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sgcim

"Gimme Some Of That Ol' Atonal Music'

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I think it's hilarious when a put-down sucks more than its subject!

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Eh, it was a decent effort. Wrong because I think there is more atonal music than ever these days, but still a decent effort. 

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The only new music that the NY Philharmonic is playing that I saw listed in the Times was a piece by Julia Wolfe (whose music I like), who is anything but a twelve-tone composer.

Leon Botstein's orchestra (God bless his soul) was also listed, continuing to play music by 20th Century tonal composers who were unjustly neglected, due to the twelve-tone purge of the 50s. They were performing the works of Vivian Fine this week.

I always get a kick out of the fact that all the twelve-tone composition students I was going to school with are now working at jobs they're more suited for; Accountants, Computer Programming, etc...

 

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Your poor folks' Tom Leher video guy used Schoenberg & Alban Berg because they rhymed. Clever of him, but not too bright. And then I thought I heard Stravinskly's name mentioned as well.

The guy is clever, but pretty much an idiot. And he's beating a dead horse. "12 Tone" has been dead for a bit now. Things have moved on, and have been moved on for about 40 years or so.

All that's missing from the video to make the portrait of a resentful damaged stooge complete is a nice red MCMGA hat.

And I guarandamntee you, if I EVER get a change to see this live, my butt will be in the seat.

 

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Some people never want to move out of their comfort zone - even if that comfort zone is 50 - 60 - 100 - 120 years old. That's fine for them, but they shouldn't bitch when other ears want to hear something different.

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

And I guarandamntee you, if I EVER get a change to see this live, my butt will be in the seat.

I've tried with both Lulu and Wozzeck (on CD's at least), and I just can't get into either one.  I've got a few Henze operas on CD (part of a HUGE Henze box I have), and those work a bit better for me -- though I'd be lying if I said I'd listened to any of them much in the last 10 years.

For me, the modernist 12-tone stuff I'm pining to hear live most of all is Roger Sessions!!  Especially symphonies 6, 7, or 9...

 

 

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Lulu works best with the visual (the DVD with Petibon is amazing!). I imagine Wozzeck would be the same way. Frankly, I think any opera would.

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4 hours ago, sgcim said:

The only new music that the NY Philharmonic is playing that I saw listed in the Times was a piece by Julia Wolfe (whose music I like), who is anything but a twelve-tone composer.

Leon Botstein's orchestra (God bless his soul) was also listed, continuing to play music by 20th Century tonal composers who were unjustly neglected, due to the twelve-tone purge of the 50s. They were performing the works of Vivian Fine this week.

I always get a kick out of the fact that all the twelve-tone composition students I was going to school with are now working at jobs they're more suited for; Accountants, Computer Programming, etc...

 

I admire Vivian Fine's music, but let's not put her in the "20th Century tonal composers" box, if that term implies, as it often tends to do, that the world of triadic tonal functions is a musical lost paradise that composers never should have left and to which, if they know what's good for them, they should return.

Excerpts from an interview with Fine:

Fine: During my teens. Ruth Crawford [later Ruth Crawford Seeger] was my first composition teacher. I heard her Violin Sonata no later than 1927, when I was 14 years old. It made a great impression on me, especially her freedom with string writing. I realize now that this sonata was influential, in that it gave me an idea of another kind of string sound besides the classical one, both in expression and technique. (I later recorded this piece with Ida Kavafian.) As a young composer I had to find my own way writing for instruments other than piano, because I didn’t have the opportunity to hear my compositions played. Later, when I was 17, I did hear a piece of mine for violin and piano performed at a student concert in Chicago; I think it was influenced by the very fine and somewhat neglected Sonatina by Carlos Chavez. I later revived the Crawford Sonata, at the Library of Congress. Both these works gave me a concept of modern string writing and the freedom to compose in a new way.

Can you characterize what you mean by “modern” string writing?

Fine: Well, it’s not like Vivaldi. Specifically, non-tonal.

Didn’t you also have “older” sounds in your head from having studied piano? Usually young composers proceed in a conservative way, getting on the shoulders of the older composers and only gradually evolving a style or a voice of their own. Yet you set out to be “modern” as soon as you could.

