Composers' Forum

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The question has come up many times here as to what is music.

Isn't that questioned answered by what you compose?

Isn't what you write a reflection of what you believe music is

and/or should be. Or are you merely imitating the efforts and

precedents established by others. This is not to suggest that

imitation and following an established form is a bad thing.

Compared to the number of composers, revolutionary innovators

are few and far between from an historical perspective.

Regardless, there are certain elements of sound and sounds that

seem to separate music from 'noise', and acceptance can be

both individual and regional.

Is there any one common characteristic, across the globe, that

qualifies and separates music from noise?

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Again, I have absolutely no problem if for my piece [ under competition NDA now] was to be:

- played 20 very different ways by 20 pianists 

- played so differently that I barely recognised it from sound alone myself 

- played so differently that its atmosphere/mood was changed. 

In fact I'd jump for joy! Seriously! To me that is real music! Maybe I am some sort of weird postmodernist freak. But all the above would make me happy! A lot happier than hearing it played 20 times the same even if those performances were brilliant. 

In fact I even went weirder than the above. Believe it or not I treated the score itself as a type of art piece - I managed to make the note and chord progression patterns to be optically like the topic of the piece. To use an example that isn't what I did because I can't say much, I could have had a piece called "trees" and made tall tree like chord shapes. At that point what is music? When I could give you my score and even if you knew absolutely nothing about music - it is Swahili to you - you could see with some minimal imagination what my score was about. Just from my chord shapes rather like in Asian board games like Go you have openings that are shaped like the Crane, Ox etc. 

I wish that I could be an artist. If I could draw or paint lol. So music is all that I have left to do art! 

"My guess is that I would prefer the Prokofiev, hands down, so what does this demonstrate, except at least, that I don't care for marching band music, and at most, that Prokofiev is better? If Prokofiev is better, it's probably just because it's better music."

 

That seems fairly reasonable to me.

 

You asked,

 

"Couldn't Prokofiev have just as easily attributed his Quintet to some gesture of patriotism? What if the very same piece, identical in all musical respects, was entitled Quintet for the Glorification of the Russian State and its Global Supremacy? Would it be less structurally satisfying to you? Would its harmonies be degraded by that attribution?"

 

Those are good questions.  I suppose what you suggest is possible.  I just don't get the feeling from Prokofiev's chamber music that any of it (that I have heard) could reasonably be dedicated to the state or have an ideological label slapped on it.  Several orchestral pieces were commissioned for ideological purposes, but these were of uneven quality, compared with non-ideological works.  The 'war sonatas' were so named not because they were patriotic, or because they celebrated the military victories of the state.   They suggested something of the tension, suffering and adverse affects that war has upon the individual.   I think of Brahms.  I simply can't imagine him taking a Piano Trio and precipitously attaching an extraneous patriotic title to it.  Somehow, the work itself, when of a certain heightened quality, has its essence apart from any name that can be connected with it.  There are exceptions, of course.  But the notion of a Quintet for the Glorification of the Russian State and its Global Supremacy seems to me to be very hypothetical.   It even seems contrary to the nature of the Quintet itself, as I experience it.    

Andrew, that is an interest attitude to have.

I would 'guess' that most composer's where more possessive and

have a stricter attachment  to their work.

ps- at what point then doe's an individual interpretion become a

variation on a theme? :>}                     RS
 
andrew thornton said:

Again, I have absolutely no problem if for my piece [ under competition NDA now] was to be:

- played 20 very different ways by 20 pianists 

- played so differently that I barely recognised it from sound alone myself 

- played so differently that its atmosphere/mood was changed. 

In fact I'd jump for joy! Seriously! To me that is real music! Maybe I am some sort of weird postmodernist freak. But all the above would make me happy! A lot happier than hearing it played 20 times the same even if those performances were brilliant. 

In fact I even went weirder than the above. Believe it or not I treated the score itself as a type of art piece - I managed to make the note and chord progression patterns to be optically like the topic of the piece. To use an example that isn't what I did because I can't say much, I could have had a piece called "trees" and made tall tree like chord shapes. At that point what is music? When I could give you my score and even if you knew absolutely nothing about music - it is Swahili to you - you could see with some minimal imagination what my score was about. Just from my chord shapes rather like in Asian board games like Go you have openings that are shaped like the Crane, Ox etc. 

I wish that I could be an artist. If I could draw or paint lol. So music is all that I have left to do art! 

We have to side with the composers.  Performers should do exactly what the composers specify in the score.  On the "Performers' Forum," and the "Musicians' Forum," they can say whatever they want.  

Ultimately, we better do away with the musicians and performers, as soon as possible, through computerized and mechanical means, so that nothing stands between the composer and the listener.  The future beckons.  



Bob Porter said:

Dave,
Just can't trust musicians. It's the old saying about if you want something done right...do it yourself.

who ever U R, would you agree that the composer has an intent; The composer then

writes down his/her(PC blah) intent using the best 'language' he can on paper.

The 'gap' comes when those symbols are interpreted by someone else.

A computer could be programed to read the score 'verbatum' or with any

number of stylistic embellishments. Like a player piano with a 'jazz' button

or a ' baroque' button.

A seasoned conductor may even interpret a work to the point that it actually

sounds 'better' than the original score . But in the end, it may just be up to

the audience to decide, so screw the composer, lol what did he do?      RS
 
Serenity Laine said:

We have to side with the composers.  Performers should do exactly what the composers specify in the score.  On the "Performers' Forum," and the "Musicians' Forum," they can say whatever they want.  

