I've added Anthony Cornicello's 'blog to the 'blogroll. I knew Anthony back when he was an undergraduate. Kids!


Search and Celebration

I was looking through William W. Austin's Music in the 20th Century: From Debussy through Stravinsky (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966) and I came across this passage regarding Bela Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Music for String Instruments, Percussion and Celesta (p.323):

The differences between the two great works with percussion are as remarkable as the similarities. The Music for Strings is like a search, poignant and thorough; the Sonata for Two Pianos is like a celebration, festive, mysterious at times, playful often, and gloriously affirmative.

It seems as if we must categorize works of art, since there are two types of people, those who divide the world into two types of people and those who--well, you know the rest. As readers of this and other blogs know, the concert music world is full of conversations and controversies centered on divisions of musical repertoires based on such characteristics as style, compositional techniques, and even whether pieces are "simple" or "complex".

None of these categorizations really gets at the reasons we write, play, or listen to music and truth be told, they are often as not used to deny intellectual and artistic space to the music of the "other side" of the categorization and its supporters.

Of course, few pieces will fit simpy or wholly into either the "search" or "celebration" category. Even so, it seems to me that the ideas behind these categories could, with some expansion and explication, prove useful in probing the connections between pieces that seem on the surface to be unrelated. This would be far more beneficial to our art than spending our energy on pointing out differences that are more superficial than they are substantive.



Corey Dargel posts about trying to find new ways to teach theory, if teach it we must. And we must, otherwise we're limited by habit.

Kyle Gann responds with an excellent idea--teach acoustics first. More specifically, the acoustics of interval. All pitched music, whatever tuning system or style, is based, at least in part, on interval (the "distance" between two notes). So, if you teach interval first, you can go in most any direction you want or need.


Happy Fourth!

Some music for the day:

John Cage: Apartment House 1776
Charles Ives: The Fourth of July
John Adams: Short Ride on a Fast Machine
Duke Ellington: "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue"
George & Ira Gershwin: "They All Laughed"
Elliott Carter: A Celebration of Some 150x150 Notes
Terry Riley: In C
Steve Reich: Clapping Music
Milton Babbitt: Whirled Series


Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Kyle Gann directs us to an article by Jennifer Higdon on her early experiences with the music and ideas of John Cage. He describes it as "the frankest admission and most thoughtful self-analysis I've ever seen of why an Uptown composer doesn't like (some) Downtown music".

Hmmm. The thing is, I don't consider Cage to be a downtown composer. Mr. Gann's own definition of downtown music is helpful, but it's more indicative of what downtown isn't rather than what it is, as he himself suggests. I don't consider Morton Feldman downtown, either. Much of Stockhausen fits Mr. Gann's definition better than Feldman or as well as Cage, for that matter.

Everything's waiting for you.