Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Larry Kart

Odd satisfying habit

18 posts in this topic

Thought I needed to make more space on my CD shelves so I took a look and decided that relatively modern American classical music was an area where weeding out could be done -- I'd bought a lot of stuff in that realm sort of on spec from Berkshire and other bargain outlets  over the years. In any case, I found the weeding out process -- listen to a work or two or parts of works and decide yea or nay -- to be very stimulating by and large and even good fun at times; general principles in one's sensibility, so to speak, beings revealed. Above all , if you're being honest -- and that's the whole point --one can't fool oneself. No matter the received reputation of composer X, if his or her music isn't  or is happening for you, it just isn't or is, and usually you'll learn something, or think you're learning something, in the process. A particular pleasant surprise was the muscular, stylistically varied  music of Ezra Laderman -- I'd picked up a lot of Laderman at one time, all of it works for me -- and a CD of the music of Claudio Spies -- austere and/or delicate, somewhat in the vein of Webern, but with a flavor all its own. Spies IIRC was a good friend of Stravinsky in the latter's LA days. I'm still working or worrying my way though a batch of Wuorinen -- think the verdict there will be maybe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

who's NOT making the cut?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My big thinning the herd (thinning the ‘heard’) project before our big move from KC to DC ~10 years ago was very rewarding. No rule was absolute, but a couple of the main criteria were that I couldn’t keep a CD for just one single track — and also if I couldn’t ever imagine loaning the CD to anyone for any reason (i.e. I thought so highly of the disc that I could in effect ‘impose’ it on someone else to ‘make’ then listen to it).

I jettisoned somewhere between 35% and 40% of an 8,500+ CD collection — what I ended up with was a LOT more enjoyable as a sort of document of my strongest musical interests — with a LOT less half-ass stuff that might have been ‘interesting’ — but not much better.

The classical CD’s took a lot of hits — maybe close to 55% of them got cut — but the nearly 1,000 I kept really did have a much better focus to it.

A good collection needs some periodic curating (and editing), and it being 10 years since my last major pruning, I’m probably overdue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Rooster_Ties said:

 

A good collection needs some periodic curating (and editing), and it being 10 years since my last major pruning, I’m probably overdue.

I love it. Pruning a record collection is probably one of the only areas of pure control and agency left in the modern world.  Nowhere else in my life do I have that kind of power.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am guilty of not pruning often enough, especially with the backlog of unheard CDs. I don't typically sample tracks of new releases, I play them straight through unless they annoy or bore me. There are always 1200 or more unheard promos, then there are the purchases that I haven't gotten around to hearing...yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

A particular pleasant surprise was the muscular, stylistically varied  music of Ezra Laderman -- I'd picked up a lot of Laderman at one time, all of it works for me -- and a CD of the music of Claudio Spies -- austere and/or delicate, somewhat in the vein of Webern, but with a flavor all its own. Spies IIRC was a good friend of Stravinsky in the latter's LA days. I'm still working or worrying my way though a batch of Wuorinen -- think the verdict there will be maybe.

Thanks for recommending Laderman and Spies - never heard of either. Listening to Laderman's piano works on Amazon, good stuff.

Wuorinen... I have a couple of Koch releases. I also think they will not survive the next cull.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

23 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

No matter the received reputation of composer X, if his or her music isn't  or is happening for you, it just isn't or is, and usually you'll learn something, or think you're learning something, in the process.

I do this with my CDs every so often, and I'm almost ready to walk inside a store again to see what I can unload. (And will donate the rest to a charity resale shop.) But the "brutal honesty with self" part is sometimes hard. There are CDs I have because I know or knew the artist, and others that come with particular memories or associations, and even though I never listen to them anymore and probably will never listen to them again before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I can't bring myself to part with them. I really should. But it feels like I'm saying "you mean nothing to me anymore." 

Edited by riddlemay

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/24/2021 at 1:50 PM, JSngry said:

who's NOT making the cut?

