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Thread: Musical nationalism?

  1. #1
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    Question Musical nationalism?

    hello,
    I've noticed an interesting phenomena: that taste can depend on nationality. I can't decide whether this is a good or bad thing.
    On the negative side is this: it limits one. If one hears one's own countries music exclusively, you loose something. Many countries contributed ( though the big four, Italy, France and Germany-Austria and Russia seem to have the largest share ), to the devopment of music. Often you see people from different countries only hearing their own composers, and you think; do they know what they're missing?
    On the positive side, it is interesting to indentify with composers who speak your own language ( Nothing will convince me to like english classical song however ). By the way they write, you can almost hear the sounds of the language, as though, though you can't hear the words, you can understand what the instruments are saying easier.
    From my own experience, The english musical tradition is strong in Canada. Canada is an essentially british culture with strong american influences. It essentially french in quebec, but quebec is very different from the rest of Canada. I know my french Canadian composition teacher has an entirely different musical tradition from mine; he speaks of Debussy as though he was the best composer in history! Canada has no national composer. I hate to be honest but; Canadian composers suck. They rate just behind Guatemala in popularity and quality stakes .
    So most of Canada identifies strongly with the british compositional tradition. The most popular composers are still the "three germans" Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, but among the greats listed is also Tallis, Byrd,Holst, Dowland, Walton and especially the all pervasive "english four" Purcell, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten. Those last four are shockingly common, so much so that at the local library there are around 50 Purcell, 30 Britten, 30 Vaughan Williams and 40 Elgar CDs, but only around 25 Beethoven, and then mainly his quartets not his symphonies. Also other british composers, Delius, Tippet, Bax, Brian all the way down to really obscure ones like Thomas Arne and Peter Warlock! The last two there are two CDs of each .
    This means I have a quite good idea of English music. English composers are quite common here. As are some early american composers, but no where near the volume of british composers.
    Does this occur in other countries? It certainly seems some americans have heard quite a bit of their own, but not enough of others, music ( in another forum I read post titled: "Glass or Copland, which is the greatest composer of all time" )
    I've heard this form of Nationalism takes a sinister turn in some countries. For instance, the Vienna Philharmonic won't hire anyone who doesn't look "Austrian" ( i.e. isn't white ). Ever since I read that I've made sure not to buy any CDs by them
    What are your thoughts?
    godzilla


    PS; a benefit of the local Elgar fanaticism is that I've heard fifteen different reccordings of the 'Cello concerto
    Last edited by godzillaviolist; Jan-29-2005 at 06:28.

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    An interesting topic!

    It is about the same here only in the other way round: You can find more German composers in libraries, but also lots of stuff of other cultural regions. That is only natural if one looks on the history of many libraries: They were often royal and governmantal libraries and this meant they were close related to the princeps and royals, that does mean they collected at first scores from their region and then more and more from others, but the main collection is German, English, French, Italian and Russian.

    I find it good in the way, that culture is divided, otherwise all world would get the same mix, that would not be any culture any more. But I think there must be the possibitly to get the stuff from almost all regions: to enjoy, to learn, to study and to play!

    Cheers,
    Daniel

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    Lightbulb

    It is always interesting to find new composers. I've found several by accident or chance: I was writing something on Faust so when I found Boito's opera Mefistofele, I thought I'd have a listen; it's not something I'd normally do. It then turned out to be one of my favorite operas. I found Havergal Brian's gothic symphony when it- literally -hit me over the head . I was looking for CD on the bottom shelf when it fell the top shelf fell and hit me. I had never seen it so I tried it.
    Also some peices I hated at first and liked later. Ravel's bolero I was so sick of that I didn't even hear it. But when I sat down again, I quite enjoyed it as a procession of instruments ( so many different kinds in that peice ). Stravinsky's rite of spring I hated the first two times I listened. I mean I hated it with a passion- I thought it was terrible. Then I was up late one night and I started thinking about a part in it and I got very nervous at being alone. The next day I thought; if a peice can frighten you simply by thinking about, surely it must have some power. After repeated listenings, I love it.
    Getting back to nationalism, I think that national characteristics in a peice are interesting. One the things that makes a lot of Baroque opera similar is the dominance of Italian style in the period. The Italians had such a strangle hold on music that no individual characteristics were developed. Everything was Italian or Italian style. But then countries seperated out a bit. Sometimes it is hard to tell a German from an Italian baroque peice; but by the romantic era it's quite apparent. No one would confuse a Paganini violin peice with a Beethoven violin peice! And poor Beethoven, he was overshadowed quite a bit by Paganini in his lifetime .
    Another mystey to me is the complete disappearance of good national composers in britain between around 1690 to 1890. It was handel or... a different peice by handel. Or the beggars opera.
    So I think some nationalism is good for growth...
    Also nationalism spawned interesting developments in easten europe. Hungary and the Czech areas produced signifigant musical bodies of music. We even got Greig out of the whole thing , though not much else from the rest of Norway. I used to think of him as the "Bon bon" Debussy called him, but I appreciate him more after hearing a sonata by him recently.
    However, I still wish something sometimes; that I could get an as in depth view of other countries music as I can my own. What might I be missing?
    godzilla

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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    Grieg...I love his mixture of northern and classical elements! He is not only the Norwegian composer, he studied in Europe and used the Europian musical-forms to integrate the northern flair. Listen to the Holberg-Suite, one of my absolutely favourites. It is meant old, baroque. But is it really baroque? The titles are the same as in a baroque suite,yes, but you could call the style "norwegian" baroque, I cannot express what I want to say. It is in a style which has not been existed before. It does take you away in a time out of our life ... in nature...

