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Thread: "Great trash"

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    Default "Great trash"

    One of the most famous quotes by Pauline Kael, the famed film critic, was about the appreciation of "great trash". Arguably this sort of thing started with French film critics lauding genre directors like John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks - and we still see it with the critical appreciation of films as "low" as Alien, The Terminator or Halloween.

    So what's "great trash" in classical music to you? I happen to love vulgarity and excess, which is why I love Berlioz and Strauss - I think Salome and Elektra are possibly the greatest trash the medium has produced. Berlioz has the Tempest fantasy, maybe the most gloopy, unapologetic trashy romantic thing he ever did, and another work I adore. Or is classical music too inherently elevated in its cultural standing to really produce "great trash"? Is "great trash" vulgarity and romantic excess, or is it populist, academically "dubious" music like the radio playing a big band orchestra rendition of Vivaldi?
    Last edited by fbjim; Yesterday at 19:47.

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    Senior Member Red Terror's Avatar
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    John Williams' output.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    If Alfred Hitchcock is great trash then I can't even begin to imagine what great is, or what trash is for that matter. I don't think I get the concept, how can trash be great? Maybe something kitschy or camp, but none of your examples are that, neither is JW.

    Now decadent, which Salome or Elektra could very well be, is an entirely different concept. Although again unrelated to Hitchcock, Ford or Alien
    Last edited by allaroundmusicenthusiast; Yesterday at 20:12.

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    Senior Member GucciManeIsTheNewWebern's Avatar
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    I get what OP is going for but it's ultimately too subjective.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I don't think of any of the music, or movies, or books, etc., that I enjoy as trash. I don't even think of the music that I don't like as trash, in fact, there's no music I would describe as trash. There's only some that I truly like, but the rest has value and I can usually find something about any music that I find interesting and worthwhile to listen to.

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    Shostakovich's 12th Symphony, objectively, is not great music. But I find it fun.

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    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allaroundmusicenthusiast View Post
    ...

    Now decadent, which Salome or Elektra could very well be, is an entirely different concept. Although again unrelated to Hitchcock, Ford or Alien
    Indeed, "decadent" is a word that portrays the very essence of the Salome tale. And to have written something like Strauss's opera on the subject without a decadent strain would be ... irresponsibly inartistic!

    The argument for decadence could certainly be made for the Elektra tale as well. Of all the Greek tragedies that were written -- hundreds of them, of which only some 30 remain extant -- the Elektra tale exists in versions by all three of the ancient masters (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) and it is the only Greek tragedy to exist in three versions -- and thus proves decadent in that sense. Of course, the story of the bloody sacrifice of Agamemnon is nothing less than decadent as well.

    I remain lukewarm towards Richard Strauss, but I do greatly admire the Salome and the Elektra, both of which rank high in my personal opera disc collection, with multiple versions of both.

    If I had to vote for a work qualifying as "great trash" from Strauss it would be the Sinfonia Domestica. Then again, that piece might just be plain ol' "trash".

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    "Excess" is probably the key word here. I don't know what "great trash" is in general, but one sub-category of it would definitely be virtuoso music that requires a tremendous amount of effort that is comically out of proportion to the ultimate musical payoff. For my money that includes stuff like Liszt's Totentanz, virtually everything by the virtuoso violin composers (Paganini, Sarasate, Wieniawski, etc), and even Rach3. I love all that stuff, but I still think it's pretty slight.

    And then, did Khachaturian write anything other than trash? Hmm...
    Last edited by John Zito; Yesterday at 23:11.

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    Senior Member Red Terror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allaroundmusicenthusiast View Post
    If Alfred Hitchcock is great trash then I can't even begin to imagine what great is, or what trash is for that matter. I don't think I get the concept, how can trash be great? Maybe something kitschy or camp, but none of your examples are that, neither is JW.

    Now decadent, which Salome or Elektra could very well be, is an entirely different concept. Although again unrelated to Hitchcock, Ford or Alien
    Tarantino's films could also be referred to as great trash.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    I don't think of any of the music, or movies, or books, etc., that I enjoy as trash. I don't even think of the music that I don't like as trash, in fact, there's no music I would describe as trash. There's only some that I truly like, but the rest has value and I can usually find something about any music that I find interesting and worthwhile to listen to.
    Kael herself was somewhat ambiguous on what she meant (one of her examples of "great trash" was Hitchcock's 'Notorious' which nobody would consider trashy now) but I think the idea is to find value in the culturally or even artistically dubious, perhaps in the same way that Hitchcock, a "mere" director of mysteries, and potboiler suspense, is now one of our most venerated filmmakers.

    To give more context, she said something about the necessity of appreciating "great trash" to truly appreciate "great art" - someone like Roger Corman being appreciated for how he put together films on zero budget and how much effect he got out of them, for instance, and how an appreciation of him might inform an appreciation of filmmakers who made more culturally elevated works.
    Last edited by fbjim; Yesterday at 20:47.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Terror View Post
    John Williams' output.
    Not a bad answer, some of Korngold as well. It's kind of funny how Williams has something of a populist, "low" reputation in classical music but an elevated reputation in film - he's "the big guns" as far as film music goes. You'd rarely see him doing music for total crap in the way that Morricone did.
    Last edited by fbjim; Yesterday at 20:45.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Terror View Post
    Tarantino's films could also be referred to as great trash.
    Most of his movies I'd say have a campy vein, which is what I understand to be the territory we're getting into. I don't see the connection though between Tarantino, Hitchcock, Ford and Hawks. Let alone between John Williams and Tarantino, regardless of their medium.

    In that sense maybe certain subgenre of metal are "great trash". Anyway, there's a lot of "great" camp art.

    but I think the idea is to find value in the culturally or even artistically dubious, perhaps in the same way that Hitchcock, a "mere" director of mysteries, and potboiler suspense, is now one of our most venerated filmmakers.
    Yes, artistically dubious is camp, but not trash. I'm not aware of anyone ever saying that Hitchcock was camp during his lifetime (did the concept even exist while he was still directing?).

    "Morally" dubious or ambivalent could be another sort of "trash", in a decadent sense like the Strauss operas that've been mentioned. Wagner too for that matter.

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    The concept of great trash is itself ambiguous, and one point of interest was seeing what kind of music people would define it as. Camp and romantic excess on the one hand, but one can also draw a comparison of "great trash" to the modern poptimist movement to give artistic legitimacy to things like disco, dance and chart pop.

    Hence a big band Non-HIP rendition of Pachelbel might be "great trash" in some definitions. Or, (the post which inspired this thread) Johann Strauss.
    Last edited by fbjim; Yesterday at 20:57.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fbjim View Post
    Hence a big band Non-HIP rendition of Pachelbel might be "great trash" in some definitions. Or, (the post which inspired this thread) Johann Strauss.
    That would be, subjectivity notwithstanding, just plain ol' trash.

    The concept of great trash is itself ambiguous, and one point of interest was seeing what kind of music people would define it as. Camp and romantic excess on the one hand, but one can also draw a comparison of "great trash" to the modern poptimist movement to give artistic legitimacy to things like disco, dance and chart pop.
    Yes, I get your point. But I think that first you're still putting things together that don't fit (for instance there's no relation between the Bee Gees and Hitchcock), and second what's the need for the word "trash"? (Not trying to start a fight, just a healthy discussion)

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    Americans reign supreme here: Bernstein, Copland, some Ives, Williams, Copland, Rorem (great?), Rachmaninoff, Big Mac

    Salome and Elektra are not trash. Mahler fits the bill here, at least symphonies 1-5.
    Last edited by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist; Yesterday at 21:13.
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