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Thread: Contemporary "art" music

  1. #166
    Senior Member oogabooha's Avatar
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    I think people take this stuff too seriously sometimes. No, I don't think that earlier works are really relevant in the 21st century. However, it doesn't mean I don't gain enjoyment from them, as I can either view them with a historical viewpoint (an "academic" setting, or looking at form for my own compositional gain) or I can appropriate them to be relevant to my life in the 21st century (I listen to Van Cliburn's Tchaik 1 Pno Concerto at various important moments in my life, and all of the sudden that music becomes something that is relevant to my life). However, it won't have the same relevance of describing the moments of now.
    Last edited by oogabooha; Mar-24-2014 at 19:57.

  2. #167
    Senior Member rrudolph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    Why would you deny serialism and modernism were the main thing, to the exclusion of other things, in the academia in the 1960s and around the decades surrounding it?
    Pulitzer Prizes in Music 1960-1969

    1960-Carter: String Quartet #2 (OK, we'll call it "modernist" if you insist, although I'm growing to dislike that word intensely-but NOT serialist. Carter taught at St. John’s College, the Peabody Conservatory, Yale University, Cornell University, and The Juilliard School, among others).
    1961-Piston-Symphony #7 (this guy wrote a major texbook on tonal harmony, taught at Harvard for 34 years and smoked a pipe. I bet he even wore tweed jackets with patches on the elbows. Can't get much more academic than that. Not serialist, modern but conservatively so)
    1962-Ward-The Crucible (Very "accessible" to the non-specialist listener. Ward taught at Julliard, Columbia University, North Carolina School of the Arts and Duke University. Apparently academia didn't suppress him very much)
    1963-Barber-Piano Concerto #1 ("modernist"? I don't think so)
    1964-65-No award
    1966-Bassett-Variations for Orchestra (Studied with Honegger and Nadia Boulanger, Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan, not serialist or radical)
    1967-Kirchner-Quartet #3 (OK, pretty "modernist". Studied with Schoenberg, taught at Harvard for many years)
    1968-Crumb-Echoes of Time and the River (although Crumb's music can be pretty, shall we say, "esoteric", his language is essentially tonally based and has absolutely nothing to do with what might be called "academic serialism", if there really is such a thing. Taught at University of Pennsylvania along with Richard Wernick and George Rochberg for many years)
    1969-Husa-String Quartet #3-(Husa is anything but a radical "modernist". Longtime professor at Cornell University)

    I'm no big fan of the Pulitzer (for a variety of reasons), but it is a sort of major conventional form of recognition, and the fact that more that half of the compositions that received that recognition were NOT serial/radical sounding and were written by guys who were part of the academic scene says to me that academia did not suppress nonradical tonally based music.

    Lest I be accused of cherry-picking outliers to prove my point, here are some other noteworthy works from around the same time period:
    Bernstein-West Side Story, Candide (1957), Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1961)
    Stravinsky-Agon (1957), Threni (1958), Requiem Canticles (1966)-(OK, there is some serialism in there, but it's Stravinsky serialism, not really "academic").
    Britten: Prince of the Pagodas (1957), Noah's Fludde (1958), War Requiem (1962), Death in Venice (1973)

    Other non-radical composers such as Copland, Thomson, Diamond, Hanson, Schuman, Arnold and scores of others were actively composing and in many cases holding academic posts during this time period as well. They're far from obscure to classical music fans and were and are pretty well respected.
    Last edited by rrudolph; Mar-24-2014 at 20:38.

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  4. #168
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    That's a valid argument. I guess I've been paying too much attention to what has been written on internet forums by some more conservative posters.

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  6. #169
    Senior Member rrudolph's Avatar
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    Thank you for hearing (reading) me out.
    I learned some things compiling that list and researching the academic credentials of those composers...I'll be following up by checking out the music of a couple of them that I'm not very familiar with. This thread put me on that path, so thanks for facilitating my learning process (which is why I come here in the first place)!!!

