The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

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John F
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The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by John F » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:27 am

A typically original and stimulating take on Stravinsky's most famous and influential piece. Too long to give here complete, but worth reading from beginning to end:

September 14, 2012
Shocker Cools Into a ‘Rite’ of Passage
By RICHARD TARUSKIN

...Stravinsky claimed that his music was abstract and pure: “architectonic, not anecdotal,” as he put it to a French reporter. After the last performance by the original company, in London in June 1929, Diaghilev, with only a month to live, wrote ecstatically that a review in The Times of London “says that ‘Sacre’ will be for the 20th century what Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was for the 19th!”

Diaghilev, spinning as usual, completely misrepresented the way that the anonymous reviewer for that newspaper, writing in the regal plural, reported a bit of overheard partisan scuttlebutt, quite likely planted by Diaghilev himself. “Le Sacre,” he wrote, “is ‘absolute’ ballet, and we are assured that it will come to be regarded as having a significance for the 20th century equal to that of Beethoven’s choral symphony in the 19th. Well, perhaps; meanwhile there was a rather thin attendance in stalls and boxes last night, but the lovers of true art in the gallery applauded to the echo.” Clearly the writer found the comparison absurd.

But, just as clearly, it was under his skin. By now it is commonplace. But what do the cruel “Rite” and the lofty Ninth have in common? Both have cast enormous shadows. “We live in the valley of the Ninth,” wrote Joseph Kerman, the musicologist and critic. “That we cannot help.”

For many the Ninth is a musical mountain that inspires a paralyzing awe. Robert Craft, Stravinsky’s assistant during the composer’s last decades, was more sanguine about “The Rite,” naming it “the prize bull that inseminated the whole modern movement.” Monumentality of scale the two scores certainly share, which is an extra tribute to “The Rite,” only half the length of the Ninth. What it lacks in length it more than makes up in weight of sound.

But in other ways the two are opposites. Pablo Casals, the great cellist, was asked to comment on the comparison, attributed this time to Francis Poulenc, a zealous Stravinskian. “I completely disagree with my friend Poulenc,” Casals retorted. “To compare these two works is nothing short of blasphemy.”

Blasphemy: a violation of holiness. The Ninth has that aura. It voices the ideals for which Casals had become a symbol, as famous for his antifascism as for his cello playing. He too had an aura of sanctity, which made him allergic to “The Rite”: not exactly a herald of universal fellowship and certainly no “Ode to Joy.” You would never perform “The Rite” at an occasion like the breaching of the Berlin Wall, where Leonard Bernstein so memorably did the Ninth in 1989. But neither could you imagine performing “The Rite” before an assemblage of the Nazi elite on Hitler’s birthday, as you can still behold Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic doing the Ninth in 1942 on YouTube.

The transferability of noble aspirations (for the Nazis certainly thought their cause was holy) has cast a countershadow over the Ninth. From many, now, the Ninth attracts derision the way a cartoon millionaire’s top hat attracts snowballs. Ned Rorem, the American composer, has made it a mission to spread contempt for it, insulting it in print (“the first piece of junk in the grand style”) and in public speech (“utter trash”).

And that may be the fairest standard of comparison between the Ninth and “The Rite.” They are the most strenuously resisted pieces in the repertory of what we used to call great music. Stravinsky’s own resistance to “The Rite” began when he called it architectonic, not anecdotal. What he was resisting might at first seem only the parts of it for which he was not responsible — Nijinsky’s scandalous choreography, Nicholas Roerich’s folkish sets and costumes — and which he may have blamed for the initial failure.

There has always been resistance to the troubling, antihumanitarian scenario. Stravinsky gave permission to detach the work from its subject when he wrote, in a late memoir, that seeing Diaghilev’s post-Nijinsky revival, “I realized then that I prefer ‘Le Sacre’ as a concert piece.” That is how the New York Philharmonic will celebrate it on Thursday, as will the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Sept. 28. Stravinsky’s later claim that his first thought of “The Rite” took place not in his mind’s eye (imagining the sacrifice, as he originally said) but in his mind’s ear in the form of a musical theme was typical of a man who spent the second half of his life telling lies about the first half.

Even without jettisoning the subject in toto, the message of “The Rite” has been regularly muted in performance. The clumsiest attempt, surely, was the first Soviet production, choreographed for the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow by Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliev in 1965 in the aftermath of Stravinsky’s 80th-birthday visit to his homeland in 1962. But though he was newly persona grata, the implicitly religious scenario remained a problem. The choreographers solved it by having a young Soviet hero leap out of the corps de ballet during the little flute scale right before the end, sweep the sacrificial victim off her feet and out of danger, and (coinciding with the last crashing chord) plunge a dagger into the idol before which she had been dancing.

The Joffrey Ballet’s version of 1987 purported to reinstate Nijinsky’s harsh original. It will be revived next March as part of a season-long celebration by Carolina Performing Arts, which begins on Sept. 30. But even it allowed a bit of sentimentality to seep into the concluding “Danse Sacrale,” when the victim tries repeatedly to break out of the circle of tribal elders who confine her. There could not have been such a concession to a banal sense of the tragic in the original, or Jacques Rivière, the French literary critic, couldn’t have written that “not for an instant” does the victim “betray the personal terror that must fill her soul.”

