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Music Composers Unite!

Hello to all members,

This post is to announce our Winter Music Contest - members were asked to create a piece which evokes the idea of Winter. The rules of the contest are simple: any instrumentation, 7 minutes or less in duration. 16 members total submitted entries, making this one of the most-participated-in contests which I have run on this site! Please take some time to listen to these entries and vote your top three. The winners will have the honor of having their entries posted to the top of the home page of the site until the first day of summer! Please click the link below to cast your vote! Deadline is 2/14/2015 at 5 pm EST!!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/R2733RF

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These contests are a necessary evil. good for business. but even an old retired fart like me doesn't have the time to truly listen, analyze, react and crystallize my thoughts. Which is why I don't participate in contests. but as I said they are good for business.



Bob Porter said:

Gentle as first snow? I agree, except I was living in Denver in the middle of October,1997. The first snow of the season was a 27' over night blizzard that shut down almost everything.

Point taken.

V.



Stephen Lines said:

Victor,

Out of genuine interest how long did you have to spend listening to arrive at your commentary and conclusions?

I took a sunday morning for it. I listened to each piece twice, making mental notes the first time, and writing them down the second. Some pieces just didn't grab me (you may have gathered that I'm not overly fond of the big orchestral pieces) but even then I rewound them to gather more evidence for my judgement.

Yes, it's harsh that a piece that takes days of work gets critiqued in 10 minutes, but that's life.

I'm hoping to get some substantive criticism on my contribution, but if someone doesn't say more than "it just didn't grab me" then I'll take that in stride.

Victor.

Stephen, wow. and all this time I thought 'bandicoots' was refering to

the Rolling Stones last farewell tour.

I'll have to try the berries-   it also refers to a group of marsupials I discovered.
 
Stephen Lines said:

Bob,

There is of course truth in your response but I ask myself is it all of the truth? There is insufficient space here for me to fully expound my thoughts and it's probably the wrong place to do it - but here's a distillation. I don't like baked beans because they're not to my taste - but does that make the tin of beans in front of me a bad tin of beans? They are selected out from the rest because they are the plumpest and healthiest and most consistent in shape - they have the thickest and most flavoursome sauce, they are well packaged in a tin that is informatively and attractively labelled and bean for bean provide good value nutrition...but because they're not to my taste (I prefer boiled bandicoot) I'll give them a 5/10 mark. Possibly this is an unfair comparison because beans don't necessarily constitute 'art'...so there must be some additional elements that must be applied to the arts and, specifically in this case, to judging whether a musical composition has merit or otherwise.  Arguably 'art for art's sake' is used to convey the idea that the chief aim of the work is the self-expression of the individual composer who created it, or a more generalised view: art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination to produce a work to be appreciated primarily for its beauty and emotional power. My point is that to judge another's work takes the application of time and effort to judge sensitively and with due regard to the composer's delicate ego the merits or otherwise of their output. This judgement should first entail having a clear understanding of what the composer is trying to achieve - what style is the music and is it consistent with that style (but allowing some room for manoeuvre and innovation, so long as the innovation isn't so far outside the realm of reasonableness to make it unpalatable or unpleasing to the ear) - if it is 'programme music' trying to tell a story how well does it evoke the meaning of that story - for example: a piece attempts to describe something occurring firstly underground and subsequently above ground - the composer selects different keys to describe each but, eventually both occur concurrently - so the composer writes in two keys simultaneously with a satisfactory result that doesn't jar the ear - this is on a par with permitting the bending of strict rules of harmony because the part-writing justifies it without damaging intelligibility. My prime point being: does one judge this purely on 'taste' or (presuming the critic is not being superficial and actually understands what the composer is trying to do) does (s)he reward the inventiveness and skill that has gone into telling the story musically albeit unconventionally? In my view, for what it's worth, art is deeper than pure intellect or pure emotion. Its true power lies in the combination of the two, and that is what makes it so provoking. If you disassociate either the intellect or the emotion, art ceases to be art.

PS: Our local supermarket sells boiled bandicoot in a bag...I love it!

 
Bob Porter said:

Stephen,

While the "not quite to my taste" syndrome may be irrelevant to music analysis, I think it can very much color how we deal with that analysis. If someone hands me an atonal piece based on some mathematical formula, I can go through the motions of finding all the ways that formula has been used, how it has been interweaved with itself, how it has been layered, how the texture changes, how the parts make up a coherent hole, and on and on. Of course, these are all the things that apply to any piece of music. And just because a piece does all these things well does not make it a good piece of music.

The composer applies their taste to their music. I think it only natural I apply my taste to their music. People claim that I will grow to like a particular kind of music if I will just study it. Hasn't worked yet. Music is such an individual, and emotional thing (for me anyway) I find it not worthwhile to divorce myself from those emotions.  

