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Thread: Current Trends in Contemporary Classical Music

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    Question Current Trends in Contemporary Classical Music

    This could be a subforum of 21st century, but lacking that space, this will work.

    This is a discussion of current musical trends. I'd love it if people in the know would chime in. Let us know of composers and works that fit in with these trends. Let us know of other trends. The 21st century is a strange creature in terms of the arts, in general, because there really is no "institution" to rebel against. Anything goes! Composers can add electric guitar to harpsichord and play Schnittke backwards while showing pictures of Nuns smoking marijuana...and that's just fine. Composers can compose in the style of Bach. They can compose using math and computers without using any acoustic instruments. They can employ chance, luck, strange philosophies. They can write tonal music. But in the face of all of this, a composer presumably tries to make something that matters and that is pleasing, at least to them.

    Even for proponents of contemporary classical music, there are going to be areas that aren't pleasing. That you just don't care about. It is a huge universe of music.

    Anyway, with that in mind, what are the current trends?

    A few I am familiar with and will discuss with upcoming posts:

    Spectralism

    Extreme Eclecticism

    What other trends are underway at the moment?

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    I too am interested in this topic. I tried to bring it up, but in a topic about postmodernism, and learned that was an unpopular term. There are other threads here about 21st century music, but we haven't really defined "trends" or "styles" with the right terminology. Is Postmodern Composed Music A Reference Term, Not A Distinct Musical Style?
    Maybe this thread is of interest...or this 21st Century Classical

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    That thread is great and I'm following it. But to some extent, I feel that if I propose this question there, it would get swallowed up or wouldn't get the focus I feel like it needs. It needs it's own thread.

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    Jan Swafford, the guy who literally wrote the book on Brahms, has a great article that was published a while back (2011?) on current trends:

    Here is what he says about Spectralism:


    What is spectralism? Um, wow, it's …

    OK, imagine this: A composer pores over computer images of spectra, the acoustic waveforms that give sounds their colors. For example, the sounds of each vowel, A E I O U, arise from the distinctive spectra of each. A sitar has a different spectrum than a banjo, which is how we tell one from the other. A computer can turn those spectra into a visual representation. Using computer analysis, the composer can then shape pieces around the unfolding of tone colors in a sort of, um, you know … scientific way or whatever. The two recognized godfathers of spectralism are both French: Tristan Murail, now teaching at Columbia, and Gérard Grisey, who died in 1998. Here's the beginning of Grisey's Partiels.

    All this, once again, is nothing entirely new. Spectralists trace their ancestry back to the intoxicating perfumes of Debussy's harmony, via the livid colors of Varèse through Stockhausen, a pioneer in electronic music who called himself a "tone-color composer." But until spectralists with their charts and computer models there was no real method of tone-color composition.

    Our composer poring over computer images is a bit the cliché of spectralists, but it happens. Thus spectralism has the frisson of the trendy and cool yet technical that so much appeals to university tenure committees. But the early spectralists like Murail and Grisey did not use computers much; they did it by ear and instinct. Boston composer Joshua Fineberg, who studied with Murail, says this music is in part a reaction against the avant-garde of the '60s and '70s, and its often private, inaudible arcana: "Pieces like (Stockhausen's) Stimmung, are fundamentally static, from a harmonic perspective. … For [Grisey] it was about reestablishing …, harmonic change that was … directly perceptible." (Here's an interview with Fineberg.)

    Which is to say that after Schoenberg and his fellow modernists exploded the old scales and harmonies and delved into more complex sounds, the ensuing music tended, whatever its virtues, to have a sense of drifting moment to moment without a discernable path. Spectralists want to use the kind of free harmony that composers (maybe even audiences) have gotten used to, but to imbue it with a sense of forward progress that it has rarely possessed before. Fineberg insists that the essence of spectralism is to find new ways way of achieving an old-fashioned virtue: music with an audible feeling of direction. Back to Mozart, say, but Mozart on another planet—as in say, Murail's Désintégrations.
    Last edited by 20centrfuge; May-31-2017 at 20:56.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Nice! I copied something from the "postmodernism poll". I still think the 20th century styles are also "trends" in 21st century. Add also polystylism and no composer is forgotten.

    [URL="Quote Originally Posted by Kjetil Heggelund View Post
    I voted "don't know enough to decide". I think it's interesting to define the different styles in modern music. Am I forgetting a style here?

    aleatoric
    atonality
    expressionism
    minimalism
    modernism
    neoclassisism
    postmodernism
    serialism
    12tone

    Maybe someone can fill me in on the key figures/composers in the different styles?
    I would say those are all Modernist styles, except of course for "postmodernism" itself, "atonality" (which encompasses a lot of modernist and postmodernist styles), and maybe "minimalism," sort of - that is, I think early minimalist works like the 1962-3 Theater of Eternal Music recordings, Pauline Oliveros' "Bye Bye Butterfly," Terry Riley's "In C" and "A Rainbow in Curved Air," Steve Reich's "Piano Phase," and Philip Glass' "Music with Changing Parts" should still be considered Modernist - but by the time you get to Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" and Glass' "Einstein on the Beach," I think you're maybe into Postmodernism. One could argue that those pieces should maybe already be called post-minimalist - but, at least so far, they usually aren't.

