Author Topic: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition  (Read 6084 times)

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Online Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« on: December 28, 2009, 03:10:31 AM »
This is a minor peeve of mine. Occasionally I run across a claim (or assumption) that a certain style (genre, piece, etc.) is important because it reflects certain political or religious values. Often there seems to be an underlying assumption that the ideology of the piece is more important than the artistry that went into it. This is especially annoying if the piece has no discernable ideology behind it.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3752

I frequently see this attitude on conservative sites - they seem to believe that if you are conservative politically (or religiously), you won't like anything more radical than Brahms or Rachmaninoff. In fact, you have a duty to like "conservative" music! Dissonance is equated with liberalism or radicalism.

One sees how insipid this attitude is when considering that such modernist "radicals" included figures like Schoenberg (monarchist, patriot, German cultural chauvinist) and Stravinsky (monarchist, Orthodox Christian, anti-Bolshevik).

In short: there is no such thing as a musical genre or style that is inherently liberal, conservative, socialist, Catholic, traditionalist, or anything else; and people who assume that there is are more interested in ideology than in art.

What are your thoughts on the matter?
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2009, 05:03:47 AM »
Very interesting subject! I have thought about the same. I always thought that the school repetoire of musical developement is often based on works that shows best an ideology, fx Stravinsky and Bartok are considered more important composers than Prokofiev and Balakiev, but probably just because they work better as school examples of styles.

Also I have the impression, that many composers are mixing the subject theory up with their music. I see theory as a natural disciplin for composers as a state that comes entirely before the single musical idea. Theory can be solving certain kinds of problems, but it can also be very abstract as a particular subject, that the composer finds interresting, fx astrology, evolution, quantum physics etc. In both cases the idea with theory is to open up ones perspective to the world in which he will find inspiration. That means, that any musical inspiration must always come after the theory has been done, since if you already got the inspiration, the whole idea with theory mixed into it, wouldn´t make any theoretical sence. The theory is the aim of solving problems with music in general, and composition is solving problems in music. The same can be said for theory as for religion, politic and culture, in my opinion those factors are all just included in theory of music.

As a composer I have been fascinated of the question, what distances/values/durations has the greatest probability among short and long, high or low? My idea is, that it would help me in the future to search for inspiration without getting too stuck with musical habbits. But I would consider it exagerated to write a piece that shows the very ideology, an etude on distance/value/duration. Which I think many does! One of my friends recently wrote a piece called evolution, it was like a transcription of evolution on individual elements. If I was interrested in evolution, I would only use it to force my daily work and behavior forward in order to become a better composer.

You are often taught be teachers that this composer or work is better to study than another, because there is more than just musical interrests in it. The problem is, that music gets avant-garde-like in that way. I never write radical music, I only think and work radically.

Egebedieff

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2009, 05:14:57 AM »
I certainly don't think that there is a one-to-one, and, as you say, an inherent, connection, but, as you point out in your post, some folks will seek out and "acquire a taste" for  a kind of music that is sanctioned as the one that best fits their worldview/class. An example can be seen in how kids in high school may want to be identified with a group that has its music, language, way of dress.

And if some folks align their tastes according to their ideology, self-identity, politics, etc., you can find plenty of examples of music  deliberately written to reflect an ideology, either in text, structure, or syntax  -- Ives, Cardew, Rzewski, de Volharding. And there is music that followed rules that were strictly prescribed to reflect the will of say, the Council of Trent. So, whether that ideology is "inherent" in such music, is hard to say, since, over time, the context in which music is written leeches away and the music itself, like words, takes on different meanings.

I have encountered political and social conservatives who like Ives because of all of the hymn tunes and marches, and most of the folks I sit with in concerts of Palestrina or Josquin are not Catholics, and Mick Jagger is now Sir Mick.

'
« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 05:31:01 AM by ' »

Offline Dax

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2009, 07:04:12 AM »
Madame Dax maintains that in the world of television music, there are such things as medical rhythms, police melodies and communist chords.

So here's the opening of Ervin Schulhoff's oratorio The Communist Manifesto.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/b4dxxh

Egebedieff

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2009, 07:22:55 AM »
Madame Dax maintains that in the world of television music, there are such things as medical rhythms, police melodies and communist chords.

So here's the opening of Ervin Schulhoff's oratorio The Communist Manifesto.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/b4dxxh

I have wanted to infiltrate the music dep't of a southern high school and "compose" their school song to the tune of "The Internationale," and see how long it would take anyone to notice.

