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Thread: Pieces You'd like to Understand (or know more about)

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    Default Pieces You'd like to Understand (or know more about)

    I would like to say that I have really enjoyed the threads in which a piece of music is analyzed from a variety of perspectives. There was one thread in particular that I thought was an excellent example of this, but I need help in finding it again.

    One of the forum's music composition students had heard a piece of music by Rachmaninoff for which a score did not exist. He posted what notes he thought he was hearing. Several senior theory/composition/analysis members joined in to get it all straight. Then another member joined in and talked about what he thought the composer was trying to convey emotionally to the listeners by choosing those notes, keys, transitions, etc..

    I really enjoyed that thread and would love to read more of them.

    Does anyone else remember that thread? I'm certain EdwardBast was a contributor because he talked about Reimian analysis... Is anyone interested in starting and posting in such a thread?
    Last edited by JosefinaHW; May-06-2019 at 04:46.

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    ^^Maybe members could post a piece or a few pieces of music that they would really like to understand better or one composer's music in general. One composer I discovered via one of Bulldog's games is Toru Takemtisu. People in the game really loved his music and I especially loved the topic of one of his pieces of music.

    It was commissioned by Green Peace (?) and one of the component pieces was entitled Moby Dick. Unfortunately I just didn't like the piece of music and I really wanted to like it. I haven't given up hope on the thing I just might need someone to point out what Takemitsu was doing in the music to convey his love of whales.

    This is just one example.

    Last edited by JosefinaHW; May-06-2019 at 05:18.

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    For modern music in general, I refer you to this blog 'o mine:

    This idea came from one of my theory books. If anyone insists on an exact source, I'll go dig out the book.

    https://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/...ical-time.html

    In the Takemitsu, it sounds like he was influenced by Debussy. An overall "impressionistic" atmosphere, and use of the whole-tone scale and octatonic scale, which help "suspend" the tonality, making it "float around." Debussy was influenced by oriental things, so Takemitsu is relating to this.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, just as long as I can still breathe." -Me

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    For modern music in general, I refer you to this blog 'o mine:

    This idea came from one of my theory books. If anyone insists on an exact source, I'll go dig out the book.

    https://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/...ical-time.html

    In the Takemitsu, it sounds like he was influenced by Debussy. An overall "impressionistic" atmosphere, and use of the whole-tone scale and octatonic scale, which help "suspend" the tonality, making it "float around." Debussy was influenced by oriental things, so Takemitsu is relating to this.

    I responded to your blog entry. Extremely interesting and helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    For modern music in general, I refer you to this blog 'o mine:

    This idea came from one of my theory books. If anyone insists on an exact source, I'll go dig out the book.

    https://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/...ical-time.html
    Those terms are used by Jonathan Kramer in The Time of Music, although I'm not sure which if any originated there.

    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    Does anyone else remember that thread? I'm certain EdwardBast was a contributor because he talked about Reimian analysis... Is anyone interested in starting and posting in such a thread?
    I remember the thread. I think the focus was a piece by Prokofiev, and it definitely got into neo-Riemannian theory
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-06-2019 at 20:12.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

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    [QUOTE=EdwardBast;1632932]Those terms are used by Jonathan Kramer in The Time of Music, although I'm not sure which if any originated there.

    Even if you haven't read the book have you used any of these types of time besides linear to analyze music?

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    I think some good examples of this sense of "moment time" are in Messiaen's music. It helps to see the music as a "series of events" or "declamations" rather than a developing narrative in the classical sense.



    Can you dig it? Messiaen was dealing with "cosmic" subjects, as he was a mystic Catholic. This peice deals with the dead rising up from their graves.

    You know, God is infinite, and time stands still, becomes meaningless in the grand scheme. I'm not a catholic, but the "scary-sounding" aspect of some of his music is not really meant to scare, but to invoke a sense of awe. It's a very unique way of expressing things through music.

    There is lighter fare, like his "Catalogue of Birds" where he tries to represent birds on the piano.

    Boulez and other modernists were influenced by his "exotic" scales and use of percussion and gongs. He had a lot of non-Western influences, like Balinese gamelon music, which also appealed to Boulez.

    John Cage is another example of "time standing still" and "things going nowhere."

    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-07-2019 at 02:34.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, just as long as I can still breathe." -Me

    "It's poetry, man, it's poetry." -Rick P.

