Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Feedback on a new compositional technique in a symphonic poem "Trump & Circumstances"

:tiphat:Hi everyone,

My name is Aleksey Nikolsky and I am a realistic classical composer and a scientist specializing in the perception and evolution of music.

I have just completed a symphonic poem, "Trump and Circumstance" with a programme that depicts the entire saga of the Trump presidency, highlighting the Russian collusion, the investigations of Trump's corruption, the story of his impeachment, his attempts to unleash civil unrest in America, and the horrors of COVID.

Through this work I am trying to restore the tradition where classical music was used to trigger public discourse on important societal issues - just as many composers of the past did in regard to the atrocities of WWII (Shostakovich, Britten, Messiaen, Schoenberg, Nono, Gorecki - to name a few). If we are to prevent a new escalation of authoritarian and supremacist ideologies, it is imperative that people emotionally weigh all the ramifications of Trump's policies.

I have combined the compositional skill which I acquired at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (where I studied under Edison Denisov) with my own research-based knowledge of how listeners normally react to specific musical patterns, to make my audience live through the storyline of this music.

I'd be very interested to see if you think I've succeeded in my intentions, and if there's anything that can be improved.

I believe that music has the power to express things that matter in our lives. It is unfortunate that this aspect of music has been lost and outshadowed by the proliferation of "cool" popular music and abstract "experimental music" whose main purpose seems to be to sound complex and unlike anything written by great composers of the past.

I have created a video clip of the MIDI/sample playback of the score for this piece which I have enhanced with the help of a few mastering plugins and have added captions of the programme at the beginning of each section of music. Although far from the sound of a real symphonic orchestral, it gives a relatively faithful representation of my intention.


I'd really appreciate it if you or anyone you know would refer me to someone who knows a conductor or an administrator of a symphonic orchestra to have this music performed.

I hope you enjoy the music!

Aleksey Nikolsky
https://www.alekseynikolsky.com
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
The piece is OK, I don't like the story behind and some political comments I red. Music and politics remind me only bad things...
Sorry about the delayed response - for some reason, I was unable to make any comments to my post, and it is just now that I was given permission by the site's administrators to do so!

Regarding your comment:
I totally understand your feelings. Indeed, in Nazi and Communist states, music has been badly abused for the presentation of politically "positive" and "negative" ideas. However, let's not throw away the baby with the cradle! Here is a list of a few non-stage high quality compositions that were created as commentaries on political issues:

Telemann - Oratorios and Serenatas from "Kapitänsmusik" (1723-1766) and Cantata TVWV 13:9a Sey tausend mahl willkommen, o auserwaehlter Tag!
Haydn - Missa in Tempore Belli, Missa in Angustiis, Kaiser Quartet C Major
Dittersdorf - Symphony "5 Nations"
Dussek - "The Sufferings of the Queen of France" and "Elégie harmonique sur la mort de Louis Ferdinand"
Beethoven - Symphonies No.3, 9, Egmont, Wellington's Victory
Cherubini - Requiem 1 C Minor, Coronation Mass G Major
Berlioz - Grande Symphonie Funèbre et triomphale, Grande Messe des Morts
Liszt - Symphonic Poems "Héroïde funèbre", "Hungaria", Rhapsody No.15
Smetana - Symphonic Poems Vyšehrad and Blanik
Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia
Balakirev - Overture "Russia"
Mussorgsky - "Songs and dances of Death," "Forgotten" and "The Capture of Kars"
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture, Cantata "Moscow", Marche Slave
Elgar - "The spirit of England", Carillon, "The fringes of the fleet" and Polonia
Reger - Eine Vaterländische Overtüre
Bridge - Piano sonata and Lament
Delius - Requiem
Vaughan Williams - Pastoral symphony and Dona Nobis Pacem
Holst - Ode to Death
Debussy - Noël des enfants
Janacek - The Ballad of Blanick, Piano Sonata 1905
Ravel - Le Tombeau de Couperin
Caplet - "Les prieres," "La Croix Doloureuse" and other songs, and "Le miroir de Jésus"
Sibelius - Finlandia, Karelia, Kullervo (also, Jäger March)
Bilss - Morning Heroes
Bartok - Kossuth
Kodaly - Psalmus Hungaricus, Háry János
Eisler - Tagebuch, "Die Maßnahme", Deutsche Sinfonie and many cantatas, songs and ballads
Respighi - The Fountains of Rome and Roman Trilogy
Casella - Elegia Eroica, Pagine di Guerra, Partita, Tre Canti Sacri and Missa Solemnis "Pro Pace"
Roslavets - Komsomoliya
Myaskovsky - Symphonies 3, 5, 6, 16, 21, 22, 24, 25, "The Kremlin at night"
Prokofiev - Le Pas d'Acier, Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, "Songs of Our Days", Alexander Nevsky, The Year 1941, "Winter bonfire", "On Guard for Peace" and "The Meeting of the Volga and the Don"
Britten - Sinfonia da Requiem, War Requiem
Honegger - Symphonie Liturgique
Hindemith - Trauermusik, "Plöner Musiktage," Scherzo for viola and cello
Shostakovich - Ballets "The Golden Age", "The Limpid Stream", Symphonies 2, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12 & 13, Festive Overture, "Little Paradise" and "The Song of the Forests"
Khachaturian - Symphony 2 and "The Battle of Stalingrad"
Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Some quotes from this OP and his LinkedIn page.