Ultimately, we better do away with the musicians and performers, as soon as possible, through computerized and mechanical means, so that nothing stands between the composer and the listener.  The future beckons.  



Bob Porter said:

Dave,
Just can't trust musicians. It's the old saying about if you want something done right...do it yourself.

Music is half of speech, the other half being literature.  Literature is the communication of thoughts without an emotional element, whereas music is communication of emotions without a concrete element.  For ex, a poem of a sunrise doesn't communicate emotion but describes, in more or less concrete ways, a scene that manifests itself as an image in the readers mind.  The reader then derives emotion from the image that the poem communicates.  Music works the other way around.  A piece that "describes" a sunrise communicates the emotions associated with the sunrise, and from the emotions the listener derives a picture of the scene.   

Dave, this is excellent 'feedback' from a voice of experience.

The cooperative effort of those involved in the whole 'process'

of the manifestation of the music towards the ultimate performance.

I also agree with Bob in that music notation is a somewhat faulty

language.... but it's the only tool we have right now.

While the process you describe is good, not all are in your position.

That is why this forum can be a useful tool, if people would use it.

Constructive feedback and pointers from the experience of others

is always helpful.   good post                         RS
 
Dave Dexter said:

I definitely welcomed interpretation from my players, and changed notation on the fly accordingly, but once we had a solid understanding - them of my intentions, I of their interpretation - we locked it down pretty tight. Once there's a good recording identified as the ideal interpretation, other players/conductors can then adhere to or stray from as they see fit if they feel like performing it, though if it's a well-known piece people will have expectations, probably based on other recordings they've heard. Youtube comments on performances are full of "The conductor didn't . . ." "The cymbals were . . ." "Too fast . . ." "Wrong feeling . . . " "X performance was better . . . "

Ultimately and cynically musicians are tools from a (or my) composer's perspective, but it's quite useful to have tools that give feedback.

Bob Porter said:

"Performers should do exactly what the composers specify in the score."

Fine, except that with the exception of metronome marks, very little in score marking has exact meaning.

How soft is piano? How much does rit slow down. How short is staccato? Half the note value? Why not write 8th notes instead of quarter notes? Just how fast is allegro? There are guidelines for all these terms, but not hard definitions. It seems to me that the very nature of notation is that there is a certain amount of interpretation built in. Otherwise, performances become hard and stagnant.  

Fzinos, that seems to be a fairly solid view and stance to me.

You ask, “Why is there music rather than not-music”

There are both, and for the same reason there are

grapes and Cognac.

As you said, nature provides and man organizes- to suit his

needs and preferences. How would you like your steak cooked tonight?

Medium rare with mushrooms and onoins along with a side of Bach?

The only other question might be with regards to silence. If silence is both

an aspect of music and non-music, what about the guy that hears  music

in his head? But that starts another paradox... which came first, the sounds

or the music in his head? and.... where did/does  that organization come from?

Admittedly a bit inane, but for me, just another hobby exploring such 'stuff'.

Nature abhors an empty head... er ah(vacuum) :>/                 RS

Fredrick, I would suggest take Cage adapt this piece for player piano, and then

repurpose the roll. :>}}}

It may be an artistic outlet for him, but even labeling it non-music is too high an honor.

One possibly suitable label could be 'Quasi-Art', because it merely mimicks the procedure.

This would allow the composer to retain at least some dignity and yet still keep it separate

from the music that isn't an intellectual scam.   

Patrons of the arts need to be lead, not mislead, but only Cage knows his real intent.            


 
Fredrick zinos said:

Roger good points. And what do we do with Cage's 4'33"? I think its music because it is planed and notated. But since nothing happens and that seems to be the preferred state for nature, maybe it not-music.

"only Cage knows his real intent."         "

well, i think we can guess his intent.. His sounds/not sounds are reflecting a philosophy - of non attachment - .

Non attachment to the act of composition. So he throws dice, and observes..  And being very loud about saying that he is not saying anything… That's great as a 'koan'… don't know bout you, but  i'm looking  for a really good story.  

Maybe his name had a difficult effect on his identity..  :)

or maybe a strange kind of rebellion with re to his mentor Schoenberg.. (kinda opposite)

Gx-man, I believe I hear ya. Aren't you saying that Cage decided to throw the past

in the trash can, and test the waters anew?

His works can be considered as fodder for feedback from  the flock of prancing

patrons that pretend to know and appreiciate 'real' art. 

I wonder if he was a fan of the Marx brothers.

Maybe Cage serves a necessary step in the growth and evolution of music,

not an end, but a means to a brighter future.  Time will tell.        RS

Yes… its very  - Suzuki - Zen ---

I like the sound of falling leaves too.. and the flow off water on rocks…  but don't need the master's stick to tell me to listen… i am already :)



Dave Dexter said:

As I recall, 4.33 was intended to make the audience aware of the sounds of themselves and the venue. But I've not looked into it more than once, I could be wrong.

gregorio X said:

"only Cage knows his real intent."         "

well, i think we can guess his intent.. His sounds/not sounds are reflecting a philosophy - of non attachment - .

Non attachment to the act of composition. So he throws dice, and observes..  And being very loud about saying that he is not saying anything… That's great as a 'koan'… don't know bout you, but  i'm looking  for a really good story.  

Maybe his name had a difficult effect on his identity..  :)

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