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Thread: How to stop worrying and love contemporary music

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    Captain of Water Music some guy's Avatar
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    How to stop worrying and love contemporary music

    OK. Here's the deal.

    JHC, I do not have enough time to devote to your suggestion on the baroque thread that I upload bits and pieces of my collection to a filesharing site. That is true. And even if I did, what you'd get would simply be bits and pieces of my collection, not necessarily what you, JHC, or anyone else (Corno? Contratrombone?) needs to hear to be convinced that contemporary music is worthwhile.

    But I do have time to share a wee bit autobiography with y'all, if I may have your indulgence. Here it is. When I was little, the only music I knew was Hollywood music, Lawrence Welk, 101 Strings, Percy Faith, Warner Bros cartoons, and all the miscellaneous rags and tags of TV shows. But I loved music. It was the most powerful thing in my life, I think. When I was around nine or ten, I inherited a bunch of 78s from my dad's stepbrother. These included Count Basie, Fats Domino, top fifty classical snippets, sides one and four of Peter and the Wolf, and the two sets called Sparky's Magic Piano and Rusty in Orchestraville.

    Magic.

    As I would write later for a high school English class, what I thought (though not in these words, yet) was "Oh. So this is what music is supposed to sound like."

    Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Grieg, Dvorak. I was in love. And I was insatiable. Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, Smetana, Debussy, Ravel, Mussorgsky, Berlioz, Wagner, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Palestrina, Pergolesi, even Poulenc and Prokofiev (a little). Then, in 1972, I bought a recording of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

    More magic, this time opening up the whole world of twentieth century music. And I was insatiable. Carter, Mumma, Stockhausen, Cage, Mimaroglu, Reynolds, Behrman, Oliveros, Eimert, Shields, Smiley, Ussachevsky, Luening, Ives, Brant, MEV, AMM, the Sonic Arts Union, Diamanda Galas, Schoenberg, Glass, Riley, Young, Raaijmakers, Dockstader. (And, of course, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Messiaen, Janacek and all those types....)

    The 78s came to me in 1961 or 2. Bartok in 1972. By 1982, I was listening to music written in 1982, not because of any desire to be "caught up" or even to "be cool," but just because I loved the music so much.

    And I've never looked back. Well, OK. I've continued to buy CDs of music by Bach and Suk and Gluck and Mendelssohn. But I've never stopped liking and collecting music of my own time. Now.

    I even, when it came time to quit my evil corporate job, started an online music magazine devoted entirely to the newest, most radical of the current avant garde, which takes me around the world several times a year to attend (and write about) concerts and festivals, meeting composers and performers and hearing lots of new music.

    Oh, it's fun.

    The moral, of course, is that modern music is perfectly fine. It's engaging and approachable and listenable. It might not be "pretty" like Chopin is. But Chopin was not at all "pretty" when he was alive. He was dangerous and ugly and unmusical. But I digress.

    I don't think that anyone will be convinced that modern music is enjoyable by listening to modern music. Why? Because it's difficult and ugly? No, because there have been too many people saying that it's difficult and ugly for too long.

    You think that has no effect? Well, when I first started listening to twentieth century music, I had heard nothing (living such a sheltered life as I did) about how awful this crap was supposed to be. So I was free to simply listen and enjoy. And I enjoyed it, I hope you've noticed, a lot. And I've heard many people say that they've gone to lots of new music concerts and hated all of them.

    Of course. You go into something expecting that you won't like it, and, surprise, surprise, you don't like it.

    That's why I don't think listening to it will do any good. Changing our attitudes has to happen first. Once that's happened, and I don't know how to do that or even if it's possible, then the beauties of twentieth and twenty-first century music will suddenly be quite obviously apparent.

    There's a lot of great music out there, and it's a lot more fun to enjoy it than it is to take cheap shots at it, fun though the cheap shots are!!

  2. #2
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Dear Michael,

    WOW!!! I am very impressed with what you've shared - I am in a bit of a rush now to get to the Cathedral to do some research on Russian Choral Art. So, more later...
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
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    some guy
    Thanks for sharing your information with us. You have certainly had a full and interesting life musically.

    regards

    teddy

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    Commodore con Forza GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your musical odyssey with us. When my mother-in-law was alive I took her and my wife (of Swedish descent) to a concert of Swedish Organ Music. It turned out to be all contemporary compositions. They hated it, I thought it was terrific. As Peter Schiekele (the man behind PDQ Bach said, "If it sounds good, it is good"

    Rob

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Interesting how pivotal Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra seems to have been in your musical development, some guy. It certainly is a very moving piece. I have a hankering to listen to it right now, in fact.

    I've never heard of Sparky's Magic Piano nor Rusty in Orchestraville. Will check those out. The former sounds like a 'must hear' for a piano teacher.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    Here you are Robin

    Cheers MIKE.

    How many roads must a man walk down ... ... before he admits he's lost?

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    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    some guy, as with CD I have just found this thread and I thank you for being brave enough to do it, I will join in when I have digested what you have said as I do have issues with some of it, there is no doubting your sincerity.

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, Mike. I enjoyed it. I must recommend it to my younger students.

