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Who killed classical music?

Started by Retinend, January 22, 2014, 12:04:34 PM

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daf

Beethoven's Symphony no. 6 ('The Pastoral Symphony') from 1808 sort of fits the pre film soundtrack idea - it's divided into five movements (the equivalent of a film scene).

Beethoven's own descriptions of the five movements :

1 - Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country (Allegro ma non troppo)
2 - Scene at the brook (Andante molto mosso)
3 - Happy gathering of country folk (Allegro)
4 - Thunderstorm; Storm (Allegro)
5 - Shepherds' song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm (Allegretto)


Retinend

#31
Quote from: Petey Pate on January 22, 2014, 02:19:00 PM
On a personal level I'm not fussed with how music is labelled, all that fundamentally matters is whether I enjoy it or not.

I don't think anyone would disagree, including myself.

QuoteAlso "classical" music has interacted with and borrowed from "mass culture" music on many occassions and vice versa.  To give just one example of the latter, a significant amount of prog rock like Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer (who had a big audience in the early '70s) was appropriating from dead composers.  The different musical forms aren't that simply opposed to each other.

Who said they were "simply opposed"? I'm just asking you to see the bigger picture in terms of the people who invented these genres (not the genre tags, the actual styles). The program goes into this a little. I think it's apparent that the social history (such as the culture of capital-M Music as a modern academic subject) does tell you why classical/popular divisions exist. Divisions which may not be absolute, but can't be hand-waved either.

For perspective, if you asked "why do divisions exist between pop and rock?" you'd find that actually there's not really much of a division. Artists flit between the styles and it's not even apparent that one style conforms to either side of a "pop"/"rock" division. If you ask about division between popular music and jazz you probably go back to the 40s and all of a sudden you're asking quite concrete questions about social history: about the musicians themselves, about Be-bop, about the rise of the lead vocalist, about the death of Swing and the rise of gospel and blues. But still, this isn't to say that jazz and popular music ever split completely and utterly.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 02:19:30 PM
I'm talking about those handful of huge media companies whose financial resources allow them to dominate public perception of popular music. In the same way that hollywood used to monopolize the world of film back in the 30s and 40s. This is the grain of truth in the idea that popular music is becoming increasingly derivative and unoriginal.

Sure, but their output represents a decreasing proportion of all the popular music made.

QuoteI think the analogy here between "writing music for the nobility" and "writing music for a film" is entirely linguistic. For example films scores can be divided into chunks like "building tension" "terror" "escape" "freedom" which are dictated by the images on screen. What chunks would "the nobility" impose? This is nonsense. The nobility and church were the musicians.

It's not nonsense. Example:

QuoteWhilst in Hamburg, Handel made the acquaintance of Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, son and heir of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who invited Handel to visit Italy where he spent more than three years, in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice. By 1706 he had reached Rome, where Marquis (later Prince) Francesco Ruspoli employed him as a household musician and where most of Handel's major Italian works were composed.

QuoteItaly was a great center of musical activity particularly during the first 20 years of the 1700s, and Handel was to meet and exchange ideas with many of the leading composers, musicians and nobility of the time - and not only Italians, for it was obligatory for every cultural and music-loving person of any rank or nobility to do the Grand European Tour which naturally included the main Italian cultural centers. Thus on his travels around Italy Handel also made a number of useful contacts including the Duke of Manchester, the English Ambassador, and most significantly Prince Ernst August of Hanover, brother of the Elector (later King George I of England) who pressed him to visit Hanover. The Prince may also have intimated the possibility of a post at the Hanoverian court, for when Handel left Italy early in 1710 it was for Hanover, where he was in fact appointed Capellmeister to the Elector, George Louis, who immediately packed him off on a twelve months' leave of absence to visit England. The Royal Houses of Britain and Germany had always been closely inter-related, and the Act of Settlement of 1701 which secured the Protestant succession to the Crown of England, had made Handel's Hanoverian employer George Louis' mother heiress-presumptive to the throne of Great Britain. Thus the Elector George Louis would have been anxious to have Handel spy out the land and report back to him on the London musical, social and political scene.

During this first London visit, lasting eight months, Handel was favorably received at Queen Anne's court, though his eyes were largely set on Vanburgh's new opera house, the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket. Rinaldo, the first Italian opera specially composed for London, was performed there in 1711 and was a sensational success. Returning only briefly to Hanover in 1711, Handel was back in London by 1712 when he was invited to produce an English Court Ode for Queen Anne's birthday. The Queen normally took little interest in her composers, being (according to the Duke of Manchester) ''too busy or too careless to listen to her own band, and had no thought of hearing and paying new players however great their genius or vast their skill''. It is surprising, therefore, that she granted Handel a pension of £200 a year for life.

Quote from: RetinendThe pre-film "soundtracks" you mention - what would those be?

