Author Topic: Wuorinen's Whirlygig  (Read 39277 times)

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #260 on: June 09, 2018, 06:09:10 AM »
I must express my strongest disagreement with much of what has been stated in recent posts here. Saying that when someone is an advocate for “high culture” (and sorry, but IMHO there definitely is such a thing), they are somehow influenced by, or even expousing, racist or colonialist views, is unfair and perfidious. There is nothing wrong in defending art as it has evolved over the centuries into a universal language accepted by many (regardless of their nationality, race or any other personal condsiderations), The achievements of the Western cultural tradition are rivalled by only very few other artistic expressions. In music, certainly, that is the case, and even the richest and most elaborate “popular” genres (be it flamenco in Spain, some jazz or Indian classical)  cannot be equated to classical as an art form.

You are simply valuing a western written tradition over oral traditions found all over the world.  Your conception of "art as it has evolved over the centuries into a universal language" exposes an unconscious cultural chauvinism.  I doubt that a North Carolina fiddler would care about your "universal language", nor a Delta bluesman.  Nor should they, since what they accomplish cannot even be expressed by the techniques and notation of western classical music.  The rhythmic and melodic subtleties far transcend a written tradition. Indian Classical music has little to do with what you think of as a "universal language".

I could go on, but what is the point?

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #261 on: June 09, 2018, 06:24:06 AM »
You are simply valuing a western written tradition over oral traditions found all over the world.  Your conception of "art as it has evolved over the centuries into a universal language" exposes an unconscious cultural chauvinism.  I doubt that a North Carolina fiddler would care about your "universal language", nor a Delta bluesman.  Nor should they, since what they accomplish cannot even be expressed by the techniques and notation of western classical music.  The rhythmic and melodic subtleties far transcend a written tradition. Indian Classical music has little to do with what you think of as a "universal language".

I could go on, but what is the point?

I think that Ritter intended "universal language" to mean "a language that communicates beyond the cultural and historical circumstances that produced it" rather than "a language that communicates to all individuals."  Certainly it is true that no music fulfills the requirements of the latter.

Still, it is also true that this classical tradition is not limited to one ethnic group, social class, or historical period.  There are composers and performers working in the tradition from all over the world, and I think Ritter would consider them full participants in it just as I would.  The traditions you are discussing, while certainly fine, are more limited in terms of those things (ethnicity, class, etc.), and it is this relative lack of limitations that makes the written tradition more universal.  This is true in spite of the limitations that do indeed exist because of the nature of the notation itself.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 06:32:54 AM by Mahlerian »
"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 San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #262 on: June 09, 2018, 06:50:39 AM »
I think that Ritter intended "universal language" to mean "a language that communicates beyond the cultural and historical circumstances that produced it" rather than "a language that communicates to all individuals."  Certainly it is true that no music fulfills the requirements of the latter.

Still, it is also true that this classical tradition is not limited to one ethnic group, social class, or historical period.  There are composers and performers working in the tradition from all over the world, and I think Ritter would consider them full participants in it just as I would.  The traditions you are discussing, while certainly fine, are more limited in terms of those things (ethnicity, class, etc.), and it is this relative lack of limitations that makes the written tradition more universal.  This is true in spite of the limitations that do indeed exist because of the nature of the notation itself.

The problem, imo, is not that the western classical music tradition has produced music of a lasting and phenomenal quality.  I love it, listen to it and my personal library is filled with it.  But it sits next to music from other traditions which I also love and value no less.

What I am arguing against is the mindset that makes a claim that the best of western classical music is superior to the best music which has emerged (also over centuries and globally) from vernacular traditions. (I added the qualifier "best" so that Karl would not make some reductive quip about comparing Brittney Spears with Beethoven.)

The semantics of "high" vs. "low" art is nauseating to me.

Online ritter

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #263 on: June 09, 2018, 08:05:02 AM »
I think that Ritter intended "universal language" to mean "a language that communicates beyond the cultural and historical circumstances that produced it" rather than "a language that communicates to all individuals."  Certainly it is true that no music fulfills the requirements of the latter.
Exactly.

