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Being as specific as you can be, what is impressive about the Balch piece?
First of all, there is nothing I or anyone can say to you that will change your opinion if you do not find anything of merit in the work. But I will tell you why it got and held my attention. Is it impressive? That's your word, and a relative term that I don't often use for any music. One either hears a work and responds positively or not.

I was intrigued by the texture of the first part that gradually takes on more and more activity. It starts out mainly made of quiet noises and then becomes more pitch oriented and busier. This section finally matures into a more expressive section that I found captivating and beautiful, actually. The dominant seventh chords near the end are effective in contrast to the previously indistinct harmonies.

Clearly there is a beginning, middle and end, a journey she takes the listener on.

Here's the program note from the composer:

"drip music begins very quietly. From delicate, nearly inaudible drizzles of sound, splashes (heavy droplets) take over and begin to dance. This piece is about drawing attention to and then amplifying very tiny sounds, and is a celebratory exploration of the intimacies and intricacies of the string quartet. drip music was commissioned for the Argus Quartet by Concert Artists Guild, with generous support from the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund."

But if you don't hear it ...

The Katherine Balch work and this one by Alexandra du Bois - String Quartet: Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae caecat - are, I think are representative works of the generation in their 30s.


Both are string quartets, clearly these two composers are interested in working in that long-standing tradition.
 

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Could you please list 10 contemporary (living) composers you like? Even "contemporary" has lost all meaning. Anything and everything that can be done is being done. IMO 99% of it will be forgotten.
With great pleasure! I'll throw in a few favourite works to elaborate my choices. These examples will be in a random order, indicating no particular preference.

1. Sofia Gubaidulina

Gubaidulina was one of the first living composers I fully clicked with after some exposure. There's something deeply moving - dare I say spiritually engaging? - about her musical language, and the sonorities of her scores can be so elementally shattering that the listener can be left quite overwhelmed. But there is a lyrical and optimistic quality to her writing also.

Some works I love:
- The two violin concertos, Offertorium and In tempus praesens; essential Gubaidulina for anyone to explore. Especially the latter one has a place in my heart and I count it as one of the greatest violin concertos ever written. When listening to it, I am instantly captured by the narrative of the work, from the darkest abyss to the most triumhpant, life-affirming finale. A bit like Beethonven, no?
- Sonnengesang for solo cello, percussion and choir - a towering masterpiece in my opinion. I still remember hearing it for the first time, I was simply blown away by it. A lot of cellists seem to have expressed interest in it, it has already been recorded many times!
- Stimmen... Verstummen..., a symphony in 12 twelve movements. A very intersting take on the genre, and a wonderful listening experience.
- The Viola concerto, the Bassoon concerto - both works I adore!
- Various chamber works: the string trio, the string quartets, the Hommage à T. S. Elliott, organ works also... There's so much!

2. György Kurtág

One of my favourite composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. A master of miniatures, his style is often quite bleak in its Webern-like brevity, but there's also a lot of spiky humour here and there.

- Kafka-Fragmente is a classic work for soprano and violin, an amazing song-cycle exploring the absurd and morbid in Kafka's texts.
- 12 microludes for string quartet (and other works also); I think Kurtág's string quartets are of the highest quality, and offer a wonderful gateway into this composer's work.
- Quasi una fantasia for piano and a spatial orchestra - a very brief but stunning tour-de-force, starting with the most gentle descending scale but evolving into a kaleidoscope of sounds. It is quite a moving piece, I think.
- Grastein für Stephan is also very moving piece, hovering at times at the edges of silence but really exploding into a fury at times.
- There's so much more... A lot of Kurtág's output is for vocal forces, and it's an endless treasure trove. I also love when pianists play excerpts from the Játékok, short pieces meant to evoke the playing and trying out of the piano that a child engages in before being formally trained.

3. Unsuk Chin

For me, Unsuk Chin is one the most brilliant composers of our times, and probably my favourite contemporary composer.

