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Thread: "Killing contemporary music"?

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Default "Killing contemporary music"?

    An article published today that may be a bit controversial. By composer Dan Visconti.

    "Today I want to talk about a notion that is killing contemporary music...an idea so ubiquitous that it has become difficult to escape: that the audience does not matter as much as 'the music,' and that considering the audience as an essential part of music composition is tantamount to pandering."

    http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/...nt-instrument/


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    Senior Member ArtMusic's Avatar
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    If the composer is writing music at his/her complete artistic freedom today without any regard for the audience, then he/she writes at his/her own risk - artistically as a composer and also the music itself. Some listeners will bound to enjoy the music (good for them), but it's more than likely that such music will only appeal to a small minority today and be less relevant as a whole. Reverse back in time, all the great composers to a large extent in their entire oeuvre wrote music for a target audience (sure, they also wrote music purely/largely for their own pursuit, e.g. Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge to maybe Beethoven's Große Fuge) but the audience was by and large never forgotten. Bach's church cantatas, Beethoven's symphonies, Rachmaninoff's piano concertos are great pieces because the composers didn't pander the audience.

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    Senior Member ArtMusic's Avatar
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    By the way, what type of music does Visconti write? I have never heard of him.

    Edit: did a search. Here is a SQ piece. I enjoyed it. Nice music!

    Last edited by ArtMusic; Jan-02-2014 at 23:16.

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    I thought it was an interesting article.

    I don't think about an audience when I write my music, audiences for everything just seem to come by themselves to enjoy or not enjoy the work in any given medium, and I respect that. I don't believe in the notion of writing down to an audience (with a particular audience in mind) because it is a condescending attitude to have. This goes for any form of entertainment really, Steven Moffat understood this when creating his show Press Gang, it's essentially a kids show that in every effort does no treat its audience like kids, it isn't written down to them. The best works of any art and any entertainment I find are the ones in which its creator(s) are [subconsciously] thinking, "I am not going to simplify complex issues to suit the deteriorating intellect and knowledge of people today."

    However, that said, there have been very successful and very good works of art, music etc. that are written especially to get a reaction from an audience, or to put it another way, to ensure audiences participate in the work's intentional presentation or performance in the way they have to in a performance of Cage's 4'33". These creations are stimulating for the brain in a more positive way than not because they encourage the audience to think and learn and maybe even notice things in different ways than they are used to. Again, I don't believe many of these works to be created in a condescending way for the average modern pop culture influenced person because they are designed to make people think and react in their own way, not in a way set forth by the creator and most certainly not purely to make an audience "like" it!

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArtMusic View Post
    ...(sure, they also wrote music purely/largely for their own pursuit, e.g. Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge to maybe Beethoven's Große Fuge)...
    Despite a couple of noble and heroic-sounding statements, LvB was *always* concerned with his music's reception. Re the Grosse Fuge: He did not attend the premier performance of the Op. 130 (for whatever reason) but waited in a coffeeshop nearby. After the concert ended, Lenz, I think it was, came by and reported the good news that the Alla danza tedesca and the Cavatina had been encored. Beethoven's response? "Cattle! Asses! Only the fugue should have been encored!"


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    Senior Member Stargazer's Avatar
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    I agree with this. You shouldn't write music purely for "an audience", but if you want other people to listen to it you have to keep them in mind. It's like giving a presentation: I wouldn't give a presentation in Spanish to a group of people who only speak English.

    As a non-classical example, I notice that a lot of artists write lyrics that make absolutely no sense to anyone but themselves. That's fine if you're the only person who will listen to it...otherwise make some accommodations so that other people can actually understand it. Here's one of my favorite examples, it's as good as pure jibberish to me:

    "The hawser rolls, the vessel’s whole and Christ, it’s thin
    Well Iʼd know that you’d offer
    Would reveal it, though it’s soft and flat
    Won’t repeat it, cull and coffer’s that
    For the soffit, hang this homeward"
    Last edited by Stargazer; Jan-02-2014 at 23:55.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Despite a couple of noble and heroic-sounding statements, LvB was *always* concerned with his music's reception. Re the Grosse Fuge: He did not attend the premier performance of the Op. 130 (for whatever reason) but waited in a coffeeshop nearby. After the concert ended, Lenz, I think it was, came by and reported the good news that the Alla danza tedesca and the Cavatina had been encored. Beethoven's response? "Cattle! Asses! Only the fugue should have been encored!"
    Okay, name one composer who was not at all concerned with the present or future reception of his works. And please...don't say Babbitt. His article indicates that he does as a matter of fact care about his reception, just from an audience of peers rather than a general audience.

    Anyway, I'm not disagreeing with the article. I'm wondering why the OP makes it out to seem like this is in any way controversial....

