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Old 10-31-2011, 09:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Pre-WWII Avant-garde Music

The Avant-garde/Experimental forum is a bit inactive, so I figured I would make a new thread in an attempt to draw some attention towards it...

Of course, we all know of musicians like Stockhausen, Cage, Xenakis, Partch, and Sun Ra, but... those were all post-WWII avant-garde composers. So... who were the pre-WWII avant-garde composers? People such as Luigi Russolo (as well as many other Futurist composers), Charles Ives, Edgard Varese, and Henry Cowell are a few of whom I'm able to mention. Although, I suppose I could also include Erik Satie and Arnold Schoenberg (who, at least, had some influence in its creation).

Thoughts? Opinions?

I can't say I'm all that knowledgeable on the subject myself (which is part of the reason why I made the thread), but I would love to learn more about it.
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Jack Pat View Post
The Avant-garde/Experimental forum is a bit inactive, so I figured I would make a new thread in an attempt to draw some attention towards it...

Of course, we all know of musicians like Stockhausen, Cage, Xenakis, Partch, and Sun Ra, but... those were all post-WWII avant-garde composers. So... who were the pre-WWII avant-garde composers? People such as Luigi Russolo (as well as many other Futurist composers), Charles Ives, Edgard Varese, and Henry Cowell are a few of whom I'm able to mention. Although, I suppose I could also include Erik Satie and Arnold Schoenberg (who, at least, had some influence in its creation).

Thoughts? Opinions?

I can't say I'm all that knowledgeable on the subject myself (which is part of the reason why I made the thread), but I would love to learn more about it.
I'm in a similar position to you with this really. I know the so-called 'American Experimental School'; Ives, Ruggles, Becker, Cowell and Reigger, to varying degrees, whilst I'm also familiar with Varese... I know Stravinsky, Honegger and Antheil were influential too but beyond these guys my knowledge is limited.

Avante-Garde music didn't really exist as a movement until the 1950s any way, or so I understood? I suspect somebody will correct me on this.
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Old 11-01-2011, 06:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The Italian futurists are technically the first avant-garde music. When they were doing what they were doing, they were funded by Ferruccio Busoni. Who himself was an extremely conventional piano player(and virtuoso) but a massive advocate of music experimentation. Including microtones, and electronic music. He also is responsible for funding Varese.

The most important of he two futurists are probably Luigi Russolo, and Antheil. Antheil obviously for La Ballet Mechanique. Russolo for pretty much inventing noise music in the 1910s against a backdrop where the only musics in Europe were folk, and classical(which is based off folk). Setting up the framework for electronic music, creating avant-garde music, home made instrumentation, and non-melodic music(Which one could argue is the template for a lot of modern rock, hip-hop, electronica, and pop).

I honestly think that Luigi Russolo is, bar none, the most important musician of the 1900s, and the most important musician since. He's really probably the first composer ever to bridge out of acoustic music into modern electric music.

Ives probably predates them, but maybe not as technically 'avant-garde' as really what he did was add dissonance to classical moreso. He also may have been one of the first composers to explicitly write microtonally. Best of my knowledge, he didn't really experiment in electronic music.

Varese is simultaneous with the futurists. Him, and Russolo actually were friends early on in both of their careers. Varese's purpose was to create music which more represented the feeling, and tone of Gregorian chant, but really is the first to fully orchestrate electronic music. He also extensively used sirens, and other means. He borrowed a lot from the futurists but was strictly more known in the American dada circle(and ironically mostly for his post WWII works). He was actually a heavy critic of the futurists later on.

Schoenburg deserves a nod, as serialism was quite radical for it's time(and before he had serialism his style was fiercely atonal. Edgard Varese later, in a Varesian fashion heavily criticized him for inventing a system.) By extension Webern should be counted. Both I believe slightly predate/run simultaneously with Varese.

Cage, Partch, and Pierre Schaeffer were technically pre-WWII composers. Schaeffer is another thread that Varese connects with the futurists.
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Old 11-01-2011, 08:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Werent the blues a new and experimental music at one time?
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Werent the blues a new and experimental music at one time?
Well... if we want to get all philosophical, then we could say that all music is experimental, but... I would rather not. When regarding the traditional definition of experimental/avant-garde music, blues cannot be considered as such. However, does that mean blues cannot venture into the realm of the avant-garde? Certainly not... just look at Captain Beefheart or the music from Keiji Haino's album, Black Blues (2004).



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Old 11-01-2011, 10:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes I was about to mention Captain Beefheart. But I am talking about when the blues were first being played. Was it not a experimental, new type of music?
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yes I was about to mention Captain Beefheart. But I am talking about when the blues were first being played. Was it not a experimental, new type of music?
This still applies:
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Well... if we want to get all philosophical, then we could say that all music is experimental, but... I would rather not.
New? Yes. Experimental? No... not in the traditional sense of the word.
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:25 PM   #8 (permalink)
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How was it not experimental in the beginning? The definition of experiment is "an act or operation for the purpose of discovering something unknown." I'd say the first blues players were doing some experimenting.
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Old 11-01-2011, 11:01 PM   #9 (permalink)
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How was it not experimental in the beginning? The definition of experiment is "an act or operation for the purpose of discovering something unknown." I'd say the first blues players were doing some experimenting.
Blues music wasn't all that unknown (as far as music composition goes) in the beginning... its sound was derived from the melancholy folk songs that African Americans would sing while they would work. Also, avant-garde music is characterized by being structurally unconventional and (usually, if not always) atonal... blues is not. Personally, I prefer the term "avant-garde" to "experimental" to avoid any confusion... or those just wanting to argue about semantics and genre-naming in music.

Here are two songs that were released in the early 20th Century... one is a delta blues song and the other is an avant-garde/noise piece.





Do you understand what I'm getting at?
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Old 11-01-2011, 11:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Not really. Nobody was playing a guitar while they were working in the fields, they were just singing. At the time when the blues were first being played, I'd say it was unconcventional. There wasn't really anything like it before. The Charley Patton song sounds a lot better than that noise.
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