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    I thought the Messiaen was brilliant... like a great spiritual force or God moving across the land... something for people but not about people... The spirit behind it seemed bigger than that and rather awesome in its majesty, mystery and wonder... I did not find its dissonances scary or frightening, and he put them to such good use... such purposeful use. How refreshing! Its basic nature is constructive and positive as he seems to be representing a sacred force that is within the universe. Music has a language and I felt that he knew exactly what he wanted to say and said it the best that he knew how. In a work of this powerful and on a grand scale, music is always conveying something more than sound, at least for me, and has an actual language that can communicate wonders. And he wasn’t afraid of relative or occasional silence... and of course, there’s the awesome silence at the end... Here’s a work worth celebrating because it’s dealing with some of the invisible forces of life in a meaningful way and giving voice to them. Nor IMO does it have the usual sense of human stress, anxiety and neurosis that so many 20th century works have to their detriment. Bravo.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; May-07-2019 at 09:15.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JosefinaHW View Post
    Even if you haven't read the book have you used any of these types of time besides linear to analyze music?
    I read a pre-publication version of The Time of Music when I took Kramer's "Time Seminar," as it was called, at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and I believe I might have been cited in the acknowledgements of the published version (under my street name), along with other attendees who critiqued Kramer's ideas and made suggestions. Jonathan invited vigorous debate in the seminar, especially criticism of his own thinking.

    I haven't used his time concepts in analysis, but I did develop one of my own that wasn't on Jonathan's radar for my final paper. I claimed that one of the defining features of Romantic music was a new conception of subjective time. The argument was that whereas Classical Era music, to the extent it embodies human experience, does so more or less in objective clock time, Romantic Era music was built on the idea that the internal time of the musical persona (the experiencing subject whose experience the music is assumed to be) was subjective and unrelated to objective time.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-07-2019 at 14:48.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Another thesis - space and time are wired together in our heads, simply in the Newtonian sense (no relativity required kids!). Hence the elastic nature of time in modern music will create a more complete sense of space in our heads, arousing imagery associated with spatial dimensions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    The argument was that whereas Classical Era music, to the extent it embodies human experience, does so more or less in objective clock time, Romantic Era music was built on the idea that the internal time of the musical persona (the experiencing subject whose experience the music is assumed to be) was subjective and unrelated to objective time.
    Is this an explanation for the ever-expanding musical creations of late romanticism? Once the idea of chronological time is abandoned you get five-hour music dramas and Mahler symphonies where the concept of 'running time' is irrelevant. The problem being they still have to be experienced in chronological time, unless one is idle enough not to be harried by time constraints.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eugeneonagain View Post
    Is this an explanation for the ever-expanding musical creations of late romanticism? Once the idea of chronological time is abandoned you get five-hour music dramas and Mahler symphonies where the concept of 'running time' is irrelevant. The problem being they still have to be experienced in chronological time, unless one is idle enough not to be harried by time constraints.
    I hadn't thought about that issue. I was focused on program music and on the relation of expression and structure in instrumental music. Pre-Romantic program music tends to employ lots of onomatopoeia, portraying battles, storms, bird calls, cannons, and the like. Classical chamber music often contains simulations of human dialogue and conversation. All of this simulation of human speech and natural sound seems to take place in objective clock time, which is understandable given that the reigning paradigm under which it was composed was imitative aesthetics. Art was valued according to how well it imitated important aspects of human experience and form. Drama, sculpture and painting were fine arts at the top of the pantheon because they readily embodied human action and form, and music was at the bottom because it was capable only of trivial onomatopoeic effects (bird calls, gunshots, storms, etc.).

    When the shift to Romantic expressive aesthetics happened (middle Beethoven and later?) music suddenly vaulted to the top of the pantheon because it was thought to be capable of portraying the central affect and drama of internal life in a more direct way than any of the other arts. For this to work, however, it was essential that the content of music be freed from the tyranny of clock time. Why? Because the essential currents and dramas of emotional life aren’t manifest in little five minute spurts during which wildly contrasting emotions come and go. If music like the first movements of Beethoven’s Appassionata and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth were understood as real time dramas of mental life, of ten to twenty minute slices of human affective/psychological experience, the personas of these works (the experiencing subjects whose experience the music is) could only be psychotics. What works like this do, I contend, is play off the default conditions of their persona’s experience in something like the manner of allegorical dramas, but in these cases, allegorical dramas of mental life. For example, Tchaikvosky’s interpretation of his Fourth Symphony/i, which one finds in every program note ever written about the work, is (paraphrasing) that life is a continual alternation of fleeting dreams of happiness (2nd theme group) and grim reality and lamentation (1st theme) caused by the intercession of Fate (the opening motto). The expressive structure of the first movement is the opening of a wider and wider gulf between the real and the ideal. It isn’t eighteen minutes of emotional life, it is, as described by Tchaikovsky, a sort of allegorical drama capturing a conflict among the default conditions of his inner life over an indefinitely longer period. This, I suspect, is why we get all that talk, like ETA Hoffman's, about Beethoven capturing the infinite and ineffable. His sonata structures embodied indefinitely long spans of expressive experience in a few minutes.

