The State of Contemporary Music

Today’s practitioners of what we when referred to as “modern” music are getting themselves to be all of a sudden alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music creating that demands 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 strategy a key music college in the US unless effectively prepared to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When a single 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 now seem to be hiding from certain hard truths relating to the creative method. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will assist them generate actually striking and difficult listening experiences. I think that is due to the fact they are confused about several notions in contemporary music making!

1st, let’s examine the attitudes that are needed, but that have been abandoned, for the development of particular disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern day music. This music that we can and must build provides a crucible in which the magic inside our souls is brewed, and it is this that frames the templates that guide our pretty evolution in creative thought. It is this generative process that had its flowering in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, many emerging musicians had become enamored of the wonders of the fresh and exciting 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 definitely examined serialism very carefully for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. On the other hand, it soon became apparent that it was Stockhausen’s exciting musical method that was fresh, and not so substantially the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the approaches he made use of were born of two special considerations that in the end transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns and, specifically, 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 seriously 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 substantially these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this quite strategy — serialism — nonetheless, that immediately after possessing seemingly opened so quite a few new doors, germinated the pretty seeds of contemporary music’s personal demise. The approach is extremely prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it makes composition simple, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the less thoughtful composer seemingly can divert his/her soul away from the compositional procedure. Inspiration can be buried, as system 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 extended time this was the honored approach, 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 place.

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 option –atonality — arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time being. Having said that, shortly thereafter, Schonberg produced a critical tactical faux pas. The ‘rescue’ was truncated by the introduction of a approach by which the newly freed procedure could be subjected to control and order! I have to express some sympathy here for Schönberg, who felt adrift in the sea of freedom offered by the disconnexity of atonality. Substantial forms depend upon some sense of sequence. For him a strategy of ordering was necessary. Was serialism a good answer? I’m not so specific it was. Its introduction supplied a magnet that would attract all those who felt they necessary 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 complications, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and believe of two pieces of Schonberg that bring the dilemma to light: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912 – pre-serial atonality) and the Suite, Op. 29 (1924 serial atonality). Pierrot… appears so important, unchained, just about lunatic in its specific frenzy, whilst 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 consideration 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 bad, a single of its ‘cures’ –cost-free opportunity –was worse. In One Side of lectures in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1958, John Cage managed to prove that the outcome of music written by possibility means differs quite tiny from that written utilizing serialism. Nonetheless, likelihood seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Chance is chance. There is nothing at all on which to hold, absolutely nothing to guide the thoughts. Even highly effective musical personalities, such as Cage’s, generally have problems reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that chance scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, again, numerous schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the producing with the entry of absolutely free possibility into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for everyone interested in making a thing, something, so lengthy as it was new.

I believe parenthetically that one particular can concede Cage some quarter that 1 could possibly be reluctant to cede to other folks. Typically possibility has come to be a citadel of lack of discipline in music. As well often I’ve seen this outcome in university classes in the US that ‘teach ‘found (!)’ music. The rigor of discipline in music generating should really never ever 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 character, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline seem to rescue his ‘chance’ art, exactly where other composers basically flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Nevertheless, as a remedy to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, opportunity is a really poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make possibility music talk to the soul is a rare bird certainly. What seemed missing to several 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 day technocratic or free of charge-spirited strategies of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music globe with the potent remedy 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 power, beauty and fragrance into sound became clear. All this in a ‘modernist’ conceptual approach!

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