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 Post subject: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:12 pm 
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COLONEL
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I was skimming a blog who'se author I do not always agree with and spotted a post that discusses his experience with what I like to call 'nasty atonal trash' in the 1970's. Assuming he's giving a vaugely accurate account, I can certainly see how this would cause a problem:

Quote:
“You get 150 people at new music concerts,” said my sage piano teacher Nathan Schwartz. “Unfortunately,” he added, “it’s always the same 150 people.”

He didn’t tell me — but I soon discovered — that one of those people would be wearing a bumblebee cap with long slinky-style antennae and bright yellow tips....

...During one particularly galling rehearsal for a rigidly senseless two-piano piece, I had the temerity to ask the composer if he would play through a particular passage for me so I could get an idea of what he had in mind. “Oh, I can’t play it,” he replied airly. Could you at least clap the rhythm for me because I can’t figure it out, I asked. “Oh, I don’t know how that rhythm is supposed to go,” he chirped. Do you mind if I play this passage at 82.6 beats per minute instead of the 82.3 beats you have specified, I asked. “Oh, that’s just the result of the metric modulation,” he explained, “don’t pay any attention to it.”


http://scottlf.livejournal.com/63186.html

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 3:09 pm 
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JOVE THE MIGHTY THUNDERER
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Graham1973 wrote:
...During one particularly galling rehearsal for a rigidly senseless two-piano piece, I had the temerity to ask the composer if he would play through a particular passage for me so I could get an idea of what he had in mind. “Oh, I can’t play it,” he replied airly. Could you at least clap the rhythm for me because I can’t figure it out, I asked. “Oh, I don’t know how that rhythm is supposed to go,” he chirped. Do you mind if I play this passage at 82.6 beats per minute instead of the 82.3 beats you have specified, I asked. “Oh, that’s just the result of the metric modulation,” he explained, “don’t pay any attention to it.”


Well in Baroque times even the best known composers could prepare music missing many of the dynamic and other indications that we would come to expect from later generations, and considering they are not around for us to consult on these matters one could say the situation for the modern performer is similar to the above scenario. In both cases this leaves certain factors in the interpretation to the discretion of the performer, influenced by the trends and learning of the time (which would certainly have been the expectation of the Baroque composer). No doubt the Baroque composers could answer such questions as the above whereas the composer of the two piano piece could not, but the situation for the modern performer is ultimately the same.

My advice to the above pianist would be to ask himself, after considering the variety of interpretive options, whether the piece is worth performing in the first place. If the answer is 'yes' then he should go with his own instincts, if it is 'no' then stop whingeing and play something else. Maybe then the composer will get the message...

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 10:14 am 
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Rod Corkin wrote:
Graham1973 wrote:
...During one particularly galling rehearsal for a rigidly senseless two-piano piece, I had the temerity to ask the composer if he would play through a particular passage for me so I could get an idea of what he had in mind. “Oh, I can’t play it,” he replied airly. Could you at least clap the rhythm for me because I can’t figure it out, I asked. “Oh, I don’t know how that rhythm is supposed to go,” he chirped. Do you mind if I play this passage at 82.6 beats per minute instead of the 82.3 beats you have specified, I asked. “Oh, that’s just the result of the metric modulation,” he explained, “don’t pay any attention to it.”


Well in Baroque times even the best known composers could prepare music missing many of the dynamic and other indications that we would come to expect from later generations, and considering they are not around for us to consult on these matters one could say the situation for the modern performer is similar to the above scenario. In both cases this leaves certain factors in the interpretation to the discretion of the performer, influenced by the trends and learning of the time (which would certainly have been the expectation of the Baroque composer). No doubt the Baroque composers could answer such questions as the above whereas the composer of the two piano piece could not, but the situation for the modern performer is ultimately the same.


I agree, but to me what the article implies is a lack of care on all parts, no sensible composer should write something without taking into account, that:

(a) It has to be performed.

(b) People have to listen to it.

(c) Performers are going to come up and ask for clarification, they should not be condescended to & they shouldn't be left with the impression that the composer doesn't care one way or the other how it is performed. (Assuming the author is relating the story in any way accurately.)

