Classical Music Buzz > Renewable Music
Renewable Music
Daniel Wolf
A displaced Californian composer writes about music made for the long while & the world around that music. ~ The avant-garde is flexibility of mind. — John Cage ~ ...composition is only a very small thing, taken as a part of music as a whole, and it really shouldn't be separated from music making in general. — Douglas Leedy ~ My God, what has sound got to do with music! — Charles Ives
383 Entries
Composing blogger James Ricci, in an item about his mentor, Milton Babbitt, recalls one of the too-many Babbitt stories about a premiere performance shortchanged by inadequate rehearsal.  In this case, an orchestra's inadequate rehearsal time for a Babbitt piece was compared with the apparently over-generous rehearsal for a repertoire warhorse which shared the program, Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade.  The complaint was, more likely than not, justified, but attempting to reconstruct the rationale behind such a rehearsal schedule might be more than an idle exercise and may, in fact, reveal something interesting about how repertoire is handled in real life by the institutions which dominate concert music-making.

From Babbitt's point of view, his work — here, Ars Combinatoria, but the understanding is general to his catalog, not specific to this chamber orchestra piece — was something rather delicate, with every detail projecting and embodying its underlying structures, thus a flawed execution of a detail — be it a wrong pitch, rhythm, or dynamic — is, in effect, a crack through the whole piece.  (The compositional rigor and performance practical demand that Babbitt made strongly contrasts with some of the "new complexity" repertoire, in which detail may be even more dense, but not as structurally integrated as Babbitt's music and may embrace performances  in which approximation and even failure to literally realize the score are acceptable or even desirable practices.  Such works, however complicated on the page, are thus potentially rather robust, performance-wise, in tolerating considerable variation in the character and quality of their realizations.*)

But from the orchestra's point of view, however, it's Sheherazade that's the delicate work. Not because of its technical demands, which are not extreme, but simply because the work is familiar, to both musicians and to larger audiences. And because it's familiar, there is a fear that mistakes — both technical and interpretive — will stand out and reflect more immediately, and poorly, upon the performers. The conductor and the orchestra are probably completely aware that they are taking advantage of the audience's total lack of familiarity with the new work and accepting more than a few wrong notes and, more than likely, they are assuming that the Babbitt has a degree of robustness that the composer himself doesn't recognize  — drop a bunch of notes, mess up some entries or exits, wing the dynamics altogether and fall apart completely here and there, and it's still going to sound like finicky, agitated, serial bebop. So, it's not the Babbitt exactly, but it's something in that general neighborhood, goes the line of thinking, and since we don't visit that neighborhood very often in the first place, the investment in the skills required to get more exact are better spent elsewhere, and elsewhere just happens to be the same Sheherazade that every other orchestra plays every other year.

Yes, there is a real dishonesty here at work, and one unfortunate effect is that the investment and continuous reinvestment in the conservation of the best-known repertoire places ever higher hurdles on the possibility of new work joining the repertoire, up to performances that completely fail to represent the work.   But it may also be useful for composers to reflect a bit on the sometimes contradictory ways in which their work — for example, in terms of performance practical robustness or delicacy — might be understood, and use this, potentially, to help nuance some of these performance issues when, for example, negotiating rehearsal time or introducing efficiencies into the rehearsal, as when, as Ricci describes it, Babbitt quietly accepted a conductor's over-simplified description of the piece's form as a set of variations.  No, it's not quite that, but if it gives the musicians a handle on or a point of entry into the work, why not?    

