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This 29 message thread spans 2 pages:  < <   1  [2] > >  
  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  MartinY at 09:45 on 12 November 2008

I think there are two big losses in modern classical music which need rectifying. One is the idea of playing music for fun. I have lots of people round at my house to play through early music for fun. We sit down and just play through lute songs, masses, motets and chansons etc. with no intention of rehersing or performing. In fact I have become to really dislike formal concerts and never really care to put myself out to go to one. On 19th century instruments we play the quartets by Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms etc, and one or two early 20thC pieces. Much later music is impossible to play without practising beforehand and so is really impossible to organise. Also people will say 'put this rubbish away, we would be much better off playing Haydn'. (They say this about second rate 19th century music too.) The sense of fun has gone out of music. I remember playing a set of variations by Georg Moffat where we stopped for a laugh after each section because the variations were so witty.

It is also clear from composer's websites that many composers desire celebrity and want to be made a fuss of at formal concerts where people sit politely in rows and have music played at them and then say how marvellous the music is and it should be broadcast on the media. It is then the audience's fault that they are so few in number and too ignorant to be appreciative. I have made my views about formal concerts clear, even though I love the orchestral repertoire. I largely listen to it on CDs now. (I would go a long way for a live performance of Gurrelieder though, rare as it is.)

So I think we should write music which can be played for fun, not music which makes us think the time would be better served doing the tax return.

The other big loss is functional harmony. No compositional technique gives music the same sense of direction as functional harmony. Atonal music has lost the difference between major and minor and functional harmony and it is difficult to have features which fully replace them. Any ideas?

Martin, PhD, MSc, BA.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  MartinY at 10:02 on 12 November 2008

I forgot to say that what never happens is any group of musicians come round to play contempory music. The nearest I get to that is a planned session on the Bartok quartets and years ago I organised a session of modern music for 4 and 5 part recorders. Apart from one difficult movement all the recorder music was playable and so produced an enjoyable day.

I largely get my music played initially by computer, though I written a large number of duos to play with my wife..... P.S. from MartinY.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Nicolas Tzortzis at 12:24 on 12 November 2008

There is no "loss" in my mind concerning functional harmony.
The "loss" you're talking about is a "win",a "gain",because of exactly what you say.
"No compositional technique gives music the same sense of direction as functional harmony"
And people moved away from functional harmony because they wanted a Different sense of direction,or even NO sense of direction.If they wanted the same,they would have stuck to functional harmony.
There is no major or minor anymore,but one must not seek to "replace" them.It's not about that.If one is trying to write the same music with different harmonies,then he is wrong from the beggining.It's about making another kind of music.
No major or minor,but the differences in today's "atonal" music go far beoynd that and create even larger contrasts,to say Different things.

Different materials create different buildings.You can't make the Parthenon out of wood,and you can't make the Notre Dame de Paris out of marble,so why try?There is no loss in using cement or steel and not rocks,wood or marble.

as far as fun goes,I'm sure no one sits down to play a late Beethoven quartet "for fun",or the Hammerklavier sonata "for fun".One plays "Für Elise" for fun,but not the great (difficult to play) works.And I'm sure that a lot of people have played Cage for fun,or Stockhausen's "Aus den sieben Tagen".
The lute songs you're talking about would be,if we put them in 20th century music's terms, songs by Gershwin or Cole Porter,or even Joseph Kosma,Manos Hadjidakis etc.And I'm certain hundreds of people play this music for fun.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 16:21 on 12 November 2008

Too many composers are careless in the way they adopt some of the gestures without thinking about the inner meaning of their chosen 'system'. In the same way words like 'functional harmony,''tonality', 'atonality' etc. are thrown around too thoughtlessly.

The last two contributors to this forum are, of course, not guilty of this, but I still feel more explanation is needed if this discussion is going to lead anywhere useful.

