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  Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 17:46 on 14 May 2008

Recently a forum about sheng has started a discussion, very very "Bad", about culture and different approach to tradition and social musical dependent issues.
Some person as really lost their tracks making cheap social consideration without even knowing the language
in which the countries and cultures thy talked about express themselves from millennia.
This is a different problem anyway I do not think is correct to talk about here this is a musical composer web site and forum and if some thinks and argues in a very very naive way it is its business not ours.
I think, instead, we are facing a real problem, now a days, that may turn out to be a positive challenge for all the people that really care about a millenium old tradition . classical music. I would like therefore to ask one of many questions to come and after add my contribution to the forum while it develops:
1) Is classical music , the one that come from the gregorian chant still have and has a sense to consider come contemporary music a natural evolution and descent o fit? if yes which contemporary languages deserve this right?

Please sign all your contribution with real names and country of origin and ..."academic classical titles"
Please forgive me in advance if this may seem a too "conservative" argument but I was raised in a third world
underevolved country so sometimes I miss catching up with the news coming from the real world.

Roberto Rusconi Italy Composer , Director , Artistic Director.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 18:48 on 14 May 2008

I think music always needs rethinking,that's what art is all about,in my opinion.
We always try to find new things to say,new preoccupations,different ways of approaching composition.
I personnaly think that contemporary music is the evolution of its past.and it is not a question of which language has "the right" to consider itself the descent.
Even today we work with polyphony,homophony,counterpoint,form,harmony,rhythm,etc.All basic notions around which music has been built for centuries.I think that every musical language has its roots in something of the past,but tries to adapt to the present day.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 20:17 on 14 May 2008

"music is the evolution of its past"

This is a first important point, for example. so starting from this and for an important statement from a great composer of the past who used to say that "what we create is only a variation of something that existed before" do you think is important to know our music , cultural and theoretical past our you may just learn a copule of things and jump in without anyody saying nothing? on the other hand these things of the past you underline (counterpoint for example) as important should always be present and looked after?
I do, otherwise we loose not only our historical ties but our identity as cultural and historical act of being.
And again do you think that these production which have not in themselves these ties may call the classical contemporary music? I know I am a little out of the main road in these forum but I need, and I have notice in our international masterclasses many good European and USA composers do as well, to know what is "still" classical and whatnot even if many "imbarattacarte" here may think that mixing up everything produces a good result anyway.I may add that after having listened to the productions of these people in the showcase site I understand why they think in these way. So do we need a strong look back to where we come from and belong to be able to positively look ahead?

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 21:23 on 14 May 2008

I think one should know the musical past in order to move on,but one should never let this past become a burdon.A weight so heavy to carry that would end up just blocking the creative impulse.I sometimes like comparing a composer to a surgeon.We don't care if our surgeon would be able to operate on us under 17th century circumstances,we just care that he knows what he is doing right now.
I personnaly don't pretend to deeply know the music of the past.Before the 20th century that is.Ever since I started listening to "classical" music,my ears were searching for something different,so I quickly started listening to Schönberg and Xenakis,and I never looked back since.I am not necessarily proud of that,it is just a fact.Understanding the music of the past 100 years is already a very difficult task and trying to understand the music of the past 500 years is even more difficult.One of my first teachers used to say "we have to decide what we are NOT going to learn,because there is not enough time to learn it all".So I decided to focus on 20th century music and try to deeply understand it,so that I could use present day's material better and more consciously.
As for music today:Counterpoint,harmony etc are notions that are always present in music,even if we want it or not.From the moment that there are two notes/frequencies/sounds/objects sounding at the same time,there is harmony.but the idea of harmony is changing,as the material is changing.The "harmony" of Lachenmann is different from Grisey's "Harmony",but they are both there.As the harmony of Gesualdo is different from the harmony of Bach.Different aesthetics=different harmony.
I personally try to avoid looking for "laws",that dictate what is good and what is not.I think that everything is judged a posteriori.A work can have all the "necessary characteristics" and be of little importance,and a work could be the exact opposite,but be very interesting.
I like my time,I enjoy writing music today and,although I have a great respect for the great masters of the past,I prefer to look ahead.For me,what the masterpieces of classical music can teach us,is not necessarily the techniques,but some principles,that are present in almost all great composers:Originality,the will to move on,the personal signature,the attention to detail etc.These are the things that for me are most important,because the techniques one can learn them.And because when one is writing,it is better not to apply something that he already knows,but look for something that he doesn't,try to invent.And then of course have the ability to see what exactly he has "invented",be able to know if the result is something one has heard thousands of times before or not.Mixing (if it's not actually re-composing) is not the answer for me.I don't know one single great composer that has done it,and I don't see why I should.
History is something we should cherish,but we also have to let it rest in peace.No matter how well we know our history,that does not make us good composers.I know a lot of people that know all the repertoire by heart,but when it comes to writing....