16 votes so far! Deadline to vote is 2/14/2015 at 5 pm EST -

20 votes so far! A clear trend is emerging for 1st place, one contestant has a third of all votes. Want to affect the trend? Cast your vote now! Deadline to vote is 2/14/2015 at 5 pm EST -

Great job to all who submitted entries and good luck!!!!

Bob Porter said,  “People claim that I will grow to like a particular kind of music if I will just study it. Hasn't worked yet. Music is such an individual, and emotional thing (for me anyway) I find it not worthwhile to divorce myself from those emotions.”

 

This is a continuation of our friendly and long-standing discussion as to what constitutes “quality” in art and music, and whether or not there is an objective way to “rank” composers and compositions. I agree with Bob’s main point here: the proposition, as stated— “you will grow to like a particular kind of music if you study it” —is a false one.  However, I have a different view about exposure to music, willingness to listen to new and different genres and compositions, while suspending judgment for a period of time.  It is often good to suspend judgment, or to be willing to refrain from making a judgment, for as long as seems reasonably possible. Or even longer.

 

One may exercise this sort of willingness to determine if there is something present, something important in a work—a significant aspect or depth to it—that could been have missed in the first several hearings. (That aspect or depth might even be missed in the first dozen hearings: there are many people who do not “grasp a Bartok quartet” in the first several exposures, but who do later).  “Studying” a piece of music, in a purely academic and abstract way (examining the score, looking for an explanation of the technique, evaluating the patterns, themes and methods) is not the same as “listening” to a piece of music in the sense I mean. Studying nature, by cataloguing the insects, birds and mammals present and the chemical composition of the soil, is not the same as appreciating the beauty of a natural setting, or feeling the immanent presence of the divine while sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree.  Listening to a piece of music is not something done exclusively with the intellect.  So I agree with Bob entirely when he says, I find it not worthwhile to divorce myself” from emotions while listening. Of course it’s true, in large measure, music is an encounter with feelings.  Music expresses emotions, as well as thoughts, and additionally attitudes towards thoughts and emotions.  But let us go further.

 

The most genuine and real experience of music, I suggest, would involve all facets of the personality, including everything from the perception of the purely sensuous aural material all the way up to the incitation of the intuition of the supra-material, (what Wordsworth called) “the intimations of immortality,” or apprehension of the transcendent. The mind itself may feel free to wander during a musical experience up and down, near to and far from the ostensible borderlands separating material, semi-material and spiritual phenomena.  The mind as pure intellect will also be permitted to move horizontally through the various concepts, ideas, and half-formed ideations which constitute ordinary and extraordinary conscious (even subconscious and super conscious) experience.  Openness to all this (and more) is what allows one to gain new appreciation of a new work or a type of work, that our limited individual characteristics might ordinarily lead us to resist.  I think it is this kind of openness, and the kind of “objectivity” that Roger referred to earlier, that also helps one make assessments about compositions in general, and to make judgments in a contest of the kind being sponsored here.    

  

Thanks again to the 16 members who have participated in this contest, we appreciate your effort! So far, we have received 24 votes, making this the second-highest-participated-in contest I have held on this site, awesome! Once the voting is completed, I will post the the results on this thread. The top three vote-getters will be featured at the top of this site until the first day of summer. After the voting ends, there will be an open discussion on this thread where members and voters can discuss the works submitted. If you have not voted yet, please consider doing so. The best way you can get commentary on your work is by supporting the works of these members, who spent time and effort producing works for this contest! Cast your vote now! Deadline to vote is 2/14/2015 at 5 pm EST -

.......

What did you say?  How many people have voted? I don’t see how anyone could have listened to all those pieces carefully enough, as many times as they needed to, and made a genuine and conscientious decision.  It’s impossible.   I am nowhere near making a decision yet.  I won’t be able to vote until Friday, or Saturday.  I am still working on the criteria. I notice the statement:

“I: Solitary music

“Different. Definitely different. Was this written for a cello playing singer? I know it's called "solitary" but still, having two musicians and never having them play together.... Aside: I don't' think Bach would have put a 7th jump in a line that says "level with". Should measure 22 be the same as 8?”

Well, it’s different.  Different from what?  It’s different from spectral images of the 63 known satellites of the planet Jupiter.  But then again, so are most of the pieces of music represented here.  Why should we believe this piece of music is “different,” when (it seems to me at least) it is NOT different at all from itself, in any relative sense, but absolutely the same as itself, being the mental representation of its own essence, as it exists, both in itself and for itself, within the Cosmic Mind?   