- Chin's concertos are just amazing, and I especially love the ones for violin and piano. Hearing the piano concerto live was truly one of the most memorable concert hall experiences of my life...
- The Akrostichon-Wortspiel is probably her most famous piece, and I really love it lot. Hearing it was my first experience of her music, and I've never looked back!
- Gougalon (Scenes from a Street Theater) is one of my favourites, it's a damn funny piece. There's a video on YouTube of it, I strongly recommend watching it. The sounds Chin coaxes out the orchestra are extraordinary, and the piece it's very engaging for the listener.
- The 6 études for piano are quite popular among adventurous pianists, and the one entitled Toccata perfeclty captures the fantasy, wit and playfulness of Chin's musical language.

4. Kaija Saariaho

I hope I don't come across as too biased since I'm a Finn like Saariaho, but I really do love her music. This wasn't always the case, I remember attending a chamber concert many years ago and getting nothing out of it... But now I'm a huge fan.

- L'amour de loin; is it a cliché to mention this? Nevertheless, I really do admire this opera, it's really beautiful, mysterious and soft to the ears. I was simply blown away hearing it for the first time.
- The various concertos: Graal Théâtre for orchestra, Notes on Light for cello, D'Om le Vrai Sens for clarinet... Great stuff.
- Currently I'm enjoying many of Saariaho's chamber works a lot, for example Cloud Trio for string trio, and Mirage for cello, soprano and piano, and also Je sens un deuxième coeur for piano trio.
- I heard the premieres of the harp concerto Trans and the song cycle True Fire a few years ago - really enjoyed both!

Ok, I'm getting a bit tired of writing :)lol:) so I'll try to be a bit more compact:

5. Hans Abrahamsen

This is an interesting case. Much as I've enjoyed many of his works, it's one piece in particular and that piece alone that grants Abrahamsen a place on this list: let me tell you for soprano and orchestra. It's one of my favourite pieces of all times, any era. Such a ravishingly beautiful and moving piece, I'm moved to tears every single time I hear it.

6. Helmut Lachenmann

Lachenmann is perhaps the most "out there" avant-gardist on my list, but I do love listening to his music very much indeed. It's very different and requires a much different type of listening (at least for me) but once you catch his drift it becomes really enjoyable. I heard his Tuba concerto live a few years back and it was just amazing! I appreciate the way he's made me listen to sounds and timbre in a completely different way.

7. Wolfgang Rihm

This composer I like very much, though he has written so much that I have merely scratched the surface of his output. But he's a very multi-faceted composer, very comfortable in various styles. I have explored his violin concertos and chamber music the most, but will go on to check out his vocal works soon enough.

8. Thomas Adès

Hearing Adès' Totentanz live a few years ago was a tremendously powerful experience for me, and ever since that I've listened to his music with keen interest. The violin concerto is fantastic!

9. Harrison Birtwistle

It took me some time to start enjoying Birtwistle's music, but I'm a big fan these days. Though his operas I have hardly touched upon yet, I enjoy a lot of his orchestral and chamber music.

10. Ondřej Adámek

Adámek is an example of composer I don't really know that well, but I heard his violin concerto Follow me live a few years ago and I was simply floored by it. Absolutely one of my favourite modern takes on the genre. I must explore more of his music...

And there are so many more names: Magnus Lindberg, Péter Eötvös (a recent discovery for me!), Jörg Widmann... And individual pieces by composers I know nothing about. Also, if I can include to this list composers who have died recently (or at the end of the 20th century), then the list simply explodes: Henri Dutilleux (an absolute genius!), Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, Elliott Carter, Witold Lutosławski, Iannis Xenakis - all composers I would never want to live without!

For me, the contemporary music scene is as exciting as any previous era - an perhaps even more, since there's so much variety, so many different styles. We encounter composers and performers from all over the world, each with their individual styles and preferences. Isn't this just wonderful? Call me a naive optimist, but I'm so happy to live in this era of ours. There are so many possibilities, so many experiences to be had!
 

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SanAntone said:
First of all, there is nothing I or anyone can say to you that will change your opinion if you do not find anything of merit in the work. But I will tell you why it got and held my attention. Is it impressive? That's your word, and a relative term that I don't often use for any music. One either hears a work and responds positively or not...
Actually it was Nereffid's term. But thanks for your explication, sincerely. I'll listen to it again.
 

