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Thread: An Interesting and Useful Treatise on Twentieth Century Music

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    It is true that the list of most recorded composers between, say 1700 and 1900 is very close to the "academic/historical canon" for those centuries. It is not true that this in itself implies that they are in the canon because they are the most popular and performed, and he fails to substantiate his reasons for believing this and working from it.
    Does he believe that? Again I have only read a small part, but from the quotes here he seems to be trying to establish how historians wrote their histories rather than say which composers he believes are actually best. These parts seem to be saying that historians have not been consistent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nereffid View Post
    Uh, well, I don't want to be sucked into this but let me just clarify.

    Pauls says


    Note that he says in his formula "composers". To believe that he's implying that the composer with the most recordings is the greatest, the composer with the second-most recordings is the second-greatest, and so on is an obvious misinterpretation.
    The issue isn't that Purcell has more recordings than Monterverdi, therefore Purcell is a greater composer. What we can get from the "formula" (and I do wish he hadn't used the simplistic "equals") is that both Purcell and Monteverdi have quite a lot of recordings, and as it happens they're both seen as great or significant composers. Whereas the composers that have very few recordings tend not to be the ones seen as great. Of course there will be outliers, but that doesn't mean a trend can't be identified.
    Also, some indulgence is needed as regards comparing a composer from one period with a composer from another period. Notice that he compares "a Gluck" with "a Mozart or a Beethoven". But again, this seems so obvious as to hardly need mentioning.
    I didn't mean to say that he meant it as an exact ranking, but yes, he is in fact using it in that way when he opines that the next table of 20th century composers shows a problem because the space allotted to popular composers such as Rachmaninoff and Elgar is smaller than that given to Schoenberg and Webern.

    The entire point of those paragraphs is to establish the idea that a double standard is being perpetrated by historians of the 20th century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    Does he believe that? Again I have only read a small part, but from the quotes here he seems to be trying to establish how historians wrote their histories rather than say which composers he believes are actually best. These parts seem to be saying that historians have not been consistent.
    Yes, and the way he attempts to prove this inconsistency depends on the unwarranted assumption that historians have used popularity as their measurement prior to the music of the 20th century. Otherwise, you just have coincidence, and that doesn't imply causation, as every college student knows.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Apr-29-2016 at 20:50.

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    Actually I do not have any idea what the dissertation and the OP are trying to prove.

    If the dissertation is trying to prove that Andrew Lloyd Webber (who happens to be one of the richest living composers) is more popular than Webern my response is, "So what?"
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    Actually I do not have any idea what the dissertation and the OP are trying to prove.

    If the dissertation is trying to prove that Andrew Lloyd Webber (who happens to be one of the richest living composers) is more popular than Webern my response is, "So what?"
    What Pauls is saying is that if you relied upon the consensus music history texts of much of the twentieth century, you probably would never have heard of Andrew Lloyd Webber, or would have been told to pay no attention to his music because it represented the last ember of a decayed, outworn, obsolete, exhausted kind of music that has been superseded by more evolved musics. I exaggerate for effect, but that is one of the walnut's two hemispheres. The other is that Andrew Lloyd Webber is rich, famous, and surrounded by a host of eager listeners and of composers of similar ilk who never read those textbooks. Maybe not earth-shaking news perhaps--one can always say "I knew that all along; really I did.", but I found it interesting reading.

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    I still am not sure what the OP is trying to prove.

    But I think we are a lot smarter that he thinks we are. It seems that most of us have an appreciation for the pros and cons of music history texts and we really do not need to read some obscure doctoral dissertation to learn about them.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    I think maybe there's some generational gap going on in the discussion here. I'm 24 and I've never grown up with the idea that only certain "ultra-modern" composers mattered in the history of 20th century music. In fact, I would say in my years growing up in the Classical Music world Schoenberg and Boulez and such are back to being underdogs...

    So when some of the older posters here talk about the modernist bogeyman, it just doesn't resonate with me or (probably) other people in my age group.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    The significance of popularity is not my point. I am saying that Pauls misuses it to support a conclusion that depends on evidence that requires the conclusion to be true.
    You lost me with that one. I reread your posts 35, 48 and 50 and I still don't see your point. How can the evidence, which is a fact, require anything, let alone a "conclusion to be true." A fact is just a fact, right? The number of CD's available by any given composer is not going to change based on a conclusion that Pauls has reached. You could write a book, include your own conclusions, and include a table of number of CDs available by composer, and that would still be a fact no matter your conclusion, right?

