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#1738667 - 08/22/11 10:42 PM Idiomatic Contemporary Scores
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
This is basically an open response to Nikolas, who asked me to explain some of my critical comments to a piece he posted in jeffrey's sight-reading thread.

I thought others might find it interesting, and I didn't want to hijack that thread, so here's a new topic.

My criticism of the piece Nikolas posted regards something I see in a lot of contemporary music - that composers nowadays are less apt to write idiomatically for the instrument. To my way of thinking (and I realize this is very much my opinion), the best way to write music is to come up with an interesting idea and find the best possible way to execute that idea on the instrument.

In my opinion, too many composers spend too much time on the first part of that equation. They come up with wonderful ideas, but the ideas aren't executed as successfully as they could be. In other words, there is an easier or more comfortable way to get the same effect.

The effect in question in Nikolas' post is a single-line seemingly random scattering of notes across the keyboard. This is something that's been done for decades at the piano, and I thought I'd share five examples of this kind of effect that I think lend themselves well to the piano.

Here we go...

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#1738672 - 08/22/11 10:47 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2114
Loc: Canada
I looked at your example with the Vine sonatas, and (the first one) looks very playable because of the patterns it's written in. The scales octaves with open 5ths, and other passages all look like they fit the hand very well.
_________________________
Working on:
Beethoven - Piano Sonata op. 109
Brahms - 6 Klavierstucke op. 119
Rachmaninoff - Piano Sonata no.1

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#1738675 - 08/22/11 10:47 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Exhibit A - Carl Vine, Sonata #1:

http://www.box.net/shared/3sibmzcm93n3uiefompg

In this excerpt from Vine's first sonata, we see a random line of notes at high speed. But if you look at how the notes are distributed - they fall neatly under the hands. The hands are able to find two or three or four notes at a time from a single position without too much stretching.

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#1738682 - 08/22/11 10:54 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Exhibit B - Arno Babadjanian, Poem:

http://www.box.net/shared/mf8126m55p41htfekmz3

Here, we have much the same - notes reachable without too much stretching. Also, the distribution is patterned just enough that there's a nice "groove" to it. Try playing the passage on your lap, "air piano" style. There are only a few patterns: LRRL, LRRR, LLRR. These make things a bit easier without sacrificing the crazed sound of the line. The third and fifth measures, for example, are actually rather easy to read (and play), giving the brain and hands a chance to relax during the storm.

This relaxation of the brains and hands is important, because it allows the pianist to focus on other important things like articulation and tone. Some composers (Xenakis, Boulez, Ferneyhough, Barraque) don't like to give the pianist a chance to relax, and as a result, their works, when played at all, are rarely interpreted successfully. The pianist is too busy with the notes themselves to achieve any kind of nuance with articulation and phrasing. (Check recordings of the 2nd Boulez sonata with the score. I have at least 5, and the only pianist who comes anywhere close is Pollini.)
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1738687 - 08/22/11 11:01 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2282
Loc: San Jose, CA
Schoenberg used this element in the Suite, Op. 25, right? In the Gigue, I believe. While not exactly easy to play, it's done in a way that is idiomatic for the instrument.

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#1738688 - 08/22/11 11:01 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Exhibit C - Muczynski, Flight:

http://www.box.net/shared/c90rnyk5f0r10in9frv3

Here's an example of something playable by a good high school student. Again, it's a single line that takes up much of the keyboard, but it's highly patterned, all based on triads, and as a result fairly straightforward to learn.

Obviously, a sacrifice has been made - to keep things easy, the composer has had to restrict his harmonic language, and he's made it easier to read by putting everything on one staff (the distribution of the hands is marked by the direction of the stems.)

But the sacrifice is a good one. Though this is the most "conventional" of all the examples I've put in this topic, it's also the easiest to "pull off" convincingly. This is why, I think, Muczynski's works tend to be played quite often and appeal to both amateurs and professionals. His flute and saxophone sonatas have entered the standard repertory, and several of his piano works (the preludes, the toccata, and his Paganini variations) are often programmed.