Geez -- I should have made a list, and I've already dumped many of them in the library resale bin. From the ones I can remember and the ones that haven't gone there yet -- John Corigliano, Henry Brant (veteran experimenter whose "spatial" experiments don't come off IMO -- was tempted to keep his orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata; sounds like a promising idea, but it's turgid), Harvey Sollberger (fine flute player, faceless composer IMO), David Chaitkin, Donald Martino's alto sax concerto and his Paradiso Choruses (kept other stuff by him), lots of Henri Lazaroff (why did I get any Lazaroff in the first place?), Dominick Argento, an Eighth Blackbird compilation, Nicholas Flagello (may have kept something else by him). Next time I go to the library, I'll make notes;  probably most everything I donated  is still there. Again, I was only going through modern American classical. Culling jazz would be a whole other proposition for me, for reasons I can't quite articulate right now. Culling modern classical from other countries and non-modern classical would be daunting, but I'll probably try someday. 

There's nowhere left around where I live where selling CDs is worth the trouble; you get almost nothing in return, and the buyers at Half Price Books are snarky these days. Donating CDs to the library feels better anyway. I haven't tried to sell anything this year, though I still go to Half-Price from time to time to see if there's anything I want to buy there -- usually not much. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not a lot there that I have gotten to (no surprise),  but the one that leaped off the page for me was that Martino alto concerto, which actually pissed me off a little...everything that I never liked about anything, and all at once. Don't think I paid more than the price of a burger for it, but a burger is gotten rid of with relative ease, and often after some degree of satisfaction. This thing...none of that.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

Geez -- I should have made a list, and I've already dumped many of them in the library resale bin. From the ones I can remember and the ones that haven't gone there yet -- John Corigliano, Henry Brant (veteran experimenter whose "spatial" experiments don't come off IMO -- was tempted to keep his orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata; sounds like a promising idea, but it's turgid), Harvey Sollberger (fine flute player, faceless composer IMO), David Chaitkin, Donald Martino's alto sax concerto and his Paradiso Choruses (kept other stuff by him), lots of Henri Lazaroff (why did I get any Lazaroff in the first place?), Dominick Argento, an Eighth Blackbird compilation, Nicholas Flagello (may have kept something else by him). Next time I go to the library, I'll make notes;  probably most everything I donated  is still there. Again, I was only going through modern American classical. Culling jazz would be a whole other proposition for me, for reasons I can't quite articulate right now. Culling modern classical from other countries and non-modern classical would be daunting, but I'll probably try someday. 

There's nowhere left around where I live where selling CDs is worth the trouble; you get almost nothing in return, and the buyers at Half Price Books are snarky these days. Donating CDs to the library feels better anyway. I haven't tried to sell anything this year, though I still go to Half-Price from time to time to see if there's anything I want to buy there -- usually not much. 

I was once an intrepid explorer of new music (particularly from Berkshire, as that was a cheap way to experiment), but cut back dramatically because far too many discs failed to provide lasting pleasure and got culled. And there was little market for the obscure US composers.

I did a big Euro-contemporary classical cull 10-12 (or so) years ago and was able to make decent money off it via eBay and Amazon. Nowadays I just give the stuff away; local public library won't even take CDs. Some even go direct to dumpster these days.

From the above list, I culled a Brant and some Martino; still have a Martino piano disc that probably won't survive. Saw Eighth Blackbird once in concert and loved them; bought one compilation disc and hated it, rapid cull. Have one Lazarof recording which only survived because it's a postscript to good  Varèse performances on a Vanguard Classics disc with Abravanel conducting.

My jazz and standard repertory classical culls have mostly been single discs that became duplicated by box purchases. Larger ones may be forthcoming.

Edited by T.D.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, JSngry said:

Not a lot there that I have gotten to (no surprise),  but the one that leaped off the page for me was that Martino alto concerto, which actually pissed me off a little...everything that I never liked about anything, and all at once. Don't think I paid more than the price of a burger for it, but a burger is gotten rid of with relative ease, and often after some degree of satisfaction. This thing...none of that.

 

That's about how I felt about the Martino concerto. Having heard with semi-positive feelings a fair amount of earlier Martino, some of which I kept for the time being, I can't imagine what he was thinking when he wrote that piece. It's pointlessly complicated noise. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Famous in some quarters, here below is an epic takedown of Martino from Richard Taruskin. Taruskin makes some semi-valid points, but he's also a consummate professional blowhard ass----, as he has proceeded to demonstrate on numerous later occasions. And when will people like Taruskin stop waving about that intemperate old Milton Babbit article as though it clinches their game? If Taruskin finds valueless all the music Babbit has written since then, he's an idiot.

