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This 29 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >  
  Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  keith burstein at 08:09 on 09 September 2008
 

In response to a news item on the front page of Composition Today-Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt 15th July- a fascinating thread of debate appeared link here. As I’m the original subject of this thread, I’ve been reading it with interest – it’s one of the few forums I’ve seen which has made an effort to properly discuss the issues behind my court cases.

However, there seems to be some misunderstanding about both my recent libel case against the ‘Evening Standard’ and also the one arising from the “Hecklers event” in 1994 (in which I and some others booed after a performance of Birtwistle's ‘Gawain’). Let me clarify.

Firstly – in both cases (the one arising from the Hecklers event and the current one arising from an allegation that my opera ‘Manifest Destiny’ glorifies terrorism), I only decided to go to court in response to a statement being made which went beyond the realm of “fair comment” and into the area of defamation.

With regard to the Hecklers event, some extra background will help to understand the case. After five years at the Royal College of Music (with two scholarships), I performed the notoriously complex ‘Piano Piece 10’ by Stockhausen as my Park Lane Group Southbank debut recital. I subsequently spent my twenties directing and conducting for my own contemporary music ensemble (The Grosvenor Group), which specifically performed and commissioned contemporary music - much of it 'atonal' - by composers such as Birtwistle, Benjamin, Ferneyhough etc. We made several BBC recordings for Radio 3 and met with considerable success - several of my players went on to form the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Abbado. So I do have a background in 'atonal' twentieth century music and, unlike many of my critics, I have actually conducted Birtwistle’s music as well as commented on it.

At the start of the 1990s, I became a full-time composer. My music was (and remains) tonal - not as a dogmatic issue, but by deepest instinct. My enduring belief is that tonality and music are synonymous the world over - and probably the Universe over (!)- as the origins of tonality are a force of nature (the harmonic series) which completely transcends the Western European functional tonality period (1750 – 1900) and which, in its profound link with all music, forms the infinite and eternal sea of our expressive imaginations. Indeed, I predict that atonalism will be read by history as a minor style within ongoing tonality, characterized by extreme chromaticism. Just another passing moment in the endless and marvellous variety of human music.

However, in contrast to the relative enthusiasm I’d encountered while leading a new music ensemble and performing atonal music, I immediately found great prejudice within the British New classical musical establishment that was directed against New Tonal music, including my own. I wasn’t alone in my frustrations, and met others in a similar position. On these issues there are as many views as there are composers, but my belief is that the atonal paradigm has dominated Western classical new music for longer than any other stylistic period in musical history – in fact, for over a century. How can a culture so ancient, so reactionary, so much the opposite of radical - of new, of modern - still be presented as cutting edge? The musical language of ‘Gawain’ is massively similar to Schoenberg’s ‘Erwartung’ (1909). There is no advance - there is just inertia.

Eventually a group of us – extremely frustrated by the fetishising of atonalism at the expense of everything else - decided that we should stage a direct-action demonstration. It was decided to “boo the unbooable” - an icon of the atonal establishment. This was not something arrived at lightly, and at first I distanced myself from the group, fearing that they intended to disturb the performance. I even wrote a letter that was published in ‘The Times’ condemning any such action. However, having made sure that none of us would actually disturb the performance - but would instead confine our booing to the applause period - I alerted the press and we proceeded with the demonstration. The reasons behind the event were quite serious and sincere, and in itself it was very successful. (As regards the choice of name, the original 'Hecklers' were an eighteenth-century debating society, and our aim was to ferment debate).

The response was extraordinary and highly revealing, with myself and the other Hecklers frequently crucified in print. We were compared, with a total lack of perspective, to Nazis (particularly unfortunate, considering the Jewish heritage some of us shared) and painted as the worst kinds of reactionary snobs. No-one had dared to openly challenge the existing British new classical music establishment in such a way before, and the backlash was extreme.

The event created such a shockwave that it has effectively entered urban myth and, fourteen years after the event, is still considered a key topic in TV programmes such as ‘Classic Britannia’ and on discussion sites such as this. I had discovered an additional talent to my musical abilities - an ability to interest the media. I am unrepentant of my use of this particular talent. My career has been media-linked ever since, and I see that as part of the bridge-building process out of the backwater into which atonalism has led our musical culture. Atonalism was right for the mid-twentieth century world of Mutual Assured Destruction and the Holocaust. It is not right for us, in the twenty-first century, to be held imprisoned within its (extreme and dire) expressive limits by a self-appointed non-creative elite.

In the wake of the demonstration, black propaganda was circulated by the atonal establishment regarding the means, method and central intent of myself and my colleagues - in apparent ignorance of the fact that we were a loosely-knit group to begin with, and had already gone our separate ways. Eventually (in 1997) a statement appeared in the ‘Times’ stating that I had organized gangs to go round “wrecking”concerts of atonal music. This was untrue. At ‘Gawain’ I had personally ensured there would be no disruption of the performance, and the conductor Elgar Howarth testified in my defence at the libel trial that there had been no disturbance whatsoever. I won the ensuing libel case against Rupert Murdoch's News International hands-down in 2000.

