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Thread: The reality of life for contemporary composers

  1. #301
    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    1. Have you read Finnegans Wake? Do you assume that since you can't make it through it nobody else can? Some would say the same about Ligeti and Stockhausen.
    2. You can't really say with 100% certainty what proto-Homer was like since all we really know is what has come down to us...in writing.
    3. The Hebrew Scriptures are the product of a long editorial process that involved...writing.
    1. I did, an utter disaster, and Borges thought the same (though it's a fallacy to bring him up to support my opinion). I didn't say no one can like Finneagan's Wake, tho. I just said I thought it's interesting to me that you brought it up, considering its modernism.
    2. No, I can't. But that's just one example of many, up to the 20th century there still was a lot of oral tradition in eastern europe, the balkans that were recorded and that are highly complex. These traditions are still alive among the australian natives and a lot of tribes in africa. Again, both for narrative and music, knowledge that isn't passed on in writing.
    3. The Old Testament wound up being written, but a lot of the stories in it are oral fables passed on from generation to generation.

  2. #302
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    Quote Originally Posted by allaroundmusicenthusiast View Post
    1. I did, an utter disaster, and Borges thought the same (though it's a fallacy to bring him up to support my opinion). I didn't say no one can like Finneagan's Wake, tho. I just said I thought it's interesting to me that you brought it up, considering its modernism.
    Others like Anthony Burgess, Richard Ellmann and Harry Levin have disagreed.
    2. No, I can't. But that's just one example of many, up to the 20th century there still was a lot of oral tradition in eastern europe, the balkans that were recorded and that are highly complex. These traditions are still alive among the australian natives and a lot of tribes in africa. Again, both for narrative and music, knowledge that isn't passed on in writing.
    3. The Old Testament wound up being written, but a lot of the stories in it are oral fables passed on from generation to generation.
    And you know nothing about either apart from the written word.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    Others like Anthony Burgess, Richard Ellmann and Harry Levin have disagreed.
    Yes, yes, of course, plenty of people -famous or not- like Finnegan's wake, and I just brought Borges up because I'd already mentioned him. Again, I have no problem with anyone liking the book, it's just really unexpected for me that you like it, that's all.

    And you know nothing about either apart from the written word.
    True, but I'm not the one that has to know about it (although the music I can listen to it), but the peoples that keep it alive. I can enjoy their creations whichever way I choose. Btw, I'm an atheist so I won't be reading the bible anytime soon, it was just another example
    Last edited by allaroundmusicenthusiast; May-14-2021 at 13:16.

  4. #304
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    There seems to be the idea that complexity is important regarding style, i.e. Finnegan's Wake is complex whereas a Grimm Brothers fairy tale is not. But there is complexity of content, which fairy tales exhibit, or at least they did before they were edited for children.

    Many fairy tales are based on stories dating back thousands of years, and contained violent and disturbing, mysterious, and confusing plots which only later were expunged in order to make them suitable for children. Some scholars maintain that these tales date back to Upper Palaeolithic age. These stories were handed down orally for thousands of years and were then written by people like the Grimm Brothers with some, often much, alteration.

    Another example would be Mark Twain's novels which have a very accessible style but complex content which today has confused people into misunderstanding him as a racist. Which is the opposite of his purpose in the books.

    The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an anti-slavery text, masterfully written in the voice of a boy of his time but who undergoes a transformation so real he thinks he will go to hell while he chooses to save and protect the fugitive slave Jim. Huck must reject what he had been taught in Christian schools and churches in order to complete this moral choice, although still referring to Jim as a "******" - which is a bit too complicated for today's cancel culture.

    It is my view that content is more important than style, but it is a feature of the Western mind to elevate style over content. Which is why a book like Finnegan's Wake can be lauded while mostly unread.
    Last edited by SanAntone; May-14-2021 at 13:48.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    I agree with you SanAntone. I'd just add that for me style, form and content are indivisible. That being said, you raise an important point: what people define as complex and sophisticated or hard to grasp changes over time.

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    I think another ball of string to untangle is the increased difficulty and ensemble uniqueness of new contemporary classical music. Composers are not making economical choices in their compositions both in the ensemble and the amount of time required to perform a piece proficiently.

    If you group together instruments that historically have not been in ensembles frequently, you are decreasing your chances of the piece being played again (after the initial commission, if you are fortunate to get one). Hey, do you know an alto-flutist, french horn, contra-bass clarinet, viola, marimba, mezzo-soprano, and harpist? I think these kind of connections require a strong academic connection to bring together that wide range of players.

    The other issue the use of complexity. You further filter the pool of players who are both willing and able to perform your work. The players need to invest more of their precious time to learn the piece, as well as be skilled enough to perform it.

    I am not saying that composers should not compose for weird ensembles, but should really consider the various economical currencies (time investment, social network, skill level, cost to produce) if there goal is to make a living off their compositions.