_____
* Babbitt: "The difference is of a different kind. Mine is an ensemble difficulty, making that ensemble work. The individual parts do not have that kind of virtuoso demand that some of Elliott's parts do. And as for Ferneyhough and Dillon and composers such as that, of course they're not. But we can talk about that in a way that would probably not do either of us any good, because I've checked on some of those Ferneyhough performances. I mean, Brian's a very good friend of mine, and I'm sort of sympathetic too what he thinks he's trying to do. But, you know, Brian Ferneyhough once said that he's satisfied if the performers get one-tenth of his piece. I don't want to settle for one-tenth. If I settle for one-tenth, I'd write only that one-tenth. He said he likes to see performers sweat. Well, I don't like to be near anybody who sweats. That's a totally different attitude towards these things."
11 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
For all my engagement with formal experiments in my music, usually involving extensive planning, research, development, design, calculation etc., as often I just compose from brute force, drawing a continuous thread of music which starts someplace and goes wherever it (through that mysterious combination of habit, taste, caprice, and imagination) happens to lead.  But such unplanned excursions carry more of a particular risk than the planned journeys, as they depend — at least for me — on having a great deal of continuity in the compositional time and environment. When that continuity is broken, the thread can get lost and sometimes irretrievably so. Then you're left with fragments (which could be useful), outright abruptions (which could be useful), or fragile, tentative, questionable, or even broken continuities (which could be useful as well: think exquisite corpses.) (But could be useful is not necessarily useful.)

A broken heating pipe is never expected and the pipe (yes, it would have paid to have had copper instead of steel pipes!) that broke in our house two weeks ago unexpectedly interrupted a piece I was making that had been following precisely such a thread.  The damage to the house was, fortunately, minimized — wallpaper and flooring, and, interestingly, the 8-volume set of Wagner's writings got soaked beyond repair — and the process of repair already set into motion, and the weather has been warm enough that we could make do without heat, but all of the hectic and inconvenience of calling and organizing everyone and everything necessary to return to normalcy has put my piece in exactly that unplanned hiatus. I lost my thought. (What was I thinking?) I lost the thread. (Where was I going?) Time lost, continuity gone, no chance of reconstructing a plan when none existed in the first place.

So now, I play through the music I had made so far and wonder what to do next?  Do I file it away in the sketch box or drop it altogether? Do I analyze my own music and try to invent a plan, after the fact, from which further developments may be built?  Or do I just start when I left off, brute force after brute force, accepting whatever continuity — or lack thereof — circumstances now offer? How can I not be optimistic about this opportunity?
11 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story


I was in marching band for exactly one summer, the summer before I started high school.  Although I began with high expectations for marching, as a trombonist, in the front row of the Montclair, CA High School Marching Cavaliers in their smartly tacky Columbia Blue and Black uniforms, I quickly found out that I didn't like marching and marching didn't much like me. Not yet 14 and already over six feet tall,  I was at precisely that awkward moment in pubescent motor development when control over my limbs was more a matter of random nervous system activity than the control required for marching, enough so that I was, honestly, very bad at it (once obliviously and famously marching several complete rounds of the parking lot with each sides' arm and leg in complete synchrony, just the opposite of how it's naturally — and supposed to be — done), but I probably could have gone along with the program had I actually liked the music. For each morning spent that hellish summer marching was matched by a miraculous evening at the (last) Claremont Music Festival, a season ticket to which was my parents' present to me upon graduation from Junior High.  An odd present for a 13-year, to be sure, but odder still was the experience of a morning spent playing the theme song to Hogan's Heroes over and over and over again (in between choruses of which, upper classmen from my lower brass section would take turns with pranks, a favorite of which was mooning passers-by whenever our beleaguered band director turned away (you could pretty well guess when he was coming around a corner, as he wore loud tap shoes as part of his training method) and then to hear, say, Hermann Baumann play the Brahms Horn Trio at night.  The ridiculous and the sublime, every day. Summer marching band was not a total loss, however, as the band director did manage to encourage some useful skills, one of which was spending hours in a practice room with a Conn Strobe Tuner.  Very soon, I learned that not only was it a useful skill to get that scope to stop moving, to create a precise and steady tone, it was also a great skill to select some intermediate place on the dial, between semitones, and get the strobe to freeze there, or to play very slow glissandi — both lipped and with the slide — and get those wheels to slow down or speed up.  I was an odd kid, to be sure, but it remains a more engaging experience than any video game I ever tried and probably the beginning of my active interest in matters of musical tuning. The other positive experience, in the long run, was that I composed a lot that summer, including the beginnings of three traditional marches. I was, and am — with qualifications — a serious Sousa fan, and was disappointed that our marching repertoire was largely themes from TV shows and bad pop tunes, and didn't include a single class march by J.P.S., but my more immediate model came from a pair of youthful marches on a Charles Ives recording by the Yale Theatre Orchestra.  Disappointingly, my high school band director, probably writing me off for the ineptitude of my marching, had no interest in my composing, but my junior high band director, Richard Johnson, generous shared a few hours to help me with harmony and instrumentation.  I wish I could say that my 13-year-old head, in those days with the Indochinese War still hanging heavy, was hip to the military character of the marching band and its repertoire, but no, that thought only came later to me, another story altogether.


