Author Topic: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers  (Read 67412 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline petrarch

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1452
  • Luigi Nono (1924-1990)
  • Location: Boston, MA
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #60 on: March 12, 2014, 04:02:25 PM »
The New Music: The Avant-garde since 1945
Reginald Smith Brindle



Ah yes, that is a good one. I have the 1987 edition and I agree, the graphic score examples were fascinating. The chapter on pointillism was what spurred my imagination and made me "crack the nut" of serial music and more generally of the output of the Darmstadt composers. It certainly helps that Smith-Brindle is himself a composer of serial music. His Serial Composition is also an interesting read if you are into the technical aspects.
//p
The music collection.
The hi-fi system: Esoteric X-03SE -> Pathos Logos -> Analysis Audio Amphitryon.
A view of the whole

Offline San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8046
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #61 on: March 12, 2014, 04:15:36 PM »
Ah yes, that is a good one. I have the 1987 edition and I agree, the graphic score examples were fascinating. The chapter on pointillism was what spurred my imagination and made me "crack the nut" of serial music and more generally of the output of the Darmstadt composers. It certainly helps that Smith-Brindle is himself a composer of serial music. His Serial Composition is also an interesting read if you are into the technical aspects.

I knew his name was familiar; I have his book on Serial Composition.  But I don't need another book on the last 50 years of the 20th C.

Offline petrarch

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1452
  • Luigi Nono (1924-1990)
  • Location: Boston, MA
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #62 on: March 12, 2014, 04:45:23 PM »
I knew his name was familiar; I have his book on Serial Composition.  But I don't need another book on the last 50 years of the 20th C.

Of course, the state of the art book-wise on the topic has advanced considerably, not to mention how spare that book is on some very important composers and styles. However, it still is a very good read for the documentary value of having a composer articulate that period of music history through his own lens. There clearly are different angles in each of the books mentioned, and in my opinion this depends primarily on the nationality of the author and to some extent his or her aesthetic preferences. The end result is they all complement each other nicely, even at the cost of some redundancy.
//p
The music collection.
The hi-fi system: Esoteric X-03SE -> Pathos Logos -> Analysis Audio Amphitryon.
A view of the whole

Offline torut

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1012
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #63 on: March 12, 2014, 07:59:45 PM »
I am not all too familiar with Xenakis, but if I understand correctly he used statistics directly and mathematically. Ligeti studied to become a scientist (only going to the conservatory after being turned down by the science academy because he was Jewish during 1930s Europe) and he could have written notes, durations, dynamics, etc. according to some mathematical output using fractals, but he doesn't. Instead, he takes an intuitive approach and interprets mathematical and scientific ideas more artistically. For example, consider his (awesome  ;)) piano concerto. There isn't any formulaic writing that can be found in Xenakis (with statistics), but rather an artistic interpretation of chaos theory. In the fourth movement, a few motifs are presented in a sparse, plain style. I like to think of this as "the overall picture" of the Mandelbrot Set. As the work progresses, the same motifs are heard. However, they are sped-up and fragmented. To me, this is like what happens visually if you keep zooming in on the Mandelbrot Set plot. It keeps multiplying (self-similarity)!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEw8xpb1aRA
Thank you. Mandelbrot Set is so fascinating. I want to re-listen to some of Ligeti. (I have the piano concerto on Ligeti Project I CD, but I cannot play it, because my CD player is broken, and it cannot be ripped with computer, because of the copy protection (I think.) All the CDs that cannot be ripped (Mozart/Beethoven, Berio) are Warner's.  >:()
I don't know how accurately Xenakis applied mathematics on his music. Some say it is pseudo-mathematics. In any case, if the music is good, it doesn't matter, but it is fun for me to know theories behind music.

Offline 7/4

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 310
  • Location: other
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 06:37:55 AM by 7/4 »

Offline 7/4

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 310
  • Location: other

Offline torut

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1012
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #66 on: March 13, 2014, 10:33:16 PM »
Thank you all for your suggestions. I summarized books mentioned so far, including that are not only recommended but also unread by anyone or yet published, but excluding that about individual composers, with rough coverage. Forgive me for any mistakes, I tried to get information from web sites for those books I don't have.