It cannot be forbidden in a free society to politely boo after an event. What does it say about our new classical music establishment that their reaction revealed clearly a complete intolerance of the slightest challenge? That was the first and probably the last time I will boo at a performance, but the target was so aptly chosen and the atonal establishment so shocked by being challenged that the reverberations continue to this day.

Despite the gap of years, there’s probably only a small step between the ‘Times’ libel case and the situation surrounding ‘Manifest Destiny’, the opera through which I expressed my opposition to the Bush- Blair neocon (for which read “fascist”) reaction to 9/11. My staging of the opera with seventeen performances at the Edinburgh fringe (by chance just after the London bombings of July 2005) led to an allegation appearing in the ‘Standard’ that ‘Manifest Destiny’ glorifies terrorism. In fact, the opera portrays would-be suicide bombers laying down their arms and pursuing peaceful means.

The ‘Standard’ sought to invert that meaning, and wrote a statement that insinuates that I personally champion suicide bombers. I was not prepared to accept this lie, and consequently sued them – not least for the fact that under the current Terrorism Act I’m potentially liable to be arrested for making any kind of statement which appears to support or nurture anyone defined as a terrorist.

The ‘Standard’ libel case is not over – it’s going before the European Court of Human Rights next year. This process might re-open the right to a jury trial ,as originally offered to me by the High Court, but which was later dismissed by the Court of Appeal in a decision which I strongly suspect was politically motivated.As the Court of Appeal through out the case , saying Manifest Destiny was "plainly anti American" and that they were going to "unusually" withdraw right to a Jury trial already given by the High Court , they also handed me a £67,000 bill for legal costs.I could not pay and The Standard proceeded to bankrupt me.I cant think of any other occasion when a major media group - Associated Newspapers ltd who own the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as well as the Standard - has bankrupted an artist.

Both the libel cases I have brought were motivated by a desire to defend freedom of expression and to defend the human spirit against fascism and absolutism of any kind. As is the case with many artists, I’m used to being attacked and dismissed, and in many cases opt to grin and bear it, but on two occasions have had to react with litigation when the limits of fair comment were abused with naked lies conceived to discredit. As an issue of principle I cannot allow the horizon of my freedoms, or those of others, to be suppressed - least of all via an attack on me in the press. I acted in both libel cases in defence of everyone's freedom of expression and will fight for that through my music – and, if necessary, through the courts - to the end.

For those who are curious about my music and would like to make up their own minds about it, away from the distortions of the libel case and coverage – I have a website at http://www.keithburstein.co.uk at which there are excerpts from my music, although admittedly the site has not been updated for a couple of years. You can also view extracts from ‘Manifest Destiny’ on Youtube (use my name and that of the opera as search terms, in order to avoid various film trailers and rock songs!), or read recent articles in ‘The Guardian’ on the ‘Manifest Destiny’ case (start at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/14/classicalmusicandopera.terrorism ) and listen to a podcast of a live interview I gave on Canadian radio recently (at http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/qpodcast_20080819_7064.mp3 - it should remain online until 18th September).

I can also send CDs of my music by request. I’m open to being contacted at my email address ( keith.burstein@gmail.com) and can assure you that I’m far more pleasant in person than some would like to portray me, and am by no means prickly or embittered as they’d suggest!

As for other matters - although inevitably I’m something of an 'underground' composer who has struggled to have his work performed in the face of ongoing hostility by the atonalist-controlled musical establishment, I can still be heard. I have been championed by Arvo Part and Corin Redgrave (the latter of whom produced ‘Manifest Destiny’), and have worked with Ralph Steadman (who thought enough of the opera to contribute his marvellous designs to it). I am currently beginning work on a Symphony ‘Elixir’ (some of which will be performed next year, and in the composition of which I have received encouragement from Vladimir Ashkenazy) and I am in discussion with Booker Prize winning novelist Ben Okri to write an opera with him.

I would be very grateful to any of you who might find the time to listen to some of my music - as this (ultimately, my sole purpose) has so often been hidden beneath the surrounding controversies.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 11:39 on 09 September 2008
 

