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Topic: Compositions w/war themes

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  1. #1

    Compositions w/war themes

    I have made numerous attempts to musically capture my war experiences into music compositions. I realize that this is a relatively heavy influence for musical expression; or anything else for that matter. Perhaps, I will never be able to do it.

    I recall a piano concerto written for Left Hand that was written by Maurice Ravel for a WWI casualty who lost his right arm. I have heard the concerto and marvel at this man's (and anybody else's) ability to perform it.

    Obviously, anybody who has experienced war experiences or terrorist related events has experienced difficult periods. Time does heal. However, the scar tissue lasts.

    I am sure there are people in the Garritan community that have experienced similar experiences - or if not - have some wonderful insights into this difficulty.

    Best to all.

  2. #2
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas J
    I have made numerous attempts to musically capture my war experiences into music compositions. I realize that this is a relatively heavy influence for musical expression; or anything else for that matter. Perhaps, I will never be able to do it.

    I recall a piano concerto written for Left Hand that was written by Maurice Ravel for a WWI casualty who lost his right arm. I have heard the concerto and marvel at this man's (and anybody else's) ability to perform it.

    Obviously, anybody who has experienced war experiences or terrorist related events has experienced difficult periods. Time does heal. However, the scar tissue lasts.

    I am sure there are people in the Garritan community that have experienced similar experiences - or if not - have some wonderful insights into this difficulty.

    Best to all.
    Well, the Ravel concerto was not written about war experience, but for a person with only one arm. Marvelous concerto.

    Perhaps I am off base, but it seems to me that any music that I have ever heard was composed by persons who had not experienced it as a combatant. If true, I don't really know the significance of it. If false, lash me with a pair of wet noodles.

    War is really a horrible thing, and I can not imagine wanting to write music about it, except fictional wars, myths, & fairy tales. Could be that your problems with war are getting in the way of writing music about it.

    I can understand music based on "the invaders are driven out, we are free" sort of thing, and patriotic music during a conflict to bolster spirits, and strengthen resolve and courage.

    Richard

  3. #3

    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    1) Trivia: The concerto was written for Paul Wittgenstein, the brother of Ludwig, the famous philosopher.

    2) It's probably not the sort of thing you're looking for, but Iannis Xenakis's experience with the Greek
    resistance during WWII is often mentioned as an important influence on his music, which has at times been described as 'violent and powerful'.

    3) Penderecki's Threnody (for the Victims of Hiroshima) is another powerful testament to the horrors of war.

    4) Part of Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time' was written while he was a prisoner of war.

    - k
    "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have, but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

    - Andy Warhol

  4. #4
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    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    Interesting thread. It made me wonder about Vaughn-Williams' experience with war if any, since my experience performing his Dona Nobis Pacem several years ago still has a chill left in my bones. Here's what Wiki has to say:

    "Being 40 (In 1909), he could have avoided war service. Having had a public school education he could have tried for a commission. He chose to enlist as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and had a gruelling time as a stretcher bearer before being commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery. On one occasion he was too ill to stand but continued to direct his battery lying on the ground. Prolonged exposure to gunfire began a process of loss of hearing which was eventually to cause deafness in old age. In 1918 he was appointed Director of Music, First Army and this helped him adjust back into musical life."

    This is one example of an individual who wrote about it (well, he actually set various existing texts to music). If you don't know this piece, go listen now, and have the text handy. Musical imagery and word painting were never handled so masterfully.

    Best,
    Belbin

  5. #5
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    I don't have much in the way of insight because right now i'm just a student of music, but my 2 cents is that, in my opinion, any and all of the human experience (notice i didn't say human condition) has the ingredients for inspiring powerful composition. Additionally as an art student i recall something about many great works having been born out of adversity.

    I hope that you are always well and that you always recieve honor and respect for the service and sacrifice you have given for your country.

    Best Regards
    David

  6. #6

    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    Quote Originally Posted by klassical
    3) Penderecki's Threnody (for the Victims of Hiroshima) is another powerful testament to the horrors of war.
    and a bit of musical trivia that is often overlooked... the title of "Threnody" was only given considerably AFTER the composition of this work.
    The "horrors of war" were never on Penderecki's mind when he composed it.
    however, a few other works that are truly "war influenced" include:

    Benjamin Britten: War Requiem

    Samuel Barber: Symphony no 2

    Elliot Goldenthal: "Fire, Water, Paper: a Vietnam Oratorio"

    Dmitri Schostakowitch: a number of the symphonies (no7, no10, no13, no14, among them)

    Bohuslav Martinu: Double concerto for string orchestra, piano and timpani (while not explicitly "war themed" it is none the less a reflection of the composer's anguish at being displaced from his homeland in time of war).

  7. #7

    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    Hi Thomas,
    Thank you for your service!
    I hope that I'm not going too far off of your topic, if I am, I apologize.
    I have had many friends and family members in the service and war is one thing that really touches me. I have written many war-inspired pieces even though I have not been to war. I have let the feelings that I have about war inspire my writing. Sometimes it's about the total sadness and the loss, sometimes the sacrifice or the brotherhood of man or sometimes it's the victory. One thing that I've noticed when I'm composing a war piece (or any other piece really) is that the more I try to sculpt the piece, (to fit the cliche I guess) the less emotion that it contains. I try really hard not to listen to the voices in my head and just play with my heart.
    I hope that you will find peace and healing, if not by your music, by something else.
    Take Care,
    Steph

  8. #8
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    Well, I am properly corrected on my ignorance of composers and war music.

    But I do maintain my position on the rest of my comments. It is not an attack on anyone's patriotism or war service. Three of my uncles were in WW II, of which, one, was seriously wounded at the Anzio beachead. I was a few years too young to serve, being a week or so short of 14 years old when it ended. But I did serve in Korea during that "police action" and in Vietnam during that affair. So I don't really think the matter of patriotism or military service are an issue. In neither case was I a front line trooper. But that does not mean a lack of experience with some of the usual drama of war. Combat air bases can be blown to bits as well as anything else. It was a nuisance to be awakened by small arms fire, and comforting to know that the artillery I heard was outgoing and a bit of an annoyance to have my ear tickled by the breeze of a bullet which ended it's journey on the beam where my head was resting.. But never I have been inspired to write music about it. I count Julius Caesar and Alexander the Macedonian Monster among the great villains of history,

    Richard

  9. #9

    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    I've been working on a symphonic poem that also deals with the start of civil war in ex-Yugoslavia - but very, very, VERY slowly. The time counter has passed 10 years already. I hope to finish it one fine day but it'll be more synth-based than orchestral (the conflict itself will be represented by a symphonic-heavy-metal part reminiscent of Rhapsody or Nightwish)
    Of course I also wasn't on the front, very far from it. (long story) but I agree, the emotions and memories of it are here to stay and are a powerful inspirational force; I don't think I could properly "channel" them into music at all.
    Regards Matt

  10. #10

    Re: Compositions w/war themes

    I certainly do not think that one has to have direct experience in a war or terrorism to use it as an inspiration for music composition. I myself served in the USMC in Viet Nam which has certainly impacted some of the music that I have written and has served as a creative outlet for these experiences. (Not to worry - I'm a well adjusted middle ager with a great family & job and have left these problems in the dust years ago.)

    I do especially like Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for The Thin Red Line (which is a wonderful/disturbing film about WWII soldiers in the South Pacific) without brass fanfares and war drums from say a John Williams score (Saving Private Ryan).

    If you get a chance check out Zimmer's soundtrack. I read where it is his favorite that he's written.

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