Music in the Early Twentieth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin
Music in the Late Twentieth Century: The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin

A Concise History of Modern Music by Paul Griffiths : Debussy ~ Boulez (1978)
The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross : Mahler ~ Bjork (?)
Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries by Joseph Auner : Mahler ~ Chen Yi (?)
The Companion To 20th-century Music by Norman Lebrecht : 1900 ~ 1996
New Music at Darmstadt: Nono, Stockhausen, Cage, and Boulez (Music Since 1900) by Dr Martin Iddon
The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin: Voices of Stone and Steel by Walter Simmons
The New Music: The Avant-garde since 1945 by Reginald Smith Brindle : 1945 ~ 1986
Modern Music - The avant garde since 1945 by Paul Griffiths : 1945 ~ 1981
Modern Music and After by Paul Griffiths : 1945 ~ 21th Century (Lachenman, Sciarrino, )
Experimental Music by Michael Nyman : 1950 ~ 1970, Cage, Cardew, Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen
American Music in the Twentieth Century by Kyle Gann : Ives ~ 1990s
The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts by Steven Johnson : 1st half of 20th Century (Cage, Feldman, Brown, Tudor)
This Life of Sounds: Evenings for New Music in Buffalo by Renee Levine Packer : 1964 ~ 1980, new music in America
Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice by Kyle Gann : 1980 ~ 1990s, Music in NYC
Electronic & Computer Music by Peter Manning : 1945 ~ present
"a history of modern composition since 1989" by Tim Rutherford-Johnson (not published) : 1989 ~ present?

[EDIT] Corrected mistakes; Added Taruskin books.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 01:18:31 PM by torut »

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 17567
  • Location: Oulu, Finland
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #67 on: March 13, 2014, 11:28:13 PM »
Thank you all for your suggestions. I summarized books mentioned so far, including that are not only recommended but also unread by anyone or yet published, but excluding that about individual composers, with rough coverage. Forgive me for any mistakes, I tried to get information from web sites for those books I don't have.

The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross : Mahler ~ Bjork (?)

Björk is discussed rather briefly (not nearly as briefly as Wuorinen, though...)
Sibelius and Britten get their own chapters. Strauss is discussed in some length, too.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 58802
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #68 on: March 14, 2014, 05:18:27 AM »
Sibelius and Britten get their own chapters. Strauss is discussed in some length, too.

Those chapters are Ross at his best.

There's also a chapter on Shostakovich, which I find verges on tabloid musicology quite uncomfortably.  Worth a read, all the same, but . . . I cringe a little, just remembering . . . .
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. — Françoise Gilot

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 17567
  • Location: Oulu, Finland
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #69 on: March 14, 2014, 06:10:22 AM »
Those chapters are Ross at his best.

There's also a chapter on Shostakovich, which I find verges on tabloid musicology quite uncomfortably.  Worth a read, all the same, but . . . I cringe a little, just remembering . . . .
Sergei Prokofiev is in the same chapter too of course, but yes, not the best part of the book.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline torut

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1012
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #70 on: March 14, 2014, 06:28:30 AM »
I read Solomon Volkov's Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, whose credibility is questioned. Is there a general consensus about it? If it is unreliable or inaccurate, is there a good book about Shostakovich and Russian composers related to him (such as Glaznov, Prokofief, Weinberg, etc.)?

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 17567
  • Location: Oulu, Finland
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #71 on: March 14, 2014, 06:39:55 AM »
I read Solomon Volkov's Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, whose credibility is questioned. Is there a general consensus about it? If it is unreliable or inaccurate, is there a good book about Shostakovich and Russian composers related to him (such as Glaznov, Prokofief, Weinberg, etc.)?
Here is some discussion of Testimony.

Quote from: karlhenning at http://www.good-music-guide.com/forum/index.php?topic=702.115

The Volkov is problematic;  it isn't "pure fiction" (for one thing, Maksim Dmitriyevich vouched for its general truth).  ..... but it is covered by some serious clouds.

really - the Volkov has been supported by many musicians with whom Shostakovich worked - ie - they assert that he said similar or identical things to them - but still it remains in question...

there were those who've tried to completely discredit Volkov, but it seems that isn't right either...
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 06:42:11 AM by North Star »
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8046
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #72 on: March 14, 2014, 07:23:39 AM »
Personal note vis a vis this thread, not that my preferences are noteworthy, but I have some interest whether there is a crude division as to what different people look for in these kinds of books.

For myself, I am far more interested in books that offer musical analysis as opposed to primarily biographical information.  While the biographical context can offer some insights into the music, I generally prefer to focus almost exclusively on the music and how it is put together rather than the composer's life.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 58802
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #73 on: March 14, 2014, 07:41:12 AM »
I read Solomon Volkov's Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, whose credibility is questioned. Is there a general consensus about it? If it is unreliable or inaccurate, is there a good book about Shostakovich and Russian composers related to him (such as Glaznov, Prokofief, Weinberg, etc.)?

