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Thread: Modernism in music?

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    Question Modernism in music?

    As a composer, i agree with Ned Rorem that there really is no such thing. Minimalism, atonality, serialism, etc. are not really new. Check into music history! Ned Rorem thinks the only real change in "classical" music is a constant swing of the pendulum between emphasizing the intellectual and logic or the emotional and intuitive, if I understand him correctly. The past is in the present, and vice-versa. Ancient Greek modes being used in "modern" music, "aleatory" being retrieved from the Middle Ages or earlier, Medieval isorhythm being revived, etc. Check out the article by Terry Teachout, music critic of the Wall St Journal, drama critic for the N.Y. Times, member, National Council of the Arts, in the magazine "Commentary" for July-Aug. 2005. In this groundbreaking article, " The Return of the Romantics "he blasts the arrogant claims of the 20th Century serialists, minimalists etc. He quotes author Walter Simmons, who is writing a six- volume work called "Voices In the Wilderness", about Hanson ,Creston ,Rorem, and others who kept their sanity during the 20th Century takeover of "serious" music by Avante-Gardists who controlled most of the funding, etc. for new works. Simmons has a website, www. walter-simmons.com, with digital sound-files of the banned (for performance-funding) Romantic and neglected composers of that era and today.

    I remember how when I was a composition student in the conservatory, I was required to write atonal and "modern" music, and was told I could not write in my natural way, which was very tonal/modal and classical, and somewhat neo-Romantic at times! Now the tide is turning. The neglected composers are coming back and the minimalist and other fashionable types will be seen by music history for what they are-- a decadent manifestation, of aberrant techniques used to attract attention or shock. (Or do they express and help create a decadent society?) ( Remember how the Greeks felt music creates patterns in society for better or worse!)

    Some of these techniques ARE interesting, but they were used long ago, also. Aleatory music and serialized were used in the Middle Ages, if you check into the Harvard Dictionary of Music and Grove's also. (Talas, isorhythm, etc.) My only real requirement for a composer is that he/she be REAL, or have something to say that leaves us with a catharsis, or upliftment, or an insight on life, not parodies of life AND music, twisted art for twisted people. Young composers have been "sold a bill of goods" about the importance of being "modern" or "experimetnal". I have studied the "moderns" and DO find a few good or great ones. Charles Ives is great, profound even at his wildest, dissonances, etc. Xenakis and Messiean, also and a few others, such as Harry Partch .

    Outrage anyone? Agree, disagree? Would like to hear from you out there. Del Hudson, M.M.
    Last edited by Del Hudson; Jun-14-2006 at 16:35.

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    Junior Member Weltschmerz's Avatar
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    I dont think it really matters whether or not you find semblances of "modern" trends in pieces of music via analysis. If composers want to spend their time finding ways to merely innovate by means of academic pedantry and theoretical manufacturing of music, they can feel free to do so. However, if they want to create that which is beautiful and moving and truly artful, then the world will appreciate them and remember them for that. Beauty reigns supreme over academics and mere innovation. And we will certainly not get into that abecedarian argument of "well what constitues beauty?" or "what if innovation leads us to a new kind of beauty" or "well, you're just not thinking outside of the box". Such silliness is a waste of time and thought. Although the esteemed masters such as Mozart and Beethoven were recognized in their time for the new styles and compositions during their lifetime, history and the future will always remember them for simply creating music that reached people's souls in a beautiful and pure way. If the academics of atonality and minimalism can somehow move people in this same way, then that music will be of importance. Otherwise, I say we let our ears do the feeling, not our minds.
    "When all hopes of recognition or honor have faded into distant memory, when purity of heart meets sorrow of mind, when all the world seems to walk in blindness, and yet a man works without wearying for that which he loves...only in this moment is passion truly understood." - Franz Schubert, 1827

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    Smile thanks

    Dear Weltschmerz, Thank you for a very penetrating reply to my new thread! The Schubert quote is marvellous and encouraging also! You share my feeling of what music should really be all about, yet you give the Avante-garde freedom to do what they want. Yes, music that touches the soul is what is so lacking mostly now, I think. Thanks, Del Hudson (composer/pianist)

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    Junior Member SchubertObsessive's Avatar
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    Weltschmerz could extend his post to answer what is art

    Guided by a natural 'stirring' to communicate ideas of beauty and truth, I think even phrases that would be associated with a kind of populist Rock music could find themselves arranged to form a timeless work. This is the proof of Weltschmerz pudding, that the ultimate intention and beauty of that music would transcend the 'materialism' of genre, technicality, etc.

    It's funny how Life resembles art and vice versa. Isn't there a quote for that?

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    Junior Member SchubertObsessive's Avatar
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    I also agree with you Del Hudson, that soul-stirring music is few, but it is this materialism I'm talking about that has disconnected idea from matter.

    Plus, few artists have any ideas worth communicating anyway.

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