Sunday, October 20, 2013

Will the 1960s and 1970s Never End?

As a young guitarist what I was really interested in was mastering the conventional repertoire. But as time went on I developed a strong interest in contemporary music. The music of Leo Brouwer in particular I found compelling.

But there were a lot of aspects of contemporary music that did not interest me. The composers' collective at my music school put on avant-garde 'happenings' from time to time that, while they seemed fun, did not actually interest me as music. I recall one concert that featured a singer doing cabaret-type songs with piano accompaniment while another 'artist' fried pork chops and yet another climbed a ladder. The event ended with an hommage to the clavicinistes who wrote a number of pieces about chickens. Eggs were rolled and thrown, and whole raw chickens, plus I think there was some Col. Saunders. Then finally a live rooster made his way onstage where he regarded us with considerable indignation.

There were also innumerable pieces using what they called "extended techniques" meaning ones that brought out from the instruments sounds that would normally not be used: breathy, scratchy, percussive-type sounds. These were often presented in a context of rhythmic amorphousness: no discernible pulse, just waves and eruptions of sounds. Not only was there no actual tonality, often there were not even any discrete pitches, again, just waves of frequencies blurred together.

I think that perhaps one of the reasons I did not contemplate studying composition was the thought that, if this was what you were supposed to be doing, then I simply wasn't interested.

Well, that was the very early 1970s. This sort of musical 'happening' started in New York in the 1960s I believe. It just took a while to disseminate to where I lived. But all that is over with now, right? Apparently not, as I just ran into a piece that really reminds me of what was going on back then. Could we call this a musical flashback? Here is a new piece by Marcos Balter called Strohbass:

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