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Seeing as I used the word "impressed", I'll add:

It didn't start out promising - my initial reaction was "oh no, are they going to do this barely-audible stuff all the way through?", to which of course the answer was very soon "no". It was clear where the title Drip Music came from, as it really did sound like mist coalescing to form droplets, which then dripped together with greater intensity. Round about the middle as the texture came apart again I got the impression more of a natural scene, such as by a river - no idea if that was the composer's intention. And the final section was a coming together and a dramatic buildup - streams coming together to create a single flow. I mean, basically it's The Moldau but for string quartet and shorter. I'm being facetious there, because the crucial difference is one has "tunes" and the other doesn't, but effectively what I get out of Drip Music is what I get out of The Moldau - it's an evocative piece of music.
 

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Discussion Starter · #105 ·
Where did I ever say none of this music should ever be programned or heard? I'm so sorry about your traumatic experiences with orchestra boards, but that doesn't mean I have to like every tiny bit of cacophony out there.
It appears that you are not against music groups programming contemporary music. But I know many who do.

There are some members here who are very critical of contemporary music. The question that I am searching the answer for is what do they hope to accomplish by winning the argument?
 

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Discussion Starter · #107 ·
Where did I ever say none of this music should ever be programned or heard? I'm so sorry about your traumatic experiences with orchestra boards, but that doesn't mean I have to like every tiny bit of cacophony out there.
Frustrated yes, but traumatized?

People have a right to like and dislike whatever they want.
 

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Frustrated yes, but traumatized?
Well, given how often you bring it up, it must've been kinda traumatic.

People have a right to like and dislike whatever they want.
Absolutely.
There are some members here who are very critical of contemporary music. The question that I am searching the answer for is what do they hope to accomplish by winning the argument?
I'm not trying to win any argument. I'm just stating my opinion. The question I have is why do I have to be silent or pretend to like something that I don't?
 

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I'm not sure that anyone understands what the subject is supposed to be. I haven't read very much from anybody that suggests what the reality of life for contemporary composers is. Is this supposed to be about what a contemporary composer faces in making a living, finding an audience, getting a commission or deciding what kind of CM music to compose?
For those still writing music for traditional western acoustic instrumental ensembles and voices, the reality of life for contemporary composers still mainly is finding ways to get their music performed in front of an audience. Some of them find symbiotic relationships with orchestras and even some smaller established traditional ensembles that need more repertoire and have raised the money to pay commissions. Then other nonprofit entities commission music or otherwise support composers.

Ultimately, the cream must rise to the top, and new music must find an audience in order to survive. Works by John Corigliano, who as discussed in another thread has composed a lot of orchestral music on commission, get performed, and even recorded, by orchestras other than the one that commissioned the piece originally. Their music also reaches the public through movie soundtracks (Takemitsu, mentioned above, did several, iirc), and, in my opinion, the internet is fast becoming the leading new music outlet.

One composer I know, who has had success working for the movie industry in Los Angeles, also is a prolific composer of relatively CP chamber music for traditional acoustic instruments in a wide variety of combinations, and has a substantial online 'home publishing' business for that music. This makes it good for amateur musicians (although most of it is pretty advanced technically) and I have heard it performed in recital professionally as well. So that is another business model.
 

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I was thinking...
1) One cannot really truly compare composer X to composer Y if they lived different times and composed in very different styles and genres because we'll end up using different canons, judging a concerto grosso like it should be a symphonic poem. Imagine comparing Tchaikovsky to Bach, what's the sense of it. So maybe in a similar way we cannot really compare today's composers to romantics/classicists/baroque etc.

2) Critics. I do not know about today's criticism of contemporary music, what critics do and what they say, but how much does it matter in the perception we have of contemporary composers? And by contemporary I don't mean Schoenberg, but composers which didn't die 70 years ago, that died recently or are still alive and composing.
 

