Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

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Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Yagan Kiely » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:35 am

I have to subjects in this thread, one his the differences and parallels of composition and orchestration as well as there interaction with each other. The second is to what is the limit's of What is music, and who is indeed the composer?.

I'll start with the second subject first as this will lean into the other.

What is the limit of music? Does it need to make a sound? If you assume rhythm is music (as most do) then how could soundless pressure (say on ones arm) in a rhythmical pattern not be music? Yet it makes no [audible] sound. Also, if you are stimulated to imagine a sound, while now sound being present is that music? I propose the following situation:

Assuming that a voice screaming is musical, if one watched a movie clip in pure silence* of a woman screaming, then one can easily imagine the sound of that scream because of what one sees? Possibly the same can be said for the white noise a TV makes when there is no or scrambled signal, also a video of an orchestra could do the same.

Why does music have to be melodic? Obviously it will make it more pleasant to the ear but that doesn't inherently stop unmelodious or noisy sounds from from being music. Theoretically and sound can be musical, white noise can be seen as a extremely complex music.

Take the tree, it is natural, it is peaceful. Mahler and several other composers (especially of the Naturalist [romantic] era) imitate the sounds of nature, take Mahler's 1st 2nd and 6th symphonies, or Messiaen's Catalogue D'oiseaux (Hie piano music that imitates various bird calls). If search to imitate it withing music, why cannot be the source also music? The sound of a forest could indeed be music. But it is a long way away from the humble playing on the piano's keys.

For the purpose of this I am assuming that a tree can be mu sic. Who is the composer? I am limiting this discussion to a primarily Atheist view so I am not taking into account the option of a supreme being as the composer. Is nobody the composer? The wind the composer? The tree? Of the listener? It is my opinion that indeed the listener is the composer, for he or she may listen and disagree or agree with the composition in different ways. appreciating, construing and organising the given information of sound in their mind. They are I believe the composer because of this process. But here I come to a predicament, a paradox if you will. Is that process a version of orchestration, or composition?

Orchestration isn't just he choices of instruments and the relations between them all. It can be Rhythm, voices, dynamics as well as colour, perception, atmosphere and physical placement. Composition can also include Rhythm voices perception atmosphere, as well as harmony and melody, while stage management can include physical placement. Although colour is seen as specifically an orchestration technique, why can it not be a composition technique after all, it is still part of the overall composition. One can go without the other, but it is better when both are together. Much like if a (Classical era) composition had Harmony Melody, they work on their own, but are better together, they are both described as composition. Harmony is also composition but harmony can set the seen and atmosphere of a composition, such as the obvious major/minor correlation.

I have another opinion/idea about Baroque "good taste" but I think I'll leave that for another thread some time later.

Hope to hear some comments and discussion. :)

*One can always here ones pulse in the quietest of situations, but I am ignoring this for the present course.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby imslp » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:39 am

ArcticWind7 wrote:I have to subjects in this thread, one his the differences and parallels of composition and orchestration as well as there interaction with each other. The second is to what is the limit's of What is music, and who is indeed the composer?.

I'll start with the second subject first as this will lean into the other.

What is the limit of music? Does it need to make a sound? If you assume rhythm is music (as most do) then how could soundless pressure (say on ones arm) in a rhythmical pattern not be music? Yet it makes no [audible] sound. Also, if you are stimulated to imagine a sound, while now sound being present is that music? I propose the following situation:

Assuming that a voice screaming is musical, if one watched a movie clip in pure silence* of a woman screaming, then one can easily imagine the sound of that scream because of what one sees? Possibly the same can be said for the white noise a TV makes when there is no or scrambled signal, also a video of an orchestra could do the same.


You are venturing into John Cage territory here I feel lol. And Cage would definitely agree with you (even purely on the level of being Buddhist), that music is what you think it is. In other words, music is what the listener decides it is. And hence all the criticisms back in Beethoven's day about how Beethoven's Ninth has such "harsh harmonies" that it is "not musical" etc, etc.

Why does music have to be melodic? Obviously it will make it more pleasant to the ear but that doesn't inherently stop unmelodious or noisy sounds from from being music. Theoretically and sound can be musical, white noise can be seen as a extremely complex music.


Well, my opinion is that humans are drawn to the harmonization and production of sound itself (I'm here including overtones in "harmonization"). I think this is the root of why people feel there is a need at all to separate "music" from "noise". But this has been gradually breaking down during the past century, for better or worse.

Take the tree, it is natural, it is peaceful. Mahler and several other composers (especially of the Naturalist [romantic] era) imitate the sounds of nature, take Mahler's 1st 2nd and 6th symphonies, or Messiaen's Catalogue D'oiseaux (Hie piano music that imitates various bird calls). If search to imitate it withing music, why cannot be the source also music? The sound of a forest could indeed be music. But it is a long way away from the humble playing on the piano's keys.