1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
I'm from Southern California, east of L.A. and grew up in in environment where film, no, movies had a deep presence.  I loved (and love, though parental responsibilities have slowed down the pace) going to the movies and watching old favorites or new discoveries on late night TV (for which German TV can be good.) Sometime in high school, something clicked and I suddenly had a revelation that movies could be more than just entertainment, they could intersect with the real world in unexpected ways and use the manipulation of time, sound, and image to tell me things about the world, sometimes shocking things, that I didn't know before.  The could help make the world more interesting and lively, creating opportunities for reflection and action.  Movies became almost as exciting as music.  What I liked, and like, most about watching film was/is paying close attention to details:  a line of dialogue written and executed supremely well, an uncannily timed cut, secret depths in sound design (done well, polyphonic sound design can contribute more to making the most implausible world believable than the most detailed visuals), the wallpaper in a Feuillade serial. or an obscure and curious object unreasonably situated in an otherwise unexceptional film set.  I can recall hundreds of favorite lines from films and probably as many favorite bits of editing, both sound and visual, and have some very strong opinions about how films work or don't work.  I can go on for hours about my favorite Bresson, Buñuel, Huston, or Ozu.  I can even spend a half hour trying to convince you that O.C. and Stiggs was exactly three technical mistakes short of being Robert Altman's masterpiece with a darkly paranoid subplot shared with Nashville.

Although I have, from time to time, done some sub-contracted emergency orchestration work for overdue film scores and have enjoyed the money (when it's actually been paid), I've never seriously considered trying to get a gig to write a film score.  I could make an intellectual argument (following Bresson) that I only really believe in diegetic music (the "real" music that incidentally takes place on screen), but I do really like a film score done well.  But I don't think I have the aggressiveness required to promote myself into that business and, to be honest, I'm not sure I have the composing speed to produce a score in the time frame required for a film (the score usually comes late in the process, after a director's provisional edit, and thus has to be done (= short score -> orchestration -> recording) quickly (weeks, days, quickly) and I, perhaps to my own career detriment, like to ponder, no, ruminate on, musical ideas for a good long while. The movie business doesn't pay composers for ruminating.  Also, a film composer needs to have a very rare balance between solid self-promotion on the business side and the ability to complete submit her or his ego to the fact that a film is a corporate production and the score and its author(s) have to adjust to the overall design and working atmosphere; again, although I've done orchestrating according to the strict guidelines handed me, but beyond that limited piece-work, I'm not sure I could hold my own ego back as required. 

But more than any of that, and not unrelated to the issue of holding one's ego back, although I can sometimes produced good Imitat, I probably don't have the stylistic chops to be a Hollywood composer. Hollywood film scores tend to emphasize similarities over differences and incorporate innovations only slowly  (it's interesting to note that some smaller film scenes, like Britain in the 50s and early 60s, or the GDR, actively employed contemporary composers working in idioms more akin to contemporary concert music.)  I can understand this conservatism, in that a film is a big investment and the producers have to balance risks, in this case the possible attractions of musical novelty against the security of audience-proven musical tropes. Fortunate is the composer like Philip Glass who can come into a film composing career by being sought after on the basis of his concert work. And unfortunate is that producer who turned down a Morton Feldman score for its accompanying a scene of violence with quiet strings and a celesta, likely a cold and ironic move on Feldman's part that the producer couldn't accept either because it didn't pass in the accepted catalog of film music figures and affects and was unwilling to risk the possibility that it might — and powerfully so — extend that catalog. 