As Don_Preston said, ballet. No, it isn't dance set to music. It's music and dance set to a story.

Retinend

Quote from: daf on January 22, 2014, 02:37:12 PM
Beethoven's Symphony no. 6 ('The Pastoral Symphony') from 1808 sort of fits the pre film soundtrack idea - it's divided into five movements (the equivalent of a film scene).

Yeah, or you could have chosen Peer Gynt or Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Romantic composers had specific images in their head when they composed, and in these cases they chose particular literary themes out of gentlemanly admiration. But this is totally off track from the idea that some even approximate relation as that of between Images-on-a-Screen and Composer pre-dates film. The point is about restriction of artistic freedom to express what you would like to express. The composer of a score is subservient to the images, just as an employee is to a boss.

Don_Preston

I think Prokofiev Jr is just a bit disappointed that the estate isn't earning as much as he hopes.

Retinend

Quote from: Johnny Yesno on January 22, 2014, 02:39:42 PM
It's not nonsense. Example:

Yep and Bach composed a piece for Frederick the Great. Why did royalty and nobility entertain such people? Because they were musicians themselves. Frederick played flute and composed songs which are apparently still well known. There is no "jump - how high" relationship here.

Petey Pate

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 02:39:12 PMWho said they were "simply opposed"?

I wasn't referring to anyone on here, but I think this is the impression a large number of people have (in part due to the kind of cultural divisions you describe), which is unfortunate.  There are people out there more concerned with how music is labelled (and how listeners of that label are perceived) than whether they actually enjoy it.  Some people are teenagers forever, basically.

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 02:39:12 PMThe program goes into this a little. I think it's apparent that the social history (such as the culture of music as a modern academic subject) does tell you why classical/popular divisions exist. Divisions which may not be absolute, but can't be hand-waved either.

Yes, the program isn't as reductionist as the title suggests.  Prokofiev Jr even concludes that the proposition of the question isn't correct to begin with.  I do think that the history isn't as straightforward as "Boulez made everything too weird and only a small number of people liked it" though.  Also the idea that music has to be melodic in order to have mass appeal is nonsense when you consider popular forms like hip hop.  Then again, 30 minutes is too short a time to really cover the subject extensively.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 02:55:56 PM
There is no "jump - how high" relationship here.

If you like. That's not my understanding of patronage, though.

Retinend

Quote from: Johnny Yesno on January 22, 2014, 02:39:42 PM
Sure, but their output represents a decreasing proportion of all the popular music made.

Sure, I think popular music (not the big companies, but the whole sound) is in ruddy health. Lots of music is being made which interests me, and I'm far more a pop guy than a classical guy.

But the point of the thread is that even if I was a die-hard classical music fan who hated all popular music (a dying race), I would have to admit to that the world was not shaped my way. I think the R4 show explains convincingly that this concern is valid, and furthermore goes into the history of the division a bit.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

Classical music is still an enormous part of our contemporary culture as well, it infiltrates almost anything you would care to think about, and most people could easily whistle a few famous pieces to you, and listen to it without realising all the time, while simultaneously holding the view they don't enjoy listening to it very much.

Perhaps people don't have the energy for it as a standalone thing because they are already exposed to it every single day as the almost sleeping soundtrack to their lives.

NoSleep

Classical Music was a living, breathing tradition. It ceased to be that long before recording came into the picture. It's been a stuffed animal in a museum ever since.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

QuoteIt's been a stuffed animal in a museum ever since.

What about the err...live animals?

Retinend

Quote from: Johnny Yesno on January 22, 2014, 03:00:29 PM
If you like. That's not my understanding of patronage, though.

Well to go into it, I would put the freedom of someone like Frank Zappa very high on the freedomometer, and a film composer somewhere in the middle, and a jingle-writer somewhere at the bottom. For patronage, it does depend. If an artist was asked to draw a plain portrait of the patron, then the freedom for self-expression is mainly in technical accomplishment and the overall composition. You could also point towards such degenerate genres of poetry as "The Country House Poem" as examples of patronized subservience.

However since we're talking about music, I have to say that to me there is no obvious equivalent of "the portrait" or "Country House Poem" in which the patron is a central dominating presence. For one thing, in the case of poetry and painting, the patrons are not usually participants in the artistic world. But for modern European history you see that the people who were the patrons and the people who were the great composers were involved in the same activity. It's this sort of consideration which made the early 20th century composers deeply hostile to popular forms of music, with no such heritage.

NoSleep


Petey Pate

Quote from: Shoulders?-Stomach! on January 22, 2014, 03:09:53 PMClassical music is still an enormous part of our contemporary culture as well, it infiltrates almost anything you would care to think about, and most people could easily whistle a few famous pieces to you, and listen to it without realising all the time, while simultaneously holding the view they don't enjoy listening to it very much.

