Author Topic: How do we get composers out of obscurity?  (Read 3119 times)

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Offline Ken B

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #40 on: December 31, 2017, 03:31:22 PM »
I have denied you nothing, Maestro. You’re free to buy a Marx recording just as you are an Erdmann recording. The music is available regardless of what anyone here (or elsewhere) has said.
I saw you rip the CD from his hands and stomp on it.  You had a photo of the wreckage as your avatar, but only briefly.
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #41 on: December 31, 2017, 03:32:00 PM »
I saw you rip the CD from his hands and stomp on it.  You had a photo of the wreckage as your avatar, but only briefly.

Guilty as charged! :P
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Offline DaveF

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #42 on: January 01, 2018, 02:59:19 PM »
There is perhaps an assumption in this thread that "obscure" means the same as "unappreciated" or "not recognised", which I'm not sure it does at all.  Take for example a composer like Dunstable - household name?  Certainly not.  Recognised by those that know his music as one of the greatest English composers and a key figure of late medieval/early Renaissance times?  Absolutely.  Obscure?  Very.  Or another group of composers I've been enjoying a lot recently, Bach's precursors in the North German organ school - Lübeck, Weckmann, Böhm, Tunder et al.  All pretty obscure, yet all very fine composers even to the most casual listener and well-known among the organists who actually play their music.  So perhaps there are various species of obscurity, the type suffered by composers who just aren't very good (not really appreciated by anyone), and the (much sadder) type suffered by masters of the likes of Dunstable due to medieval isorhythmic motets being very much of a minority interest.
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #43 on: January 01, 2018, 03:16:31 PM »
There is perhaps an assumption in this thread that "obscure" means the same as "unappreciated" or "not recognised", which I'm not sure it does at all.  Take for example a composer like Dunstable - household name?  Certainly not.  Recognised by those that know his music as one of the greatest English composers and a key figure of late medieval/early Renaissance times?  Absolutely.  Obscure?  Very.  Or another group of composers I've been enjoying a lot recently, Bach's precursors in the North German organ school - Lübeck, Weckmann, Böhm, Tunder et al.  All pretty obscure, yet all very fine composers even to the most casual listener and well-known among the organists who actually play their music.  So perhaps there are various species of obscurity, the type suffered by composers who just aren't very good (not really appreciated by anyone), and the (much sadder) type suffered by masters of the likes of Dunstable due to medieval isorhythmic motets being very much of a minority interest.

Well said.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #44 on: January 01, 2018, 07:37:48 PM »
There is perhaps an assumption in this thread that "obscure" means the same as "unappreciated" or "not recognised", which I'm not sure it does at all.  Take for example a composer like Dunstable - household name?  Certainly not.  Recognised by those that know his music as one of the greatest English composers and a key figure of late medieval/early Renaissance times?  Absolutely.  Obscure?  Very.  Or another group of composers I've been enjoying a lot recently, Bach's precursors in the North German organ school - Lübeck, Weckmann, Böhm, Tunder et al.  All pretty obscure, yet all very fine composers even to the most casual listener and well-known among the organists who actually play their music.  So perhaps there are various species of obscurity, the type suffered by composers who just aren't very good (not really appreciated by anyone), and the (much sadder) type suffered by masters of the likes of Dunstable due to medieval isorhythmic motets being very much of a minority interest.

Yes. As Karl says, well said. And obscure refers to mass cultural recognition or its lack. It has nothing to do with “unrecorded”, or “unknown to those with specialized interests”.
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #45 on: January 01, 2018, 09:22:58 PM »
Most of the obscure composers from the Romantic Period are indeed best left in obscurity. Most of them sound the same and while the music is good, it is most of the time derivative and certainly no better, nor have a distinction of some kind that limited time and attention could be served better elsewhere, like in the well known composers or obscure composers of the 20th (or 21st?) century.

A bit over-stated but you get my point...
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Offline Brian

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #46 on: January 02, 2018, 07:14:52 AM »
*sees thread title*

Hey, what an interesting topic! But I bet it dissolved into fighting over whether specific composers deserve obscurity or fame, rather than addressing the question at hand.

*clicks thread*

sigh

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #47 on: January 02, 2018, 07:15:56 AM »
Q: How do we get composers out of obscurity?

A: WCRB FM Boston
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #48 on: January 02, 2018, 08:06:13 AM »
*sees thread title*

Hey, what an interesting topic! But I bet it dissolved into fighting over whether specific composers deserve obscurity or fame, rather than addressing the question at hand.

*clicks thread*

sigh
What is really ironic is the number of posters that have various degrees of sympathy with leaving obscure composers in obscurity, considering many of the composers they listen to today were once considered obscure. It boggles the mind.

