listen. live!

It is my intention to post a list of performances of pieces on the 101 list on Thursdays, covering the two-week period beginning the next day. I'm not sure of the best format, so I may be trying out different things. The list will never be comprehensive, I can assure you of that, though the longer I am at it, the better it will get. Here's what I have for 1 October through 14 October:

Shostakovitch: Quartet No 8. Endellion String Quartet. University of Plymouth, Sherwell Centre, North Hill. Oct 2, 2004.

Sibelius: Violin Concerto. Liverpool Philharmonic, Paavo Berglund. Philharmonic Hall. Oct 14, 2004.


Alex Ross posts about his experiences with the music and (indirectly) the personality of Richard Strauss (101: Ariadne auf Naxos and Four Last Songs). He finds Strauss' music central (essential) to the 20th century.

He is also interested in hearing from anyone who may have met Strauss in the immediate postwar period. All the information is in the post.


Traits of the Postmodern

What was modernism? What was postmodernism? Is “was” the correct term for either, neither, or both? A survey of twentieth-century music inevitably must deal with these questions, particularly when the music of the final third-or-so of that century is discussed. I don’t pretend to know the answers, but I think they are questions worth pursuing.

The late Jonathan D. Kramer’s* list of “traits” of postmodern music provides one starting place. For him, postmodern music
  1. is not simply a repudiation of modernism or its continuation, but has aspects of both a break and an extension;
  2. is, on some level and in some way, ironic;
  3. does not respect boundaries between sonorities and procedures of the past and of the present;
  4. challenges barriers between “high” and “low” styles;
  5. shows disdain for the often unquestioned value of structural unity;
  6. questions the mutual exclusivity of elitist and populist values;
  7. avoids totalizing forms (e.g., does not want entire pieces to be tonal or serial or cast in a prescribed formal mold);
  8. considers music not as autonomous but as relevant to cultural, social, and political contexts;
  9. includes quotations of or references to music of many traditions and cultures;
  10. considers technology not only as a way to preserve and transmit music but also as deeply implicated in the production and essence of music;
  11. embraces contradiction;
  12. distrusts binary oppositions;
  13. includes fragmentations and discontinuities;
  14. encompasses pluralism and eclecticism;
  15. presents multiple meanings and multiple temporalities;
  16. locates meaning and even structure in listeners, more than in scores, performances, or composers.

Mr. Kramer offers the following caveat:

Not many pieces exhibit all of these traits, and thus it is futile to label a work as exclusively postmodern. Also, I would find it difficult to locate a work that exhibits none of these traits. I caution the reader, therefore, against using these traits as a checklist to help identify a given composition as postmodern or not: postmodern music is not a neat category with rigid boundaries.

These traits will certainly come up time and again in our exploration of the 101.


* Kramer, Jonathan D. The Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism. In Lochhead, Judy & Auner, Joseph (Eds.) Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought (pp. 13-26). New York: Routledge.


Two essays published in The High Hat comprise an introduction to the 101 project. The first lays out the motivation behind the project and includes an earlier version of the list. The second includes the beginnings of a theory of music criticism.

Please peruse the rest of The High Hat while you are there. You will find very good writing about a wide range of cultural issues.




Much has been written about the decline of "classical" music. There are as many symptoms, guilty parties, and solutions to this decline as there are people who proclaim it and comment on it. I can't claim to know the full extent of the decline or the nature of the solutions, but I do know that "classical" music does not occupy the "intellectual space" amongst educated people that it used to. Or the space that it should occupy.

My response to this situation is to try to open up the intellectual space through the music I know the best and love the most--the concert music of the 20th century. Over the course of the last year or so of the century I compiled a list of pieces that I believed would, taken as a whole, comprise what is essential about the century's music. I'll explain more about the project and the thinking behind the list in later posts, but for now I want to list the pieces and invite you to listen.