Dear Keith
on all the trouble you have with the law suits I wish you all the best.It is true that freedom of expression is under attack nowadays,and it's definately not the artists that are attacking it.
There are many things that some people don't like hearing,and they will try everything in order to shut them up.I totally support you on your battle for free speech and the right as an artist and a citizen to express his opinions.
I took the time to visit your website,listen to the pieces and read the "philisophy" link.
Unfortunately I'm deeply disappointed,I think your music is really bad,and that the philosophy too simplistic and not very well founded. You accuse the language of Birtwhistle not to have advanced since Schönberg,so I'd guess you feel that moving things forward is something an artist should aim for.Personally I didn't find any kind of advancing in your pieces.Probably my fault,but is it?
Your criticism on atonal music is right in a lot of parts,but I find it extremely shallow to criticize "a music".Is all tonal music good?there is an enormous amount of unbearable tonal pieces,and there are masterpieces.The same thing goes for atonal music.And what do we mean by "atonal" music?
The 20th century has given us an enormous amount of different styles,all of them "atonal":Xenakis,Stockhausen,Ligeti,Grisey,Feldman,Sciarrino,Lachenmann,Aperghis,Ferneyhough etc.They are "atonal",but their music is totally different.Do they all suck?is all of their music so bad and should never be heard?Is your answer to their work a return towards over-simplistic harmonies that have nothing new to offer?
And if, as you point out at the end of your philosophy, "all music is tonal",then what is the problem? we are all writing tonal music,so it all sound great and beautiful,since tonal is all about sounding nice and pretty.

I feel you have every right to write whatever kind of music you feel is closer to who you are,what you look for and what you feel music "should be".But I don't think you,or anyone else,need any kind of manifesto or "philosophy", to justify your artistic choises.You wanna write tonal?fine with me.If I don't like it,that's my problem.But please,don't give me alla that talk about nature,the human brain,"all music is tonal" etc.By doing that,I feel you fall into the same trap as all the other "intellectuals" of "atonal music" that use many many words to justify their work,because they probably feel that without them they won't get anyone to listen to it.
I wish you the best of luck.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  keith burstein at 23:29 on 09 September 2008
 

Dear Nicolas

Thanks for your long and considered reply.

Music is notoriously difficult to talk about , and all of us who devote our lives to it probably prefer to let it speak for itself.But there are times and circumstances when it has to be attempted.I believe this period is one such time.

You sound a little despairing in your comments on the terms I have used.I tend to find that those who dont really want a status quo questioned deny that there is a status quo.They then proceed to invalidate the vocabulary of the argument they dont want to hear so that their opponent has no speech tools left with which to attempt to articulate what is always a difficult argument.

I think we do know broadly what is meant by "atonal" and yes we can all identify great atonal music and less great.While a student I performed Kontakte of Stackhausen and found it great.Also Hymen I think is a great masterpiece.Im sorry that you could not tell from my posting or my 'philosophy ' section that I would know that there is good bad and indifferent tonal music , too.

On the question of music 'advancing' , I am similarly surprised that you didnt detect the irony of my comment.I was judging atonalism by its own criterias.It is atonalism that expects music to 'advance' as it , like other fields of so called modernism that evolved in the early twentieth century , was based on a pseudo scientific way of thinking in which the belief in 'progress' was implicit.

Of course there is no 'advancing'.There is just the spiritual expression of experience which is timeless.

I can tell that you still exist mentally in the atonal paradigm.From your point of view it will never be plausible that new classical music could ever again be innocently - but profoundly - tuneful.
Tonality is the expressive heart of music not because it is pretty as you put it but because it releases the expressive power of dissonance.Atonalism is nuetered by the exclusion of dissonance - because it is all dissonant.

On the question of criticizing 'a music' , as you say , again your disdain of this is a startegy conceived to illiminate the possibility of discussion.A way to prevent distinictuons being made is to say that there are no distinctions , that everything is the same , nothing has a name or can be identirfied as different from anything else.

Distinctions can be made.However what is wrong with atonalism is not the music - it is the political imposition of this material in a totally undemocratic manner by a non creative elite who are administrators.What self respecting culture would submit artistic control to administrators instead of the creative artists?New Tonality becomes a subversive reach for freedom in the context of this imposition.

Those who understand that we are moving out of one paradigm into another will define the new era.This is an ambitious statement, but ambition in the creative life of new concert music is a good thing.It may lead to its rejuvination.

You raise very good points but I think where you give away the prejudicial character of your position is in crudely labelling my music as " bad".I have to say that I have never evinced that response before , and in its crude mono syllabic condemnation it fails totally to advance any analysis or discrimination.It is just condemnation , which is characteristic of the atonal mindset.







  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  stro at 23:41 on 09 September 2008
 

I agree Nicolas to the extent of accepting what's been, and had an effect on 'the world of music'; nobody can cancel music that's had a major part in formulating a century of concert going! What I find strange is that the elitist control of concert music just seems to have stopped at a style which shocked and amazed in the fifties to the seventies but like all types of music, it has its day. If there was a Stockhausen memorial concert on somewhere tomorrow I'd probably be there! But we can't view the 20th Century as if the only acceptable line of development is from Schoenberg, his pupils, and those who followed it later.

From Massenet to Zemlinsky, Korngold, and later Britten (and not forgetting the 20th Century works of Puccini and Vaughan Williams!) there has always been another route on which composers have travelled. Similar breakaway trends and necessities in recent popular music caused a pseudo-baroque development in Techno music in the 90s - a world I'm involved in - and the parallel worlds of Pop and Indie demonstrate that styles and movements exist side by side and are accepted thus.

