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Thread: The reality of life for contemporary composers

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    ...
    The ultra-slow musical narrative also seems disorienting because it is almost impossible to deduce the overall form of the musical course. I have no great need to hear music that disorients me. One may then say that contemporary music reflects the disorienting world, but precisely because our reality is chaotic, I - and probably many others - need some things (eg music, art, family life) we can define ourselves in relation to in order not to become confused every single minute of the day. I think this is a completely authentic point of view.
    ...
    Well to put it another way, if the world is ugliness and brutality, why would I want to wallow in that in every facet of life? The fact is all existence isn't ugliness and brutality, at least for people who aren't trapped by circumstances into that sort of thing. And it's probably the realization that ugliness, brutality and chaos aren't the way things should be that leads us to seek out beauty and order.
    Last edited by consuono; May-08-2021 at 21:09.

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  3. #47
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    The fact that some composers continued to composed with CP tonality beyond 1950 is not relevant. Practically no works that remind of the 19th century were being composed after that time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I wonder if anyone agrees with this?
    Well, I don't entirely agree with it, as my now many posts in many lengthy threads here would make clear to hardy souls with the time and patience to read them.

    But, though I think DaveM somewhat overstates and overgeneralizes his case, he does make a legitimate point. Two profound changes occurred in western culture in the 20th century. At its start, better transportation and communications technology, together with recording and broadcasting capability, including commercial radio, made western culture much more globalized and open to non-western influences. Then, midway through, came the tape recorder and commercial TV, and soon thereafter digital electronics and computer programming, and finally, the internet.

    All of that profoundly changed how we make and listen to music. I wouldn't make any long-term predictions, but I think we are still in the state of flux described by American philosopher John Dewey in his book Art As Experience, published waaay back in 1934, when the era of "science and industry", as he called it, already was well under way.

    Where I part company with DaveM is that I think pre-20th century musical traditions still exert a strong influence on contemporary music. And I say this having myself worked with two organizations devoted to professional performance of, and in some cases, commissioning, contemporary music, and having attended performances by, and met with the organizers of, other such groups.

    I listen to today's music with all of that in mind.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Many composers today haven't done the hard work of learning counterpoint for example. Those old guys? The knew their basics and worked hard to acquire their technical skills.
    There is and has been, plenty of excellent craft on display imv.
    The modern sensibility requires different technical approaches and paradigms to composing that study of CP counterpoint and harmony doesn't necessarily provide. What a contemporary composer has to learn and assimilate is no less daunting than learning 5th species counterpoint and remember also that a contemporary composers immediate tradition and canon is the middle 20thC onwards.
    I personally believe in a thorough grounding in older practices which is why I studied them, but they are not that relevant to a modern outlook and a composer with contemporary sensibilities would be wise to concentrate more on modern techniques. Doing so is a learning curve no less demanding than it was 150 or so years ago imv and still requires high standards of craft....maybe more so given the expanded and open nature of all the elements involved in composition.
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-08-2021 at 21:25.

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  7. #49
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    There is and has been, plenty of excellent craft on display imv.
    The modern sensibility requires different technical approaches and paradigms to composing that study of CP counterpoint and harmony doesn't necessarily provide. What a contemporary composer has to learn and assimilate is no less daunting than learning 5th species counterpoint and remember also that a contemporary composers immediate tradition and canon is the middle 20thC onwards.
    I personally believe in a thorough grounding in older practices which is why I studied them, but they are not that relevant to a modern outlook and a composer with contemporary sensibilities would be wise to concentrate more on modern techniques. Doing so is a learning curve no less demanding than it was 150 or so years ago imv and still requires high standards of craft....maybe more so given the expanded and open nature of all the elements involved in composition.
    I agree with you and will only add one thought - e.g., learning and perfecting 16th century counterpoint (taught in every conservatory) is a discipline which any composer will benefit from no matter what is their chosen style.
    Last edited by SanAntone; May-08-2021 at 21:32.

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    Senior Member Amadea's Avatar
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    I'd like to add something to this discussion. It is also true that, in my opinion and in my own perception, today's composers do not have an obsession to create masterpieces and become great masters feeling like that is their life mission, their only reason why they are born unlike certain composers of the past. What I mean is: if you read Mozart's and Beethoven's letters for example, you discover they had an obsession for their art, it was not only their job, it was not only hard work it was literally their life, the main thing they lived for. Mozart composed in every single moment of his life. When he was eating, when he was playing pool, when he was having fun with his friends, always. He composed pieces in his mind, then wrote everything down when he could, sometimes though he needed to write the ideas down immediatly and completely detached from the world. Beethoven had always with him, everywhere he went, a notebook on which he constantly wrote ideas. It was their life mission, the reason they were alive. That is true also for all the greatest musicians, dancers, performers of any kind. But I feel like that's not the case for many composers today. They like what they do, yes, it isn't the reason of their existence though. Maybe I'm wrong.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadea View Post
    They like what they do, yes, it isn't the reason of their existence though. Maybe I'm wrong.
    I watched a documentary about Frank Zappa. There is no other way to describe him than as you described Mozart and Beethoven's obsession.