Adams, John: Violin Concerto
Barber, Samuel: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Barber, Samuel: Piano Sonata
Bartok, Bela: Concerto for Orchestra
Bartok, Bela: String Quartet 4
Berg, Alban: Violin Concerto
Berg, Alban: Wozzeck
Berio, Luciano: Sinfonia
Bernstein, Leonard: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Boulez, Pierre: Repons
Bridge, Frank: Piano Trio 2
Britten, Benjamin: Peter Grimes
Britten, Benjamin: War Requiem
Busoni, Ferrucio: Piano Concerto
Cage, John: 4'33"
Cage, John: Sonatas and Interludes
Carter, Elliott: String Quartet 1
Carter, Elliott: Symphonia: Sum Fluxae Pretium Spei
Copland, Aaron: Billy the Kid
Copland, Aaron: Appalachian Spring
Corigliano, John: Violin Sonata
Crawford, Ruth: Quartet
Crumb, George: Black Angels
Debussy, Claude: La Mer
Debussy, Claude: Sonata for flute, viola, and harp
Durufle, Maurice: Requiem
Elgar, Edward: Cello Concerto
de Falla, Manuel: Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Feldman, Morton: Rothko Chapel
Gershwin, George: Porgy and Bess
Gershwin, George: Rhapsody in Blue
Glass, Philip: Einstein on the Beach
Granados, Ernesto: Goyescas
Gubaidulina, Sofia: Offertorium
Harris, Roy: Symphony 3
Henze, Hans Werner: The Bassarids
Hindemith, Paul: Mathis der Maler
Hindemith, Paul: Symphonic Metamophoses on a Theme by Weber
Holst, Gustav: The Planets
Honneger, Arthur: Pacific 231
Ives, Charles: The Unanswered Question
Janacek, Leos: The Makropulos Case
Janacek, Leos: Quartet 2
Korngold, Erich von: Violin Concerto
Ligeti, Gyorgy: Etudes
Ligeti, Gyorgy: Le Grand Macabre
Lutoslawski, Witold: Symphony 3
Mahler, Gustav: Das Lied von Der Erde
Mahler, Gustav: Symphony 6
Martin, Frank: Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments
Martinu, Bohuslav: Symphony 2
Maw, Nicholas: Odyssey
Menotti, Gian Carlo: The Medium
Messiaen, Olivier: Quatour pour la fin du temps
Messiaen, Olivier: Turangalilia-Symphonie
Milhaud, Darius: La Creation du Monde
Nielsen, Carl: Symphony 4
Orff, Carl: Carmina Burana
Part, Arvo: Tabula Rasa
Penderecki, Krzysztof: Threnody
Poulenc, Francois: Dialogues du Carmelites
Prokofiev, Sergei: Sonata 7
Prokofiev, Sergei: Violin Concerto 2
Puccini, Giacomo: Madama Butterfly
Puccini, Giacomo: Turandot
Rachmaninoff, Sergei: Piano Concerto 2
Rachmaninoff, Sergei: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Ravel, Maurice: Bolero
Ravel, Maurice: Piano Concerto in G
Reich, Steve: Come Out
Respighi, Ottorino: Pines of Rome
Riley, Terry: In C
Rochberg, George: Quartet 3
Rodrigo, Joaquin: Concierto de Aranjuez
Satie, Erik: Parade
Schnittke, Alfred: Concerto Grosso 1
Schoenberg, Arnold: Pierrot Lunaire
Schoenberg, Arnold: Five Pieces, Op. 23
Scriabin, Alexander: Poeme d'Ecstases
Scriabin, Alexander: Sonata 9
Shostakovich, Dmitri: String Quartet 8
Shostakovich, Dmitri: Symphony 5
Sibelius, Jean: Symphony 4
Sibelius, Jean: Violin Concerto
Stockhausen, Karlheinz: Gesang der Junglinde
Strauss, Richard: Ariadne auf Naxos
Strauss, Richard: Four Last Songs
Stravinsky, Igor: Le Sacre du Printemps
Stravinsky, Igor: Symphony of Psalms
Szymanowski, Karol: King Roger
Tavener, John: Thunder Entered Her
Thomson, Virgil: Four Saints in Three Acts
Tippett, Michael: King Priam
Varese, Edgard: Ionisation
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Vaughan Williams, Ralph: London Symphony
Walton, William: Viola Concerto
Webern, Anton: Six Bagatelles, op. 9
Weill, Kurt: Seven Deadly Sins
Weir, Judith: A Night at the Chinese Opera
Xenakis, Iannis: Pithoprakta