Yes, it can be music. And according to Cage, it is music. I've also seen "Ocean Sounds" and such CDs on sell from time to time.

For the purpose of this I am assuming that a tree can be mu sic. Who is the composer? I am limiting this discussion to a primarily Atheist view so I am not taking into account the option of a supreme being as the composer. Is nobody the composer? The wind the composer? The tree? Of the listener? It is my opinion that indeed the listener is the composer, for he or she may listen and disagree or agree with the composition in different ways. appreciating, construing and organising the given information of sound in their mind. They are I believe the composer because of this process. But here I come to a predicament, a paradox if you will. Is that process a version of orchestration, or composition?


A sidetrack (kinda):
One question is: why is there a composer/performer divide at all? There is improvisation, which while not being very familiar to us western music lovers, is the norm in many other musics around the world. In fact, I think western music, out of all the musics in the world, place the most attention on the composer. In other cultures either the performer is the composer, or the composer does comparatively very little (think Indian raga).

And hence, to me, there is no real composer/performer divide; the only divide I see is between pre-performance (everything you do before the performance), and the performance itself.

Anyway, to answer your question:
You can say that listeners are "composers", if you mean it in a certain sense. Here I think it is a good idea to define precisely what is meant by "composer"; because giving different definitions will greatly affect how the word is used...

Orchestration isn't just he choices of instruments and the relations between them all. It can be Rhythm, voices, dynamics as well as colour, perception, atmosphere and physical placement. Composition can also include Rhythm voices perception atmosphere, as well as harmony and melody, while stage management can include physical placement. Although colour is seen as specifically an orchestration technique, why can it not be a composition technique after all, it is still part of the overall composition. One can go without the other, but it is better when both are together. Much like if a (Classical era) composition had Harmony Melody, they work on their own, but are better together, they are both described as composition. Harmony is also composition but harmony can set the seen and atmosphere of a composition, such as the obvious major/minor correlation.


I would agree. "Composition" in the western sense is just a hodgepodge of different techniques dealing with different aspects of the pre-performance sound. And this will be different for different cultures (for example, there is really no 'harmony' [or consciously anyway] in an Indian raga performance, and there is no solo instrument performance in Javanese gamelan, etc, etc).

---

Also:
I remember Stravinsky had said something along the lines of "I can compose freely only with rules and restraints". In another sense, "music" is not only sound; it is also history and culture. You can only "understand" a type of music when you know its history and culture. And it is against this backdrop that "music" functions. For example, the reason the deceptive cadence is called "deceptive" is because in western music literature, the dominant usually goes to the tonic, and not the sixth degree. And thus, Stravinsky's "rules and restraints" can be viewed as culture and history.

So there might be other dimensions to "music" than merely sound :)

---

Anyway, these are just my $0.02 :) An interesting question that might clarify your question of "What is music?", is "What is the purpose of this 'music' that we talk about?". I think answering that question will be beneficial to answering your original question. :)

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:45 am

I think I should note, that I do not infact enjoy Cages Music, and I only really like tonal music. :p

Have you heard of Bernstein's The Unanswered Question? Whither music?

On a whole most of my "questions" were rhetorical. But I see what you mean in your response to them.

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Postby imslp » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:47 am

I haven't actually listened to much Bernstein, so no... I might check it out soon :)

P.S. And no, I'm not exactly a fan of Cage's music, but the philosophical side of his music is interesting to me...

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:58 am

P.S. And no, I'm not exactly a fan of Cage's music, but the philosophical side of his music is interesting to me...
Same :)

I haven't actually listened to much Bernstein, so no... I might check it out soon
It is an 18 hour lecture by him at Harvard. It's not a piece by him (Although his Clarinet Sonata is Wonderful) but a series of lectures, it gets it's name from a Charles Ives Piece [The Unanswered Question] for String Ensemble and Solo Trumpet.

"Bernstein was invited in 1973 to the Charles Eliot Norton Chair at his alma mater, Harvard University, to deliver a series of 6 lectures on music. Borrowing the title from a Charles Ives' work, he called the series "The Unanswered Question"; it is a set of interdisciplinary lectures in which he borrows terminology from contemporary linguistics to analyze and compare musical construction to language. The lecture survives both in book and DVD form today." From Wiki.


Leonard Bernstein gave this description of the piece:

ves assigns this question to a solo trumpet who intones it six separate times. And each time there comes an answer or an attempt at an answer, from a group of woodwinds. The first answer comes very indefinite and slow; the second is faster, the third still faster, and by the time we get to the sixth it’s so fast, it comes out like wild babbling. The woodwinds are said to represent our human answers growing increasingly impatient and desperate, until they lose their meaning entirely. And all this time, right from the very beginning, the strings have been playing their own separate music, infinitely soft and slow and sustained, never changing, never growing louder or faster, never being affected in anyway by that strange question – and – answer dialogue of the trumpet and the woodwinds. (Bernstein 1967)


The Unanswered Question[/url]

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Postby kongming819 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:59 am

Speaking of Cage, I once saw a public performance of 4'33" (I assume you know what that is?) by an orchestra on Google Video...it received thunderous applause (sarcasm?) :?

