Author Topic: Memories and Associations (Unusual and Otherwise) Connected To Musical Works  (Read 3482 times)

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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One of my memories is from about 25 years ago or so, when I was showing a videotape (remember those?) of Jessye Norman performing Erwartung by Schoenberg.

I was teaching German at the time, and used the text (not particularly difficult) in the third-year class for translation practice, and then showed the performance on a projection TV which the football coaches used.

At the end of the performance, one of my juniors leaned back and sighed and shook his head.  I asked what was wrong, and he replied: "That opera had so much tension!"
 ;)

So much for any supposed language barrier!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. Franoise Gilot

Online Jo498

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The oddest associations I can think of are with Mahler's 4th symphony. One are the "tattoo signals" in the first movement that remind me of some children's cassette I had but I do not even remember the precise song it is similar to.
The other is more generally connected with the strange faux naivity of the whole piece. Around the time I first listened to Mahler's 4th with 17 we went on a school trip to Greece and in one of the Meteora monasteries there were really odd paintings or frescoes, depicting either legends of saints/martyrs or biblical stories or maybe historical episodes in a strangely naive picture-book-like fashion. Often quite cruel, with bloody severed heads rolling around, I think. My memories are very dim, but to this day I often think of the Metora when I listen to Mahler's 4th.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline relm1

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My unusual memory was from the premiere of Scriabin/Nemtin Mysterium.  After the hour long onslaught ended, the diminutive Vladimir Ashkenazy nervously peaked at the audience to see if anyone was still left in the concert hall.  It was generally well received but I remember he seemed unsure of how it would be received. 

Offline Sergeant Rock

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The opening of Beethoven's Ninth's Scherzo was used at one time for a radio news program--don't ask me which one!  I've been trying for decades to remember...

I don't know about a radio news program but The Huntley-Brinkley Report (NBC News) used it. That Beethoven movement is indelibly linked to Chet and David just like The William Tell Overture will forever bring up visions of the Lone Ranger and Silver.

Sarge
« Last Edit: March 18, 2017, 06:49:25 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Cato

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My unusual memory was from the premiere of Scriabin/Nemtin Mysterium.  After the hour long onslaught ended, the diminutive Vladimir Ashkenazy nervously peaked at the audience to see if anyone was still left in the concert hall.  It was generally well received but I remember he seemed unsure of how it would be received.

Wow!  YOU were there!!!  Tell us more!  That is one of my favorite works, ever since the first movement was revealed back in the 1970's!

Concerning Mahler, I played for some unknown reason the Tenth Symphony (completed version) not long after my father's funeral.  Perhaps I was looking for a catharsis, but I approach the work cautiously now because of that association.

 

"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Offline Spineur

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The success of some commercials comes entirely from the classical music used.  The best example that come to my mind is the insurer (CNP) used the Waltz from Shostakovich Jazz suite no 2, and this was an instant hit.  Shostakovich sales went to the roof.  I believe the retro style of this particular piece matched the topic so perfectly.

Here is the waltz (without the commercial)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/7UIHl0oJEpg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/7UIHl0oJEpg</a>
 
A woman voice glides like the wind
Of black, of damp, of night
And all it touches in this flight
Suddenly is over.

Anna Akhomatova

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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The success of some commercials comes entirely from the classical music used.  The best example that come to my mind is the insurer (CNP) used the Waltz from Shostakovich Jazz suite no 2, and this was an instant hit.  Shostakovich sales went to the roof.  I believe the retro style of this particular piece matched the topic so perfectly.

Here is the waltz (without the commercial)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/7UIHl0oJEpg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/7UIHl0oJEpg</a>
 

Myself, I shall for a long time yet think of the Timothy Hutton/Maury Chaykin adaptation of Rex Stout's Champagne for One, in which this is used.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. Franoise Gilot

Offline ahinton

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My unusual memory was from the premiere of Scriabin/Nemtin Mysterium.  After the hour long onslaught ended, the diminutive Vladimir Ashkenazy nervously peaked at the audience to see if anyone was still left in the concert hall.  It was generally well received but I remember he seemed unsure of how it would be received.
That must have been only an excerpt, although I do not know which; the whole is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4YSysUn-Bk and plays for 2 hours 40 minutes but it's unclear which section you heard because only the last is close to an hour in duration. It's a very considerable achievement on Nemtin's part but, the copious Scriabin quotations aside, I imagine that it's mostly Nemtin and not much Scriabin. I did ask the Scriabin scholar Jonathan Powell about this be he didn't respond, so one might make whatever one might make of that!...

