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Kalevi Aho: Symphony No. 16 (world premiere)

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Author Topic: Kalevi Aho: Symphony No. 16 (world premiere)  (Read 1671 times)
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2015, 12:34:50 pm »

Thank you Mr. Gauk for that clarification. From our own Mr. Hinton's younger brother Stephen comes this interesting addition about Gebrauchsmusik:

Gebrauchsmusik is a term adopted in Germany in the early 1920s, first in musicological circles and then in music criticism. Within a decade it had become a slogan with international currency, causing some of those who had initially contributed to its prominence either to distance themselves from it or to abandon it altogether.

The term arose from attempts to challenge, or at least to relativise, its conceptual antonym – musical autonomy. Invariably its use implies, if not actually involves, an opposite term as part of a dualistic system of thought. One of the first writers to employ Gebrauchsmusik systematically as one half of a binarism was the musicologist Paul Nettl. In his study of 17th-century dance music he distinguished between Gebrauchsmusik and Vortragsmusik. By the former term Nettl referred to ‘dance pieces that were really danced to’, by the latter to ‘music without any secondary purpose’. With historical developments in mind, Nettl observed an ‘increasing stylization’ that attended dance music’s emancipation in the cyclical suite of mixed dance forms, a stylization that involved a ‘certain removal from popular primordiality [volkstümliche Ursprünglichkeit]’. Around the same time Leo Kestenberg, music adviser to the Prussian Ministry of Science, Culture and Education, used Gebrauchsmusik to describe ‘occasional music’ as distinguished from ‘concert music’. In making this distinction, Nettl and Kestenberg openly expressed a value judgment soon to be widely shared by musicologists, critics and composers alike. Gebrauchsmusik, Kestenberg wrote, ‘is artistically as important as, and nowadays materially more promising than, concert music’. Like other Germans, he was no doubt influenced by parallel developments in France, especially the group of composers known as Les Six.

But it was Heinrich Besseler, in whose work the descriptive and the normative nicely combine, who produced the philosophically most sophisticated account of Gebrauchsmusik at the time. An early-music specialist, he had studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger. Beyond a scholarly, historical attempt at understanding earlier musical cultures on their own terms, Besseler also raised general phenomenological questions of the kind posed by Heidegger. In his dissertation on the German suite in the 17th century, Besseler noted that ‘the aesthetic access [Zugangsweise] to this music is not through listening but through participation, whether through playing, dancing or singing along; in general, through use [das Gebrauchen]. Besseler pursued this basic perspective further in his Habilitationsschrift, this time focussing on 13th- and 14th-century motets. This music, he stressed, was not ‘created for “aesthetic enjoyment”’; nor did it ‘concern the “listener” in the usual sense, but rather only believers in prayer and observation’. In a much-quoted lecture, delivered as part of his dissertation defence, he addressed ‘basic questions of musical listening’, both from an historical, diachronic perspective and from a systematic one. Acknowledging his debt to Heidegger, he translated his philosophy teacher’s fundamental distinction between ‘thing’ (Ding) and ‘equipment’ (Zeug) into specifically musical concepts: ‘autonomous music’ (eigenständige Musik) and ‘utility music’ (Gebrauchsmusik). The first type he associated with concert music, a relatively recent phenomenon, but one which ‘for generations has counted as the highest and, as it were, solely legitimate form of performing and listening to music’. With the second type, aesthetic contemplation is secondary or even irrelevant. Invoking Heideggerian terminology, one could say that its mode of existence belongs to the sphere of ‘readiness-to-hand’ (Zuhandenheit), as opposed to ‘presentness-at-hand’ (Vorhandenheit). Besseler defined such music as ‘umgangsmässig’, something analogous to the vernacular in language (Umgangssprache) in the sense of being inseparable from everyday life rather than autonomous. Active participation or involvement is key. The gist of Besseler’s theory is encapsulated in this central passage from his lecture:

For the individual, Gebrauchsmusik constitutes something of equal rank to his other activities, something with which he has dealings in the way he has dealings with things of everyday use, without first having to overcome any distance, that is, without having to adopt an aesthetic attitude. With this in mind we might define the basic characteristic of Gebrauchsmusik as something with which we are directly involved [umgangsmässig]. All other art … in some way stands in contrast to Being as self-sufficient, as autonomous [eigenständig].