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#1738692 - 08/22/11 11:05 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Exhibit D - Berio, Feuerklavier:

http://www.box.net/shared/2582a3osru5x19hzsmmc

Here's an example of true random crazy. The notes and distributions have no pattern whatsoever. But it's made manageable by the fact that the pianist is given moments to rest here and there. The crazy figures that race up and down across the keyboard are interrupted by tremolos and rests. And these figures are only found sporadically on 3 of the 7 pages of the piece. The rest of the work lies well under the hands, and when I was learning it, I don't mind spending an hour on one measure when the material elsewhere is more forgiving.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1738695 - 08/22/11 11:10 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Exhibit E - Carter, Caténaires:

http://www.box.net/shared/r60ujx8ph276yx4hxiyl

This four minute romp is the opposite of the Berio. It's a perpetual motion machine with no rest in sight. But it compares well to the Vine and Babadjanian above - the hands don't have to change positions too much, but the music underneath sounds as variable as can be.

And it sounds REALLY COOL:

_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1738729 - 08/23/11 12:14 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
MadForBrad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/11
Posts: 202
Loc: LA / Montreal
modern composer seem to continue and escalate the trend and ego centrism that composers at the turn of the century seemed to imbibe except they lack the talent and relevance that made say Strauss statement only hills after me somewhat ok. I've witnessed way too many "academic composers" that make things difficult nay impossible for the sake of it thinking somehow that this makes them good composers. The general caste system at almost every university is the composer on top which tends to bloat that ego even more. They reason that this is their artistic vision and that is all that matters. The funniest is when they write for winds. You tend to see some funny [censored].

I could go on for hours on modern composers. 3/4 of them hide behind atonality because it is much easier to fake it and be taken seriously. I find the concept of modern composer funny in that they really aren't modern in any way. They are stuck in the 50s. Some adventurous ones might incorporate MAX - MSP and use some lame math algorythm that pans a sound from side to side and think it is intelligent thus good.

Academic composers need a big ego check. They also coud do with about 5 extra years of study concerning what has already been done. The only people interested in their music are the people that commission their work ie government subsidies, and the few musicians or acolytes that feel they are part of something special which of course they aren't. It is a scene full of posturing pompous pin heads.

Maybe 5% of them actually have something worthwhile to present.



Edited by MadForBrad (08/23/11 12:15 AM)

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#1738762 - 08/23/11 01:25 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5190
Loc: Europe
First of all, huge thanks, Jason, for doing this. It must've took quite some time scanning pages, uploading getting performances (for the Carter at least), and providing some thoughtful comments.

Secondly, I will simply bypass MadforBrad's comment, not because I dissagree (I sadly don't dissagree), but because he seems simply too offensive in his post!

Thirdly, I need to 'reinstate' something about the part of the work I posted. It's exactly that: 1 minute from a full 11 minute work! I just need to make sure that there is no misunderstanding to that. That specific part (the 2 and 1/2 pages) was composed with one thing in mind: to have no repeated patterns, to have nothing to latch on. Thus the notes are all over the place, the octaves go up and down like nuts and there's no fixed place for the hands. And that's why I never distributed the hands. It's not random in the sense of "whatever comes next", but it's random in the sense of "Yikes! No idea what's going on here", which was my main point on that part of the score. Instead of construction, or development you get... deconstruction, or even de...composing! (heh... it feels like taking my eyes out right now! grin)

The score lasts around 11 minutes and this part is supposed to be around 1 minute (so less than 10% of the full score! grin). In fact I think that you may have the full score, from an older PM I sent you. The rest of the work is nothing like that, completely idiomatic (except for a couple of very specific places, which I'll admit I'd have to rethink, but still doable), and the hands are distributed perfectly. Here's a couple of pages from the rest of the work: www.nikolas-sideris.com/AGS/pern3.png
and www.nikolas-sideris.com/AGS/pern11.png

It was that particular part and specifically the 'wow this is all over the place' feeling that I wanted to get, in direct contradiction of what is before and what comes next. Personally, in aesthetic terms, I think it's successful. :-/

__________

Fourth and probably the main point of my post is the crux of what Kreisler mentions.

I will agree to much of what you say, and once again thanks for this thread. Still I have to separate the two (idea and execution) some times.

