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#1151320 - 07/16/08 09:00 PM "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
from an interview with Richard Taruskin :

 Quote:
Music history begins when it does because that's when notation was invented, and that would be in North Central Europe in the eighth or ninth century. We don't really know what century, because nobody thought it was so important that all of a sudden there's a way of writing down music, so nobody told us exactly when it happened. We just found the artifacts.

And now we're in a situation where the literate tradition of music seems to be ending, because of new technological means and because of the convergence between art and pop. There's a lot more real-time and improvisatory music-making going on within the classical domain. I write about the end of the tradition I'm describing, an end that I won't live to see, and neither will anybody who reads this. But it's in the cards.
Thoughts?
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#1151321 - 07/17/08 12:03 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
agent3x Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/24/08
Posts: 147
Loc: United States
Many cultures still do not write out their music, but rather play by ear. I think it's wonderful that with Western notation we have made it easier to share music around the world, but improvisation and playing by ear will always be there. Even in classical traditions, there was much improvisation. The harpsichordist in Baroque tradition would follow along with the bass line while improvising chords. Pianists often improvised cadenzas to concerti. I’m sure there are many other examples.

Relying solely on one type— written or aural— is not good, anyway. The notes and symbols one sees on a page is not music, merely a means to communicate the music to another. That’s probably why people originally didn’t think it was such a big deal that music could be written out. Those funny squiggly lines and dots weren't musical to people who didn’t know what they meant. But get a skilled bard, or harp or lute player, and there was music! People could connect with that on a level they couldn't with words and symbols.

Nonethelss, I don't think the "literate tradition" is going to end. It's like all those professors and researchers predicting the end of formal writing because of text messaging. Pssh, yeah right. Styles change; look at literature from 18th century England compared to now. We think it’s fancy and verbose and all (well, I do, but I’ve never been to England. Maybe they still speak like that?), but it’s just the way literate people wrote. Same with music. We’ll get new styles, and perhaps new notation to accommodate them, but unless civilization comes to an end or something drastic like that, written records of anything, be it literature or music, will not end.

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#1151322 - 07/17/08 12:35 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Great post, agent.

Not having read his books (which I must do at some point), I would guess that part of what he is talking about is the rise of electronic music -- music that is not played on an instrument, but mixed by the composer using computer technology. A lot of popular music that you hear on CDs can't be heard the same way in a concert -- because the artists have layered several recordings on top of each other, for example so that one singer can sing 3 different parts with the same voice, and then layer them at the same time. Many guitarists do all sorts of special effects, with various technologies, that would require all sorts of new symbols in notation. Think about how much the avant garde composers had to create new kinds of notations to accomodate their music -- notations that, because they are so different from what we are used to, seem completely foreign to many trained musicians!

Perhaps, as you say, this is just a style that will pass -- a style of experimentation with the new technologies.
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#1151323 - 07/17/08 12:38 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
I think Taruskin makes a very good point, but it doesn't necessarily follow that music will cease to be written down. Musical notation is just too useful. Seriously, can you imagine an orchestra sitting down to rehearse a symphonic piece and the conductor's going, "OK, first violins, you're going to go 'da da da da.' Cellos, you're going to go 'doooo doooo do do.' Violas..."

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#1151324 - 07/17/08 12:49 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Well, I don't think orchestras would stop playing old music that has already been notated. But perhaps as time goes on, composers will move away from notating music that is played entirely by an orchestra and perhaps, as in movies sometimes, towards orchestras accompanied by computerized sounds, or orchestras enhanced/manipulated by computer, etc. So part of the composition would be notated and part would not; or part would be notated in the traditional way, and part would be a verbal description, or some new notation that has yet to be created.

I agree with you, though, that musical notation seems too useful to completely disappear -- though I don't doubt it might radically change.
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#1151325 - 07/17/08 01:02 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
That's already happening. Having been to concerts featuring acoustic instruments with computer music, and solely computer music, I can confidently say that it will never replace an orchestra. There's nothing special about a composer hitting the "play" button to premier his new piece while the audience sits there thinking, "Is this good?" The demand for music that people can relate to, played by humans, will never die.