In later writings Besseler replaced his original binarism with Darbietungsmusik (‘presentation music’) versus Umgangsmusik (literally ‘ambient music’, a term which has unfortunately become synonymous with background music).

Besseler’s interest in Gebrauchsmusik did not stop with his scholarly work as a music historian; it spilled over into the opinions he held about contemporary trends in composition. Epistemology, aesthetics and cultural politics overlapped. Besseler found himself supporting current efforts to create ‘umgangmässige Musik’, above all in the work of the German Youth Movement, but also in the cultivation of Gebrauchsmusik by composers such as Hindemith, Fortner and Pepping.

Besseler ended the first chapter of his magisterial handbook Die Musik des Mittelalters und der Renaissance with an account of the effects of historicism on the present, seeing in the call for ‘community music’ (Gemeinschaftsmusik) the protest of a younger generation against the artistic stance of traditional musical life, against large symphony orchestras and the professional specialization of virtuosos. ‘One avoided patriarchal tradition’, he wrote in a confessional tone, ‘in order to learn from earlier ancestors’.

Although Hindemith was not responsible for coining the term Gebrauchsmusik, as is often asserted, he could maintain in 1930, without too much exaggeration, that he had ‘almost completely turned away from concert music in recent years and written, almost without exception, music with pedagogical or social tendencies: for amateurs, for children, for radio, mechanical instruments, etc.’. One of the principal genres developed to reflect these tendencies was the Lehrstück. The piece entitled Lehrstück, a collaboration between Hindemith and Brecht that established the genre, compromised the composer’s autonomy to the extent that the nature of the performing forces was left open. It was thus less a work designed for concert presentation than one which served the learning process of those actively involved. The audience, too, was expected to participate by singing along in the choral sections. Although a secular piece which ironically defamiliarized sacred traditions, it was intended to function in a manner analogous to a sacred cantata in the 18th century.

Recognizing in 1929 that ‘the idea of Gebrauchsmusik has now established itself in all those camps of modern music that it can reach’, Hindemith’s contemporary and rival Weill asserted the need for music to be ‘useful for society at large’. To this end he and Hindemith collaborated with Brecht on the experimental piece Der Lindberghflug, first performed together with Lehrstück at the festival of new music in Baden-Baden in 1929. The question of quality, Weill said, was a separate matter, one that determined whether what he was doing could be considered art. ‘To have this attitude expressed by a representative of “serious music”’, he went on, ‘would have been unthinkable a few years ago’.

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« Reply #31 on: September 21, 2015, 12:39:22 pm »

The call for socially useful music did not go unchallenged, formulated as it often was in explicitly political terms and as an implicit critique of the Expressionist isolation commonly associated at the time with the Second Viennese School. Schoenberg himself was especially defensive, often construing the reforms proposed by the younger generation of composers as personal attacks (1976).

One demands New Music for all! Gebrauchsmusik! But it transpires that no use can be found for it. … And what use? For want of a use, many of the business-like Gebrauchsmusiker have become ideal artists. More ideal than those outmoded ones, who may at least hope for success after they die, whereas the involuntary idealists have composed for particular use and have no hope or desire for the future.