Fine: Almost from the beginning. The language of contemporary music was perfectly natural to me. Ruth Crawford was also a student of my piano teacher. Djane Lavoie-Herz, who had worked with Scriabin, and there was a Scriabinesque influence in some of her early works. Scriabin had actually left tonality and much of his harmony was built around fourths; that was the language I was used to....

Fine: From about 14 through 19, I did have a rather severely dissonant, atonal style. I didn’t use 12-tone techniques; I doubt I even knew about them, but I was familiar with atonal music, as I said, and I was severe as only young people can be severe. Then, in the mid-30s, there was a great shift in almost everyone’s music. Copland, for example, went from the modernism of his Piano Variations into his “American” style. It was part of a whole cultural and political manifestation, and my own music became quite tonal for a number of years. I was very involved with dance then and this tonal trend showed itself particularly in the ballets I wrote for Doris Humphreys and Charles Weidman. Then, in the mid-40s I turned to a style that was always anchored in some way to tonality, but not triadic tonality. I did admit a triad now and then, which would have been strictly forbidden in my earliest period!

In these later years, then, you weren’t composing by avoidance, so to speak.

Fine: No. And I think this tempered atonality has remained characteristic of my music. One listener referred to it as “mutating” tonality, which describes it very well, I think; the music veers off constantly into unaccustomed tonal relations. Another element that has remained constant in my music is its principally contrapuntal, linear approach. The harmonies fall where they fall; I hear them, but I rarely start out with a harmonic scheme.

 

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2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

I admire Vivian Fine's music, but let's not put her in the "20th Century tonal composers" box, if that term implies, as it often tends to do, that the world of triadic tonal functions is a musical lost paradise that composers never should have left and to which, if they know what's good for them, they should return.

Excerpts from an interview with Fine:

Fine: During my teens. Ruth Crawford [later Ruth Crawford Seeger] was my first composition teacher. I heard her Violin Sonata no later than 1927, when I was 14 years old. It made a great impression on me, especially her freedom with string writing. I realize now that this sonata was influential, in that it gave me an idea of another kind of string sound besides the classical one, both in expression and technique. (I later recorded this piece with Ida Kavafian.) As a young composer I had to find my own way writing for instruments other than piano, because I didn’t have the opportunity to hear my compositions played. Later, when I was 17, I did hear a piece of mine for violin and piano performed at a student concert in Chicago; I think it was influenced by the very fine and somewhat neglected Sonatina by Carlos Chavez. I later revived the Crawford Sonata, at the Library of Congress. Both these works gave me a concept of modern string writing and the freedom to compose in a new way.

Can you characterize what you mean by “modern” string writing?

Fine: Well, it’s not like Vivaldi. Specifically, non-tonal.

Didn’t you also have “older” sounds in your head from having studied piano? Usually young composers proceed in a conservative way, getting on the shoulders of the older composers and only gradually evolving a style or a voice of their own. Yet you set out to be “modern” as soon as you could.

Fine: Almost from the beginning. The language of contemporary music was perfectly natural to me. Ruth Crawford was also a student of my piano teacher. Djane Lavoie-Herz, who had worked with Scriabin, and there was a Scriabinesque influence in some of her early works. Scriabin had actually left tonality and much of his harmony was built around fourths; that was the language I was used to....

Fine: From about 14 through 19, I did have a rather severely dissonant, atonal style. I didn’t use 12-tone techniques; I doubt I even knew about them, but I was familiar with atonal music, as I said, and I was severe as only young people can be severe. Then, in the mid-30s, there was a great shift in almost everyone’s music. Copland, for example, went from the modernism of his Piano Variations into his “American” style. It was part of a whole cultural and political manifestation, and my own music became quite tonal for a number of years. I was very involved with dance then and this tonal trend showed itself particularly in the ballets I wrote for Doris Humphreys and Charles Weidman. Then, in the mid-40s I turned to a style that was always anchored in some way to tonality, but not triadic tonality. I did admit a triad now and then, which would have been strictly forbidden in my earliest period!

In these later years, then, you weren’t composing by avoidance, so to speak.

