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Thread: How has talk about classical music changed?

  1. #16
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    In 50 years … neither musical style nor music literature as areas of knowledge seem to be mentioned much these days. Has anyone else noticed this?

    I think the answers to these questions are easy to answer. There isn't much talk about musical "literature" or style because classical music forms haven't changed much since the electronic era of the 1950-1970s. The last great stylistic change was movement to period performance in the middle 1980s though it started much earlier. People talked about it en masse after Norrington recorded the Beethoven symphonies in 1985.

    The last great change in musical "literature" was the movement to or toward or called minimalism that may or may not have been started by Ravel's Bolero or Steve Reich. Whichever, this movement wasn't very intellectual, in my opinion, and thus did not generate a lot of discussion. It also was unpopular with orchestral subscription fans and did not generate much interest in the rest of the musical public.

    Since the demise of minimalism there have been periods and composers of post-everything: romantic, classic, modern, etc. The only discernible trend I can see in classical music is what I might call relevance. My favorite work of this century, Michael Daugherty's Trail of Tears Concerto, is something of a post-Survivor of Warsaw work that is supposed to detail the pain of suffering of native Americans relocated against their will and then marginalized on reservations, etc. The music itself is traditional and sounds French to me.

    I read my local university's catalog of musical programs for the 2019-20 season recently. There were two separate incidents of new music themed on modernity; in one the music revolved around a guy or two that were attacked or murdered or something because of their homosexuality. I'd never heard of the music or the composer.

    I suppose Beethoven was being contemporary and relevant when he dedicated the Eroica symphony first to Napoleon, thinking he would free people, then later changing it when he learned the little guy was just another despot. But I see and hear no Beethoven on the classical music horizon now.

  2. #17
    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    [I]But I see and hear no Beethoven on the classical music horizon now.
    Why, do you think, is it the case?

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Beethoven performances on the classical music horizon:
    https://bachtrack.com/find-concerts/composer=beethoven
    It’s an opportunity to hear his music live.

    There are 14 performances of Beethoven on Sept. 21 alone
    and the average is between 8 and 10 concerts per day,
    Including on week days. I would be reluctant ever to bet
    against Beethoven being forgotten. I believe he's too
    fundamental to the music as is Bach and Mozart. They
    anchor it because they were great masters and not
    everyone has heard them live.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Sep-17-2019 at 20:39.
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  4. #19
    Senior Member samm's Avatar
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    I'm kinda confused about this quote below.

    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    They can play like crazy, read well, and belt out complicated etudes better than I ever could or will. But their lack of music history, their unawareness of the repertoire is tragic.
    But then:

    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    I know a bassoon teacher who tells his students that if they're serious about performing then it's time to put away the rock/hip hop/rap music and start listening to the standard repertoire with the great recordings of the past.
    If they can play well and sight-read complicated etudes better than average and, presumably, also already have a position performing, why would they need to follow the advice of that bassoon teacher to 'get serious' about performing?

    I find it highly unlikely that anyone would make it through long years of training on a classical instrument without being exposed to the repertoire.
    Last edited by samm; Sep-17-2019 at 20:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by larold View Post
    [I] I read my local university's catalog of musical programs for the 2019-20 season recently. There were two separate incidents of new music themed on modernity; in one the music revolved around a guy or two that were attacked or murdered or something because of their homosexuality. I'd never heard of the music or the composer.
    My initial guess is that the two composers who were murdered were Marc Blitzstein and Claude Vivier. When you say "two separate incidents" do you mean "lecture-concerts" or something of the like?

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by samm View Post
    If they can play well and sight-read complicated etudes better than average and, presumably, also already have a position performing, why would they need to follow the advice of that bassoon teacher to 'get serious' about performing?

    I find it highly unlikely that anyone would make it through long years of training on a classical instrument without being exposed to the repertoire.
    The post refers to students not musicians who already have positions. If the students want to play in a professional orchestra or band my guess is that they will be competing for a very small number of available positions. They have to have all their ducks lined up, which means knowing the standard repertoire very well from attending concerts and listening to a variety of interpretations on CD, as well as having practised the orchestral excerpts for their instrument. In the post mbhaub describes students who didn't know how to play standard repertoire works Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade and Schostakovich's Symphony No. 5, and I'm inclined to believe him.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Sep-17-2019 at 21:08.