Here's a very simple example of piano writing (again mine): www.nikolas-sideris.com/AGS/sketch24.png . Sorry for sharing my own works, but since I'm here I think it's best to talk for my own stuff rather than someone elses. That way I can provide way better insight of what's going on.

In the above example (sketch) the hands are perfectly distributed, they should pose little to no trouble to any semi-experienced pianist, and seem fine. In fact I consider it to be a rather 'easy' piece (especially compared to perniciosus, or other works posted here).

The execution here is much more important than the idea (which is rather simple but let's say "nice").

In other cases the idea seems so important, so big, that execution is either left to the discretion of the performers. I have made (a long time ago it seems) a thread about fingering and opinions were divided: Some were saying that why not get that extra work done by the publishers, they others said that it was confusing. Same with the recent thread about courtesy accidentals: Some like them, some hate them, some can do with them, others without them.

Here is where the idea comes into play and puts its utmost weight. When things are divided what do you do? Cause, in all honesty, if I was given a Beethoven Sonata to copy into Finale, I'd probably end up in very similar results to the existing editions (not in terms of fingering, or editing, but in terms of note placement, or hand distribution, etc). Thins seem somewhat straight forward. But if I was given a Boulez sonata, I wouldn't know where to start and where to end. I wouldn't dare providing my own view of hand separation, or even fingering! Some things are best left to the personal opinion of the performer(s). For better or worst.

And just to make sure I make myself clear: I'm not talking about unplayable things (like some of Ives works), but about idiomatic, or rather unidiomatic passages. I think there is a danger in deciding and going out in public about certain things. Some seem more obvious than others and are taught with experience. Others are more open to 'interpretation', although there will always be disagreement in both parties.

__________________

On a personal level I tend to think that, personally (yay for great use of language grin) that I'm rather practical to my scores (due to my training as a pianist as well as a composer). I do know my share of composers who sound, look and feel too academic for me as well. I just hope that I'm not one of them, regardless of tonality, atonality, algorithms or whatever...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1738798 - 08/23/11 03:11 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: MadForBrad]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7739
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
modern composer seem to continue and escalate the trend and ego centrism that composers at the turn of the century seemed to imbibe except they lack the talent and relevance that made say Strauss statement only hills after me somewhat ok. I've witnessed way too many "academic composers" that make things difficult nay impossible for the sake of it thinking somehow that this makes them good composers. The general caste system at almost every university is the composer on top which tends to bloat that ego even more. They reason that this is their artistic vision and that is all that matters. The funniest is when they write for winds. You tend to see some funny [censored].

I could go on for hours on modern composers. 3/4 of them hide behind atonality because it is much easier to fake it and be taken seriously. I find the concept of modern composer funny in that they really aren't modern in any way. They are stuck in the 50s. Some adventurous ones might incorporate MAX - MSP and use some lame math algorythm that pans a sound from side to side and think it is intelligent thus good.

Academic composers need a big ego check. They also coud do with about 5 extra years of study concerning what has already been done. The only people interested in their music are the people that commission their work ie government subsidies, and the few musicians or acolytes that feel they are part of something special which of course they aren't. It is a scene full of posturing pompous pin heads.

Maybe 5% of them actually have something worthwhile to present.



Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well.

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#1738802 - 08/23/11 03:32 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: MadForBrad]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2600
Loc: Manchester, UK
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
modern composer seem to continue and escalate the trend and ego centrism that composers at the turn of the century seemed to imbibe except they lack the talent and relevance that made say Strauss statement only hills after me somewhat ok. I've witnessed way too many "academic composers" that make things difficult nay impossible for the sake of it thinking somehow that this makes them good composers. The general caste system at almost every university is the composer on top which tends to bloat that ego even more. They reason that this is their artistic vision and that is all that matters. The funniest is when they write for winds. You tend to see some funny [censored].

I could go on for hours on modern composers. 3/4 of them hide behind atonality because it is much easier to fake it and be taken seriously. I find the concept of modern composer funny in that they really aren't modern in any way. They are stuck in the 50s. Some adventurous ones might incorporate MAX - MSP and use some lame math algorythm that pans a sound from side to side and think it is intelligent thus good.

