Author Topic: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?  (Read 1539 times)

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ComposerOfAvantGarde

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I had an interested exchange with the lovely GioCar over in the string quartet game and I am curious to open this up for wider discussion. :)


I have always liked that here in GMG one could really feel to post freely on whatever kind of music. Now things are subtly changing...
I have never got the sense that this is changing....what makes you say this?
Well, I could be wrong but some ironic posts...here and there...in this thread but also in the WAYLTN thread re. Adámek's SQ. Never seen them before here.
My feeling is that contemporary/avangarde music is somehow "tolerated" by the great majority of posters in GMG until certain thresholds are not crossed over, such as "rating" avangarde pieces in direct comparison with "traditional" ones.
But as I said, I could (and hope to) be wrong.


What do you think about this? Personally, I thought it was heartwarming to see so many people curious to try something they hadn't heard before and consequently that piece ended up getting support from more than a few members in the game.

But I am curious as to what the opinions are around pitting the more contemporary against the older, more famous repertoire.

The only thing I see as an issue is treating them as two separate kinds of repertoire where there is a direct comparison. Perhaps there are some niche areas in classical music which have very passionate followings but I think it would put off many music fans to try to directly compare a Haydn quartet and an Adamek quartet to put negative emphasis of one over the other.

Offline Sammy

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In the String Quartet Game/Round One, we had 17 regular voters.  4 of them gave Adamek points; 6 gave points to the winning Haydn entry.  So, not bad at all for the Adamek.

Offline Crudblud

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I'll begin by saying that, as the person who put that Adamek quartet forward, I was happy to see that people were curious about it, and that it had actually received over 40 points by the time the voting round was over. It is one of the pieces of recent times that has interested me enough to become a somewhat regular listen, so I'm glad to see that others have taken to it as well.

I had to do a little digging, since it is not a thread I visit very often, but I found the posts in Current Listening to which I believe GioCar refers. Unless we want to get into psychoanalysis of one poster on here, I think it might be a fruitless discussion, at least where that Adamek piece specifically is concerned. I would give that poster the benefit of the doubt and say that, quite apart from any snobbery, he simply did not hear anything interesting in the piece. It happens—I don't hear much of anything in Debussy, for example. He mentions that the blurb could "describe [the work] of any composer", but I think this has less to do with a reaction against contemporary music, and rather is concerned with the teflonised PR manner in which composers tend to talk about their music, to be talked about etc. It's probably an unfortunate aspect of the academy these days, we've talked before about how the younger generations of conductors tend to be, when looking at apparent diversity of interpretation, largely interchangeable, and the wishy-washy PR style blurbs seem to come from the same place. Having looked at the composer's website, it is indeed a bland, generic description, but far from the worst I have read—I won't name any names, but I once read a "bio" which described a particular composer's music simply as being "about emotions". So he's constrained by this marketing speak, perhaps, but Adamek's music, at least in this quartet, does not strike me as a paint-by-numbers piece in the slightest.

As for the broader question of conservative or reactionary responses to new music, I think it's a given, particularly among people who are enamoured of "the tradition" but not of the centuries long developmental process (which, admittedly, became accelerated around the turn of the 20th century to dizzying speeds) that it describes, that the desire to maintain the status quo should be strong. We can't have these young upstarts diverting attention from the great masters, now, can we? Obviously, it's impossible to have this discussion without looking at what I suppose could be called the "Chromatic Revolution", starting with Wagner's Tristan und Isolde and leading up to Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2, during which the tonal logic of the common practice period appears to suffer blow after blow, or perhaps it is better to say it is crammed with new information to the point that it must either change or die. I guess your perspective on the legitimacy of new music "competing" with old music depends on whether you think it changed or died—maybe you think it changed and change was death, is there any functional difference between the two in this case?

For me it is rather short-sighted to hold up the old and say that the new is less deserving of one's attention, or not deserving at all, because with adherence to such stifling logic we would scarce have made it beyond plainchant. But in every era there are those who hear the death of music in the new, for all that any sound is new today, and this reactionary doomsaying is just what we come to expect. The real difficulty, of course, is that we are so close in time to this music that assessing it, putting it into anything like a canonical view of musical history, is impossible for us, it's something for future generations of musicians to think about, as we have with the music of our forebears. Most of what is new today, some of it even popular, insofar as any of it is popular, might be left to collect dust tomorrow. Whatever futures await, I believe that to reject old or new is a mistake, all periods have essential parts to play in the grand dialogue of our musical tradition.

