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Dodecaphonic works you admire and adore


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Author Topic: Dodecaphonic works you admire and adore  (Read 2786 times)
ahinton
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« Reply #30 on: January 29, 2014, 10:58:58 am »

Stravinsky's hugely successful career took a nosedive in his latter years - when he succumbed to the pressure to write dodecaphonic twaddle.
I agree with the first part of this but not the second; where is the evidence that the already "hugely successful" Stravinsky (as he undoubtedly was) was even pressurised (externally) to write dodecaphonic music, let alone that he "succumbed" to such "pressure"? Surely this was his decision alone, not one imposed from the outside? - and the mature Stravinsky never struck me as the kind of composer to take his orders from elsewhere!

Twelve-tone composition is simply an intellectual diversion, rather like doing sudoku puzzles. And performing it is rather like giving a public display of sudokus which you have solved.
I don't see why it needs to be, or indeed why it should be regared as presumaing any greater degree of "intellectual exerise" than writing music in any other ways; one might as well seek to posit a similar argument about the intricate disciplines of species counterpoint as espoused by Renaissance composers but I cannot see that gaining much acceptance.

The actual continuum of twentieth-century composition - Janacek, Strauss, Lutoslawski, Ives, Britten, Tippett, Shostakovich, Prokofiev - has no space for the intellectual affectation of twelve-note composition.  Its influence is a complete 0.
I would be as wary of underestimating over indeed overestimating the influence of 12 note serial procedures and practices as I would of claiming that, notwithstanding their importance, the eight composers whom you mention are representative of the entire "continuum of twentieth-century composition" when clearly that "continuum" is vastly wider and richer than just those; to add in Sibelius, Varèse, Nielsen, Carter, Xenakis, Messiaen, Henze, Bartók, Berio, Pettersson, Sessions and a bunch of British symphonists from Vaughan Williams, Brian and Bax through Rubbra and Walton to Arnold and Simpson up to living ones such as Maxwell Davies, McCabe and Matthews alone illustrates that.

Of course, it's placed on a pedestal by the self-appointed priesthood of 'modern' composers.
If its influence is "0", how has it gotten and stayed on that pedestal?

12 note serial practice is just one of the ways to salvation that has no appeal for me (and when I write 12 note themes I do not treat them serially), but we don't (thankfully) all go the same way home. Furthermore, hardly any listeners would be able to tell just by listening that a piece is written using 12 note serial procedures in any case.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2014, 11:20:29 am »

one might as well seek to posit a similar argument about the intricate disciplines of species counterpoint as espoused by Renaissance composers but I cannot see that gaining much acceptance.

Yes, but there's a major difference. Many people enjoy listening to Renaissance polyphony.  Wink

that "continuum" is vastly wider and richer than just those; to add in Sibelius, Varèse, Nielsen, Carter, Xenakis, Messiaen, Henze, Bartók, Berio, Pettersson, Sessions and a bunch of British symphonists from Vaughan Williams, Brian and Bax through Rubbra and Walton to Arnold and Simpson up to living ones such as Maxwell Davies, McCabe and Matthews alone illustrates that.

Of course - my list was merely a series of important but not exclusive landmarks Smiley  It was not intended to replace Grove.

Which members of your list have written important serial works? 

I merely ask.  I can't readily think of any twelve-tone works by RVW, for example Wink

If its influence is "0", how has it gotten and stayed on that pedestal?

People like [certain of] your friends have put it there. People obsessed with projecting a primacy of German/Austrian music that allegedly followed on from Brahms and Bruckner.  Yet in reality German music lost the plot in the C20th, and other countries took up the baton.  Hence my listing of Lutoslawski, Janacek and Britten (amongst others).

There is no legacy from twelve-note composition. It was a mistaken and deluded idea in the first place, and only the King's Ministers . . . are still claiming that the King's New Clothes were magnificent and worthy raiments.

Its musical legacy is a complete nullity.

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ahinton
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« Reply #32 on: January 29, 2014, 01:40:00 pm »

one might as well seek to posit a similar argument about the intricate disciplines of species counterpoint as espoused by Renaissance composers but I cannot see that gaining much acceptance.