Fine: No. And I think this tempered atonality has remained characteristic of my music. One listener referred to it as “mutating” tonality, which describes it very well, I think; the music veers off constantly into unaccustomed tonal relations. Another element that has remained constant in my music is its principally contrapuntal, linear approach. The harmonies fall where they fall; I hear them, but I rarely start out with a harmonic scheme.

 

Well personally, I'm just opposed to the rigidity of the twelve tone system. Even though that satirical song is about atonality, the singer makes no distinction between atonality and the twelve tone method of Schoenberg. He's a Nashville Money Manager, not a musician, so he probably doesn't even know the difference between the two.

To her credit, Fine resisted the twelve tone technique her entire career, and that's probably why Botstein decided to perform her work. If I know his taste in music, he's probably performing a piece from her tonal period. I think pretty much everyone agrees that the triadic tonality that ended with Wagner was pretty much exhausted. Schoenberg had to happen at some point, just as an experiment in a different direction, but Imho, and Fine's apparently, it was a failed experiment. Even Stravinsky's Piano Concerto resulted in an almost laughably distorted version of his music, as he struggled to maintain a part of his identity within the strictures of the twelve tone system. That period left him regretting his decision, and wishing he could go back to the tradition of being a "Town Musician", who just composed music for events occurring in his 'town'.

Even Gunther Schuller in that essay I quoted the last time we spoke about this said "We've emptied out the concert halls", there has to be a compromise between the twelve-tone system and tonality. As Fine describes her later period as mutating tonality, tempered atonality, and NOT composing by avoidance, she found the necessary 'compromise' Schuller spoke of.

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Why the opposition? If you don't like it, leave it alone. Too many great works were created in the system for me to dismiss it.

1 hour ago, sgcim said:

Even Gunther Schuller in that essay I quoted the last time we spoke about this said "We've emptied out the concert halls", there has to be a compromise between the twelve-tone system and tonality. As Fine describes her later period as mutating tonality, tempered atonality, and NOT composing by avoidance, she found the necessary 'compromise' Schuller spoke of.

Sometimes Gunther was off base (nasty word removed). He had his own agenda.

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3 hours ago, sgcim said:

Even though that satirical song is about atonality, the singer makes no distinction between atonality and the twelve tone method of Schoenberg. He's a Nashville Money Manager, not a musician, so he probably doesn't even know the difference between the two.

Well, there you go. Fuck him and anything he feels entitled to say because, you know, art/crazy people NOT LIKE US, you know, foreign names that end in "berg", MAGA everywhere there is a whiff of difference.

Fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him.

And then, fuck him.

 

Plus - an imaginative mind can make good music out of anything, just as a mediocre mind will make mediocre music. This thing about placing the blame for mediocrity or worse on anything other than the people doing it is not gonna make it, it absolves people of responsibility, well, you know, if I hadn't have been do damned tied up in that twelve tone system, I could probably have written some better music, and no motherfucker, you wouldn't. If you had it in you, you'd have done it no matter what.

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28 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Well, there you go. Fuck him and anything he feels entitled to say because, you know, art/crazy people NOT LIKE US, you know, foreign names that end in "berg", MAGA everywhere there is a whiff of difference.

Fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him fuck him.

And then, fuck him.

 

Plus - an imaginative mind can make good music out of anything, just as a mediocre mind will make mediocre music. This thing about placing the blame for mediocrity or worse on anything other than the people doing it is not gonna make it, it absolves people of responsibility, well, you know, if I hadn't have been do damned tied up in that twelve tone system, I could probably have written some better music, and no motherfucker, you wouldn't. If you had it in you, you'd have done it no matter what.

You need to go back to the Lutheran Church. Tomorrow's Sunday, and you need to get back to that Lutheran Church!!!:g:g

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4 hours ago, sgcim said:

Well personally, I'm just opposed to the rigidity of the twelve tone system. Even though that satirical song is about atonality, the singer makes no distinction between atonality and the twelve tone method of Schoenberg. He's a Nashville Money Manager, not a musician, so he probably doesn't even know the difference between the two.