BTW notation has already become quite freakish, especially with electronic scores. In some of the more avant garde compositions that are actually meant to be played, the composer has to give very detailed explanations about what the notations means (in many cases the composer must be at the rehearsals).

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#1151326 - 07/17/08 10:28 PM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
usedtoplaymore Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/16/08
Posts: 3
Loc: Somerville, MA
Convergence between art and pop?? IMO, art and pop have DIverged in the last 100 years. Pop is mostly triadic and tonal, and has been for centuries. Art music was triadic and tonal for much of its existence, but departed from that in the early 20th century. What could be further from pop than Schoenberg or Boulez? It is true that when we got so completely lost that we couldn't tell up from down, silly stuff that sounds like lobotomized pop, e.g. Glass, gave people an imaginary life preserver, but I think that stuff is more reactionary than a truly meaningful trend - Glass would be a nobody if not for Schoenberg. I am not into pop, but when I hear it, there is rudimentary melody, triadic harmony, crystal clear pulse, simple rhythm, all the stuff that "modern" music dispensed with. I don't buy the premise of this convergence for a minute.

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#1151327 - 07/18/08 10:46 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
Theowne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/06
Posts: 1099
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Quote:
or orchestras enhanced/manipulated by computer, etc. So part of the composition would be notated and part would not; or part would be notated in the traditional way, and part would be a verbal description, or some new notation that has yet to be created.
Some beautiful music is created already this way. Take a favourite film composer of mine, Thomas Newman:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=27YF4D-HbPg

You can't hear it very well in this version but he records the orchestra (traditionally) then later overdubs instruments he records on his own and various effects and processing and the result is very wonderful and also organic. It allows to bend the rules and create combinations of sounds that were not feasible before. But it's something that can't really be reproduced perfectly on stage by only acoustic instruments. Which is a shame.
_________________________
http://www.youtube.com/user/Theowne- Piano Videos (Ravel, Debussy, etc) & Original Compositions
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#1151328 - 07/18/08 02:37 PM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Notation was invented for a reason, so that one person can play what somebody else played.

It seems to me that notation is in no danger of disappearing, because that reason is as valid as ever.

I do agree with Taruskin in that musical literacy is disappearing. Compulsory music education (real music education, not that sing-along garbage some teachers do) is in danger of disappearing, and far too many parents aren't interested in picking up the slack.
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#1151329 - 07/18/08 09:34 PM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
agent3x Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/24/08
Posts: 147
Loc: United States
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Notation was invented for a reason, so that one person can play what somebody else played.

It seems to me that notation is in no danger of disappearing, because that reason is as valid as ever.

I do agree with Taruskin in that musical literacy is disappearing. Compulsory music education (real music education, not that sing-along garbage some teachers do) is in danger of disappearing, and far too many parents aren't interested in picking up the slack. [/b]
It's not the parents' fault. I know if my parents could have afforded it, I would have been able to learn music at an earlier age, which I dearly wish I had. In their case, "picking up the slack" would have meant forgoing food for a while.

I do agree, though, that music education is danger of disappearing. The only reason I was able to start learning piano is because my high school offers beginning piano classes, which is really no replacement for private tutoring, but at least it let me discover my passion. Now, if only more schools offered this earlier...

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#1151330 - 07/31/08 06:16 PM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1518
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Conventional notation will not disappear, for the good reasons already advanced. As far as piano music goes, it is fine if the rhythmic nature of the music coincides with that which is easily written. For many people with years of background in the sound of notated music, this coincidence will exist naturally as part of their formative creative impulse and writing things out presents no problem. However, for those whose musical process occurs spontaneously at the instrument, whether or not to attempt written approximation does present something of a conundrum. Not least among the discouragements is the huge amount of time needed to write even a reasonably decent approximation of a spontaneous idea.

It's all right if you don't get many good ideas or if those ideas happen to have clear horizontal form and representation, but I long ago began to question the sense in my spending hours trying to write something which takes me three seconds to play.

This is my purely personal response to the question. Yes, in a sense it is being lazy, I suppose, but I am old, life is short and I want to enjoy my music in the here and now. I do record it though.

