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Dodecaphonic works you admire and adore


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Author Topic: Dodecaphonic works you admire and adore  (Read 2818 times)
autoharp
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« Reply #45 on: February 02, 2014, 10:59:17 am »

http://www.ram.ac.uk/events?event_id=2236

A (free) Royal Academy of Music concert featuring Skalkottas's 4th quartet at 6.00pm on Friday 28th Feb. It's 40-odd minutes long and staggeringly difficult so rarely gets played. One of the major 20th century quartets IMHO.

It's dodecaphonic, but don't let that put you off!
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« Reply #46 on: February 02, 2014, 12:30:35 pm »

Serial composition was an intellectual affectation which quickly fizzled out, and which has had no influence whatsoever on the music of the C20th.

Then why was it so difficult for non-serialist composers to get their music performed for much of the period?

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.

Schoenberg may not have directly done so, but his version of serialism led to "total serialism", which does extend serialist techniques beyond pitch.
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« Reply #47 on: February 02, 2014, 03:42:11 pm »

http://www.ram.ac.uk/events?event_id=2236

A (free) Royal Academy of Music concert featuring Skalkottas's 4th quartet at 6.00pm on Friday 28th Feb. It's 40-odd minutes long and staggeringly difficult so rarely gets played. One of the major 20th century quartets IMHO.

It's dodecaphonic, but don't let that put you off!
Put me off? It's one of Skalkottas' finest works! A truly powerful piece that makes me wonder what Schönberg would have thought of it - I cannot imagine that his reaction would have been other than thrilled. But given the challenges that have since been put before quartets by Carter, Ferneyhough et al - and in the light of the immense problems of getting together earlier works such as van Dieren's first quartet, Schönberg's D minor quartet or even the last quartets of Beethoven, is it really so difficult that ensembles fight shy of it because of fears of being able to put together a telling performance? Surely not!
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ahinton
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« Reply #48 on: February 02, 2014, 03:47:05 pm »

Now that this thread has re-opened, here's what I'd have posted to it had it not been closed earlier.

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
I see that, having previously poured scorn on a particular person, you now refer to him as a "gentleman"; that said, whatever he may have done and however magnificent you may perceive it to be, it is certainly not painting himself into a corner, as what I have read of his writings clearly reveals someone whose widely divergent interests in all manner of musics would alone ensure that he would not even fit into one.

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.
I would be genuinely interested to have details of the AS works that you have performed. However, I am not aware that anyone has sought in the first place to make out a case for him as the "Prometheus, or Janus, of C20th music"; the fact that he was a figure of great importance in the music of the first half of that century does not of itself make him either of those things, particularly given that - as I wrote earlier - there have been numerous other musical "turning-points" during the time that Schönberg/Schoenberg worked and none had in any case sought to overthrow tradition or the music of the past. This last is perhaps of especial importance in relation to Schönberg/Schoenberg in the light of the fact that he spent far more of his time teaching about Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms et al than he did in expounding his dodecaphonic methodologies in composition classes.

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 . . .
To begin with, serial composition was no more of an "intellectual affectation" than were the disciplines of species counterpoint which, it could be argued, really did largely "fizzle out", albeit over a longer timescale, because Western musical language was developing away from it; on the contrary, it was just one means to an end whose incipit and history paralelled those of many other compositional persuasions during the past century.

There is a order issue with the first six words of your second sentence (a verbal hexachord? perish the thought!); it should have read "it has just not died out". It holds sway nowadays rather less - and rather less widely - than once it did, for sure, but it has certainly not bitten the dust altogether, let alone been "actively jettisoned"; had either been the case, dyn would have been unable to cite dodecaphonic works by sixteen composers chosen (I imagine) more or less at random without any intention to present them as a comprehensive list - and the fact that most of them span the final three quarters of the past century demonstrates clearly that it survived at least that long, albeit without attaing any kind of primacy.

David Matthews, for example - fine composer as I believe him to be - has not "actively jettisoned it"; he has simply not espoused in in the first place because he has not found it conducive to what he wants to express or the ways in which he wants to do it and I have no doubt that other composers could say the same (of whom one is writing here now).