But of equal importance, performers should:

(a). Try to give their best effort, even if the composer seems indifferent to the outcome.

(b). If (a) is not possible, don't perform the piece at all, as you so rightly said.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 5:39 pm 
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JOVE THE MIGHTY THUNDERER
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I would like to have known how the piece in question came about. Was it commissioned or something the composer was working on independently? Then how did these particular pianists get involved? Reading further into the blog it appears the duo did perform the piece, in the absence of direction from the composer, as they saw fit. The result seems to have been unsatisfactory all the same.

Still, if there is blame to be portioned in this tale I would place most of it on the pianists for not having the balls to tell the composer the music was garbage and refusing to play it. At the end of the day anyone, even me, can put a few notes on paper, but not everyone can perform in concert. I don't accept his complaints about atonal serialism 'after the fact'. Those who were/are prepared to play it, even begrudgingly, makes them part of the problem.

Looking at the closing paragraphs of the blog, You don't have to be a conservatory student or professor to understand Beethoven is better than all that crap and more worthy of their time and effort, but it appears conservatory students and professors often don't have the taste or intelligence to know know that. As I've suggested repeatedly over the years, what went wrong with Classical Music, and art in general, is the academisation of it.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2012 1:32 am 
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This is a difficult topic. I have my problems with modern music, starting with 12 Tone. I have learned although that there are people who vigerously defend and like modern music.

I have my difficulties even with say Berg which violin concerto starts wonderfull but then often bores me. I although sometimes dip into the modern stuff, for example Ligeti, who the other day sounds interesting.

But I must say that for me there is a boarder which I can't go over. I like Charles Ives, Strawinsky, Roussel, or to say a newer name Malcolm Arnold. For example Malcolm Arnold 7th symphony is pretty modern. And I like some Messiaen.

On the other hand I am carefull. There is alot of Renaissance music, especially choral music, which leaves me pretty cold, so this is not a problem of modernity alone.

But I agree, in modern art things devellop in a way I don't like. All this seems to be very "difficult" and I don't like that. I like to listen to music which I can judge. You had always difficult music, Bruckner is difficult, Beethovens Missa Solemnis is difficult, Bach can be difficult, but we had never the situation we have now. Rod calls it the academisation of art and rightly so. Academisation also means: We all behave very good. Performances of modern music are friendly undisturbed events nowadays, that's nice, but then the music becomes boring by that. Nobody understands anything but all are very pleased. That does mean on the other hand that any kind of fraud is possible. For if I say: "I don't understand this music." this may mean: "The music is glorious but don't understand it" or it may mean "The music is rubbish and I don't understand the music because there is nothing to be understood".

All that said, I say also I am carefull but I don't want to say that I am that carefull. I remember that once I found Beethovens string quartetts pretty boring. My opinion changed of course. I think people should always say their open opinion. And I think that went wrong. I remember very derogative quotes of Tchaikovski about late Beethoven sting quartetts. And I think that's perfectly OK, this was Tchaikovskis judgement. I certainly don't like the intimidated culture of today. People should judge by themselves. If they say: Beethovens string quartetts are great music because I have read this in a book - well I can read books myselve.

So I must say we must come away from this culture of intimidation in "erudite culture" nowadays. But I would say this expands also to "old" classical music. That's also a matter of honesty, of truthfullness. Come away from this intimidation, say what you really think, and if you think: Handels chamber music is boring stuff, then say so and don't say I am fighting with my understanding. But if you think it's a matter of understanding then say so but if you don't think so then don't pretend that you yourselve believe that it's a matter of understanding.

So much for now, this can become an interesting discussion.


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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2012 7:53 pm 
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Florestan wrote:
...and if you think: Handels chamber music is boring stuff, then say so and don't say I am fighting with my understanding. But if you think it's a matter of understanding then say so but if you don't think so then don't pretend that you yourselve believe that it's a matter of understanding.

So much for now, this can become an interesting discussion.

