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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 12:05 pm 
Avisaru
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I find it interesting that you have some very harsh things to say about 20th century "artistic" music, yet your illustrations post on the period is longer than any of your other posts. I agree with the very harsh things you said, though.

Salmoneus wrote:

An even longer melodic line is found in probably the world’s most popular piece of ‘classical’ music, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Here, Vaughan Williams looks to new scales, in this case pentatonic scales, and experiments with breaking down the traditional language of music – the violin solos in this piece are notated without mensuration, encouraging a freer, more individual performance.


Impressive how, for a short time early in the piece, it sounds almost like actual birdsong!

Quote:
A key figure in this regard was Dmitri Tiomkin, born and trained in the Russian Empire (he studied under Glazunov, the same composer who taught Prokofiev and Shostakovich), before he emigrated to Berlin, then Paris, then the US, where he combined work as a concert pianist (he premiered Gershwin’s Piano Concerto) with work as an accompanist on the vaudeville circuit, before finally ending up in Holywood, breaking his arm, and being forced as a result to concentrate on working as a composer. Tiomkin’s Russian sound (often dramatically reducing or removing the string section, adding in folk ‘colour’ instruments, percussion and choral backing) and formal elements common in Russia such as basing an entire score on a folk-like song yielded such Soviet-tinted works as High Noon, Rio Bravo, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Alamo, Wild is the Wind, The Guns of Navarone, Giant and, from TV, the unashamedly Cossack Rawhide.


I would never have thought that I would see the scores to a collection of American western movies described as "Soviet-tinted"!

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*exhales*
well that was longer than I expected.


Thank you!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 12:34 pm 
Sanno
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Raphael wrote:
I find it interesting that you have some very harsh things to say about 20th century "artistic" music, yet your illustrations post on the period is longer than any of your other posts. I agree with the very harsh things you said, though.

To be fair, I'm less hostile to 20th century music than I used to be. I can see the point of Stravinsky, and can even sort of appreciate the original serialists. It's mostly the post-WWII stuff that lose patience with altogether.

And yeah, it ended up ridiculously long. I think partly because the century was so chaotic that there's lots of different strands to catch up with. Also, I'm going to write some little things about earlier composers, but I don't think I'm going to try to include the 20th century, so I had to be a little fairer with them here.

Quote:
Impressive how, for a short time early in the piece, it sounds almost like actual birdsong!

You may enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwbDqaek8GI - Dinicu's Skylark (written by Anghelus Dinicu, but arranged for violin and popularised by Grigoras Dinicu).

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I would never have thought that I would see the scores to a collection of American western movies described as "Soviet-tinted"!

Yeah, that's the amusing part. For instance, in "The Blues Brothers", the blues-loving band try to play blues in a County and Western bar and are met with a near-riot - so, to get out alive, they play the theme from "Rawhide" instead. The bigoted rednecks love Rawhide. But the in-joke here is that Rawhide was written by a Hollywood liberal immigrant Soviet academically-trained Jew...

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:09 pm 
Smeric
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But the in-joke here is that Rawhide was written by a Hollywood liberal immigrant Soviet academically-trained Jew...

I never knew that this was meant to be an in-joke, and this was the cult film of my youth. A special thanks for explaining that!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:41 am 
Avisaru
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Raphael wrote:
I find it interesting that you have some very harsh things to say about 20th century "artistic" music, yet your illustrations post on the period is longer than any of your other posts. I agree with the very harsh things you said, though.
There's an old joke about an "avant-garde" music concert, in which two "pianists" are bashing the keyboard of a grand piano with hammers. One erudite member of the audience is annoyed.

"I do wish people wouldn't tamper with the score" he says to his neighbour. "The composer quite clearly marked this passage for the hatchet."

P.S. Great stuff, Salmoneus!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 1:44 pm 
Sanno
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Mornche Geddick wrote:
Raphael wrote:
I find it interesting that you have some very harsh things to say about 20th century "artistic" music, yet your illustrations post on the period is longer than any of your other posts. I agree with the very harsh things you said, though.
There's an old joke about an "avant-garde" music concert, in which two "pianists" are bashing the keyboard of a grand piano with hammers. One erudite member of the audience is annoyed.

"I do wish people wouldn't tamper with the score" he says to his neighbour. "The composer quite clearly marked this passage for the hatchet."

P.S. Great stuff, Salmoneus!


Thank you.

I think there's a serious point behind that joke, about how the audience for the avant-garde (in any art) often seems at odds with the compositional intent.

