Monday, May 19, 2014

Just some miscellanea

Berklee College of Music is going to offer more online instruction. Also, there are some very entrepreneurial guitar teachers out there that have been very successful. I'm not sure what I think of all this as the model that I have seen to be the most valuable is rather medieval: a small group of talented students cluster around a master. Pretty well every fine musician I know of has come out of this sort of situation. Of course that is elitist and I suspect that these new kinds of online music education are anything but elitist. So what does that make them?

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Now this is just a charming story. How terrific that this young cellist is not only composing, but getting the opportunity to perform and premiere her composition.

I liked this comment she made in the article:
Most people of my age have a limited exposure to classical music: it is not the modern expectation for children to sit through a long concert and enjoy it. But I don’t think that dumbing down classical music to make it more “accessible” would help though - it could go the wrong way and become so similar to pop music that it would lose its unique way of conveying emotion.

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I have found the perfect cartoon, from Calvin and Hobbes, to illustrate my series of posts on pseudo-science:

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I just don't have anything more for you today. Yesterday was pretty productive as I finally finished listening to all the Bruckner symphonies. After I do some comparison listening, I will do a big post on Bruckner, Mahler and Brahms. But my feeling just as I finished the Symphony No. 9 of Bruckner is that there is a bit less there than one would hope. While his symphonies are rich in harmony and orchestration, they seem weak rhythmically and dull motivically. Too many long, long pedals. There is a kind of sameness to them. But more about that later! I also listened to Esa-Pekka Salonen's Violin Concerto, which is a pretty interesting piece. It won the Grawemeyer Prize in 2012. But, more importantly, I did some work on my symphony, which may be restrained in terms of orchestration, but, damn it, will be interesting rhythmically!

Here is Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the Symphony No. 9 by Bruckner:


Rickard Dahl said...

- In some regards the online mass model can be more useful. It's good for explaining basic principles and maybe makes it easier for discussions to occur regarding which methods of practice are the best. It's also good that it reaches many people at once. The problem is obviously that different music students have different problems and a teacher in real life is probably more useful. Music students might not even notice their own flaws in playing.

- Yes, exactly! Also: "Many of my pieces originate from improvisations on the cello or piano, as I experiment with new melodies or note combinations while I’m practising, although I don’t always need to be at an instrument to have a musical idea." That's the kind of experimentation that I think is lacking with most composers today, at least in the academia (although the reason is also ideological bias with modernist and post-modernist ideologies at the forefront). And, finally, it shows that there is no bias or other things stopping women from becoming (good) composers despite what certain organizations try to portray. Sure, it's just one example but the music speaks for itself.

- About Bruckner: You have a point that the symphonies have a kind of similar sound. I think it's nothing unusual. For instance Shostakovich's symphonies also a type of sound which makes it Shostakovich. In the case of Bruckner the "sameness" may indeed have been stretched a lot. As one of your commentators pointed out: He focuses mostly on strings and brass and less on woodwinds. I would say his orchestration is typically quite thick with a kind of soundlayer in the background most of the time. His symphonies are certainly rich in harmony and orchestration. Surely some themes may be dull but I think some of the symphonies have themes that stand out quite a lot, like for instance the 9th. Weak rhythmically, maybe in some cases, I guess the sound landscape doesn't get so rhythmically active. In summary I think his symphonies show a great weight, "epicness" (a buzz-word but whatever), majestic character, sound landscape and excitement.

Anyways, I hope the work with your symphony is going well. I think a crucial aspect is finding good themes that sound good rhythmically and melodically. What kind of orchestration do you go for?

I personally have a conceptual idea for a symphony. I basically have an idea about how it should be structured, which modes and keys to use, some thoughts about the instrumentation (I think about using an accordion amongst other things) and even the descriptive name for it (it's something regarding nature, I won't tell at this point). What I don't have is any kind of starting point or any musical ideas yet.

Btw, something I've been thinking about: A lot of organ music sounds boring to me, including organ music by famous composers, yet organ music in church (which often includes song) sounds much more interesting. I wonder why.

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, I think that the reason why music lessons need to be one on one is that every student has different strengths and weaknesses, makes different mistakes and so on. There has to be a knowledgeable teacher there to point these things out.

Yes, Bruckner's strength is the epic quality of the music. And some of it is quite powerful. But what really strikes me is that he doesn't seem to be able to make each work individual enough. He too often falls back on a certain set of strategies. I say this, comparing it in my mind with how skillfully Beethoven, for example, made each symphony so individual. Or Haydn. Sibelius, especially. You mention Shostakovich, but he too, though having a characteristic sound, did individualize his symphonies. Compare the 5th to the 10th or the 7th to the 14th.

Ah, I am approaching the symphony in rather an odd way. I suppose it is a bit like the phrase from biology "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny ". What I am doing, at least in this, my first symphony, is starting afresh, where Haydn started and with a typical Haydn orchestra. Just flute, oboe, clarinet (yes, I know he didn't use clarinets until the late symphonies...) tympani and strings. It won't sound anything like Haydn, but still I am wanting the clarity and crisp kind of sound he hear in the Classical era.

I agree about organ music. I don't know why either, but the last time I went to an organ recital I was quite bored.