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Topic: The debate continues (temporarily)

  1. #1

    The debate continues (temporarily)

    This is an extension of the thread located here: http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...4&page=1&pp=10


    I’ve moved this onto a new thread so that we are not cluttering up Nicole’s thread with our lively discourse. Hang on, here we go:

    “Some of the Beatle's music was based on the detested three chord trick too! However, they are more famous, more popular, more wealthy, and have given more pleasure to millions of folk than any of the Atonal Archies.”

    (TH) Ah yes, the greater the number of people who like something, the better it is. Quality and worth determined by consensus, by fame, by bank account size. You know, I think you’re onto something here – this may be the ultimate formula for Great Art. Perhaps composers should use Harris Polls to see if ideas for their latest compositions meet with the approval of the maximum number of people in the general public. You know, this could be a Democratic Revolution in Composition while, at the same time, ensuring that the music is optimized for producing maximum fame and financial gain. This could guarantee the virtually perfect, “Lowest Common Denominator” music. My hat’s off to you, you brilliant, sneaky guy! The future of Art is assured.

    “Maybe they'll find that appreciating this marginal sort of music is a condition like, say, colour blindness. (ie it's the way they're wired up....something went wrong!)”

    (TH) You got me again. I freely admit I didn’t even know there was a right or wrong here. Silly me. On the other hand, we haven’t really determined just who exactly is color blind here, have we? Oh that’s right, this is another of those consensus things isn’t it?

    “Some, not all, 20th century composers have been trying to be 'clever or different' for a long time....in fact for ALL of the twentieth century. They've had a fair crack of the whip, and you know what?..... the vast majority of people haven't heard them, don't like them or don't know them. Even after a hundred years the vast (and I mean vast) majority of folk haven't seen the light! Perhaps, yes just perhaps....this sort of music really is Sihite (the first 'i' is soft like in shiite! ). “

    (TH) I’m beginning to get the hang of this consensus thing. But now there is a new element added: Being clever or different is a BAD thing. Boy, did I have that one wrong. Since “clever” means “being mentally quick and original” I can see now that this is clearly not an asset for someone involved in an intellectual pursuit like composition and “different” might lead to the inadvertent occurrence of “creativity.” Sends a shudder up my spine just to contemplate the possibilities.

    “Prove me wrong!”

    (TH) Now, now, Frank . . . you know this statement violates at least two firm rules of logic: The Fallacy of Negative Proof which simply states that it is not possible to prove a negative assertion and “Argumentum ad ignorantiam,” the fallacy of arguing that the burden of proof lies on the opposition. You tried to lay a little trap for my pseudo-intellectual pretensions, you clever logician you. Oops, I didn’t mean to offend you by using the word “clever” - I know how you feel about that word. My apologies.

    “I say again that this is the 'unmade bed' or the 'cow in formaldehyde' of music. Yes there are a few who like it.........but most of us see it for what it is. Pretentious rubbish. I'm afraid I'm no admirer of the Emporer's new clothes!”

    (TH) Wow, - “unmade bed,” “pretentious rubbish,” and that old favorite “Emperor’s new clothes.” So that’s what all of that music by so many different composers actually IS. We’re not just talking opinion here anymore, we’ve moved onto something absolute, something tangible. These aren’t just insults by someone unappreciative, these are FACTS. Ah, now I understand. See, you just had to clearly explain it to me. I’m not intractable, after all.

    “This isn't to say that there are a few who genuinely like it, but that doesn't mean to say that the vast majority are too stupid or uneducated to understand or appreciate it; which is often the implication.”

    (TH) Naw, I won’t do it - too big a straight line . . .

    “I can assure people that it certainly doesn't go over my head; it is more likely to go under my feet for I see it for what it is with the veils of pseudo intellect and snobbery removed.”

