And back, so you can see the contents:
You can't quite see it, but in the purple section at the bottom it says that this is distributed by "Sony Music Entertainment" which makes me think of this:
Well, no, I don't think you will be greatly entertained by these discs. Some few perhaps. Like those old shows from the 60s that were trying to imagine what the future would look like in 50 to 100 years, most of the music on these discs is attempting to envision the future of music. Now, forty-some years later, how did they do?
The Charles Ives disc of the Piano Sonata No. 2, the "Concord" Sonata, which was composed between 1911 and 1915, lies outside of the time period of the rest. It is holding up pretty well. The justification for its inclusion here is probably that the discovery of Ives' music was happening around this time: the 60s and 70s. There are some "classics" of modernism here, like Boulez' "Le Marteau sans maître" and Stravinsky's Agon, but most of the collection tends to show rather clearly the wayward looniness that was common in those years. I am thinking here particularly of the pieces by George Crumb that sound very dated indeed. Thank god the penchant for masked performers has died out! Here is a performance of "Voice of the Whale":
Another composer that is not wearing well, surprisingly, is Toru Takemitsu, who also has a whole disc to himself. I had the vague recollection of his music having a certain Asian exoticism (which his guitar music seems to), but these orchestral pieces sound pretty much like standard avant-garde noodling. Harry Partch is like nothing else, of course, but what sounded in the 70s rather charming and exotic, now just sounds tedious. And listening to him describe his instruments is particularly annoying as he always sounds like he is arguing for the death penalty for ordinary musical instruments. "The LIVES of ordinary MUSICAL instruments must be SACRIFICED to leave room for MY instruments with their JUST intonation!!"
The most annoying discs begin with the one titled "Extended Voices". I have learned to dread the word "extended" when applied to instrumental technique because it always seems to involve doing something really nasty to your instrument with predictable results: nasty sounds. Here is the first piece on the disc, Sound Patterns by Pauline Oliveros:
No, it doesn't get much better from there, but the Morton Feldman pieces are restful, at least:
The disc devoted to some of the most challenging composers of this period, people like Xenakis, Stockhausen and Cage, is not an easy listen, though Akrata by Xenakis is probably the most charming:
The prize for most unlistenable goes to Fontana Mix -- Feed, by John Cage:
After that I just stumbled away, muttering to myself "I am NOT a modernist, I am NOT a modernist, I am NOT a modernist..." Next is a whole disc of the Unlistenable which contains various examples of experimental electronic music. Little did these folks know at the time that the apotheosis of what they were starting would be Electronic Dance Music. Here is "Ensembles for Synthesizer":
The final disc is mostly devoted to avant-garde virtuoso flute music played by one of the virtuosos of the time, Severino Gazzelloni. And oh how they loved their "Flatterzunge" (flutter-tongue) which seems to be featured in every piece. This is Interpolation by Roman Haubenstock-Ramati:
So, were you entertained?