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I'm not sure that anyone understands what the subject is supposed to be. I haven't read very much from anybody that suggests what the reality of life for contemporary composers is. Is this supposed to be about what a contemporary composer faces in making a living, finding an audience, getting a commission or deciding what kind of CM music to compose?
I have been interviewing contemporary composers since 2014, so I have first hand knowledge of what they are doing, what they think about their career potential; and how well they are doing. I have interviewed more than 70 composers so far, from those in their 20s and 30s to one in his 80s, and those working in a more traditional style to those whose work is experimental. Some have become well known since (certainly not because of) my interview, but most have become more successful since the time of my interview even if still not "well-known."

My interviews ask the same six questions to all of them and their answers ranged from very long and expansive to relatively short and matter-of-fact. Most somewhere in the middle.

I'll just add a couple of thoughts to this thread:

1. These composers, without exception, have a purpose for writing music. Sometimes it is political, more often it is to express their own unique ideas about musical aesthetics. They consider themselves classical music composers pursuing the same profession as the composers of the core repertory. None of them expressed any idea of destroying any tradition or frustration with any tradition, however, many cited influences from popular culture as well as canonical composers.

2. They support themselves with their music in one form or another. Often they have founded or co-founded a performance ensemble and promoted their work and that of their colleagues, and often work individually as performers or vocalists. Usually they have advanced degrees and are professors in universities. Many of them have received commissions and are beginning to make a dent.

Bottom-line: these composers are (to use Joseph Campbell's phrase) "following their bliss." Their artistic integrity is intact and one of the strongest motivating factors for their work. In my interaction with them I sensed that they were brimming with optimism about their careers.

PM me if you would like the link to profiles.
DaveM, I suppose you didn't read the first page of posts.
 

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I have provided lists of composers.

Why bother if the list will be rejected as over-intellectualized garbage.
Because I am not making the claim that all living composers are bad. Only that most of them are. I'm always on the lookout for new names. The problem is there is a limited amount of performance time and anyone with real talent is going to have a hard go at getting their work out there. The audiences are dwindling as well, publishers are going out of business, which further exacerbates this feedback loop.

In retrospect, I did not mean to sound so harsh.

Here is a list of contemporary composers and a piece of their music I like or find interesting:

Joey Roukens - What Remains -

Gilad Hochman - River of Silence -

Christophe Bertrand - Haiku -

Joel Puckett - That Secret from the River -

Santa Ratniece - Saline - The Crossing -

Evan Ziporyn - This is not a Clarinet - https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=this+is+not+a+clarinet+ziporyn

Marti Epstein - Hidden Flowers -

More popular composers: David Lang, John Luther Adams, John Adams, Tristan Murail, Minimalism...
 

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Some works

Jurg Frey - 'Paysage pour Gustave Roud'
Alexandra Karastoyanova-Hermentin - Lintarys
Evan Johnson - L'art de toucher le clavecin, 3
Aaron Cassidy: Second String Quartet
Jürg Frey - 'Fragile Balance'
Christophe Bertrand: Haos
Liza Lim - Songs found in dream
Katharina Rosenberger - blur
Marti Epstein - Hidden Flowers
Agata Zubel - Cascando
Katherine Balch - drip music
Haukur Þór Harðarson - I
Yannis Kyriakides - Paramyth
Georg Friedrich Haas: tria ex uno
Ivan Fedele - Breath and Break (2013)
Pascal Dusapin By the way pour clarinette et piano (2014)
György Kurtág - Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 44
Chaya Czernowin - String Quartet
Rebecca Saunders: Dust (2017/18)
Alexandra du Bois - String Quartet: Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae caecat
Our lists have quite a few similarities :)

There are fads and trends (like with certain extended techniques and whatnot), and true originality is as rare as it's ever been. But there is an infinite abundance of music left to be made.
Yes, I agree. I did not mean there is little music left to write. I meant there are few original ideas left out there, but there is an infinite amount of ways to execute said ideas, many of them being master pieces that have yet to be composed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #115 ·
Well, given how often you bring it up, it must've been kinda traumatic.

Absolutely.
I'm not trying to win any argument. I'm just stating my opinion. The question I have is why do I have to be silent or pretend to like something that I don't?
OK. You win the argument you were not trying to win.
 