Yes, but there's a major difference. Many people enjoy listening to Renaissance polyphony.  Wink
And I'm one of them - but many people don't!

that "continuum" is vastly wider and richer than just those; to add in Sibelius, Varèse, Nielsen, Carter, Xenakis, Messiaen, Henze, Bartók, Berio, Pettersson, Sessions and a bunch of British symphonists from Vaughan Williams, Brian and Bax through Rubbra and Walton to Arnold and Simpson up to living ones such as Maxwell Davies, McCabe and Matthews alone illustrates that.

Of course - my list was merely a series of important but not exclusive landmarks Smiley  It was not intended to replace Grove.
No, I know that and understand it, of course.

Which members of your list have written important serial works? 

I merely ask.  I can't readily think of any twelve-tone works by RVW, for example Wink
None - but that was the whole point of my use of the word "alone" towards its end - i.e. as a mean of pointing out the sheerly cornucopic nature of that "continuum" even without venturing into composers who did write 12 note serial music!

Quote
If its influence is "0", how has it gotten and stayed on that pedestal?
People like [certain of] your friends have put it there.
I have never met [them]! But I still do not see in any case how a handful of people in isolation, whether or not I know them, could contrive to achieve this if the inherent influence of 12-note serial music is really zero.

People obsessed with projecting a primacy of German/Austrian music that allegedly followed on from Brahms and Bruckner.
But is the obviously non-Austro-German Boulez one of these people?

Yet in reality German music lost the plot in the C20th, and other countries took up the baton.  Hence my listing of Lutoslawski, Janacek and Britten (amongst others).
I cannot agree with that. OK, it might well be argued that the "primacy" per se of Austro-German musical composition may well have fallen away since WWI, but I'd not take that alone as an illustration of Mitteleuropa having "lost the plot"...

There is no legacy from twelve-note composition. It was a mistaken and deluded idea in the first place, and only the King's Ministers . . . are still claiming that the King's New Clothes were magnificent and worthy raiments.

Its musical legacy is a complete nullity.
Even though I do not personally have recorse to such procedures when writing, I would not seek to claim either that there is "no legacy from twelve-note composition", that it "was a mistaken and deluded idea in the first place" or that those to whom you refer (for no obvious reason) as "King's Ministers" make any such claims as such either, especially given that the musical methodologies concerend are not today regarded as anyone's "New Clothes", let alone those of an unspecified "King".

What I do think, however, is that certain discussion of the entire 12-tone business (rather than 12-tone procedures and practices themselves) has generated in certain quarters a number of expressions that seem as disproportionate to the importance of the subject itself as they risk fostering divisiveness; it's just one route to compositional salvation among many and it has in any case supplanted none that existed before it came into being. The truculent statements about it attributed to the young Boulez in the 1950s have done such discussion no favours.

Furthermore, 12-note serialism is not the only kind that's ever been explored and exploited and, for all the differences between, say, on the one hand Hauer and Schönberg and on the other Scriabin and Roslavets, thee can be no doubt that the latter two sailed quite close to serial ideas, the former in his late works and the latter in his early ones.
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shamus
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« Reply #33 on: January 29, 2014, 04:13:01 pm »

As one of the great unwashed, I don't really know if what I am listening to is dodecaphonic or not, so I fall back on the cliche, if I like it, I listen to it. So probably someday I will realize one of my favorites is of that class!
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ahinton
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« Reply #34 on: January 29, 2014, 04:23:42 pm »

As one of the great unwashed, I don't really know if what I am listening to is dodecaphonic or not, so I fall back on the cliche, if I like it, I listen to it. So probably someday I will realize one of my favorites is of that class!
Believe me, you do not have to be either great or unwashed, let alone both, to be unable to determine with any certainty whether or not a piece to which you're listening is a dodecaphonic serial one!
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2014, 07:21:38 pm »

As one of the great unwashed, I don't really know if what I am listening to is dodecaphonic or not, so I fall back on the cliche, if I like it, I listen to it. So probably someday I will realize one of my favorites is of that class!
Believe me, you do not have to be either great or unwashed, let alone both, to be unable to determine with any certainty whether or not a piece to which you're listening is a dodecaphonic serial one!