No less vitriolic and certainly more extensive were the involved polemics directed against the supporters of Gebrauchsmusik by Schoenberg’s apologist Theodor W. Adorno. With his characteristic ear for the news of the day, Adorno eagerly took up the term, albeit in a derogatory sense, as early as 1924, and he continued to write critically about Gebrauchsmusik for the rest of his life. He began by dismissing the latest music of Hindemith and Stravinsky as ‘fiktive Gebrauchsmusik’ (1924), music with only apparent utility and little expressive value of the kind he associated with ‘absolute music’. By 1932, in his sociological tract ‘Zur gesellschaftlichen Lage der Musik’, Adorno was using Gebrauchsmusik to describe one of four types of contemporary music, the others being ‘modern music’ (Schoenberg), ‘objectivism’ (Stravinsky) and ‘surrealism’ (Weill). He associated Gebrauchsmusik above all with Hindemith, whose music he criticized for identifying itself with a fictitious collective. The only use-value of music in capitalist society, he argued, was that of a commodity (in the Marxist sense). Any attempt to restore pre-capitalist immediacy he dismissed as ideology in the sense of ‘false consciousness’. As he concluded in Einleitung in die Musiksoziologie of 1962, ‘Gebrauchsmusik, is tailor-made for the administered world’.

The idea of Gebrauchsmusik, as the work of musicologists such as Besseler illustrates, derives first and foremost from methodological reflection; it does not so much capture the essence of music as reflect a perspective of the scholar or listener. As such, it identifies a philosophical viewpoint, in this case one indebted to phenomenology. The same piece of music can be viewed both in terms of its use-value and in terms of its autonomous features. These two perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Understood in this way, autonomy must be seen less as an idealistic construct that precludes consideration of social utility than as itself a complex of artistic practices embracing the social, the aesthetic and the theoretical. These three areas overlap. Social autonomy encompasses various aspects of music sociology: the composer’s employment status or sources of patronage, the context of musical presentation and the nature of music’s social function. Aesthetic autonomy also touches on questions of presentation, on how musical objects are approached, as well as on the status of music as a discrete work, on the kind of criticism and interpretation it attracts, and on matters of musical form. The dimension of theory encompasses questions of formal taxonomy and other structural factors. Historically, it is possible to observe a process of increasing ‘autonomization’: composers become their own bosses, freed from direct service to institutions and patrons; their musical works are conceived less for specific social occasions, more as discrete works, independent of immediate social function; and the identity of their works, in formal and structural terms, increasingly resists their being subsumed under generic norms. Autonomy and the postulate of originality are closely linked.

One need not subscribe to Adorno’s negative dialectics, which posits social relevance in artistic isolation, in order to appreciate one principal point of his critique: namely, that proponents of Gebrauchsmusik could not – or rather would not – relinquish certain facets of their autonomy as composers. They remained modern professional composers, with all the aims and aspirations implied by the ultimately irreversible division of labour. The choice, then, was not a simple one between ‘autonomy’ and ‘utility’, concepts which insofar as they denote types of music exist merely as abstract constructs. Even ‘autonomous’ music has its uses. Rather, the call for Gebrauchsmusik functioned historically as a corrective to extreme manifestations of autonomy. Composers in the 1920s were rejecting not the hard-won autonomies of Beethoven so much as the extreme isolation of the Schoenberg school.

In different circumstances, on the East Coast of the USA in the early 1950s rather than in 1920s Berlin, Hindemith spoke of his earlier music as though the attendant politics and struggles had never existed. In the preface to his Norton lectures, delivered at Harvard University in 1950, he appeared to take credit for coining the term Gebrauchsmusik; at the same time he tried to distance himself from it (1952, p.viii). History has proved him more successful in the former venture than the latter.

A quarter of a century ago, in a discussion with German choral conductors, I pointed out the danger of an esoteric isolationism in music by using the term Gebrauchsmusik. Apart from the ugliness of the word – in German as hideous as its English equivalents workaday music, music for use, utility music, and similar verbal beauties – nobody found anything remarkable in it, since quite obviously music for which no use can be found, that is to say, useless music, is not entitled to public consideration anyway and consequently the Gebrauch is taken for granted. … [When] I first came to this country, I felt like the sorcerer’s apprentice who had become the victim of his own conjurations: the slogan Gebrauchsmusik hit me wherever I went, it had grown to be as abundant, useless, and disturbing as thousands of dandelions in a lawn. Apparently it met perfectly the common desire for a verbal label which classifies objects, persons, and problems, thus exempting anyone from opinions based on knowledge. Up to this day it has been impossible to kill the silly term and the unscrupulous classification that goes with it.