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    Senior Member Luchesi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Classical music is more sophisticated and complex than most other music genres including hip hop. Chess is a more sophisticated and complex game than most other, if not all, games. That does not mean that classical music is of more value to any given individual than, say, hip hop and it doesn’t mean that chess is of more value to any given individual than, say, backgammon. Value is determined by what appeals to the individual.
    Huh? How can value be determined by individuals for everyone? Maybe you're not saying that? You mean individuals like it or they don't, depending upon the specifics and experiences of their lives? Who are these people? Do we admire them?

    No, IMO that's so wildly unreliable to anyone else that it's a worthless approach. Value is what's already in the scores or in the chess games or in a subject of science. The value comes from the information content and the significance of it conceptually applied to something else, far into the future, regardless of the awareness level of the receiver. Music isn't different in terms of valuable information content. The value might be imperceptible to many folks, but that's irrelevant. They would need to be suitably exposed and educated. A car manual might not be valuable to a person who doesn't understand the clever engineering concepts it contains, but the value is in there for anyone.
    Last edited by Luchesi; May-15-2021 at 00:21.
    Albert Einstein, "I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.

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  9. #308
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    Quote Originally Posted by allaroundmusicenthusiast View Post
    Yes, yes, of course, plenty of people -famous or not- like Finnegan's wake, and I just brought Borges up because I'd already mentioned him. Again, I have no problem with anyone liking the book, it's just really unexpected for me that you like it, that's all.
    I didn't say I did, and the question wasn't whether you or I like it; it was a question of *richness* (maybe a better term than "complexity") aided by the written over oral traditions and storytelling. "But I don't like Finnegans Wake" was irrelevant.
    True, but I'm not the one that has to know about it (although the music I can listen to it), but the peoples that keep it alive. I can enjoy their creations whichever way I choose. ...
    Yeah, I guess you can get an audio version of The Brothers Karamazov....

    Incidentally,
    Btw, I'm an atheist so I won't be reading the bible anytime soon, it was just another example
    So was Nietzsche, and he read it from cover to cover. "I'm a Christian, so I won't be reading Nietzsche any time soon" sounds kinda narrow, doesn't it?
    Last edited by consuono; May-14-2021 at 16:40.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    I didn't say I did, and the question wasn't whether you or I like it; it was a question of *richness* (maybe a better term than "complexity") aided by the written over oral traditions and storytelling. "But I don't like Finnegans Wake" was irrelevant.

    Yeah, I guess you can get an audio version of The Brothers Karamazov....

    Incidentally,
    So was Nietzsche, and he read it from cover to cover. "I'm a Christian, so I won't be reading Nietzsche any time soon" sounds kinda narrow, doesn't it?
    1. Ok, change terms, I stand behind all of my answers. And a funny thing, Joyce's Ulysses, I wonder who was the person and culture behind the popularization of that story?
    2. Yes and no. The Brothers Karamazov was made with a certain media in mind, a book. You can listen to the audiobook, but that's not what I said or meant to say. The peoples and cultures that have oral traditions -again, be they narrative and/or musical- have very rich and complex stories, I don't know why you're trying to deny that. How do they pass on important knowledge for their physical and spiritual survival as a whole if not? Why do rhythmically and contrapuntal complex musics from Africa, India, etc etc., keep on if not through strong oral traditions? Why would international organizations and researchers go through great pains to document them if they weren't valuable? That's what I meant: the findings made by documentarians and researchers, I enjoy them through my preferred media, but they were not conceived with these in mind.
    3. I've read some of the bible. But I'm not Nietzsche and don't have any strong and particular interest in it, I'm not a philosopher. But I've read other books about theological discussions and had plenty of conversations with people about religion. I'm not a narrow person in this regard. But my comment was not: oh the bible how bad. It was more tongue in cheeck and pointed to how, even if I don't devote a lot of my time to reading it, that book comes from another vibrant oral tradition, in fact, many. You know, humanity didn't always write nor music nor words, and still was able to develop highly complex and rich systems.
    Last edited by allaroundmusicenthusiast; May-14-2021 at 17:39.

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luchesi View Post
    Huh? How can value be determined by individuals for everyone? Maybe you're not saying that? You mean individual like it or they don't, depending upon the specifics and experiences of their lives? Who are these people? Do we admire them?

    No, IMO that's so wildly unreliable to anyone else that it's a worthless approach. Value is what's already in the scores or in the chess games or in a subject of science. The value comes from the information content and the significance of it conceptually applied to something else, far into the future, regardless of the awareness level of the receiver. Music isn't different in terms of valuable information content. The value might be imperceptible to many folks, but that's irrelevant. They would need to be suitably exposed and educated. A car manual might not be valuable to a person who doesn't understand the clever engineering concepts it contains, but the value is in there for anyone.
    I think we’re talking about different things. Generally, I agree with what you’re saying. What I’m saying is that, in the end, individuals determine what has value for themselves. I can’t tell someone who is into another music genre that they aren’t getting as much value in their life out of it as I am in mine.