Offline North Star

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I have a hard time fathoming how we're talking about Wagner and Schönberg and the death of music because some people didn't like one particular contemporary work.
Out of the 101 composers on the list, 32 were born between 1930-1959. (compare with 50 composers born in the 1800s, 3 in the 1700s). That's a major representation by composers who are most likely currently at the top of their game.


Haydn (1732)
Mozart (1756)
Beethoven (1770)
Mendelssohn (1809)
Schumann (1810)
Verdi (1813)
Arriaga (1806)
Franck (1822)
Smetana (1824)
Borodin (1833)
Brahms (1833)
Saint-Saëns (1835)
Tchaikovsky (1840)
Dvorak (1841)
Fauré (1845)
Janacek (1854)
Humperdinck (1854)
Chausson (1855)
Taneyev (1856)
Elgar (1857)
Wolf (1860)
Arensky (1861)
Debussy (1862)
Ropartz (1864)
Sibelius (1865)
Lekeu (1870)
Zemlinsky (1871)
Vaughan Williams (1872)
Reger (1873)
Hahn (1874)
Ives (1874)
Schoenberg (1874)
Ravel (1875)
Respighi (1879)
Bloch (1880)
Enescu (1881)
Myaskovsky (1881)
Stravinsky (1882)
Szymanowski (1882)
Malipiero (1882)
Bax (1883)
Webern (1883)
Bartók (1885)
Berg (1885)
Villa-Lobos (1887)
Hindemith (1895)
Milhaud (1892)
Martinu (1890)
Langgaard (1893)
Prokofiev (1891)
Honegger (1892)
Toldrà (1895)
Tansman (1897)
Krenek (1900)
Crawford Seeger (1901)
Rubbra (1901)
Hartmann KA (1905)
Shostakovich (1906)
Carter (1908)
Bacewicz (1909)
Cage (1912)
Nancarrow (1912)
Diamond (1915)
Babbitt (1916)
Ginastera (1916)
Dutilleux (1916)
Weinberg (1919)
Maderna (1920)
Xenakis (1922)
Ligeti (1923)
Nono (1924)
Berio (1925)
Boulez (1925)
Kurtág (1926)
Crumb (1929)
Feldman (1926)
Donatoni (1927)
Takemitsu (1930)
C. Halffter (1930)
Schnittke (1934)
Lachenmann (1935)
Reich (1936)
Glass (1937)
Wuorinen (1938)
Holliger (1939)
Radulescu (1942)
Ferneyhough (1943)
Meyer (1943)
Nyman (1944)
Finnissy (1946)
Vasks (1946)
Sciarrino (1947)
Post (1949)
Dillon (1950)
Haas GF (1953)
Dusapin (1955)
Hosokawa (1955)
Czernowin (1957)
Stroppa (1959)
Adamek (1979)
Turgut Ercetin (1983)
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Offline amw

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Definitely a false dichotomy.

There are some people on here who dislike some 'contemporary' repertoire and will take every opportunity to denigrate it so long as there's some chance of getting a rise out of someone, but most of those people have their own 'contemporary' repertoire that they hold in high esteem and will also not hesitate to make harsh remarks about 'traditional' repertoire that doesn't fit their tastes.

At any individual cross-section of history there is going to be an incredibly broad spectrum of music to the point that even comparing two different compositions written in the same year becomes almost meaningless. Which is better: Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande or Taneyev's String Quartet No. 5?

And it's obviously silly to try to compare a string quartet with Franz Xaver Richter with one by Klaus K. Hübler, but only slightly more silly than trying to compare two individual quartets by Frans Xaver Richter written several years apart. Most of the Top 10 X threads, or games, or whatever are basically just for fun >.>

Offline San Antone

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I was not impressed (compared to the other works) with the Adamek work and didn't vote for it.  But, I listen to plenty of contemporary music and do my little part in promoting it through my blog, where I feature an interview with and work by a living composer each week (pardon the shameless self promotion).  Much of what I hear is very interesting, but I am not inclined to compare it to Beethoven or Bach, or any composer of a previous period - or even current period, for that matter.  I don't think of music like it is a zero sum game or horse race with winners and losers or even contestants that don't qualify, e.g. a greyhound in a horse race.  I try to approach each work on its own merits and within its own context.