    This dichotomy that some here want to claim divides the composers of the CP with today's composers is false, IMO. Don't fall prey to the idea that because you have trouble connecting with today's new classical music that the motivation behind it is either on a lower level than that for earlier composers whose music connect with easily, or that they don't have the same kind of dedication.

    Much in the world has changed but what hasn't changed is that composers and artists are still motivated by an aesthetic vision and have developed the craft and discipline to carry it out.

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    Senior Member Amadea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    I watched a documentary about Frank Zappa. There is no other way to describe him than as you described Mozart and Beethoven's obsession.

    This dichotomy that some here want to claim divides the composers of the CP with today's composers is false, IMO. Don't fall prey to the idea that because you have trouble connecting with today's new classical music that the motivation behind it is either on a lower level than that for earlier composers whose music connect with easily, or that they don't have the same kind of dedication.

    Much in the world has changed but what hasn't changed is that composers and artists are still motivated by an aesthetic vision and have developed the craft and discipline to carry it out.
    OK but that's Frank Zappa, like Jimi Hendrix that slept with his guitar. He's one in a million, I was talking in general about composers trained in a conservatory.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadea View Post
    OK but that's Frank Zappa, like Jimi Hendrix that slept with his guitar. He's one in a million, I was talking in general about composers trained in a conservatory.
    That's the point - they're not "one in a million." You are simply making an assumption, that in my experience is not true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    I watched a documentary about Frank Zappa. There is no other way to describe him than as you described Mozart and Beethoven's obsession.

    This dichotomy that some here want to claim divides the composers of the CP with today's composers is false, IMO. Don't fall prey to the idea that because you have trouble connecting with today's new classical music that the motivation behind it is either on a lower level than that for earlier composers whose music connect with easily, or that they don't have the same kind of dedication.

    Much in the world has changed but what hasn't changed is that composers and artists are still motivated by an aesthetic vision and have developed the craft and discipline to carry it out.
    The dichotomy is that we can't really judge Frank Zappa by the works of Bach, but yet you'd have us believe there's no real qualitative difference. It might be fruitful to ask why so many do have trouble connecting with today's "serious music". It can't all be the fault of the unconnecting audience.
    And before you throw out the "only 1% of humanity even knows about Bach" line, the fact remains that a higher percentage would find a lot of modern music repugnant in a way they wouldn't find Bach. And if that isn't true, then there's no problem for contemporary composers.
    Last edited by consuono; May-08-2021 at 22:34.

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    ...Where I part company with DaveM is that I think pre-20th century musical traditions still exert a strong influence on contemporary music. And I say this having myself worked with two organizations devoted to professional performance of, and in some cases, commissioning, contemporary music, and having attended performances by, and met with the organizers of, other such groups.

    I listen to today's music with all of that in mind.
    Not to belabor the point, but what contemporary works in the present day are strongly influenced by pre-20th century music? It’s been my experience that those who are really into contemporary music have a much different idea of the characteristics of pre-20th century music than I do. I’m not making any value judgments here. On the contrary, the more there is an acceptance of how different the present era is, the more it can be accepted as an era with its own unique characteristics that have value for those who like it. But, IMO, the more there is an attempt to try to convince others that there is a relationship to, or remnants of the CPT era in modern/contemporary music, the more likely there are going to be negative comparisons made that lead to the arguments of the past.

    One other point: The CPT period has been defined as the baroque, classical and romantic eras with some flexibility as to when it started and ended. As a period, it is not defined as tonality per se since it came to an end, by definition, whenever the romantic period is thought to have ended. Thus, just because a contemporary work has tonality doesn’t mean that it reminds of the CPT period.
    Last edited by DaveM; May-09-2021 at 03:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Are you disoriented when you look at the stars in the night sky?
    Yes, there is a kind of beauty in the night sky, but this kind of beauty does not really reassure me, because if you look at the night sky a little more, it is actually quite confusing, and since I am a non-believer, I conclude that everything in the universe is placed there at random - every star and also every single one of us, you and me. I have succeeded in accepting this frightening insight as the inevitable condition of life, and I do not need randomly organized music or anything else that makes these questions present again, questions to which no one has any answer anyway. This is why I seek organized beauty, and the victory of the spirit over the material world consists precisely in its ability to create organized beauty.
    Last edited by premont; May-08-2021 at 23:31.