Quote
Still, it is also true that this classical tradition is not limited to one ethnic group, social class, or historical period.  There are composers and performers working in the tradition from all over the world, and I think Ritter would consider them full participants in it just as I would.  The traditions you are discussing, while certainly fine, are more limited in terms of those things (ethnicity, class, etc.), and it is this relative lack of limitations that makes the written tradition more universal.
Right again. The NHK Symphony Orchestra in Japan, cinducted e.g. by Alan Gilbert, playing a program consistent of e.g. a Haydn Symphony, a piece by Ginastera and one by Bartök is something that makes perfect sense. The Seville Dixieland band (if such a thing exists) on the other hand , would be just pastiche and imitation, with very limited intellectual (or aesthetic) appeal.

I could go on, but what is the point?
Indeed. I believe we all went through this here on GMG when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize... ::)

Quote
The semantics of "high" vs. "low" art is nauseating to me.
For me, it’s simply a fact.

https://www.amazon.com/Walking-People-Native-American-History/dp/1879678101

Most interesting. Good to learn that this tradition seems to find itself in what one could call its “Homeric stage”.  ;)
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 12:18:20 PM by ritter »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #264 on: June 09, 2018, 08:32:31 AM »
Quote
The semantics of "high" vs. "low" art is nauseating to me.

For me, it’s simply a fact.

You have made that clear. 

Another irony is that most vernacular music is the product of oppressed people, slaves,and those marginalized by western colonial powers.  Such as the Amazonian Indians whose rhythmic styles influenced the music from the slums which resulted in the choro, or Spanish gypsies who created Flamenco music.  Or the black slaves who created blues and jazz.  Folk musics have been appropriated by western classical composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Manuel de Falla, Leonard Bernstein and even Dvorak who urged American composers to do the same.  Composers from Brahms to Bartok have written music based on folk music.

So, the arrogance is staggering in the idea that the colonizers and appropriators create high art but the music from which they often draw inspiration is low.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 08:45:50 AM by San Antone »

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #265 on: June 09, 2018, 08:48:36 AM »
Another irony is that most vernacular music is the product of oppressed people, slaves,and those marginalized by western colonial powers.  Such as the Amazonian Indians who created the choro, or Spanish gypsies who created Flamenco music.  Or the black slaves who created blues and jazz.  Folk musics have been appropriated by western classical composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Manuel de Falla, Leonard Bernstein and even Dvorak who urged American composers to do the same.  Composers from Brahms to Bartok have written music based on folk music.

So, the arrogance is staggering in the idea that the colonizers and appropriators create high art but the music from which they often draw inspiration from is low.

From my perspective, it is recorded popular music, not the notated tradition, which has done the most to erase traditional and folk musics all over the world (and very nearly succeeded).  Bartok on the other hand did his utmost to preserve folk traditions.

Also, musicians are, in general, not a part of the ruling class, especially historically.  In the Baroque and Classical eras, the musician (composer, performer) usually held a status closer to a servant than to an aristocrat.

Going back to the initial subject, it's not at all clear that Wuorinen meant to oppose high culture to vernacular culture.
"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 San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #266 on: June 09, 2018, 08:56:14 AM »
From my perspective, it is recorded popular music, not the notated tradition, which has done the most to erase traditional and folk musics all over the world (and very nearly succeeded).  Bartok on the other hand did his utmost to preserve folk traditions.

Also, musicians are, in general, not a part of the ruling class, especially historically.  In the Baroque and Classical eras, the musician (composer, performer) usually held a status closer to a servant than to an aristocrat.

Going back to the initial subject, it's not at all clear that Wuorinen meant to oppose high culture to vernacular culture.

The irony I refer to is not about Bartok, who I agree had a high regard for folk music and worked to preserve it.  No, I am attacking the idea of high vs. low art, with the assumed bias that high art is superior, while many proponents of so-called high art themselves hold so-called low art in high regard.