Your closing gambit about composers having prioritised "rhythm, duration, tempo, timbre, colour, overtone, instrumentation" is both misleadingly disproportionate and unclear; do you mean that composers have only in more recent times (i.e. post-Schoenberg) abandoned dodecaphony in favour of music whose principal thrust is less pitch-related? I would disagree even with that in general terms, but your lack of clarity here is also in the "when" of this, by reason of your observation that Schönberg himself had "contributed nothing" to those six aspects of musical creation (presumably at any time during his creative career), a remark so bizarre as to cast all credibility into oblivion!
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« Reply #49 on: February 03, 2014, 04:06:27 pm »

Serial composition was an intellectual affectation which quickly fizzled out, and which has had no influence whatsoever on the music of the C20th.

Then why was it so difficult for non-serialist composers to get their music performed for much of the period?
I think that this a bit of an exaggeration, though there's no smoke without fire. As I've suggested previously, serialist procedures were and are just one of many paths to compositional salvation available to composers and I think that part of the problem in terms of its reception today is that a handful of its more vociferously dogmatic practitioners in the immediate post-WWII years sought to ascribe to it a kind of primacy that it neither deserved nor ever really even had outside their own circles.

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.
Schoenberg may not have directly done so, but his version of serialism led to "total serialism", which does extend serialist techniques beyond pitch.
Sure, but it's hard nevertheless to equate the suggestion that Schönberg eschewed - or failed to address - those non-pitch-related aspects of musical creativity with the actualité; also, I think it unlikely that Schoenberg would have felt attracted to seeking to explore total serialism had he survived for, say, a decade or more longer than he did. Do you think, perhaps, that his version of serialism did more to lead to total serialist practice any more than did, say, Webern's or Skalkottas's?

Speaking of Skalkottas, incidentaly, the aforementioned fourth quartet, as well as the first and third quartets, the three piano concertos, the concertos for violin, for double bass, etc. and quite a few others of his works are available to listen to on YouTube.
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« Reply #50 on: February 04, 2014, 10:40:16 am »

Serial composition was an intellectual affectation which quickly fizzled out, and which has had no influence whatsoever on the music of the C20th.

Then why was it so difficult for non-serialist composers to get their music performed for much of the period?
I think that this a bit of an exaggeration, though there's no smoke without fire. As I've suggested previously, serialist procedures were and are just one of many paths to compositional salvation available to composers and I think that part of the problem in terms of its reception today is that a handful of its more vociferously dogmatic practitioners in the immediate post-WWII years sought to ascribe to it a kind of primacy that it neither deserved nor ever really even had outside their own circles.
 

I don't think it is much of an exaggeration, except that perhaps "serialist" should be replaced by "atonal". Look at what happened under William Glock in the UK, for instance. The neglect faced by composers like Scott, Rubbra, Lloyd, Arnell and many others. Still today I see newspaper critics sneeringly refer to any new tonal composition as "traditionalist" as if that were a bad thing.

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.
Schoenberg may not have directly done so, but his version of serialism led to "total serialism", which does extend serialist techniques beyond pitch.
Sure, but it's hard nevertheless to equate the suggestion that Schönberg eschewed - or failed to address - those non-pitch-related aspects of musical creativity with the actualité; also, I think it unlikely that Schoenberg would have felt attracted to seeking to explore total serialism had he survived for, say, a decade or more longer than he did. Do you think, perhaps, that his version of serialism did more to lead to total serialist practice any more than did, say, Webern's or Skalkottas's?

It makes more sense if we say "2nd Viennese School" rather than Schoenberg here. Without Schoenberg and Webern (I don't know how influential Skalkottas ever was) you would not have seen the development of total serialism later on. And certainly I don't think Schoenberg would have appreciated total serialism at all, had he lived longer. Obviously Schoenberg (and especially Webern) were concerned with more things than pitch, but I wasn't attempting, in the post quoted, to do any more than refute the idea that serialism per se is unconerned with anything other than pitch.
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« Reply #51 on: February 04, 2014, 10:59:59 am »

Serial composition was an intellectual affectation which quickly fizzled out, and which has had no influence whatsoever on the music of the C20th.

Then why was it so difficult for non-serialist composers to get their music performed for much of the period?
I think that this a bit of an exaggeration, though there's no smoke without fire. As I've suggested previously, serialist procedures were and are just one of many paths to compositional salvation available to composers and I think that part of the problem in terms of its reception today is that a handful of its more vociferously dogmatic practitioners in the immediate post-WWII years sought to ascribe to it a kind of primacy that it neither deserved nor ever really even had outside their own circles.