But if you consider the 2nd Viennese School line up to Ferneyhough and Birtwhistle to be sole representatives of the way (intellectual or not) what we in my profession call concert music has gone, then we're talking a very small world. For such a tiny world of commissions, concerts and recordings - I could find very little in a recent visit to HMV - it seems laughable that the musical establishment considers it the only music that should be ‘let through’. This is demonstrated in tiresome repetitive displays of what most people just consider noise at orchestral concerts from the Proms to South Bank Commissions and other regional orchestral projects. You just cannot compare the other-worldly lyricism of a lot of Stockhausen’s work, especially in much of ‘Licht’, to the self-possessed and limited soundscapes of present-day composers. It just doesn’t compare. And it certainly doesn’t have the exhilarating, descriptive and humanitarian effect that Penderecki’s formative works had. There certainly is ‘good and bad’ but we tend to be told what is good and what is bad, and are not allowed to make up our own minds. I refer to programming and the accepted ‘norms’ in modern music.

As far as Keith Burstein’s music is concerned I’ve had the chance on more than one occasion to be involved in organising concerts of his music, and I’ve also spent a lot of time mastering some recordings. I particularly remember (at the beginning of his changing his music language) an informal concert at the ICA which was so badly publicised by them we mustered a full audience from the rest of the building in half an hour for a free concert! The response was extremely good from a number of non-concert goers who, unbeknown to Keith, I secretly canvassed during the interval. The song cycle on the death of John Smith was an electrifying and lusciously sonorous experience at St Paul’s, Covent Garden. Knowing works of his like the oratorio “The Gates Of Time”, the chamber music and songs, and especially “Manifest Destiny” one cannot say that this music is ‘bad’. Are people just dismissing it without hearing it? I fear so. Please don’t listen to the bleatings of an inexperienced Arts reviewer in a trashy London paper. To me it is a rich, thoughtful, and humanely necessary voice in a very changed world.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 00:37 on 10 September 2008
 

Dear Keith
let me start with the "bad".
What I consider to be "good" in music is fresh ideas, interesting harmonies, new sounds, the element of surprise, aesthetical propositions that blaze trails.All of the great composers had these elements in their music.I personally didn't find any of that in your music,and i'm really sorry to say so.The thing is not the "tonal" or the "atonal",it's what you do with it.Well,I have to say that,listening to your pieces,there was not one thing that didn't make me think of works I have already heard before,that had much more "work" in them.I could be wrong,but that's what I think.You put the link on the forum and you suggested everyone makes up their mind about it.maybe I shouldn't have written anything,but now it's done...
I guess you must have suffered by "the political imposition of this material in a totally undemocratic manner by a non creative elite who are administrators" and that is a damn shame,because unfortunately what you say is true.And you say it yourself,the problem is NOT the music.Administrators have always been a big problem throughout the history of music.Just look at who were the star composers some centuries back.Certainly not the ones history has chosen to admire.You have every right to rebel against this status quo,and I never said (did I?) that you shouldn't.
But then again,who is the status quo?
Maybe in some academic cycles,the post-serial music is still considered "a must",but the fact is that there is a lot more tonal concert music written today than there is atonal music.So how is writing tonal music a "subversive reach for freedom in the context of this imposition". If we listen to the works of composers in this website,most of them write tonal music.Tonal (in any possible aspect) composers have never stopped existing.They were pushed away from some circles (Darmstadt,Donnaueschingen etc),but their music has continued to be written and performed,in much a wider range than atonal music.A composer writing tonal music has many more chances to make a decent living out of his music (film music,concert works, choirs, theatre etc) than an atonal one,or isn't that true?How many quartets play atonal music?how many pianists play Stockhausen?compared to Philip Glass?
I feel that the only "problem" is that (neo)tonal composers feel the need to be accepted by the same "elite" that is rejecting them and they are rejecting back.You said it yourself:people like your music,they come to the concert.I don't see how you could be happier.Some people are going to like it,some are going to reject it.That's life,that's art,that's the game.once we expose ourselves to "the people",one can never know what to expect.
Both you and Stro mentioned Stockhausen,one of my favourite composers.But I don't think I ever said that music stops there or that "the 2nd Viennese School line up to Ferneyhough and Birtwhistle to be sole representatives of the way concert music has gone". I mentioned many names that have nothing to do with the 2nd Viennese school aesthetics.I don't know what is being tought in schools in Great Britain,but I was never told that music is "serial or nothing else".Many times,also in other topics on this forum,I find people that attack this "serial" music,as if every kind of music since the 1920's was about serialism,which it's not.

what exactly is does " the spiritual expression of experience which is timeless" mean?

I can't think of any "new era" that started with people going back to things they had put behind them 100 years ago.