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  8. #170
    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    In all honesty... sometimes I wonder....
    There are times, when one has little or no knowledge and not much more experience, no repeated experience enough at least to have some basis with which to "evaluate" what one is looking into / listening to / reading / watching...

    then, rather than making some rationalized construct where naiveté and lack of experience are valued as somehow heightening the powers of critical thinking and giving deeper aesthetic insight, that this construct has some superb unique value…

    and of course, when it becomes pretty plain that is not working so well…

    then, perhaps wonder and wonderment and a mind less cluttered and busy with “how to evaluate” something upon one’s very first exposure to it are the more preferred and valuable states in which to find oneself.

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  10. #171
    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrudolph View Post
    Pulitzer Prizes in Music 1960-1969

    1960-Carter: String Quartet #2 (OK, we'll call it "modernist" if you insist, although I'm growing to dislike that word intensely-but NOT serialist. Carter taught at St. John’s College, the Peabody Conservatory, Yale University, Cornell University, and The Juilliard School, among others).
    1961-Piston-Symphony #7 (this guy wrote a major texbook on tonal harmony, taught at Harvard for 34 years and smoked a pipe. I bet he even wore tweed jackets with patches on the elbows. Can't get much more academic than that. Not serialist, modern but conservatively so)
    1962-Ward-The Crucible (Very "accessible" to the non-specialist listener. Ward taught at Julliard, Columbia University, North Carolina School of the Arts and Duke University. Apparently academia didn't suppress him very much)
    1963-Barber-Piano Concerto #1 ("modernist"? I don't think so)
    1964-65-No award
    1966-Bassett-Variations for Orchestra (Studied with Honegger and Nadia Boulanger, Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan, not serialist or radical)
    1967-Kirchner-Quartet #3 (OK, pretty "modernist". Studied with Schoenberg, taught at Harvard for many years)
    1968-Crumb-Echoes of Time and the River (although Crumb's music can be pretty, shall we say, "esoteric", his language is essentially tonally based and has absolutely nothing to do with what might be called "academic serialism", if there really is such a thing. Taught at University of Pennsylvania along with Richard Wernick and George Rochberg for many years)
    1969-Husa-String Quartet #3-(Husa is anything but a radical "modernist". Longtime professor at Cornell University)

    I'm no big fan of the Pulitzer (for a variety of reasons), but it is a sort of major conventional form of recognition, and the fact that more that half of the compositions that received that recognition were NOT serial/radical sounding and were written by guys who were part of the academic scene says to me that academia did not suppress nonradical tonally based music.

    Lest I be accused of cherry-picking outliers to prove my point, here are some other noteworthy works from around the same time period:
    Bernstein-West Side Story, Candide (1957), Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1961)
    Stravinsky-Agon (1957), Threni (1958), Requiem Canticles (1966)-(OK, there is some serialism in there, but it's Stravinsky serialism, not really "academic").
    Britten: Prince of the Pagodas (1957), Noah's Fludde (1958), War Requiem (1962), Death in Venice (1973)

    Other non-radical composers such as Copland, Thomson, Diamond, Hanson, Schuman, Arnold and scores of others were actively composing and in many cases holding academic posts during this time period as well. They're far from obscure to classical music fans and were and are pretty well respected.
    This is a lovely post and a great example of solid argument. It refutes the "serialism" and "institution" arguments perfectly, and without projecting any haughtiness.