But there is no sure fire way to get an obscure composer out of that situation. Having a champion probably works best, but that is no guarantee. Exposure helps too. And even though I think Karl is being a little sarcastic (I think), exposure on a radio station, internet station, college radio station, TV, etc., can be quite helpful. I see a lot of people exploring music they liked in a movie (or TV show or even commercial), so that is a way that could be explored further.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #49 on: January 02, 2018, 08:12:45 AM »
To follow-up Karl’s funny, but quite true comment:

Q: How do we get composers out of obscurity?

A: Fire all the members of a major orchestra’s committee that want the conductor to perform Beethoven’s 9th for the umpteenth time instead of performing something adventurous and that’s out-of-the-norm.
“I really would like to go to Marmorkirken. It was there that I heard music for the first time, and that experience is like a heavenly vision for me.” - Rued Langgaard

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #50 on: January 02, 2018, 08:38:19 AM »
What is really ironic is the number of posters that have various degrees of sympathy with leaving obscure composers in obscurity, considering many of the composers they listen to today were once considered obscure. It boggles the mind.

But there is no sure fire way to get an obscure composer out of that situation. Having a champion probably works best, but that is no guarantee. Exposure helps too. And even though I think Karl is being a little sarcastic (I think), exposure on a radio station, internet station, college radio station, TV, etc., can be quite helpful. I see a lot of people exploring music they liked in a movie (or TV show or even commercial), so that is a way that could be explored further.

A little.  This morning it was too cold, apparently, for the car's audio system to read the thumb drive, so I had to resort to the radio.  I do not absolutely say anything against [one movement of] an Arriaga string quartet, nor a Resnicek overture, but these back-to-back grade-B, safe-as-milk selections, plus Laura “Queen of Trite” Carlo, underscore why WCRB is for me no better than a last resort.
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Offline Biffo

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #51 on: January 02, 2018, 08:56:34 AM »
To follow-up Karl’s funny, but quite true comment:

Q: How do we get composers out of obscurity?

A: Fire all the members of a major orchestra’s committee that want the conductor to perform Beethoven’s 9th for the umpteenth time instead of performing something adventurous and that’s out-of-the-norm.

So you sack the committee, persuade the conductor to perform Pettersson's 9th Symphony (roughly the same length as Beethoven's 9th), spend a substantial amount of money on orchestral parts and even more on the lengthy rehearsals that would be needed, how many people would turn up to hear it?

An exercise like that might be possible with a sponsor and perhaps once a season but as a long term strategy would be financial suicide.

The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Christian Lindberg have recorded Pettersson's 9th (I was listening to it yesterday) and presumably played it in public but I am not sure how often it has been heard outside Sweden.

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #52 on: January 02, 2018, 09:01:58 AM »
So you sack the committee, persuade the conductor to perform Pettersson's 9th Symphony (roughly the same length as Beethoven's 9th), spend a substantial amount of money on orchestral parts and even more on the lengthy rehearsals that would be needed, how many people would turn up to hear it?

An exercise like that might be possible with a sponsor and perhaps once a season but as a long term strategy would be financial suicide.

The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Christian Lindberg have recorded Pettersson's 9th (I was listening to it yesterday) and presumably played it in public but I am not sure how often it has been heard outside Sweden.

Oh, no. Definitely not a long-term solution at all since orchestras have to make money and depend on the big names of the repertoire to draw crowds in. As for the Pettersson 9th, umm....you couldn’t pay me to fill a seat for a performance of this symphony. :)
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #53 on: January 02, 2018, 09:04:47 AM »
So you sack the committee, persuade the conductor to perform Pettersson's 9th Symphony (roughly the same length as Beethoven's 9th), spend a substantial amount of money on orchestral parts and even more on the lengthy rehearsals that would be needed, how many people would turn up to hear it?

Yes, the Boston Symphony has played the LvB Op.125 hundreds of times (Beethoven is the only name actually carved into the proscenium at Symphony Hall) so that all the notes fit under the fingers almost without thinking, but I think you are exaggerating the "lengthy rehearsals" angle for the Pettersson.  Heck, I am no fan of Pettersson, but I'd go hear the symphony live.

And they would publicize the piece, and its singularity in the season.

Sure, it is possible that not all the seats at Symphony Hall may be filled;  but it is not at all as if the Hall would be half-empty.

I suppose you were probably exaggerating for rhetorical effect;  but paring back on the LvB, Brahms & Tchaikovsky isn't really the box office poison—in Boston, at least—that you fear.
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Offline Brian

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #54 on: January 02, 2018, 09:07:20 AM »
What is really ironic is the number of posters that have various degrees of sympathy with leaving obscure composers in obscurity, considering many of the composers they listen to today were once considered obscure. It boggles the mind.