Offline Cato

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That must have been only an excerpt, although I do not know which; the whole is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4YSysUn-Bk and plays for 2 hours 40 minutes but it's unclear which section you heard because only the last is close to an hour in duration. It's a very considerable achievement on Nemtin's part but, the copious Scriabin quotations aside,I imagine that it's mostly Nemtin and not much Scriabin. I did ask the Scriabin scholar Jonathan Powell about this but he didn't respond, so one might make whatever one might make of that!...

How much of this is Nemtin and how much is Scriabin?  Yes, that is the question!

Much is made of the 53 pages of "musical sketches" found in Scriabin's house, and left untouched for 55 years!   So one assumes that the text is not necessarily taking up space in these pages, or too much.  Depending on the size of the pages, the penmanship, etc. that could be a considerable amount of material.  On the other hand, according to the CD notes, Nemtin mentions using a late piano piece as material for Part II.  "I made use of the Prelude Op. 74 #2..."  That would seem to indicate that such use was not indicated in the sketches.

The CD has other vague comments: there is a quote of Nemtin saying that he "was unwilling to write in the style of Scriabin," for a documentary about the composer.  Do we assume that he changed his mind...or was there enough material for Nemtin to follow without inventing anything of his own?

To return to the topic: the opening of this work is connected to a death in my family, this time my grandmother.  She died in our house in July in the 1970's, at a time when I was often playing the work in my room.

Such a connection would please Scriabin, I think!
"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Offline aligreto

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I must have been only about fourteen or fifteen years old. It was one very warm summer Sunday afternoon. I was lying on my bed. A soft, warm breeze was gently stroking the net curtains on my open window. BBC 3 was on the radio. Mahlers Symphony no. 6 was playing but unfortunately I cannot remember the orchestra or the conductor. I was engrossed. Then the slow movement began. I closed my eyes and the music enveloped me and washed over me. I thought that I was in heaven.
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Offline Monsieur Croche

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I don't get the usual (I suppose, "usual," anyway) associations so many seem to get with music.  It seems I don't even get those more exceptional occasions as tied in with some memorable event upon first hearing, or hearing a piece live for the first time in that hall, those performers, that time of your life; I do remember exactly such performances, as exciting, thrilling, etc. but as the especially electric performance I heard of _____, i.e. rather directly what it was.

What is memorable and impresses -- and lingers in memory -- is the music itself. 
A lot of what is extra-musical around music eludes me, it seems.

I rarely if ever get associative images or a sense of literal narrative from music, either.  To me, it parses down to music being a very direct thing all of its own.  I know this is somewhat unusual, as even my numerous musician friends -- over several decades and places -- do seem to have / get those associations.


Best regards
~ I'm all for personal expression; it just has to express something to me. ~

Offline some guy

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Me either.

I have lots of memories in which music is involved, but the music is always the focus, not the catalyst. That is, whenever I listen to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, I don't think of Darmstadt, where I was living when I first heard it, but if I ever think of Darmstadt, that will trigger memories of first hearing the Bartok.

Stockholm. Where I first heard Stravinsky's Les Noces.

Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Where I found a CD of Michele Bokanowski's L'etoile Absinthe.

Places, events, people, circumstances--all of those can trigger memories of music. Sure!! The other direction? Not so much.

So thanks, M. Croche, for articulating all that so well for me. Took all the pressure off.  :)
« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 12:21:07 PM by some guy »

Offline aligreto

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The way that it works for me, not just in music but also in literature and to a lesser extent in visual art, is that I do not always remember or recall all of the exact details of a work until I hear, read or see it again. What I come away with and what stays with me is a strong impression of the impact that particular work made on me.
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Offline Uhor

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Dorian Horizon makes me think of trains departing.

