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[New] Music We Do Like


Stephen  Fine
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I listen to webcasts of the New Music Ensemble that my daughter is involved in. The programming is very eclectic: some of the works are student compositions, some are new commissions, and some are established works. Right now they are running Britten's "The Turn of the Screw"--not exactly "new," but the sound and feel of it is (and Britten is obviously a big influence on music written today). She even premiered a violin sonata written for her.

I suspect most universities (maybe conservatories, too) with significant composition programs webcast performances--just check the online calendar of events. It is a great way to educate your musical palate.

J.

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Ken,

I thought I was somewhat specific about the time period when I mentioned that I thought we should discuss the "[New] Music" of "living (or recently dead) composers." But on the other hand, I think you're right: I'll specify. Let's talk about stuff composed in the past decade. Since 1997.

Also, Porgy and Bess is an opera, right?

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Porgy and Bess indeed fits the basic criteria for an opera:

1. A theatrical presentation in which a dramatic performance is set to music.

2. The score of such a work.

I need at least ten years to listen to something before I decide if it is 'up there' as a proven great compositions. To me, it's not new music if it doesn't employ new methods and new instruments, so my choices would be among rap, hip hop, and computer generated, all of which I think are the influences that will shape music in the future. I don't see anything particularly exciting coming out of the music scene other that the 'pushing' being done with new instruments.

I don't think we live an a particularly productive time, I mean, it's not like there are 'bursts' of creativity producing truly great announcements of this age in time.

Don't get me wrong, I don't' mean to say there is something wrong, not at all. It is quite normal, I think, for there to be lulls and tides of sweeping energy in various places when great music is produced. It is not a faucet that is always 'on.' How this happens is beyond me, but the results are amazing music that reaches out to generations.

Most recent: I like the music produced by the nordic husband & wife team that wrote In A Secret Garden. Quite beautiful.

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What is new music?

Evidently it must be music which, though it is still music, differs in all essentials from previously composed music. Evidently it must express something which has not yet been expressed in music. Evidently, in higher art, only that is worth being presented which as never before been presented. There is no great work of art which does not convey a new message to humanity; there is no great artist who fails in this respect. This is the code of honour of all the great in art, and consequently in all great works of the great we will find that newness which never perishes, whether it be of Josquin des Pres, of Bach or Haydn, or of any other great master.

Because: Art means New Art.

[and then later]

Such are the causes which produce changes in methods of composition. In a manifold sense, music uses time. It uses my time, it uses your time, it uses its own time. It would be most annoying if it did not aim to say the most important things in the most concentrated manner in every faction of this time. This is why, when composers have acquired the technique of filling one direction with contect to the utmost capacity, they must do the same in the next direction, and finally in all the directions in which music expands. Such progress can occur only step-wise. The necessity of compromising with comprehensibility forbids jumping into a style which is overcrowded with content. a style in which facts are too often juxtaposed without connectives, and which leaps to conclusions before proper maturation.

-Schoenberg, "New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea" (1946)

Ken,

A side note: I don't really think hip hop has evolved all that much since Eric B. and Rakim set the tone in 1987 on "Paid in Full." I mean, great stuff has been coming out in the past few years ("Late Registration" and "Fishscale" are two of my favorite albums), but very little new is happening, especially in the mainstream. I guess The Streets have a new kind of sound, but even there, I don't recognize any dramatic change of form.

Finally, this thread isn't about finding "proven great compositions," it's about finding recently composed music that we enjoy. I don't think we should take 10 years to identify what we like even taking into account Schoenberg's point about contextual development.

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Lymond, I like your outlook on this subject, no limits on imagination or where we can look to find 'new music.'

Some of my favorite music comes from birds, especially like the beginning of Spring like we are nearing right now. Duke Ellington noted how he listened to 'sounds' to hear music. There is always new music to be heard when one opens up new channels of listening.

Some music that is favorite down at the local coffee shop (where the young and upcoming crowd hangs out) is: Massive Attack, Neutral Milk Hotel and Alison Krauss.

We're not done with this thread yet. This subject has got me taking more notice of what is being offered.