What you say about Bartok is also true for someone like Eric Clapton who has done his utmost to advance the careers and music of the blues artists he was inspired by.  So it is not all exploitation, although there has been much of that in pop music industry.

Online ritter

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #267 on: June 09, 2018, 09:05:13 AM »

Another irony is that most vernacular music is the product of oppressed people, slaves,and those marginalized by western colonial powers.  Such as the Amazonian Indians who created the choro, or Spanish gypsies who created Flamenco music.  Or the black slaves who created blues and jazz.
In my view, the real irony is having to appeal to the sufferings (real or imagined) of ethnic groups to establish the intrinsic (or relative) values of their artistic traditions. And just a minor point: the chôro started as a purely urban genre in Rio de Janeiro in the 19th century, adapting mainly European styles of the era. It’s relation (if any) to Amazonian Indians is tenuous at most.

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Folk musics have been appropriated by western classical composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Manuel de Falla, Leonard Bernstein and even Dvorak who urged American composers to do the same.  Composers from Brahms to Bartok have written music based on folk music.
No, the beauty of it is that the Western classical tradition has the strength and ability to incorporate popular and ethnic musics (Flamenco, gamelan, jazz, etc.) into its fold and idiom. The contrary, like it ir not, is much less likely.

Quote
So, the arrogance is staggering in the idea that the colonizers and appropriators create high art but the music from which they often draw inspiration from is low.
You see, this new idea if “cultural appropriation “ is something entirely alien to me, and is IMHO a sad reaction to historical injustices (real or imagined). The fact that gypsies may be marginalized in Spanish society, or that India was colonised by Britain,  does not make Falla’s El amor brujo or Roussel’s Padmavâtî lesser (or greater) works.

I’ve been told by my children (who are both in university in America) that a westerner eating sushi is seen in some quarters as an act if “cultural appropriation”. O tempora, o mores...
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 10:16:59 AM by ritter »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #268 on: June 09, 2018, 09:15:06 AM »
ritter I am not trying to argue that vernacular music is superior to western classical music, but opposing your allegation that western classical music is superior to all others.  It is your idea of high art and low art that I am arguing against, not the intrinsic worth of classical music.

I'm done; return this thread to Wuorinen, please.


Online ritter

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #269 on: June 09, 2018, 09:24:17 AM »
Fair enough. And apologies for the clumsy use of the “quote” function in my last post (which has now been corrected).

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Offline San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #270 on: June 09, 2018, 10:40:38 AM »
This will really be my last word on this aspect of the topic.  I guess the best example of what I'm talking about is Aaron Copland incorporating almost note for note Bill Stepp's recording of an old fiddle tune "Boneparte's Retreat" into his score of Rodeo.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/1yeQucos9-M" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/1yeQucos9-M</a>

advance to 33 seconds to hear the fiddle tune as orchestrated by Copland

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/WYSHYQtKZXk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/WYSHYQtKZXk</a>

I cannot imagine that Copland would claim that his version is high art and Bill Stepps is low art.

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #271 on: June 09, 2018, 11:13:28 AM »
This will really be my last word on this aspect of the topic.  I guess the best example of what I'm talking about is Aaron Copland incorporating almost note for note Bill Stepp's recording of an old fiddle tune "Boneparte's Retreat" into his score of Rodeo.

I cannot imagine that Copland would claim that his version is high art and Bill Stepps is low art.

There was an intermediary involved, in the figure of Ruth Crawford (Seeger) who transcribed the fiddle tune and published it in an anthology of American folk music.  Copland was specifically asked to use material from folk anthologies in Rodeo by the commissioner.
"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

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #272 on: June 09, 2018, 11:18:02 AM »
It’s called a quotation  ;)... “Elle avait une jambe en bois...”  ;D
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #273 on: June 09, 2018, 11:19:01 AM »
There was an intermediary involved, in the figure of Ruth Crawford (Seeger) who transcribed the fiddle tune and published it in an anthology of American folk music.  Copland was specifically asked to use material from folk anthologies in Rodeo by the commissioner.