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    In the vogue for the "natural" that seems to have been well established by 1760, we find real folk and folk-like melody receiving much attention (still so). During the Enlightenment quarrels over Italian and French opera, we find for example many Scottish and Irish tunes appearing in print for the first time. These were regarded by philosophers as one proof of the genius of the uncorrupted, natural man. What could be more nationalistic than the traditional music of a people that is passed from one generation to the next.
    Last edited by CTCarter; Jan-31-2011 at 00:26. Reason: clarity

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    Well this topic has been covered in quite a few threads here before.

    Yes, people in the past in countries have been partly limited as to what is available to them due to a nationalistic view of culture.

    This has changed over the years and this has greatly accelerated with the growth of the internet and the greater flow of information that allows. Suddenly things really difficult to hear can be heard much easier and cheaper, eg youtube. I have been far more aware of music outside of European or American cultures during the past 10 years than I could ever have expected prior to that.

    Music itself is a largely universal art anyway, because of that it can cross boundaries without too much worry about linguistic differences. Even back before the Romantic Nationalists in the last 19th century there was plenty of cross border influence. The renassiance, baroque and classical styles all went beyond national bounaries. In the 20th century the modernist style was prevalent in many different countries.

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    I think it has more to due with a culture of familiarityh with certain composers in certain countries then with nationalism.

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    Senior Member Xaltotun's Avatar
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    I have a tradition in being hardest and most critical towards my own countrymen, whether it's about music, literature, cinema, food, beer, whatever. So, the Finns have to REALLY impress me if I should begin to like them. It's sort of a counter-reaction to the attitude that I see a lot here in my country. I want it to be so that if I like a thing that originates from my own country, I have exceptionally good reasons for liking it that I can articulate immediately.

    But, when the Finns DO impress me, then I'm immensely proud of them. So I guess that there's a small nationalist in me, under the counter-nationalist shell!
    Last edited by Xaltotun; Jan-31-2011 at 11:27. Reason: typo
    Wäre das Faktum wahr, – wäre der außerordentliche Fall wirklich eingetreten, daß die politische Gesetzgebung der Vernunft übertragen, der Mensch als Selbstzweck respektiert und behandelt, das Gesetz auf den Thron erhoben, und wahre Freiheit zur Grundlage des Staatsgebäudes gemacht worden, so wollte ich auf ewig von den Musen Abschied nehmen, und dem herrlichsten aller Kunstwerke, der Monarchie der Vernunft, alle meine Thätigkeit widmen.

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by godzillaviolist View Post
    So I think some nationalism is good for growth...
    Also nationalism spawned interesting developments in easten europe. Hungary and the Czech areas produced signifigant musical bodies of music. We even got Greig out of the whole thing , though not much else from the rest of Norway. I used to think of him as the "Bon bon" Debussy called him, but I appreciate him more after hearing a sonata by him recently.
    However, I still wish something sometimes; that I could get an as in depth view of other countries music as I can my own. What might I be missing?
    godzilla
    Yay for dredging up things from six years ago!
    As a Norwegian, I do have to object to this. Grieg was far from the only Norwegian composer at the time, not even the only good one. But people only know about Grieg because he was the most famous. Composers like Johan Svendsen, Johan Halvorsen and Ole Olsen, all very good composers who were popular at the end of the 19th century. The problem is that Grieg was more famous.

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    Well, the Dutch have contributed very little in terms of composers of standing, so that hardly affected my preferences (although I do have Sweelinck, Anrooij, both Andriessens, Zweers and Diepenbrock in my CD collection).

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    I think that it's kind of duty to not ignore our own goods and take care of them. If people from given nation won't take care of their heritage, noone will. It takes a lot of dedication to search out hidden gems and you can't play Indiana Jones in all possible areas, so most people focus at one. I find it quite obvious that before going elsewhere someone with ambitions of exploring should begin with his own backyard. That's why I'm always glad to see newcomers from other countires than USA. Anyway, I belive in cultural exchange and to take part in it you just have to put some effort in gaining knowledge about yours.

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    I agree generally with what Aramis says, its just a simple way to divide responsibility for the propagation of arts.

    I know quite a few dutch composers through concerts and various premieres and feel Im only just beginning to recognise a 'Dutch style' (which is of course fairly young). I hope to start educating you all pretty soon!

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    I agree generally with what Aramis says, its just a simple way to divide responsibility for the propagation of arts.

    I know quite a few dutch composers through concerts and various premieres and feel Im only just beginning to recognise a 'Dutch style' (which is of course fairly young). I hope to start educating you all pretty soon!
    But to know specifically whether it is a Dutch style or not you need to know music from other places that may well have influenced it too. Of course composers in the same place who know each other may well influence each other. But others may go on a more individual path, art can't be limited by boundaries.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Rock View Post
    Well, the Dutch have contributed very little in terms of composers of standing, so that hardly affected my preferences (although I do have Sweelinck, Anrooij, both Andriessens, Zweers and Diepenbrock in my CD collection).
    Historically thats true, but I think were starting to see a bloom in young dutch composers, and there seem to be a few 'distinctly dutch' threads running through all their music.

    Andriessen of course is the big daddy. Try composers such as Keuris, Jeths, de Raaff, Roukens, van der Aa, Vermeulen, de Vries.

    http://www.classical-composers.org/group/4

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    Quote Originally Posted by godzillaviolist View Post
    hello,
    I've noticed an interesting phenomena
    PhenomenON (singular). 'Phenomena' is plural.

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