    However, we should also admit that the partisans of contemporary music reject many of the works here as too traditional. If Chordalrock starts listening only to "contemporary" works like West Side Story and Candide, Britten's War Requiem, Shostakovich's Viola Sonata, he's going to get no less scorn than hitherto. That is a little bit of what is implicit in the "I'm no big fan of the Pulitzer" statement.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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  12. #172
    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    This is a lovely post and a great example of solid argument. It refutes the "serialism" and "institution" arguments perfectly, and without projecting any haughtiness.
    I agree it's a lovely post--though it won't wipe away skepticism. Most of the names in it are established and even old composers, the sort that get awards but aren't necessarily reflective of current trends in academia or anywhere else (except Stravinsky, God bless him, who always had his finger on the pulse of his cultural moment in addition to being a genius). It doesn't say much about who's getting into music programs and coveted appointments in the 1960s (though the final paragraph gestures towards that issue). There's also the old adage: all politics is local politics. Different institutions have different ideologies: Harvard in the 60s wasn't the same as Columbia. It's probably possible to generalize about "academia," but one has to be careful.

    I'm just throwing out some caveats, even though I don't have a dog in this hunt--I love Barber and Boulez, after all.

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  14. #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    If Chordalrock starts listening only to "contemporary" works like West Side Story and Candide, Britten's War Requiem, Shostakovich's Viola Sonata, he's going to get no less scorn than hitherto.
    No.

    ....................................

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  16. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    No.

    ....................................
    Please, by your own example, prove me wrong!
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

  17. #175
    Senior Member dgee's Avatar
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    If an individual wants to listen to West Side Story, the War Requiem or Shostakovich 10, all power to them. That's some pretty good music

    If said individual wants to launch from a platform of relatively little knowledge an argument that is full of logical holes and factual error that the above music is objectively (i.e. NOT "in my opinion")better or more emotional/human/natural/clever/creative than, say, Salvatore Sciarrino or Morton Feldman or Hans Werner Henze (to name a diverse bunch), they might get some feedback. If they continue and continue in this vein it's likely to cause some dismay and disappointment.

    It's do unto others, innit. Or should people interested in contemporary music always be really polite and gentle with those that want to have a crack at the music they enjoy? I don't think contemporary music is that desperate for attention, to be honest

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  19. #176
    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Question Different Worlds

    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post

    In all honesty, reading messages like yours, sometimes I wonder if I've accidentally entered some sort of alternative universe.
    In a sense you are correct.

    I have discovered that there is a great barrier between performing musicians and non-musicians. One of the members jokingly refers to a friend who is a professional French horn player. The horn player tends to judge a piece on whether or not horn part is interesting. I am an amateur bassoonist who has over fifty year experience performing in various community orchestras and bands. As a result of my experiences my impressions of classical music is going to be radically different from those of a non-musician. Because of my experiences of actually performing contemporary music my observations may be gibberish to a non-musician.

    For example I do not understand what make Bach's counterpoint more facile than Hindemith's. I have just come from a band rehearsal where we have been practicing Hindemith's Symphony in Bb for Band. This work has some of the most intense counterpoint I have ever performed. To a non-performer Hindemith's counterpoint may be clumsy.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Mar-25-2014 at 04:38. Reason: grammar
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  21. #177
    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    I wrote this and never posted it but now I reread it and decided to post it:

    Really, I know I'm not a starving composer trying to get more money or attention, but I think it's fine. We're exaggerating the suffering of contemporary music. Maybe not all of it meets "our" standards, but labels like Kairos and Tzadik exist, and DG has the 20/21 series, and Naxos does a lot of contemporary music, and so does ECM, and Nonesuch, and Hyperion etc. And most of those things get performed before they get recorded. Again I do realize that much of that music is ideologically impure - Whitacre springs to mind, or Tavener, or in other directions Lloyd Webber, Jenkins, all that world fusion stuff being explored by people like Yo-Yo Ma, and of course video game music and soundtracks, and this kind of list could go on and on - but it is new music. Anyway, no matter how much that kind of stuff disgusts the more elite ("discerning" etc.) listeners critics, at least they can take solace in the fact that such music isn't the only music getting made. At least some of the stuff that gets made does meet our considered approval, however reluctantly we grant it, and manages not to become too compromisingly popular. (I'm only half-teasing. Maybe two-thirds teasing. But I'm at least one-thirds serious. Maybe even half serious, with an effort.)

