Monday, July 28, 2014

Project: Exploring "Art" Music from the Early 20th Century through the Present

During a recent discussion on a Facebook piano pedagogy group (actually about transcription, which became a bit confusing since the original poster asked "Do you teach transcription?", meaning do you teach your students to listen and write down music such as jazz solos, when some of us were thinking of the older meaning of transcriptions for a pianist meaning rewriting music from one genre, such as an organ, orchestra, or string quartet, to another genre, such as piano, trying to express the original intent), a few of us got side tracked into the "art" music of the 20th century to the present.  As I thought about this, I realized that I have not explored much of this music, particularly pieces written after the early 1970's.  To be honest, so much became almost incomprehensible and seemed like so much work without much benefit to me that I just gave up trying to listen to it.  Consequently, my exposure to 20th and 21st century is the commercial, pop styles.

I have decided that I need to explore this music and see if there are pieces and composers that I like, and further explore what I like about them and how they created the music.  In the process I am sure that I will find pieces and composers of whom I am not fond and will attempt to say what it is that doesn't turn me on, or completely turns me off, or makes me want to run away screaming and have a cocktail.  I invite commentary from my readers for both. You do not have to like what I do, and you are free to like what I don't. Particularly concerning the latter, your comments may give me new food for thought to re-explore these pieces.

A couple of people did give me a list of more recent composers to explore, which follows:

Witold Lutoslawski, Gyorgy Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Adams, Steve Reich, and Luciano Berio, Arvo Part, Nico Muhly, Ayaka Nishima, Kaija Saariaho, Thomas Ades, Gyorgy Kurtag, Meredith Monk, Ricky Ian Gordon, John Luther Adams, Marc Chan, Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, David Lang, Aaron Jay Kernis.

I have heard of a very few of these names, but other than Ligeti or Stockhausen, I have never heard any of their music. I I will work through these and if anyone has any others I will consider exploring them over time and as time permits.

I will label all posts (which will be seen at the bottom of the posts) as "Project: Exploring 20th and 21st century music".

To be a little organized in this, how will I judge and report about the works that I listen to by each composer?

I will report on my findings and feelings on the music of individual composers. Of course, my assessment and your assessment may be very different.  That is fine.  I figure that there will be an assessment of my initial impressions -- "Did I like the piece?", probably ranging from "Love it and ready to listen to more and explore further" to "hate it -- I need some Bach, Beethoven or Brahms and a cocktail to get it out of my head".  "Will I explore this piece and composer further?", which will be basically "yes" or "no".  "Do I hear any antecedents in this music?", in other words, do I hear an influence from another earlier composer or composition(s) and/or an earlier period style? Since this project is evolving, my criteria may evolve also.

If I explore a composer or composition further, I will report on my studies and understanding of the music.

Though, my goal is to explore the music of later 20th and 21st century, I am going to re-explore the earlier ones, such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, Copland, Prokofiev, etc., to get a basis from which to judge later composers and to have a basis to judge whether or not they were an influence.  I am particularly interested to see how composers did, or did not change or style in relationship to the world events of the period (WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, the Cold War, 9/11....).  I have a theory in the back of my mind that major events such as these affect the way artists express themselves.

Let's see where this goes.  I do invite your comments.  I will say that currently this blog is fully moderated, in other words, I do have to approve your comments.  I promise that I will not reject comments because they disagree with me or anyone.  I am only moderating for civility in language -- no attacks on another or vulgar language.

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