My old friend Jonathan Segel recently, and correctly called out the Game of Thrones TV series on the cheap production quality of its score, although given its budget*, I find it's still, musically speaking, an improvement over, say, Lord of the Rings. Why do these pseudo-medieval fantasy films (you know the ones) always have to go pseudo-symphonic in the first place? How about imaging the kind of instruments and musical material that would have been current to the local time, place, and technology instead of trying to pull a full Korngold (which no one presently working in Hollywood has the technical chops to do anyways)?** The deep irony, of course, is that sound design, as a whole has become very interesting territory for experiment and complexity (don't believe me?  Just listen, sometime, eyes closed to Ren Klyce's sound track for The Social Network — the whole film could have been done to a blank screen and would've worked), while the musical track has declined so badly (yes, if I see the name Hans Zimmer on opening credits, a composer reliably producing yardage good labeled as music, I immediately head for the exit lights.)
_____
* Yes, it's TV and TV is still not film, but it is a area of some formal experimentation, particularly in the long-term series, that has welcomed some interesting music. The score for LOST by Michael Giacchino, for example, focused on ensembles of strings (often with extended techniques) and trombones,  with some airplane fuselage percussion, creating a wealth of material that extended well over the first few seasons and, in the total sound design, contrasted spectacularly well with the diegetic music.   
** Yes, there has been some diegetic music along these lines in the series, but it's not been great stuff and has not played compellingly with the line between the diegetic music and the musical score.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
This is a nice informal video of composer Kraig Grady talking about his studies with music theorist Erv Wilson.  I'm also a student of Wilson's, having my first lesson with him while I was still in high school.  He lived (and still lives) in one of the oldest houses in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, a wooden place (the stone chimney fell in an earthquake a couple of decades ago) high above Arroyo Seco, now the oldest section of the the west's oldest freeway.  The terraced garden in front of the house was planted with corn seedlings (later to be joined by chenopods) which, I would learn, he bred from wild plants and old cultivars he had gathered, to plant on his family's ranch in the mountains of Chihuahua, where he had been born. (Wilson speaks English with a slight trace of Chihuahuan Spanish.)  The inside of his house was full of guitars fretted in unusual ways, not one of them with twelve equal steps to the octave, bamboo and wooden flutes from South America and a variety of mallet instruments of metal tubes and slabs, wooden bars, and bamboo, each of them in a different tuning system.

When I identify Wilson as a theorist, it is not as the type of scholar who researches and teaches how to imitate or analyze harmony and voice leading, or counterpoint or form in existing tonal music or "set theory" in atonal music (though there is a certain relationship to the latter.)  Instead he's a speculative theorist, investigating the huge vector space of possible new musical materials and relationships and attempting to locate those with the most potential for use in new musics.*  His great predecessors were the theorists Huygens, Bosanquet, Novaro, Yasser and Fokker and he was also a collaborator with Harry Partch.  To this end, he has designed keyboard layouts and notations for these new scales and systems and a series of techniques for generating new materials and tools for visualizing their properties (Wilson's was a professional draughtsman in the aeronautics industry, among the last generation of pre-CAD virtuosi.)  I have written before that Wilson is probably the most productive collector and inventor of scales since Ptolemy, and that's not likely to be an exaggeration; aspects of his work in classifying scales and systems have been taken to further consequences by members of the tuning community, revealing some extraordinary new environments for potential tonal practice, much of which is now made practical (if not possible) only by computer-assisted analysis and synthesis.