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Postby matthew » Mon Feb 05, 2007 5:31 pm

I thought that 4'33" was written for solo piano? im not sure and i've never heard it (well never heard a proper performance of it) and hope i never do, it's just nonsense, music isn't music unless it is acually music, and that clearly isn't.

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Postby kongming819 » Tue Feb 06, 2007 1:38 am

Well I guess it doesn't matter what it was written for. (It is, after all, just silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds...)

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Tue Feb 06, 2007 5:20 am

I thought that 4'33" was written for solo piano? im not sure and i've never heard it (well never heard a proper performance of it) and hope i never do, it's just nonsense, music isn't music unless it is acually music, and that clearly isn't.
However the music does not come from the piano or the performer, but the ambient sounds all around.

[q](It is, after all, just silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds...)[/q]It isn't silence, people breath which makes a noise, that is it's intended sound.

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Postby matthew » Tue Feb 06, 2007 5:05 pm

If the sound doesn't come from the performer, then what is the point of them being there? And ambient sound is not music, i don't care about any philosophical arguments, that's just plain nonsense and not music.

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Postby Antimatter Spork » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:36 am

matthew wrote:If the sound doesn't come from the performer, then what is the point of them being there? And ambient sound is not music, i don't care about any philosophical arguments, that's just plain nonsense and not music.

4'33'' is music because you're sitting there watching a group of people who are (usually) unquestionably musicians performing it.

Most of the musicians I know think that 4'33'' is just funny, and they don't seem to think it "isn't music". To do it properly, you need to maintain a performance posture in absolute silence for exactly 4'33'' without actually playing anything, a task many musicians I know would find difficult.

I agree that some of the more avant-garde stuff out there crosses the line from music (I think it was Bernstein who defined music as "organized noise", but I could be wrong) into unorganized random noise. However, I don't think that 4'33'' crosses this line. The musical value of a precisely calculated silence is clear even in the classical repertoire. Even symphonies by such exemplars of "classical" music as Brahms and Beethoven contain silences of amazing effectiveness.

In short, I think that 4'33'' is definitely music of the truest sort.

link to an article about the artistic value of 4'33''

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Postby matthew » Mon Apr 16, 2007 4:41 pm

yes, a well timed silence can be INCREDIBLY effective, as can a lot of things, the CRUCIAL thing is that they only work well in context. four and a half minutes of silence isn't context. Im not against the use of silence in music, even for quite extended periods, i am a great believer of anything in moderation, but this is just silence, it doesn't have anything in it that makes it music.

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Postby Yagan Kiely » Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:18 am

You have to understand that it isn't actually silence. The purpose of it is to get us to listen to all the other sounds that occor, be it air con or people breathing, shifting in there chair etc. etc. There is sound, the "silence" is just a method of getting us to recognise hese other sounds. Whether or not you concider it music or not is still subjective, but it isn't silence per se.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby carsonics » Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:36 am

Sound and then music requires energy in the form of a wave, a medium to transmit as in air, and the absence of sound as the polarization for reference (as in light and dark - the absence of light, which is also a wave form energy). Music as a phenomena is as old as any human artifacts (archeological) that can be found regardless of location, continent, climate, etc. And each world musical culture has developed it's own philosophy, instruments, and poetic meaning, though more global similarities emerge - enculturation, religious ceremony, entertainment, ritual, etc. I don't know if I can answer the question posited, but I do know that music is all of the above!

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby allegroamabile » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:19 pm

I personally feel that classical music has gone too far beyond its limits. I think this is part of the reason why orchestra concerts have dropped attendence. A regular attendee would eventually get acquainted with most to all of the beloved classics of the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modernist periods. I think there needs to be new music that reflects tonality, not the avant-garde works that have been composed in the last sixty years. I believe tonalism is what people want to hear; it is the building blocks of what is pleasing to listen to. If there would be no contemporary music that is enjoyable and listenable to the common ear, I believe classical music would never be popular again. John Cage might strongly agree with your post, but Alexander Glazunov would loathe it in a sincere manner. I would take Glazunov's music over Cage's any day.

I would like to add one more thing about Glazunov. He really disliked Stravinsky's music and thought it was far too modern. Most composers today would probably think that Stravinsky's works were not even close in abstraction to the compositions that are being written today. Just imagine what Glazunov would have thought of Laurie Anderson's works.

Regards


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