To her credit, Fine resisted the twelve tone technique her entire career, and that's probably why Botstein decided to perform her work. If I know his taste in music, he's probably performing a piece from her tonal period. I think pretty much everyone agrees that the triadic tonality that ended with Wagner was pretty much exhausted. Schoenberg had to happen at some point, just as an experiment in a different direction, but Imho, and Fine's apparently, it was a failed experiment. Even Stravinsky's Piano Concerto resulted in an almost laughably distorted version of his music, as he struggled to maintain a part of his identity within the strictures of the twelve tone system. That period left him regretting his decision, and wishing he could go back to the tradition of being a "Town Musician", who just composed music for events occurring in his 'town'.

Even Gunther Schuller in that essay I quoted the last time we spoke about this said "We've emptied out the concert halls", there has to be a compromise between the twelve-tone system and tonality. As Fine describes her later period as mutating tonality, tempered atonality, and NOT composing by avoidance, she found the necessary 'compromise' Schuller spoke of.

Re: "Fine resisted the twelve tone technique."

In that interview with Fine there's this exchange:

"In these later years, then, you weren’t composing by avoidance, so to speak.

"Fine: No."


I don't think Fine avoided or "resisted," or had any need to avoid or resist, anything. Rather she just went her own way, following the dictates of her ear into what she calls her "tempered atonality." 

BTW, when you say that Stravinsky's Piano Concerto is an "almost laughably distorted version of his music, as he struggled to maintain a part of his identity within the strictures of the twelve tone system," though I don't agree with your characterization of it,  you must have in mind his Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1960). Stravinsky's Piano Concerto (1924) is not a twelve-tone system work.

 

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3 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

Re: "Fine resisted the twelve tone technique."

In that interview with Fine there's this exchange:

"In these later years, then, you weren’t composing by avoidance, so to speak.

"Fine: No."


I don't think Fine avoided or "resisted," or had any need to avoid or resist, anything. Rather she just went her own way, following the dictates of her ear into what she calls her "tempered atonality." 

BTW, when you say that Stravinsky's Piano Concerto is an "almost laughably distorted version of his music, as he struggled to maintain a part of his identity within the strictures of the twelve tone system," though I don't agree with your characterization of it,  you must have in mind his Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1960). Stravinsky's Piano Concerto (1924) is not a twelve-tone system work.

 

Oh yeah, you're right. I just remembered it was a piece for orchestra and piano. Ghastly!

With Roger Sessions, whom she studied with, it was a similar path; he'd take row and like Fine follow his ear, rather than using Schoenberg's list of things to avoid.

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9 hours ago, sgcim said:

You need to go back to the Lutheran Church. Tomorrow's Sunday, and you need to get back to that Lutheran Church!!!:g:g

There's a Lutheran Church I pass every day going to and from work. It has a sign out front that says "FREE BAPTISMS", in three languages.

That makes me laugh in a somewhat uncomfortable way, as does the notion that organizing your computational materials with a system that allows more or less countless mutations is some how more restrictive than organizing your improvisational material around song forms that organically dictate time and place in a most rigid cyclical way.

Either way, when the results suck, what's the old saying...It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

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11 hours ago, sgcim said:

Oh yeah, you're right. I just remembered it was a piece for orchestra and piano. Ghastly!

With Roger Sessions, whom she studied with, it was a similar path; he'd take row and like Fine follow his ear, rather than using Schoenberg's list of things to avoid.

But Schoenberg himself, especially later on,  fairly often didn't "avoid" those "things to avoid," instead following his ear. Further, I agree with Chuck's "Too many great works were created in the system..." remark above. Further, those great works that were created in the system are quite individual.

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18 hours ago, sgcim said:

Even though that satirical song is about atonality, the singer makes no distinction between atonality and the twelve tone method of Schoenberg. He's a Nashville Money Manager, not a musician, so he probably doesn't even know the difference between the two.

I interpreted the song as the singer making fun of people with those attitudes, e.g., "It's all a bunch of noise," rather than making fun of the music itself. 

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1 hour ago, Larry Kart said:

But Schoenberg himself, especially later on,  fairly often didn't "avoid" those "things to avoid," instead following his ear. Further, I agree with Chuck's "Too many great works were created in the system..." remark above. Further, those great works that were created in the system are quite individual.