Offline Cato

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Dorian Horizon makes me think of trains departing.

Thanks for the recommendation:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/x4hMYQ_D7GQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/x4hMYQ_D7GQ</a>
"Now who taught ye t' be playin' patty fingers in the holy water?"

- Barry Fitzgerald to John Wayne in  The Quiet Man.

Offline α |

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My whole life and Xenakis' entire catalogue  ;D
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Offline α |

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Not that I'm much of a general Shostakovitch fan, his 9th string quartet is filled with a sensei persona to me. It's highly nostalgic too, I can hear myself in it
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PotashPie

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Here is one of my post/blogs, which exists on another site:

Instrumental music is not, literally, about any particular "narrative." This doesn't mean it has no other meaning, such as evoking strong "emotional states," as in Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, Five Pieces and Mahler's symphonies.

Instrumental music, "musical sound", when divorced from "literal action" and drama, lost its connection to explicit meaning, and was revealed for what it is: a non-representational medium, the abstract evocation of "inner" states of being, which, coincidentally, is exactly what "abstract art" does: it reveals the artist's, and by empathy, the viewer's inner emotional state of being.

Music gradually divorced itself from drama over several centuries. Look at the rise of instrumental forms: the symphony, the concerto, tone poems, etc.

In instrumental Romanticism, although it was music divorced from drama, still had residual traces of drama, expressed as "dramatic gestures."

This "splitting" of drama from music opened-up a new can of worms, giving us the whole range of the non-specific "feelings" evoked by music, which are by their very "non-narrative nature" fleeting, transitory, and ephemeral, unclear, evocative, vague, and indefinable (meaning non-narrative).

Still, this is not a requirement for music to be expressive of emotion or states of being. To take matters even further into the fog, when we get into more modern music, I think "emotion" as a descriptive term begins to fail us. For example, in Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, the "emotional gestures" expressed are so complex that we begin to experience them as "states of being," like anxiety, foreboding, fear, tension, awe, etc., creating in our minds, empathetically, a reflection of our own, and the artist's, "inner state of being."

Concerning modernism, it's true that in many instances the "evoking" of dramatic emotion, and dramatic gesture is absent (but certainly not always). Stockhausen evokes, for me, a sort of "Platonic classicism" in his Klavierstcke; with modernism, we must put aside our need for drama and overt emotion, and listen on the level of "pure abstraction," an enjoyment of color, sound, and timbre itself. In this sense, modern music is not "modern" at all; music has always been "abstract expressionism" when divorced from drama and opera.

So, in a sense, this is an "internal narrative" we share with the composer, but indefinable in literal narrative terms, because these are transitory, fleeting states by nature; simply "gestures of meanings."

Our general knowledge, and the historical context of a work can provide a source of "general narrative content" which can add greatly to the meaning of a piece, if only in our own minds. This always happens for me with Shostakovich (images of Soviet Russia) and with Webern's Op. 6 (Six Pieces for Orchestra), which always evokes in me grey images of Europe immediately preceding the World Wars. With Mahler, the Sixth Symphony snare-drum always evokes images of some malevolent military presence marching through our once-peaceful existence.

I think in many cases, the composer actually is composing with a specific narrative in mind, from his own emotionally-charged experience of events in his life, and then leaving it up to us to interpret it as we will; but we will never know for sure. That's the beauty of poetry; it is open-ended in meaning.

That's a useful distinction, I think; instrumental non-narrative music (containing "dramatic gesture") is more like poetry, whereas the explicit meaning and narrative of opera is like a story or novel.

Perhaps that's the reason opera seems to lend itself to an audience more easily; the "poetry" of instrumental music is an "inner" experience, more solitary in nature, like reading a book of poems by yourself. Maybe sitting there in the concert hall listening to instrumental music gave audiences too much idle time to think.

Offline α |

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^^ Are those your memories?  ::)
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A specific image one piece gives me is Schnittke's Concerto Grosso no 1:

Around three years ago when I was in another city, I would walk from my suburban home (at that time with my parents) into the City. Between the two places there was a long walking trail by the harbor. It was usually bright and sunny and quite beautiful. So whenever I listen to that piece in particular my mind flips to that image.
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