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 18:23 on 15 May 2008

'Classical music' did not come FROM Gregorian chant. It just came afterwards. it was a response to many different diverse styles and traditions from different cultures. Classical contemporary music came after that and in the hands of sensitive and open-hearted creative musicians picked up things from still more 'remote' traditions and added plenty that was new. Do you get it now?

We note how since the hidden agenda behind your comments was exposed on this other discussion you refer to you have walked out of it.

I urge readers to read through all postings on that forum and judge for themselves what Roberto is really up to when he starts out with these apparently innocent questions. Try following this discussion: don't be surprised if this fascist does not reveal his philistine racism here too.

This is the discussion he was talking about: "Discriminating Pan-Oriental Terms of 7th Int`l Composition Prize 2008" It started when Roberto expressed his horror that a competition dared to ask for compositions using a 'sheng' (Chinese instrument). He found this a terrible threat. He decided it must be a gross insult to 'his' ancient 'Western' 'Christian' culture [!!!!]

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 23:08 on 15 May 2008

I don't agree 100% with any one on this world,not even myself,but I do believe in freedom of expression.And freedom of expression actually means (in my book) the right to insult,irritate or even enrage someone.
Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion,and we can agree or disagree with that.
I just think that it is not to the best interest of this forum to start accusing other members of being "this" or "that".If one disagrees on sth,why not debate about it,and let the readers judge for themselves?What I might consider "outrageous" could well be what the majority will find "absolutely normal".
I suggest we take it one thread at a time,just for the sake of the discussion.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 05:59 on 16 May 2008

Thanks for your comments Mr Silvermanan and Nicolas

Let's follow the most intelligent advice above and stick to the discussion

'Classical music' did not come FROM Gregorian chant"

I think that Gregorian chant evolved naturally in the duplum and truplum forms created not only to allow some kind of a richer texture with the
ecclesia singing but also to allow the birth of a written (after the important Mano Guidoniana invention) and complex literature
This literature after evolved into the Antiqua e Nova Scola and the birth of the Tenor with Variationae .
How not to consider the Bicinia masterpieces of the vocal master as a natural prerunner of some spatial scores of non or polarization attitude by Webern?
A lot of contemporary composers , especially the one who like our Venitian Scola work with the transoformation of the former event impulse into the material that shapes the forms consider their work a natural derivation from the first Gregorain Chants and especially from the liquid tactus agogig.
I know that some "ignoranti" (people that do not know) our history may look at this with disbelief but it is very rooted and strong.
And that' way I post the following issue : someone completely unaware of this histroy and past may wisely be considered into the classical contemporary tradition? and more People tha are "deficienti" from "deficere" they lack the correct knowledge of the past are of any help in our millenium old musical history ?


