The state of modern music

Posted by Mords1944 on August 27th, 2020

Today's practitioners of what we once called "modern" music are suddenly alone. There is a disconcerting reaction against any musical creation that requires the disciplines and research tools for its genesis. Now stories are circulating that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It was once that you couldn't even approach a major music school in the United States unless you were well prepared to endure the commandments and principles of serialism. When one now hears of professors shamelessly studying scores of Respighi 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 today seem to be hiding from certain difficult truths about the creative process. They have given up their search for tools to help them create truly powerful and challenging listening experiences. I think it is because they are confused about many notions in modern music creation!

First, let us examine the attitudes that are needed, but have been abandoned, for the development of special disciplines in the creation of lasting modern music. This music that we can and must create provides a crucible in which magic is crafted within our souls, and it is this that จักรวาลThe Conjuring that guide our own evolution in creative thinking. It is this generative process that had its blossoming in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, many emerging musicians had fallen in love with the then-fashionable wonders of the exciting new world of comprehensive Stockhausen serialism. Then there seemed to be boundless emotion. It seemed that there would be no limits to the creative impulse; composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At that time, most composers had not examined serialism carefully because of its inherent limitations. But it looked so cool. However, it soon became clear that it was Stockhausen's exciting musical approach that was fresh, and not so much the serialism itself, to which he was married. Later it became clear that the methods he used grew out of two special considerations that ultimately transcend serial devices: crossing of metric and tempi patterns; and especially the concept that treats pitch and timbre as special cases of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crosses as "contacts", and even titled one of his compositions exploring this kingdom Kontakte). These gestures, it turns out, are really independent of serialism in the sense that they can be explored from different approaches.

However, the most spectacular approach at the time was serialism, and not so much these (then apparent) side lights. Yet it is this very approach, serialism, that, after apparently opening so many new doors, germinated the very seeds of modern music's own demise. The method is very prone to mechanical guessing. Consequently, it makes compounding easier, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the less thoughtful composer can apparently divert his soul from the compositional process. Inspiration can be buried, as method reigns supreme. The intricate complexities of shaping notes and the epiphanies one experiences from the necessary association with one's essences (within the mind and soul, in a sense, our relatives) can be conveniently discarded. Everything is from memory. Everything is compartmentalized. For a long time this was the honored method, long sanctified by classroom teachers and future composers, at least in the United States. Soon, a sense of sterility arose in the musical atmosphere; many composers began to examine what was happening.

The substitution of atonal music for sentimental romanticism had been a crucial step in moving music out of a torpid cul-de-sac. A music that was locked in banal complacency, like what seemed to be happening with romanticism, would decay. It was time for exploration. The new alternative has arrived, naturalness. It was the cool antidote, if apparently harsh. Arnold Schonberg had put the music away, for now. However, shortly thereafter, Schonberg made a serious tactical misstep. The 'rescue' was cut short with the introduction of a method by which the newly released process could be brought under control and order. I have here to express a little sympathy for Schönberg, who felt adrift in the sea of ​​freedom provided by the disconnectedness of atonality.


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Joined: September 4th, 2018
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