    Anyway, it's a complicated argument not easily summarized in a couple of paragraphs.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; May-09-2019 at 02:21.

    What greater comfort does time afford than the objects of terror re-encountered and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason?
    — William Gaddis, The Recognitions

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    Basil Valentine

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    I hadn't thought about that issue. I was focused on program music and on the relation of expression and structure in instrumental music. Pre-Romantic program music tends to employ lots of onomatopoeia, portraying battles, storms, bird calls, cannons, and the like. Classical chamber music often contains simulations of human dialogue and conversation. All of this simulation of human speech and natural sound seems to take place in objective clock time, which is understandable given that the reigning paradigm under which it was composed was imitative aesthetics. Art was valued according to how well it imitated important aspects of human experience and form. Drama, sculpture and painting were fine arts at the top of the pantheon because they readily embodied human action and form, and music was at the bottom because it was capable only of trivial onomatopoeic effects (bird calls, gunshots, storms, etc.).

    When the shift to Romantic expressive aesthetics happened (middle Beethoven and later?) music suddenly vaulted to the top of the pantheon because it was thought to be capable of portraying the central affect and drama of internal life in a more direct way than any of the other arts. For this to work, however, it was essential that the content of music be freed from the tyranny of clock time. Why? Because the essential currents and dramas of emotional life aren’t manifest in little five minute spurts during which wildly contrasting emotions come and go. If music like the first movements of Beethoven’s Appassionata and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth were understood as real time dramas of mental life, of ten to twenty minute slices of human affective/psychological experience, the personas of these works (the experiencing subjects whose experience the music is) could only be psychotics. What works like this do, I contend, is play off the default conditions of their persona’s experience in something like the manner of allegorical dramas, but in these cases, allegorical dramas of mental life. For example, Tchaikvosky’s interpretation of his Fourth Symphony/i, which one finds in every program note ever written about the work, is (paraphrasing) that life is a continual alternation of fleeting dreams of happiness (2nd theme group) and grim reality and lamentation (1st theme) caused by the intercession of Fate (the opening motto). The expressive structure of the first movement is the opening of a wider and wider gulf between the real and the ideal. It isn’t eighteen minutes of emotional life, it is, as described by Tchaikovsky, a sort of allegorical drama capturing a conflict among the default conditions of his inner life over an indefinitely longer period. This, I suspect, is why we get all that talk, like ETA Hoffman's, about Beethoven capturing the infinite and ineffable. His sonata structures embodied indefinitely long spans of expressive experience in a few minutes.

    Anyway, it's a complicated argument not easily summarized in a couple of paragraphs.
    I think this is a brilliant post. Totally agree.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, just as long as I can still breathe." -Me

    "It's poetry, man, it's poetry." -Rick P.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eugeneonagain View Post
    Is this an explanation for the ever-expanding musical creations of late romanticism? Once the idea of chronological time is abandoned you get five-hour music dramas and Mahler symphonies where the concept of 'running time' is irrelevant. The problem being they still have to be experienced in chronological time, unless one is idle enough not to be harried by time constraints.
    I'd like to take a somewhat different approach to the matter of how musical time relates to "real life" time, an approach which I think might complement EdwardBast's, and would respond to your opening question directly. I'll draw from my experience of music I know particularly well.

    Assuming that the "five-hour music dramas" you mention refer to Wagner, I would say that Wagner's long operas and Mahler's long symphonies are long for similar reasons, and that this can be traced in large part to the influence of Wagner on Mahler with particular respect to the latter's expansion of the symphony's scale and the incorporation of programmatic intent (whether explicit or not). Opera and symphony, however, are very different genres, and the forms they employ are fundamentally different, not least with respect to the time dimensions within which their events unfold. We need to consider this in order to see the problem Mahler faced, and largely solved, in applying "Wagnerian" ideas to a "Beethovenian" form.