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  18. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    Well to put it another way, if the world is ugliness and brutality, why would I want to wallow in that in every facet of life? The fact is all existence isn't ugliness and brutality, at least for people who aren't trapped by circumstances into that sort of thing. And it's probably the realization that ugliness, brutality and chaos aren't the way things should be that leads us to seek out beauty and order.
    Yes, these things are also very crucial to our urge to search for organized beauty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Rock View Post
    Let us not turn this into another 'modern music is bad' thread. There have been plenty of other threads for that, and I'm sure there will be plenty more.
    Art Rock,

    I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish but the enemies of living composers will continue to appear in threads like this and try to sabotage the discussion. Over the years many of us have tried to provide examples of good modern music to no avail.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Not to belabor the point, but what contemporary works in the present day are strongly influenced by pre-20th century music?
    This question is a crushing disappointment to me, because it suggests you have not clicked on each and every youtube link in my posts here over the past few months, and raises the distinct possibility you have clicked on none of them. I'm going to go get some ice cream now, and attempt to recover my self-esteem.

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    fluteman makes some really interesting points about the state of flux we find ourselves in. Philosopher Christoph Cox, who's written a cool book on the subject, describes sonic flux as "the notion of sound as an immemorial material flow to which human expressions contribute but that precedes and exceeds those expressions" (2018, 2). Here's a talk that may be of interest:



    Cox identifies the origin of sonic flux as Edison's 1877 invention of the phonograph, which unintentionally submitted a world of sound beyond music/speech to aesthetic attention. The sounds phonographers wished to capture were made ontologically equivalent - in other words, put in the same category - as environmental noises such as the hum and crackle of the phonograph itself. You can see the impact of this discovery in the work of Luigi Russolo, Edgard Varèse, and Pierre Schaeffer in the first half of the 20th century; Cage's 4'33", but also the 'gradual processes' of minimalism and drone installations by La Monte Young, Éliane Radigue, Max Neuhaus, Alvin Lucier, Maryanne Amacher, etc. in the '60s onwards; and the emergence of ambient/noise music in the '70s and '80s.

    Before Edison, sound was "bound to presence," to what was occurring here and now. Audio recording, however, overturned the usual logic of time/space by allowing the "here" to be transported elsewhere; the sounds of Antarctic seals, for example, could be heard in a car while traveling on a Norwegian freeway. Trippy stuff. As Cox says, "audio recording involves an ontological flattening of its source material" (ibid., 56). This is because audio recordings elude the present moment - they are "always at once past and to come, registering bygone sonic moments and casting them into an indefinite future that is never exhausted by playback in the present" (ibid.). Simply put, audio recordings record events of the past but can be manipulated in the future like no other medium. After Schaeffer's "noise studies" of the late '40s, recorded sound became a prominent tool for creation and composition - see the tape delay systems of Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, and Brian Eno but also the adoption of tape collage and musique concrète by the Beatles, Frank Zappa, and Miles Davis. The musical object was transformed into fluid, open-ended auditory material, and the boundaries between "composer," "performer," and "recording engineer" became increasingly blurred. Hip-hop recognizes this blur by calling anyone who alters the sonic flux a "producer." (Speaking of hip-hop, sampling is one of the genre's greatest innovations.) In the Western art music (for lack of a better term) tradition, jazz's golden age and the availability of magnetic tape subjected the classical score to deconstruction and dissolution; indeterminate compositions and graphic scores dismantled the musical object's fixity and encouraged real-time invention. See Stockhausen's Klavierstück XI, Boulez's Third Piano Sonata, Cardew's Treatise, and Brown's December 1952, among many other examples.

    To summarize, the second half of the 20th century saw audio recording dismantle the classical score, initiate the practices of sampling, mixing, and remixing, and reevaluate improvisation. In the 21st century, mp3s and the easy copyability of digital data "deals the final blow in the assault of recorded media on the original" (ibid., 73). As mikeh375 pointed out earlier, recorded sound can be manipulated more easily than ever before through DAWs - I disagree, however, that this has led to music being "cheapened creatively."

    So... where does the classical concert hall, with its rigid separation of "music" from "noise" and object fetishism, fit into our current state of flux? Hint: it kind of doesn't.

    Anyways, this is a huge topic and no forum post - or thread, for that matter - can do it justice. One may observe that experiments with indeterminacy and graphic scores aren't as prominent in Western art music as in the '60s and '70s; I'm curious as to why this is, but I'm sure that publishing costs and the rise of music notation software (with its ossification of CPT-era notational practices) have played a significant role.
    Last edited by Portamento; May-09-2021 at 06:59. Reason: clarity

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