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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am curious which composers/compositions do you find to be formalist? What makes them formalist and not formulaic? Or is formalism a version of being formulaic?

Any thoughts?

btw, I think that Haydn as a formalist but certainly not formulaic. That guy was so witty and very subversion within his framework.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That is what I am hoping to do. What is formalism in music? I would like to get a better grasp on that first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You will have a hard time defining "formalism." Some writings of the late Stalinist time suggest it's music that is "autographical," describing the composer's own thoughts, ideals, or experiences -- rather than being aimed a pleasing tractor-drivers in Kazakhstan, which all proper music should do. Composers of the time found that incorporating some folk-like music in their works was a good defense against such charges.
Is this the social realist view of music I presume? State-ist functionality?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
To the Soviet authorities, I think formalism just meant not proper socialist realism. More generally, I think of it as something along the line of music for music's sake. "Music can only be only about itself," as Stravinsky said. The Soviets hated that. Music was meant to serve the state.

Going backwards in time, you get the Brahms vs. Wagner debate, where Brahms (or really, Hanslick) would have been on the formalist side.

"Music has no subject beyond the combinations of notes we hear, for music speaks not only by means of sounds, it speaks nothing but sound." - Eduard Hanslick
But what did they mean by music serving the state? Did they require the composer to include something that had to refer to the country's folk tunes because then it would be too abstract?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Folk tunes were nice because they could be seen as honoring the national heritage. And they were usually "accessible." Experimental was bad. You were supposed to serve the people. Art wasn't for struggling with your internal demons or working out new ideas about harmony and rhythm.

But the Soviets shouldn't define the word Formalism (and the Soviet authorities weren't much different from other totalitarians). They sort of co-opted it, and gave it a political edge. You can reject formalism without being a tool of the state.
I would assume that the state wouldn't approve of the Mahlerian approach to using folk tunes into musical works because they just wanted a straightforward quoting?

Just trying to get a different perspective on a subject that I honestly don't have much clue about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Every one of Haydn's London symphonies followed the same formula. Who cares? Each one is terrific.
I agree. Why change a successful formula? :D Just remember to switch it up a little :p
 
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