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  Music Standards  piargno at 16:49 on 26 April 2006
 

I was recently asked what type of music I'm most attracted to, and it is such a hard question to answer. I am very easily amused, but at the same time my standards are quite high when it comes to the music that I REALLY LOVE. I responded by saying that I love music that has the perfect symbiosis of a good idea and a good working out of it. It is proportionately astute, and has a feeling of effortlessness while being able to hear the thinking of the composer. I love works that have a lot of thought to them ... or give the impression that they have thought ... On a side note, I just figured out my top four favorite composers. In chronological order: Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Stockhausen.

Any thoughts???

  Re: Music Standards  Hugh Boyle at 19:16 on 26 April 2006
 

I think it is important as a composer to remember that the reception of a work is determined for the most part by ‘ordinary’ listeners and that a piece of music can ‘work’ on more than one level. It is all well and good for a musician to recognise the underlying message of a piece, if possible, however, one must not loose sight of the fact the larger part of a musical audience is made up of non-musicians who, with no disrespect, will not, for the most part, pick up on these messages without having it spelt out prior. Therefore, when composing a piece I try to make it work on different levels. When it comes to listening, I must say that I take off my ‘musician’s hat’ and simply listen. Personally, to analyse a piece at all while listening to it is not pleasurable.

  Re: Music Standards  at385 at 20:33 on 26 April 2006
 

I agree that consciously analysing a work during listening is unpleasurable but, a well thought through work will not need analysing. Its unity and its diversity should be transmitted subconsciously through the composers treatment of his/her material. Ambiguity is one of the most beautiful aspects of music, the missing signifier allows the composer to offer music which means one thing to one person, something totally different to someone else. I think it was Schiller in 'On the Aesthetic Education of Man' who said that the beauty of art is in the balance of unity and diversity. This, in my opinion, makes beautiful music, be it Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler or Harvey.

  Re: Music Standards  John Robertson at 17:59 on 27 April 2006
 

Great to see some discussion starting to develop here on these forums.

Hugh, I hear what you are saying, but I find it hard to imagine how you could write to make something accessible to non-musicians, to paraphrase your comment.

In the past I think I may have been a bit guilty of writing for the analysts as it were. I don't do that any more, and my music is consequently considerably more 'accessible' but I couldn't imagine setting out to do that as a starting point - surely the only thing you should be doing is writing what music you really want to hear?

  Re: Music Standards  Hugh Boyle at 20:09 on 27 April 2006
 

Don’t get me wrong I do write what I want to hear, or more aptly, what I do hear. I wouldn’t say that, at the outset, my main priority is to make the music ‘accessible’, and that’s not the message I intended to transmit in my pervious message. As I said I try to make my compositions work on different levels. In doing this I think it is possible to write for the analysts and also for non-musicians. I would like to use a fugue as an example. For me a fugue can work on different levels because an analyst will recognise that “Oh gosh! That’s a fugue” and go on to analyse it further where as it would also work for non-musicians because fugues are stimulating to listen to.
One synonym of stimulating is thought-provoking. Therefore, you might argue that if it is stimulating a non-musician it is leading him/her to analyse it and therefore it is not working on more than one level, but alas I argue that it does. Whereas a musician, familiar with a fugue, whilst analysing the work will recognise or suspect its different elements (subject, countersubject, etc.) a non-musician would mainly be intrigued by the piece which would lead his/her curiosity being stimulated.
Do you agree? In what way do you make you music ‘accessible’?
Regards, Hugh.


  Re: Music Standards  piargno at 02:39 on 28 April 2006
 

wow... I love what my prompt has turned into. My experiences have proven that everything I write, I write for me first. But when there is something I really have to say to my audience, I think of them a bit more than usual, but never more than I think of myself. The same thing happens when I'm writing for a performer. If I know my performer is strong at a certain technique, I'll find as many ways of incorporating that into a piece and hiding it as possible, and that turns out to be a fun limitation. I guess this is the way I conciously make my music more 'accessible.' Oddly enough, the pieces that I have written the quickest have been the most accessible ones to date, as told to me by audience members.

But to get back to the original question (but don't stray from where we've gone), when you, as composers, listen to a piece, how do you judge it? What do you look for? Is there anything specific? or do you listen, and if you like it, you like it, and you're content without knowing why?

  Re: Music Standards  John Robertson at 10:20 on 28 April 2006
 

I think a lot of composers enjoy and listen to music that they can 'steal from' - that gives them ideas and stimulates their own creativity. For me there is also another breed of music - Chopin being a very good example, the beauty of who's music is totally impossible to codify or analyze. Sure you say this progression leads to that one and there is a coherence or whatever, but why this particular simple little phrase is so moving is just impossible. Some day I hope I will write a phrase that I love in the same way, without having any idea why I do!