I personally do believe that it is "plausible that new classical music could ever again be innocently - but profoundly - tuneful".But it would take a Mozart to do that.To write true NEW tonality.Using the same old chords does not qualify as NEW tonality in my book."New" means something that has not been done before,that's how I understand it.Beethoven wrote new tonality,for his time.Wagner wrote new tonality,for his time.Mahler wrote new tonality,for his time.Schönberg wrote new tonality,for his time. I would be more than truly happy to listen to a true new tonality,for our time.

PS.interesting conversation now,isn't it?


<Added>

Dear Keith
let me start with the "bad".
What I consider to be "good" in music is fresh ideas, interesting harmonies, new sounds, the element of surprise, aesthetical propositions that blaze trails.All of the great composers had these elements in their music.I personally didn't find any of that in your music,and i'm really sorry to say so.The thing is not the "tonal" or the "atonal",it's what you do with it.Well,I have to say that,listening to your pieces,there was not one thing that didn't make me think of works I have already heard before,that had much more "work" in them.I could be wrong,but that's what I think.You put the link on the forum and you suggested everyone makes up their mind about it.maybe I shouldn't have written anything,but now it's done...
I guess you must have suffered by "the political imposition of this material in a totally undemocratic manner by a non creative elite who are administrators" and that is a damn shame,because unfortunately what you say is true.And you say it yourself,the problem is NOT the music.Administrators have always been a big problem throughout the history of music.Just look at who were the star composers some centuries back.Certainly not the ones history has chosen to admire.You have every right to rebel against this status quo,and I never said (did I?) that you shouldn't.
But then again,who is the status quo?
Maybe in some academic cycles,the post-serial music is still considered "a must",but the fact is that there is a lot more tonal concert music written today than there is atonal music.So how is writing tonal music a "subversive reach for freedom in the context of this imposition". If we listen to the works of composers in this website,most of them write tonal music.Tonal (in any possible aspect) composers have never stopped existing.They were pushed away from some circles (Darmstadt,Donnaueschingen etc),but their music has continued to be written and performed,in much a wider range than atonal music.A composer writing tonal music has many more chances to make a decent living out of his music (film music,concert works, choirs, theatre etc) than an atonal one,or isn't that true?How many quartets play atonal music?how many pianists play Stockhausen?compared to Philip Glass?
I feel that the only "problem" is that (neo)tonal composers feel the need to be accepted by the same "elite" that is rejecting them and they are rejecting back.You said it yourself:people like your music,they come to the concert.I don't see how you could be happier.Some people are going to like it,some are going to reject it.That's life,that's art,that's the game.once we expose ourselves to "the people",one can never know what to expect.
Both you and Stro mentioned Stockhausen,one of my favourite composers.But I don't think I ever said that music stops there or that "the 2nd Viennese School line up to Ferneyhough and Birtwhistle to be sole representatives of the way concert music has gone". I mentioned many names that have nothing to do with the 2nd Viennese school aesthetics.I don't know what is being tought in schools in Great Britain,but I was never told that music is "serial or nothing else".Many times,also in other topics on this forum,I find people that attack this "serial" music,as if every kind of music since the 1920's was about serialism,which it's not.

what exactly does " the spiritual expression of experience which is timeless" mean?

I can't think of any "new era" that started with people going back to things they had put behind them 100 years ago.

I personally do believe that it is "plausible that new classical music could ever again be innocently - but profoundly - tuneful".But it would take a Mozart to do that.To write true NEW tonality.Using the same old chords does not qualify as NEW tonality in my book."New" means something that has not been done before,that's how I understand it.Beethoven wrote new tonality,for his time.Wagner wrote new tonality,for his time.Mahler wrote new tonality,for his time.Schönberg wrote new tonality,for his time. I would be more than truly happy to listen to a true new tonality,for our time.

PS.interesting conversation now,isn't it?

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  stro at 13:39 on 10 September 2008
 

Hi Nicolas,

Re. the '2nd Viennese line' I wasn't directly quoting you or saying you held that view, my post was general and I mentioned it because it's interesting that that lineage actually is held in the UK as the 'norm'. This is all very interesting from my point of view as someone who left the strict world of classical/concert music for something else. Where I work the artistes enjoy and use music and don't really debate it! But then, they can't stand atonal music. They really do just think its a load of old rubbish! After thirty-odd years of working with them too :-)

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  keith burstein at 14:42 on 10 September 2008
 

However , Nicolas, I think you are prejudiced against my music simply because its tonal.Your complaint that it lacks" works" is revealing.Music doesnt need "works"- it is meant to give pleasure , not display some sort of muscle content.

You complain that there is nothing in my work that didnt make you think of another music.Have you ever heard a piece of music that didnt reflect another?This is one of the pathetic fallacies of atonalism - that we all have to be totally original- yet there is nothing new under the sun.

Let me quote a word that I believe may be of Greek origin - 'nostalgia'.Boulez forbade what he called the "anecdotal "from music.What he meant by that was any element that evokes anything.This was always perverse , because the human mind reads music by referencing evocations.When you lamented the evocation of other musics in my music you were , like many, just doing what the aesthetic masters of atonalism told the rest to do.