I am not sure what your point is.  The fact remains that the folk fiddle tune Boneparte's Retreat is not low art and Copland's Rodeo is not high art.  They are both examples of art.

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #274 on: June 09, 2018, 03:16:27 PM »
I don't think being against cultural appropriation is at all anything to do with disengaging with other cultures to the point of advocating a kind of cultural/ethnic purity. Cultural appropriation as I understand it is a specifically capitalist exploitation of culture, where companies, businesses or representatives of ruling colonial powers use aspects of oppressed/historically oppressed cultures for their own profit without the benefit of any cultural exchange. There are examples here in Australia of businesses who sell fake Aboriginal art (made by people who aren't Aboriginal and haven't studied the techniques from experts) for their own profit, passing it off as authentic Aboriginal. This is cultural appropriation as it presents something inauthentic as authentic simply for profit. If they hired Aboriginal artists to promote their work, there would be no issue and it creates both support for people who are still marginalised in this country and allows for a much wider appreciation and contact with their art from people of other cultures.


And also I'll just quickly say (along with others who have said similarly) just because the creative works in different cultures are expressed differently doesn't make them more or less intricate, more or less complex, more or less important or more or less 'universal' than creative works from any other culture.

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #275 on: June 09, 2018, 03:18:32 PM »
And I think there's nothing wrong with celebrating significant creative works in any culture. Wuorinen has a significant body of work that I would love to see celebrated by more and more musicians.

Offline chadfeldheimer

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #276 on: June 12, 2018, 12:47:25 AM »
Just know came along that interesting discussion. Even if it seems finished now, I have to defend Wuorinen a bit.

I agree that there is no genre that is superior to other ones. Stravinsky's "Agon" IMO is just as great as say The Beatles' "White Album", Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" or "Fear of a black Planet" from Public Enemy. Why does classical music have to be superior? The only answer making sense to me is: For massaging the ego of classical music snobs. And yes, in colonial times cultural superiority was used for justifying the oppressing of other peoples for economic benefit.

But I find it more probable that Wuorinens remarks are not a sign of a snobbish or even colonial mindset but simply for his dislike of Hip Hop. I think there are many people above 80, that don't like Hip Hop. And partly I can understand that, because of the negativity transported by many Hip-Hop-artists promoting e.g. a gangster/pimp lifestyle or ranting against gays and (other) ethnic minorities. Only a few weeks ago in Germany there was a scandal because of 2 Hip-Hoppers becoming the Echo award, an award purely based on sales-figures. Those Hip-Hoppers in some of their lyrics are clearly deriding gays and (even worse) Holocaust victims. In the following many former award winners gave their award back and the Echo-award as a hole was discontinued. I know that Kendrick Lamar does not have lyrics like this and that his music is among the best Hip-Hop if not Pop-music in general since maybe 20 years. But I suspect Wuorinen did not take this into account and just expressed his dislike for Hip-Hop in general. I assume if a jazz artist had gotten the Pulizer-prize he would not have reacted this way.     
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 01:25:17 AM by chadfeldheimer »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #277 on: June 12, 2018, 02:02:28 AM »
Just know came along that interesting discussion. Even if it seems finished now, I have to defend Wuorinen a bit.

I agree that there is no genre that is superior to other ones. Stravinsky's "Agon" IMO is just as great as say The Beatles' "White Album", Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" or "Fear of a black Planet" from Public Enemy. Why does classical music have to be superior?

Classical music does not have to be superior to Bitches Brew or “Back in the USSR.”

I think that to give the question Why does classical music have to be superior? its proper context, comparable questions are, Why does Bitches Brew have to be superior to Kenny G? and Why does “Dust in the Wind” have to be superior to “Firework”?

As one who loves a lot of jazz and pop, I readily sign on to discussion calling the superiority of classical music into question.