Kraig Grady, now based in Australia, has been a far more loyal student of Wilson's than I, having made a formidable body of music in alternative tunings and most of the instruments required to play that music, much of it connected to Grady's (imagined?) island nation of Anaphoria.   (That website also hosts a formidable repository of Wilson's papers, which are not documents with scholarly expository prose but the visual accompaniments to his oral teaching and demonstrations.)  Although I have made quite a bit of music in tunings other than 12-tone equal temperament, and much of that in extended just intonation, the bulk of the music I get asked to make is in a nominal 12 equal, but the impact of an early exposure to the possibilities of intonational and tonal-structural alternatives has its way of infecting everything I do with pitches in any collection configuration, whether through unexpected modulations, flashes of harmonic or subharmonic spectra, or the play between local and global tonalities.  Thank you, Erv.
_____
*One of Wilson's ideas, the Moment of Symmetry, which occurs when a generating interval —let's say a perfect fifth with the ration of 3:2 — reiterated within another interval space — let's say an octave (taking octave "equivalencies") — creates symmetrical melodic patterns when closed (returning to the initial tone) by a single anomalous intervals — for example 6 perfect fifths and 1 diminished fifth in a 7-toned scale, but also for four perfect fifths and minor sixth in a 5-toned or 11 perfect fifths and a wolf fifth in a 12-toned scale  —  a property which is prescient of the attention given to well-formedness and Myhill's Property in the academic music theory community. Wilson's "scale tree" is essentially a catalog of Moment of Symmetry scales indexed by the size of their generator and the number of iterations.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Here are a few blogs and sites that have turned up recently:

Sound Expanse, composer Jennie Gottschalk
Detemporalizing, composer & poet Samuel Vriezen, now blogging in English
Desiring Progress, pianist & musicologist Ian Pace
Composer Daniel Goode
New Musical Resources,  trumpet player & musicologist Peter Gillette
Classical Music is Boring, photo funnies
Well-Weathered Music, composer Miguel Frasconi
The Great (un)Learning, composer Christopher Shultis
Helen Bledsoe, Flutist, exactly that
Essays & Endnotes, theorist Stephen Soderberg
Divergence Press, a new web magazine
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Luigi Dallapiccola: Quaderno musicale di Annalibera (1952) for solo piano.

A set of 11 small pieces or movements, intended to be played all together in sequence, at once individual character pieces (some with particular technical concerns ("Accents", "Rhythms", "Colors") and variations or variants on/of common material (a single 12-tone row in transposition and in its classical transformations). Some of the pieces are aphoristic in length, others a bit more substantial, the whole perhaps 14 minutes in duration.

Much has been noted about the 12-tone aspects of the piece — I can recall, as a 14-year old, working out those rows as if they were the more sophisticated thing in the world, and yes, I'm a bit surprised to be including two mid-20th century 12-tone pieces in a row in this list of personal landmarks — as well as the connections to Second Viennese School (not least to piano pieces by Schoenberg and Webern*) and further back, through both the strict and not-so-strict canonic aspects (some even housed in a trio of movements identified as Contrapuncti), a recurring down-a-semitone, up-a-minor-third, down-a-semitone (yep, that spells B-A-C-H) figure and that "notebook" title to J.S. Bach, all of which is an interesting mix of the potentially useful and the possibly misleading, and none of which may actually capture much of the substance of this work.

This is in part due to playful misdirection on the composer's part.  The title, for example. Bach's famous little notebook was a collection of delightful but modest pedagogical pieces for a student (Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena) to play. But Dallapiccola's piece, while dedicated to his young daughter, Annalibera, is sophisticated and challenging music intended not as a loose collection of teaching pieces but as a whole and integral work of concert music that is also well-suited for private use.he first piece or movement, "SIMBOLO" (symbol), is permeated by transpositions and transformations of the B-A-C-H figure, but it avoids a literal B-A-C-H cypher at that pitch level and in that direction. What he's after is something musically more significant than a alpha-musical homage and that is to use that tight semitonal cluster to anchor smooth voice leading in a harmonic environment that is not shy to suggest tonal movement, indeed even cadential resolution.

