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This 22 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >  
  Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  CT News at 17:35 on 22 May 2009
 

As he prepares for a London appearance this weekend, Philip Glass discusses the state of modern music with fellow composer Nico Muhly

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/may/22/philip-glass-nico-muhly

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  Misuc at 10:53 on 02 June 2009
 

What airs these talentless fading self-hyped creatures of the globalised 'free' market still give themselves! Don't they realise their time is up? Or do they think that taxpayer/concert-goer bailouts will allow them to outlive the civilisation they are trying to undermine?

Can't Composition Today find material about music? - from people who are actually interested in the subject?

This particular market-confection called 'Glass' acknowledges that the whole product line of which he is a part is regarded as 'crap'. He would like us to imagine that this makes the stuff somehow 'controversial' and that controversial = 'interesting'. But, by not talking about the music, only the 'style' he reveals the personal/artistic emptiness of it all. He even dares to make patronising remarks to a rival composer who has spent his very long life learning a way of developing and extending his craft.


QUOTES

".....they would say about someone like Reich, or John Adams: "Oh, that's just crap."

NM: Yeah right, they would say: "It's not music, it's just arpeggios."

PG: John Cage gave me permission to do whatever I wanted to do. of course there will be people who will be horrified by these statements and by these ideas.

NM: Let them be horrified.

PG: Once again we're the barbarians at the gate....."



  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  davidwestling at 19:38 on 02 June 2009
 

Glass is an easy target due to his centrist orientation. From the musical left, he looks reactionary, and from the right, he looks like a barbarian at the gates. But his default defense ("They laughed at Einstein and Picasso, too")is certainly facile in this age of relaxed requirements for admission to the pantheon. Personally, I feel that music based in repetition reaffirms the connection to the ancient shamanistic, sacred origins of music, and is therefore atavistic, ignoring the psychic revolution that surely took place early in the last century. But to accept this development as valid places us in a territory that is in some important sense beyond music as it has been practised and understood in the period before 1910.

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  Misuc at 22:57 on 02 June 2009
 

It is true that Shamans were often able to make a living by tricking inexperienced people into believing they had magic powers etc. It is true that they sometimes did this by putting on scary voices and chanting the same thing over and over again so that listeners could be literally captivated.

This is the negative side.

The positive side is that the magic and the music they made was not a commodity. It was a shared experience. It did not consist of pitches, rhythms etc. it was a continuous process of discovery of the nature and potential, the combinatory powers of pitch, rhythm etc. Shamans could be scoffed at and were not always believed. Nearly everything they did was public and open to scrutiny.They were part of a community.

Music started long, long before they played any serious role in society. Their role was probably detrimental to its development in most cases in narrowing the field and the physical and expressive range of music and in over-formalising it. But perhaps this was a necessary stage...?

There is about as great a process of shared discovery in the music of Glass, his coterie and their modern barbarian [capitalist] backers as there is in being bamboozled into pacing beneath the endless shelves of a giant supermarket under false glaring light, surrounded by 1000s of identical tins of over-processed unnutricious ingredients made by underpaid producers costing far too much.

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  scott_good at 14:32 on 04 June 2009
 

Yea!!! Misuc is back!!!

Ok, I agree with most of what has been said. But, still, in this capitalist world we live in, anything can be measured in terms of it's marketable, and it's marketability has little to do with it's actual value.

So, the only argument can be done on musical lines. And the question for me is: does this music have anything to offer in terms of experience and enrichment. I would say that it does have the potential to do this, simply because it has for me. Repetition in music (without development and variation) can offer an experience that has been measured in terms of it's effects on the human body. Repetitive sounds, with subtly controlled changes in harmony or texture can effect ones mood and stress levels. It has been measured - the brain changes - relaxation occurs.

And in terms of emotion, perhaps not the sturm und drang of germanic expressionism, but still it offers valid place amongst the array of feeling: peace, calm, tranquility etc.

That being said, minimalist music can create quite profound effects over long brush strokes, carrying the listener through an experience that would be very difficult to achieve by other musical methods. For instance, in Glass' Koyaanisqatsi, I think he very effectively flexes sonorities over the course of the movie to great dramatic effect - the pacing of the music and movie, moving in large sections of monotonous gestures, relate in interesting and not always obvious ways. Both movie and music on their own are of little drama, but paired create a unique and powerful experience.

