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Old 02-20-2012, 09:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Modernism - is demonstration the end of expressionism?

Over the past century music has been going through many changes, our traditional systems are being thrown out as people are opting for more anti-conventional techniques. While this has brought us much innovation it seems to have crippled the expressive nature of music as composers are now attempting to be innovative for the sake of being innovative; the goal of composition seems to have become a need for someone to make a name for them-selves rather than simply to express.

Any sound has the ability to conjure up images, this is fairly evident and while playing a cactus with a feather may be thinking outside the box, is a demonstration of that the be all and end all of it? Would Debussy running up and down the whole-tone scale have been as acceptable as his finished works?

To make matters worse the over eagerness for innovation has brought with it some massive misconceptions. When Schoenberg seen the direction music was clearly taking and decided to hop the barrier with his emancipation of dissonance he created quite a stir, out of this we ended up with atonality - a term that makes no sense but somehow managed to become standardised through much use before anyone could argue the concept. To use his own criticism against him from his Harmonielehre when mentioning his distaste for the way students were being taught modulation.
"of course one can reach the street faster by leaping from the fifth floor than by going down the stairs - but in what condition! Thus it is not a matter of the shortest way but of the practical, the appropriate way. And only that way can be practical and appropriate which weighs the possible connections between point of departure and destination and then chooses intellectually"

If music was heading in a direction where all relationships from each note to each other was to become easily understood why force it? would the best method not have been to just let it come about naturally? instead we force our audience to work towards understanding these new relationships when they aren't even fully understood by those using them. Surely the point of art is to minimize subjectivity so you can get your point across (in my view anyway).

So have we gotten to the point where the idea has become the finished product, rather than after it has been put to practical use, Where music has been reduced to lab work or am I just a crazy pony unable to grasp the complexities of modernism?
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:51 AM   #2 (permalink)
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While this has brought us much innovation it seems to have crippled the expressive nature of music as composers are now attempting to be innovative for the sake of being innovative; the goal of composition seems to have become a need for someone to make a name for them-selves rather than simply to express.
How exactly can you make this assumption? What makes you so sure that they are making music purely to be innovative?
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Any sound has the ability to conjure up images, this is fairly evident and while playing a cactus with a feather may be thinking outside the box, is a demonstration of that the be all and end all of it?
This must be a reference to John Cage... Cage was expressing himself... in a sense he was trying to express his views on sound and music. When he was doing studies in indeterminacy and chance music, he was attempting to elliminate the "self" and "ego" in musical composition. He wasn't doing it to be innovative, he was doing it to express ideas (like many other composers) and try to open people's minds when regarding the definition of music. So really, he was (by expressing his musical philosophy) and wasn't (by trying to eliminate himself from the compositional process entirely) expressing himself, haha.
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To make matters worse the over eagerness for innovation has brought with it some massive misconceptions. When Schoenberg seen the direction music was clearly taking and decided to hop the barrier with his emancipation of dissonance he created quite a stir, out of this we ended up with atonality - a term that makes no sense but somehow managed to become standardized through much use before anyone could argue the concept.
I hate to ask, but would you expound on this a bit more?

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If music was heading in a direction where all relationships from each note to each other was to become easily understood why force it? would the best method not have been to just let it come about naturally?
Sometimes, yes, the best way would be to allow it to come out naturally, but what if what comes out naturally ends up being something atonal or avant-garde? When Don Van Vliet was composing the material for his magnum opus, Trout Mask Replica (1969), he was letting it flow naturally. Essentially, what he did was sit at a piano (an instrument he did not know how to play) and play parts of music that he wanted incorporated into his songs (with John French writing it down on sheet music). The same goes for those in free improvisation such as Derek Bailey, Kaoru Abe, and AMM.
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Surely the point of art is to minimize subjectivity so you can get your point across (in my view anyway).
What? No, of course not. Well, I mean... not always. Art is often meant to challenge the observer and make him or her think. If this wasn't the case, then why did Dadaism and the works associated with it exist?
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:50 PM   #3 (permalink)
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There will always be different kinds of music for different people.

