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Although I have read some interesting posts, none of them address my frustration.

There are many in the classical community who think that living composers are not as good as pre-20th century composers.

As an amateur musician I have had the good fortune to meet many outstanding composers. To my ears their music is just as good as anything composed in the 19th century.

I do not have the expertise to explain why since I am not a musicologist. My feelings are based solely on my experiences as a performing musician.
 
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Although I have read some interesting posts, none of them address my frustration.

There are many in the classical community who think that living composers are not as good as pre-20th century composers.

As an amateur musician I have had the good fortune to meet many outstanding composers. To my ears their music is just as good as anything composed in the 19th century.

I do not have the expertise to explain why since I am not a musicologist. My feelings are based solely on my experiences as a performing musician.
Since I was a child, along with Beethoven etc, I have always listened to John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore etc. I do believe the last one in particular to be a great composer, maybe not Beethoven ok (who is like him...?), but I think he wouldn't make a bad impression if he lived in those times. :) which artists would you recommend?
 

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The concept of a CPT period defined as the period of final music including the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods serves a useful purpose. Of course, the end of it is not exact depending on how strictly one wants to to define the endpoint. You will see 1910 as often mentioned, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that even the broadest view could not have the end beyond 1950. (Fwiw, Mayaskovsky’s 27th symphony and Strauss’s 4 Last Songs were composed just prior to 1950.} 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.

I mention all this because I believe that it is in the interest of those who love CPT period music and those who love modern, even avant-garde, works to recognize the relative devision between the CPT era and what occurred after. These are 2 distinct periods. Much of the music that is now being called classical music is very different, some of it unrecognizable as anything composed before 1900. As such, if one accepts the concept of distinctly different eras, there is no need for constant conflict between those who prefer one period over the other. I don’t like Avant-garde music and never will, but I no longer criticize it in the context of comparing it to CPT era music. It is from another period and those who love it are IMO, enjoying music from that different period and are having a different experience than listening to a Beethoven symphony. I can respect that.

So, (to bring this back to the OP), it occurs to me that contemporary composers will have to rise and fall based on however successful they can be with contemporary-music audiences. The challenges are different than the 19th century. The ways one might make a living from it are different. Many will have to be content with smaller venues, limited recording with perhaps the occasional performances by major orchestras where there is the money for commissions.
 

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DaveM said:
Many will have to be content with smaller venues, limited recording with perhaps the occasional performances by major orchestras where there is the money for commissions.
The thing is though that orchestras feel some kind of obligation to program this music alongside CP works -- well, usually either sandwiched between CP favorites or leading off -- and if audiences are averse to it then it's the audience's problem. There isn't a dividing line in practical terms. If you love Beethoven then you're narrow-minded if you don't also at least pay your respects to the avant garde. Part of the problem is the insistence that modern music is an organic continuation or development of CP instead of a break with it. Another is the vestigial 19th century "artist as rebel against 'society' " mindset, and the weird bewilderment when "society" displays its indifference. It seems there's a desire to be considered in the same league and tradition as Bach and Beethoven while at the same time being a George Antheil type. It doesn't compute.
 

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Practically, no works that remind of the 19th century were being composed after that time.
I wonder if anyone agrees with this? If someone would have said it in, say, 1980, I think it would have been quite plausible. But now I'm not so sure.

It's hard for me to give examples given the way the discussion has gone because we're focussing on symphonies, and I don't know much about them really. I could give lots of examples of chamber and solo music and song, at least, I think I could. But, to pick an obvious orchestral example, Rihm's third symphony reminds me of old fashioned classical music, if not 19th century then Mahler. See what you make of it

 

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I wonder if anyone agrees with this? If someone would have said it in, say, 1980, I think it would have been quite plausible. But now I'm not so sure.

It's hard for me to give examples given the way the discussion has gone because we're focussing on symphonies, and I don't know much about them really. I could give lots of examples of chamber and solo music and song, at least, I think I could. But, to pick an obvious orchestral example, Rihm's third symphony reminds me of old fashioned classical music, if not 19th century then Mahler. See what you make of it

That doesn't sound like Mahler to me, really.
 

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It's hard for me to give examples given the way the discussion has gone because we're focussing on symphonies, ]
I don't think the symphonic form is very important to today's composers. Why should it be? One of the questions I ask these composers is about their thoughts on long form works. Most reply something to the effect that they understand form as an organic process, each work is unique and the form for each work follows from the development of that work, intuitively.
 