However, I do feel the bucket in which we include 1,000 years of music called "classical" has for some time been inadequate.  Much new music does not share the same priorities as music from earlier centuries.  So, for some people who primarily listen to Romantic and Classical period music, new music can sound quite disturbing.

I also don't think that anyone has a responsibility to listen to much less like new music.  I don't feel any responsibility to listen to or like Mozart - to each his own and live and let live.  Two slogans that are usually very useful, imo.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2018, 04:10:45 AM by San Antone »

Offline Mahlerian

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Being a composer who works in a style heavily influenced by tradition, I don't think in terms of this dichotomy at all.  Then again, my tradition includes the work of Boulez, Takemitsu, late Schoenberg, and others just as much as it includes Mahler, Mozart, Bach, and Debussy.  Some people don't consider the former part of tradition, or at least not to the same degree as the latter.
"l do not consider my music as atonal, but rather as non-tonal. I feel the unity of all keys. Atonal music by modern composers admits of no key at all, no feeling of any definite center." - Arnold Schoenberg

Offline Crudblud

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I have a hard time fathoming how we're talking about Wagner and Schönberg and the death of music because some people didn't like one particular contemporary work.
I brought it up because it was necessary to address the general question posed in the OP, which I felt was more interesting to talk about than the specifics of someone not liking Adamek's string quartet. I would rather take that specific situation as a springboard for a broader discussion, as it seems the OP also would. I don't think anyone is particularly bothered or upset about forum game statistics.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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I brought it up because it was necessary to address the general question posed in the OP, which I felt was more interesting to talk about than the specifics of someone not liking Adamek's string quartet. I would rather take that specific situation as a springboard for a broader discussion, as it seems the OP also would. I don't think anyone is particularly bothered or upset about forum game statistics.

This, please.

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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I was not impressed (compared to the other works) with the Adamek work and didn't vote for it.  But, I listen to plenty of contemporary music and do my little part in promoting it through my blog, where I feature an interview with and work by a living composer each week (pardon the shameless self promotion).  Much of what I hear is very interesting, but I am not inclined to compare it to Beethoven or Bach, or any composer of a previous period - or even current period, for that matter.  I don't think of music like it is a zero sum game or horse race with winners and losers or even contestants that don't qualify, e.g. a greyhound in a horse race.  I try to approach each work on its own merits and within its own context.

However, I do feel the bucket in which we include 1,000 years of music called "classical" has for some time been inadequate.  Much new music does not share the same priorities as music from earlier centuries.  So, for some people who primarily listen to Romantic and Classical period music, new music can sound quite disturbing.

I also don't think that anyone has a responsibility to listen to much less like new music.  I don't feel any responsibility to listen to or like Mozart - to each his own and live and let live.  Two slogans that are usually very useful, imo.


Interesting reply, thanks for this!

I'm not particularly disturbed by music, thankfully, and it must be a loss for anyone to realise they don't like some music. But these are normal things anyway and it just comes down to taste.

It's interesting to see the kind of curiosity we get in the forum when listening to something that is visibly and repeatedly advocated as worthy of 'points' by others purely because it is a strange (but fun) thing to do as a game. However, my favourite thread to read about people listening to a piece for the very first time is arpeggio's 'blown away' thread.

Offline aleazk

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2018, 09:12:24 AM »
Is traditional vs contemporary still a thing in some listeners' mind?  ::) Time to grow up, my flowers...

Baron Scarpia

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2018, 10:07:29 AM »
I see nothing false about a dichotomy between music which people are familiar with and music which has been recently composed and which people have never heard before. It is unfortunate that some fraction of people think "traditional" music is intrinsically of higher quality, but that does not negate the distinction.

Offline Maestro267

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2018, 10:51:55 AM »
However, my favourite thread to read about people listening to a piece for the very first time is arpeggio's 'blown away' thread.

Agreed. And I feel like there's a licence in that thread to basically go nuts with your reaction to a first hearing, if you want to go that way. It's more forgiving in that sense.

Offline Cato

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2018, 12:36:34 PM »
I'll begin by saying that, as the person who put that Adamek quartet forward, I was happy to see that people were curious about it, and that it had actually received over 40 points by the time the voting round was over. It is one of the pieces of recent times that has interested me enough to become a somewhat regular listen, so I'm glad to see that others have taken to it as well.