  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 10:34 on 16 May 2008

The thing is not if one knows his history,but what he writes and what he offers today.What he has to add to history.
If one knows his history and decides to write something that has never been done before,something that has no link to anything in the past (supposing it's possible,for the sake of the argument),that's a good thing.If one does the exact same thing,due to the fact that he has no clue about the history of music,then that's a good thing too.
I think that music has always been a question of imagination,invention,technique,hard work.If the result has something to say,has something to offer to music,I personally am not going to care if the composer knows the past or not.
This said,I do believe that if one has in mind what has been done before,he can have a clearer image of what he is doing when he is writing.But,I also believe that sometimes we simply need to forget,in order to move on.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 19:39 on 16 May 2008

I wish to thank Nicolas for his enlightened contributions to this and other forums.

I think that vulgar name-calling and personal rudeness says more about the writer than the 'accused' and therefore I am not for censoring it. I am of course in favour of free speech. Let even vicious racists condemn themselves in their own words. But words have a context and they have practical implications. So I also think it is important to draw the attention of readers who may not be aware of what is going on 'behind the scenes' to certain things on some occasions.

For example, if I say that I find Mahler's music decadent and perverse [I don't, by the way], that is just an opinion and can be discussed as such. On the other hand if this were Germany in the '30s and I condemned Mahler's music for the same reasons adding that it was Jewish (which it is, of course) that is going beyond both opinion and factual statement. In that context the implications are mass murder of millions of human beings on the basis of their [supposed] 'race'. "But" says the racist "I am only expressing a view" or he says (as Windart did about the Chinese "facts are facts. "I can leave out referring to Mahler's nose, but you won't change the fact that it is hooked." It is then a duty not only to point out that nose-shape is irrelevant to musicianship, it is also necessary to show that this kind of way of presenting 'facts' leads to mass-slaughter and world war.

THE CONTEXT. The present government of Italy is a shaky coalition of extreme right, ultra-nationalist, "Christian Identity" (i.e. white supremacist catholics) and openly fascist parties.Their MPs and ministers describe African immigrants as 'Bingo-bongos', have opened fire on the boats of immigrants, have proposed to segregate immigrants in different train cars from native Italians and speak about "immigrant slackers", saying, "We should dress them up like hares and bang-bang-bang". They have openly supported mobs attacking Gypsies and have just raided thousands of immigrants' homes and deported them at a stroke.... They have connections with the various extreme right and fascist parties in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Britain, France, Denmark, Slovakia and elsewhere.

THE PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS are obvious: more hatred, violence, war, impoverishment and injustice.

Like Roberto i do actually think that it is important to know about past music: all of it. I do not agree that it doesn't matter. I do not agree that there is not time to learn it all. that is to say: one cannot know everything, but there are principles behind the way musical styles, languages, systems, devices and techniques develop and change, and it is important, in my opinion, for a composer to have a general grasp of these. In previous centuries this was not possible or necessary, but the world has changed, and music has a particular problem related to the economic, social and cultural difficulties we are going through.

When discussing a subject like Gregorian chant and its influence on western music, it is important to distinguish between written history (which is in the hands of the winners) and what actually happened (in which the losers played the major part). The Papal authorities and Church leaders whether in France (Avignon), Turkey (Byzantium) or Italy (Rome) were concerned to limit, control and 'put into order' 'their' music which had to compete with minstrels and jongleurs,gossiping, dancing, market cries and rowdy children's games in their churches. They wanted to justify their ordinances by referring back to ancient strictures (the Greek and Roman modes etc.) but their composers and musicians were [folk] musician born and brought up with native European traditions: Goths, Celts, Allemans, Franks, Norsemen etc. Like the sculptors of the gargoyles, they took to 'illegitimate' improvising (which survive partially in Allelujahs' and the like) and they undoubtedly developed forms of polyphony (as one can still hear in certain European folk survivals) centuries before the church rulers were forced to catch up and allow it - in certain prescribed ways. [Listen to Sardinian Motets, Georgian Table Songs and Hymns to the Sun - notated in 3 - 4 parts as well as the homomorphic Pygmy polyphony - {similar music from similar circumstances)] Machaut's and Landini's amazing innovations were more secular than ecclesiastical - as were the literary achievements of Dante, Petrarch etc. hey owe next to nothing to the plainchant and much more to the 'folk' survivals referred to above.