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    Eclectic Al, I don't view my comments below as critiquing yours but rather adding to yours. I suspect you agree with some or much of what I wrote.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    ...For an out and out relativist I guess the statement reflects a truism. Everyone is as good as everyone else, so they would be in agreement with arpeggio's refusal.
    Yes, a complete relativist would probably agree. But we have also had some other threads where myself and others have argued that there are reasons to believe contemporary composers likely are as good as past composers. Comparing the works of contemporary composers and past ones is difficult, but it's hard to understand why contemporary composers would not be roughly as good given present conditions. There are many more people studying composition, composers are able to sample music from all times and places quickly and easily, there exist excellent tools for composition, and increases in societal wealth allows a greater percentage of society to study composition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    ...I think it is in the academic route that you find the foundations of the animosity in this sort of thread, and the animosity which undermines the "modernist versus traditionalist" spats. As so often, it's about the money, and I think that is the answer to SanAntone's question about the strength of feeling here.
    I don't know much about the academic environment in classical music composition. I do know about that environment in other areas. In general people view the academic environment as greatly favorable to the advance of various fields for a variety of reasons. Some people have tenure and can focus on what they feel are the most interesting or valuable avenues of research (composition) without worrying about external factors. The environment allows and encourages members to interact closely with others working in the same area and to understand a range of new thoughts. Academics interact frequently with students who bring enormous enthusiasm and often suggest new ideas.

    Perhaps some here are not so interested in classical music change and innovation but would rather see a continuation of what has been composed earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    The traditionalists think that academic views of music have control over resources (not just directly, but also over influence on matters such as wider commissioning of music, and also of things like concert programming). They believe that there is an over-allocation of resources to modernist music. They also believe that there has been institutional capture by modernist tendencies, so that the next generation, and the next generation, of musical influencers in academia have themselves been raised in a modernist environment, and pass that on.
    In other fields these are considered positive attributes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    They don't like this because they feel that if those resources were allocated (and the academic influence) was more focused on more traditional styles then the music environment might deliver more music that they would appreciate.
    For centuries we have seen how classical music has evolved, and the vast majority are thrilled that composers use new instruments, do not only compose using modes, and have moved music through the various eras so that we can listen to Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern music. The question is how contemporary composers could compose in a new style and also provide the vast majority of listeners music they enjoy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Al View Post
    Who is correct? I don't really know, but going back to the original question I think it is up to composers to find an audience.
    Partially. I think the entire classical music community should try to find ways for classical music to be relevant today. I do feel that composers must decide individually what to compose. For me, it's the artists who must determine the content of art. Who else knows better than they?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post

    Partially. I think the entire classical music community should try to find ways for classical music to be relevant today. I do feel that composers must decide individually what to compose. For me, it's the artists who must determine the content of art. Who else knows better than they?
    That would involve wholesale changes to the direction of where classical music has been heading for the last several decades. That direction is actually one of many directions, and it is one reason why classical music composed in those decades have been marginalized. Plus of course with the development of pop music, which it too has a huge variety being more accessible with a drum beat and simple lyrics, has made new CM a niche. Plus of course with more rediscovery of many great composers' forgotten music and rediscovery of many forgotten composers, have meant newly composed CM is under massive competition. Most listeners of CM listen to more old CM than music composed in the later 20th century.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    People been discussing how to fix contemporary classical music on the Internet for over 25 years now... I think we have got it almost figured out...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    People been discussing how to fix contemporary classical music on the Internet for over 25 years now... I think we have got it almost figured out...
    Go on ...........

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rapide View Post
    Thas made new CM a niche. Plus of course with more rediscovery of many great composers' forgotten music and rediscovery of many forgotten composers, have meant newly composed CM is under massive competition. Most listeners of CM listen to more old CM than music composed in the later 20th century.
    As I've stated before, CM was always a niche. The general population had no interest in it, or, more importantly, didn't have the means to pay for a theater ticket, nor would have they been welcome. When art became reproducible, popular musics started to gain ground, as a huge market wanted it. That has never been the case for CM, we should keep that in mind.
    I agree, and also I've stated it before in this thread, with what you say regarding competition, and you add an interesting point, today's composers have to fight against the greats of the past -such a shame that that is the case, I think there's room for everything-, and not only with their contemporaries.

    I also want to say that CM will never stop being a niche, and we're living in a society in which every time more and more niches emerge. That doesn't mean that the mainstream is seeing its share of the market reduced, on the contrary, it's expanding. But I say this because if anyone here has any hope that classical will be the most listened music, they should get that out of their head. And that it'll never be mainstream, that our favourite contemporary composers -for those of us who keep up with new music and find new things to like- will never be as big as the current pop star or any future pop star. This is not a bad thing, just the reality of life.

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