In the period following World War II, not only was the term regarded as ‘silly’, if not ‘useless’, but in an age that sought autonomy at all costs, even at the expense of ‘public consideration’, Gebrauchsmusik acquired a pejorative connotation. Thus Stockhausen dismissed his modernist colleague Zimmerman as a ‘Gebrauchsmusiker’ because he used pre-existing materials rather than generating totally new and original ones. Lack of absolute autonomy became synonymous with a lack of artistic value. The earlier generation in the inter-war years had thought otherwise; it was for them that the term had had its positive, historically significant meaning.

L. Kestenberg: Musikerziehung und Musikpflege (Leipzig, 1921)
P. Nettl: ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte der Tanzmusik im 17. Jahrhundert’, ZMw, iv (1921–2), 257–65
T.W. Adorno: ‘Gebrauchsmusik’ (1924), Gesammelte Schriften, ed. R. Tiedemann, xix (Frankfurt, 1984), 445–7
H. Besseler: ‘Grundfragen des musikalischen Hörens’, JbMP 1925, 35–52; repr. in Aufsätze zur Musikästhetik und Musikgeschichte, ed. P. Gülke (Leipzig, 1978), 29–53
K. Weill: ‘Verschiebungen in der musikalischen Produktion’, Berliner Tageblatt (1 Oct 1927); repr. in Kurt Weill: Musik und Theater: Gesammelte Schriften, ed. S. Hinton and J. Scheber (Berlin, 1990), 45–8
K. Weill: ‘Die Oper – wohin?’ (31 Oct 1929); repr. in Kurt Weill: Musik und Theater: Gesammelte Schriften, ed. S. Hinton and J. Scheber (Berlin, 1990), 68–71
H. Besseler: Die Musik des Mittelalters und der Renaissance (Potsdam, 1931)
T.W. Adorno: ‘Zur gesellschaftlichen Lage der Musik’, Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, i (1932), 103–24, 356–78
P. Hindemith: ‘Betrachtungen zur heutigen Musik’ (1940), Aufsätze, Vorträge, Reden, ed. G. Schubert (Zürich, 1994), 131–76
A. Schoenberg: ‘New Music, Outmoded Music’, Style and Idea, ed. D. Newlin (New York, 1950, enlarged 2/1975 by L. Stein), 113–24
P. Hindemith: A Composer’s World (Cambridge, MA, 1952)
H. Besseler: Das mujsikalische Hören der Neuzeit (Berlin, 1959); repr. in Aufsätze zur Musikästhetik und Musikgeschichte, ed. P. Gülke (Leipzig, 1978), 104–73
T.W. Adorno: ‘Ad vocem Hindemith’, Impromptus (Frankfurt, 1968, 3/1970), 51–87
S. Hinton: ‘Gebrauchsmusik’ (1988), HMT; repr. in Terminologie der Musik im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. H.H. Eggebrecht, i (Wiesbaden, 1995), 164–74
S. Hinton: The Idea of Gebrauchsmusik (New York, 1989)

But we still don't know where Brahms comes in do we?
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« Reply #32 on: September 21, 2015, 04:35:40 pm »

Thank you Mr. Gauk for that clarification. From our own Mr. Hinton's younger brother Stephen comes this interesting addition about Gebrauchsmusik
No, it doesn't; I have no such younger brother - indeed I have no brothers at all.

What you quote is nevertheless of not inconsiderable interest.
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« Reply #33 on: September 21, 2015, 04:37:23 pm »

But we still don't know where Brahms comes in do we?
Who are "we"? Why in any case would Brahms be expected to come into this at all, given that we're dealing with a concept that largely developed in the first half of the last century?
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« Reply #34 on: September 28, 2015, 10:28:34 pm »

Looking to see if there is a recorded Sym. #16, I discovered this forum.  Anybody live in the Boston, MA area?  I have regular listening gatherings at my home.  Aho is by far my favorite living composer.  Also hoping #6 will be recorded some day.  The recent solo piano album is wonderful. 
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