Do I want to hear this music all the time - no! Do I want to write this kind of music, almost never. But that shouldn't mean it is invalid. Has it influenced musical development, yes - both good and not so good. Perhaps it could be argued that it has led to a development of young composers who write music using the copy and paste function on their computers to generate scores, and this would be true. However, I cannot think of an artistic movement that hasn't spawned more bad than good imitators. Real creativity will always be exceptional, no matter what the source of inspiration.

Also, I think the lumping of Glass, Reich, and Adams is far too simple - each is an individual, even if each has been influenced by an encompassing artistic movement. I think one can hear 10 seconds of their music and know who it is (if given this 3 person list that is). Personally I feel each has something to offer, especially Adams. Why I am keen on Adams is that he seems to reinvent himself over time, and I feel this is a good for artists to continually develop and evolve their language. Reich has done this to a degree as well, but Glass seems to have changed very little.





  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  Misuc at 16:14 on 04 June 2009
 

As a lover of e.g. Stravinsky and Janacek and of traditional ballads of Europe and other continents, of troubadour music and Tibetan ritual music, of the heartrendingly 'simple' music of e.g. Indonesian shamans I can hardly be accused of not loving repetition. I love it particularly in Couperin and the French Baroque. Repetition is essential to classical music too. Haydn symphonies played without repeats are like badly lopped trees - shapeless and truncated. They have lost some of the fractal geometry that makes them work structurally and which is reflected in our brain as 'beautiful'.

One single (complex) sound can contain a great deal of fractal geometry. (This was known to shamans)

In music on the edge of tonality (Liszt, Satie, early Prokofiev, Scriabin, Debussy etc. up to early 'atonalism' ) the movement locked up in a single phrase can be so great that 10 bars can do what it would have taken 10 pages of Beethoven to do. Hence a technique of repeated phrases at pitch or transposed. Once time is telescoped still further into single complex chords then things turn into their opposite: you avoid repetition at all costs. I can feel why this must be so but I can't quite explain it.

I'm sorry to harp on about capitalism etc. the words all come out too pat from the mouth of an old campaigner like me. Capitalism has much to offer. I can hardly blame capitalism for Glass without praising it for Carter. In any case, the most horrible regimes and the most idiotic ideologies defending them have produced the most prodigiously amazing music. I quite agree that you can only go by the musical experience itself. All else is bullshit.

And I also agree that it is crude to lump Glass, Reich and Adams together in one toilet basin. (It was Glass in the interview, who did this first, though). I admit that Adams has at times shown slight indications of emergence from a 20-year chronic persistent vegetative state. There are occasions when he can almost manage little snippets of a sort of watered down early Stravinsky....

It would be irresponsible of me to pass judgement on the lifework of three composers when ten seconds of any of their music is as much as I can take before I have to switch off. (Sometimes I have tried turning on again after half an hour or so and nothing much has changed. My Goodness! We could have had a couple of hair-raising Bach cantatas, a piano concerto of Mozart, whole orchestral sets by Berg, practically the complete works of Webern in that time!!) So no judgement. Just don't mention their names in my presence!!

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  scott_good at 17:47 on 04 June 2009
 

"I admit that Adams has at times shown slight indications of emergence from a 20-year chronic persistent vegetative state. There are occasions when he can almost manage little snippets of a sort of watered down early Stravinsky...."

Ouch!

Have you heard Harmonielehre (the Adams work inspired by the Schoenberg text)? Personally, I think it is incredible - beautiful, original, well composed - traditional form re-invented. Perhaps for you it is watery, imitative pap non-sense, and so be it. But if you haven't heard this work, please find the time, and give it a serious listen.

"(It was Glass in the interview, who did this first, though)."

Very true. And it so weakens what they are trying to say.

"Just don't mention their names in my presence!!"

But Misuc, I love reading what you write, especially when you are pissed off, so I just might continue to prod!

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  Misuc at 19:01 on 04 June 2009
 

I have heard 'Harmonielehre' and I did actually listen to the end. Yes. to me "it is watery, imitative pap non-sense...". I am sorry. I did genuinely try.

The supercilious words used to introduce the work by the BBC announcer did not help to win my favour. He described the Schoenberg book to listeners who didn't know any better that it was about his 'modern' music and the Adams as a return to classical harmony.

(In fact of course Schoenberg, the theoretician was here attempting to lay down once and for all the mechanics of classical harmony as it had once been and no longer was: a detailed and not particularly revealing academic study of its minutiae while as composer he was moving far out of their sphere. Adams' study seems even less concerned with the dialectical processes which lead to and beyond classical concepts of harmony)

I trust your words, Scott, as I trust your music. I am about to download and listen to the piece again.

