recalled that scores sent by composers or musical organizations could always be found in their home and that Boulez's Le marteau sans maître, the late works of Stravinsky, and a couple of pieces by Xenakis were among the works he admired. In March 1959, as it happens, Shostakovich presented his old friend Shebalin with a score of Le marteau for his birthday. Denisov recorded in a diary entry for 1957 Shostakovich's private comments about his dislike of the music of Schoenberg and his feeling that Messiaen's Trois petites liturgies were rather saccharine. After having been singled out in one of Shostakovich's speeches as the "arch-representative of 'decadent capitalist culture,'" Karlheinz Stockhausen subsequently received a private letter from the composer professing admiration for his music and encouraging him to visit. Still, if his tastes in music were more catholic than his sometimes strident rhetoric might suggest, Shostakovich nonetheless favored more conservative contemporary idioms, the music of Benjamin Britten, for instance. His distaste for dry, inepressive music and his opposition to composition by rational system of mathematical formula were genuine. Direct engagement with his listener, the need to connect through his music with ordinary people remained a central concern for Shostakovich.

And from 1968-ish, when things had been calm enough, for long enough (and the composer was old enough) that you can almost hear Shostakovich breathing more freely:

Laurel Fay wrote:Critics remarked on the novelty in form, language, and technical means in the new quartet [the Twelfth], on the composer's unique ability to remain himself while exploring new horizons. There was, indeed, a great deal here that was new and unexpected for Shostakovich's music, not least of which was the considerable dependence on twelve-tone rows for its thematic material, within a broadly tonal context. This was not the cutting edge in Soviet music. Though revered as its elder statesman, a living legend, by now Shostakovich was no longer seen as a pioneer. From the late 1950s through the years of official bluster by the leadership of the Union of Composers—including Shostakovich himself—proclaiming the dangers of dodecaphony and alien avant-garde styles, genuine interest among Soviet musicians in the contemporary trends filtering in from the West had increased steadily, especially among young composers and performers. So had the volume of homegrown "experimental" scores. Shostakovich was not oblivious to these developments. Composer Nilolai Karetnikov even credited him with lending his support and authority to overcome the resistance of the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, one of the most conservative bastions of musical tradition, to the staging of Karetnikov's twelve-tone ballet score, Vanina Vanini in 1962.

Shostakovich's adaptation of aspects of twelve-tone writing was not an aesthetic volte-face. Isolated examples of twelve-tone rows had already appeared in Seven Verses of A. Blok and in the Second Violin Concerto. His propensity for chromatic melody writing was longstanding. Queried by Tsyganov about the serial elements in his Twelfth Quartet, the composer is said to have commented: "They can also be found in Mozart." In an interview concerning young composers that appeared just before the Twelfth Quartet received its initial screening, Shostakovich's comments highlighted the consistency of his present practice with his lifelong principles:

Dmitri Dmitriyevich wrote:As far as the use of strictly technical devices from such musical "systems" as dodecaphony or aleatory is concerned ... everything in good measure. If, let's say, a composer sets himself the obligatory task of writing dodecaphonic music, then he artificially limits his his possibilities, his ideas. The use of elements from these complex systems is fully justified if it is dictated by the concept of the composition.... You know, to a certain extent I think the formula "the end justifies the means" is valid in music. All means? All of them, if they contribute to the end objective.
As I said earlier, the picture is richer, better nuanced, and more artistically acute than any matter of Shostakovich snapping his fingers in disdain at music that you don't leave the hall a-whistling.

And, in all events, it is more instructive, and of incomparably greater interest, to reflect on what the composer said, and where . . . than to paraphrase some comment one has cherry-picked because it supports one's own prejudices.

Cheers,
~Karl[/color]
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

StephenSutton
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun May 16, 2010 5:49 pm

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by StephenSutton » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:52 pm

quite agree, it will be a melting pot of all styles and more blurred lines between 'contemporary classical' and other genres; we are now working on a number of discs of very new music (from 1930 up to 'still being written' in totally or mainly tonal form, completely free of both classical constraint and the self imposed and arrogant ' tunes are obsolete' strictures of modernism. The question is whether in todays culture any good music (of any kind) has the access to markets and audiences to give it any chance of surviving. From the overwhelming emphasis given on here to 'old' music, and mainstream at that, I fear todays composers are fighting a losing battle.
Stephen Sutton
Divine Art Recordings Group

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9801
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:59 pm

StephenSutton wrote:quite agree, it will be a melting pot of all styles and more blurred lines between 'contemporary classical' and other genres; we are now working on a number of discs of very new music (from 1930 up to 'still being written' in totally or mainly tonal form, completely free of both classical constraint and the self imposed and arrogant ' tunes are obsolete' strictures of modernism. The question is whether in todays culture any good music (of any kind) has the access to markets and audiences to give it any chance of surviving. From the overwhelming emphasis given on here to 'old' music, and mainstream at that, I fear todays composers are fighting a losing battle.
It's tough, when so much of the literature (which, face it, is great stuff—well, a lot of it is great . . . sure, more and more workaday stuff from dusty epochs is getting better distribution, because everyone loves stuff you can whistle) takes up so much of the oxygen in the room.