    (TH) Here’s my problem: I’m having a little difficulty keeping track of just who’s using the “veils of pseudo intellect” here. I’m almost certain that I’m supposed to be the “snob” (I would suggest “elitist” is more accurate) but, reviewing this exchange, I’m not so certain about the proper mantle for “pseudo-intellect.” I must admit that I have played in the horn sections of many Rhythm & Blues bands for the last few decades and they are notorious as hotbeds of pseudo-intellectual activity – especially toward the end of the night, but should I always be tarnished by association? I think not.

    On the subject of “does it go over your head,” that’s difficult for me to determine since, by your own admission, you haven’t heard all of the music you so inclusively condemn. At least I played thousands of 3 chord rock tunes over 40 years time before I stated that I thoroughly disliked every single one of them – what can I say, I’m a whore, I got paid at the end of the night. I understand them – Oh, do I understand them! You also make it difficult for me to judge your comprehension because you keep making such silly statements as: 9th and 13th chords are too “outside” or pointing out Ravel’s “obvious mistake(?)” in the Piano Concerto in G (that misguided one had me rolling on the floor with laughter). My dilemma is that you don’t SEEM to understand the music you’re commenting on. Perhaps that is a mistaken impression, perhaps not. I can’t tell.

    “It's certainly a damned sight easier to write compared with one of the structured pieces by the masters.”

    (TH) Exactly which Masters do you have in mind? Are you excluding Debussy, Bartok, Berg, Ives, Takemitsu, Varese, Wuorinen, Carter. Couldn’t be Carter. Elliot has written some of the most structured music in history. Debussy, for the most part, rejected traditional structure. Does that eliminate him as a “Master?” Berg’s Violin Concerto is one of the most profoundly beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard, yet it is, strictly speaking, atonal. Is it not a Masterwork just because he chose to combine pitches in a non-traditional way? Does that make it a sham? I’m just trying to determine where the line is drawn. It will help me to understand why these musicians produced music that was so “easy to write,” while conveniently establishing a list of just who qualifies as a “Master” and who doesn’t.

    “I'm sure I could write something pretty decent in this genre myself which might have a few folk ooohing and aaahing...... as long as I accompanied the piece with a few choice arty farty cliches, explanations, and pseudo-intellectual justifications.”

    (TH) Oh PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, indulge me here. If you never do anything else for me I’m on my knees begging you to write something worthy of my oohs and aahs. Don’t hold back - I want all the cliches, explanations, and pseudo-intellectual justifications to go with it. I NEED this piece of music!

    “If these people want to be in a little stream, which feeds a tributary which in turn, feeds the main stream of music; fair enough. Just don't expect the riverboat (showboat?) to turn up there any time soon!”

    (TH) I didn’t realize that one of my primary goals as a composer should be to get on that glittery old showboat. I’m going to need to re-arrange my priorities. Up ‘til now I was perfectly content to remain in my tiny little rowboat writing music I like rather than climb on the showboat and write music I loathe. Thank you for helping me see the error of my ways.

    “I'm reminded of an experiment (which caused an outrage at the time..1930's?) when the classical music station of the BBC put out a broadcast where the London Phil(un)harmonic Orchestra were instructed to play "at will" anything they wanted. The listeners weren't warned as it was attributed to some fictitious 'new' composer of the day.”

    (TH) I’d have to hear it. You never know, I might like it. I think it would depend on the performance

    “This is really for Tom, Gary .....sorry to get into it here... I shall get around to finishing him off back in the general discussion forum......Watch that space!!”

    (TH) I’ll be watching (I took a quick look and didn’t see it yet – point me in the right direction if I missed it)! I haven’t been “finished off” in weeks and, frankly, it’s getting on my nerves. Do you want me to wear anything in particular for the occasion? Spandex perhaps?

    “PS Predictably, a lot of these atonal enthusiasts make great programmers!”

    (TH) Not me. I’m just a run-of-the-mill hack.


    P.S. It’s been fun (really) but I’m ending it here. There are more important things to do (like getting out those updates!). In my genuinely nice guy fashion I’m going to let Frank have the last word. Chew me up and spit me out old boy – I deserve it!

  2. #2

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)


    That better win "Post of the Year" here - or I quit!