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  scott_good at 19:26 on 04 June 2009
 

Misuc,

It's ok (to me that is) if this music doesn't suit you. In some ways, I can find fault in any music as perfection is a fleeting illusion of desire, so, I can always be empathetic with one's likes and dislikes.

It was a very inspiring work for me when I was younger - I haven't heard it in quite some time. I guess my hope is that others would gain similar pleasure as I did.

In confession, I have not read Schoenberg's treatise, nor do I know how it relates to the Adams score...However, I realize that I should read Schoenberg, although his other writings have had little impact on me.

The music, however, is another story! Another confession: I do not like to listen to recorded music while I compose (so, I listen quite rarely). But, if I get stuck, and need some "outside my head" influence, I most often go to Schoenberg - 5 Pieces for Orchestra, Pierrot, Violin Concerto being some of the most inspiring works I can think of.

If you listen to the Adams, and do not gain some kind of positive impact, please accept my apology for wasting your time! Of course, a positive influence could be a re-affirmation of your currently held belief!

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  davidwestling at 00:22 on 05 June 2009
 

I just don't want my music to do these kinds of things. Saying that music calms many peoples' souls is like saying religion calms may peoples' souls. And I believe that if it does, it does this for many of the same reasons that religion does. Next I'll be equating music and religion, and you can consider this a fait accompli. Historically music as been a favored method of conjuring up the Infinite; repetition is one of the main ways to do this. It sets up a regime of expectations, that the next moment will be like the present one. To me this is unfortunate. Life is contingent. The unchanging world of Plato's Forms began to be undermined in the West with William of Ockham, and it's been for the best that this has happened. To continue to play out this trend, one takes the techniques of music's intimate connection to the Sacred and dashes them upon the rocks of immediate experience. Of course this must be done sparklingly.

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  scott_good at 10:53 on 05 June 2009
 

David,

A strange and intriguing message. I know it is uncouth to quote, but you have so many sentences in here that I want to comment on.

"I just don't want my music to do these kinds of things."

Ok, but what about other peoples music?

"Saying that music calms many peoples' souls is like saying religion calms may peoples' souls."

Yes? Who said this? I prefer to try and use scientific words. The word soul is both loaded and ambiguous.

"And I believe that if it does, it does this for many of the same reasons that religion does."

Ok. I think an apt comparison. And of course, most religions use music for this purpose.

"Next I'll be equating music and religion, and you can consider this a fait accompli."

?? Of course they can be compared, so can apples and oranges, but to say they are equal would be disingenuous.

"Historically music as been a favored method of conjuring up the Infinite; repetition is one of the main ways to do this. It sets up a regime of expectations, that the next moment will be like the present one. To me this is unfortunate. Life is contingent."

Always and in every instant? I think this is a yes and a no. It depends on the scale.

The sun always rises to the east. Winter comes after autumn.

There is very little music that I have ever heard that repeats the exact same way always. With the music being discussed, there is always variation, and on many levels depending on the work/composer.

It is just that the variations work at much slower time intervals than most other music. This creates a different effect in the mind.

"The unchanging world of Plato's Forms began to be undermined in the West with William of Ockham, and it's been for the best that this has happened."

A rather bold statement! The unchanging world? I am no historian, but I think that this must be a huge over simplification - too much so.

"To continue to play out this trend, one takes the techniques of music's intimate connection to the Sacred and dashes them upon the rocks of immediate experience. Of course this must be done sparklingly."

Quite a statement! A sort of inversion of thought - I would think that the rock would be expectation, and the dashing would be the immediate experience, provided by the composer, chipping away at the rock! But yours is more interesting.

I hope to hear some of your music, and how it interprets these ideas!





  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  davidwestling at 18:13 on 05 June 2009
 

I don't know if it's uncouth to quote. Now I can respond point-by-point. Maybe that could be regarded as tedious.

I still listen to traditional musics. One cannot abandon one's theory all at once. We are in a transitional stage in world culture. But the highly repetitious nature of Glass, Reich, et al. scares me. I have been ranging around my ideas in nine-league boots, so to speak. Sometimes leaping around like that yields distortion. I appreciate your making the effort to isolate what I'm saying so that I can pause and sink into the ideas in a little more depth.