Far more worrying is the future of humankind, or life itself with the environment, untreatable diseases and weapons that could destroy the planet. While we are around though there will continue to be good music and art produced.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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How exactly can you make this assumption? What makes you so sure that they are making music purely to be innovative?
I'm not, there's every possibility I'm looking at this from the wrong angle, but from what I have heard trying to get into "avant-garde" I get the impression the artist is more concerned with breaking boundaries than using music as a tool of expression. I'm certainly not the only one who has made this assumption Salzer speaks out against it in the fist chapter of Structural Hearing

"we are constantly groping and experimenting, searching for a new language, a new idom, a new direction of musical thought. In this search for new, however, we somehow do not act as free agents; for instead of letting all creative forces come into play, our generation has entered upon a frantic struggle for originality. From the necessity of finding new means of expression arises a misconception of the new as an end in itself."

"Since he will or will not attain originality according to his own talent, this demand is a tremendous hadicap to him for it tends to force him to be new for the sake of new. This artificial incentive too often kills the last vestiges of spontaneous impulse and creative naivete and has led to creative self-consciousness."

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This must be a reference to John Cage... Cage was expressing himself... in a sense he was trying to express his views on sound and music. When he was doing studies in indeterminacy and chance music, he was attempting to elliminate the "self" and "ego" in musical composition. He wasn't doing it to be innovative, he was doing it to express ideas (like many other composers) and try to open people's minds when regarding the definition of music. So really, he was (by expressing his musical philosophy) and wasn't (by trying to eliminate himself from the compositional process entirely) expressing himself, haha.
In the sense he was expressing his views on music I put that under demonstration, probably not the best word for it but I'm not aware of any accepted term. I see at as him demonstrating his experiments rather than actually expressing himself, it's the difference between manipulating music to say something or just putting down a few musical facts.

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I hate to ask, but would you expound on this a bit more?
Tonality isn't a man made construct, it's an observation. If you put down two pitches they will relate to each other, you could say that the tonality is unclear but you can't see it doesn't exist.

"The word 'atonal' could only signify something entirely inconsistent with the nature of tone... to call any relation of tones atonal is just as farfetched as it would be to designate a relation of colors aspectral or acomplementary. There is no such antithesis" A. Schoenberg

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Originally Posted by Jack Pat View Post

Sometimes, yes, the best way would be to allow it to come out naturally, but what if what comes out naturally ends up being something atonal or avant-garde? When Don Van Vliet was composing the material for his magnum opus, Trout Mask Replica (1969), he was letting it flow naturally. Essentially, what he did was sit at a piano (an instrument he did not know how to play) and play parts of music that he wanted incorporated into his songs (with John French writing it down on sheet music). The same goes for those in free improvisation such as Derek Bailey, Kaoru Abe, and AMM.
Then I'd be made to look a right fool. I have no issues with "avant-garde" or "atonal" music per se as you can see by my signature and I have said earlier that any sound (organised or not) has the ability to conjure up images, hence anything can be used as a tool for composition, as Ska pointed out before my issues lie with the composers approach to music.

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What? No, of course not. Well, I mean... not always. Art is often meant to challenge the observer and make him or her think. If this wasn't the case, then why did Dadaism and the works associated with it exist?
That's fine, it would be hopeless for me to even begin to define art.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Tonality has never completely disappeared and I doubt there is any evidence that it will now either. People overuse the word atonal as well, quite a lot of modern classical music isn't completely atonal anyway.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rubato View Post
I'm not, there's every possibility I'm looking at this from the wrong angle, but from what I have heard trying to get into "avant-garde" I get the impression the artist is more concerned with breaking boundaries than using music as a tool of expression.
See, I honestly see this as boiling down to basic assumptions, and I am, admittedly, a bit bemused by them. You said that you often get the impression that avant-garde music is concerned with breaking boundaries. This is usually true. The concept of avant-garde music is meant to break away from tradition and to create something entirely new. I understand what you are saying there, but what I don't understand is that you find that those who compose in the realm of the avant-garde are more concerned with that than artistic expression (you mentioned earlier that it, i.e. unconventional techniques in composition, "crippled the expressive nature of music").