I had to do a little digging, since it is not a thread I visit very often, but I found the posts in Current Listening to which I believe GioCar refers. Unless we want to get into psychoanalysis of one poster on here, I think it might be a fruitless discussion, at least where that Adamek piece specifically is concerned. I would give that poster the benefit of the doubt and say that, quite apart from any snobbery, he simply did not hear anything interesting in the piece....

Whatever futures await, I believe that to reject old or new is a mistake, all periods have essential parts to play in the grand dialogue of our musical tradition.

Amen!   0:)

I see nothing false about a dichotomy between music which people are familiar with and music which has been recently composed and which people have never heard before. It is unfortunate that some fraction of people think "traditional" music is intrinsically of higher quality, but that does not negate the distinction.


Is traditional vs contemporary still a thing in some listeners' mind?  ::) Time to grow up, my flowers...

Excellent!  I believe it was Duke Ellington (some would say Duke of Ellington, but that is another topic  ;)  ) who said there should be no distinction between jazz or "popular music,"  only between good music and bad music.

Of course, even that distinction opens up another can of egalitarian worms!   $:)


Definitely a false dichotomy.

At any individual cross-section of history there is going to be an incredibly broad spectrum of music to the point that even comparing two different compositions written in the same year becomes almost meaningless. Which is better: Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande or Taneyev's String Quartet No. 5?


Wow!  What a thought experiment!

It may surprise some, but my discovery of classical music came so many decades ago, that the Schoenberg vs. Stravinsky controversy was still exercising people, and Stockhausen, Penderecki, Boulez, and Ligeti  were 30-something punks!  ;)  I listened to contemporary works on university radio stations in southwestern Ohio which stations e.g. occasionally broadcast the latest Webernesque creations from Professor Al Lee Gretto, who would regale us about his work's unusual permutations of pitch classes, and the intervallic blah-blah-blah my ears are glazed over please stop.  You would then hear the requisite click-pop-blip-blop, and then his students would applaud.  ;)

I remember studying the scores of Webern, and instantly observing their affinity with late Mahler, specifically the opening of the Ninth Symphony, and some parts of the Tenth.  Whether Mahler would have approved of Webern's development of that particular style, nobody can know, and the same can be said about what Webern might have thought about the things committed in his name later in the 1950's and 1960's.  What is clear, however, is that there are successful ways to develop an influence from a previous composer, and less successful ones.

I know we have discussed these matters in many different ways earlier: should every concert include some contemporary, or at least modern, work, perhaps even one by Professor Al Lee Gretto? ;)  Is there a "responsibility" to do so?  Should the major orchestras include concerts of only world premieres?

The problem will only worsen, as Time marches on.  Will the composer of 2118 be completely unable to find an audience, silenced by the death of orchestras, by the death of any interest in art music, by the triumph of egalitarianism, by...whatever? 

Leonard Bernstein
(in)famously called the symphony orchestra a museum, but what was the context?! 

A salient excerpt from 1980 (!):

Quote
  ...I have ... frequently been misquoted as saying that the symphony orchestra is dead. It infuriates me to read that misinterpretation. In fact, orchestras have never been more alive and kicking; what I have said is that they have become in part kind of museums – in part, mind you; remember I said there were two ways to account for the paradox. But yes, museums; glorious, living treasuries of art. And what, may I ask, is wrong with a museum – especially one in which we are dealing not with paintings and statues but with live bodies, great performing artists, breathing and recreating our priceless symphonic heritage, with a director who is no mere curator, but a veritable high priest in this sanctuary? Of course this symphonic gestalt is a museum, and we should be proud and grateful for it.

