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Thread: Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    Perhaps in the future atonaphobia will be recognized as a treatable psychiatric condition that can be treated with pharmaceuticals and re-education camps
    Yes. Maybe aversion to lying on a bed of nails may also be treated at such places.

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    People who write atonal music (or twelve-note music, which is only a subset) primarily do so because they have something to say. The best of the works survive because musicians -- many of whom should know -- find enough of value in them to play them. I'm not aware of many who are motivated by spleen ("God, I hate this. I think I'll program it!").

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    People who write atonal music (or twelve-note music, which is only a subset) primarily do so because they have something to say.
    That may be true in 2019, now that classical music has become a sort of eclectic smorgasbord of styles and composers (presumably) feel free to do what fulfills them the most. But I don't think we can safely assume it for serialism's heyday in the mid-20th century when, survivors of the academy tell us, there was considerable pressure felt by young composers to renounce the "earmarks" of tonality. The influence of fashion on artistic production shouldn't be underestimated. It may be that most music has "something to say," but in many cases - maybe a majority of cases - that isn't a requirement for production.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-01-2019 at 07:19.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    The influence of fashion on artistic production shouldn't be underestimated. It may be that most music has "something to say," but in many cases - maybe a majority of cases - that isn't a requirement for production.
    I don't know about "most music" but, yes, a lot of music (whatever the style and discipline) and many composers fail to achieve anything of any real and lasting value. That has always been the case. It may not always be easy to discriminate between this and the (more rare) worthwhile and meaningful works until the fashion has moved on and the glow that being in fashion brings has vanished.

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    We'll never know, because we'll all be dead.

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    I was thinking that 25 years would be enough to give me an idea but it could take a lot longer before a consensus emerges. I could be still alive in 25 years but might not care that much.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

    That's an unfair question, with all its implications, because modern atonal and serial music must be listened to "in the moment" in a minute-by-minute mode of listening, in a state of "being here now" without any preconceptions of one's mindset, expectations, or thought-constructs/paradigms which one has developed.

    The "historical" mode of listening demands a firm grasp of one's identity or "ego" as it observes the music. It is much more narrative in nature, like reading; it demands retention of information and comparison, which is a very cognitive and thought-oriented process.

    It's like comparing a listener who looks like Otto Klemperer, dour and pragmatic, with a younger listener who looks like Terry Riley, on mushrooms. These are two different worlds which do not usually meet, except in the case of astute, flexible, adventurous listeners like starthrower, philocetes, flamencosketches, and others like them.

    This thread shows an attempt to throw these worlds together, out of miscomprehension, a naive optimism, or perhaps a negligent disdain. It's like trying to mix oil and water.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-01-2019 at 14:57.

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    Of course it will survive, as long as they don't destroy the internet (or civilization itself). It will never be very popular, though.

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  14. #39
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

    That's an unfair question, with all its implications, because modern atonal and serial music must be listened to "in the moment" in a minute-by-minute mode of listening, in a state of "being here now" without any preconceptions of one's mindset, expectations, or thought-constructs/paradigms which one has developed.

    The "historical" mode of listening demands a firm grasp of one's identity or "ego" as it observes the music. It is much more narrative in nature, like reading; it demands retention of information and comparison, which is a very cognitive and thought-oriented process.

    It's like comparing a listener who looks like Otto Klemperer, dour and pragmatic, with a younger listener who looks like Terry Riley, on mushrooms. These are two different worlds which do not usually meet, except in the case of astute, flexible, adventurous listeners like starthrower, philocetes, flamencosketches, and others like them.

    This thread shows an attempt to throw these worlds together, out of miscomprehension, a naive optimism, or perhaps a negligent disdain. It's like trying to mix oil and water.
    Not buyin' it. Whatever the style of a piece of music, human brains don't function without relating one thing to another - what comes before to what comes after - and composers don't (normally) choose each note by a throw of the dice. All of this woowoo about ego, mindsets, paradigms, naive optimism, negligent disdain, astute flexible listeners...jumpin' jiminy cricket! The absurdity of your position is exposed simply by asking "When we listen moment-by-moment, how brief is a moment?" How extended a passage of music can our brains attempt to hear as coherent before we are guilty of egocentric, naive, negligent, disdainful, inflexible listening? Can it be longer than one note at a time? Two notes? My God - three?!