This suggestion of the tonal is something quite different from the embedding or citation of authentically tonal material within a 12-tone scheme (like Berg, for example); it is almost uniquely comfortable in its ambiguity and that's something I have always found refreshing in Dallapiccola's later music.  This did cost Dallapiccola some street cred with the serial generation on both sides of the Atlantic, with their programmatic tendency to deprecate any tonal suggestion, from objects like triads and seventh chords (which Dallapiccola welcomed, if cautiously, as products of voice leading but not of functional harmony), or processes like canons (on which Dallapiccola thrived) .  Even his admirers sometimes appear to dismiss the work as too simple or too pretty. And it is often gorgeous, but cooly (cool, not cold) gorgeous, although inspired by the almost anti-pianistic keyboard works of Schoenberg and Webern, it was written by a pianist-composer whose catalogue was mostly vocal, but who knew how to write atmospherically, often even vocally, for his instrument, understanding register, articulation, handedness, the use of the pedal and resonance in a very different way than his Viennese models, focusing on the more delicate features of the instrument. The ninth piece, "COLORE",  for example, with a gentle counter-metric swing of seventh-ish chords is very much a piece that can be located with the coolest jazz pianism of roughly the same era as not influenced or influencing but sharing aspects of a common sensibility (again: cool, not cold). 

_____
* Babbitt, in the lecture collection Words about Music, has some striking observations about the relationship of the Quaderno's "CONTRAPUNCTUS SECUNDUS" to the second movement of the Webern Variationen, in which the relationship between fixed pitches and intervals is exchanged.
 

 
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
The usual assumption is that we're producing notation, putting notes down on paper (or, more recently, pushing pixels around a screen to emulate putting notes down on paper) just like Sebastian Bach did when he adjourned to his composing room each evening, lubricated by a bottle of brandy and powered by some costly candles (the costs of those candles alone had to have put Bach among the relatively well-off in his day.)  But that's not broad enough to describe the diversity of what we do.  Composing is also "writing" when we're committing something to a text or graphic score, or programming in some language or code, or committing something to memory.  I just read an interview with David Tudor, who also used the word writing as the verb associated with pieces he made even when they had no notation at all: perhaps some tentative oral instructions (when others were involved), sometimes circuitry diagrams or often just the circuits themselves, especially when the work was for his own use. Perhaps the whole set up of Tudor's "table of electronics", combined with his practice at playing that table (both routines and extemporaneous discoveries (perhaps the best recorded example of one of those discoveries by Tudor comes in that recording of Christian Wolff's Burdocks, when the organ Tudor was 'til then rather discretely playing suddenly roared with a wonderful and shockingly unexpected stop mixture)) adds up to a kind of writing, among the circuits, on the table, in the hands, etched in the ears/brain, etc..  But I don't think that that's quite it, either.  The aspect of writing-writing which composing-writing most critically emulates is actually the production of delay (see Duchamp: a delay in glass), the movement or shift in time which stands between writing and reading. Composition is putting music into storage for future retrieval as performance/listening.  (See also Duchamp: In Advance of the Broken Arm.)  The length of the delay is, of course, a variable, as is the presence of noise in the delay line. (See also Large Glass: dust, cracks.)
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Roberto Gerhard: Concert for 8 (1962) for flute, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, accordion, percussion, piano, and double bass.

The Catalan composer Gerhard (1896-1970) was one of Schoenberg's Berlin students (an international group that included Nikos Skalkottas, Marc Blitzstein, Norbert von Hannenheim)  and his career bridged over the Second World War, giving an unusual breadth with some of his early works incorporating folk elements, his latter works using twelve tone techniques, electro-acoustic tape, and even some degrees of Cage-acknowledging indeterminacy.  Fleeing Franco's Spain, his latter career was spent in England, with some important teaching stays in the United States.