I don't think it is much of an exaggeration, except that perhaps "serialist" should be replaced by "atonal". Look at what happened under William Glock in the UK, for instance. The neglect faced by composers like Scott, Rubbra, Lloyd, Arnell and many others. Still today I see newspaper critics sneeringly refer to any new tonal composition as "traditionalist" as if that were a bad thing.
I'm not for one moment suggesting that no such sidelining occurred; of course it did in certain quarters, perhaps most notably (and regrettably) Darmstadt from the late 40s at least until the early 60s and in Britain during the Glock era as you mention. Mind you, even during the latter of those, Malcolm Arnold seemed to get away with it relatively unscathed and the putting out to grass of Robert Simpson seemed to be a gradual process.

I also wonder whether the customary received opinion of Glock as some kind of new broom sweeping the airwaves clean of composers such as those whom you mention takes too little account of whether some of their works were considered not to be up to scratch rather than merely being thought of as embarrassingly outmoded; the sidelining of Rubbra was undoubtedly unforgivable, but how often did the symphonies of Lloyd, Arnell and some others attain the same level as did his? Not only that, but Lutyens and Searle didn't exactly do brilliantly during that time either, despite most of their works being largely "atonal" - and let's not forget that the comparative pushing into the background of Walton occurred at a time when he was himself having grave doubts about his ability to continue as a composer (the third symphony that Previn sought from him barely progressed beyond a single page) and, of course, he had studied with Searle for a couple of years on and off soon after WWII because he wanted to try to enrich his creativity.

I think that there was also a problem in the perception that it was becoming increasingly difficult for BBC to continue to provide a balanced conspectus even of new British music because there was so much of it and it was becoming ever more diverse; perhaps it was deemed easier in such circumstances, then, to look as though one's chucking out the "old" to replace it with the "new". In any event, the benefit of hindsight suggests that it was a case of the pendulum swinging too far.

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.
Schoenberg may not have directly done so, but his version of serialism led to "total serialism", which does extend serialist techniques beyond pitch.
Sure, but it's hard nevertheless to equate the suggestion that Schönberg eschewed - or failed to address - those non-pitch-related aspects of musical creativity with the actualité; also, I think it unlikely that Schoenberg would have felt attracted to seeking to explore total serialism had he survived for, say, a decade or more longer than he did. Do you think, perhaps, that his version of serialism did more to lead to total serialist practice any more than did, say, Webern's or Skalkottas's?
It makes more sense if we say "2nd Viennese School" rather than Schoenberg here. Without Schoenberg and Webern (I don't know how influential Skalkottas ever was) you would not have seen the development of total serialism later on. And certainly I don't think Schoenberg would have appreciated total serialism at all, had he lived longer. Obviously Schoenberg (and especially Webern) were concerned with more things than pitch, but I wasn't attempting, in the post quoted, to do any more than refute the idea that serialism per se is unconerned with anything other than pitch.
OK - as long as it's duly recognised that, whilst Schönberg's 12 note serialist practice was widely (and, I think, understandably) regarded as representing the core of serialism, at least in its early days, other composers experimented with other forms of serialism and, whereas "serialism" and "atonality" were once widely perceived as synonymous - or at the very least interdependent - Berg lost no time in undermining such a view. One might well wonder how Roslavets might have developed had he not come in for Shostakovich treatment at the hands of the state even before Shostakovich himself came under tht spotlight - and whether and to what extent any kind of serialist procudures might have informed his work.

Skalkottas's influence was negligible, albeit for reasons quite other than anything to do with the value of his music.

I agree that Schönberg would not have appreciated total serialism (and Berg would doubtless have appreciated it even less); had either or both survived to encounter in its practice, however, I have no idea whether they might have harboured any thoughts about the fate of the monster that they'd respectvely created and fed.

I understand and agree with your last sentence here; all composers are, after all, interested to greater or lesser deree with matters other than pitch!