This is a further area where I find [their] musings to be wrong and ignorant.

The extremely wise theatre director, Peter Brook, famously said that if you feel you need to explain in a programme note what your work means - then you've failed.  "The longer the note - the greater your failure".

If [people] can't write their music well enough - and have to give lectures or notes about "what it means", then this means they have failed.

The music has to stand or fall on its own merits.  It should not require the audience to attend classes given by the composer, in order to "understand" his ideas. This is the very definition of professional failure.
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ahinton
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« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2014, 09:28:54 pm »

As one of the great unwashed, I don't really know if what I am listening to is dodecaphonic or not, so I fall back on the cliche, if I like it, I listen to it. So probably someday I will realize one of my favorites is of that class!
Believe me, you do not have to be either great or unwashed, let alone both, to be unable to determine with any certainty whether or not a piece to which you're listening is a dodecaphonic serial one!

This is a further area where I find [their] musings to be wrong and ignorant.

The extremely wise theatre director, Peter Brook, famously said that if you feel you need to explain in a programme note what your work means - then you've failed.  "The longer the note - the greater your failure".

If [people] can't write their music well enough - and have to give lectures or notes about "what it means", then this means they have failed.

The music has to stand or fall on its own merits.  It should not require the audience to attend classes given by the composer, in order to "understand" his ideas. This is the very definition of professional failure.
In almost every respect I agree with you and with Peter Brook - and indeed with Delius who wrote something along very similar lines almost a century ago as follows:

Music that needs "explanation, that requires bolstering up with propaganda, always arouses suspicion that(,) if left to stand on hits own merits, it would very quickly collapse and be no more heard of" (I believe that this was in an essay entitled At the Crossroads in the very first edition in 1920 of Philip Heseltine's short-lived music magazine The Sackbut).

I have always distrusted this kind of thing and have said as little as possible (though still perhaps not quite little enough!) about my own work when asked to do so and I do very much feel that, because one is writing music, not words (or at least not words alone), it behoves one to make that expression as self-sufficient as possible.

Where I take issue with you is with the principle that prompts you to point your admonitory finger at [that person]. To which of his particular "musings" do you take issue? I wrote about the improbability of being able to tell that a piece is a dodecaphonic serial one just from listening and he has pointed out the very same on several occasions so, unless you disagree with that (in which case you also take issue with my own "musings"), we would all appear broadly to be in agreement on this.
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Sydney Grew
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« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2014, 11:26:47 pm »

Delius who wrote something along very similar lines almost a century ago as follows:

Music that needs "explanation, that requires bolstering up with propaganda, always arouses suspicion that(,) if left to stand on hits own merits, it would very quickly collapse and be no more heard of" (I believe that this was in an essay entitled At the Crossroads in the very first edition in 1920 of Philip Heseltine's short-lived music magazine The Sackbut).

Thanks for the pointer to that essay Mr. H! It is not available in the Internet Archive, but I will keep looking out for it!
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« Reply #38 on: January 30, 2014, 02:32:09 am »

Stravinsky's hugely successful career took a nosedive in his latter years - when he succumbed to the pressure to write dodecaphonic twaddle.

But what is the real legacy of this stuff?  None, as far as I can see.

Twelve-tone composition is simply an intellectual diversion, rather like doing sudoku puzzles. And performing it is rather like giving a public display of sudokus which you have solved.

The actual continuum of twentieth-century composition - Janacek, Strauss, Lutoslawski, Ives, Britten, Tippett, Shostakovich, Prokofiev - has no space for the intellectual affectation of twelve-note composition.  Its influence is a complete 0.

Of course, it's placed on a pedestal by the self-appointed priesthood of 'modern' composers. Although in time, it's as far from "contemporary" music as Haydn was from Wagner.

Clearly twelve-note composition had no influence on anyone, anywhere. It's obvious because you keep repeating it so loudly.