    I tried to find Rusty in Orchestraville at Youtube as well, but was unsuccessful.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


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    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    some guy
    I have tried to enjoy Avant-Garde music but with very little success The type that really goes against the grain is that which appears to me to have no form, rules, melody, harmony etc that I can detect I.e. (random) now this is not only with classical but also Jazz e.g. ‘Free Jazz’
    but dissonance is fine,

    I have been to concerts that include AG music and must admit that a live performance is much easier to assimilate as opposed to listening via the Radio or CD, your comments about past masters being thought of as "not pretty" Is well taken and only the future will remember those worth remembering (with the odd exception) it is a pity that you do not have time to give a few examples or clips as this would promote a good discussion I will endeavour to find the old programmes that I have been to that contain music that I can refer to but they may have been discarded.

    A piece that rings a bell and I am probably wrong is ‘a short ride in a fast machine (a train I believe) was it by Steve Reich ?? You will know.

    I found this very good even if a little basic but that is OK.

  10. #10
    Chief assistant to the assistant chief JHC's Avatar
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    OK It’s me again some guy, I have explored your home page a little and must say it is very well done and professional. I listened to three short pieces all of which were (I think) electro acoustic coining a term from the page:

    A Ludger Brummer Miscellany

    La cloche sans vallees

    The Gates of H

    To my ears this was sound effects not music, so not wishing to get tied down with a definition of ‘Music’ can you direct me/us to AG music that is perhaps not as advanced and played on conventional instruments? I am all for jumping in at the deep end but this is way beyond my grasp at present. Btw have you heard of two NZ composers Gareth Farr and John Psathas

    They are more at my level but I struggle with most of their works I have put a couple of links if anyone wants to have a look.

    http://www.johnpsathas.com

    http://www.garethfarr.com

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    Captain of Water Music some guy's Avatar
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    Everyone,

    The responses to this have been a big surprise to me, which just goes to show: you just never know!! Anyway, they've been most gratifying.

    rojo,

    That Bartok piece was pure magic for me, yes. Why, I might have to take that out and give it another listen myself, just for old time's sake!

    JHC, the pieces you refer to as "short" are just clips from much longer pieces. (And "A Ludger Bruemmer Miscellany" is the title of the review not of a piece.)*

    It's hard to know what will click for someone else. Why, it's hard to know what will click with one's own self, I think. But after some guessing, I would suggest giving the Goffredo Petrassi Concertos for Orchestra a spin. There's eight of them, taking up 2 CDs. They are interesting for starting out fairly conventional in the early ones and getting less and less conventional. Less and less conventional but fortunately more and more well written, too.

    I would think Krenek would be worth exploring, too. But one of my friends gave me his copy of Jonny Spielt Auf, saying that he didn't hear anything of value in it and was pretty sure he never would. And this is an extremely intelligent listener. (Jonny Spielt Auf is a very engaging and delightful opera, just by the way.) And Krenek has been difficult to find for me. He wrote a lot and you just never know what kind of thing you're going to get. I don't know if there are many clips anywhere. I can't think of a better way to hear the progression from conventional to avant garde in a composer's output than the Petrassi. Many other's took similar paths, just not all available so neatly in a nice 2 CD set!

    *My site is not a good place to become acquainted with new music. It's designed for people who are already fans, with clips to give those fans a taste of things they might not already know about. But if anyone who's not a fan gets a charge out of the clips, I'll be more than happy. Yes, indeed!

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hi some guy,

    I really dig Krenek - His music is very accessible to one with open ears and mind - Thanx for your getting more involved on MIMF.
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

  13. #13
    Apprentice, Piano
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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post

    That's why I don't think listening to it will do any good. Changing our attitudes has to happen first. Once that's happened, and I don't know how to do that or even if it's possible, then the beauties of twentieth and twenty-first century music will suddenly be quite obviously apparent.
    I agree that just listening to a lot of modern music will not necessarily work. It has not for me. If by "changing our attitudes" you mean becoming open to modern music, I think that is still not necessarily enough.

    Having thought about this issue for several months, talking to friends who like modern music, and reading posts online, I believe most people have to slowly learn to appreciate the changes in modern music from what they already know and love. I'm not sure the best way to do this, but many people have worked through a path of composers from, say, late Romantic through more dissonant composers like Bartok, Hindemith, and Stravinsky then to Schoenberg and Berg and then on to Ligeti, Babbitt, Crumb, and others.

    I'm currently starting down this path, but I don't expect it to be quick or easy. We all know that great composers of the past experienced rejection of their music for being "too new", ugly, or too dissonant. I suspect that 20th century music has deviated far further from Romantic music than what CM listeners experienced in the past (say with Beethoven, Brahms, or Wagner). This deviation may be harder to bridge for the average listener such as myself. Hopefully it will not prove too difficult for me.

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    Captain of Water Music some guy's Avatar
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    Listening to music is not a chore, it's a great pleasure. Any difficulties along the way are part of the pleasure.

    Here's an example of two attitudes:

    1) I have to work at getting this modern stuff.

    2) Oh, good. I get to listen to something new.

    Which do you think will get the best results?

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    Commodore con Forza GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    Listening to music is not a chore, it's a great pleasure. Any difficulties along the way are part of the pleasure.

    Here's an example of two attitudes:

    1) I have to work at getting this modern stuff.

    2) Oh, good. I get to listen to something new.

    Which do you think will get the best results?
    Number 2 without any question. You might have to work at, even listen a few times, but you have to work for anything worthwhile.

    Who knows you might even like it and destroy your preconceived notions. Horrors!!!!

    Remember Beethoven was new music not so many years ago.
    The only reason for time is to prevent everything from happening at once - Albert Einstein

    You know you have reached Middle Age when it takes you longer to rest up than it did to get tired.

    If it sounds good; it is good

    Rob

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