    In drama, events are taking place onstage in some semblance of real time; people tend to be speaking words and performing actions at a pace more or less resembling real life. When drama is set to music, the music can accompany and affect the dramatic action in various ways, ways which may alter, and especially expand, real-life time for purposes of expression. Wagner was particularly interested in simulating naturalistic action onstage while still allowing maximum opportunity for music to express the emotional life of his characters and situations, and in meeting this challenge he evolved a style of music in which the pace of musical exposition - the rate at which musical ideas are introduced and developed - was typically slower, often much slower, than that of music in the Classical tradition. (I'm speaking here of Wagner's peculiar kind of "through-composed" opera, in which music accompanies the stage action continuously. Earlier opera composers had found other solutions to the problems of wedding music to stage action, solutions that typically involved the alternation of musical numbers, in which time was suspended for the elaboration of a particular emotion, and recitative, in which natural speech and action could be approximated with minimal musical development).

    Wagner's mature musical technique involved not merely continuous music, but music in which thematic material was subjected to continuous, complex development in a manner often - loosely and inaccurately - called "symphonic." But in actual symphonic writing as practiced up to that time, the exposition and development of musical ideas, unconstrained by the time scale of the alien art of drama, is relatively rapid: the music can "narrate" its "story" as quickly as its themes and developments can be articulated, and so the musical events that constitute the "drama" of a typical sonata-allegro movement fly by at pace much faster than the simulation of real-life events on the opera stage would permit. This is as true of a symphonic movement of Beethoven or Brahms as it is of an equivalent movement by Haydn, despite the later symphonies' larger dimensions. But late Romantic composers, captivated by the prolongation of melody, the long-sustained harmonically-generated tension, and the varied expressive gestures with which Wagner was able to fill long spans of time and sustain the arc of emotion in pursuit of a simulation of real-life experience, were tempted to turn their instrumental movements into what amounted to virtual "music dramas" without a stage.

    Applying a Wagnerian sense of musical time to the symphony, though, isn't a simple matter; it requires a rethinking of symphonic form, and for composers under Wagner's spell the challenge was often not met with total success. End-of-century symphonic music is littered with prolix, bombastic symphonies and "symphonic poems" which consist largely of dramatic and picturesque events that seem to hint at some story the music's "effects without causes" (Wagner's perspicacious term) are trying to tell, which may have no obvious relationship to one another, and which tax our patience by lingering on material which in traditional symphonic writing would either be sharply abbreviated for the sake of "getting on with it" or be discarded as altogether unsuited to the form. Wagner himself was aware of the different requirements of the symphony and the music drama, and gave some thought to conceiving a new sort of symphony based on thematic metamorphosis, but he died before he could experiment with the idea.

    Mahler obviously understood the difficulty of hybridizing "symphonic time" with "dramatic time," and solved it with much, though not uniform, success, largely through his ability to fill his expanded forms with music of inspired variety, arresting color, and sheer intensity of expression. He, better than most, managed to reconcile the structural armatures and compressed narrative of the symphonic tradition of Beethoven with the Wagnerian quest for a representation of lived subjective experience, experience which could expand into dimensions of feeling seemingly unconstrained by abstractly conceived formal limits and the time scales those limits had traditionally imposed. Wagner had replicated, as no one ever had, the real-life sense of subjective experience liberated from the tick-tock of chronological time, and he did it by slowing the rate of musical exposition, allowing him the time to represent the shapes of feeling in near-graphic detail and with visceral, time-obliterating impact. Mahler, in his most successful works, was able to find room for a near-Wagnerian expansion of expressive space within structures inherited from the symphonic tradition. As for precisely how he did it, I'll have to leave that demonstration to someone with his musical feet planted more firmly on the ground than mine.
    Last edited by Woodduck; May-09-2019 at 07:00.

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    Excellent, a real tour-de-force. That take on the suspension (or even disregard) of chronological time goes in the direction of enormous structures hoping to capture an enormous slice of mental life; almost everything. I'd argue that this also lingers on into impressionist music. Debussy's sound and aesthetic may be somewhat different, but his aim is still to capture a 'timeless' experience (of the natural world).

    A modernist (postmodernist) aesthetic seems to me to give us small fragments of experience. Chinks of light through small fissures, rather than the sum total of timeless experience. Less importance placed on grand schemes of interrelated ideas, but instead everything pared-down and sometimes even offered without any preconceived narrative at all.

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