“She is absorbed by a social function,” he continued, “and without giving the slightest sign of comprehension or of interpretation, she acts according to the will and the convulsions of a being more vast than she.” Her fate is shown not as horrible but as inevitable and, by the lights of her tribe, beneficent. That’s what’s horrible.

We don’t get, because we don’t want, this message from “The Rite” anymore...

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/arts/ ... ssage.html
John Francis

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by david johnson » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:33 am

BBC's "Riot at the Rite" would be excellent to watch for the centennial of this exciting music.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:04 pm

Before I read the article, the first thing that occurred to me, coincidentally, was to calculate the year of the 100th anniversary of the Ninth Symphony (1924), four years after my mother was born. Though there is enough continuity in Western music for our appreciation to remain fresh, by 1924 the Ninth might as well have been 500 years old in terms of belonging to a recent or contiguous age. Yet The Rite of Spring remains of our time, as though modern style was a matter of precocity and such a work was only meant to have been composed last year.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by hangos » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:49 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Before I read the article, the first thing that occurred to me, coincidentally, was to calculate the year of the 100th anniversary of the Ninth Symphony (1924), four years after my mother was born. Though there is enough continuity in Western music for our appreciation to remain fresh, by 1924 the Ninth might as well have been 500 years old in terms of belonging to a recent or contiguous age. Yet The Rite of Spring remains of our time, as though modern style was a matter of precocity and such a work was only meant to have been composed last year.
A very valid and interesting point, John.
I often get that "just composed yesterday, surely?" feeling when I listen to Bartok's 3rd or 4th quartets or his Music for strings, percussion and celesta.
One could argue that Wagner's Tristan ought to be included as a kind of half-way staging post between Beethoven's 9th and The Rite, as Tristan began the dissolution of Western harmony.
I also think that part of the Rite's (literally) iconoclastic appeal is its extreme savagery and violence
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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:39 pm

hangos wrote:I often get that "just composed yesterday, surely?" feeling when I listen to Bartok's 3rd or 4th quartets or his Music for strings, percussion and celesta.
Is that feeling a function of who you are or of what the Bartok pieces are.

I ask because I do not get that feeling from them. (I like them very much, don't misunderstand!)
hangos wrote:...the Rite's... extreme savagery and violence.
Or perhaps its incredible melodic inventiveness.

I'm not discounting your experiences, hangos. Indeed, I am calling attention to them and valuing them AS experiences. I think that that's how experiences should be taken, as experiences, not as descriptions.

Our personal reactions to music are powerful, so powerful that it is the easiest thing in the world to take them as truth, as factual truth--descriptions of the pieces themselves. They are not. If they describe anything, it's the experience of listening to music, which will differ from listener to listener.

I listen mostly to fairly recent music. And I, for instance, get the feeling of "just composed yesterday" more from Ives' Unanswered Question than from Le Sacre, and less from Le Sacre than from Petrushka.

I would venture to guess that Le Sacre still sounds of our time to many listeners less because it is of our time than because the ears (and minds) of the many listeners are still about a hundred years in the past.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:55 pm

some guy wrote:I would venture to guess that Le Sacre still sounds of our time to many listeners less because it is of our time than because the ears (and minds) of the many listeners are still about a hundred years in the past.
I disagree. As one who appreciates a number of far more recent and not neo-traditionalist composers (you will forgive me if I mention among the living only the famous such as Boulez, Carter, and Wuorinen), I think that music of a post-tonal character will always sound "modern" and will never seem of another era. I think we're talking about fundamental limits of what music can express and of our capacity for appreciation.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:32 pm

And I think that you have identified your (current) limit and referred to it as "our."

Put the "y" back on!

You consistently and persistently discount the capacities of other people besides yourself. And there is nothing fundamental about your own limits, except maybe to you.

At the very least, I have different limits from yours.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:47 pm

I disagree as I think John has a very wide range of musical interests and, to me, he seems broadminded.

Why is it that when music post-1910 is discussed the tone becomes censorious (from you) and questions about the individual and SELDOM, if ever, the musical qualities and structures themselves analysed or discussed? There's a kind of sharp, intellectual asceticism and some arid argument attached to discussions about contemporary music (or even post-tonal) which I find distasteful and downright confrontational. It took nearly 1,000 years for music to loosen its bonds to modality and, then, diatonic triadic sonority and even then Bernstein once claimed, "atonal music is always what it is not". It stands to reason, then, that it would take a reasonable amount of time for people to accept the changes. Even then, it's entirely a matter of personal taste and - like it or not - a lot of music-lovers don't like any or much 'contemporary music', just as they don't have a personal collection of Barbie Dolls. That is not somebody else's business.

So, less focus on the person making the comment and more on the actual music would be far better, IMO.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:05 pm

some guy wrote:And I think that you have identified your (current) limit and referred to it as "our."

Put the "y" back on!

You consistently and persistently discount the capacities of other people besides yourself. And there is nothing fundamental about your own limits, except maybe to you.

At the very least, I have different limits from yours.
In the first place, I have not made enough posts on this topic for you to determine that I "consistently and persistently"do anything.

You are misunderstanding me (or I have opened myself to being misunderstood). I did not say that there are limits on our ability to appreciate newer music (in fact I implied the opposite in part to stave off such a response), but that there is some point at which the human sense of the "modern" will not alter over time. It is a dilemma also in the visual arts.

