Thursday, December 16, 2010

Topics and Link

I am sorry I forgot to enter my topics and link to my Wikipedia page on the blog. Even though we have already chosen topics and created pages I will give my proposed topics here now and perhaps create them in the future. The topics I suggested were as follows:

Sphinx Organization, Non-profit Organization

Sanford Allen, Violinist
Anthony Elliott, Cellist

Monday, December 6, 2010

Added links, and thoughts on current compositional trends

Hi all,

I have added some more links to the Juventas Wiki page. They are pretty minor changes (a few more links to reviews and a couple of internal links to other Wikipedia pages) but I am hoping that it will slowly increase the credibility of the page. I also removed the "Orphan" tag, since the strict definition is that it applies to a page with three links or less. You can see the updated page here and the list of changes here.

My philosophizing for this week comes from an experience I had this past weekend. I did a recording session for a local music college (I don't want to name names here because it's really not important) who's students had taken an advanced composition course. The students' final project was to compose and orchestrate a short, original work. They were then given about 20 minutes with a pickup orchestra in a studio to record their work.

Many of the works were quite nice, however, they generally all followed very predictable patterns of melody, rhythm and harmony. In short, many of them were rather banal and formulaic. Hewett's comments regarding the "evocation" trend in contemporary tonal music came to mind (see p. 233). Out of 20 different works, only 2 struck me as somewhat original in style and presentation. I recorded from 10 AM to 4:30 PM (with breaks), but by the early afternoon I felt like I was recording the same piece over and over.

Incidentally, this contrasts to an almost absurd degree with the majority of my past experience with student works. During my undergraduate and graduate careers I performed many outlandish, bizarre and utterly strange pieces by university composition students. What struck me most is that during my college career, most student works I have performed fall starkly into one of two polar categories: 1) commercially-disposable, cliché music for mass media or 2) aggressively bizarre, experimental art music. Rarely have I ever found a middle ground between these extremes.

I mentioned this to one of the other horn players at the session and she agreed with my experience completely. The thing I'm now trying to figure out is, why? I understand that music is often composed with a specific purpose in mind (for a film, for a TV commercial, to be iconoclastic, or even to specifically avoid having a purpose) but it seems strange that the camps should be so sharply and widely divided. The few really memorable original works that I have played seem to straddle this gap. Why don't more composers seek a fusion rather than holding to one extreme or the other? Perhaps one of our resident composers will be able to shed more light on this for me.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More on Morrison

Just a couple of things:

1. I added a photograph to John Morrison's Wikipedia site. (Check it out: Article)

2. At my composition lesson with Dr. Morrison last week, I asked him if he felt it was possible to re-interest young audiences in classical music. He grinned and said, "Of course! But it won't be by playing them Bach and Beethoven; it will be by playing Cage and Ligeti. I honestly believe that it is through new music that the average population can come to understand classical music. You perform a Mozart piece for a bunch of inner-city youth, and they'll be like, 'Yeah, that's boring.' But play them some Varese, and classical music is suddenly cool and amazing. Modern music is often discounted because so-called 'classical enthusiasts' only know one way to analyze it. The untrained ear, in some ways, is the more intelligent and open of the two. We should never insult the intelligence of any listener; they already know more than they think they do about classical music."

What a fascinating idea! I then asked Dr. Morrison where he felt like the future of classical music is headed in general. I was curious to see how he'd respond. I wondered if he'd agree with Cook or Hewett or if he'd have an entirely unique position of his own. Here's what he said:

"The era of common practice is gone. In order to understand why, we have to understand what spawned a common practice in the first place. It developed under very specific conditions in a part of Europe that was self-contained and limited by geography, language, and culture. The world we live in today will never be that isolated again; technology alone will see to that. And what was the one major invention of Western classical music's common practice? Harmony. Counterpoint had existed previously; the common practice simply defined the way that individual lines could and could not overlap. Harmony, then, became the common musical language of that area of the world at that time. Since our musical community now includes the entire world and all human cultures, what is our shared language? It is the language of sound itself. We also need to realize that common practice principles reflected the hierarchy of the times (they developed during a period of great change including the formation of a middle class). Modern society no longer espouses such hierarchal distinctions, and we, more or less, realize that all people are 'equal' in their potential. We certainly aren't free from prejudice yet, but I think it's safe to say that this is a non-hierchal age. So what is the only element of music that doesn't rely on hierarchy--that really hasn't yet been fully explored? Timbre. It's the only element, in fact, that is large enough and uncharted enough to suggest a new world of musical possibilities. Timbre is the one structural element that can tie together all pieces from the earliest days of Western classical music to the most diverse and experimental pieces of the 21st century. Timbre is the future of classical composition."

Finally posted a final version of Christian Lauba...

Hello everyone,

See the link for the new article I posted on Wikipedia about Christian Lauba. I really would like this page to stay up, if there is anything that you can do to help it stay up and prevent it from being zapped, please let me know. In case it is zapped here is a link to my draft page: Draft Page. There was a lot of work that was involved in making this, and it was a good experience overall in posting this and I don't want it to be lost.

On class in Tuesday let me know what was good or bad about it, and everyone is obviously free to edit it if there are problems. Have a fabulous weekend everyone, and good luck on concerts/exams!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

John Adams in the news

Hey all, just wanted to share this article/interview with John Adams. Nothing super noteworthy, but he is one of those people in our world that it's good to keep an eye on.