    The question posed by the thread may be a bit naive, but it isn't unfair, and certainly not for the reason you give.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    People who write atonal music (or twelve-note music, which is only a subset) primarily do so because they have something to say. The best of the works survive because musicians -- many of whom should know -- find enough of value in them to play them. I'm not aware of many who are motivated by spleen ("God, I hate this. I think I'll program it!").
    I would have thought a better test is that people want to hear such music. I can certainly understand some musician's fascination with atonal music. The problem is I don't want to hear most of it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

    That's an unfair question, with all its implications, because modern atonal and serial music must be listened to "in the moment" in a minute-by-minute mode of listening, in a state of "being here now" without any preconceptions of one's mindset, expectations, or thought-constructs/paradigms which one has developed.

    The "historical" mode of listening demands a firm grasp of one's identity or "ego" as it observes the music. It is much more narrative in nature, like reading; it demands retention of information and comparison, which is a very cognitive and thought-oriented process.
    Different thread, but always the same lecture as if talking to children who don’t know how to listen to modern classical music. ‘You think you’re hearing dissonance and noise little children, but meditate with me and repeat your mantra as I have instructed and it will sound glorious!’
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-01-2019 at 20:39.

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    No one knows even if Bach, Mozart or Beethoven will last for how many centuries. It hasn’t been two centuries since Beethoven died. That’s a measurement of two centuries and not centuries upon centuries. But of course in those instances, I think they will. But I believe so will Schoenberg and his buddies, the boys of the sour chords. Why? Because they upset the people who like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven too much to shake them out of their comfort zone or complacency every now and then like bombs falling from the sky. Art is also supposed to shake people up on occasion and get them to look beneath the surface a little bit more, the unconscious, with a little terror thrown in for good measure as a reminder of the other dimensions of life that might be tinged with a bit of darkness... Boo! and things that go bump in the night. Two world wars that helped define the 20th century will help keep it alive.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Sep-01-2019 at 21:44.
    "That's all Folks!"

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  22. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    1.) How many works of any kind are in the "standard orchestral repertoire," and how much fine music is rarely programmed?

    2.) How many well-known atonal works are written for the standard symphony orchestra?
    1) Roughly 500 works. Only about 50 of them symphonies, if Dalhaus is correct. The second part is one of my biggest complaints and my mission in life. There is a staggering amount of fine music that is rarely, if ever, programmed. Thank God for recordings, otherwise we'd never know the symphonies of Balakirev, Bax, Schmidt, Rontgen, or even someone like Vaughan Williams. Whenever I conduct I always include obscure music if the board and sponsors will let it through. Even getting Korngold programmed is a challenge.

    2). "Standard" is the key word here. If by standard you mean the traditional orchestra used by Brahms, Dvorak and company, there is very little. Most all atonal works I know use "grand orchestra" at least and then add a plethora of other things, particularly in the percussion department. But getting the players to perform atonal works isn't a problem for any major or even minor orchestra. It's getting the audience to support it that's the problem. And a conductor with the brains and ear to carry it off.

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    Good sounding (with emphasis on major minor thirds/sixths, perfect fifths/fourths) 12 tone melody will probably sound like a modulating tonal melody to the regular listener (I have the feeling that most atonal/serial composers were intentionally choosing "garbage" 12 tone sequences to work with).
    And what if the composer is using something like 16th notes in moderately fast tempo - does it really matter what is the definite pitch when it is so brief?

    So, I doubt most atonal stuff will last - usually it sounds intentionally awful.
    Last edited by BabyGiraffe; Sep-02-2019 at 08:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    Good sounding (with emphasis on major minor thirds/sixths, perfect fifths/fourths) 12 tone melody will probably sound like a modulating tonal melody to the regular listener (I have the feeling that most atonal/serial composers were intentionally choosing "garbage" 12 tone sequences to work with).
    And what if the composer is using something like 16th notes in moderately fast tempo - does it really matter what is the definite pitch when it is so brief?

    So, I doubt most atonal stuff will last - usually it sounds intentionally awful.
    I'd say yes. Yes it does to a sincere composer embroiled creatively in the technical parameters he has set out for himself. It is a sure way to justify choice in an open atonal field and create a sense of inevitability (at least in the composer's mind). The fact that it doesn't conform to someone's taste does not lessen its honesty nor quality. One has to trust that the great composers are sincere and go along with their choice of notes, accepting them as definitive.

    I do agree though that to the general listener, whatever notes are played will not affect their dislike of serialism and will even go so far as to say that yes, other choices in note combinations would be equally effective in atonality. All the more reason for a composer to keep a technical grip on his music less there be a free-for-all. The imposition of will into the music is the emotional input of the composer. It is also true that sometimes serendipity will show its hand and alter the course of events, but generally speaking, composers need to be able to justify (if only to themselves), the choice of notes and this is mostly done via rigour, a sense of adventure and an openness to the unexpected.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-02-2019 at 10:08.

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