The wonderfully subtle triad-seeking polyphony of the 15th - 16th century Church composers was transformed into the first harmonically-based 'tonality 1] as an inevitable consequence of the multiple (and mostly secular) polyphony of Gabrieli etc. If you pile on voice-part after voice part there comes a point where polyphony turns into its opposite: homophony and then it becomes possible to "see the whole as more than the sum of the parts" 2] from the dance music of the period (instrumental tablatures already recognised the concept of 'chords' when official musicology did not) 3] ballad and other folk-traditions which formed the basis of Caccini's "Nuova Musica' - recitative, figured bass etc.

And so it went on. Knowledge of the history of music is not only about 'facts'. It is about getting to understand 'from the inside' how those facts come about and how they change. You can't get this from the catechism. It demands inventiveness, curiosity, eagerness to imitate and explore, open-mindedness, independence.....

Bad musicology can lead to very bad things happening.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 20:01 on 16 May 2008

I agree with most of your post but:
I don't think that one county's goverment is the reflection of ALL of its citizens.Not all Americans are pro-war Bush born-again christians,as not all Germans in the '30's were pro-Hitler,as not all italians are pro-berlusconi.This is a distinction one has to make.
And as you correctly point out,the "facts" are not the whole truth.If a whole country decides to dress immigrants as hares and shoot them,that's a "fact".We then have to look to "why" it decides to do that.As a musicologist you do try to look deeper into the problem.As a "social analyst",you choose to state the facts,probably considering that they speak for themselves and that the "why" behind these facts in of lesser importance.I might agree with you,but this is not a "you and me" thing.maybe if we lived there (present day italy/america/30's germany),we might have different opinions from the ones we have now.
just a thought

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 20:49 on 16 May 2008

i am not attacking Roberto because he is Italian. i am aware of the millions of Italians who oppose this nasty regime. i am attacking him because everything he writes is written in the same language , the same style and from the same viewpoint as these vile human-haters.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 05:26 on 17 May 2008

I am really happy now because I have discovered the true : all this is a joke when I read this

THE CONTEXT. The present government of Italy is a shaky coalition of extreme right, ultra-nationalist, "Christian Identity" etc etc et cup to fascist parties in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Britain, France, Denmark, Slovakia and elsewhere.

I understand only one thing : Mrs Silverman Misuc is making fun of us all !
I am a twenty years long left wing voter an a cultural militant , My parentss were deported during the last
second war and imprisoned by the fascist ( the real one like Mr Silverman that attack other ideas without even knowing what they are talking about and spreading "mala informationae" all around). My mother surname is Levi does this means something to you ? I do not like todays choices of the Italian political scene but they are not so different from late changes in France, UK, and Russia but from this to what Mr Silverman designs there is a real big difference. Nobody here has ever fired anything against anybody and everywhere who has ever come to Italy knows very well which "climax " there is here but I know "ignorant "people are really everywhere ..and they talk as well. But I do not want to loose any more of my precious time arguing with people that not only are bad informed, but also do not know classical music history at all and are not even composers played the firend pf compositiotoday : come to our country (recently thanked by Pistorius the athlet with protesys for its incredible life attitude) know the real thing and join our initiative, on the field, with us , working you will really realise what I was trying to start here...
to all the need to meet..we are definitly on two different realities: let's keep it this way..please!
I am going back to the written work where as Shostakovic used to say " words lie a lot , notes never!"

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 08:44 on 17 May 2008

I am glad to hear that Roberto opposes the government of crimes-against-humanity (if this is so) and I am sorry to hear what his parents went through. I will withdraw my accusations of fascism against him.