In the visual arts, I think the example that really bore this home to me was the guy who stored his own excrement in jars and sold it to an art gallery. Now, if people want to say that everything is art, or that actions and concepts can be art... well fine. But the artistic thing about canning your own excrement and selling it to an art gallery is the fact that the gallery would be stupid enough, and unable enough to distinguish art from fraud, to buy it. I can actually appreciate the value of that "artwork" as an ironic attack on the institutions of art, which I think is how it was intended. And if a gallery wants to "ironically" play along with that by buying it, then, well, that's foolishnessness, but each to their own. The problem is: the gallery then put the jars on display. And this portrays a fundamental failure to understand the work. The artist is saying that art isn't about precious artifacts, the product of skillfull work, which people knowingly stare at and nod at and point at, but about the artistic action, the artistic concept, and hence is beyond what can be bought or stored or displayed. And the gallery, by displaying not the art but the product of the art, or the bearer of the art, shows that it is thinking of art as a matter of physical artifacts (with a certain monetary value attached), which is a complete failure to miss the point.

Likewise, in music there is a certain crowd who will obsess over whether the score calls for hatchets or hammers, and completely miss the fact that it's meant to be someone destroying a piano - and likewise, the modern performer will ignore the whole idea of gleefully smashing something to bits, and will instead, po-faced, reverential, mechanically carry out the allotted task with as little creativity as possible.
[Then again, there are some composers who themselves obsessed over these minutiae]

Actually, this is a small but legitimate critique of modern classical performance in general. Well, two critiques: first, there is too much focus on mechanistic
virtuosity and rote obedience, and not enough on musicality. And, second, there is too little sympathy for performances that take liberties with the score in terms of tempo and the like. Most classical music was not written for metronomic performance, in part because the metronome didn't become commonplace until well into the early Romantic; indeed, much Baroque music, we know, was performed with substantial syncopation, even when not noted in the score. Baroque performers were also expected to ad lib ornamentation, and well into the Romantic era the top performers would have taken liberties with the score in terms of adding ornaments, or even repeats, or stretching the tempo. Of course, in the Romantic era they probably took it too far: opera singers, for instance, would carry their own arias with them and use them to replace arias in the score if they thought their favourite aria made them sound more accomplished - even if the aria they added had nothing to do with the plot. These 'suitcase arias' were actually the source of a great deal of furious argument between prima donnas and composers.
[Music in the Romantic was, in most cases, much more about the godlike performer, the virtuoso or the prima donna, than about the actual score of the music.]

[The second of these critiques - that there should be more tolerance of showmanship and loose interpretation - is, I think, controversial. The first - that there are too many mechanical and unmusical players being applauded - is less musically controversial, but dangerous to express in conversation, as it comes across as racist, but that wasn't my intent here.]

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:19 pm 
Sanno
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hwhatting wrote:
Quote:
But the in-joke here is that Rawhide was written by a Hollywood liberal immigrant Soviet academically-trained Jew...

I never knew that this was meant to be an in-joke, and this was the cult film of my youth. A special thanks for explaining that!



To be fair, I don't know for sure that this was intentional... but given the context, and the film, it seems like way too perfect to be a coincidence.

[I was about to say: woah, I didn't realise that film was so old!... but I wouldn't say that, as that would be insensitive. But... I'd always assumed it came out about ten years later than that.]

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:39 am 
Avisaru
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Oh, come on, Sal - I bet for some of the younger ZBB members the fact that you and I were old enough to join internet forums in, respectively, 2004 and 2002, marks us as very old. :P


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:16 am 
Smeric
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Salmoneus wrote:
[I was about to say: woah, I didn't realise that film was so old!... but I wouldn't say that, as that would be insensitive.

Don't worry, I don't mind being reminded of my age. :-)


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:49 pm 
Sanno
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The Genres of Classical Music
In classical music, “genre” does not primarily refer to different schools or styles. It is less a classification of what a piece will sound like, as of what shape it is.
There’s an endless number of genres, but I thought it would be helpful for non-fans to break it down a little and mention some of the most important genres (particularly because, in classical music, the genre is often part of the title).
So...


Mass
A musical setting of the Christian Mass. This genre goes back about 700 years, although settings of parts of the mass go back another 700 at least. During the Classical Period, the link between music and religion weakened, particularly in the realm of the Requiem, the mass for the dead, and by the Romantic era requiems were being written that were intended primarily as concert pieces rather than religious ceremonies – Cherubini’s now-overlooked but then-influential requiem signaled the way with a huge gong, an instrument considered unsuitable for a solemn church. As traditional religion has declines, requiems (and sometimes other masses) have continued to be written, increasingly with non-standard texts: Brahms’ “German Requiem” sets religious texts but of the author’s choosing (and hence is not liturgically a ‘mass’, though it should probably be considered one musically), while Britten’s 20th century “War Requiem” interleaves the Latin mass text with poems by Wilfrid Owen.
The genre continues to prove fruitful – one of the 21st century’s most popular classical pieces is Jenkin’s “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.”