Long ago at another CM forum I once suggested that there were more interesting arias in the first act of Handel's Gulio Cesare than could be selected from Mozart's entire operatic output. You can imagine the stink that notion created! All manner of abuse came my way, especially when they realised I was being absolutely serious. I then suggested my 'opponents' compile the 10 best arias from any of M's operas and I will select 10 from the first act of GC. And we could then present, compare and contrast the music in question. After much prompting none of them dared take me up on the offer. It takes things like that to focus people's minds past the hyperbole they've been fed by those who 'know better'.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2012 2:32 pm 
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Hi Rod

I agree with you. You may get abuses if you simply dare to have your own opinion which is not one of the mainstream. And the strange thing is: If you dare to atack one of these gods, for example Mozart or Bach, it doesn't mean much, as they have a very strong position, it would be much more harmfull to attack Kalkbrenner, Hummel, Spohr or Weber.

It is a strange fact that erudite persons very often have this lack of tolerance. They should look with shame on the ordinary man who is often much more tolerant. The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or something differant, that was the great discussion in my younger years, classical music was not "cool" or hip. But you cannot only discuss The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, you could also discuss Handel or Mozart. Beethoven has preferred Handel to Mozart, and Beethoven isn't a bad name isn't he.

Handel sometimes bores me, but when he is great, he is one of the greatest. Mozart is one of the favourites of mine, but especially his early works are often boring and simple. Beethoven is astounding in the variety of his genius, there is not much what is realy "weak".

All this can be discussed, you can discuss wether Johann Sebastian Bach is overvalued or Handel is undervalued, it is allowed to find the Well Tempered Klavier of Bach sometimes gorgeous and sometimes pretty boring ( what I do and I have listened to the first part quite often).

A vibrant discussion, that's that what classical music needs and the allowance for newbies to have their own opinion. Especially classic music beginners should venture their opinion. They should listen to music, don't read books and by simply listening come to their opinion, the outcome may be sometimes strange ( Kalkbrenner wrote better piano concertoes than Beethoven was an opinion I once noted) but is always interesting.

Discussion is the essence of all forums and no evaluation of a composer or a performer is carved in stone. And if you say the first act of Giolio Cesare of Handel has more interesting arias than the whole Mozart: Well, I love Mozart, especially Figaro, Don Giovanni and Zauberflöte and I was not that enthusiastic about the Giolio Cesare, but I will give them a second chance. There is no need to "create a stink", by your comparison of Mozart and Handel you made your point by praising Handel and this special opera - and this is a valuabel point, I will listen to this opera again, although I have a recording which is maybe not very good ( Orchestra Pro Arte Bassano, Marcello Panni), I snapped that up somewhere, I am sure you can give me a better recommendation.


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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2012 7:13 pm 
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Florestan wrote:
Hi Rod

I agree with you. You may get abuses if you simply dare to have your own opinion which is not one of the mainstream. And the strange thing is: If you dare to atack one of these gods, for example Mozart or Bach, it doesn't mean much, as they have a very strong position, it would be much more harmfull to attack Kalkbrenner, Hummel, Spohr or Weber.

From my 15 years of dealing with on-line CM forums I have come to discover that criticising Beethoven does not create too much of a stink, certainly considering his high status, but criticise Bach, Mozart or Schubert and you'll be ducking for cover. I've found followers of those three tend to be far more cult-like than those of Beethoven, I suspect because Beethovenians do not need to rely on faith and hyperbole to know how great their hero is. :D


Florestan wrote:
It is a strange fact that erudite persons very often have this lack of tolerance. They should look with shame on the ordinary man who is often much more tolerant. The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or something differant, that was the great discussion in my younger years, classical music was not "cool" or hip. But you cannot only discuss The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, you could also discuss Handel or Mozart. Beethoven has preferred Handel to Mozart, and Beethoven isn't a bad name isn't he.

Handel sometimes bores me, but when he is great, he is one of the greatest. Mozart is one of the favourites of mine, but especially his early works are often boring and simple. Beethoven is astounding in the variety of his genius, there is not much what is realy "weak".

All this can be discussed, you can discuss wether Johann Sebastian Bach is overvalued or Handel is undervalued, it is allowed to find the Well Tempered Klavier of Bach sometimes gorgeous and sometimes pretty boring ( what I do and I have listened to the first part quite often).