IMO there is an element of wishful thinking in all modernist appreciation, including my own. We cannot be, and may never be, certain that we are not liking something because we desperately want to, and the ambiguity becomes more of a challenge the closer we get to the present. Stravinsky, Bartok, etc. seem secure, but there is no guarantee that there will always be a next generation, and if there is not, the reasons may be inherent in the species and the character of Western art rather than incidental to any time and place.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:25 pm

Bravo.

And the criticism of allegedly attributing to other people the views one holds personally...there's such a thing as "shared understanding". That may occur in a concert or recital, at the cinema or in the context of interpreting body language at the most personal level. We have developed our "shared understandings" through social and cultural evolution and it's what facilitates understanding the experiences we have without having to go through endless analyses, hypothesizing and speculation about why a person or group does this, says that or behaves this way. We have psychoanalysis or cultural studies for all of this.

As an analogy; I don't regard my human interactions as something which need to be analyzed and laboured over because I admire difference - rugged individuality - for itself without having to defend my own affinity with it. I want to enjoy the interactions. Some of my friends do not like people who are "different" and that works for them, but I will only criticize them for that mindset if I feel that their thinking and behaviour actually hurts the person who is 'different'. Sometimes I feel compassion for their (to me) narrow-mindedness, but I appreciate that those who belong to particular groups are often far happier than those who do not.

What I want to read or hear is a discussion of the properties of contemporary music - it's form and structures, melody, harmonies and its relationship to the wholly human need to hear and/or make melody, co-operatively and communally, even at the most fundamental level. Show me; don't TELL me.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:09 pm

Tarantella wrote:What I want to read or hear is a discussion of the properties of contemporary music - it's form and structures, melody, harmonies....
OK, but to have a discussion (as opposed to a quarrel) you have to have knowledgable and experienced participants.

People on the CMG board do not by and large listen to enough contemporary music to have this discussion. Enough to quarrel about it, sure. But discuss? No.
Tarantella wrote:...and its relationship to the wholly human need to hear and/or make melody, co-operatively and communally, even at the most fundamental level. Show me; don't TELL me.
How about we stick with the properties themselves, what they are in actual fact--not how well they fit into a philosophical structure that's alien to what the music actually does?

And even more prior to all that, we would have to be able to come to a consensus on what the term "contemporary music" refers to. If I say, for instance, that contemporary music does not use melody in any nineteen century sense of the word, then there will be plenty of people ready to jump in with examples of recently composed music which does just that.

Even being specific won't help. For instance, Simon Steen-Andersen's Pretty Sound (up & down). It does not have any "melody" or "harmony" in the sense of the pitch relations that one gets in common practice tonality. Its largely asynchronous pitches move up and down, of course. And there are moments when several sounds occur simultaneously. But the point is not to create a harmonic structure, to create the sense of movement that common practice tonality does. The point is to play with some sounds, amplifying the tiny, peripheral noises common to any performance of any music, and make those sounds prominent. That's a fairly common characteristic of contemporary music, an interest in and exploration of sound, not necessarily using them in a structure or making them subservient to an external logic--though that still happens quite a lot--but allowing them the space to just be themselves.

And all anyone has to do to rebut that is to say that Pretty Sound (up & down) is not by any means typical or representative. And we're back to quarrelling rather than discussing. So the very best of luck to you in your quest.

In the meantime, here is a performance on youtube:



The performance is not as good as the one I saw in Oslo, but the recording is much better than the two I made, and it's one clip of the the entire piece.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:54 am

I'm sorry, but the only response I could find for this - in a huge repertoire of possible responses - was that it was funny! I laughed. And I could only last about 2 minutes before I had to shut it off. As I see it, this kind of 'work' has, at the very least, an ontological problem. It 'exists' purely by virtue of how effectively other people can argue its 'merit' as 'music'. Standing 'on its own two feet' it could easily be interpreted as some other kind of experience altogether. Very easily. And I'm not even sure what. It seems to me that once the collective musical experience moves out of the realm of the concert hall or chamber into that of the philosophy faculty or computer laboratory the issues become more problematic still.

At this point it might be useful to mention a piece of creative, highly descriptive writing which accompanied a Rothko painting I once saw at an exhibition. For me much of the real art lay in that written artefact - the art itself did nothing for me, but I admired what somebody else had created to try and confer meaning into the painting. In a sense, both experiences were quite different, if not mutually exclusive - the viewing of the art and the reading of the blurb. I think you are trying to do the same thing with some of these 'pieces' that the art critic was trying to do with Rothko - breath life into the thing, there being a lack of 'shared understanding' about what it was or could be.

You claim "the point is not to create a harmonic structure, to create the sense of movement that common practice tonality does" - surely this is axiomatic. It reminds me of a comment in the art catalogue accompanying the Rothko painting, "Rothko denies the existence of a horizon line" (the painting was a square with grey on the top and red on the bottom, hence no "horizon line" or anything remotely suggesting the geographical). It was marketing fol-de-rol.