Here is some discussion of Testimony.




And, courtesy of Jens:

Quote from: Irina Antonovna
Volkov and 'Testimony'

During interviews, I am often asked about the veracity of the book "Testimony" by Solomon Volkov, published as Shostakovich's memoirs. Here is what I think.

Mr. Volkov worked for Sovetskaya Muzyka magazine, where Shostakovich was a member of the editorial board. As a favor to Boris Tishchenko, his pupil and colleague, Shostakovich agreed to be interviewed by Mr. Volkov, whom he knew little about, for an article to be published in Sovetskaya Muzyka. There were three interviews; each lasted two to two and a half hours, no longer, since Shostakovich grew tired of extensive chat and lost interest in the conversation. Two of the interviews were held in the presence of Mr. Tishchenko. The interviews were not taped.

Mr. Volkov arrived at the second interview with a camera (Mr. Volkov's wife, a professional photographer, always took pictures of Mr. Volkov with anyone who might become useful in the future) and asked Mr. Tishchenko and me to take pictures "as a keepsake." He brought a photograph to the third interview and asked Shostakovich to sign it. Shostakovich wrote his usual words: "To dear Solomon Maseyevich Volkov, in fond remembrance. D. Shostakovich 13.XI.1974." Then, as if sensing something amiss, he asked for the photograph back and, according to Mr. Volkov himself, added: "In memory of our talks on Glazunov, Zoshchenko and Meyerhold. D. Sh."

That was a list of the topics covered during the interviews. It shows that the conversation was about musical and literary life in prewar Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and nothing more. Some time later, Mr. Volkov brought Shostakovich a typed version of their conversations and asked him to sign every page at the bottom. It was a thin sheaf of papers, and Shostakovich, presuming he was going to see the proof sheets, did not read them. I came into Shostakovich's study as he was standing at his desk signing those pages without reading them. Mr. Volkov took the pages and left.

I asked Shostakovich why he had been signing every page, as it seemed unusual. He replied that Mr. Volkov had told him about some new censorship rules according to which his material would not be accepted by the publishers without a signature. I later learned that Mr. Volkov had already applied for an exit visa to leave the country and was planning to use that material as soon as he was abroad.

Soon after that, Shostakovich died, and Mr. Volkov put his plans into further action.

Mr. Volkov had told a lot of people about those pages, boasting his journalist's luck. This threatened to complicate his exit. It seems that he managed to contrive an audience with Enrico Berlinguer, secretary of the Italian Communist Party, who happened to be visiting Moscow, showed him the photograph signed by Shostakovich and complained that he, Mr. Volkov, a friend of Shostakovich's, was not allowed to leave the country for political reasons. In any case, an article about Mr. Volkov and the same photograph appeared in the Italian Communist newspaper La Stampa. Apparently, it did the trick.

I met Mr. Volkov at a concert and asked him to come and see me (but without his wife, as he had wanted) and leave me a copy of the material he had, which was unauthorized (since it had never been read by Shostakovich). Mr. Volkov replied that the material had already been sent abroad, and if Mr. Volkov was not allowed to leave, the material would be published with additions. He soon left the country, and I never saw him again.

Later on, I read in a booklet that came with the phonograph record of the opera "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District" conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, which was released abroad, that Mr. Volkov was Shostakovich's assistant with whom he had written his memoirs. Elsewhere I read that when Shostakovich was at home alone, he would phone Mr. Volkov and they would see each other in secret.

Only someone with rich fantasy could invent something like that; it was not true, if only because at that time Shostakovich was very ill and was never left on his own. And we lived outside Moscow at the dacha. There was no opportunity for secret meetings. Mr. Volkov's name is nowhere to be found in Shostakovich's correspondence of the time, in his letters to Isaak Glikman, for example.

Mr. Volkov found a publisher in the United States, and the advertising campaign began. Extracts from the book appeared in a German magazine and reached Russia, where at that time there was state monopoly on intellectual property. VAAP, the Soviet copyright agency, asked for verification of Shostakovich's signature. American experts confirmed its authenticity. The book was published. Each chapter of the book was preceded by words written in Shostakovich's hand: "Have read. Shostakovich."