    (now go to bed its like 5am there Tom...)
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  3. #3

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Wilton, NH

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    Edited again! See below.
    Trent P. McDonald

  5. #5

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    Just to add my two cents:

    My English writing is some kind of limited, so sorry about his.....

    The battle about atonal music is a very old one. Ernest Ansermet, famous conductor of the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande and close friend to Stravinsky ended up being enemies because of this. Stravinsky, who even Frank will probably admit as a decent composer, was very open to the new directions in music. He did support Stockhausen and Boulez.

    I had many opportunities to meet and work with famous contemporary composers, and believe me, most of them know exactly what they are doing. If the average people does not understand what is going on in this music, so this not their problem. Nobody is forced to listen to good music. It is like food: Mac Donald is a big success...... Actually I would like to call all this three chord music, as Tom call's it, "Fast Noise".

    Now, the fact that only cheap music is a success in not thru! That really depends on the period of time. In the 1930-1950, what I do consider as good music, was a tremendous commercial success. I think about Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie. I use to have to buy my tickets weeks before the concerts, in order to get a seat. The Motion picture "The Benny Goodman Story" was one of the biggest hits in the 50-this. Today we are living in decadent period, where God has been replaced by $ and oil, so the music is represented mostly by Britney Spears (= crap). That there is an intellectual minority who wants to have nothing to do with this decadence, is just a little sunshine in the dark. That this people, if they are composers, want to write something very different as the usual (....) is kind of normal, or no?

    Also personally, believe or not Frank, I love strange dissonant chords, I work sometime many hours just to find a chord combination which is turning in my mind, and the music I hear inside, which is my one, just happens never to be tonal. I also never hear any melodies with an accompaniment , but structured sonorities.

    Difficult books, as for example Dantes "La Divina Comedia" are also not very easy to read and understand. Why one wants that it will be different for music. I use to give some classes to try to explain what is going on in modern music, many listeners did react very positively and started to like the stuff. Also many came to tell me later: " you know, now when I listen to this "three chords Music..." it does sound so banal and insignificant to me"


    Quote T.H.

    <P.S. It’s been fun (really) but I’m ending it here. There are more important things to do (like getting out those updates!). In my genuinely nice guy fashion I’m going to let Frank have the last word. Chew me up and spit me out old boy – I deserve it!

    PS-PS_ I also did miss this last passage, but sorry, I leave my post where it is...........

  6. #6

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    Just to clarify: When I said I was ending the debate I was referring only to my contribution - avoiding a response to whatever Frank posts. I didn't want to spend any more time on a back and forth - back and forth exchange in which no one ever becomes convinced of the other's position. Anyone else who wants to add some thoughts - please feel free.


  7. #7

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    I have a question for the atonal proponents here.

    I'm coming from a slightly different situation than most you. I don't particularly like atonal music, but I want to.
    People I know who are masterful musicians and composers love, listen to, and write, both tonal and atonal music. I have found their judgement and taste in tonal music to be impeccable and the suggestions I have recieved from them about my tonal music have been right on. Nevertheless, even after having listened to atonal music and even tried my hand at analyzing some of it, I find it difficult to appreciate most of it.

    I think that many people who don't like atonal music are in a similar spot: as Iwan suggested, that type of music is generally more difficult to understand and appreciate. Would someone who has developed an appreciation for it suggest the best way to go about getting used to it? Would it be better to go historically, listening first to music that gradually weakens and then discards tonally, or to jump right in? Should I listen to a few pieces until I really know them or is it better to listen to a lot of different works?


  8. #8

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    I believe tonality or atonality, simpleness or complexity....all have very little to do with whether or not a piece of music is good/great or not.... Neither does commercial value have much to do with it. Its very interesting to hear everyone's opinions...because everyone's opinion is valid, there is no right or wrong..there is simply subjective opinion about what makes great music or great art, or whatever....and its very interesting to hear all the different perspectives. I think certain music, regardless of its complexity, tonality, or revenue-generating-commerciality.....seems to ring a chord with people while other music does not.