The problem with the uniform character of "new classical music" - and it is stunningly uniform- is that the slavish obedience to such strictures is carried out unconsciously by those without the stamina to become free radicals.

But what if we were to forget the Boulez stricture.And do the opposite .Thats what I did.Let every miusic I know sound openly through my music.Its surprising even to me how many people comment on the newness of my work , its freshness , and contemporary quality.Strangely perghaps , given my conscoious allowing of the sounds from the past to chime in my work , I have almost never been accused of any form of plagiarism.

Nicolas , sadly you cant or wont hear that porcess at work in my music , or if you do , you wont admit it has significance.

But it does.The nostalgia of memory allows the feee and open transformation of the past into the musical material of the furture.

The New element in New Tonal is not a technical newness- "oh look Ive disvovered a new chord !"- it is an intangible spiritual quality whose source is unidentifiable in technical terms.

The basic structures of tonality are found in nature and so there is no progression.The infinity of expressive possibility was there from the start of time.The changing technologies merely provide different - not better- ways of expressing this infinite potential.

What I meant by rejuvinating the classical tradition is for the epic voice of the great classics to be re evoked through the visionary imagination of the present.Of course there is work in TV and film for writers of tonal character and the best of those are great , but the concert hall is the place where western classical tradition contributed a unique cultural achievement- and that is where it can still be done , but by visionaries who can see over the horizon of atonalism who , as I have , have embraced, undergone and understood atonalism in the deepest ways and whose ears and intellect now emerge so that they can hear and create tonally in new ways , but not in the new technical way you suggest , but in ways far more subtle.Ways that you cannot hear from within the walls of the atonal paradigm.You have to make the transition - but if you do your New Tonality is the product of atonalism- not its denial.I am tonal because I embraced atonality when it was the conduit through which the most powerful stretches of the imagination operated.But that ended at least two decades ago.

It may seem that we are all just getting on with our own business but we are not.We are all subject to the great waves of cultural change that sweep acros this world, and we act in accordenece or in rebellion.The sense in which I am enabling my use of tonality to be a reach for freedom as I put it relates to the particular anmbition of someone born and versed in classical music.Of course apart from the tiny atonal coetrie the rest of the musical world has merilly gone on being tonal - because thats what music is - Tonal !!

But this atonal coterie although virtually invisible has exerted huge cultural power.Like a black hole it has all the other material somehow rotating about its gravitational pull.

You are right to warn against new tonalists wanting acceptance by this elite- you are right about some things Nicolas!- but nevertheless , there is an ambition to create a music which will be both new , tonal and deeply serious.That is the holy grail for me - and all I can say is that I know from the response I have had over twenty years that I am moving towards achieving that goal.But whether by me or others - it will be achieved and the great voice of classical music will again find a global role that it has lost in which it speaks for and to the people and is entirely freed from the prison of the ivory tower in which it has been incarcerated by the redundant endgames of atonalism.





  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 14:52 on 10 September 2008
 

first of all,I apologize for the unsuccesful use of the "edit" button.begginer's bad luck...
I am not really familiar with what is going on in universities in the UK,but I would be very interested in knowing how and why teachers still thinks that the '2nd Viennese line' is the norm.We do have several great pieces from this line,but music (and atonal music for that matter) has offered so many different aesthetics ever since that it's a pity that professors focus so much on 15 years of music.And I say 15,because the composers themselves had drifted away from that line already before 1963,for example.
People may think whatever they want,and everyone's entitled to his/hers opinion.The fact that many people think that something is "good" or "right",does not make it so.Needless to say how many people even today believe that the cosmos was built in seven (actual) days,back in 4500 something BC (even if we do have solid proof that life on earth has existed for millions of years...go figure).
And I'm not even going to say the same old "they think it's rubbish because they don't understand it",even if there is some truth in that.
I think that one should rebel against all kinds of sterile academism and try to figure out his own way to move forward.

<Added>

Edit:just saw Keith's response.
Dear Keith
if you are so 1000% certain that your music is great,then you don't need me or anyone else to let you know what they think of it.I'm happy for you.I may well be one non-believer, they are useful too.
No immaculate conception can occur in art.There's no such thing as "something completely original",but one can at least try to give birth to something new.Bach did,Mozart did,Beethoven did,Chopin did,Liszt did,Wagner did,Debussy did,Ravel did,to name but a few classics.
"The basic structures of tonality are found in nature and so there is no progression".Really?where?the major chord from the natural harmonics series?yes,but the major 3rd is a quarter tone lower.Do you use microtones in your music?I didn't find any,but if you don't,them maybe you should,because they too exist in nature,and have been around in music for a lot longer than the tempered 12-semitone system.I don't know if you've heard,but there is a compositional movement based on that exact idea.but they didn't write tonal music.Maybe because there is a lot more in nature than a dominant 7th chord.
If we want "the epic voice of the great classics to be re evoked",we only have to listen to their works.Having listened to specimen of your music i don't see where your music is richer,deeper,better,more beautiful than that of the great classics.
I wonder if Beethoven thought so highly of his music as you seem to do.Saying that your music is THE way to go is admirable,and I honestly wish I could say that for myself.
I thank you for this conversation,it has been really interesting.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  stro at 16:01 on 10 September 2008
 