    Some other later minimalist or minimalist-influenced music: Éliane Radigue, Robert Ashley, Julius Eastman, Meredith Monk

    Other Postmodern styles:

    Post minimalism (or what Kyle Gann calls "grid pulse postminimalism"): William Duckworth, Elodie Lauten, John Luther Adams

    Totalism (Kyle Gann's term again): Mikel Rouse, Ben Neill

    Spectral music: Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail

    Post-spectral music: G F Haas, K Saariaho

    Extended techniques: Helmut Lachenmann

    New Simplicity: Wolfgang Rihm, Wolfgang von Schweinitz

    New Complexity: Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnissy

    Holy minimalism: Arvo Pärt, Gorecki
    Last edited by Kjetil Heggelund; May-31-2017 at 22:37.

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    I found another great article:

    http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/...century-music/

    He talks about trends in more of a general sense:
    1. Use of Technology.
    2. Influence of Chamber Ensembles.
    3. Influence of Popular and Non-Western Music.

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    To me, there are infinite possibilities using the 12 pitch classes as well as the spectrum of acoustic instruments; that's why I respect contemporary composers who create new music without employing extended techniques or electronics (in general). So "ism"s sometimes create a stereotyped sound of modernity that can turn some people off. Nonetheless, it's essential that new music is created and listened to. Look forward to reading up on some of the new techniques 9spectralism, post minimalism, etc., and of course, listening.

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    IMO many of these terms are affectations and pretentious. Nothing more than an attempt to create a sense of importance to something that can’t stand alone based on the quality of the sound produced. ‘Listen to my new music that is important and different and it has a new name to prove it.’

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    Isms remind me of those "schools of art" where some felt there was a need for a manifesto, and cliques argued on and on about "expelling" this or that member. For example, Andre Breton is remembered as a leading surrealist despite being a writer who wrote little of any note. Surrealism itself, of course, included many artists who produced a lot but did the term help them, I wonder.

    Spectralism has been mentioned above and is a term that is generally taken to include at least two major composers of the recent past (Grisey and Murail) and some other interesting and productive composers (Dufourt etc.) ... who went on to inspire many other noted younger composers including Saariaho and Julian Anderson. I don't know if the composers themselves accept the term or find it useful. Perhaps they don't. I find there are better ways of finding interesting new music than focusing on an -ism - but then I am almost always very un-theoretical in my approach to music.

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    The current trend is trying to be relevant. Struggling to find performances, receptive audiences and even a publisher. So they try anything and everything to get some traction. It's mostly futile; too often the first performance of a work is also its last. I been to concerts and played in concerts for full orchestra, chamber groups of various makeups, operas...you name it; and the result is always the same. There are very, very few composers alive today who have written anything that will be a staple of concert halls in the future - if there are concert halls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    The current trend is trying to be relevant. Struggling to find performances, receptive audiences and even a publisher. So they try anything and everything to get some traction. It's mostly futile; too often the first performance of a work is also its last. I been to concerts and played in concerts for full orchestra, chamber groups of various makeups, operas...you name it; and the result is always the same. There are very, very few composers alive today who have written anything that will be a staple of concert halls in the future - if there are concert halls.
    To this point, I believe that's why a lot of current composers who write for orchestra concentrate on film scores. It gives their work the most mainstream exposure. If people like John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith had spent their careers writing pieces for the concert hall instead of media, I bet nobody would know their music even if it were exactly the same as what they are famous for.

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    I compose music that I put in the category of Singularism. The music is so concentrated and dense that it has reached a state of singularity whereby no sound can escape, but I guarantee that a unique form of sound is there and is a wonder in its originality.
    Last edited by DaveM; Jan-15-2020 at 23:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    The current trend is trying to be relevant. Struggling to find performances, receptive audiences and even a publisher. So they try anything and everything to get some traction. It's mostly futile; too often the first performance of a work is also its last. I been to concerts and played in concerts for full orchestra, chamber groups of various makeups, operas...you name it; and the result is always the same. There are very, very few composers alive today who have written anything that will be a staple of concert halls in the future - if there are concert halls.
    This may be true for a lot but we always seem to focus on this side of things. The fact is that quite a lot of new music does get noticed and quite widely known (among those who care about new music). Yes, some composers and some pieces fail - maybe 95% for all I know - but was it ever any different? I'm actually asking that last question - I don't know the answer or how minor composers fared in the past and especially in the days before recordings.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    https://nycemf.org/complete-program/
    Here is the program from the International Computer Music Conference and New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival from June last year. A ton of new things to discover! Wuhu

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    I compose music that I put in the category of Singularism. The music is so concentrated and dense that it has reached a state of singularity whereby no sound can escape, but I guarantee that a unique form of sound is there and is a wonder in its originality.
    I believe I know that piece. Isn't it called "Black Hole"?

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