Opera
Opera originated in Italy around the turn of the 17th century, and has been popular ever since. Experts draw a line between real opera and... other stuff. Real opera in this definition is when every word, or almost every word, is sung, with extensive use of ‘recitative’ (words sung with a more natural rhythm and melody, rather than a specific tune), and no (or virtually no) use of speech. The other form is when much of the performance is sung, but there is less (or no) recitative, and the bits between the arias (pretty songs with tunes) are filled with talking instead. The second form has variously been called “comic opera” (opéra comique, etc), “opera buffa”, “light opera”, “Singspiel”, “zarzuela”, “Savoy opera”, “operetta”, and most recently “musical” – all of these tend (to varying degrees) to suggest a lighter or more comic content than the heavier true opera. These terms may have some genre content (it’s often said that a musical has more acting than an operetta, for instance), but they don’t really hold up strictly in each individual case, and they’re really more a matter of time and place of origin, I think (a Singspiel written by a Spaniard would be called an unusual zarzuela, not a Spanish Singspiel). Similarly, even the distinction between opera proper and operetta (etc) isn’t always clear, and is often ignored when inconvenient – Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is commonly called an “opera”, for instance, even though structurally it’s actually a Singspiel (likewise, Bizet’s “Carmen” is an opéra comique with spoken dialogue). So... it’s all opera, really.
Some other terms that might be helpful in talking about opera: “Grand Opera” is a genre of really heavy, really long 19th century operas, typically from France, with massive staging requirements, often all sorts of pyrotechnics and trickery, ridiculous plots, and a ballet stuck in the middle of them. They’re like... peak opera. Raw concentrated Opera, in a very formulaic structure. They’re not very popular these days – partly because few of them are all that good, musically speaking, and partly because the damn things cost a fortune to stage, and a great deal of patience to sit through.
“Gesamtkunstwerk”, or Total Art Work, is what Wagner insisted people call his operas (he was in charge of everything from the words to the music to the costumes to the set designs to the architecture of the opera house). I wouldn’t bother if I were you.
Operas are divided into, essentially, three sorts of parts: recitative (natural and dull bits that move the plot along), aria (tuneful bits but that don’t really move the plot very quickly) and sometimes arioso (a recitative that’s sort of a bit like an aria). There can also be miniature ballets (dancing bits), and there is commonly a musical introduction bit, most commonly called an “overture” (though early ones are sometimes called “sinfonias” or “symphonies”. Overtures sometimes showcase tunes that will feature in the opera, but they don’t have to – and early overtures were often used with more than one opera. They were basically bits of music the orchestra played to get people in the mood while everyone was getting settled before the show started.
Opera has always stood a little to one side of other music, and (other than at the beginning) has generally been relatively conservative.

Oratorio
An oratorio is an opera in which there is no, or only little, attempt to depict the dramatic action through acting and scenary – it is ‘unstaged’, and just has the soloists standing in front of the orchestra (although sometimes attempts are made to introduce a small element of staging – having the soloists look at each other to convey dialogue, having them walk around a little or make hand gestures, etc). The lyric content is traditionally religious in character, and because the words are sacred more effort is made to make them clear, with less flamboyant virtuosity than in many operas. There tends to be much more work for the choir than in an opera.

Cantata
A religious work for choir and orchestra, and usually soloists (often alternative solo and choral sections). A cantata is similar to an oratorio but much shorter – and indeed, Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” is simply a collection of three of his cantatas.

Ballet
An attempt to tell a story through dance and music, but no words at all. Mostly a Romantic genre – and Romantic ballets could be very, very long.

Film Score
Music that is played while a film shows. There is often quite striking music at the beginning and end, when no action is really occuring on-screen, and there are sometimes important melodic bits, often at climactic moments, or there may even be songs, but most of the score is in the form of “underscoring” – music that helps frame the mood of the onscreen action, but does not demand the watcher’s attention.

Other narrative forms...
Over the years there have been various less important genres than the above. “Incidental music”, for instance, is written to accompany a play, and may include some minimal underscoring as well as appropriate songs, dances, music to fill the intervals between acts, etc. The Baroque also enjoyed the “Masque”, sort of like a play/opera where the audience (very rich people) are the actors and singers (and hence not much is demanded of them). Neither masques nor incidental music are ever really performed entire these days, but occasional bits of music are encountered that began life in these genres.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:51 pm 
Sanno
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Raphael wrote:
Oh, come on, Sal - I bet for some of the younger ZBB members the fact that you and I were old enough to join internet forums in, respectively, 2004 and 2002, marks us as very old. :P


FWIW - and intended not as a correction but as a curio - I actually joined in 2003. It's just that in 2004, posting by guest accounts was disabled, so I had to formally sign up, which I'd previously avoided.

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