Gerhard's use of Schoenbergian  twelve-tone techniques was sensitive and sophisticated, but the twelve tone aspect is perhaps the least interesting thing about the Concert for 8:   it can say something about where the pitches come from, but this music is about far more than pitches and certainly more about where they're going than whence they've come. I suspect that it was his experience with electro-acoustic music that made the critical difference here for Gerhard.  He insisted on the advantages of a composer working in the immediacy of his/her own studio, with an individualized components and set-up without the apparatus of staff engineers and bureaucracy that went with the large continental studios hosted by state radio stations. Working with only the assistance of his wife in recording sounds, Gerhard's relationship to his material had an immediacy akin to that of the independent studios in the US (and he would, indeed, have a more positive relationship to the young composers at the Cooperative Studio in Ann Arbor than his colleagues at the University of Michigan.)*   Let's be clear: Concert for 8 is not electroacoustic music, it is instrumental chamber music for a highly unconventional, even unlikely combination of instruments (if I recall correctly, it was the result of a private commission from a musically gifted family with an unusual instrumentarium) including plucked strings, an accordion, and a large battery of percussion instruments mostly not of determined or even discrete pitches (using such percussion is frequently a challenge to a twelve-tone premise, particularly when the composer wants to go beyond accents and noisy ornaments to the pitch scheme**) but it is music that is so focused on quality of sound the formation of sounds into broad gestures that the assumption is inescapable that it has been informed by an electroacoustic experience  — that of concrete and instrumental sounds combined and placed into a continuity by the manipulation of magnetic tape.  I cannot help but hear Concert for 8 as belonging in the company of "textural" works of its era, like those of Ligeti or Xenakis (composers a good generation younger than Gerhard), yet this is music that sounds consistently and refreshingly right at both the level of detail and of broad stroke, a kind of anti-stochastic music, to the degree to which a stochastic approach can mean that one is disinterested in or even ignores the precise details so long as they sum up to the desired larger view.   

_____
* For a point of comparison, consider that Gerhard's colleagues working in German radio studio, would typically have to work with the mediation of a Tonmeister,  a Sound Engineer, and  a Tape Recorder Operator, who kept a protocol of each session.
** Compare Babbitt's highly rigorous use of trap set percussion in All Set.
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
I'm in the middle of an old-fashioned exchange of letters (envelopes, stamps, mailboxes, everything but the pony express) with an old friend about poetic and musical metres. (It's a fascinating, if often confusing field, not least because poets and musicians tend to count things — metre, feet, stress, accent etc. — slightly differently (in particular, as a musician, I think I recognize an anacrusis — a pick-up —  more readily than most poets do. (Entertainingly fictionalized, and in his usual obsessive style, Nicholson Baker's novel The Anthologist treats this question.)))

I think we have reached some consensus that song and dance metres differ from each other in a fundamental way in that dance assumes, indeed requires (i.a. so that dancers don't fall over themselves trying to follow a stretch of music when a foot/beat too many or too few appears or doesn't) a continuity from measure to measure, a non-stop flight of music (the music always goes on, and sometimes its vamps to allow a dancer to come in on the next rhythmic cycle when one is missed), while the line-to-line continuity of poem and song often has got to be more flexible. A voice has to breath, after all, and the listener probably needs some time to catch the sense of the text.  So how is this flexibility realized in performance?  Will a series of, say, pentameter lines, admit either regular or occasional additions of a foot or two, whether for breath or sense or just a break in the texture, becoming hexameters or longer, or should the measure vamp (whether imagined or via some form of acoustical accompaniment) allowing the reader/reciter/singer wait for the next line to jump in?  (This happens a lot in South Indian music.)  Or do these insertions of time intervals at the ends of lines exist in some kind of "zero time" as in some of Christian Wolff's cuing pieces, a break in the continuity that literally "doesn't count"?  And what about texts which contain sentences that wrap themselves around the end of a line, ending somewhere in the middle of the next? (This is actually surprisingly rare in premodern verse/song.)
1 year ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
51 - 60  | prev 2345678910 next
InstantEncore