Academic composers need a big ego check. They also coud do with about 5 extra years of study concerning what has already been done. The only people interested in their music are the people that commission their work ie government subsidies, and the few musicians or acolytes that feel they are part of something special which of course they aren't. It is a scene full of posturing pompous pin heads.

Maybe 5% of them actually have something worthwhile to present.




Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggghhhhh....

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#1738804 - 08/23/11 03:37 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5190
Loc: Europe
I would hope to stick away from the twice quoted post, but others didn't! Oh boy... I'd hate to this thread turned, once again, to a pro/against race... :-/

But I will admit that I have met the kind of composers that madforbrad mentions. It's not THAT amazingly hard to find. Of course his post is aggressive (as I said) and it reeks of one sided opinion... Let's not get into that argument again, please!
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1738808 - 08/23/11 03:59 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2600
Loc: Manchester, UK
Also, Kreisler, I know what you mean by the word 'random' but its really not appropriate to use unless the composer has actually used a random number generator. Even then a 'random' string of notes could still be perfectly tonal and recognisable.

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#1738809 - 08/23/11 04:06 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: debrucey]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5190
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Also, Kreisler, I know what you mean by the word 'random' but its really not appropriate to use unless the composer has actually used a random number generator. Even then a 'random' string of notes could still be perfectly tonal and recognisable.
If you're talking about his opening post then he mentions "seemingly random" in regards to the score I posted! grin So he's covered all grounds! heh...

What you say, however, holds much interest, because in that page my aim was to avoid being recognizable! Thus the sense of 'randomness' (which is far from the truth with so many rules and exclusions to the streams of notes).
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1738810 - 08/23/11 04:12 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2600
Loc: Manchester, UK
Exactly :P hehe. The winning lottery numbers could be 1 2 3 4 5 and 6. It is after all, random ;-)

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#1738881 - 08/23/11 08:53 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Nikolas]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
That specific part (the 2 and 1/2 pages) was composed with one thing in mind: to have no repeated patterns, to have nothing to latch on. Thus the notes are all over the place, the octaves go up and down like nuts and there's no fixed place for the hands. And that's why I never distributed the hands. It's not random in the sense of "whatever comes next", but it's random in the sense of "Yikes! No idea what's going on here", which was my main point on that part of the score.


I guess this is the crux of my criticism - is this the feeling you want the audience to have, or is this the feeling you want the performer to have? And if it's the latter, then why? And if it's the former, then don't you think there would've been an easier way to achieve that from a pianistic standpoint?
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1738888 - 08/23/11 09:04 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2600
Loc: Manchester, UK
Many composers write for the performer as much as the audience. You already mentioned one, Ferneyhough.

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#1738911 - 08/23/11 09:36 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: wr]
MadForBrad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/11
Posts: 202
Loc: LA / Montreal
Originally Posted By: wr


Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well. I also stated that was talking about the students or recently graduated composers.

So it is probably no wonder someone of your age does not see this more than common type of behavior.



not sure what my listening habits have to do with what I said. Never mentioned a preference for any type of music. I also never said it applied to everyone so to name 2 you feel don't fit my description doesn't really address the overall point that composers these days have this undue sense of entitlement and misplaced ego.


Edited by MadForBrad (08/23/11 09:40 AM)

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#1738960 - 08/23/11 11:08 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: MadForBrad]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2600
Loc: Manchester, UK
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
Originally Posted By: wr


Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well. I also stated that was talking about the students or recently graduated composers.

So it is probably no wonder someone of your age does not see this more than common type of behavior.



not sure what my listening habits have to do with what I said. Never mentioned a preference for any type of music. I also never said it applied to everyone so to name 2 you feel don't fit my description doesn't really address the overall point that composers these days have this undue sense of entitlement and misplaced ego.


Do they? That's not my evaluation. How many composers do you know?

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#1738976 - 08/23/11 11:43 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5190
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
That specific part (the 2 and 1/2 pages) was composed with one thing in mind: to have no repeated patterns, to have nothing to latch on. Thus the notes are all over the place, the octaves go up and down like nuts and there's no fixed place for the hands. And that's why I never distributed the hands. It's not random in the sense of "whatever comes next", but it's random in the sense of "Yikes! No idea what's going on here", which was my main point on that part of the score.