While they may all be nobodies whose renown is only due to the nefarious machinations of Richard Barrett I do admit that I enjoy some of the dodecaphonic works of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Hauer, Skalkottas, Wellesz, Gerhard, Krenek, Sessions, Copland, Stravinsky, Castiglioni, Barraqué, Berio, Petrassi, Dallapiccola, Nono, Holliger, Lutyens, Stockhausen and Maderna. And even Barrett I suppose though I have no idea whether his music is dodecaphonic or triskaidekaphonic or what have you. I think I slept through that particular lecture.

I could name some specific sudoku puzzles of theirs I like but I'm worried that that might make me part of the priesthood. I'm not really big on celibacy.
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« Reply #39 on: January 30, 2014, 05:54:39 am »

Stravinsky's hugely successful career took a nosedive in his latter years - when he succumbed to the pressure to write dodecaphonic twaddle.

But what is the real legacy of this stuff?  None, as far as I can see.

Twelve-tone composition is simply an intellectual diversion, rather like doing sudoku puzzles. And performing it is rather like giving a public display of sudokus which you have solved.

The actual continuum of twentieth-century composition - Janacek, Strauss, Lutoslawski, Ives, Britten, Tippett, Shostakovich, Prokofiev - has no space for the intellectual affectation of twelve-note composition.  Its influence is a complete 0.

Of course, it's placed on a pedestal by the self-appointed priesthood of 'modern' composers. Although in time, it's as far from "contemporary" music as Haydn was from Wagner.

Clearly twelve-note composition had no influence on anyone, anywhere. It's obvious because you keep repeating it so loudly.

While they may all be nobodies whose renown is only due to their nefarious machinations I do admit that I enjoy some of the dodecaphonic works of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Hauer, Skalkottas, Wellesz, Gerhard, Krenek, Sessions, Copland, Stravinsky, Castiglioni, Barraqué, Berio, Petrassi, Dallapiccola, Nono, Holliger, Lutyens, Stockhausen and Maderna. And even RB I suppose though I have no idea whether his music is dodecaphonic or triskaidekaphonic or what have you. I think I slept through that particular lecture.

I could name some specific sudoku puzzles of theirs I like but I'm worried that that might make me part of the priesthood. I'm not really big on celibacy.
Well, at least that last bit's a relief!

For the record, I have never slept through any of those lectures. I have never been awake through any of them either. Indeed, I must be quite unforgivably unobservant beause I've not even noticed that they have been given.

We have in this thread been presented with the suggestion that dodecaphony is dead. As dead as the dodo, perhaps. But this particular dodo has been gravely misunderstood and ill served thereby. Schönberg's friend Gershwin (whose work he greatly admired and who funded the world première recording of Schönberg's final string quartet only a year before he []Gershwin] died) understood it, just as he understood how dodecaphony, like so much else in Schönberg, is grounded in tradition, in the past; he even wrote a song to illustrate this fact, in which a line runs
Oh, do, do, do / What you've done / Done, done before, baby /
These words, though not actually set to a note row, say it all, really...
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #40 on: January 30, 2014, 06:38:26 am »

To which of his particular "musings" do you take issue?

To all of them. Those who fail to agree with him that Arnold Schoenberg's output was the turning-point for music in the C20th allegedly wish to trample on the entire musical output of the last one hundred years, and "put it in a box".   Smiley

There is a name for this kind of argument.


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Sydney Grew
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« Reply #41 on: January 30, 2014, 07:17:07 am »

. . . those lectures . . .

In the sixties of the last century (1964 and 1965) I used to go along to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (and at least one other group, of which I forget the name) to hear Boulez, Stockhausen, and similar continental visitors lecture on their productions. I do not now remember anything at all that they said. All I remember is that on each occasion the audience consisted of much the same set of thirty or so mostly young people, and that there was always present a certain red-headed gent from the Russian embassy, who would attempt to make conversation with the audience during the intervals. I suppose the Russians thought that the Boulez/Stockhausen lovers were the cream of Britain's younger generation, and were attempting to gather them in before they crumbled away. (Which they actually did do when the seventies came round.)
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« Reply #42 on: January 30, 2014, 08:37:30 am »

But if you want an example of him throwing all the toys out of his pram, I think this piece of vitriol perfectly demonstrates the problem:

A strawman argument? On the internet? Why, the reprobate!