In the end, I guess I should go back to what they taught us to say in graduate school, "Schoenberg's music doesn't speak to me in a very special way". 

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Maybe the problem wsn't "emptying" the concert halls as much as it was not being able to turn the house over. Just as the accusations were made that the "avant-garde" of jazz killed the club business. Well, maybe the problem was that the clubs were based on a model of alcohol, drugs, hookers, all sorts of illicit behavior. So, you're going to blame music that has no desire to represent in that environment - and by implication, listeners who prefer not to be in that environment - for your business' distress that arises when people stay away? Like, this music should only be allowed for/to people who want what we have to offer?

"Concert halls", "Classical Music", those are all the "clubs" of a certain socio-economic business model, for provider & consumer alike. If/When music is made that is not at all rooted in that model and people indeed do not show up for it, well, you know, if I want to go to a rodeo and all that's in town is a movie, yeah, I'll stay home.

Having said that, though, what I have heard of of this mid-century "academic" music mostly sucks. And I've also been made aware of the mind-fucking that was going on in composition classes, so that part of it, yeah, no argument there. But jesuschriosto, that's kind of want "academic" environments do, isn't it? Set up their own circles of tyrannical fiefdoms and reward blind servitude? You think it doesn't happen in other disciplines, inclucing/especially including "jazz education", especially at the university level? Of course there are exceptions, but they are just that - exceptions.

I don't see what any of that has to do with Schoenberg or his techniques. I do see how it has everything to do with people with high ambition and low imagination being turned loose with no accountability from anyplace but their own echo chamber.

There is an audience for "different" "classical" music, and when it is organized & presented right, it survives and, maybe not thrives, but survives. Good enough. Case in point: http://www.voicesofchange.org/index.html

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8 hours ago, JSngry said:

I don't see what any of that has to do with Schoenberg or his techniques. I do see how it has everything to do with people with high ambition and low imagination being turned loose with no accountability from anyplace but their own echo chamber.

If you read the essay in Schuller's book, it had everything to do with Schoenberg and his technique. It was taken from a speech he gave to a group of student composers and their teachers at some college about the abject failure of the strict twelve-tone technique to maintain an audience for contemporary classical music.

In it, Schuller went over the many aspects of the technique that drove audiences out of the concert halls, and how they could change them to retain an audience of music lovers. 

He himself followed many of the suggestions that he made, and many people thought Schuller's music took on a new resonance in his music after that period (1962).

Schuller was considered the leading composer of serial composition in the US, but don't let that bother you...

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On February 9, 2019 at 3:02 AM, JSngry said:

Lulu works best with the visual (the DVD with Petibon is amazing!). I imagine Wozzeck would be the same way. Frankly, I think any opera would.

Some of those 250-pound divas on the stage can ruin it for me.  I often prefer a good recording and my own imagination.  ))))))

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7 hours ago, sgcim said:

If you read the essay in Schuller's book, it had everything to do with Schoenberg and his technique. It was taken from a speech he gave to a group of student composers and their teachers at some college about the abject failure of the strict twelve-tone technique to maintain an audience for contemporary classical music.

In it, Schuller went over the many aspects of the technique that drove audiences out of the concert halls, and how they could change them to retain an audience of music lovers. 

He himself followed many of the suggestions that he made, and many people thought Schuller's music took on a new resonance in his music after that period (1962).

Schuller was considered the leading composer of serial composition in the US, but don't let that bother you...

If you get rigid/strict about any damn thing it gets ruined. Nothing takes the place of imagination. If you find blame in the technique, but not in your own imagination, again, it's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

And don't worry. I've never let Gunther Schuller bother me too much about anything. I will say, though, that his liner notes to the Buster Smith album are some of the funniest things I've ever read on the back (or front!) of a record.

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17 hours ago, sgcim said:

If you read the essay in Schuller's book, it had everything to do with Schoenberg and his technique. It was taken from a speech he gave to a group of student composers and their teachers at some college about the abject failure of the strict twelve-tone technique to maintain an audience for contemporary classical music.

In it, Schuller went over the many aspects of the technique that drove audiences out of the concert halls, and how they could change them to retain an audience of music lovers. 