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  8. #22
    Senior Member samm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    The post refers to students not musicians who already have positions. If the students want to play in a professional orchestra or band my guess is that they will be competing for a very small number of available positions. They have to have all their ducks lined up, which means knowing the standard repertoire very well from attending concerts and listening to a variety of interpretations on CD, as well as having practised the orchestral excerpts for their instrument. In the post mbhaub describes students who didn't know how to play standard repertoire works Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade and Schostakovich's Symphony No. 5, and I'm inclined to believe him.
    Actually it clearly refers to people, students or post-grad students, already active in orchestral playing. Whose technical skills appear to be very competent, but who also, allegedly, know nothing of the repertoire for their instrument, which I find astonishing. A bassoonist who has come as far as an MA would have played very little in terms of music if they hadn't played existing repertoire. I find it odd. There's not much going in the way of pop or jazz or hip-hop bassoon.

  9. #23
    Senior Member Open Book's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post

    With music majors it's really sad. I play in several orchestras where younger players come in. Their knowledge of the classical repertoire is severely lacking. I sit next to players who have never heard any symphony of Beethoven or Brahms. They know nothing of Mahler, Prokofieff, Dvorak or Tchaikovsky. They can play like crazy, read well, and belt out complicated etudes better than I ever could or will. But their lack of music history, their unawareness of the repertoire is tragic. I know a bassoon teacher who tells his students that if they're serious about performing then it's time to put away the rock/hip hop/rap music and start listening to the standard repertoire with the great recordings of the past. How bad does it get? A couple of years back I was playing bassoon 2 on Scheherazade. The young, recent MA degreed bassoonist didn't have a clue how to play all the solos she had in that work. No feeling for style, nuance, nothing. It was awful. The conductor asked me to show her how they should be played. In another group we're doing Shostakovich 5th. I'm on contra - the 2nd player had never heard the work, ever. How is this possible? A music major, a performance major, from a big school and never bothered to listen to some of the landmarks of the repertoire. Very sad state of affairs. That's one reason I like piano majors - they at least know their Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, and other pillars of their repertoire.
    I was going to ask what the heck have these students been playing to get that good at their instruments if not parts of the standard repertoire. So it's just been etudes and exercises the whole time? How can they develop enthusiasm for their instruments playing just those? How do they know what their instruments are capable of if they never play the music it is ultimately meant for? How can a bassoonist win a seat in any orchestra if she has no feeling for the solo parts she is supposed to play - how did she pass the audition, on technique alone?

    This is astonishing. Or maybe not. My niece took violin lessons for years and has no real enthusiasm for classical music. She lives in a distant state so I have not heard much of her playing, one string quartet performance which she didn't look overjoyed to participate in. I was told she just took violin at school because they were offering Suzuki lessons and her mother thought there would be some psychological benefit from them. But I had no idea that serious musicians trying to get into the field would show a similar lack of knowledge and experience, even interest in, classical music.
    Last edited by Open Book; Sep-19-2019 at 03:57.
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  10. #24
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    I see and hear no Beethoven on the classical music horizon now...Why, do you think, is it the case?

    I believe the people that would have been classical music composers 50 years ago or longer have gone into other art forms/media such as film and music theater. There has been a noticeable decline in most areas of art including literature, film and classical music in the last half-century but none as lengthy or bad as classical music. There hasn't been a composer of the stature of a Bach, Mozart or Beethoven since Shostakovich died … in a lifetime.

    The art form that has held together the best, in my opinion, is musical theater. It has continued to foster new creative minds, great new hits fans have latched onto, it continues to create new fans, and it is doing as well as ever. Contrast that to classical music which hasn't had a bona fide "hit" in three (almost four) decades.

    Film offers more to an artist than classical music. It is easy to make, offers the sight-sound-drama Wagner visualized and perfected, and a person can make a living making films or otherwise working in the industry.

    Gone are the days when any classical music composer is going to sit around and be poor when s/he can make a living doing something else. There is no longer an aristocracy supporting classical music composers; they are on their own. Most go into university or conservatory staffs and become part of the mainstream, writing the same crappy music everyone else is writing.
    Last edited by larold; Sep-20-2019 at 13:54.

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