If I made mention of the concept of soul, it was just to translate scientific terminology into that more appropriate to the field of the humanities. The breach between science and art is provisional but real. But perhaps I am too sensitive to the pitfalls of scientism.

Instead of equating music and religion I should say, as viewed from a historical perspective, they are two sides of the same coin. Music is an expression of the religious impulse. But when one ventures into the realm of sound as opposed to that of music, this relationship can be problematized. The liberation of sound, as Varese would put it.

The phenomenon of variation within a regime of essential sameness characterizes musical form from time immemorial to the beginning of the twentieth century. At this time I don't want to go into a detailed examination of the psychological characteristics of this phenomenon, but at the very least one could assert that it is efficacious in inducing the trance state.

The Forms of Plato are by definition unchanging. The actual chair is not the "real" chair according to this conception, but only the accidental instantiation of the ideal chair. It is this ideal chair which possesses a superior reality. This is a grave error which spawns all manner of demons and calamities for the human race it seems to me. To move away from the conception of the superior reality of universals is an ongoing task of the modern sensibility. Music should be a part of this progression.

My post-musical manifesto, "Instead Melt Feedback in Drip-Coffee Merger" (2008) is available from CD Baby. I have some other music available free online at my website, Redlegs Masticate, at the sites electro-music.com, soundclick.com, and at SONUS.

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  Misuc at 14:53 on 09 June 2009
 

Taking up Scott's claims for some 'minimalist music' I am not entirely averse to seeking the sort of experience he is referring to. I just think that there there are more exciting/impressive/heartfelt/intelligent ways of achieving it - actually by using means that are in some ways actually more minimal than the 'minimalists' are able to understand.

I've just come across this: http://mortonsubotnick.com/ListeningRoom/Listen/TheOtherPiano.html I am not claiming it as a masterpiece, but I do find it attractive - at least until he starts enjoying the fact of his dithering a bit too much. There he seems to be making a similar mistake to the 'minimalists' by resorting to taking the musical elements for granted and ceasing to explore the elemental....

<Added>

what do you all think?

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  scott_good at 03:37 on 10 June 2009
 

Thanks for posting that Subotnick work.

There were many things I enjoyed in it. Fidelity was a problem for me, though.

But in the composition, I would have liked it to get more wild and intense in the faster notes section. But perhaps this is simply a reflection of my taste. But I think it could have balanced the over all effect, and indeed made the ending more profound.

Want another?

Perhaps this work eludes to this comment:

"I just think that there there are more exciting/impressive/heartfelt/intelligent ways of achieving it - actually by using means that are in some ways actually more minimal than the 'minimalists' are able to understand"

Gorecki is well known for his Symphony #3 - a blockbuster by all standards of modern classical composition. But it far from my favorite piece of his.

I can only suggest why I like this piece so much. The Alto flute is the perfect choice for instrument. The harmonies are very appealing to me. I am drawn into this music, and it haunts me - takes me to another space if I am prepared to go there. It's mixture of melancholy and lightheartedness balance for what I can only describe as tranquility.

I would imagine that many would hate this music. But, if you care to, please have a listen.

Good Night - Henryk Gorecki (3 parts, each on a different page)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaOPDgSznck&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.ca%2Fvideosearch%3Fq%3Dgorecki%2520good%2520night%26oe%3Dutf-8%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26um%3D1%26ie%3DUTF&feature=player_embedded

  Re: Philip Glass discusses modern music with Nico Muhly  MartinY at 09:16 on 13 June 2009
 

Sorry to have been away from the forum for so long. I have spent months not writing an original note but editing other people's music.

However this is a very interesting discussion, and raises two issues which I have been thinking about whilst editing Reger, Orlando Gibbons and God knows how many motet composers. One is the application of algebraic information theory to music. A typical question, what is the shortest computer program that can generate the piece. This is an integer which represents the 'complexity' of the piece. In minimalist music this number is a lot less than for say Gurrelieder, even if the piece is the same length. (Gurrelieder is a good example as Schoenberg uses so much material with new tunes occuring all the time when transformation of other material might have sufficed. I think this is part of the expressionist ethos being used there.)

The other issue is competition for time. If you are very busy do you want to listen to repetitive music. Or does your doctor say you should for the benefit of you health. I prescribe at least 10 hours of Philip Glass per week until your blood pressure either rises or lowers to normal.

I have to go away again so I can't finish all I wanted to say.

This 22 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >