Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

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KGill
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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby KGill » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:38 pm

I don't know about you, but where I am, there's almost nothing remotely modern (let alone avant-garde) being performed. Mostly nothing more modern than Late Romantic. And not Nielsen or anything (Helios Overture?), just Brahms etc. And that is why concerts have lower attendance, because there's nothing interesting. Been there, done that...
And just because an audience doesn't like modern music doesn't mean it has gone 'beyond its limits'. That suggests that music is limited to audience pleasers, which I really hope can be agreed is not the case.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby allegroamabile » Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:22 am

KGill wrote:I don't know about you, but where I am, there's almost nothing remotely modern (let alone avant-garde) being performed.


First of all, I did not say avant-garde pieces are regularly being performed. I stated that I believe in order for classical music to be re-popularized, new, more traditional works should be composed today. I would like to hear more compositions in the late romantic style being written which could fuel the popularization of classical music. Besides Shostakovich, Copland, Prokofiev, etc. are regularly being performed which is definitely past the traditional late romantic style.

Anyways, I am located in a very musical environment and avant-garde music is being performed and praised and I am not particularly fond it.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby carsonics » Fri Sep 25, 2009 6:42 am

Well if you feel that way, why not read Latin, only look at old paintings, read literature from past centuries, study Issac Newton and classical physics? There are no limits on classical music, it is in constant development and changes along side technology. Gee, wouldn't it be great if we had brass instruments with no valves again? I love contemporary music, abstract, atonal, electronic, complex, etc. And quite the revese, I don't go to the symphony unless something "modern" is programed because I'm tired of living in the past! If symphony attendance is down, you must be talking about in America where music education has all but been eliminated. The city of Berlin alone has seven professional orchestras and spends more money on the arts than the entire U.S. national arts budget. Maybe that's the reason people in the U.S. are not interested in classical music, not because music is no longer tonal, some is some isn't. Tonal music is fine, but it's been explored by composers for the last 3,000 years beginning in ancient Greece. Does anyone want to go back to medicine in use 200 or 100 years ago? Doesn't music deserve the same intellectual respect?

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Leonard Vertighel » Fri Sep 25, 2009 8:15 am

In my layman opinion, it's not a matter of old versus new. However, part of the modern music I see as a purely intellectual feat, which elicits not emotional response in me at all. Others will obviously perceive it differently.

To stick with the language analogy, I think it's not a matter of returning to Latin. Language evolves over time, and so does music. But if you make up a completely new language which is very different from the preexisting ones, then it's hardly surprising if the majority of the public fail to understand you. It is my impression that this is what happened to some extent in modern music. Of course some of it may just be "ahead of its time", and be more widely appreciated later on.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Lyle Neff » Fri Sep 25, 2009 10:48 am

allegroamabile wrote:[...] 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. [...]

Tonality and other non-avant-garde musical features can be found in plenty of new "art" music of the last sixty years.
"A libretto, a libretto, my kingdom for a libretto!" -- Cesar Cui (letter to Stasov, Feb. 20, 1877)

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Yagan Kiely » Fri Sep 25, 2009 2:59 pm

think there needs to be new music that reflects tonality, not the avant-garde works that have been composed in the last sixty years.
The two aren't mutually exclusive. I do partly agree with you though; I think tonality does add a lot to music. Bernstein said in his Harvard lectures that avant-garde was getting bland around 1970, but everything changed when composers started to realize that you can be tonal and avand-garde.


Who resurrected this dead horse anyway!?

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby carsonics » Sun Sep 27, 2009 2:36 am

If artists (like Beethoven, Mozart, or Schoenberg) wrote music to please audiences they wouldn't be artists, they'd be entertainers. Do scientists investigate the physical universe to please people who know nothing about science? Do writers who have stood the test of time write literature to please the public? Some do, but like it or not, artists and great artists especially are intellectuals, and if you think that they are elitists becuase they are working on the frontiers of their art in languages that can't be understood by lay people then you are correct. Do you think that a Bach fugue was written to please the public? Or was it written to explore the possibilities of polyphonic contrapuntal technique. If you want to listen to tonal music or whatever there's plenty of it around, but don't take out your limitations on composers who are writing music you don't understand. This is an old discussion by the way, but I as a trained and educated musician, composer, and artist completely enjoy, embrace, and am fascinated by music and sound and I love the most difficult stuff, atonality, whatever. I was brought up by my artist father to listen. Art is complex by the way, just because I don't understand something doesn't mean that I don't like it or it's bad - how small minded. It took me years to understand Schoenberg, but I kept an open mind and now the works of the Second Vienese School are among my favorite works. Webern is fantastic, not to mention Varese, Boulez, Stockhousen. The 20th century is rich and complex. If you ever studied post tonal theory you would appreciate the depth and complexity of 20th century technique. It's not a matter of liking or not liking, or the public for that matter. If you ask the general public what they want you'd get Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's 9th, and the Four Seasons for the rest of your life, or Mozart to Meditate to.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Melodia » Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:50 am

Lyle Neff wrote:Tonality and other non-avant-garde musical features can be found in plenty of new "art" music of the last sixty years.


Indeed. As time goes on, I continue to find it odd that people think the 20th century was this desolate time of all 'classical' music being noisy claptrap, when there's a laundry list of composers who have enjoyed great popularity, wrote mostly if not completely tonal and populist music, who lived their entire lives in the 20th century.
Off the top of my head:
-Copland
-Shostakovich
-Khachaturian
-Kabalevsky
-Barber
-Bernstein
-Walton
-Britten

...and those are just the ones born after 1900 and are very popular. You could easily add Vaughn-Williams, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Gliere, Villa-Lobos, Holst, Elgar, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, etc etc

This doesn't even getting into all the lesser knowns.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Leonard Vertighel » Sun Sep 27, 2009 8:40 am

It's interesting that you bring up the comparison to science. In fact, some scientists see a similar dichotomy between "pure" and "applied" science as you posit between "artist" and "entertainer". I'm a mathematician by education myself, and I've met a few mathematicians and physicist who sneer at the very idea of "application", who consider themselves superior because they deal exclusively with highly abstract concepts which mere mortals won't ever be able to grasp, let alone enjoy.

I've also had the honour to work with one of the most brilliant mathematicians. He made some very important advances in his field, and was one of the youngest in his country to become a full professor of mathematics. Many of his works are hard to understand even for experts. By education however he is an engineer. He works on highly abstract theories, yet he doesn't consider it dishonourable to solve very concrete problems, too.

I consider such a comprehensive perspective more open-minded than the black-and-white antagonism between "intellectual" and "popular", "pure" and "applied", and so on. Reality is more complex than that. Abstract, fundamental research in science and mathematics is of paramount importance, but what would be the point if it never yielded anything for humanity at large? Likewise, I obviously see the importance in music, art, poetry, etc., of pushing the boundaries, developping new languages, finding new directions. But if music, art, poetry becomes something that only experts with a lifelong training can appreciate, then I regard it as an impoverishment for society.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Yagan Kiely » Sun Sep 27, 2009 3:35 pm

Indeed. As time goes on, I continue to find it odd that people think the 20th century was this desolate time of all 'classical' music being noisy claptrap, when there's a laundry list of composers who have enjoyed great popularity, wrote mostly if not completely tonal and populist music, who lived their entire lives in the 20th century.
Off the top of my head:
-Copland
-Shostakovich
-Khachaturian
-Kabalevsky
-Barber
-Bernstein
-Walton
-Britten
I personally wouldn't classify any of them as Avant-Garde though.

I'd (personally) classify Ligeti as a tonal Avant-Garde composer.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Melodia » Sun Sep 27, 2009 7:58 pm

Yagan Kiely wrote: personally wouldn't classify any of them as Avant-Garde though.


Never said they were (note the quote specifically said "non avant-garde". Just was saying a lot of people say they "hate modern classical music" when they really mean they hate a certain subset of it. I used to feel that way too, but then I started realizing just how many well known composers there were that didn't write anything like that.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby Yagan Kiely » Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:21 am

Okay fair enough.

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Re: Music? Composer? Orchestration or Composion?

Postby jjw119 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 5:47 pm

I'm not sure where this topic is going after reading through this thread, but I thought I would try to tackle the original questions myself. These are my opinions; I assume nothing that I have written to be incontrovertible.

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? (Yagan Kiely, 2007)


As far as limitations in music go, from the perspective of a composer, I would believe that its limitations can be stretched depending on how much sound any composer can hear in his head at any given point in time. In terms of its substance, I would also think that an important limitation in music involves the question of what constitutes order or structure, which could be established in an improvisatory manner, a highly established system of mechanical processes as well as compositional approaches, by a random and indeterminate pattern in the case of John Cage, or even by taking random sounds and reordering them to one's interest (musique concrete). All of these depictions of musical order are different from each other, and in my opinion, they form a hierarchy of musical order.

As far as whether or not music needs to make a sound, I both agree and disagree, depending on how far I would take the subject. If I were in a vacuum, it would be impossible for me to create an audible sound because the characteristics of a vacuum prevent sound from traveling through it, yet even soundless pressure expressed in a rhythmic pattern could be music as it doesn't involve just hearing it but feeling its touch as well. If one were stimulated to imagine a sound, that can be music. Jazz solos involve imagining sounds that would fit under chord changes in a 32-bar AABA song form, 12-bar blues, or even a 24-bar AAA' song form, and this goes on while hearing the chord changes in the guitar, bass, and keyboard. Perhaps the true implication of the question involves the independence of the sounds imagined in his head relative to the sounds present around him. If that is the case, it depends on the function of the sounds imagined in one's mind in relation to the sounds around him. That matter in itself is subjective, depending on what anyone may imagine to be practical vs impractical.

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. (Yagan Kiely, 2007)


It is not absolutely and indisputably necessary to have melody in music as it is an element of what can be applied to music. Just playing a series of chords on a piano using functional tonality would certainly fit the idea of music since the harmonic progression played on the piano creates a sense of order. In certain areas of music, however, melody is essential to the framework or structure. In jazz, for example, where solos require a melody and chord changes to solo over, it would be essential to have melody. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to find a jazz chart memorable, like "Autumn Leaves," "So What," or "West End Blues." Melody would also be essential in any music composed in the style of theme and variations. Otherwise, if a composer didn't have a theme to write variations for, what would the point be of writing variations without a theme? Sure, we could argue that it may be possible to write variations on John Cage's 4'33", if we could consider that our experiences during those four minutes and thirty-three seconds can have variations, depending on our state of mind wandering from one variation to another, but that does not fit the historical definition of a theme and variations in terms of its context. For that reason, doing a variation on something like this would be impractical and maybe counterproductive to one's intentions. (I liked the reference to white noise here, where I would also say that pink noise can also be seen as 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?(Yagan Kiely, 2007)


I would agree here too. Nature has its own array of sounds that make it musical. Especially with the rapid advances of electronic music, sounds found in nature can be recorded and rearranged into music. The sounds of the leaves on the tree blown by the wind can certainly be seen as something musical.

For the purpose of this I am assuming that a tree can be music. 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? (Yagan Kiely, 2007)


Anyone who creates order is a composer of some kind. Anyone who creates disorder in an orderly fashion can also be considered a composer. Both of these ideas involve some form of decision-making and sound rather contradictory, but perhaps I could explain the latter idea like this. I think of disorder created in an orderly fashion as a process of having fixed ideas within a piece of music that has no fixed outcome. Morton Feldman's Durations from the early 1960s is a great example alluding to what I'm implying. The pitches assigned to the instruments in the piece themselves along with the choice of instrumentation given to each of the piece's movements demonstrate some predetermined quality, whereas the length of time for the instruments to move from one pitch and the question of which voice will move next are indeterminate themselves. Here, disorder is found in indeterminacy, and order found in what is predetermined.

As to the last question, composition and orchestration are not exactly the same. Semantically, orchestration is more specific than composition, as orchestration involves the layering of various instrumental parts to harmonize and strengthen melodic and harmonic materials, a term that I would consider to be more of a derivative of composition. Composition is in my opinion broader in context, which would imply the creation of an idea, the management of how the idea will be structured, and the determination of how that idea can be most effectively expressed to the listener (or reader for anyone who writes). In terms of the way a person listens to something and interprets the information, the idea fits more closely a version of composition since the application of aural skills needed to accumulate information from the music being played in terms of its structure, pitch/melodic content, and harmonic analysis follows more closely a compositional device, not an orchestral device. I would only consider one's construing of the information to be a process of orchestration in two different ways: if the listener was processing specifically the blending of the instruments themselves or if the listener was watching a ballet, opera, or film and determining the compatibility of the instrumentation to the scenes or theatrics found within them.
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