But, one composes his music because he feels he must.

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

val
Posts: 1039
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 5:46 am
Location: Lisbon

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by val » Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:28 am

I think that composers such as Stravinsky, Schönberg, Bartok, Alban Berg, Webern, Prokofiev, Ravel, Enescu, Britten, Shostakovitch, are already "traditional" to a great number of music lovers.

And I am sure that masterpieces such as Dutilleux String Quartet, Boulez "Pli selon Pli", Ligeti's Requiem and some of his choral works like Lux Aeterna, Stockhausen "Gruppen" or Nono's "Canto Sospeso", just to mention some examples, will be in a few years also classics and part of the traditional repertory.

some guy
Modern Music Specialist
Posts: 1625
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:00 am
Location: portland, or
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by some guy » Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:56 pm

StephenSutton wrote:...the self imposed and arrogant ' tunes are obsolete' strictures of modernism
Arrogant (and specious) comments like this are really aggravating. While they pretend to be historical descriptions of real events and trends, they are nothing more than untutored expressions of disdain.

From at least Beethoven's time, composers have been accused of purposely writing non-melodic "music." One of those, Tchaikovsky, had a non-tune of his end up as a Hollywood love song.

From at least Beethoven's time, composers have tried to expand their vocabulary, doing new things with melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Most things any composer does are "self imposed." That's one of the commonest and most ordinary ways to get the creative juices flowing with maximum energy and force. (A simple illustration of this is constricting a hose to make the water come out with greater force.)

Most things any composer does can be seen as arrogant. Indeed, the easiest way to criticize anyone for anything without actually saying anything descriptive or accurate is the accuse them of arrogance.

In regards to melody in the twentieth century, the stretching of tonality and the subsequent explorations of pantonality, dodecaphony, serialism, and other explorations that had nothing to do with "tonality" per se, such as indeterminacy and electroacoustics, all made things without regard to any of the previous notions of melody--notions that had been changing, themselves, all along--and yet, there's an anecdote in which Christian Wolff has just played one of his piano pieces years after it was written. This was a piece in which the notes are separated by long silences--an attempt to make something in which each note can be heard in isolation, not as a part of a line. But after years of playing it, Wolff remarked to Cage that he could now hear "the tune."

His conclusion? "Everything we do turns into melody."

Whether that's actually true or not (that everything turns into melody), it is useful, I think, to hear an actual composer, with actual "self imposed" strictures, telling another actual composer that actual melody comes through regardless, hein?
"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

Sator
Posts: 270
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:40 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by Sator » Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:54 pm

For a start what is "traditional classical music"? Is Josquin, Monteverdi or Obrecht "traditional classical music"? Palestrina has always been considered as belonging amongst the old masters but mostly in very academic circles only. What is considered "classical" has changed greatly over time and this evolution of what we consider to be great Art Music will certainly continue into the future.

As for the use of how singable music is as a yardstick for quality - how singable is Beethoven's Grosse Fuge or Bach's Art of Fugue? Certainly less so than Schoenberg's Violin concerto or much of Berg's Lulu. I sing much more Boulez in the shower than Hindemith. If singability was the chief criterion for judging the quality of music you would have to say that Handel was a vastly superior composer to Bach.

Wow - Hindemith is being praised for his singability :lol: :lol: :lol:

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2414
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Traditional Classical vs. Contemporary 20th/21st Century

Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:14 am

I don't have any trouble humming the themes of most of the Hindemith pieces I can think of. The theme of the finale of the Kammermusik no. 4 has the same 1-5-1 motive as that French tune in Bizet's L'Arlesienne. I'm sure I can hum large stretches of the Clarinet Sonata. And if you ever get a chance to hear the pieces of Carl Maria von Weber that Hindemith metamorphosed, it's pretty clear that he metamorphosed them for the better. Much better. Likewise with the Beethoven Geschwindmarsch that Hindemith transforms in the Sinfonia Serena.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 25 guests