Good thing he's historically irrelevant, otherwise I might have been very upset!
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ahinton
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« Reply #43 on: January 30, 2014, 09:28:52 am »

[he] specifically says it's "not possible to know how a piece of music was "written" ...just from hearing it".  In other words, we are beholden to the synod he heads for their so-generous "explanations".
No. Not at all. I have said more or less the same thing myself. Would you therefore seek to accuse me likewise of being beholden to the same imaginary "synod"? which, since he is, as you know, by no means the only composer to be invited to offer information about theirs and others' work from time to time, he does not "head" in any case; since when, for that matter, did responding to an invitiation to talk about or discuss one's work identify one as a member, let alone the "head", of some "synod"?.

What you appear either to miss or to be unprepared to take on board is the implicit but clear meaning that it is also not necessary to know how a piece of music was "written" just from hearing it - which is just as well, really, since composers as a rule do not in any case write their works so as to generate the kinds of puzzlement and perplexity amongst their listeners as to presuppose a requirement for composerly verbal "explanation".

We who merely turn up to his concerts (for example, the concert of his I attended at The Vortex in London) have to sit at his feet and have him explain the world to us, since the time when dinosaurs walked upon it.
I have never sat in the same room as him and have only once attended a live performance of one of his works (the piano piece lost, played by Sarah Nicolls) on an occasion when he was not present; as I said before, I've never met or even seen him, so my experience of listening to his works has all of necessity been without his (or indeed anyone else's) prior verbal explanatory input. From what I have read of his writings on all manner of music from Mozart to Ornette Coleman, Boccherini to Mahler, Xenakis and Stockhausen to Shostakovich and Pettersson, my distinct impression is of someone whose terms of reference are far too wide-ranging to admit of cramped, constricted and patronising attitudes.

He launches into invective ("fogeys", "blinkered" etc) against those expressing different opinions to his own.
You would never stoop to any such thing, of course! Yes, when he (and others, for that matter) are confronted with opinions that have no realistic basis in fact but are presneted as though fact, he might well argue with them, which is a quite different matter. I have done the same in the very thread to which you refer (without naming it or identifying its source) so, while you're busy pouring scorn on him, you might perhaps think to spare a little for me as well.

Those who fail to agree with him that Arnold Schoenberg's output was the turning-point for music in the C20th allegedly wish to trample on the entire musical output of the last one hundred years, and "put it in a box".   Smiley
But your interpretation of the facts of history and his take on them simply does not stand up to intelligent scrutiny. He knows as well as you and I do that Schönberg's development as a composer from the beginning of the last century up to, say, the outbreak of WWI was indeed a turning-point for music - but "a" turning-point, not "the" turning-point; what of Busoni, Debussy, Scriabin, Strauss, Ives and others during that same period? And all that was in any case separated by a decade or so from the appearance of Schönberg's first published dodecaphonic work, during which intervening period there were also the "turning-points" of Roslavets, Ornstein, Vermeulen, Varèse and others. Not only was there a multiplicity of "turning-points", however, but also none of them sought to overturn what had gone before or indeed undermine other things that were going on at the same time. Only Boulez (if what's attributed to him is correct) and Xenakis sought to "start anew" - and that was three decades and more later in any case; Xenakis cpontinued to plough his own furrow though without expressing dictatorial ideas as Boulez appeared to do - and Boulez himself has changed consierably as a composer since the 1950s.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #44 on: January 30, 2014, 10:02:51 am »

I believe the gentleman concerned has done a magnificent job of painting himself into a corner, all by himself - he doesn't need any help from us, and there seems no need to rehash his views any further here Wink

To sum up my own views (as a performer who has performed Schoenberg works as a soloist at the St Petersburg Philharmonia...)...  it seems to me that the case cannot be made for Schoenberg as the Prometheus, or Janus, of C20th music.

Serial composition was an intellectual affectation which quickly fizzled out, and which has had no influence whatsoever on the music of the C20th. It has not just died out - it's been actively jettisoned.  Composers have instead taken greater interest in aspects of music which are not pitch-related - rhythm, duration, tempo, timbre, colour, overtone, instrumentation. In these areas, Schoenberg contributed nothing new whatsoever.
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