I guess this is the crux of my criticism - is this the feeling you want the audience to have, or is this the feeling you want the performer to have? And if it's the latter, then why? And if it's the former, then don't you think there would've been an easier way to achieve that from a pianistic standpoint?
I think it's a mix of both...

Perniciosus (the title of the work) stands for "the one who corrupts" in Latin. The whole idea was to (sic) find a way to transfer energy from the composer to the performer and from the performer to the audience alike. Like there is a connection between the three. So back in 2005 I felt that I had to go exactly that way because I was hoping very strongly for the "yikes!" sentiment from everyone!

Of course, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that I was a very thrilled composer to come up with such an idea! grin (this is quite academic for myself! LOL).

But the point remains: It's a very strong 'movement' of a much bigger work, which doesn't follow that style at all! And as such it almost acts like a intermezzo. I chose to give that to Jeffrey for sight reading, exactly because I have had some doubts on how easy or difficult it is (and if you had my e-mail exchange with a few people you'd see that I always warn them for that part)... :-/ I *think* that I'm fully aware of the difficulty and the unidiomatic nature of that particular 2 and 1/2 pages (otherwise I wouldn't have posted it), as well as the functionality in the full work! wink
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#1739141 - 08/23/11 04:33 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
So much art is about taste. One can analogize with oral taste. Some pieces are light and sweet without too much substance but most people like them, especially the young (cotton candy, Twinkies).

Now as someone who is older and "experienced" I might consider good eating as a salad with red onion and blue cheese and a balsamic vinigrette, a bowl of really spicy chili, maybe after the meal a straight single malt scotch...followed by smoking a nice cigar!

These "tastes" would not appeal to a child, but they would to me!

I think so it goes with some contemporary music. For the advanced afficianato...unusual and stimulating, for many others it is just stinky cheese!
_________________________
Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30

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#1739145 - 08/23/11 04:37 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: debrucey]
MadForBrad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/11
Posts: 202
Loc: LA / Montreal
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
Originally Posted By: wr


Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well. I also stated that was talking about the students or recently graduated composers.

So it is probably no wonder someone of your age does not see this more than common type of behavior.



not sure what my listening habits have to do with what I said. Never mentioned a preference for any type of music. I also never said it applied to everyone so to name 2 you feel don't fit my description doesn't really address the overall point that composers these days have this undue sense of entitlement and misplaced ego.


Do they? That's not my evaluation. How many composers do you know?


DO i know ? Well how many have I met that were into that sort of stuff, around 30 - 40 or so that had done a masters or beyond. Mostly people I met at schools as that sort stuff usually doesn't fly in the professional realm.

This isn't anything against modern music. The problem is that too many people don't really know what modern music is. And the stereotype I think you will find quite standard at any University that has a reputation. It is worse on the East coast. Not so bad in Europe.


Edited by MadForBrad (08/23/11 04:41 PM)

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#1739222 - 08/23/11 06:52 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: MadForBrad]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7739
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
Originally Posted By: wr


Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well. I also stated that was talking about the students or recently graduated composers.

So it is probably no wonder someone of your age does not see this more than common type of behavior.



not sure what my listening habits have to do with what I said. Never mentioned a preference for any type of music. I also never said it applied to everyone so to name 2 you feel don't fit my description doesn't really address the overall point that composers these days have this undue sense of entitlement and misplaced ego.


Weird, how some of what you wrote appears to be part the quote from my post, and some of it doesn't.

Anyway, you are wrong about what you said - you nowhere stated that you were talking about talking about "the students or recently graduated composers". Obviously, I interpreted "academic composers" as being the ones on the faculty, which is the way I've heard that phrase used in the past.

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#1739335 - 08/23/11 09:51 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13757
Loc: Iowa City, IA
MadForBrad brings up an interesting point about academic composers.

Composers who make a living as a faculty member of an academic institution are set apart from the rest by one simple fact:

They do not rely on an audience to make a living.

They don't need performances, publications, or recordings of their works to gain a following. Sure, they need to be "active" in their field to get tenure, but too often, this simply means calling in favors from one's friends or arranging performances at CMS conferences.

