The State of Modern Music

Today’s practitioners of what we as soon as referred to as “modern” music are getting themselves to be abruptly alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music producing that calls for the disciplines and tools of study for its genesis. Stories now circulate that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It as soon as was that a single could not even strategy a big music school in the US unless properly prepared to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When one hears now of professors shamelessly studying scores of Respighi in order to extract the magic of their mass audience appeal, we know there is a crisis. This crisis exists in the perceptions of even the most educated musicians. Composers currently look to be hiding from specific challenging truths with regards to the creative course of action. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will assist them generate truly striking and challenging listening experiences. I believe that is due to the fact they are confused about several notions in contemporary music creating!

1st, let’s examine the attitudes that are needed, but that have been abandoned, for the improvement of special disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern music. This music that we can and will have to create provides a crucible in which the magic within 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 develop into enamored of the wonders of the fresh and thrilling new planet of Stockhausen’s integral serialism that was then the rage. There seemed limitless excitement, then. It seemed there would be no bounds to the inventive impulse composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At the time, most composers hadn’t truly examined serialism meticulously for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. On the other hand, it quickly became apparent that it was Stockhausen’s thrilling musical approach that was fresh, and not so considerably the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the procedures he made use of have been born of two special considerations that in the end transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns and, specifically, the idea that treats pitch and timbre as special cases of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crossovers as “contacts”, and he even entitled a single of his compositions that explored this realm Kontakte.) These gestures, it turns out, are seriously independent from serialism in that they can be explored from distinct approaches.

The most spectacular strategy at that time was serialism, though, and not so a great deal these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this extremely method — serialism — nevertheless, that immediately after having seemingly opened so numerous new doors, germinated the very seeds of modern music’s personal demise. The strategy is highly prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it makes composition simple, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the significantly less thoughtful composer seemingly can divert his/her soul away from the compositional procedure. Inspiration can be buried, as technique reigns supreme. The messy intricacies of note shaping, and the epiphanies a single experiences from necessary 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 extended time this was the honored process, long 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 a lot of composers began to examine what was taking place.

The replacement of sentimental romanticism with atonal music had been a vital 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. Here came a time for exploration. The new option –atonality — arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time being. On the other hand, shortly thereafter, Schonberg created a severe tactical faux pas. The ‘rescue’ was truncated by the introduction of a strategy by which the newly freed process 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 offered by the disconnexity of atonality. Huge forms rely upon some sense of sequence. For DJ Booking of ordering was necessary. Was serialism a superior answer? I am not so particular it was. Its introduction offered a magnet that would attract all these who felt they required explicit maps from which they could build patterns. By the time Stockhausen and Boulez arrived on the scene, serialism was touted as the cure for all musical complications, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and assume of two pieces of Schonberg that bring the challenge to light: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912 – pre-serial atonality) and the Suite, Op. 29 (1924 serial atonality). Pierrot… appears so crucial, unchained, just about lunatic in its unique frenzy, when the Suite sounds sterile, dry, forced. In the latter piece the excitement got lost. This is what serialism seems to have completed to music. However the attention it received was all out of proportion to its generative power. Boulez once even proclaimed all other composition to be “useless”! If the ‘disease’ –serialism –was bad, one particular of its ‘cures’ –totally 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 indicates differs quite little from that written utilizing serialism. Even so, likelihood seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Chance is likelihood. There is nothing on which to hold, nothing at all to guide the thoughts. Even strong musical personalities, such as Cage’s, usually have trouble reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that possibility scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, again, several schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the producing with the entry of absolutely free chance into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for any individual interested in making a thing, anything, so extended as it was new.

I think parenthetically that one particular can concede Cage some quarter that one could possibly be reluctant to cede to other folks. Normally possibility has develop into a citadel of lack of discipline in music. Too normally I’ve observed this outcome in university classes in the US that ‘teach ‘found (!)’ music. The rigor of discipline in music creating need to under no circumstances be shunted away in search of a music that is ‘found’, rather than composed. Having said that, in a most peculiar way, the power of Cage’s personality, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline look to rescue his ‘chance’ art, exactly where other composers merely flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Nevertheless, as a solution to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, chance is a incredibly poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make likelihood music speak to the soul is a rare bird indeed. What seemed missing to quite a few was the perfume that makes 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 contemporary technocratic or totally free-spirited methods of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music globe with the potent option in the guise of a ‘stochastic’ music. As Xenakis’ work would evolve later into excursions into connexity and disconnexity, delivering a template for Julio Estrada’s Continuum, the path toward re-introducing energy, beauty and fragrance into sound became clear. All this in a ‘modernist’ conceptual strategy!

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