Also, I don’t understand the questions being asked about “Solitary.”  Does it matter if the piece was written for a cello-playing singer? It almost certainly was. Does the (wrongly assumed) fact of “having the two musicians, but never having them play together” have ANYTHING to do with the quality of the piece, or how it should be judged?   And what difference should comments about the score have to do with judging the music itself, as we apprehend it here?  I know that when I go to a concert, and they hand me the score of the work being played, I just tear little bits off of it, and stuff small pieces of the paper in my ear, if I don’t like what I am hearing.  (This often happens when I am compelled to listen to performances of works by Chopin).  If I do like the music I am hearing, I save the score and use it to blow my nose during the intermission.

I have no idea who “Composer I” is, but I think the piece is brilliant.  Even though I am nowhere near deciding how to vote, I will put this piece in the top 15, at least.  The melody, especially in the opening section, is extremely attractive, stark and sensual, and it’s right that it should be sung alone, without the accompaniment of the cello.  It reminds me of the melody sung in John Cage’s Fontana Mix (not so much in mood, or emphasis, but in the meandering pattern, and tonal variegation).

So I am alighting gradually, on a way to judge the pieces of music presented for this contest, in a completely objective fashion.   I have my objective list of 500 composers ranked in order.

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/music/images/stats6.pdf

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert are ranked as composers 1, 2, 3 and 4, at the top.  John Cage is further down.   I forgot where Arthur Sullivan is exactly on the list.   All I have to do is make comparisons.  Which of the pieces in the contest are “like Bach,” for example?   (I don’t think any are, but there is one that slightly resembles Telemann or Rameau).  I link each composition up to the composer whose work it most closely resembles, and then use the ranking system provided to make my decision.   So if one person’s music is like Debussy’s, and another’s work is like Telemann’s—and if Debussy ranks above Telemann (which happens to be the case)—then I rank accordingly, and so come to a decision.   I strongly urge others, who have not yet voted, to consider the notion of thinking about reading a few hundred books which describe and recommend the method I have mentioned (or some other very similar or dissimilar method), as opposed to any other one they might have in mind, which may not be totally and one hundred percent objective.  If anyone can come up with a better way of judging the pieces (I think Roger’s way is not bad, as I said before), then feel free to share your approach.  Those who have voted already should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves (unless they have mastered the Freudian technique of combatting a highly punitive superego, through the use of extract of vanilla, in which case I applaud you).  If you have already voted, I want to respectfully request that you erase, and do the judging again, properly.  As it stands, when this contest is over, I think we should have another contest, to decide which of the methods of judging discussed here so far is the best.

 

Ondib,

I have to take issue with your statement: So I am alighting gradually, on a way to judge the pieces of music presented for this contest, in a completely objective fashion.

It is categorically and psychologically impossible to judge any art in a completely objective fashion, indeed in any sort of objective manner whatsoever. The very essence of art (as I have mentioned before) is a fusion of academic judgement as to the grammar, syntax, phrasing, balance and all the 'technical' elements of composition with the emotive pleasurable forces released by it in the listener/looker. There is a certain balance between these combined forces of academic and emotional appreciation that between them produce another 'je ne sais quoi' factor which is a purely subjective reaction based on the makeup and experience of the listener. 

I agree with you wholeheartedly that some form of benchmark/set of rules needs to be established that will guide us towards judging in a like manner...but these rules will inevitably have to include marks for the emotional impact of the piece being judged. This will not eliminate the subjective element but will reduce its impact through appropriate weighting to perhaps one third of the overall mark - rather than as may occur presently of it being up to 100% of the mark awarded.

This whole problem arises because we humans will compete and always want to 'position' what we are experiencing in the same fashion as wanting to 'label' things that are new to us. Some people are of the view that the whole concept of attempting to 'rank' art is nonsense...I have a sneaking suspicion they may be right. As the famous student quote states: 'I used to think I was indecisive but now I'm not so sure'.

S



Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

.......

What did you say?  How many people have voted? I don’t see how anyone could have listened to all those pieces carefully enough, as many times as they needed to, and made a genuine and conscientious decision.  It’s impossible.   I am nowhere near making a decision yet.  I won’t be able to vote until Friday, or Saturday.  I am still working on the criteria.

So what are you saying? Everyone that has already voted has not been conscientious?

I notice the statement:

“I: Solitary music

Look, I tried to not just vote, but try to write a sentence or two about each piece. I didn't have time to write a 500 word essay about each piece. Are you going to do that? In that case I bow in humble reverence. If not, please have an actual point. Would you rather be spared my shallow opinions? Fine with me. I'll not post my thoughts next time.

 I strongly urge others, who have not yet voted, to consider the notion of thinking about reading a few hundred books which describe and recommend the method I have mentioned 

Ok, now I know that you're being silly. I wish you would actually have a point. I think I'll not read your post from now on. They seem to be information-free.

Victor.

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