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Organicism.  Compositional integrity.  Motivic development.  Logical arguments.

Hogwash!

Ok now I do realize that blah blah blah and so on and so forth so don't even go there.  LOL

When I listen to who is perhaps the granddaddy of thematic unity and development, the master of all masters, J.S. Bach, I am delighted, awed, amazed, and very quickly bored.  It's as if he made model after model of the most exquisite cuckoo clocks the world has ever seen.  But how many of those do we really need? Why can't there be more compositions with 5% butterscotch ripple?

(notice what Wonka does with the clock at the end)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UMqowz_Z_Qv

How can any of us ever hope to match the brilliance of the world's most prodigious clock maker anyways?

Also consider that in Bach's day there was not the wide variety of styles available that there are now.  When he used his imagination, which was immense, he thought of fugues and oratorios and concertos. If one is to truly use one's musical imagination today, one will think of jazz, rock, Milton Babbit, Stravinksky, The Pointer Sisters, etc etc.  Follow me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination!  

Final analysis: Writing music is not like writing an essay for a debate.  The final product should be an imaginatively shaped experience that doesn't bore people to tears.  I say.

Note: I don't really hold these positions so much, just looking for a way out of trying to write "perfect" music, which I seem to have trouble doing.  Sour grapes for sure, but there may be a nugget of truth in here somewhere.

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Comment by Tombo Rombo on April 4, 2012 at 5:35pm

A poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) that more eloquently makes a case for a little disorder.  Note, it does not praise complete dishevelment.  It's more like the contrast of a frayed string on a dinner jacket that the poet admires, sort of a humanizing element I suppose.  Anyways enough from me:

Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction:

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthralls the crimson stomacher:

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbands to flow confusedly:

A winning wave (deserving note)

In the tempestuous petticoat:

A careless shoestring, in whose tie

I see a wild civility:

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.


I am not saying this is the only aesthetic towards which art should reach, but it is nonetheless a valid critical viewpoint.  Although it is still very possible that I am merely a mental midget :)

Comment by Tombo Rombo on March 23, 2012 at 12:54am

In thinking about this some more, the crowning achievement of the classical era, namely sonata form, brings several different styles together under one overarching "style."  That it is done systematically (slow, march like introduction, fast first theme in a rhythmically active style, gentle lyrical second theme in a more "cantible" style, development often uses bits of fugue and other "developmental" means) lends to comprehensibility.  Also, in Schubert songs and in opera, contrasting styles are often used to great effect, with the narrative providing impetus for the style switch.

A couple examples from Schubert:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvnXRl5dAgM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU9BWGErLLw

This often happens in Led Zeppelin songs also ("What is and What Should Never Be", "Stairway to Heaven" spring to mind).  

Deviants all! ;)

Comment by Tombo Rombo on March 22, 2012 at 2:31pm

Rather than talk ineffectively about the concept myself, here is an excellent scholarly paper on Post modern music that fleshes out what I was getting at, and even shows how different styles are juxtaposed in a Beethoven String Quartet!

https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/3754/Krame...

Comment by Doug Lauber on March 22, 2012 at 1:58pm

Tombo, I'm all for 'fusion' as you know. When Brahms is influenced by Hungarian folk music that's a good thing. When jazz is influenced by baroque, when rock is influenced by west African rhythms, etc.

Comment by Tombo Rombo on March 22, 2012 at 1:43pm

To a point.

Comment by Tombo Rombo on March 22, 2012 at 1:42pm

Not too philosophical at all Doug.  I am not suggesting shooting off in random styles, however.  A work that explores links between different styles could be interesting for example, it wouldn't be random at all in that sense.  Using musical memory and making connections between seemingly random styles, that sort of thing, not losing the idea of continuity point blank, but exploring different ways continuity can be achieved, rather than motivic manipulation and fugues and such.  But as you say Scott "if it works, it works", I can go on yakking up a storm about it but that'll make no difference if I can't produce a piece that shows what I mean. Interesting to talk about in any case.

Comment by Scott Miller on March 22, 2012 at 1:33pm

Thinking about it some, I realize that stylistic continuity is really decided by the "goal" of the work at hand.  PDQ Bach is a good example of how stylistic discontinuity is the best way to achieve the humor in the music (like mixng the 1812 overture and "Pop goes the Weasel". Or rather forcing one style into another.

I guess in the end the only rule is "if it works, it works".  Pretty lame, but there it is.

Comment by Doug Lauber on March 22, 2012 at 12:37pm

I like Zinos's post.
As far as stylistic unity goes. Continuity is usually the result of the kind of restrictions that you impose on the piece. For me, music without restrictions and guidelines is like cooking a meal and adding random ingredients. The kind of restrictions that you come up with will be a reflection of your discipline and creativity. Looking at music abstractly really helps with setting up various restrictions. The concept of a canon or fugue requires the use of a pretty rigid structure that results in a continuity of form. The concept of a free jazz improvisation results in another projected style. The subtleties of your individual approach to music will also obviously affect style and continuity. In art, stylistic continuity is received well by mainstream society. You can ignore that fact or not. You might come up with a structure that is ABACAB.  The structure itself guides you toward stylistic continuity. You can create B sections that are EXTREMELY different from the A sections, but there will still be a continuity from any repetitions. Deviating from stylistic continuity makes you a deviant. That can be fun, irreverent, etc. But, isn't continuity more fun? Shooting off in random directions is like having no purpose in life. Am I getting too philosophical?

Comment by Tombo Rombo on March 22, 2012 at 1:25am

Thanks for sharing those excerpts Scott, I particularly enjoyed the harpsichord piece and the excerpts from Platee, then I got bored I guess (lol).  I'd say one of the main reasons so few people are aware of Rameau's music is that he was French instead of German.  Imagine how differently music would have evolved had Mendelssohn discovered Rameau instead of Bach being used to wrap fish.

Comment by Scott Miller on March 21, 2012 at 7:28pm

For a great Rameau harpsichord piece try Les Cylopes : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvuWhPUSSn8

Here are some great Rameau opera excerpts:

Platee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLMnfF13Ybc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5RbP5JaVAs&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCPVKxwP2aE

Les Indes Galantes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zegtH-acXE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEXXDdojcdM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlN0ek-n6t0&feature=related

Les Boreades: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1JqwC4j5fI (this one may make you melt).

All this music, except for the opera Les Boreades was written in Bach's lifetime.  There can hardly be a greater contrast.  Bach has his greatness, but Rameau can be sublime.

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