A vibrant discussion, that's that what classical music needs and the allowance for newbies to have their own opinion. Especially classic music beginners should venture their opinion. They should listen to music, don't read books and by simply listening come to their opinion, the outcome may be sometimes strange ( Kalkbrenner wrote better piano concertoes than Beethoven was an opinion I once noted) but is always interesting.

You won't often find me generalising about a composer's ability in one statement, I think there is nothing much to learn from remarks like that. Instead I select his most respected music and investigate if it is worthy of the hype, and that is the general approach I try to promote here.

So for example when you say you might find Handel boring, I say to you listen to this performance I have posted and tell me why you think it is boring. Invariably I will suspect you will not be bored by the Handel I post, which is why the anti-Handel mob never rose to my challenge then or now. But if that fails I would then ask who does the same kind of thing better and ask for specific musical examples.


Florestan wrote:
Discussion is the essence of all forums and no evaluation of a composer or a performer is carved in stone. And if you say the first act of Giolio Cesare of Handel has more interesting arias than the whole Mozart: Well, I love Mozart, especially Figaro, Don Giovanni and Zauberflöte and I was not that enthusiastic about the Giolio Cesare, but I will give them a second chance. There is no need to "create a stink", by your comparison of Mozart and Handel you made your point by praising Handel and this special opera - and this is a valuabel point, I will listen to this opera again, although I have a recording which is maybe not very good ( Orchestra Pro Arte Bassano, Marcello Panni), I snapped that up somewhere, I am sure you can give me a better recommendation.

At the end of the day I don't really expect a hard core Mozartian to suddenly see the light and become an overnight Handellian, but having a 'Battle of the Arias' as mentioned above is much more fun and informative than simply saying I prefer the operas of composer 'A' over those of composer 'B'. For those who rely largely on hyperbole such an approach works against their belief system, their god cannot be challenged, the repercussions could be unsettling to say the least!

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2012 9:27 pm 
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Hi Rod

The fans are a problem I think. The topic of this thread is the access to classical music which sadly alot of people have lost. I think this is even more a problem in the USA than in Germany. For example I have a friend who is 50 and has discovered classical music with 45. Well, never late than never, but why is it such a problem to get access to classical music?

One of the misunderstandings is certainly that people really believe that pop music is the worthy successor of classical music. They think that people listening to classical music are listening to acient stuff, so if I am listening to Beethoven I am listening to "old" music but if I am listening to Madonna or Michael Jackson I am listening to "new" music. And new is always better than old.

This is a misunderstanding for the real meaning of classical music is not "old" music, but music of art. This may mean that some of the modern "pop" music may be art as well, there is something called "art rock" and this may be of value, I don't know it.

But the real meaning of "classical music" is that we listen to music which is genuinly a piece of art, like Shakespeare or Rembrandt, persons like that. This music is not very everyone, that's true, but it could be for much more people than we think. For it's a matter of musicality, not of anything else, you may be a completely dumb person, but if you have a sense for music, I would not care if a person is dumb elsewhere. This is a fact I cannot emphasize more strongly, and "modern music" which is the starting point of this thread, has often emphasized the opposite, that good music is something for the intellectuals, and this is completely wrong, for you may have intellectuals, who have no understanding of music at all, and you may have a simple persons, who loves Handel. Beethoven or whomever.

And there I am agreeing again with Rod who calls modern music, or better our behaviour to modern classical music too "academic", this is for me exactly the point, as there are persons who are not academic at all who could have access to classical music and other who are "academic" will not have any access to classical music, even if they have an IQ of 180 and that's it.

So much for now, there could be said more, but it's enough for the moment.

Regards Florestan


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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 6:48 pm 
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Florestan wrote:
And there I am agreeing again with Rod who calls modern music, or better our behaviour to modern classical music too "academic", this is for me exactly the point, as there are persons who are not academic at all who could have access to classical music and other who are "academic" will not have any access to classical music, even if they have an IQ of 180 and that's it.

So much for now, there could be said more, but it's enough for the moment.