In any case, Taruskin on Martino: [Big gaps of space in what follows, keep scrolling]

CLASSICAL VIEW

CLASSICAL VIEW;How Talented Composers Become Useless

  • By Richard Taruskin
  • March 10, 1996
 

The nice thing about an-ism, someone once observed, is how quickly it becomes a wasm. Some musical wasms -- academic-wasm, for example, and its dependent varieties of modern-wasm and Serial-wasm -- continue to linger on artificial life support, though, and continue to threaten the increasingly fragile classical ecosystem. A pair of new Albany CD's of music by Donald Martino, now the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music Emeritus at Harvard, have recently come my way like a gust of musty air. They prompt me to throw open a window on the miseducation of musicians in America.

One disk, consisting entirely of piano music, is especially dispiriting, precisely because the performances, by David Holtzman, are so superfluously good. The other contains two reissues of Nonesuch LP's ("Notturno," Mr. Martino's best-known piece, recorded in 1974, and Triple Concerto for three clarinets and chamber ensemble, recorded in 1978). There is also a brilliant performance by Mr. Holtzman of "Pianississimo," a virtuoso piano sonata composed in 1970 and hailed in its time by Andrew Porter as "a peak of 20th-century piano music." That such a critic could say such a thing of such a work is indeed a sign of times gone by, but there is still something that needs saying about this music.

Once, a long time ago, in a famous article that ever since has served as a bible of academic arrogance, Milton Babbitt tried to laugh the audience's claims on 20th-century music right out of court. "Imagine a layman chancing upon a lecture on 'Pointwise Periodic Homeomorphisms,' he wrote. "At the conclusion, he announces, 'I didn't like it.' " Leaving the snobbery to one side, the analogy did make a philosophical point worth pondering.

By comparing "serious" or "original" contemporary music to mathematics (and appropriating concepts like seriousness and originality to one kind of music was where the arrogance lay), Mr. Babbitt was saying, in effect, that such music was to be valued and judged not for the pleasure it gave but for the truth it contained. Truth, in music as in math, lay in accountability to basic principles of relatedness. In the case of math, these were axioms and theorems: basic truth assumptions and the proofs they enabled. In the case of music, truth lay in the relationship of all its details to a basic axiomatic premise called the 12-tone row.

 

Again, Mr. Babbitt's implied contempt and his claims of exclusivity apart, the point could be viewed as valid. Why not allow that there could be the musical equivalent of an audience of math professors? It was a harmless enough concept in itself -- although when the math professors went on to claim funds and resources that would otherwise go to the maintenance of the "lay" repertory, it was clear that the concept did not really exist "in itself"; it inescapably impinged on social and economic concerns. Yet calling his work the equivalent of a math lecture did at least make the composer's intentions and expectations clear. You could take them or leave them. Honestly asserted, they had a certain authenticity, and so did the music.

 
  •  

But now imagine that one engaged Claire Bloom to read "Pointwise Periodic Homeomorphisms" with all the expressive resources of voice and gesture she would bring to the role of Ophelia or Desdemona. Her performance would add nothing to the paper so far as the math professors were concerned. The "layman" would find something to admire in the beauty of her rendition (as anyone listening to Mr. Holtzman's performances of Mr. Martino's compositions on these Albany CD's will surely admire his sterling qualities of touch, timing and tone).

And yet the lack of connection between the content of the utterance and the manner of its delivery would be a constant irritant both for the professors and for the layman. Both would find the performance somehow silly and gratuitous, though their reasons would vary, and though they might both be reluctant to say so. The incongruity would be equally manifest, moreover, whether Ms. Bloom read the paper in the seminar room or on the Stratford stage.

That is the problem with Mr. Martino's piano music, which strives for conventional expressivity while trying to maintain all the privileged and prestigious truth claims of academic modernism. Because there is no structural connection between the expressive gestures and the 12-tone harmonic language, the gestures are not supported by the musical content (the way they are in Schumann, for example, music Mr. Martino professes to admire and emulate). And while the persistent academic claim is that music like Mr. Martino's is too complex and advanced for lay listeners to comprehend, in fact the expressive gestures, unsupported by the music's syntax or semantics, are primitive and simplistic in the extreme.