I see the general situation, not so much in terms of conventional notation disappearing, that will not happen. Rather it will slowly become a diminishing subset of a constantly expanding collection of notation systems - digital pianos, file formats and so on - new modes of communicable notation.
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"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#1151331 - 08/10/08 10:24 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1371
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
I disagree that musical literacy is disappearing.
In fact, I see it becoming stronger in the future.
This "I believe . . . a situation where the literate tradition of music seems to be ending, because of new technological means . . ." is a meme that raises it's head every once in a while - alays with a sort of reference to technology.

I teach music, at college, university, as well as high school level. I teach theory, aural training, piano as well as music production, etc.
And guess what? These kids what to learn, they want to know; the why, the how and the who of music.
I also work as a producer, and in the studio I meet guys and girls that are totally computer literate; they know their music apps backwards and forwards, they have all the loop libraries on call 24/7 -yet when I do an vocal arrangement on pen and paper they stare in wonder and . . "like . . dude how do you do that?!?!? how do you get that sound?!?" -"Well my son, there once was a Russian dude call Rimsky-Korsakov . . ." and so it begins.
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I never play anything the same way once.

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#1151332 - 09/19/08 02:55 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
RodDaunoravicius Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 57
Loc: Paris, France
 Quote:
an interview with Richard Taruskin:

 Quote:
Music history begins when it does because that's when notation was invented, and that would be in North Central Europe in the eighth or ninth century.
I guess I'm being nitpicky and a bit off-topic, but AFAIK all the evolution in western music notation between the 6th and the 11th century, from Boethius to Guido D'Arezzo, from greek modes through the several neumatic systems into the invention of the staff, happened in what is today Italy, Swizerland, France and Northern Spain, which is about as South and West as you could go in Europe without crossing over to the muslim Al-Andalus (itself a major exponent of Arab music at the time.)

I realize this Richard Taruskin chap is supposed to be a major scholar, so I wonder what is thinking about when he says North Central Europe?

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#1151333 - 09/21/08 07:32 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
pilgrim Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/07
Posts: 152
Loc: nova scotia
I think there are sides to his argument that I agree with.

Conventional notation (not graphic notation, or proportional notation or anything like that) is not all that is needed these days. People are writing pieces for performer and tape, and have been for many years! (At least since the 70s, probably even the 60s? Maybe even farther back) -- it is becoming a core part of ones composition training or at the very least, computer music is explored widely and is very much an option.

However, I think we will always notate music as long as the need is there -- there are ways to notate electronic music.
You can write out all the parts, or you can draw the waveforms, whatever!
_________________________
repertoire for the moment:
bach: prelude and fugue in b-, book i (WTC)
mozart - sonata in D+, k. 576
schumann (transc. liszt) - widmung
coulthard - image astrale

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#1151334 - 09/21/08 11:25 AM Re: "the literate tradition of music seems to be ending"
1RC Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 502
Loc: Alberta
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
I do agree with Taruskin in that musical literacy is disappearing. Compulsory music education (real music education, not that sing-along garbage some teachers do) is in danger of disappearing, and far too many parents aren't interested in picking up the slack. [/b]
I was listening to a podcast the other day, that interviewed 3 figures from the Canadian arts community about the federal government cutting funding for the arts. Two of them seemed to be in favor of activism to pressure more money out of the government, but the third fellow had a more grassroots approach to it.

The point he made was that they could kick and scream for more government money, like pretty much every field of society does, but it might be more effective to just be out there making art and sharing its value with the people around. Because the politicians won't care if the people don't care.

Then he made the point of being accountable to the people when being given a grant of public money. On one extreme there's state propaganda art, on the other is the artist doing whatever they like regardless of whether it means anything to others.

Maybe the avant-garde art has estranged the public for too long. Most people think of modern art as pretentious garbage. A month ago I read about a visitor to the university who was known for collecting pieces of garbage and arranging them into art (particularly cleaning supplies). I've heard a lot of ridiculous things done in the name of art that hold no meaning to me. If this is the perception, then I imagine most people wouldn't think of funding the arts with their tax dollars to be so important.

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