But there is no sure fire way to get an obscure composer out of that situation. Having a champion probably works best, but that is no guarantee. Exposure helps too. And even though I think Karl is being a little sarcastic (I think), exposure on a radio station, internet station, college radio station, TV, etc., can be quite helpful. I see a lot of people exploring music they liked in a movie (or TV show or even commercial), so that is a way that could be explored further.
I was hoping there would be a discussion of how it has actually happened in the past, even the recent past - composers like Janacek and Britten are relatively recent additions to the USA repertoire, for instance, and Weinberg is now working his way into the core European rep. Even 15 years ago I don't think you would see just about every major record label looking to produce Weinberg. First time I ever heard Janacek's Sinfonietta was live in Houston in 2008, when the conductor made an introductory speech saying how hopeful he was to champion Janacek in the United States. Fast forward to last year, a chorister I know in Arizona did Glagolitic Mass with her local group.

So it can happen and is happening.

Offline Biffo

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #55 on: January 02, 2018, 09:20:27 AM »
Yes, the Boston Symphony has played the LvB Op.125 hundreds of times (Beethoven is the only name actually carved into the proscenium at Symphony Hall) so that all the notes fit under the fingers almost without thinking, but I think you are exaggerating the "lengthy rehearsals" angle for the Pettersson.  Heck, I am no fan of Pettersson, but I'd go hear the symphony live.

And they would publicize the piece, and its singularity in the season.

Sure, it is possible that not all the seats at Symphony Hall may be filled;  but it is not at all as if the Hall would be half-empty.

I suppose you were probably exaggerating for rhetorical effect;  but paring back on the LvB, Brahms & Tchaikovsky isn't really the box office poison—in Boston, at least—that you fear.

I don't think I am exaggerating. A relatively difficult 65-70 min new work would require a lot of rehearsal. I know we have at least one orchestral musician in the forum, perhaps we could have an opinion. Yes, I know you are a composer.

Several of the UK's leading orchestras have Composers in Residence and perform their works fairly often but it is part of a season of the usual fare.

Offline Jo498

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #56 on: January 02, 2018, 09:25:36 AM »
But there is a big difference here between a locally well established composer getting spread to the backwaters (or simply foreign cultures) and a comparably lesser known composer achieving some recognition at all.

Britten was obviously the most famous British composer from the mid-20th century on and at least the "Young Person's Guide" while not terribly characteristic was well known in Germany when I was in elementary school around 1980. Janacek was huge in the Czechoslovakia already many decades ago.

It is a similar case with composers mentioned above who are well known and respected in certain niche fields, like Böhm or Reger in Organ music. They are already there, it is just that most listeners are not sufficiently into organ music. (Same goes for a cappella choral music.)

Weinberg probably gets a chance because people are getting bored of yet another recording of some Shostakovich. The latter was never obscure but only 30 years ago his music was not even close to the popularity it enjoys now.
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #57 on: January 02, 2018, 10:08:46 AM »
I don't think I am exaggerating. A relatively difficult 65-70 min new work would require a lot of rehearsal.

I am also thinking of an orchestra which (more frequently than most major orchestras in the states) has programmed pieces by Saariaho, Carter, Wuorinen, & al.;  so part of what I am saying is, that some degree of extra time for an unfamiliar/new piece is factored into the season.  I am not saying you're wrong;  I am only proposing a refinement  8)


Also:  for many orchestras, no, I do not think your illustration any exaggeration.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #58 on: January 02, 2018, 10:16:43 AM »
To follow-up Karl’s funny, but quite true comment:

Q: How do we get composers out of obscurity?

A: Fire all the members of a major orchestra’s committee that want the conductor to perform La Mer for the umpteenth time instead of performing something adventurous and that’s out-of-the-norm.

FTFY
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #59 on: January 02, 2018, 10:21:54 AM »
I am also thinking of an orchestra which (more frequently than most major orchestras in the states) has programmed pieces by Saariaho, Carter, Wuorinen, & al.;  so part of what I am saying is, that some degree of extra time for an unfamiliar/new piece is factored into the season.  I am not saying you're wrong;  I am only proposing a refinement  8)


Also:  for many orchestras, no, I do not think your illustration any exaggeration.

For second tier orchestras in the U.S. (other than Boston, New York, Chicago, etc) the season is too skimpy to even perform a decent amount of Beethoven, let alone dreck like Petersen. Boston may have an orchestra with an expansive enough schedule and highly skilled musicians who could handle difficult obscure music, but they also have bad economics - high costs, ticket prices you need a trust fund to afford and prima donna musicians with union rules limiting the rehearsal time they must endure. If the obscure works are to be performed in the U.S., it has to be with semi-professional orchestra packed with committed musicians who have day-jobs, I think.