Nicolas I don't think Keith is saying his music's better than Beethoven! He may disagree with me but I view the path he's trying to take as a continuation of the tonal writing that has always existed, has never gone away, and that has throughout the 20th Century found a voice in English and American schools of composition, sidetracking the serial etc.

This (to me) includes concert music, film music, theatre, whatever. The point I try to make is that the miniscule world of atonalism is a tiny drop in an ocean of melody-based, key-based, (romantic or modernised) tonality, which has always dominated musical culture.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 17:15 on 10 September 2008
 

I didn't say Keith said his music is better than Beethoven's,did I?

What you're saying is absolutely correct.Atonalism IS a tiny drop in an ocean of melody-based, key-based, (romantic or modernised) tonality, which has always dominated musical culture.This said,I wonder how one can consider that writing tonal music today could be considered as a revolutionary act,a shock to the system! And how can one talk about new tonality,since tonality never disappeared?

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  stro at 19:46 on 10 September 2008
 

Nicolas you must realise that sometimes we talk generally, and don't exactly mean things we say as 'direct quotes' of you, me, Keith, or anything, the issue is wider than a lot of musical arguments around today, and I'm really glad we're having this debate here! Let's not get into the tit-for-tat posting mentality that beleaguers the internet so much. The internet has also killed irony, but I for one will 'have a go' at things if I wish to, with the express intention of restoring some kind of decorum in a world beset by bureaucracy, political correctness and online etiquette. So let's dispense with the post-box quote ideal and just talk? It stinks.

People write music because they do. There are no set rules, at least from the time orchestras began to use industrial and personal patronage to commission works from emerging voices, after centuries of church/state control. These days the strictures we face are either those of fashion (overseen by business), politics (overseen by business), commission (overseen by business), planning of musical projects (overseen by business)... the list is a grim one! There must be hundreds of people logged as members of a site like this who have no chance ever of having their music heard, bought, enjoyed or played. I for one am glad that a 'different' - trying not to use the 'return to tonality' as a 'shock' - voice has emerged, who is played, who does have public performances, who does dare to change the musical thinking of a stale art scene.

Recently I attended an 'installation' of performance art in a major gallery in Liverpool. The motionless guy in the box was accompanied by a deafening heart beat. Liquid trickled from his mouth.

That was it. I've seen it a thousand times before, over about 35 years.

How many times have I seen this 'shock' of art, how many times have I stood - in good faith - in galleries and performance areas, desperate to hear or see something that moved me? It just doesn't happen. And for someone outside the fine art/concert hall world, it should do something. But it doesn't. Its old hat, its tired, its boring and if I see another Proms commission by one of our 'leading' composers, I just don't bother any more. I'd rather go to to a rock festival (preferably the dance tent!) and be thrilled. I have to say, Keith's music and what he has to say (in his music) does instill some stirring, poetic, political rumblings in my soul, and that's why I give him time.

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 20:52 on 10 September 2008
 

I totally agree with your post my friend.
As far as your first parapraph is concerned,in my defense,I have to say this:English is not my native language and I can never be sure if what I wrote is what I intented to say,so sometimes I ask the question,just to make sure...
and exactly because internet killed irony (along with other things),I'd rather be certain that there are no misunderstandings.
I have to say that both you and Keith are mostly speaking about the reality in the UK,and I do not know how things are in your country.Every country has its own realities,its own ways of thinking and deciding who gets played where and why.Where I come from,very bad neo-tonal composers are blocking the way for younger and better composers.And where I live,some circles have been making a turn towards "neo" music,also closing some doors on other styles' faces.So maybe my positions are based on the realities I come across every day,and not the ones British composers are.


  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  scott_good at 19:09 on 11 September 2008
 

hello y'all

interesting discussion.

well, i have both agreed and disagreed with many points on made here. but keith, i do have a number of problems with your polemic.

(before i continue, keith, let me thank you for having the guts to post on this forum - not sure if you have surfed around, but it can get pretty nasty here. just remember, it's just 'cause people give a $#!+, and feel passionately about these topics)

i guess ultimately your challenge to go listen to your music has left me kinda cold. i did, and frankly was not all that impressed. it made me think "am i just a blind atonalist"...no, i don't think that is the case, as i rarely compose in the "atonal style", and like my triads . and, unlike nicholas, i don't require music to not look back. in fact, i could argue that indeed looking back is how every new era of musical thought and technique is largely due to looking back, and reassessing the trajectory.

keith, i don't think your music is bad, just not that good. (choral work is best) i think you have blinded yourself with too much pride and ego to prove a point, never a noble way to approach art no matter what the "style". i think you have missed a great opportunity to learn from the great musical masters of the 20th century. your continual point of using the term "atonal" has missed the point of so many other things that a composer can use. it is indeed, since the supposed emancipation of dissonance that other musical elements have, by simple artistic necessity, been hugely developed. i wont use advanced, i agree that doesn't quite work. but certainly developed.