There are some 'influences' from the 'Rite of Spring', though - those violent rhythms, for one. And I've always wondered to what extent the ballet which accompanied the original performance of the "Rite of Spring" might have been responsible for the reaction of the public on that boisterous night. Sound and image - a heady cocktail.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by hangos » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:14 am

Tarantella wrote:I'm sorry, but the only response I could find for this - in a huge repertoire of possible responses - was that it was funny! I laughed. And I could only last about 2 minutes before I had to shut it off. As I see it, this kind of 'work' has, at the very least, an ontological problem. It 'exists' purely by virtue of how effectively other people can argue its 'merit' as 'music'. Standing 'on its own two feet' it could easily be interpreted as some other kind of experience altogether. Very easily. And I'm not even sure what. It seems to me that once the collective musical experience moves out of the realm of the concert hall or chamber into that of the philosophy faculty or computer laboratory the issues become more problematic still.
At this point it might be useful to mention a piece of creative, highly descriptive writing which accompanied a Rothko painting I once saw at an exhibition. For me much of the real art lay in that written artefact - the art itself did nothing for me, but I admired what somebody else had created to try and confer meaning into the painting. In a sense, both experiences were quite different, if not mutually exclusive - the viewing of the art and the reading of the blurb. I think you are trying to do the same thing with some of these 'pieces' that the art critic was trying to do with Rothko - breath life into the thing, there being a lack of 'shared understanding' about what it was or could be.

You claim "the point is not to create a harmonic structure, to create the sense of movement that common practice tonality does" - surely this is axiomatic. It reminds me of a comment in the art catalogue accompanying the Rothko painting, "Rothko denies the existence of a horizon line" (the painting was a square with grey on the top and red on the bottom, hence no "horizon line" or anything remotely suggesting the geographical). It was marketing fol-de-rol.

There are some 'influences' from the 'Rite of Spring', though - those violent rhythms, for one. And I've always wondered to what extent the ballet which accompanied the original performance of the "Rite of Spring" might have been responsible for the reaction of the public on that boisterous night. Sound and image - a heady cocktail.
I think you've hit the nail on the head there - one of the main trends evident in much 20th and 21st century music and art is the need to explain the "hidden" processes or "meaning" or structure/composition in a piece of music or a painting.
While such explanations can enrich the listening or viewing experience of listeners or viewers of 16th -19th century music and art, most people can enjoy the piece without the explanation, whereas it seems to me that many people find it difficult to enjoy or grasp a 20th century/contemporary piece without the explanation. I think this applies even more if the music does not have an emotional or visceral impact on the listener(in my case, Xenakis and Ligeti "grab" me a lot more than Boulez, for example)
Clumsily expressed, I know, but I hope it adds to the discussion
Martin

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by maestrob » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:18 pm

hangos wrote:
Tarantella wrote:I'm sorry, but the only response I could find for this - in a huge repertoire of possible responses - was that it was funny! I laughed. And I could only last about 2 minutes before I had to shut it off. As I see it, this kind of 'work' has, at the very least, an ontological problem. It 'exists' purely by virtue of how effectively other people can argue its 'merit' as 'music'. Standing 'on its own two feet' it could easily be interpreted as some other kind of experience altogether. Very easily. And I'm not even sure what. It seems to me that once the collective musical experience moves out of the realm of the concert hall or chamber into that of the philosophy faculty or computer laboratory the issues become more problematic still.
At this point it might be useful to mention a piece of creative, highly descriptive writing which accompanied a Rothko painting I once saw at an exhibition. For me much of the real art lay in that written artefact - the art itself did nothing for me, but I admired what somebody else had created to try and confer meaning into the painting. In a sense, both experiences were quite different, if not mutually exclusive - the viewing of the art and the reading of the blurb. I think you are trying to do the same thing with some of these 'pieces' that the art critic was trying to do with Rothko - breath life into the thing, there being a lack of 'shared understanding' about what it was or could be.

You claim "the point is not to create a harmonic structure, to create the sense of movement that common practice tonality does" - surely this is axiomatic. It reminds me of a comment in the art catalogue accompanying the Rothko painting, "Rothko denies the existence of a horizon line" (the painting was a square with grey on the top and red on the bottom, hence no "horizon line" or anything remotely suggesting the geographical). It was marketing fol-de-rol.

There are some 'influences' from the 'Rite of Spring', though - those violent rhythms, for one. And I've always wondered to what extent the ballet which accompanied the original performance of the "Rite of Spring" might have been responsible for the reaction of the public on that boisterous night. Sound and image - a heady cocktail.
I think you've hit the nail on the head there - one of the main trends evident in much 20th and 21st century music and art is the need to explain the "hidden" processes or "meaning" or structure/composition in a piece of music or a painting.
While such explanations can enrich the listening or viewing experience of listeners or viewers of 16th -19th century music and art, most people can enjoy the piece without the explanation, whereas it seems to me that many people find it difficult to enjoy or grasp a 20th century/contemporary piece without the explanation. I think this applies even more if the music does not have an emotional or visceral impact on the listener(in my case, Xenakis and Ligeti "grab" me a lot more than Boulez, for example)
Clumsily expressed, I know, but I hope it adds to the discussion
Martin
Actually, while what you say is sometimes true, I find that, for myself, I do enjoy some contemporary compositions without the (sometimes fascinating) added effort of reading program notes. Reading the notes does add to my enjoyment, but "explanation" is not always necessary for enjoyment.