Society at large has never been triggered to discuss important issues by a piece of classical music because society at large has never, does not now and will never give a damn about classical music.

Without a printed program, such as the one in the video, NOBODY would have the slightest idea what the program/story of this piece is.

Here's Stravinsky on the subject in 1936, from his autobiography: "For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc … Expression has never been an inherent property of music … It is simply an additional attribute which, by tacit and inveterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a label, a convention - in short, an aspect unconsciously or by force of habit, we have come to confuse with its essential being."

Good luck! It never happened and never will happen. The common people have never cared about art music.

As for the music itself I listened to short portions of it. That is all I could take as the MIDI sound is horrible. The composer should consider spending $129 to purchase NotePerformer, an artificial intelligence-based playback engine for musical notation. I use it with Finale and the results sound 20 times better than MIDI.

I guess the composer feels his "new compositional technique" will transmit the program/story/meaning of the piece clearly. Not even close.
First and foremost, I believe that music can indeed tell a story in that it can throw a listener into a series of emotional states - just as a film without sound and subtitles could. And this is exactly what I see as the "realistic" power of music. If you are interested in the way in which music can reflect the objective reality, you can find my explanation of it here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291974302_How_Emotion_Can_Be_the_Meaning_of_a_Music_Work

Of course, music cannot effectively convey all the details of an account of an event or describe the appearance of an object. So, in my poem too, the music will not convey its programme in detail without the support of the verbal text. However, if composed (and performed) properly, it should be able to convey the progression of various emotional states - i.e., "musical emotions" - for instance, from mysterious to funny and awkward, to scary, to sad, etc.

The order of appearance of these "musical emotions" in conjunction with the title of the music is already enough to convey how I see the transformation of my protagonist from a mere "clown" to "the idol of a death cult". This is what I call "realism" - in contradistinction to later works of Stravinsky and his followers whose works are "unrealistic" in the sense that they are abstract and detached from the perceptible reality. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that, in essence, these composers and their works do not constitute music, but rather, a music-like sound design. As such, they oppose any form of naturally evolved musical tradition known throughout the history of humanity. Otherwise, why are lullabies and lamentations over a dead relative for instance, recognizable across musical cultures - even when the listeners are totally unfamiliar with conventions of a particular culture?

There are numerous acoustic patterns whose perception is biologically "hardwired". Thus, high pitch is universally associated with small objects, whereas low pitch - with big objects; loud sounds - with close distance, whereas soft - with far distance; fast tempo - with action, whereas slow tempo - with stasis; dissonant harmony - with tension, whereas consonant harmony - with relaxation; narrow melodic intervals - with calmness, whereas wide leaps - with excitement; regular rhythm - with predictability and therefore comfort, whereas irregular rhythm - with unpredictability and therefore alertness or anxiety. The list goes on. This is what makes naturally evolved music expressive and sets a pragmatic foundation for the emergence of musical genres (march, lullaby, anthem, etc.). And this is what composers like Stravinsky at first started to distort and later simply omitted from their compositions. As a result, their works stopped functioning like "normal" music. In essence, such compositions are aberrations of biomusicological laws and constitute manneristic art that sacrifices intelligibility for originality.

