The State of Contemporary Music

Today’s practitioners of what we after called “contemporary” music are discovering themselves to be abruptly alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music making that requires the disciplines and tools of analysis for its genesis. Stories now circulate that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It once was that one particular could not even approach a significant music college in the US unless effectively ready to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When one particular 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 seem to be hiding from specific tough truths with regards to the inventive procedure. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will help them build actually striking and difficult listening experiences. I think that is for the reason that they are confused about several notions in modern music creating!

Initially, let’s examine the attitudes that are required, but that have been abandoned, for the improvement of particular disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern day music. This music that we can and need to develop supplies a crucible in which the magic inside our souls is brewed, and it is this that frames the templates that guide our extremely evolution in inventive believed. It is this generative procedure that had its flowering in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, many emerging musicians had grow to be 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 creative impulse composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At the time, most composers hadn’t really examined serialism meticulously for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. Nevertheless, it quickly became apparent that it was Stockhausen’s fascinating musical method that was fresh, and not so a lot the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the methods he applied were born of two special considerations that eventually transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns and, specially, the concept that treats pitch and timbre as specific instances of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crossovers as “contacts”, and he even entitled one of his compositions that explored this realm Kontakte.) These gestures, it turns out, are truly independent from serialism in that they can be explored from various approaches.

The most spectacular approach at that time was serialism, even though, and not so considerably these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this quite strategy — serialism — having said that, that right after having seemingly opened so many new doors, germinated the pretty seeds of modern music’s own demise. The strategy is highly prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it tends to make composition simple, 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 important 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 technique, long hallowed by classroom teachers and young composers-to-be, alike, at least in the US. Quickly, best queen tribute bands of sterility emerged in the musical atmosphere a lot of composers began to examine what was taking spot.

The replacement of sentimental romanticism with atonal music had been a essential 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 alternative –atonality — arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time getting. Nonetheless, shortly thereafter, Schonberg created a severe tactical faux pas. The ‘rescue’ was truncated by the introduction of a strategy by which the newly freed approach 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 supplied by the disconnexity of atonality. Large types rely upon some sense of sequence. For him a approach of ordering was required. Was serialism a very good answer? I’m not so certain it was. Its introduction supplied a magnet that would attract all these who felt they needed explicit maps from which they could create patterns. By the time Stockhausen and Boulez arrived on the scene, serialism was touted as the remedy for all musical challenges, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and think 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… seems so essential, unchained, just about lunatic in its unique frenzy, whilst the Suite sounds sterile, dry, forced. In the latter piece the excitement got lost. This is what serialism seems to have accomplished to music. But the focus it received was all out of proportion to its generative energy. Boulez as soon as even proclaimed all other composition to be “useless”! If the ‘disease’ –serialism –was terrible, one particular of its ‘cures’ –absolutely 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 signifies differs really tiny from that written applying serialism. Even so, chance seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Opportunity is possibility. There is absolutely nothing on which to hold, nothing to guide the mind. Even strong musical personalities, such as Cage’s, generally have trouble reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that chance scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, again, several schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the creating with the entry of no cost likelihood into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for everyone interested in generating something, anything, so extended as it was new.

I think parenthetically that 1 can concede Cage some quarter that one may possibly be reluctant to cede to other individuals. Typically opportunity has turn into a citadel of lack of discipline in music. Also often I’ve noticed this outcome in university classes in the US that ‘teach ‘found (!)’ music. The rigor of discipline in music producing need to never ever be shunted away in search of a music that is ‘found’, rather than composed. However, in a most peculiar way, the energy of Cage’s personality, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline appear to rescue his ‘chance’ art, where other composers simply flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Nevertheless, as a option to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, opportunity is a incredibly poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make opportunity music speak to the soul is a uncommon bird certainly. What seemed missing to many 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 modern technocratic or free-spirited techniques of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music planet with the potent option in the guise of a ‘stochastic’ music. As Xenakis’ perform would evolve later into excursions into connexity and disconnexity, supplying 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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