Such things are easier to discuss in notes than in words. The ideas are too complex and evanescent. (Mendelssohn said that music is a language too precise for words). But here is an attempt at a beginning:

1] You can't have 'functional harmony' etc. on its own than you can clap with one hand. To tell us about functional harmony, you have to tell us what it functions in. It is part of a system.

2] That system is made up of gestures and figures, of components that have been differentiated 'vertically' into tune + accompaniment (or at least into specialised material for upper and lower parts) and 'horizontally' into beginnings/middles/ends (and more}.

3](The 'system' is of course no more than the sum of pieces of music that it more or less covers. And each piece of music is itself no more than a fragile composite of the processes, the devices and combinations that make it up and hold it together).

4] Functioning pieces of music depend upon this very fragility for their dynamic: the interplay of opposing and contradictory forces. In one form or another such a dialectic is is a defining quality for music of any form or type. (Try tapping your
fingers without any differentiation of loud/soft or short/long etc. This is just not heard as music. There is no reason to carry on listening. Now play off one element against another and there you have it! A communication has started)

5] In other words, all these devices and combinations together and separately threaten to undermine the very 'system' they have created. Allow them their 'head'and they will go on to create a new one. This is precisely how music systems evolve and develop over the years.

6] Any system is part of a historical process. To define a system is simply to take a passing snapshot of life in motion.

7] The system we are talking about is 'tonality' caught at a certain moment. It had had a past and it was developing a future.

8] Every gain is a loss. As late as 1750 composers like Marcello were complaining at the shabby way new composers were disrespecting the subtle particular pungent characteristics of modal systems for the bland and out-of-tune globalised and generalised commonplaces of the major/minor 'modes'.

9] The story of the various multifarious factors: the advanced techniques and popular 'rules of thumb' and the ancient folk traditions whose confrontation gave rise to the tonality that built hour-long movements is fascinating, and too complicated to retell here.

10] It is based on the idea of loss and regain of equilibrium. You can't regain equilibrium without having lost it, just as you can't lose what you have not established. Applied to different 'tonal regions' these are precisely the functions performed by different sections of a sonata form movement.

11] Loss and regain of key-region equilibrium over a time-scale of, say, up to 30 minutes was a great achievemeent of Beethoven and his period. But this would have been unthinkable without the harmonically/melodically/contrapuntally much richer but more local, short-range loss/regain of Bach and his period.

12] Towards the end of his life Beethoven was reaching out to a richer musical vocabulary and, paradoxically, simultaneously to a simpler one too. To the extent that he succeeded, the large-scale power of tonality to control the whole diminished.

13] Already by the time of Chopin, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner etc. the inclusion of ever more remote key-regions into the domain of a key meant a reduction in the power of each to affect the over-all form. By the time of Debussy, Scriabin......!

14] Even the 'conservative' (in this sense) Mahler experimented with 'reverse' tonalities (going the 'wrong' way round the circle of 5ths) and 'progressive' tonalities [ending up in a different key-region from where one started]etc. - and the reach of his part-writing stretches even local tonality to - and sometimes beyond - its limits.

15] Tonality in this dynamic, dialectical sense, as practiced by the composers of the 'classical' and 'romantic' periods, is an idea well beyond the understanding of contemporary 'neoromantic' and 'tonal' composers who have replaced drama, movement and adventure with static sterile repetition or the stagnant reiteration of triads etc. Back to undifferentiated finger-drubbing.

16] Nor is tonality always well understood by its detractors: the best of whom yearn for the 'functional generative processes' (Boulez) that their innovations have ruined.

17] It is beyond the power of a single composer to single-handedly continue and advance the work of the great pretonal, tonal and post-tonal composers. The musical material they used and its formal implications was not their own creation: it was part of 'the scene'.

18] In my own poor, barely competent, work, I have done my best to go as far as any individual can go to use the musical resources which are now at our disposal (the whole of music as it has existed at all times and places and all the music there could be!)to try and equal the meaningfulness, dynamism, imagination and depth of the lute composers, the chansonniers, Haydn and Moffat and others. (I chose to write a concerto modelled on Moffat as part of my doctorat).