Insofar as he seeks to be expressive, the composer is forced to do without language altogether. Where Schumann could make his most telling expressive points by means of subtle gradations of harmony, Mr. Martino can be expressive only in essentially inarticulate ways, the way one might communicate one's grossest needs and moods through grunts and body language. Huge contrasts in loudness and register, being the only means available, are constant. The combination of gross expressive gestures for the layman and arcane pitch relationships for the math professors is a perpetual contradiction. It fatally undermines the esthetic integrity of the music.

 

 

 

The only harmonic support the composer can give the expressive surface is the occasional (and by now, old and tired) device of finagling some intermittent consonant harmony out of his Serial procedures. Composers who do this call it "tonal implication" or "tonal reference," but it is really nothing of the kind, because tonality is a syntax, not just a vocabulary. Invoking consonance is just another gross distinction, another primitive and largely meaningless gesture. THESE ARE HARSH judgments but necessary ones. Academic composers still maintain a smug front. In a 60th-birthday interview Mr. Martino was still blaming everyone but himself for the lack of headway his music had made despite all his prizes and plum academic posts. He was still heaping Babbittian scorn on "laymen," lobbying, as he put it, for a "potty-trained audience" and contending that "what we need are concert hall bouncers." And, of course, he was still simultaneously bragging that audiences disliked "Notturno," his Pulitzer Prize-winning sextet, and whining that his works were not more regularly performed before such audiences.

The reason it is still necessary to expose these hypocrisies, even after the vaunted "post-modern" demise of Serialism, is that the old-fashioned modernist position still thrives in its old bastion, the academy. Composers like Mr. Martino are still miseducating their pupils just as he was miseducated himself, dooming them to uselessness. Critics and "theorists," many of them similarly miseducated, are still propagandizing for Pointwise Periodic Homeomorphisms in the concert hall, offering their blandishments as consolation for the loss of a musical language and decrying the attempts of younger composers to find a new one. Excellent performers like Mr. Holtzman, whose recordings of Stefan Wolpe show that his talents can be put to much better use, are still content to seek cozy academic approbation instead of seeking to establish a viable role for new music in the public sphere.

It is not reinforcement in their contempt of audiences, or protection from them, that young composers and performers need, but encouragement in the risky business of establishing a new symbiosis with them. Mr. Martino and his music set an entirely negative example. The only constructive purpose the circulation of these records could serve today would be a cautionary one.

 
A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 1996, Section 2, Page 31 of the National edition with the headline: CLASSICAL VIEW;How Talented Composers Become UselessOrder Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

 


 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I had started getting back into classical, and when the fire overtook my apartment EVERYTHING was pruned.  What really hurt was I bought Isaac Stern's Complete Columbia Analogue Recordings and Glenn Gould's Bach Box and was one disc into the Stern and 4 discs into the Gould before I lost it all...  I will have to reacquire them at  some point

Edited by CJ Shearn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Further  culls:

Hohvaness orchestral works (kept piano music played by Hohvaness)

Gardner Read songs (kept his piano music) 

Benjamin Lees orchestral works (may have kept works for violin and piano)

Herman Berlinski choral works

George Barati orchestral works

Takemitsu (dumped two discs, kept another)

Max Schubel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All the Hohvaness? Not even a representative sample?

I just got the Hohvaness album conducted by Andre Kostelanitz and am waiting to see how that one goes...either gonna work hard or fail hard, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't get rid of:

81D0PAugLQL._SX522_.jpg

or the composer, saul goodman and the ajemian sisters on

jpaZHgrkMNY8%3D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, JSngry said:

All the Hohvaness? Not even a representative sample?

I just got the Hohvaness album conducted by Andre Kostelanitz and am waiting to see how that one goes...either gonna work hard or fail hard, right?

I avoided Hovhaness for the longest time b/c I couldn't imagine I'd like his music.

Only this year I got a recording of Mysterious Mountain (cond. Schwarz, part of a Delos American composers compilation via Berkshire) and (surprisingly) loved the piece.

But he seems to be a polarizing composer, so it could go either way. I don't have a desire to acquire many recordings of H's work - huge volume of compositions and perhaps a lot of them are somewhat similar.

Edited by T.D.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just kept a CD of Hovhaness' piano music with the composer at the piano -- it seemed to have a special authority -- and the Reiner "Mysterious Mountain." I also have a Columbia LP with the Ajemian sisters and on the other side Wolpe's "Ten Songs from the Hebrew" that I'll never get rid of. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.