    The Beattles, regardless of $$ and regardless of the music theory involved (or not involved) created something special and it rang true in a great many people. meanwhile there have been plenty of other artists of a similar style which were not able to dig into people's souls with such force....

    Maybe there is something subtle about it that is hard to put your finger on that makes it great. Something that can't even be taught perhaps. Or perhaps that is just my simpleton opinion.

    Talking about more advanced forms of music, I think there is plenty of atonal music that is great and plenty that is just awful. Some that rings true in the ears of a great many people, though not all...and other stuff that simply never will appeal to more than a select few. There is something about the "good" stuff that is hard to put your finger on..that makes it great. And this special aspect of music...this thing that is hard to put your finger on...its present in tonal, atonal, simple, complex, country, rap, R&B, rock, pop, jazz, filmscores, classical, 20th century, aboriginal drum beating, etc......its present in ALL styles of music....but not all composers can acheive it.

    In my view...that is what makes one piece of music great or better than another...whether it possesses this magical aspect or not.

    Lacking that magical aspect, then the only other thing to fall back on to judge music as being good is its merit in terms of craftsmanship....which of course...is easily won by the top academically trained composers....doing whatever they do...mostly atonal...

    What I think is unfortunate is when someone dismisses atonal music as noise and misses and opportunity to experience art. And likewise I think is unfortunate when a musically educated person dismisses simple music as boring and pointless....they are equally missing an opportunity.. There are gems on all sides..
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

  9. #9
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
    Out of my Mind

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    I was listening to Rap in Blue (Gershwin) today. I think an argument can be made that some passages there are atonal..But in context it is harder to spot. Interesting stuff.

    "So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap." -- Neil Peart
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  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2004
    Wilton, NH

    Re: The debate continues (temporarily)

    I’m going to try to recreate some of what I previously said and add a little.

    I think that 20th and 21st century music is becoming more popular, or at least I am able to see it’s popularity more.

    I have been looking into tickets for the 2004-5 season at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I was pleasantly surprised by how many 20th and 21st century pieces they are performing. Some of it is the “easy stuff” like Ive’s 2nd Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (I mean, saccharine sweet Disney used it in a movie over 50 years ago, it has to be called “easy”) but there are pieces that aren’t quite as easy, such as Schoenberg’s 5 Pieces for Orchestra. There are composers I have either heard of but am not familiar with or who I have never even heard of (not a huge thing since I'm not an expert). They are premiering 3 or 4 works. The BSO I think fills it’s 2600 seat hall over 115 times in the season. A lot of people are going to be exposed to more than Mozart and Hayden.

    Yesterday I was at a big chain bookstore, Barne’s and Noble’s. They have quite a bit of newer music for sale. I’m sure more people walk out with Beethoven than Pendericki. I bought one of each. There has to be a market for a big chain to carry it. Somebody else out there like’s it.

    I know it’s not for everyone. I personally couldn’t listen to something like Pendericki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” all day everyday, but I can listen to it on occasion.

    I didn’t always like more modern music. Sometime I might post my first experience with modern music in general and spractmuzik in particular. I still chuckle when I think about it.

    I took a 20th century music appreciation class in collage. It was a very good beginning but just that. What it did for me was give me a base to work from. I knew some of the names and a little bit about why they made the music they did. I wasn’t an instant convert, but “The Rite of Spring” was one of the very first CDs I bought when making the transfer from vinyl in the late 80s. “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” (also being performed by the BSO this season) followed closely behind with Hindemith's "Mathis der Maler" (also being performed by BSO this season). So to Error I would say, if possible, take a course. If you can’t, get a good book. That way you have some idea of what you are listening too. I’d also say to start with things that aren’t really atonal but push tonality a bit, like “The Rite of Spring”. I can’t say I am any place close to being an expert, not close to the same league as Tom or Iwan, but I do have an appreciation of modern and atonal music.

    As far as how easy it is to make atonal music, I find it very difficult. I have a much easier time staying within tonality. I can stray out and “modulate” to an atonal section on occasion, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to make a good atonal piece for beginning to end.
    Trent P. McDonald

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