This is a good point.  Certain snippets from pieces are really prominent and get used ad nauseum in adverts, music on hold and Charlie Brooker programs.  Suffice to say, I don't think these really count as "experiencing" the music.

Retinend

Quote from: Shoulders?-Stomach! on January 22, 2014, 03:09:53 PM
Classical music is still an enormous part of our contemporary culture as well, it infiltrates almost anything you would care to think about, and most people could easily whistle a few famous pieces to you, and listen to it without realising all the time, while simultaneously holding the view they don't enjoy listening to it very much.

Curiously enough, they'll whistle Mozart and not Schönberg.

Petey Pate

Frank Zappa hasn't had his say in this thread yet.

Quote from: ZappaI find music of the classical period boring because it reminds me of 'painting by numbers'. There are certain things composers of that period were not allowed to do because they were considered to be outside the boundaries of the industrial regulations which determined whether the piece was a symphony, a sonata, or a whatever. All of the norms, as practiced during the olden days, came into being because the guys who paid the bills wanted the 'tunes' they were buying to 'sound a certain way'.

Retinend

By that logic, Frederick the Great wrote "Musical Offering." Bach just painted the numbers.

NoSleep

No... Frederick The Great wanted the wine that Bach provided in a certain shaped glass.

Retinend

Quote from: Grass Mud Horse on January 22, 2014, 02:17:27 PM
Here's an essay from a US conservative website that seems to conclude that it's possible to have a second great age, if only the kids of today would buck their ideas up: Can There Be Great Composers Anymore? It doesn't support my argument, but it's all debate innit.

This is very relevant history and taught me a lot. Thanks for posting it.

I also found that Reich quote on a Christian website. Go figure.

Retinend

Quote from: NoSleep on January 22, 2014, 03:49:37 PM
No... Frederick The Great wanted the wine that Bach provided in a certain shaped glass.

Well, fugues and canons. That's more like "I want your wine in a container."

Petey Pate

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 03:43:23 PM
By that logic, Frederick the Great wrote "Musical Offering." Bach just painted the numbers.

Here's the quote in its wider context (The Real Frank Zappa Book).  Further down is a speech Zappa gave at an American Society of University Composers convention which I found both amusing and interesting.

Retinend

You sort of chopped off the part which is most relevant:

"All of the norms, as practiced during the olden days, came into being because the guys who paid the bills wanted the 'tunes' they were buying to 'sound a certain way'."...and it's the same today: "Your song won't get played on the radio unless it sounds like this." People who think that classical music is somehow more elevated than 'radio music' should take a look at the forms involved -- and at who's paying the bills. Once upon a time, it was the king or Pope So-and-so. Today we have broadcast license holders, radio programmers, disc jockeys and record company executives -- banal reincarnations of the assholes who shaped the music of the past.

As the programme intimates, some of these assholes were also in Vienna and Darmstadt, telling the composers of that time that it was good to make music that the bourgeois public hated.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

Quote from: NoSleep on January 22, 2014, 03:15:07 PM
You mean the parrots?

They're just tunes mate, anyone can bang one out. Some of them will be alright, a lot not.

This isn't aimed at you but the idea of 'dead' music is practically unhelpful and as a debating point and conceptually, infantile.

NoSleep

Quote from: Retinend on January 22, 2014, 03:33:03 PM
Curiously enough, they'll whistle Mozart and not Schönberg.

And nod off in droves at a concert of one of your choices of modern composer, Steve Reich, as I saw many of his fans do at a gig I was dragged along to. I've never seen so many people fall asleep during a concert.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

What would be the correct reaction to the music Reich produces?

NoSleep

Fall asleep, apparently. The Future of Classical Music.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: Shoulders?-Stomach! on January 22, 2014, 05:13:38 PM
This isn't aimed at you but the idea of 'dead' music is practically unhelpful and as a debating point and conceptually, infantile.

I think what NoSleep might be alluding to is reification, which isn't conceptually infantile.

Petey Pate

Quote from: NoSleep on January 22, 2014, 05:17:08 PM
And nod off in droves at a concert of one of your choices of modern composer, Steve Reich, as I saw many of his fans do at a gig I was dragged along to. I've never seen so many people fall asleep during a concert.

When I first listened to Music for 18 Musicians it made me feel light headed and I thought "this is brilliant and mesmerising - I love this!". When I listened to it a second time I thought "God this is boring, annoying and repetitive - rubbish". I'm not sure why my reaction to it was so different, but I concluded that it must be music that you have to be in the mood for.  Thing is, the majority of music that I love I can listen to at anytime and still enjoy.

Johnny Yesno

Quote from: NoSleep on January 22, 2014, 05:27:26 PM
Fall asleep, apparently. The Future of Classical Music.

That's not categorically a bad thing, though. Some of his stuff is quite hypnotic, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised if people succumb to heavy lids.