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Here's the thing though, Gucci. Why not just treat the themes in a more straightforward manner? If there are themes they're so obfuscated behind glissandi and plucking and whatever that *that* is what draws the attention. To me it's partly gimmickry and partly the over-intellectualization someone mentioned earlier.
Here's how I view it: I think the extended techniques that characterize this piece are integral to the actual music itself. Think about how you can't just take off a turtle's shell like it's a hat, because it's an actual part of its exoskeleton. You can't remove it. So the glissandi, plucking, other technical stuff that you perceive as gimmicky aren't embellishments that are obfuscating the themes, the way you put it, rather the thematic material emerged organically from this framework. If those sounds were gone, the piece would completely lose its color. It's the same as not letting a painter or sculptor use the materials they want. I don't think Balch is relying on gimmicks: she's just using different materials to realize her own vision.

The listener can also detect a sense of narrative and flow: the beginning develops and there is a gradual build up of excitement. This demonstrates that the titular "dripping" sounds are able to propel the piece the same way "actual" notes can and should be treated equally as such, as they're fulfilling the same function. I don't see why they shouldn't be considered musical in this regard. That's why I don't think it's gimmicky, or innovation just for its own sake.

I also don't believe it['s overly intellectual because I have no clue how Balch wrote this music from a technical perspective: I just enjoy the sounds and am also able to feel emotion from the music. If this was meant to only be appreciated by snobby academics in the ivory tower, how could a layman such as myself appreciate it, who is not intellectualizing this music at all?

For the record, I think you have every right to voice your misgivings about AV-G and contemporary music. I'd rather people ask the tough questions than be in an echo chamber. In fact, your sentiments are understandable: why am I not allowed to challenge this music if I personally don't see the merit in it? Why should I just shut up and accept it? I get it. And I think by people challenging the music, it can actually shed light on its worth by others sharing a different perspective (like I'm doing now), or even yet, could actually reveal that there isn't much merit to it at all! "The unexamined life is not worth living", "leave nothing unquestioned" blah blah blah blah. You get it, I'm beating a dead horse now. :lol:
 

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For me, the contemporary music scene is as exciting as any previous era - an perhaps even more, since there's so much variety, so many different styles. We encounter composers and performers from all over the world, each with their individual styles and preferences. Isn't this just wonderful? Call me a naive optimist, but I'm so happy to live in this era of ours. There are so many possibilities, so many experiences to be had!
I am in full agreement. You and I may not share much in terms of taste, but we can agree that there are an astounding number of exciting composers working right now... and in a mind-boggling range of styles.
 

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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 division 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.

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.
I think that's a reasonable way of looking at it from your point of view and probably that of many others, at least as listeners. However, to have such a split put into effect institutionally would cause a lot of problems. A lot of composers and performers don't want that kind of split, don't see the need of it, and would suffer greatly from it because they see their whole m.o. being undermined -- one that encompasses both the classical tradition and innovations of recent times. Like, if I as a composer know a violinist who plays classical music, but have to find a different violinist to play new music - why? A while ago one of my pieces was played by a group that mainly plays 18th- and 19th-century music, and they gave a beautiful performance. To accept this split just plays into the hands of the more extreme parties who want nothing to do with pre-1900, or pre-1950 music, or even anything for traditional western classical instruments.
 

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I think that's a reasonable way of looking at it from your point of view and probably that of many others, at least as listeners. However, to have such a split put into effect institutionally would cause a lot of problems. A lot of composers and performers don't want that kind of split, don't see the need of it, and would suffer greatly from it because they see their whole m.o. being undermined -- one that encompasses both the classical tradition and innovations of recent times. Like, if I as a composer know a violinist who plays classical music, but have to find a different violinist to play new music - why? A while ago one of my pieces was played by a group that mainly plays 18th- and 19th-century music, and they gave a beautiful performance. To accept this split just plays into the hands of the more extreme parties who want nothing to do with pre-1900, or pre-1950 music, or even anything for traditional western classical instruments.
And would an artist like Vikingur Olaffson have to split himself in two so that one side can play Bach to classical audiences while the other side plays Glass to the new music audience?
 
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