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Question Does not jive with my experiences.

    We have been through this dance before but the article does not jive with my experiences at performing new music. The vast majority of the real living composers that I have met are very concerned about communicating with the audience. I remember thirty years ago premiering a real avant-garde work (I can not remember the name of the composer). Even he was concerned with the idea of trying to connect with the audience.

    Even the author stated, "It’s by no means the dominant way of thinking in the contemporary music world, (my emphasis) but it is an idea so ubiquitous that it has become difficult to escape: that the audience does not matter as much as “the music,” and that considering the audience as an essential part of music composition is tantamount to pandering."

    Sure. There must be some truth of what the composer stated in the latter part of the statement. But I have attended and performed many premiers over the past decade. Only two were of what could be called difficult works. Still a large percentage of audience enjoyed them. It appears that the author is implying that if we program just one difficult work Western Classical Music is going to come to an end. He has provided no factual documentation to support his hypothesis.

    In spite of the protestations of many, there will always be an audience for difficult contemporary music. It is wrong to say that their likes and dislikes should be disregarded.

    Just like the 18th and 19th century, most contemporary music composed is mediocre. I seriously doubt that anyone here can guess what small percentagage of the works composed today will be remembered a century from now. I know I do not know the answer to that question and I am pro-contemporary music.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Jan-03-2014 at 00:27. Reason: clarification
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Okay, name one composer who was not at all concerned with the present or future reception of his works. ... Anyway, I'm not disagreeing with the article. I'm wondering why the OP makes it out to seem like this is in any way controversial....
    Well, the article says, "...an idea so ubiquitous that it has become difficult to escape." You seem to think that the idea doesn't exist at all. So at least *you* find the article controversial!


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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Well, the article says, "...an idea so ubiquitous that it has become difficult to escape." You seem to think that the idea doesn't exist at all. So at least *you* find the article controversial!
    The "idea so ubiquitous that it has become difficult to escape" is that "the audience does not matter as much as “the music,” and that considering the audience as an essential part of music composition is tantamount to pandering".

    This is not necessarily the same thing as caring or not caring about the reception of one's works. One can want to captivate a small audience, and write for them, and be relatively nonplussed when a subscription concert audience finds itself bewildered. In fact, one of the article's strengths (and I feel some guy would at least approve of this much) is that it doesn't base its arguments on stylistic distinctions, and acknowledges that different pieces are written for, at times, different audiences and different kinds of audiences.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I am reminded of Frank Zappa, noted for stating (paraphrased) "I write music for the people who like it. The people who don't like it don't have to listen to it. " To me this implies the music finds its own audience, however the audience is still considered to an extent.

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    I assume there are as many complex and changable motives for composing as there are composers. I've never understood the simple reduction that gets to either "for myself" or "for the audience".

    Also: there seem to have been a few from history who professed to be composing "for the glory of God". Which of the two options does that fit into?

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    Senior Member Jobis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    I am reminded of Frank Zappa, noted for stating (paraphrased) "I write music for the people who like it. The people who don't like it don't have to listen to it. " To me this implies the music finds its own audience, however the audience is still considered to an extent.
    This exactly.

    Good music will always find an audience, and of course you will get some pretentious idiots who think amplifying a puddle is some kind of high art form, but they don't make up the majority of contemporary composers.

    I blame that meddling old charlatan John Cage!

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    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    In spite of the protestations of many, there will always be an audience for difficult contemporary music. It is wrong to say that their likes and dislikes should be disregarded.
    Bingo!

    Actually, that probably helps fuel the protestations, the knowledge that there really is an audience, an active, engaged, committed audience. Which means, natch, that people will keep writing the stuff. Because there is an audience for it, and all the composers who write that kind of music are writing for that audience.

    The one fallacy that underlies all these pseudo-controversies is that one particular audience is the only audience. And that's just laughably not true.

    I hope that more and more people start amplifying puddles, too, just to get Jobis' goat!

    (By the way, who are these pretentious idiots? Do they have names? Yeah, you know Cage's name. But who are the pretentious idiots? Come on, don't be coy!)
    Last edited by some guy; Jan-03-2014 at 01:09.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Couldn't resist! "And so, I dare suggest that the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute, and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media, with its very real possibility of complete elimination of the public and social aspects of musical composition. By so doing, the separation between the domains would be defined beyond any possibility of confusion of categories, and the composer would be free to pursue a private life of professional achievement, as opposed to a public life of unprofessional compromise and exhibitionism." And pandering?

    In all fairness, I suspect the author would have liked his works to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. This is likely just the cry of the wounded bull academic.
    Last edited by KenOC; Jan-03-2014 at 01:28.


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