I can vouch that this was how Shostakovich signed articles by different authors planned for publication. Such material was regularly delivered to him from Sovetskaya Muzyka magazine for review, then the material was returned to the editorial department, where Mr. Volkov was employed. Unfortunately, the American experts, who did not speak Russian, were unable and certainly had no need to correlate Shostakovich's words with the contents of the text.

As for the additions, Mr. Volkov himself told me that he had spoken to a lot of different people about Shostakovich, in particular to Lev Lebedinsky, who later became an inaccurate memoirist and with whom Shostakovich had ended all relations a long time before. A friend of Shostakovich's, Leo Arnshtam, a cinema director, saw Mr. Volkov on his request, and Arnshtam later regretted it. A story about a telephone conversation with Stalin was written from his words. All this was included in the book as though it were coming from Shostakovich himself.

The book was translated into many languages and published in a number of countries, except Russia. Mr. Volkov at first claimed that the American publishers were against the Russian edition, then that the royalties in Russia were not high enough, then that those offering to publish it in Russia were crooks and, finally, that he had sold his manuscript to a private archive and it was not available anymore. Retranslation into Russian relieves the author of responsibility and permits new liberties.
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. — Françoise Gilot

Offline torut

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1012
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #74 on: March 14, 2014, 07:55:49 AM »
Thank you for the link. It seems that the book is not a complete fabrication, but it is unlikely that everything was Shostakovich's testimony. Probably the author falsely attributed some of the episodes he gathered or some of his own thoughts to Shostakovich...?

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 58802
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #75 on: March 14, 2014, 07:59:47 AM »
"Unpacking" it for truth, is probably like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall . . . .
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. — Françoise Gilot

Offline torut

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1012
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #76 on: March 14, 2014, 08:13:55 AM »
Personal note vis a vis this thread, not that my preferences are noteworthy, but I have some interest whether there is a crude division as to what different people look for in these kinds of books.

For myself, I am far more interested in books that offer musical analysis as opposed to primarily biographical information.  While the biographical context can offer some insights into the music, I generally prefer to focus almost exclusively on the music and how it is put together rather than the composer's life.
I am interested in both. I am not a composer, but I like to know (certain degree of) technical background of each musical work. Also, I like to know social circumstances, personal/apprentice relationship, composers' saying, etc. as long as they are facts and relevant to music. I don't like some authors who tell too much about spirituality of music, composers' greatness, how important a work is to the human race, etc. I prefer "dry" writings.

Offline EigenUser

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3328
  • Mahler's 9th - "Deadlifts in the midst of life"
    • Ligeti's Laboratory
  • Location: Northern VA
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bartok, Ligeti, Ravel, Gershwin, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Feldman, Messiaen, Haydn, Ockeghem, Adès, Mahler, Ohana, Webern, Boulez, Varese, Beethoven, Berg, Scriabin, Tippett, Takemitsu, Vaughan-Williams
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #77 on: March 14, 2014, 08:31:58 AM »
Poor Ravel only gets a paragraph :'(! . All of that precise "swiss-watchmaking" for a measly paragraph. And Bartok doesn't fare much better  ??? ! Schoenberg gets way too much attention, though he is clearly extremely important in 20th-century music history.

I was hoping for more stuff on Ligeti, Messiaen, and Stockhausen. Stockhausen is an interesting case for me -- I love learning about him and his music, but I also positively dislike his music (he creates some neat sounds, but I don't connect musically with it at all).
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

Offline North Star

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 17567
  • Location: Oulu, Finland
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #78 on: March 14, 2014, 08:48:46 AM »
The Rest Is Noise is indeed far from perfect, but the competition doesn't seem to be too stiff.  :-\
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

My photographs on Flickr

Offline EigenUser

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3328
  • Mahler's 9th - "Deadlifts in the midst of life"
    • Ligeti's Laboratory
  • Location: Northern VA
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bartok, Ligeti, Ravel, Gershwin, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Feldman, Messiaen, Haydn, Ockeghem, Adès, Mahler, Ohana, Webern, Boulez, Varese, Beethoven, Berg, Scriabin, Tippett, Takemitsu, Vaughan-Williams
Re: Books about 20th/21st Century Composers
« Reply #79 on: March 14, 2014, 08:51:04 AM »
The Rest Is Noise is indeed far from perfect, but the competition doesn't seem to be too stiff.  :-\

I definitely enjoyed it overall. I just read so many amazing things about it beforehand. As I said earlier, my hopes were so high that nothing Ross wrote would have satisfied them.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".