The State of Modern day Music

Today’s practitioners of what we when called “contemporary” music are discovering themselves to be suddenly alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music making that demands the disciplines and tools of study for its genesis. Stories now circulate that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It after was that one particular could not even approach a important music school in the US unless effectively ready to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When 1 hears now of professors shamelessly studying scores of Respighi in order to extract the magic of their mass audience appeal, we know there’s a crisis. This crisis exists in the perceptions of even the most educated musicians. Composers today appear to be hiding from particular difficult truths concerning the creative course of action. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will assist them create genuinely striking and challenging listening experiences. I believe that is simply because they are confused about many notions in modern day music making!

1st, let’s examine the attitudes that are needed, but that have been abandoned, for the improvement of particular disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern music. This music that we can and should develop provides a crucible in which the magic inside our souls is brewed, and it is this that frames the templates that guide our really evolution in creative thought. It is this generative approach that had its flowering in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, a lot of emerging musicians had turn into enamored of the wonders of the fresh and exciting new globe of Stockhausen’s integral serialism that was then the rage. There seemed limitless excitement, then. It seemed there would be no bounds to the creative impulse composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At the time, most composers hadn’t actually examined serialism meticulously for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that it was Stockhausen’s exciting musical approach that was fresh, and not so substantially the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the techniques he made use of have been born of two specific considerations that in the end transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns and, specifically, the concept that treats pitch and timbre as particular circumstances of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crossovers as “contacts”, and he even entitled one particular of his compositions that explored this realm Kontakte.) These gestures, it turns out, are really independent from serialism in that they can be explored from various approaches.

The most spectacular method at that time was serialism, though, and not so significantly these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this really method — serialism — even so, that soon after possessing seemingly opened so quite a few new doors, germinated the pretty seeds of modern music’s personal demise. The approach is highly prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it makes composition quick, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the much less thoughtful composer seemingly can divert his/her soul away from the compositional method. Inspiration can be buried, as technique reigns supreme. The messy intricacies of note shaping, and the epiphanies one particular experiences from required partnership with one’s essences (inside the thoughts and the soul — in a sense, our familiars) can be discarded conveniently. All is rote. All is compartmentalized. For a lengthy time this was the honored system, extended hallowed by classroom teachers and young composers-to-be, alike, at least in the US. Soon, a sense of sterility emerged in the musical atmosphere many composers started to examine what was taking spot.

The replacement of sentimental romanticism with atonal music had been a critical step in the extrication of music from a torpid cul-de-sac. A music that would closet itself in banal self-indulgence, such as what seemed to be occurring with romanticism, would decay. Right here came a time for exploration. The new alternative –atonality — arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time getting. However, shortly thereafter, Schonberg made a critical tactical faux pas. The ‘rescue’ was truncated by the introduction of a strategy by which the newly freed method could be subjected to control and order! I have to express some sympathy right here for Schönberg, who felt adrift in the sea of freedom provided by the disconnexity of atonality. Substantial forms rely upon some sense of sequence. For him a strategy of ordering was needed. Was serialism a very good answer? I am not so particular it was. Its introduction supplied a magnet that would attract all those who felt they required explicit maps from which they could make patterns. By the time Stockhausen and Boulez arrived on the scene, serialism was touted as the cure for all musical troubles, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and think of two pieces of Schonberg that bring the issue to light: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912 – pre-serial atonality) and the Suite, Op. 29 (1924 serial atonality). Pierrot… seems so very important, unchained, just about lunatic in its particular frenzy, although the Suite sounds sterile, dry, forced. In the latter piece the excitement got lost. This is what serialism seems to have performed to music. However the focus it received was all out of proportion to its generative energy. Boulez once even proclaimed all other composition to be “useless”! If the ‘disease’ –serialism –was bad, 1 of its ‘cures’ –free chance –was worse. In a series of lectures in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1958, John Cage managed to prove that the outcome of music written by likelihood suggests differs extremely little from that written working with serialism. Nonetheless, possibility seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Opportunity is chance. There is nothing at all on which to hold, absolutely nothing to guide the thoughts. Even effective musical personalities, such as Cage’s, frequently have trouble reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that opportunity scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, once more, many schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the producing with the entry of no cost chance into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for any individual interested in producing anything, anything, so lengthy as it was new.

I think parenthetically that a single can concede Cage some quarter that a single could possibly be reluctant to cede to others. Normally likelihood has turn out to be a citadel of lack of discipline in music. Also frequently I’ve observed this outcome in university classes in the US that ‘teach ‘found (!)’ music. The rigor of discipline in music making ought to by no means be shunted away in search of a music that is ‘found’, rather than composed. On youtube to mp3 , in a most peculiar way, the energy of Cage’s personality, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline seem to rescue his ‘chance’ art, where other composers merely flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Nonetheless, as a remedy to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, possibility is a quite poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make likelihood music speak to the soul is a rare bird indeed. What seemed missing to a lot of was the perfume that tends to make music so wonderfully evocative. The ambiance that a Debussy could evoke, or the fright that a Schonberg could invoke (or provoke), seemed to evaporate with the modern day technocratic or free-spirited approaches of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music globe with the potent option in the guise of a ‘stochastic’ music. As Xenakis’ perform would evolve later into excursions into connexity and disconnexity, giving a template for Julio Estrada’s Continuum, the path toward re-introducing power, beauty and fragrance into sound became clear. All this in a ‘modernist’ conceptual method!

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