I must also mention that Stravinsky's statement you quote has been criticized for its disingenuousness by numerous historic musicologists during the past 30 years. Throughout his life Stravinsky preferred performers of traditional orientation who interpreted his works emotionally and thereby captivated the live audience - for example, he praised Samuel Dushkin (the pupil of Auer and Kreisler) as the best interpreter of his violin concerto, despite the extrovert display of emotionalism in Dushkin's playing (evident in his recordings). Stravinsky's son, Soulima, testified that his father did not like those performers who just played the text accurately, without feeling. Moreover, Stravinsky's own recordings of his orchestral works disagree with his own statements that the ideal performer is a church toller, and the ideal conductor is a military band tact-beater. See the essay by Robert Fink "Rigoroso (M = 126)."

In his radio address to Russian listeners Stravinsky presented himself as the heir to Glinka and Tchaikovsky and stated that if a performer can play Tchaikovsky's music expressively, that performer will play his (Stravinsky's) music properly. It is hard to disagree with the conclusion of Taruskin that Stravinsky used a double standard in order to promote himself - he deliberately invoked a "revolutionary" rhetoric to avoid market competition with his predecessors and to establish a new niche where he would be the czar of the new avant-garde music. And, yes, he succeeded in achieving this position - but only to our great loss for which we are all paying a great price: the musical tradition of the Western civilization became broken where audiences, by and large, simply do not wish to listen to new modernist and postmodernist music despite all efforts by gate-keepers in the academia and other reputable music institutions that keep hitting heads against the wall to promote it.

If you are interested to examine the arguments for and against Stravisnky's thesis about the inherent inexpressiveness of music, have a look at my essay that covers this topic:

https://www.academia.edu/7741473/Non_communicative_Music_Grammars_of_the_20th_Century

Your statement that "Society at large has never been triggered to discuss important issues by a piece of classical music" is factually wrong. From its origin, the tradition of Western music has been inherently connected to the idea of ethos and to the theory of musical rhetoric. Have a look at the writings by Plato, Aristotle, Aristoxenus. A good anthology of the translated original texts for this is "Contemplating music: Source readings in the aesthetics of music" compiled by Ruth Katz and Carl Dahlhaus and published by Pendragon Press (from Plato to Scruton).

The most dramatic public discussion of which kind of music should be promoted and which banned in sake of public benefit in Western Europe took place during the Middle Ages - see "Music in Early Christian Literature" by James McKinnon. By no means such dramatic confrontation was limited to the religious sphere in the use of music. In the 1770-1780s, there was a completely secular "musical war" between supporters of Gluck and Piccini that took place in Paris and involved all strata of society. Similar collisions have occurred across Europe throughout 16-20th centuries. Yet another politically charged public debate on music was related to the rise of nationalism and movements for political independence. In Italy, music by Verdi became the banner of Garibaldi's army - the very name of Verdi became the slogan "Viva V.E.R.D.I." - used by the supporters of Garibaldi as an acronym for "Victor Emmanuel Re D' Italie".

The current apolitical stance of classical music is by no means a norm in the evolution of music and in the historic development of Western musical tradition - but rather, an aberration of the norm.

And, finally, thank you for your recommendation to use the NotePerformer. I actually discovered it only when I was half way through my scoring. For my next project, however, I have decided to use the EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra - as it is likely to deliver even better results (albeit with much longer time to dedicate to fine-tuning the score!)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Indeed, the stage presentation of this work would certainly add a dramatic component to it that would increase the music’s suggestive power.

However, unfortunately, singing considerably distorts the meaning of the text, making it hard to follow what is being sung. This is the reason why even the most talented and technically accomplished composers could not keep the integrity of their musical characterization whenever they chose to put an unedited prosaic and non-artistic text to their music - for example, Prokofiev’s cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution on the words of Lenin. It is by no accident that Khrennikov chose not to give a singing part to Lenin in the opera “In the storm”. Also, Weill tried to put the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels to music but had to abandon this project because of the prosodic problems.

I believe that there is perhaps a better chance of creating a ballet stage production of this work. But to pull out such a project it is paramount to have an experienced and gifted librettist. So, I do see your point here and appreciate having shared your idea!
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top