Composers who aren't academics have to reach out to performers and an audience to stay alive. In some cases, this can be done in a more accessible fashion - John Adams for example; but there are cases of the same happening among the avant-garde - think Meredith Monk or Stockhausen.

Of course, we should realize that it's unfair to assume a composer is an "academic" one just because they hold a teaching position. Kevin Putz, Jennifer Higdon and John Corigliano all hold teaching positions, but they all work very hard to reach out to an audience. (And it's probably not a coincidence that these people have jobs at Peabody, Curtis, and Juilliard.)
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#1739339 - 08/23/11 10:00 PM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: wr]
MadForBrad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/11
Posts: 202
Loc: LA / Montreal
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: MadForBrad
Originally Posted By: wr


Sounds like something I might have written 30 years ago.

Fortunately, for me, things have changed. I grew up musically and expanded my ability to listen, for one thing, and for another, I apparently don't often run into the music of these "academic composers" you talk about. You say you went to Curtis - the composers there these days (Higden and Danielpour) don't seem to fit your stereotypes very well. I also stated that was talking about the students or recently graduated composers.

So it is probably no wonder someone of your age does not see this more than common type of behavior.



not sure what my listening habits have to do with what I said. Never mentioned a preference for any type of music. I also never said it applied to everyone so to name 2 you feel don't fit my description doesn't really address the overall point that composers these days have this undue sense of entitlement and misplaced ego.


Weird, how some of what you wrote appears to be part the quote from my post, and some of it doesn't.

Anyway, you are wrong about what you said - you nowhere stated that you were talking about talking about "the students or recently graduated composers". Obviously, I interpreted "academic composers" as being the ones on the faculty, which is the way I've heard that phrase used in the past.



i think naturally the teachers will be somewhat more mature but the youngins have this complex. I think the teachers are somewhat responsible for pushing modern music on their students too soon when most of them can't even compose a classical styled sonata. I believe that composers should learn starting from the classical period and go thru all the periods including jazz rock and electronic music. Unfortunately, people seem to start at 1950 and they rarely look outside their field. That is the thing that surprises me the most as a composer. The one thing I crave more than anything is hearing things i am not used to. I suppose schools can't enforce this as you can't really have a class on each style as most programs offer 2 years of free composition which is always slanted to modern atonal stuff.



Edited by MadForBrad (08/23/11 10:03 PM)

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#1739467 - 08/24/11 04:52 AM Re: Idiomatic Contemporary Scores [Re: Kreisler]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7739
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
MadForBrad brings up an interesting point about academic composers.

Composers who make a living as a faculty member of an academic institution are set apart from the rest by one simple fact:

They do not rely on an audience to make a living.

They don't need performances, publications, or recordings of their works to gain a following. Sure, they need to be "active" in their field to get tenure, but too often, this simply means calling in favors from one's friends or arranging performances at CMS conferences.

Composers who aren't academics have to reach out to performers and an audience to stay alive. In some cases, this can be done in a more accessible fashion - John Adams for example; but there are cases of the same happening among the avant-garde - think Meredith Monk or Stockhausen.

Of course, we should realize that it's unfair to assume a composer is an "academic" one just because they hold a teaching position. Kevin Putz, Jennifer Higdon and John Corigliano all hold teaching positions, but they all work very hard to reach out to an audience. (And it's probably not a coincidence that these people have jobs at Peabody, Curtis, and Juilliard.)


As MadForBrad said, he was talking about students and recent grads in the post I referenced, so he didn't really bring up the point in the way you credit him for. But anyway...

I don't understand the criticism of academic composers for being, guess what, "academic composers" and not for being something else that's somehow more populist or whatever it is you think they should be that they aren't. That's not part of the job description; in fact, being a composer is usually fairly secondary to what they are really doing, which typically is teaching composition courses. I don't think that there's a strong correlation between popular success as a composer and being a successful teacher. And there's also not necessarily any correlation between the teacher's compositional style and that of the students (e.g., Milton Babbitt taught Tobias Picker and Stephen Sondheim). So what's the problem? Just that they are "ivory tower" composers and not writing for a mass audience? I think universities traditionally have been supposed to be the proper venue for exactly that kind of rarefied and specialized activity.

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