...
  So classmates all, come rally
And every fight we'll face
  With Bobcat pride and honor
Our school will win the race

'

Offline Christo

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 07:37:39 AM »
In short: there is no such thing as a musical genre or style that is inherently liberal, conservative, socialist, Catholic, traditionalist, or anything [...]

This opening statement of yours would be my conclusion of the whole thing.  8)
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Spotswood

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2009, 11:34:13 AM »
The problem to me seems to be that the use of terms "conservative" and "progressive" to describe both political positions and styles of music. One feels that to be consistent, one must be progressive or conservative in all areas.  Many composers who are liberal politically can be conservative musically. Bernstein comes to mind,   though why his music should be called conservative when the music of someone like Babbitt is "progressive" is problematic to me, since Babbitt's aesthetic requires a strict adherence to as many rules as tonal composition. (For the record, I prefer Babbitt. And off the top of my head I can't name any politically conservative living composers.) Perhaps it is simply that one is thought of more as forward looking and the other as backward looking, though all music, to be original, must be to a certain extent forward looking, just as all music (at least art music) must take part in the tradition to be regarded as music at all.

My favorite example of the paradox is the "conservative" Brahms, whose music was beloved of liberal German parliamentarians in the 19th century, vs. the "radical" Wagner, who was taken up by the most reactionary, antisemitic, and, let's face it, awful elements of the fin de siecle, both German and Austrian.

Spotswood

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2009, 11:37:36 AM »
Strange, though, how cultural conservatives seem to get wired about stuff that was radical two hundred years ago ...

Online Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2009, 10:37:54 PM »
Strange, though, how cultural conservatives seem to get wired about stuff that was radical two hundred years ago ...

That's always struck me as funny. Figures like Beethoven get held up as exemplars of "conservative taste," even though they were regarded as uncouth radicals in their own time.

Another irony: the cultural conservative approach is very like that of Stalin-era socialist realism: healthy, "uplifting" subject matter; established forms; and no nasty dissonances to befuddle the masses.
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2009, 11:50:40 PM »
The problem to me seems to be that the use of terms "conservative" and "progressive" to describe both political positions and styles of music. One feels that to be consistent, one must be progressive or conservative in all areas.  Many composers who are liberal politically can be conservative musically. Bernstein comes to mind,   though why his music should be called conservative when the music of someone like Babbitt is "progressive" is problematic to me, since Babbitt's aesthetic requires a strict adherence to as many rules as tonal composition. (For the record, I prefer Babbitt. And off the top of my head I can't name any politically conservative living composers.) Perhaps it is simply that one is thought of more as forward looking and the other as backward looking, though all music, to be original, must be to a certain extent forward looking, just as all music (at least art music) must take part in the tradition to be regarded as music at all.

My favorite example of the paradox is the "conservative" Brahms, whose music was beloved of liberal German parliamentarians in the 19th century, vs. the "radical" Wagner, who was taken up by the most reactionary, antisemitic, and, let's face it, awful elements of the fin de siecle, both German and Austrian.

I feel exactly like that, and I´m often getting misunderstood as a person because of my musical taste. I hate culture and people and see myself as a complete anarchist, and I sympathize most for the criminals, but at the same time the classical tradition is for me the most holy in music.

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2009, 08:26:50 AM »
And if some folks align their tastes according to their ideology, self-identity, politics, etc., you can find plenty of examples of music  deliberately written to reflect an ideology, either in text, structure, or syntax  -- Ives, Cardew, Rzewski, de Volharding. And there is music that followed rules that were strictly prescribed to reflect the will of say, the Council of Trent.

Which is a critic, that Im sorry to hear about Ives. I agree that he demonstrated experiments in his music, but I have always tried to think that it was ´just appearing´, and that his songs fx are also very focussed on the sound and excitement of the complexity as more clean musical thought than just "examples of what a composer should not do", as he describes. The composed errors in Ives songs also appear to be not as frequent as one could imagine, but perhabs he was doing this in order to make them sound even more like real mistakes. Fx in Grülle Nacht you have several minuttes of strictly romantic lied style before it is suddently crashing totally into mud. One could also imagine that inside Ives head, this was how music should naturally sound, as most things in the world are not that nice at all, so it is a rational musical language rather than experiments.

Also if you have a theory about how music should sound, it is a fine ballance how much it influences your music, since the musical idea on the one hand should not be formed of anything else but it self, which is impossible to avoid completely. We will always base our imagination of how structures works and what possibilities the music have from what we know about the world, from the music that opens up our eyes especially. We can only try to make the musical idea arise through unconscious imagination, which is somehow linked to the conscious one, and both are limitted. What I hate is, that when most people listen to music of any time, they often seem to value it for more than musical qualities.