But that is only part one of the answer. Part two involves the very important fact that when the symphonic form disappeared thirty-five, or seventy, years ago – take your pick – it was not by any means the end of musical creativity for the orchestra; quite the contrary. The last thirty-five years have seen a creative ferment unprecedented in musical history; composers have struck out in any number of directions, producing a wealth of new works. Not symphonies, maybe, but so what? Where is it written that what we have come to call symphonies must constitute the exclusive repertoire of the symphonic orchestra? We have extraordinary new works from Carter and Berio and Crumb, Boulez, Stockhausen, Foss, Rorem, Corigliano – Schuller himself. And these works do make new demands on our standard of orchestra of seventy strings and thirty winds and a handful of percussionists. There are new ways of grouping those one-hundred-odd instruments, new divisions and dispositions, multiple small orchestras. There are new electronic instruments, and the introduction of prerecorded tapes. There are new instrumental techniques, like multiphonic wind sounds, or caressing the tam-tam. Some of these are minor variations or adornments of the standard Mahler orchestra, but others are of major significance. Most important of all, these composers are compelling orchestral musicians to hear in new ways, especially in nontonal music; to listen much more attentively to one another – for example, in aleatory music; and to be adventurous in much the same way as Beethoven compelled the Haydn orchestra to venture into new territory, or as Debussy did with the orchestra of Cesar Franck. In other words, the so-called "symphonic orchestra" has developed an added function, distinct from its identity as a museum, and that is to provide the fertile soil in which new kinds of orchestral music can be cultivated. And here is where the problems begin to come clear: this rich new area seems to demand different schedules, different approaches, even, at times, different personnel from those serving at the altar of Brahms. And the trouble begins. Can any one orchestral organization encompass both these functions and still maintain its Koussevitzkian goal of perfection, to say nothing of mere competence?

There are those who say no. Why not two museums? they argue. After all, we have our Metropolitan Museum and our Museum of Modern Art, the Met and the MOMA, different strokes for different folks. Boston and Philadelphia have their Fine Arts Museums, and also their Institutes of Contemporary Art. Why should the musical museum be different? Why not have twofold orchestras, double maestros, double subscription series? Bad ideas, all. Because an orchestral artist is a living being, a musician incorporating all the music that has preceded him, and all the music informing his daily life. He is not a painting on a wall, nor is an orchestra an exhibition – even a Picasso Exhibition. A musical artist is a consecrated part of the world he inhabits; if he is fenced off, he will stagnate. So will the orchestra. So will the public. So will art.

Then where, you ask, is the time and energy to come from that will permit all this to happen without killing our artists with overwork, or driving them mad with stylistic somersaults? Ah, that is where you come in, my friends: it is your imagination; your new inventive ideas; your flexibility, cooperation, and goodwill that can save the situation.... 





See:

https://leonardbernstein.com/lectures/speeches/the-future-of-the-symphony-orchestra

 
 


"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Ken B

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2018, 01:00:52 PM »
I see nothing false about a dichotomy between music which people are familiar with and music which has been recently composed and which people have never heard before. It is unfortunate that some fraction of people think "traditional" music is intrinsically of higher quality, but that does not negate the distinction.

It's just Bayesian reasoning.

50 Shades Of Grey outsold Jane Austen and Homer in the last decade. Which do you think will be read 100 years hence? But most of the stuff from Austen's day, or Dickens's day, is forgotten.

The stuff you call “traditional” is actually the stuff that's been winnowed. Most of the rest of it is weak. The simple fact is, the longer something has been around the more likely it is to survive. So it's not a simple matter of old vs new. I happen to like minimalism immensely, and listen to it more than I do 19th century stuff. But I am not arrogant — and that is Le mot juste— to assume my preferences are what others over time will value and winnow. I'd say Schumann is a sure bet but Nyman isn’t. And I like Nyman more.

Offline arpeggio

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Re: 'Traditional' v. 'contemporary' repertoires? Perhaps a false dichotomy?
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2018, 02:52:10 PM »
In my experiences the animus toward contemporary music is much worse in some of the other forums I have participated in.

What is interesting is that people who listen to modern music still appreciate the more traditional music.  Even though I appreciate the music of Carter, Webern and many others, my favorite composer is Mahler.

In another forum a member started a poll that asked the question what do you listen to:

atonal music
tonal music
both

I can not remember all of the result but I recall only two selected atonal.  I think about 50% said both and the rest said tonal.

I have discovered that most of the people who have an animus toward contemporary music have a very limited exposure to the classical music world.  In my discussions with many of them I learned that they avoid concerts were contemporary music is programed.  They have no idea how audiences react to contemporary music.  I have attended many concerts where avant-garde type music was performed where there was a positive reaction from the audience.  I was actually at a concert a the Stuaton Music Festival where a work by Cage received a standing ovation.

What is really sad is that there are even some whose only contact with people who follow classical music is through the internet.  These indiviuals tend to be the most reactionary although there are a few exceptions.

Hope I have not stepped on anybody's toes.