Regards Florestan

By 'academisation' I mean more than just the approach to modern classical music, it includes to whole approach to studying and performing earlier music too.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:55 pm 
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Hi Rod

But what do you exactly mean by "academisation"? To give you one example: Our performers, conductors or composers are normally educated in "music high schools". These are not part of the university here in Germany, so in the strict sense of the word they are not academic. I don't know how it is in the United Kingdom. I think all that is a matter of culturell change, not of the academic world alone.


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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:43 am 
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Florestan wrote:
Hi Rod

But what do you exactly mean by "academisation"? To give you one example: Our performers, conductors or composers are normally educated in "music high schools". These are not part of the university here in Germany, so in the strict sense of the word they are not academic. I don't know how it is in the United Kingdom. I think all that is a matter of culturell change, not of the academic world alone.

Universities, Academies, Conservatories, "high schools" too no doubt. And those who are taught there pass on their bad habits. These institutions have in my opinion allowed deviant musical tendencies to grow and become generally accepted.

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:57 pm 
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Being a non-musician I'm always at risk that what I say is completely stupid ...

Rod Corkin wrote:
Graham1973 wrote:
...During one particularly galling rehearsal for a rigidly senseless two-piano piece, I had the temerity to ask the composer if he would play through a particular passage for me so I could get an idea of what he had in mind. “Oh, I can’t play it,” he replied airly. Could you at least clap the rhythm for me because I can’t figure it out, I asked. “Oh, I don’t know how that rhythm is supposed to go,” he chirped. Do you mind if I play this passage at 82.6 beats per minute instead of the 82.3 beats you have specified, I asked. “Oh, that’s just the result of the metric modulation,” he explained, “don’t pay any attention to it.”

I remember a Youtube with the Emerson Quartet rehearsing, as I recall, Elliott Carter's String Quartet No. 3 in the composer's presence. Carter was quite specific about how he thought the piece ought to be performed. (I'll see if I can link that video). But then Carter is a great composer.

Rod Corkin wrote:
...
Well in Baroque times even the best known composers could prepare music missing many of the dynamic and other indications that we would come to expect from later generations, and considering they are not around for us to consult on these matters one could say the situation for the modern performer is similar to the above scenario. In both cases this leaves certain factors in the interpretation to the discretion of the performer, influenced by the trends and learning of the time (which would certainly have been the expectation of the Baroque composer). No doubt the Baroque composers could answer such questions as the above whereas the composer of the two piano piece could not, but the situation for the modern performer is ultimately the same. ...

But of course there were stricter conventions and rules back in that era that could guide performers, plus performers were expected to embellish the works at certain points. (Or so I understand).

Rod Corkin wrote:
...
My advice to the above pianist would be to ask himself, after considering the variety of interpretive options, whether the piece is worth performing in the first place. If the answer is 'yes' then he should go with his own instincts, if it is 'no' then stop whingeing and play something else. Maybe then the composer will get the message...

Sounds like very good advice! :thumbsup:

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:04 pm 
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Feanor wrote:
But of course there were stricter conventions and rules back in that era that could guide performers, plus performers were expected to embellish the works at certain points. (Or so I understand).

All true, but I also mentioned the Baroque composer would probably be able to answer the questions the present composer could not!

Rod Corkin wrote:
...
Sounds like very good advice! :thumbsup:

No argument there.. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Is this what went wrong with Classical Music?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:46 pm 
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Feanor wrote:
...
Rod Corkin wrote:
Graham1973 wrote:
...During one particularly galling rehearsal for a rigidly senseless two-piano piece, I had the temerity to ask the composer if he would play through a particular passage for me so I could get an idea of what he had in mind. “Oh, I can’t play it,” he replied airly. Could you at least clap the rhythm for me because I can’t figure it out, I asked. “Oh, I don’t know how that rhythm is supposed to go,” he chirped. Do you mind if I play this passage at 82.6 beats per minute instead of the 82.3 beats you have specified, I asked. “Oh, that’s just the result of the metric modulation,” he explained, “don’t pay any attention to it.”

I remember a Youtube with the Emerson Quartet rehearsing, as I recall, Elliott Carter's String Quartet No. 3 in the composer's presence. Carter was quite specific about how he thought the piece ought to be performed. (I'll see if I can link that video). But then Carter is a great composer.
...

Here ya go. Actually it was the Juilliard String Quartet ...


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