    Truthfully, things have probably never been much easier for new music. It's easy to point out that until about Mendelssohn's time people wanted to hear new music rather than old music. Even though that is true, it's also true that the absolute number of composers able to find an audience is higher today than it was then, just as there are hundreds of times more orchestras than there were then. Not to mention universities or various music festivals.

    (Granted many of those institutions have the misfortune of being incorrigibly bourgeois, or even worse, but perhaps the plutocrats are replacing the old aristocrats, so there's even some really good reason to hope we can get back to the way it was before 1848. Naturally, our plutocrats need to be educated in the use of elite culture to legitimize their rule, but that's what we're here for. Until they take our advice, of course, they remain merely really rich bourgeois. But as they get a bit more comfortable with their inherited stations, the prestige of the old aristocratic activities will increasingly appeal to them, and they will begin to consult us again.) (I'm half-teasing. Maybe two-thirds teasing, at the most.)

    It's also true that there's more old music than there used to be; if we're talking about relative importance (that old zero-sum game) then things really might be as bad as they've ever been for new composers, what with people not listening exclusively to them in a time when we're also rediscovering so much Baroque, Renaissance, and medieval music. And of course all those orchestras and music venues in all those tiny cities (like San Antonio and Nashville) have to try to balance all these things out financially.

    But in the end, it's still true that at the moment there are hundreds, probably even thousands of composers making a decent living around the world at the moment. Granted, just as composers had to do in the old days, these jomomos have to give some lessons (sadly, to proletarian students rather than to glorious aristocrats, but for now money has no stink). Despite these humiliations, their music is getting made, some of it is getting to be a bit more famous, and some of it is even recorded, and just occasionally some of it even achieves our approval. (I'm not kidding.)
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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  23. #178
    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    Maybe it's time to run through this again.

    Maybe we should just never talk to each other again.

    Contemporary "art" music, modern classical, avant garde, however you want to refer to the various musics of the past hundred years, are all fine. That there seems to be an endless string of posters who report contemporary music as being incomprehensible, crap, difficult, worthless is beside the point. The music is fine.

    Do I mean that it is just as good as Beethoven or Bach? No, I do not. "Just as good as" is a meaningless string of words. It is fine, meaning it is worth listening to. It repays repeated listening as well. It is enough.

    When I was about nine, I discovered classical music. It was love at first hearing. And I still love it.

    When I was 20, I discovered twentieth century music. It was love at first hearing. And I still love it, even though the first piece was Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, and I'm now listening to Emmanuelle Gibello.

    There are tons and tons of individual pieces from the 15th to the 20th century that I do not like. That has, however, never led me to conclude that something is wrong with classical music generally. There isn't.

    There are tons and tons of individual pieces from the past hundred years or so that I do not like. That has, however, never led me to conclude that something is wrong with modern or contemporary music generally. There isn't.

    I have to accept that there are people who reject it, who do not like it, who take every opportunity to attack it. That's a great pity, but it doesn't change the rock solid fact that there's nothing really wrong with "art" music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

    Start by assuming that there's nothing wrong with it. See where that leads you.
    Cool beans, reading this has inspired us to celebrate your spirit via our electroacoustic thread. No noise is some noise is all noise.
    "if a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme 'yacht', 'apricot', and 'gavotte'. Is that some kind of joke?"
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    --Anonymous

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  24. #179
    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    This was a good thread to bump.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

  25. #180
    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    This was a good thread to bump.
    No problem... I compliment your compliment.

    Feldman's connection to abstract expressionism has inspired me to look into this further.
    "if a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme 'yacht', 'apricot', and 'gavotte'. Is that some kind of joke?"
    --Robert Christgau
    "there's a fine line between having an open mind and having your whole brain fall out"
    --Anonymous

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