19] I also love to play chamber music of all kinds: wonderful trio sonatas of Frescobaldi and his contemporaries etc., sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms etc. (difficult though!)

20] Music which exists only as a spectator sport and a commodity to be bought and sold for the profit of a few is bound to become corrupted and to lose a lot of its communicative power. Communication is a two-way process.

21] But the answer cannot be to ditch the art. By all means write aomething playable by non-experts. Music needs this. But the needs of the imagination must not be starved either. If people are not yet ready to hear this, then a composer still has an obligation to his art and to them to do all he can to allow them to share the musical and emotional experiences which made him write the music the w he did. But not everything is in his power. Let him be true to the idea first. The rest will follow as and when society catches up with the insights of its most advanced representatives.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 20:46 on 12 November 2008

Quite a long journey misuc but the point is we need to stuck to the post issue and cchallenge otherwise we go where ever we want simply to like the way we sound talking and barking at the moon.
As far as you like quotes "Gould said" we are simply variations of what has happened before us but Petrassi urged that "each ine of us build his own tradition" and Berg said we "comunicate simply from the every moment we start considering doing it".
So what ? doeas all this spread some inner light on the former question if classical contemporary music need a (re) thinking?
Not at all , Instead keep on the my last post please and start from it


  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 21:02 on 12 November 2008

I mean

Do you agree that is tension , that defynes the story of a real classical contemporary music composition ? That is tension opening and closing , clearly sectioned , to create a worth listening musical speech. Music, even if gains its first "stimulus" /input from our thoughts, our emotions or whatever external feeling we may experience, must be able to live of a life of its own otherwise is only soundtrack, scene music. commercial . anyway on a different level of the "supreme absolute music" our father wrote for so many years and that is so deeply rooted in our western genetic heritage and otherwise learnable with a lot of efforts and problems and never in its complete being.

This is the re(thinking) I was asking about not an history of harmony and his roughly described development
"to simple to be true".....

Thanks MISUC, ...."you are too good to be true" ...with the pocket history of music in 12 points and some comas.
Let's do some real talking here! nam eon the post

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 00:29 on 13 November 2008

I don't know how we are supposed to take Ruska's comments. Are they meant to be ironic? I don't know where your musicology comes from, Ruska, but your biology stinks of Hitler. Read some real science. There is no specific Western genetics. If you want to learn more I can refer you to some proper books on the subject. Meanwhile, say what you want, just don't bring race into it.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  MartinY at 11:31 on 13 November 2008

This is relevant re: the quality of music.

Much of the music in the Cavalier and Lute Song repertoire is more profound than generally thought. You get no feel of what is really going on by getting Musica Britannica out and banging through the written notes on the piano. (This is especially the case with the songs of Henry Lawes, which have been widely disparaged.) There is a very subtle interaction between, voice, continuo text and context which either makes or breaks the experience.

This is relevant to some contemporary music where music is much more than the notes on the page. two apparantly equally accurate performances can have totally opposite results. The music is the sound and the performance not a piece of paper and we should not forget this. Sometimes the score LOOKS more interesting than the music is when you hear it. Sometimes the score looks boring but the effect is magnificent.

I am not impressed at all with music as graphic art but we should not forget the huge practical difference that good clear performing parts makes.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 21:03 on 13 November 2008

A reason why Lawes' music remains controversial after 4 centuries - he arrived on the scene during one of those amazing transitional periods in music (and social) history when everything and nothing was possible. i.e. the old system had broken down, the new one had not yet established itself. As counterpoint, Lawes' consorts sound awkward and jagged compared to the wonderful consort music of Byrd etc.. Also melodically, by comparison, his tunes seem abrupt and inelegant. The phrase lengths seem either too short or unbalanced. Nothing flows naturally/organically. Everything seems an effort or, on the contrary, a cop-out. The harmonic changes vary between shocking and commonplace. A sort of musical adolescence. At the same time, the boldness, the inventiveness, the implacable way in which he follows a musical thought to its conclusion, whatever the consequences - the collision of partially formed with outgrowths of old musical systems instantly give rise to astounding new potential or virtual musical systems (the musical equivalent of the large hadron collider?).... the implications of these quasi-systems have not been fully realised to this day!