Then how can he be seduced by such craven insensitive backward hate-filled arrogant plattitudes as the ones he has been coming out with? Has he really heard any of the music he writes about so smugly? Has he heard anything else? Does he know how to listen to music at all? All he writes could just as well be political propaganda from the parties I have mentioned. Does he not feel there is something questionable about his own attitude to music if it shares so much with that of these despicable racists?

I would sincerely ask him to pause and THINK for a moment

[By the way, Roberto does not deny my reports about what ministers in the government have been saying and doing. But he has not condemned them for any of these crimes. However he does protest that they have never shot at immigrant ships. (Presumably he does not deny that they have been repeatedly threatening to shoot cannons at them over a period of years). The facts are hard to establish. What is known is that thousands of would-be immigrants have drowned in Italian waters as their ships were sunk in circumstances that have not been fully investigated or resolved in what successive Italian extreme-right governments have officially called a 'war' on immigrants. Millions of Euros have been spent on this anti-immigrant war, and military help has been given.(For full report see
Here is an extract from another brief report: "Two ships packed with refugees on their way to Italy capsized on June 16 and 20, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 250 people. The response of the Italian government to this tragedy, however, has been to vilify refugees, announce tougher measures to fend off incoming refugees and force states bordering the European Union (EU) to do the same.

Umberto Bossi, chairman of the separatist Northern League party and minister for reform in the Berlusconi government, has demanded that the Italian navy and coast guard be allowed to open fire on refugee boats. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in mid-June, he declared, “I’ve had enough of these illegal immigrants. After two or three warnings...boom!...let them have it! Forget the palaver.”

Questioned by the irritated interviewer as to whether it would be right to open fire on boats filled mainly with women and children, Bossi answered abruptly: “Illegal immigrants have to be scared off, either politely or rudely. At some time or other force will have to be used.”

This was way back in 2003. Since then thousands more have died.]

I am obviously not holding Roberto responsible for these [probable] state murders. Besides: Italy is not the only state that exploits and torments immigrants. But does he disown this policy? His remarks in this forum suggest otherwise.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  scott_good at 13:47 on 17 May 2008

hold on everyone,

Really, does there need to be so few manners? Call me a WASP, I don't care, but I do do find these 'battles' to be tiring.

Misuc, I do not think you need to call for disciplinary actions on things you disagree with - this is up to the administration, and it is starting to make this place seem more like a political arena than a place for composers to meet and discuss issues which pertain to their profession.

And Roberto, my my, if you say you are not what you have been accused of, then why do you say racist things all the time? (please don't ask me to point them out, if you cannot see them, then ask someone whom you trust to proof read your messages - I know anything I say will be disregarded) Also, Misuc has obviously shown he has extensive knowledge of the classical tradition and music in general. So why do you accuse him of not? The only conclusion I can come to is that if someone disagrees with your ideas, you think them ignorant. As well, if anything counters the idea that all of the classical music tradition comes from Christian Italy, it is irrelevant (oh yes, you accept a bit of Germany and France as has been mentioned, but as you said, %50 of the worlds art history comes from Italy). Did you ever consider the possibility that this view of history might be a bit skewed?

Could you please do the favor of rebutting Misuc discussion of the History. Perhaps you can explain why you consider him so ignorant without using rhetoric, but actual ideas? I am interested in this subject, and look forward to hearing your informed ideas.

I would also urge you to proof read your messages.


  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 14:25 on 17 May 2008

Thankyou Scott. Point taken.

As I put it [above] I am not for disciplining people for what they write. But I did suggest that there may be circumstances where one is not only allowed but obliged to go beyond the normal bounds of a 'talking shop for composers': for example if one is presented with what looks like a white- or christian-supremacist theory of musicology in the context of actual physical attacks on non-whites/non-christians.

By no means am I advocating censorship or 'discipline'. On the contrary, I am calling for full discussion: I am saying that one's replies have to take up issues concerned with the political consequences of such musical 'theories'. Music does not exist in a social vacuum. I agree that there are other internet sites more obviously suitable for political discussion, but there are times when these boundaries have to give way.....

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