Frankly, I think that the current attitude of elitism among some composers and audience members is self-defeating, like a self-inflicted wound. Composers who compose just for themselves and for an elite audience while hoping to be discovered by future generations, are risking being swept aside as have many in past generations.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:47 pm

Don't get the idea I'm anti contemporary music. On the contrary, I've enjoyed some recent performances in Vienna and Sydney of music written within the last few years and this enthusiasm was shared by the audiences. But it was music in it's full sense as melodic, harmonic and rhythmic and, because of its audiences' 'shared understanding', ultimately accessible. I wouldn't rush out and buy a recording of it because, IMO, some of it sounded like film music - but it had a point of reference and THAT is the point.

When I say 'film music' I don't mean the title theme from a film, but the kind of 'atmospheric' music which often accompanies action - somewhat amorphous, but highly suggestive.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:26 pm

Tarantella,

Imagine if you will someone listening to the Steen-Andersen without laughing (or without derision, anyway), someone listening to it all the way through (it's only about six minutes long) with pleasure, even on first hearing it. And doing so without any explanations or expectations. (Or as close to having no expectations as is possible.) Think about that person's experience with this piece. How much value does that experience have? If you're tempted to say, "none, except for that person," I will say that that is what I would be tempted to say as well. But, be fair, I would have to say that about your experience with it, too. And if anyone is tempted to try to increase the value of one experience or other mathematically by multiplying zero times a thousand, say, or a million.... Well, you understand.

I've noticed this over and over again. Each person's experiences with music are very powerful, so powerful that it is almost impossible to imagine any other response than the one you've just had, for good or for ill. (I have seen only one person back down from this position ever.) And so soon as one has confirmation of one's experience from other people, then that experience is irretrievably set in stone as TRUTH. Even lip service to "sure, everyone has their own opinions" doesn't really alter the fundamental reality, which is that "only my opinion is truly valid."

Rothko, just by the way, has always "done something for me," and has done so without me ever having read a word about his work. The kinds of things written about contemporary art, even by (especially by) the artists themselves, are so often gagsome in the extreme. But the quality of the commentary is no commentary on the quality of the art.

**************************************
Martin,

You're forgetting two things. One, that explanations are just as much a feature of nineteenth century practice as they are of twentieth. I don't think it was so much in the eighteenth century, but I don't know. By 1830, certainly, programme notes--long, detailed explanations (sometimes expository, sometimes narrative) of what you were about to hear--were de rigeur. Berlioz' infamous programme for his Symphonie fantastique was a part of that tradition, a tradition that he broke with once it became clear that the programme was getting more attention than the music. Wagner spent decades talking up "The Music of the Future" before actually writing any of it. The whole century is full of musicians and entrepreneurs travelling around Europe and England and the United States promoting new music, talking it up, explaining its features, its rationale, talking concert managers into programming it on concerts or, failing that, pulling together ensembles of free-lance musicians to perform it, renting halls, putting out flyers, putting notices in newspapers, talking to everyone both before and after the performances.

Two, many people can appreciate older music now without the explanations. But that's because it's old. It's familiar. It doesn't need the explanations any more because it's been around long enough. And even that is only for many people. Think of all the explanatory situations, from the Young People's Concerts on, in which even old but for certain audiences unfamiliar music, like Mozart and Beethoven, is surrounded by commentary. And symphony concerts, which are almost entirely of old music (at least the ones in the U.S.), increasingly feature pre-concert talks to give people information about how to listen and what to listen for in this familiar and already well-beloved music.

"Standing on its own two feet" has a nice sound to it. Independence. Going it alone. Making a success of yourself without any help. It really appeals to us that kind of talk. But how much of it it real? We all depend on all sorts of people and things and situations already in place to perform our dazzling feats of independence. In the arts as well. You know the nineteenth century practice of the claque? People would be paid to attend concerts and either applaud or boo the music, depending on what their employer wanted. Nothing to do with any putative value of the music, just with getting the result that someone wanted. Whatever else the twentieth century had, it at least did not have that!
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by absinthe » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:03 pm

some guy wrote:
Tarantella wrote:What I want to read or hear is a discussion of the properties of contemporary music - it's form and structures, melody, harmonies....
OK, but to have a discussion (as opposed to a quarrel) you have to have knowledgable and experienced participants.
My, my...some intelligent observation there.
some guy wrote:People on the CMG board do not by and large listen to enough contemporary music to have this discussion. Enough to quarrel about it, sure. But discuss? No.
Oh dear. Then perhaps we could strike up with one of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches, to march to your circumstantial pomposity.

But as the somewhat shaky pontifax of contemporary music, could you be a little more precise about what you mean with knowledgeable and experienced? Do you mean as a listener, composer, performer, producer, critic, groupie? A combination perhaps? Are you the person who holds all these qualities?

Thanks.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:57 pm

Someguy, I can't possibly imagine anyone (since you've chosen the objectifying and remote third person) listening to the Steen Whatever without laughing. I'd say they either take themselves way way too seriously or they're simply cloth-eared. And I'd also advise them to lighten up and get a sense of humour. This latter characteristic would also help in the appreciation of "ancient" music too.

I'm glad you enjoy Rothko without explication, but you get the point about why I was using his artwork purely analogously.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:14 pm

My very dear Tarantella, I was just thinking the same about your own sweet self. That you need to lighten up a little, not take your cloth-eared reactions to new music so seriously.