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Then I'd be made to look a right fool. I have no issues with "avant-garde" or "atonal" music per se as you can see by my signature and I have said earlier that any sound (organised or not) has the ability to conjure up images, hence anything can be used as a tool for composition, as Ska pointed out before my issues lie with the composers approach to music.
There are certainly those who somewhat possess this mentality of approaching composition, such as Luigi Russolo and Iannis Xenakis, but what about those like Edgard Varese or Throbbing Gristle? You surely can't say they are more concerned with innovation than that of artistic expression?

Just because one adheres to a more unconventional way of writing or playing music doesn't mean they are more focused on being original or innovative...

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That's fine, it would be hopeless for me to even begin to define art.
Then why bring up your view on the goal of art? After all, art can primarily be defined by the goal it is trying to accomplish. I mean, you sort of dismissed abstract art with your previous comment by stating "the point of art is to minimize subjectivity so you can get your point across." Abstract art is known for being ambiguous and subjective as far as personal interpretation goes (as is a lot of art in general).

On another note, I have a question about the following statement you made:
Quote:
instead we force our audience to work towards understanding these new relationships when they aren't even fully understood by those using them.
What do you mean the part in bold, and why have you come to this conclusion?

Last edited by TockTockTock; 02-20-2012 at 02:50 PM. Reason: Grammatical error.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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but from what I have heard trying to get into "avant-garde"
I'm being ignored here but anyway....just listen and don't worry about theories.
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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what I don't understand is that you find that those who compose in the realm of the avant-garde are more concerned with that than artistic expression (you mentioned earlier that it, i.e. unconventional techniques in composition, "crippled the expressive nature of music").
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Originally Posted by Jack Pat View Post
There are certainly those who somewhat possess this mentality of approaching composition, such as Luigi Russolo and Iannis Xenakis, but what about those like Edgard Varese or Throbbing Gristle? You surely can't say they are more concerned with innovation than that of artistic expression?

Just because one adheres to a more unconventional way of writing or playing music doesn't mean they are more focused on being original or innovative...
I wasn't trying to generalise Avant-garde as being devoid of expression nor was my argument against avant-garde, I was speaking specifically about those who get caught up too much in trying to bring something new to the table.

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Then why bring up your view on the goal of art? After all, art can primarily be defined by the goal it is trying to accomplish. I mean, you sort of dismissed abstract art with your previous comment by stating "the point of art is to minimize subjectivity so you can get your point across." Abstract art is known for being ambiguous and subjective as far as personal interpretation goes (as is a lot of art in general).
Seeing as how the subject deals with my view on music I thought it was relevant, If your piece is supposed to represent something surely it would be better to use one or more aspects in your work that would point to it rather than just randomly mix things together that have nothing to do with it.

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On another note, I have a question about the following statement you made:

What do you mean the part in bold, and why have you come to this conclusion?
The more distant relationships can't be said to be fully understood yet as their use is relatively new, it's only through repeated exposure to them that they will begin to be incorporated into a clearer tonal structure.
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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It's the far more some of the audience that doesn't understand, they need to listen to more stuff then they will see where the good music is and where the worst stuff is. And why worry about the worst stuff in any genre? Concentrate on the good. The problem is that blanket judgements tend to be made from the position of ignorance (of not actually listening to enough or even trying to) and just making the usual general comments against 'modernism'.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Over the past century music has been going through many changes, our traditional systems are being thrown out as people are opting for more anti-conventional techniques. While this has brought us much innovation it seems to have crippled the expressive nature of music as composers are now attempting to be innovative for the sake of being innovative; the goal of composition seems to have become a need for someone to make a name for them-selves rather than simply to express.
I agree 100%; there is a popular notion that novelty or difference has an intrinsic value.

As starrynight stated in his first post in this thread, There will always be different kinds of music for different people...While we are around though there will continue to be good music and art produced. . The problem is when musical taste becomes a sort of social signifier; of class, education, & political beliefs (etc.), as then some people will opt to like music (or at least claim to like certain music) to fit into their desired social scene.

I know some praise this type of self-sorting, but it strikes me as horrible; dystopian, even.
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