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 21:21 on 13 November 2008

PS How true, your remarks about the way music looks and the way it sounds! This is one of the most important and least discussed subjects. The unique and thrilling experience of something that works is so hard to pin down on paper. Hence the need to try out new ways - even at the cost - sometimes - of some confusion. Musicians appreciate new challenges when they are honestly conceived, if they are convinced that this can lead to a new kind of experience of how music can form out of mere sound. This is an adventure which can at times be shared even with 'professional' orchestral musicians - who have been used as conductor-fodder etc.for so many hours a day and years per lifetime that a new musical experience is about as likely for them as a genuine sexual experience for an old whore.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  MartinY at 08:17 on 14 November 2008

Re: the quasi systems in William Lawes' music. I was once playing a six part consort, which says (c) Faber and Faber 1971, or some such year, and one of the players looked at the cover and said, "Is William Lawes still alive". I said "I do not think so. He died in 164x at where platform 12 of Chester General railway station is today".

Some very early renaissance music and definitely Perotin could also be mistaken for contemporary music.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 22:05 on 14 November 2008

"Ruska, but your biology stinks of Hitler. Read some real science. There is no specific Western genetics. If you want to learn more I can refer you to some proper books on the subject."

Please help me with this . List to me some proper book on the relationship between genetics and music. I really feel lik eneeding some help from some who "does not stinks like me".

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  Misuc at 23:18 on 14 November 2008

There are many, many excellent and fascinating articles on human genetics, culture etc. Some authors to look out for here: Steven Jones (I forget the name of the particular book of his which deals with the close genetic connections between people of different 'races' (i.e. closer between 'races' than within them) Stephen Rose...and many more. There is a very good recent issue of 'Scientific American' devoted mainly to this one question (tracing human movements across the planet by 'genetic fingerprinting' - which also gives the lie to Hitleritr and other theories of 'race'. Perhaps the definitive expert book on the subject (at least for laymen like me) is Stephen Oppenheimer's 'Out of Eden'.

Already in the first chapter, he pictures an airline check-in and shows how it can be proved that the Afro Caribean, standing there, and the North European, the Chinese, the Australian, the person from New Guinea and the South American are all related and have common male and female ancestor from Africa.....

There is no specific relationship between genetics and music. That is the point.

  Re: Does Classic Contemporary music needs some basic (re)thinking?  ruska02 at 23:52 on 14 November 2008

So again nothing precise always talk talk ..I suggest you to start from
the very new book by david huron (MIT PRESS) ...Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 512 pages.
and after I can give you some further good indications...after may answer to my former question...but above all why do you become always "agitated and nervous " against someone who has different opinions from yours? is not this a "slightly dictatorial attitude"? and more over is it not history thqt draws the genetic tree of art? why something has developed in a certain way here and not there...nothing genetic about that, right?...ok so let's say that according to you a lion may fly as high as an eagle ...the problem is that he has got no wings..and last ..your profile is some kind of vague so I do not know if you are a white european or not but if you are do you feel like classical music is part of your cultural heritage or not ? and if you are not a white european do you feel like classical music is part of your cultural heritage or not ?
Someone has taught me that feeling tensions is all music is about and that tension and pleasure comes from answering or not to expectations, but expections are built on fear and pleasure awaiting for, and fearing something or not isn't it genetic?

Please end up once again marking me as musical nazi fascist or , musical left winged sciovinst and you simply keep on telling everybody you are not able to discuss properly anything and I still do not know if you do have had a single not played by someone outside your small "everybody is free to join" world

aufidersen, main freund!

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