Offline Guido

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2009, 10:36:41 AM »
Can't really make sense of your comments on Ives.

Apart from anything Grülle Nacht isn't a song by him - I guess you mean Ich grolle night? It's just 3 minutes long, and there's no real disjunct in style - its a late romantic song and is entitle to chromaticism after all! But it certainly doesn't crash into anything at the end - there an energetic episode about 3/4 of the way through but it quickly calms down again...

There's lots of material around (best of all in the Jan Swafford biography of him) which explain his political, religious and humanistic leanings and how these are expressed in the music.
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Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2009, 10:59:53 AM »
that´s what I mean, the song is more romantic than modern, but it really does crash around 3/4 shortly in a very harsh way. My point is, that many of his songs doesn´t sound experimental but musical. I don´t want to call it a musical taste but a universal progress. But then of cause the same can be said about every single composers on the planet. Well, ok, I like the word Ideological Predisposition  ;D

Egebedieff

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2009, 11:04:16 AM »
I guess you mean Ich grolle night?
Nicht nacht, nicht.
I also was puzzled by the comment, but I am not sure I was parsing your sentences correctly, Mikkel. Will seek clarification later. 

Not characteristic Ives --  count it as a student work.  I do like, or am at least amused by,  how Ivesrepeats "Ich grolle nicht" as in "doth protest too much," and that rare ornament in the first measure (piano and then in the voice). Hard to find such in Ives -- and the occurrence in the Piano Trio seems like either a reference to, or unconscious evocation of the romanticism of the song.
'

 
« Last Edit: December 29, 2009, 05:15:23 PM by ' »

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2009, 01:21:58 PM »
Nicht nacht, nicht.
Not characteristic Ives --  count it as a student work.  '

But all his songs are quite different. I also remember there was a beautyful christmas carol!  :o So isn´t it normal for Ives to write things that doesn´t even sound like himself? Fx compare his first and last symphonies.  :P I thought Grolle Nicht or Nacht was a typical and wellwritten Ives piece.

Egebedieff

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2009, 01:58:02 PM »
But all his songs are quite different. I also remember there was a beautyful christmas carol!  :o So isn´t it normal for Ives to write things that doesn´t even sound like himself? Fx compare his first and last symphonies.  :P I thought Grolle Nicht or Nacht was a typical and wellwritten Ives piece.
Yes, you are absolutely correct about the songs all being quite different, but there is a class of student pieces where one senses that he isn't given a free rein. Those German songs were a class project (I _think_ that all of them were), and I remember that he was complimented on one  (Ich Grolle Nicht I think) by a composer visiting Parker's class (who? Chadwick?) for showing something that Schumann hadn't. Sorry, sketchy here. Someone less so will likely swoop in before I am home with time to confirm or correct.

First Symphony also was a Yale composition, and for a lot of this music he was on a shorter leash studying with Horatio Parker.

And that little Christmas Carol is a lovely thing, with its little shifted beats: "Little town of Bethlehem, do we see thee..."

'
« Last Edit: December 29, 2009, 03:11:28 PM by ' »

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2009, 03:01:00 PM »
I just remember the Ich Grolle Nicht had some really disturbing chords that sounded like they were not really leading in any direction at all. Maybe it has been a spell mistake in the notes, I double checked it.

Offline Guido

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2009, 04:05:13 PM »
Arg cant believe I got it wrong when I was correcting it! Of course it's Nicht!

Anyway, the German song that Ives was praised for was Feldeninsamkeit which is probably the best of the German language songs - Parker grumbled about it modulating too much, but the visiting professor Chadwick (Parker's own teacher) said that it was in its way as good as Brahms (or something to that effect) and also that it was as good as anything that Parker could have written (much to Ives' delight I am sure).

This is all remembered from the Swafford biography which is not with me at the moment, so I can't be sure if I'm right....

Sorry, quite off topic now.
Geologist.

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Egebedieff

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2009, 04:14:49 PM »
I figured it was a fingerslip, but who could resist the nicht knock?

Thanks for sorting out the story; I had forgotten that Chadwick's comment was also a dig at Parker.

(Still holding out hope for Ha-Ho Chorales).
'
« Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 02:04:13 AM by ' »

Offline Guido

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Re: Musical Taste and Ideological Predisposition
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2009, 04:39:41 PM »
(Still holding out hope for Ha-Ho Chorales).
'

(Me too!)
Geologist.

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