  Re: Music Standards  piargno at 12:10 on 28 April 2006
 

So, John, you believe that there is music (such as the Chopin example) that is just beautiful, and you know why, but you simply just can't explain it? And you also feel like you've never achieved this?

Would it be insufficient for me to conclude that I think Chopin is beautiful because there is an inexplicable depth to most of his music that affects me personally? While the depth is hard to pinpoint, in my oppinion, the fact that it is a depth is explanation enough... almost. I could go on and on about how and why this depth affects me, though.

I guess I'm asking these questions because I talk to some of my classmates in the comp program at my school, and they'll tell me they don't like a piece of music, but they won't know why. And usually, to me, the piece that they tell me they don't like shares many qualities to pieces that I KNOW they DO like! And I strongly feel that, especially composers, should know why they like and dislike, and LOVE the music that falls into these respective categories. Doing this will, in my oppinion, also allows the composer to know what he or she likes about his or her own music, and to compose as necessary. While I have not codified my music standards, I have given it much thought, and my own pieces have spoken more to me since then.

BTW, what's wrong with analyzing a piece while listening to it? I've always instinctively done this. Even with pop songs... Do people here think that it is impossible to listen and analyze simultaneously? Is it possible for natural analysis to be a part of the way one perceives music?

  Re: Music Standards  at385 at 16:22 on 30 April 2006
 

I don't think that it is impossible to listen to and analyse music at the same time, I just think it's undesirable and, in my opinion, is a sign of bad music if we have to do this. Analysing is trying to find logic behind music, putting ourselves in the creator's seat. It has purpose in the classroom but when listening to the finsished artical in the concert hall there should be no need to find logic. The composer should provide enough semiotic substance though proportion, unity and ambiguity with minimal cognitive effort from the listener. Listening to a Beethoven sonata earmarking 1st subject, transition, 2nd subject inverted etc. holds no pleasure for me. The same is true for contemporary music. Our art form should be an aural, sensuory one, not one of rigid, imposed logical meaning and authority.

  Re: Music Standards  John Robertson at 18:35 on 01 May 2006
 

I guess part of the question is what do you mean by analysing. There's analysis in the dry musicological sense (1st subject, 2nd subject) and there's looking at a piece from your own unique and highly subjective corner and trying to suck out the elements that you find attractive or of value. I for one find it hard to listen to any music without doing the latter.

In relatively rare cases like Chopin as I mentioned, that I can feel moved without being able to understand anything more than 'that is beautiful/moving', I do tend to feel a need to go and do some reflective work looking at the piece to understand better where that emotion comes from, but it may be that I would uncover nothing .

  Re: Music Standards  piargno at 12:59 on 03 May 2006
 

"Analysing is trying to find logic behind music" ~at385

In the context of a classroom, this is true. However, for me, in the context of listening, it is simply recognizing the logic, or the lack thereof, in music. In the very first post, I wrote "... [my favorite pieces have] a feeling of effortlessness while being able to hear the thinking of the composer."

"Our art form should be an aural, sensuory one, not one of rigid, imposed logical meaning and authority." ~at385

So our music shouldn't have logic? Or it just shouldn't require our listeners to think when listening?

"...and there's looking at a piece from your own unique and highly subjective corner and trying to suck out the elements that you find attractive or of value." ~John Robertson

This is what I initially meant by analysis. I actually despise Roman Numeral Analysis, but love Schenkerian analysis (although I don't completely agree with it... like Ayn Rand).

"...I do tend to feel a need to go and do some reflective work looking at the piece to understand better where that emotion comes from..." ~John Robertson

If you wouldn't mind someone telling you this is okay, I will say it's quite alright to do this. There are so many people today who listen to music without thinking about it, then quickly make a judgement of yay or nay without knowing why (but worse still, without WANTING to know why), then dismiss the piece. Then there are the people who go into listening to music without an open mind at all, find out that the piece was written after Stravinsky, and "proceed with caution." And then there are people who just aren't willing to find out the purpose or the logic behind certain pieces they don't like before dismissing them (for example, I know so many people who hate Pierrot Lunaire, but then I show them some of the logical games found in the piece, or give them the translation and explain his subtle word painting. These same people don't automatically love it, but they appreciate it so much more. But why can't people do this on their own? Why do people need to be spoonfed?). I just don't want this to happen to new music, not that "our art form" has always had thinking listeners, or not that this will ever not happen. All of these meanderings lead to crazy deep questions, which I'm almost afraid to pose on this forum. Perhaps I should start another post??

  Re: Music Standards  at385 at 14:51 on 06 May 2006
 

Piargno, I don't think I said that music shouldn't have logic, quite the opposite. The logic is for the person who wrote it to worry about, not the listener. The listener's job (and I mean the concert hall listener, not the classroom listener) should simply be to listen and allow their own life experiences to shape the way they understand and enjoy the work.