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There are many in the classical community who think that living composers are not as good as pre-20th century composers.
Well, I'm in that club. Putting it bluntly: there is NO living composer worthy of standing with the great masters of the past. There is no one the equal of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Dvorak, Bruckner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Prokofieff, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich....

Not that there are many talented, hard-working, serious composers; there are. Listen to that Rihm symphony above. It's a dang powerful work; but will it last? Probably not. The Golden Age of Composition is over, let's face reality. Many reasons and explanations are given. I'll give you my top three:

1. Roughly 100 years ago composers decided music had to have social value, to mean something, to be expressive of their times. Well the 20th c had it's share of horrors, and so much of the music exemplifies this. It's not uplifting, it's not fun. It's often brutal
and not something you can listen to for enjoyment. People don't want that.
2. Composing has become too easy. Like many other arts the really hard skills have been skipped or omitted. Most painters today can't paint like Rembrandt and they don't have the technical skill to do it. They went straight to modern art where those demanding skill aren't needed or wanted. Same in music. 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.
3. The world is too noisy. Franz Schmidt used to say that a fine musical ear requires silence to develop properly. Today the world is so noisy - everywhere you go there's noise. By contrast, most of those dead white European composers lived in what must have been quiet, peaceful surroundings.

I feel really bad for modern composers; they think they have something to say, but there are very few who want to listen. I doubt that the situation will change, ever. For good music to thrive it also requires a significant audience, and that's a real problem, too.
 

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mbhaub said:
Roughly 100 years ago composers decided music had to have social value, to mean something, to be expressive of their times. Well the 20th c had it's share of horrors, and so much of the music exemplifies this. It's not uplifting, it's not fun. It's often brutal
and not something you can listen to for enjoyment. People don't want that.
Waaaaaaait a second. Who decides that "people don't want that"? I've seen comments here that complain about the warhorses being driven into the ground because *that's* what sells tickets with the corollary complaint that "people" aren't interested in this "brutal" music.
 

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The thing is though that orchestras feel some kind of obligation to program this music alongside CP works -- well, usually either sandwiched between CP favorites or leading off -- and if audiences are averse to it then it's the audience's problem. There isn't a dividing line in practical terms. If you love Beethoven then you're narrow-minded if you don't also at least pay your respects to the avant garde. Part of the problem is the insistence that modern music is an organic continuation or development of CP instead of a break with it...
Just as I now believe that those of us who prefer CPT music shouldn't be critiquing Avant-garde or highly atonal music as awful in comparison (because it is a distinctly different musical design and is a format we either can't or prefer not to understand or appreciate) so to do I think those who prefer very contemporary/avant-garde music should stop trying to hang it on the coattails of CPT music as if it is a natural progression.
 

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Just as I now believe that those of us who prefer CPT music shouldn't be critiquing Avant-garde or highly atonal music as awful in comparison (because it is a distinctly different period) so to do I think those who prefer very contemporary/avant-garde music should stop trying to hang it on the coattails of CPT music as if it is a natural progression.
I think a lot of it just sounds awful, period, no comparisons required.
 

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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.
Which is why I said "a lot of it". There's also a lot of Romantic era music I find awful. But if you want to discuss the travails of modern composers I don't see how you do so without considering audience reception and perception lest you offend the sensitivities of modern music fans.
 

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I purposely said, 'Practically no..' rather than 'Absolutely no..'
I understand, you could be right but it's not obvious to me that you are. For an example of a composer other than Rihm, without thinking about it too much, you could listen to Heinz Holliger's settings of poems by Christian Morgenstern.
 

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It's hard for me to give examples given the way the discussion has gone because we're focussing on symphonies, and I don't know much about them really. I could give lots of examples of chamber and solo music and song, at least, I think I could. But, to pick an obvious orchestral example, Rihm's third symphony reminds me of old fashioned classical music, if not 19th century then Mahler. See what you make of it
The problem with this third symphony of Rihm is that things happen too slowly and surpass my attention span rather fast. This is almost the only similarity I can find with Mahlers symphonic works.

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.

For example many religions are invented by humans to create peace and order in a chaotic world. That they did not quite succeed as intended is another story.
 
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