However, unless we wallow in the “Everyone gets prizes” mindset, I take it that no one in the present discussion believes that all jazz, nor all pop, is work of enduring value.

The counter-argument is, But there is classical music drivel, too!

Which is true;  however, two senses in which classical music may be superior to jazz and pop are:

1.  Historically, composers of classical music pursued the study and practice of their craft as professionals.  Even the drivel, is well made;  and if it be drivel, it is generally a question of content.  (I say, “historically,” because in our day there is an increased dilution of the practice, through whatever combination of laziness on the part of the practitioner, and – well, what is related – reliance on the appliances/tools, rather than the honing of skill.)
2. Pop (and to some degree jazz) is a commodity, there are consumers who want what they want, and pay for it, and there is an industry which churns out product to be sold.  So, I agree that there is great pop music (and, yes, some of it is enormously successful, commercially);  but there is IMO no denying that there is a much smaller excellence:boilerplate ratio in pop.
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Offline chadfeldheimer

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #278 on: June 12, 2018, 04:09:32 AM »
Classical music does not have to be superior to Bitches Brew or “Back in the USSR.”

I think that to give the question Why does classical music have to be superior? its proper context, comparable questions are, Why does Bitches Brew have to be superior to Kenny G? ?[/i]
I wasn't aware of Kenny G till now, even though this guy sold more than 75 million albums, as I learned from Wikipedia. I guess that's even more than Miles Davis , or? So in commercial regard it is even reversed: Kenny G >> Miles Davis.
Regarding the artistic value, if something like this exists: It is not easy, or even impossible to give an answer due to the lack of reliable criteria. I will still try it: Miles Davis had a clear, original, uncompromising musical vision and realized it together with his band very successfully. Kenny G's vision seems rather to swim in dollars.  :laugh:


1.  Historically, composers of classical music pursued the study and practice of their craft as professionals.  Even the drivel, is well made;  and if it be drivel, it is generally a question of content.  (I say, “historically,” because in our day there is an increased dilution of the practice, through whatever combination of laziness on the part of the practitioner, and – well, what is related – reliance on the appliances/tools, rather than the honing of skill.)
2. Pop (and to some degree jazz) is a commodity, there are consumers who want what they want, and pay for it, and there is an industry which churns out product to be sold.  So, I agree that there is great pop music (and, yes, some of it is enormously successful, commercially);  but there is IMO no denying that there is a much smaller excellence:boilerplate ratio in pop.
Maybe you are right that classical music has a better share than pop. But I assume the number of pop compositions produced e.g. last year by far outnumbers the number of classical compositions, and not all of the former are so much commercially oriented. Under these circumstances there arise quite a number of "great" pieces in the pop realm too, e.g. from Kendrick Lamar. BTW in classical music the commercial aspect isn't unimportant either.   

Regarding the skill for producing such music. It might be true that most pop musicians cannot be described as virtuosos, but I agree with Jessop that the skill for producing good pop music generally is much underestimated, especially when it comes to using the studio as as the instrument.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #279 on: June 12, 2018, 04:22:44 AM »
I wasn't aware of Kenny G till now, even though this guy sold more than 75 million albums, as I learned from Wikipedia. I guess that's even more than Miles Davis , or? So in commercial regard it is even reversed: Kenny G >> Miles Davis.
Regarding the artistic value, if something like this exists: It is not easy, or even impossible to give an answer due to the lack of reliable criteria. I will still try it: Miles Davis had a clear, original, uncompromising musical vision and realized it together with his band very successfully. Kenny G's vision seems rather to swim in dollars.  :laugh:

Id est, commoditized jazz.

Quote
Maybe you are right that classical music has a better share than pop. But I assume the number of pop compositions produced e.g. last year by far outnumbers the number of classical compositions, and not all of the former are so much commercially oriented. Under these circumstances there arise quite a number of "great" pieces in the pop realm too, e.g. from Kendrick Lamar. BTW in classical music the commercial aspect isn't unimportant either.

Say more.
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[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