(listen: by your logic, art is at a standstill - therefore, take out the harmony, take out, take out the written note, take out the instruments, take out everything as we are nothing but cave dudes pounding on rocks. go further if you want, and we are just fish. this stuff didn't just appear by magic - it was developed over centuries, and indeed millenia. the evolution game is in ideas now, not new thumbs)

so here we are, and you say that the "atonal" era or whatever (i'm trying to keep this like conversation, so not referring back or quoting) is dead. nonsense - completely false. i mean come on, have you listened to what is going on in the whole world of music? the main point here is that musical sound has been re-evaluated to include, well, anything. tonal or atonal is hardly the point. it is all the dimensions of sound that are the in the game.

yes, the 2nd Viennese school, and all it's children, has been only a small blip on the screen, yet has had a massive impact on musical academia. but there are reasons for this. unfortunately, since imagination seems to be a dangerous commodity, as well as non-conformity, the actual jumping point to learn significant things from this artistic movement have been lost to a handful of "sound bytes" and dogma. this is sad. there is great wisdom behind this movement. it comes from the study of the motive - it is part of the past. this methodology can (and does...sometimes) provide the seeds for composer to find their own path whilst launching off this collected knowledge. the ideas of motives connecting both the horizontal and vertical elements. creating material that defines a work, not just a common harmonic practice which dictates the movement of pitches. this is just the beginning.

ultimately what concerns me as a composer and music programmer, and what i think should concern all artists, if indeed art is the goal, is quality. but then, what is it that makes something quality? this is very difficult, and perhaps impossible to decipher. but, after a year of teaching (20 composition students of varying ages), it became more clear where i believe quality comes from. 3 things: hard work - to take the time to create your works to the highest level of perfection, learned wisdom - study of the now and the then and thinking about it critically, and honesty - the guts to dig deep into yourself to find what it is that makes your essence unique.

i believe quite strongly that if these 3 elements are approached with relentless dedication - indeed a bit of obsession, then quality and lasting works of art will be created - indeed, something that is needed, not just wanted.

we are in a strange paradigm of artistic creation, and it is very different than the 70's. on one hand, i think that the so-called post-modern movement has brought about the real new era. not spectral or serial or neo-tonal or any of that technical stuff, but a fundamental alteration of a belief system. this is the REAL anything goes - pointing towards a true state of open mindedness and inclusiveness. but there are many problematic points about this paradigm - it much too easily allows for sloppy art practice, where my earlier 3 points can be ignored simply because the artists wants to do "something they like". no sweat, no work, no study, indeed no care. and ya, people "like" it. and another piece of "pleasing" or "shocking" or "avant-guard" or "neo-romantic" or "tonal" or "minimalist" or "serial" disposable trash is made - but precious human resource has been wasted - this is how i have seen it too many times.

i'm done.

scott



  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  Nicolas Tzortzis at 19:28 on 11 September 2008
 

Probably the best thing I've read in this forum ever since I joined in.
Congrats!

  Re: Chief Heckler Made Bankrupt-a response  stro at 21:12 on 11 September 2008
 

Hi Nicolas,

No hard feelings mate, I understand your position, and may I say your English is superb! Scott, very good points made, and thanks for correcting me, both of you, on the 2nd Viennese lineage, I do accept that it doesn't represent everything being influenced today. But my point is that it has led to the accepted atonal 'norm'. Surely this is evident! And as for other 'tonal' composers, where are they and who are they? Arvo Part, and some Church composers...?

Nicolas, I do admit that we are talking mainly about the UK but the composers I can think of over the years that've had influence in the concert hall from abroad are all atonalists. maybe my limited connection to this world can be enlightened!

Personally I'm a great lover of Philip Glass, have seen many of his operas (his best work I think, as a lot of other works are quite boring) but then I partly work in a commercial field of music so it appeals to me. The majority of british composers would view Glass as a joke.

I have very little more to say here, other than I hope we can keep in touch somehow, and let each other know what we are doing and performing etc. keith has a big job on his hands, to defend something he passionately believes in, and is attacked for because of its very nature. Says a lot about the British concert music scene when it often seems to be based on jealousy!

I like Keith's music, it excites me and I think it has a lot to say, which is more important. Its not so much 'shock' that he's trying to create, the mere fact that he's (dare I say it) 'Romantic' in style, is anathema to a lot of academics. But they don't see, hear, or listen to the plethora of Romantic music that's all around us all the time!



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