One important factor that risks being overlooked is that Schönberg would not only have deprecated total serialism had he lived to hear its products but he'd also have been scornful of the dogmatic attitude of those of the dictators of Darmstadt / Donaueschingen in making out that the past had to be cast asunder and composers who failed to address serialism were of no use; after all, his first overtly 12 note work dated from the 1920s but in the 1930s he wrote his second chamber symphony - in E flat minor - not for him the notion that serialism was the only way. His remark about having developed a system of composing that would ensure the supremacy of German music for the next 100 years was obviously one of his jokes, for all that it seems to have been lost on Ronald Stevenson when reviewing Malcolm MacDonald's excellent book on Schönberg for the non-PC titled Books & Bookmen years ago when he wrote that this was a strange idea for an Austrian Jew to have"...
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« Reply #52 on: June 30, 2014, 04:31:40 am »

I have question. I've always wondered "why serial"? That is, I can see why composers in the early C20 would have thought composing totally chromatically, but where did the idea of doing it serially come from, after all there were never any tonal, serial compositions.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #53 on: June 30, 2014, 05:08:53 pm »

I have question. I've always wondered "why serial"? That is, I can see why composers in the early C20 would have thought composing totally chromatically, but where did the idea of doing it serially come from, after all there were never any tonal, serial compositions.

Over to our apologists for serialism for an answer, I think??
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« Reply #54 on: June 30, 2014, 06:11:31 pm »

I have question. I've always wondered "why serial"? That is, I can see why composers in the early C20 would have thought composing totally chromatically, but where did the idea of doing it serially come from, after all there were never any tonal, serial compositions.

Over to our apologists for serialism for an answer, I think??
Well, don't anyone look to me to provide one! - but, while wondering to whom else to put that question, I don't think that Berg's Violin Concerto's the only tonal serial work...
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Gauk
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« Reply #55 on: June 30, 2014, 11:39:12 pm »

The problem with completely atonal music is it lacks any sort of organisation, as Schoenberg realised after composing Erwartung. The idea of using note rows (series, hence serialism) was to impose some sort of system in place of chaos. There are plentry of examples of 12-note rows in tonal music. Shostakovich, I think, and even Alwyn after a fashion.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #56 on: July 01, 2014, 09:58:10 am »

The idea of using note rows (series, hence serialism) was to impose some sort of system in place of chaos.

This is the principle problem I have with serial music. Notes are picked for extra-musical reasons - as though "but it has to be Ab because Ab comes after F#" is some kind of valid aesthetic rationale? 

Flaccid in rhythm, anaemic in orchestration - small wonder this effete intellectual affectation fizzled out, and left no legacy behind it.
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Sydney Grew
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« Reply #57 on: July 01, 2014, 12:22:08 pm »

The problem with completely atonal music is it lacks any sort of organisation, as Schoenberg realised after composing Erwartung. . . .

But any imaginative composer could, I imagine, adapt good old sonata form. Exposition of a few ideas, followed by a development thereof, followed by a grand recapitulation and even grander coda. It doesn't have to rely upon key structure. Or if that does not make him happy he could write an equally good old set of variations. Or perhaps a passacaglia. These things - non-serial non-tonal sonata form, and non-serial non-tonal variations - seem to me the obvious way forward, and they must have been essayed before - can any one cite examples?
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« Reply #58 on: July 01, 2014, 01:33:23 pm »

Or perhaps a passacaglia. ... can any one cite examples?

The very first work which Webern wrote under the dubious tutelage of Schoenberg was his "Opus 1, Passacaglia".

There's a more well-known passacaglia in Berg's Wozzeck, which serves as an interlude between the 4th and 5th tableaux of the piece (ie Berg wrote it to cover the mechanics of the scenery change).  This passacaglia is linked the character of the Doctor, and suggests the pedantic nature of a medical theoretician in the use of this ancient musical form.
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« Reply #59 on: July 02, 2014, 08:51:15 pm »

Also, one must distinguish between serialism and total serialism. In classical serialism, pitch is organised according to note-rows, their inversion and retrogrades, but everything else is up to the composer's ear. In total serialism, the same principles are applied to rhythm and dynamics. It has been said that the average listener's reaction to rhythm is actually far more fundamental than their reaction to pitch. Therefore: take away tonality, and the result is not necessarily difficult - think of Bach's experiments with chromaticism. But take away a steady beat, and the listener is lost.

I have been told that Schoenberg, when he was first experimenting with serialism, composed a number of waltzes and polkas based on 12-note rows; but I have never heard any of them.
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