I'll consider your advice to me, of course, but I can't imagine taking myself any less seriously than I already do. :D

I'll remind you that I didn't say "listen to Steen-Andersen without laughing" but "listen to Steen-Andersen (and new music, generally) without derision." That's a pretty big difference there, don't you think?

That's pretty much all I've got to say to anyone, listen to new music without thinking so highly of your preconceptions about what real music is or about what real human beings all universally need from music. Lighten up a little! Try to enjoy yourselves for a minute!!

Or, if you can't do that, at least don't waste so much oxygen arguing that new music is unlikable and that the people who claim like it are either deluded or cloth-eared (or both). Come on. Really?*

*Name a hundred of your favorite pieces. Chances are very good that those are also favorites of mine as well. Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Gluck, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Smetana, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy. Recognize any of those names? All favorites of mine. Jeez, what was I thinking? There must be something seriously wrong with my ears to like that kind of stuff! :lol:
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by absinthe » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:59 pm

I thought you wouldn't clarify your statement after my queries in my previous post.

That's your style, ain'it? Make a categoric statement then ignore anyone who takes you to
task over it. (Because you hadn't thought it through.)

But you're a past master at being rude. I mean, look at your last para above. How patronising can you get?

= = = = =

All this to celebrate the 100th of Le Sacre. I dropped an email to the BBC hoping they announce
their plans for the celebration well in advance. Inevitably they'll screen a version of the ballet.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:08 pm

Lighten up, someguy. Obsessions aren't something easy-going people have. And in the absence of any countervailing intellectual argument you resort to tit-for-tat. So yesterday!

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Bro » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:26 pm

Well I'm sure many people laughed (in derision) at Beethoven's Hammerklavier. Not that I'm comparing the two. As far as contemporary composers composing for an elite - I suppose Beethoven wrote op135 String Quartet for an elite, if not himself only. Modern composers who write for a big audience, try to people please the balcony, and 'hit one out of the park' usually wind up composing forgettable crap, IMHO.

Thanks for posting the musical example, some guy. I did laugh, but not in derision. You turned me on to some new music, which is more than anyone else has done, at least in this thread.


Bro

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:01 pm

You're very welcome. And thank you for the kind words.

Music is a lot of fun, it's true, and so is sharing it!
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:06 pm

Bro wrote:Thanks for posting the musical example, some guy. I did laugh, but not in derision. You turned me on to some new music, which is more than anyone else has done, at least in this thread.
I watched it with interest too. I assume it is not coincidental that the neon image on the backdrop resembles a recently pulled tooth. :wink: :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:33 pm

Le Sacre is a completely tonal (modal) work. There is some extensive use of octatonic scales, but the main themes are predominantly diatonic. It is not that far removed from The Firebird in that respect. It is the rhythm, which any contemporary death metal fan could appreciate, that is the most radical aspect of the piece

BTW it is also the 100th anniversary of Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:48 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:Le Sacre is a completely tonal (modal) work.
"Tonal" and "modal" are mutually contradictory, whether one means pre-tonal modal as in the Renaissance or post-tonal modal as in Debussy (and yes, this phase of Stravinsky, who owed a lot to Debussy). If you mean it is not starkly atonal as in avoiding a suggestion of any center at all, then you are correct, but no one ever said it was. (If you think it is tonal, tell us what key it is in.) It still sounds modern. Much recent composition that is not self-consciously modernistic is modal in no more "advanced" a way than Stravinsky.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:16 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:Le Sacre is a completely tonal (modal) work.
"Tonal" and "modal" are mutually contradictory, whether one means pre-tonal modal as in the Renaissance or post-tonal modal as in Debussy (and yes, this phase of Stravinsky, who owed a lot to Debussy). If you mean it is not starkly atonal as in avoiding a suggestion of any center at all, then you are correct, but no one ever said it was. (If you think it is tonal, tell us what key it is in.) It still sounds modern. Much recent composition that is not self-consciously modernistic is modal in no more "advanced" a way than Stravinsky.
The term is used loosely, but there is no set definition limiting it to common practice harmony rather than music with a tonal center

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by John F » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:19 pm

Also, major and minor are modes, aren't they?
John Francis

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:22 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:Le Sacre is a completely tonal (modal) work.
"Tonal" and "modal" are mutually contradictory, whether one means pre-tonal modal as in the Renaissance or post-tonal modal as in Debussy (and yes, this phase of Stravinsky, who owed a lot to Debussy). If you mean it is not starkly atonal as in avoiding a suggestion of any center at all, then you are correct, but no one ever said it was. (If you think it is tonal, tell us what key it is in.) It still sounds modern. Much recent composition that is not self-consciously modernistic is modal in no more "advanced" a way than Stravinsky.
The term is used loosely, but there is no set definition limiting it to common practice harmony rather than music with a tonal center
I agree that it is used loosely--by you. :wink: :) In fact, "tonal" is limited to common practice harmony and some extensions thereof precisely because it cannot be applied to music that does not have a tonal center, as Rite of Spring does not. There are works by Stravinsky (and Debussy), that are basically in a key, and other works that are not. The first category can be considered as an extension of tonality, and the second cannot. For instance, Pelléas et Mélisande has no tonal center, either globally or locally, but Debussy's very late and wonderful Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp has one (it is in F).
John F wrote:Also, major and minor are modes, aren't they?
Yeah, but John, you know perfectly well that this is a carry-over of the term "mode" from what survived of the ancient system, and that in fact various adjustments have to be made even to the remaining minor "mode" to accommodate the demands of strict tonality. And none of this has anything to do with post-tonal "modality." No piece of that sort which can be argued to have a tonal center is in a traditional major or minor "mode" to begin with.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:48 pm