He himself followed many of the suggestions that he made, and many people thought Schuller's music took on a new resonance in his music after that period (1962).

Schuller was considered the leading composer of serial composition in the US, but don't let that bother you...

"Schuller was considered the leading composer of serial composition in the US, but don't let that bother you.."

Not "considered the leading composer of serial composition in the US" -- I think that would have been Milton Babbitt or, a  bit later on, Charles Wuorinen  --  but "a leading composer of serial composition in the US." 

[FWIW, Schuller's wholly serial  (and rather naively rigid) Piano Concerto (1962) is as turgid as any serial work I know or could imagine -- albeit in the (sonically rather dim) recording of its premiere performance, it is not, as far as I can tell, at all well played by soloist or orchestra.

https://www.amazon.com/Schuller-Three-Concertos-Piano-Bassoon/dp/B000005VYD/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=schuller+piano+concerto&qid=1549927670&s=music&sr=1-8-catcorr

I say "naively rigid" because Schuller states that his goal was to write a piece in which "the disposition of all musical elements ... not only pitch but also dynamics, duration or rhythms, timbre, all internal relationships, and even the overall form of the work are directly determined by the series or tone row." Even Boulez tried to go that far only for a hot (or cold) minute, after which he backed off and stated that such "total serialism" was a canard. In any case, Schuller's considerable musical gifts were not of the sort that could do more, having adopted such strictures, than rattle around in the chains in which he'd draped himself.]


Speaking only for myself BTW -- and this probably touches on what Jim Sangrey has said as well as on what sgcim has said -- I was introduced to the music  of Schoenberg, Webern, Berg et al. when I was a junior in high school in the late '50s (a musician friend admired that music and played Schoenberg on the piano, and I acquired as many recordings as I could). You'll have to trust me on this but I found much of this music quite magical and also relatively lucid. Tthe first piece that blew me away was Berg's "Altenberg Leider in the Robert Craft recording with Bethany Beardslee; and as for the "techniques" being off-putting or incomprehensible, the relative (or even total) absence of triadic tonal harmonic functions -- these I had been familiar with for many years -- seemed quite ... "refreshing" isn't quite the right term, but it felt as though the music and I had entered a relatively new world in which new sorts of beauty were to be found. Not everything of that sort made sense to me or went down well -- like many, I had problems with Schoenberg's Wind Quintet, but I now think that's because the recorded performances available back  then of that very difficult piece weren't at all up to snuff. I any case, from then until now, I don't think I've had a problem getting into any piece of serial of twelve-tone music because it was that sort of music; rather, I find it fairly easy to sort out the pieces that work for me  from the pieces that don't -- ... but then my judgments there are always right :) -- and further, detect which performances are good or better  and those that are not. 

BTW, as for knowing the compositional techniques/details inside out as being necessary to understanding and being moved by this music -- at one point Schoenberg's brother-in-law violinist Rudolf Kolisch, leader of the Kolisch Quartet, approached Schoenberg with a copy of the Schoenberg quartet they were preparing to premiere (it was the third). Kolisch had highlighted every tone row (as he saw it and to the best of his ability) and took the marked-up score to Schoenberg for comment on the accuracy of what Kolisch had done and hoping for his approval. Schoenberg responded in a letter from July 1932:

"You have rightly worked out the series in my string quartet (apart from one detail...). You must have gone to a  great deal of trouble, and I don't think I would have had the patience to do it. But do you think that one's any better for knowing it? I can't quite see it that way. My firm belief is that for a composer who doesn't quite yet know his way about with the use of series it may give some idea of how to set about it -- a purely technical indication of the possibility of getting something out of the series. But this isn't where the aesthetic qualities reveal themselves, or, if so, only incidentally. I can't utter too many warnings against over-rating these analyses, since after all they only lead to what I have always been dead against: seeing how it is done; whereasI have always helped people to see what is.... I can't say it often enough: may works are twelve-note compositions, not twelve-note compositions.

 

"It goes without saying that I know and never forget that that even in making such investigations you never cease to live with what is actually the source of your relationship to this music: its spiritual, auditory musical substance...." (My emphasis)

 

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