Thanks,

Ken

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Haha. What local coffee shop DOESN'T have hipster-fans of Neutral Milk Hotel. Incidentally, Jeff Mangum (the brains behind NMH), is a featured player on The Apples In Stereo's new album. All those Elephant 6 Collective people play on each others albums I guess. Now I wouldn't mention them except that on the Apples new album they integrate a non-pythagorean scale--it's a bit of a jarring sound, and I'm not entirely sure that I buy into its artistic worth, but it just goes to show how pop (even if it is indie pop) is slowly but surely adapting to changes in compositional technique. It's like that earlier Schoenberg quote about filling up music in ever direction that it expands.

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Lymond, It sounds like you could very well teach a structured class on the subject.

On your citement, I'll go ahead and download the new 'The Apples In Stereo' album into iTunes and carry it with me on the iPod for a listen. As for jarring sound, where would we be if we didn't hear a jarring sound once in a while.

Thanks for the update, Thanks to those who stretch the bounds of music,

Kenneth The Music Buff

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I just listened to some of 'Magnetic Wonder' by Apples In Stereo and I buy it. Captain Kirk had it right with the music we heard on the old Star Trek as one vibrating note conveyed nuances that only the new age could hear.

The violin is still the viable instrument to play such things as we have control over harmonics and cents.

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We recently played Michael Daugherty's Philadelphia Stories (2001), and it was a lot of fun to play and I enjoyed listening to it as well. A friend described it as "Contemporary music for people who don't like contemporary music", which sounded like a put down to me, but I still enjoyed the piece, and would be interested in hearing and playing some of his other music.

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On your recommendation I got myself Philadelphia Stories. I guess your friend's criticism was that it's popularly accessible because of its indebtedness to popular culture. It's certainly a valid criticism, but not one that need be perceived as negative. I think that the Art world has long accepted the artistic possibilities in pop culture.

On my first listen, my criticism would instead be that it's a little cheesy, but I think that it may just be hyperbole that I'm not understanding yet. Give me a week with the recording and I'll probably love it.

What I do love by Daugherty is "Elvis Everywhere" (for string quartet and 3 Elvis impersonators). Kronos has a recording out there that I believe is buyable from iTunes for $.99.

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I'll have to give it a listen -- I was wondering about his chamber music. Thanks for the recommendation.

BTW (regarding WHY I like this piece), some of the things I was impressed with in his Philadelphia Stories were his ability to write counterpoint, and his ability to come up with good little tunes that worked contrapuntally. One of them I noticed worked as a tune starting as if the first note was a pickup, and all the rest of the tune falling the way it would on strong and weak beats, with one interpretation, and the same tune starting with the first note on the downbeat, and all the opposite notes therefore falling on strong and weak beats -- with an equally valid, but different interpretation due to the fact that all the OTHER notes were falling on the strong beats the second time. It was very interesting to me.

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Our chamber orchestra played "Dead Elvis" (no violas involved). All I remember is the comical sight of our (female) bassoon soloist in Elvis get up--can't remember the music at all. I guess Daugherty felt that one succsssful Elvis impersonation act deserved another....And while the whole idea seemed pretty silly to me, this is how he explains it:

"No rock and roll personality seems to have inspired as much speculation, adulation, and impersonation as Elvis Presley (1935-77). In Dead Elvis (1993), the bassoon soloist is an Elvis impersonator accompanied by a chamber ensemble. It is more than a coincidence that Dead Elvis is scored for the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat (1918), in which a soldier sells his violin, and his soul, to the devil for a magic book. I offer a new spin on this Faustian scenario: a rock star sells out to Hollywood, Colonel Parker, and Las Vegas for wealth and fame. I use Dies irae .a medieval Latin chant for the Day of Judgment .as the principal musical theme in my composition to pose the question, is Elvis dead or alive beyond the grave of Graceland? In Dead Elvis we hear fast and slow fifties rock and roll ostinati in the double bass, violin, and bongos, while the bassoonist gyrates, double-tongues, and croons his way through variations of Dies irae. Elvis is part of American culture, history, and mythology, for better or for worse. If you want to understand America and all its riddles, sooner or later you will have to deal with (Dead) Elvis. "

J.

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned Osvaldo Golijov so far. He is a top rate composer that has branched out from the classical norm and writes incredible instrumental music. If any of you have played his pieces, you'll know what I mean.

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