The melodies in the rite, from the opening bassoon solo to the finale are in the style eastern European folk tunes and all have tonal centers. If you want to play the semantics game john, go right ahead, but you can find a lot of references using the term to describe the work

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Heck148 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:46 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:The melodies in the rite, from the opening bassoon solo to the finale are in the style eastern European folk tunes and all have tonal centers.
The opening Bassoon solo in the Rite of Spring is indeed a quote from a folk tune - in fact Mussorgsky used it on occasion..
It's actually the same tune that appears in the closing section of "Night on Bald Mtn" [clarinet solo] - except Stravinsky displaces the bar-line and alters the rhythmic accent.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:07 pm

The music may have a 'tonal centre' and be modal at the same time. But this does not necessarily imply music which adheres to a 'key signature'. I get back to what Bernstein said: "even when music is atonal it is still what it is not, i.e. tonal". Lets not get tonality confused with a particular 'key'. Debussy, in his Prelude "Submerged Cathedral" uses organum and tonality, as well as the whole tone scale. How very wonderful is that!!!?

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by johnQpublic » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:10 pm



Somewhat Cagean with some rhythmic grooviness starting in the late 3 minute area. I found nothing funny nor original about it, but I still liked it. Thanks for sharing.
Image

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:37 am

Bro wrote:Well I'm sure many people laughed (in derision) at Beethoven's Hammerklavier. Not that I'm comparing the two. Bro
Well, I'm certainly glad you've figured that out!!

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:32 am

hangos wrote: While such explanations can enrich the listening or viewing experience of listeners or viewers of 16th -19th century music and art, most people can enjoy the piece without the explanation, whereas it seems to me that many people find it difficult to enjoy or grasp a 20th century/contemporary piece without the explanation. I think this applies even more if the music does not have an emotional or visceral impact on the listener(in my case, Xenakis and Ligeti "grab" me a lot more than Boulez, for example)
Clumsily expressed, I know, but I hope it adds to the discussion
Martin
Gee it didn't seem clumsy to me--I'm a novice and you have me pegged pretty darn well--for example I have some Boulez I've listened to--a blank afaiac! Regards, Len

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:44 am

Tarantella wrote:I'm sorry, but the only response I could find for this - in a huge repertoire of possible responses - was that it was funny! I laughed. And I could only last about 2 minutes before I had to shut it off.
I did better than you--I lasted 4 minutes--otoh I couldn't laugh. What a shame I had to subject my new hearing aids to this! Regards, Len :) :) :)

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:01 am

lennygoran wrote: I did better than you--I lasted 4 minutes--otoh I couldn't laugh. What a shame I had to subject my new hearing aids to this! Regards, Len :) :) :)
Len so I gather you weren't at the Sept 20 presentation of the seminal works of John Cage they did at Columbia's Miller Theater last night? He's the guy who apparently said "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." Regards, Len :)

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:21 am

Len, I confess I'm not frightened by any of this - SHOULD I be?

I remember Masala saying to one of his minions in the film "Ben Hur", as follows:

Minion: "How do you fight an idea?"

Masala: "With another idea".

I like it. :idea:

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:04 am

Tarantella wrote:Len, I confess I'm not frightened by any of this - SHOULD I be?
Sue don't know--all I know is that when I listen to classical music I want to enjoy it as best I can. Regards, Len

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:32 pm

:lol: :roll:

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:11 pm

It does seem almost axiomatic that the goal of listening to music is enjoyment. Why else do it if it's not going to be enjoyable?

But there's a catch, I think. Something that is new is by definition unfamiliar. This is not, by the way, as is so often asserted, a thing that started to be a goal (the goal) of twentieth century composers, especially those of the avant garde. It is simply what "new" means. Unfamiliar means that enjoyment may have to be deferred. There's also attitude to factor in. If the need to be entertained is strong enough, then it's easy to think (however unconsciously) that composers have an obligation to fulfill your needs.

Never mind that Simon Steen-Andersen has never met you and has no idea what you need. He needs to meet your needs or be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Hyperbole.)

There's another catch, too. And that is that the enjoyment model is a static one. Presented that way, anyway. Where I am now at this minute is the only reality and the only reality that has ever been. But how many of you have always liked everything you like today, equally? Was there no time when Beethoven's opus 111 was puzzling to you? Did you always enjoy Wagner's Tristan as thoroughly as you do now? Or that Rite of Spring piece. Did that immediately grab you or did it take a bit of time to get accustomed to its world so that you could enjoy it?

I think it likely that for all of us there are many pieces that we did not particularly enjoy when we first heard them but which we thoroughly enjoy now. And, it seems, it is easy to forget that initial dislike. Especially when we're listening to the next thing that we don't like.