    But I did grasp that you have a problem with the book, and that certainly doesn't offend me in the slightest.
    Last edited by Truckload; Apr-29-2016 at 22:02.
    Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky - "I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    I'm not disagreeing with that. Obviously what's popular is popular.



    No, if there had been a significant amount of interest, musicians would probably have performed them more frequently. The performing repertoires of conductors and soloists are used by the author as a barometer of popularity. If Bernstein supported a composer like Pfitzner or Bantock, he would have gone out of his way to perform their music regardless of fashion, just as he performed works by composers like Schuman and Harris which have gone into neglect.
    And Mahler. Bernstein's support for Mahler really propelled him into the spotlight during my lifetime.
    Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky - "I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous."

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    I'm a bit confused here. I have not read the thesis, but I did look at the portion discussed in the past few posts. When he writes:



    isn't he saying that historians have used "most-played" = best. He also agrees with you that the reasoning is circular. He seems to be saying, "historians used this method for pre-1900s music, and the public came to believe this line of reasoning. Why do they not use the same method later?"

    I can't comment on whether historians used that reasoning for pre-1900s music but not for post-1900s music or whether he demonstrated that. It looks like he is trying to see what historical consistency would show.
    There was a very successful book "Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works" by Phil G. Goulding. It was a sort of layman's guide to classical music. I think it first came out in it's first edition in the 1980's or possibly before. The author talks about acquiring his collection on cassettes, CDs were not available yet. Anyway, Goulding did research based entirely on number of recordings and ranked them accordingly. It was a wildly popular book for a book on classical music. Not an academic text at all, but illustrative of the fact that the methodology has been around a long time.
    Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky - "I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous."

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    Quote Originally Posted by violadude View Post
    I think maybe there's some generational gap going on in the discussion here. I'm 24 and I've never grown up with the idea that only certain "ultra-modern" composers mattered in the history of 20th century music. In fact, I would say in my years growing up in the Classical Music world Schoenberg and Boulez and such are back to being underdogs...

    So when some of the older posters here talk about the modernist bogeyman, it just doesn't resonate with me or (probably) other people in my age group.
    The benefit of actually reading a work that others are talking about is that one absorbs details that don't get picked up and passed on by seat of the pants commentators. Pauls makes a point that there is an ongoing evolution in the content of music history textbooks, with increasing recognition of the persistance of the Romantic tradition. You may well be the beneficiary of this evolution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Truckload View Post
    You lost me with that one. I reread your posts 35, 48 and 50 and I still don't see your point. How can the evidence, which is a fact, require anything, let alone a "conclusion to be true." A fact is just a fact, right? The number of CD's available by any given composer is not going to change based on a conclusion that Pauls has reached. You could write a book, include your own conclusions, and include a table of number of CDs available by composer, and that would still be a fact no matter your conclusion, right?

    But I did grasp that you have a problem with the book, and that certainly doesn't offend me in the slightest.
    The facts cited are not in question. The correlation between the popular and critical repertoires prior to the 20th century is also not in question.

    The author's conclusion that the 20th century critical canon has been constructed on the basis of different criteria does not follow from the evidence or that correlation. There is a possibility, which I think is true, that popularity was not used as a criterion for any of these periods. Just because two things happen together doesn't mean that one caused the other.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Apr-29-2016 at 22:25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    I still am not sure what the OP is trying to prove.

    But I think we are a lot smarter that he thinks we are. It seems that most of us have an appreciation for the pros and cons of music history texts and we really do not need to read some obscure doctoral dissertation to learn about them.
    If you feel you know all you need to know about this subject, I fully support your decision to pass on this obscure doctoral dissertation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Truckload View Post
    There was a very successful book "Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works" by Phil G. Goulding. It was a sort of layman's guide to classical music. I think it first came out in it's first edition in the 1980's or possibly before. The author talks about acquiring his collection on cassettes, CDs were not available yet. Anyway, Goulding did research based entirely on number of recordings and ranked them accordingly. It was a wildly popular book for a book on classical music. Not an academic text at all, but illustrative of the fact that the methodology has been around a long time.
    When I first began to get serious about listening to classical music, I bought that book, and it guided me through my early years. I was simply stunned with how much beautiful music it listed. The top 5 (or 10) lists for each composer were perfect for me at that time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    Actually I do not have any idea what the dissertation and the OP are trying to prove.

    If the dissertation is trying to prove that Andrew Lloyd Webber (who happens to be one of the richest living composers) is more popular than Webern my response is, "So what?"
    I don't have any particular affection for ALW, but being rich and famous doesn't sound so bad.

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