It is also true that up to a point, the older the music, the likelier it is to be already familiar, even if we've never heard it before. A piece by Beethoven that you've never heard is familiar in a way that a piece by Steen-Andersen is not. You've heard other pieces by Beethoven, and you've heard other pieces by the composer who preceded him. The idiom is utterly familiar. So much so that it's hard to imagine why contemporary composers seem to insist on doing things that are so bizarre and goofy. They do not. They're doing their job just as composers have always done. (The more familiar you are with an idiom, the less bizarre and goofy it will seem.)

But if they're doing something new, then it will be, by definition, unfamiliar. Unfamiliar is not a goal. Unfamiliar is a consequence of doing something new. It was a consequence for Beethoven. It was a consequence for Chopin. It was a consequence for Wagner. And so on. There's no conspiracy. There's no purposeful setting out to bewilder the bourgeouisie (though some composers, accepting the inevitable, have claimed to have done so--19th century composers as well, n'est-ce pas?).

And the familiarity you have with what you already enjoy is not, as it seems, a characteristic of the music. It is a function of time. A piece starts out unfamiliar. People listen to it over the years. It becomes familiar. It enters (mysteriously but inescapably true) into the collective consciousness. A piece by Beethoven for someone who has never heard any Beethoven before is familiar in a way that a piece by Simon Steen-Andersen is not. And often that means easier to enjoy. There are some who enjoy the unfamiliarity itself. I don't understand why those people's experiences must be invalidated, or at least marginalized. Well, that's not actually true. I do understand why. I don't approve of it, that's true!
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:29 pm

This is all very true about the listening experience. I've always said that at least half of the listening experience is familiarity. And I've had people insist to me, "I don't have to KNOW anything about classical music (I hate that term, BTW), because I know what I like". This statement is problematic, but also true - for them. And this is the crux here: 'for them'. Also, you speak about not having heard 'a piece' before and the relationship between that fact and 'don't like'. I wouldn't argue with the proposition, EXCEPT with the definition of 'a piece'. If somebody feels 'a piece' ISN'T actually music, then no amount of listening will compensate for disengagement, even skepticism.

I don't like Mahler, neither do I like Bruckner. Over 50 years of listening and trying has never altered that fact - quite the reverse, actually. I can handle the hyperbolic symphonies of Rachmaninov - these seem to have a melodic direction and structure (I say 'seem'), whereas I find the former composers I mentioned rambling, inflated and too self-conscious. I'm sure hair will fly and teeth will gnash now that I've said this, but I mention it only in the context of what one hears repeatedly and STILL does not like - despite idiom.

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Wallingford » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:11 pm

some guy wrote: Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Gluck, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Smetana, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy. Recognize any of those names? All favorites of mine. Jeez, what was I thinking? There must be something seriously wrong with my ears to like that kind of stuff! :lol:
Bruckner? Mahler? Jeez, Mike, we've got even less in common than I first thought.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by some guy » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:03 pm

Come on, Wallingford! Show my guys Anton and Gustav a little love, why not? :D
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:54 am

some guy wrote: Did you always enjoy Wagner's Tristan as thoroughly as you do now? Or that Rite of Spring piece. Did that immediately grab you or did it take a bit of time to get accustomed to its world so that you could enjoy it?
Well for me that was certainly true but it took much less time than this new stuff is taking. I see Carnegie Hall is doing a Cage Concert on Thursday Dec 13, 2012--Webern Sym opus21, Feldman Out of Last Pieces, Satie, Parade [we saw that at the Met Opera], Cage Cheap Imitation and Etcetra. I don't plan on being there. Regards, Len :(

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:59 am

Tarantella wrote: If somebody feels 'a piece' ISN'T actually music, then no amount of listening will compensate for disengagement, even skepticism...I don't like Mahler, neither do I like Bruckner.
Well I'm not about to say this modern stuff isn't music but it's definitely not the music for me! It's like different sports--I like American baseball--Go Yankees!--but I just can't stand watching cricket--still I would never deny it isn't a sport--it's just that it's not for me. Not liking Bruckner, Mahler--outrageous! Regards, Len [slipping away] :)

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:57 am

Here's how the Philadelphia Orchestra is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring. I have tickets for this concert and I'm very much looking forward to it:

http://www.philorch.org/concert/philade ... 2-21_20-00

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by John F » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:10 am

Dancers and videos! That should be something to see.
John Francis

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by Tarantella » Sat Sep 22, 2012 4:25 pm

lennygoran wrote:Well I'm not about to say this modern stuff isn't music but it's definitely not the music for me! It's like different sports--I like American baseball--Go Yankees!--but I just can't stand watching cricket--still I would never deny it isn't a sport--it's just that it's not for me. Not liking Bruckner, Mahler--outrageous! Regards, Len [slipping away] :)
With respect, I don't think it IS like different sports - but that's another huge argument. Also, I need to clarify: it's only the symphonic works of Mahler and Bruckner I don't like, but I do find Mahler's song cycles a bit lachrymose for my tastes too. :roll:

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Re: The Rite of Spring: 100th Anniversary

Post by lennygoran » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:31 am

Tarantella wrote: With respect, I don't think it IS like different sports - but that's another huge argument.
Thanks my instinct tells me you're probably right but do you think you could articulate where the analogy fails--I'm having trouble. Maybe you could say music is intellectual and sports aren't. Still I would never say what Cage does isn't music--it's just that I don't care to get into it based on what I've heard so far or the work of Boulez. Regards, Len

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