Taken from Internet Forum
July 23, 2003
The following is my personal view of the current state of the
"serious" music. I compose tonal music and earn my living mostly as a
translator; I am Siberian Russian, arrived into the US as a political refugee
in 1987, and live in Southern Colorado mountains. I am looking for congenial minds
who would be interested in discussing music on the similar plane. I am also
looking for musically adept performers interested in recording my instrumental
compositions and my art songs (in English, Russian, Italian, and French). If
you strongly disagree with my views or tastes (which is more than possible,
given the prevailing cultural atmosphere), please feel free to express your
disagreement. My primary goal, however, is not to argue but to find those who
may have made similar conclusions.
It is difficult for me to write about music, because musical ideas aren't
designed to be described in words in the first place. There are so many
connotations and overtones within the content of music that spoken word truly
becomes a lie, however careful we weigh our expressions. When I call this or
another composer "sick" (which, probably, sounds offensive to some),
I refer to that morbid sensitivity characteristic of most artists and
intellectuals in the first half of the 20th century, who felt that the European
civilization, as a whole, didn't pass the test of time, that it failed,
betrayed them, resulted in horrors of World War I and deserved, therefore,
complete avoidance and punishment (as in Shoenberg's case) or partial avoidance
and expressionist or symbolist deformation (as in Ravel's and Skriabin's
cases). From Martian's point of view their world outlook would seem parochial,
transient, local -- after all, most of the cultural shifts in the 20th century
were reactionary, caused by the global wars and social upheavals which, in
turn, were inevitable results of explosive differential between the paces of
cultural and biological developments. I prefer the artists who could reflect
the contemporary tensions but also transcend them by retaining the rich and
comprehensible lexicon of the past, by referring to the European system of
musical co-ordinates firmly based on the physiological correspondence between
consonant and dissonant harmonies with pleasant and unpleasant emotions. For
example, Rakhmaninov, Puccini and Sibelius were bold enough to use any chords,
as dissonant as necessary, to express their ideas, but never lost sight of
clear consonant harmonies serving as emotional anchors, mathematically and
physiologically justified and embedded in the European musical language. They
were the true developers of musical language, the ones who created new things
without rejecting or mocking the solid treasures of the past. Ravel, Skriabin,
Prokofiev, and many others felt an inner need to partially reject the past,
more than it was historically justified; for them "sounding new and
original" was already more important than being properly understood or
identified with. This internal need could be explained by many cultural and
personal traits but, in the final analysis, is entrenched in moral infirmity.
(Here I come dangerously close to the Taliban certitudes of religious
moralists; however, I don't hide in the past but face the future, my moral
convictions are based on experimental facts, not on the faith of any kind.
Moral relativism and moral absolutism are equally repulsive to me; we must be
as moral as we can be, and our morality is measured by the extent to which we
are able to predict the consequences of our actions and to prevent causing pain
in order to achieve our own ends.) There were all kinds of degrees of that
modernist shift toward oblivion, total break from tradition, disdain for
audience -- finally arriving at artistic newspeak that only a few "chosen
ones" pretend to understand. (In my opinion, jazz was already a part of
that reactionary shift, because tonal harmonic system of coordinates, as used
in jazz, becomes intentionally blurred, misinterpreted, ambiguous,
non-essential. There is one step, really, from tonal jazz to atonal one, and
difference could be almost unnoticeable.) Shoenberg and other atonalists were
the most consistent haters and destroyers of the past, and later gained the
acceptance of the modernist, emotionally jaded rationalizers of impotence and
mediocrity of Adorno's ilk who viewed any tonality in general as a staple
element of Nazi culture.
First atonalists and other "sick" composers, however talented
individually, prepared a ground for something even they didn't anticipate.
Gradually, a great substitution came, a true cultural catastrophe, so huge that
almost nobody is courageous enough to talk about it. Musical talent, as well as
musical perception, are inseparable from that physiologically justified musical
system of co-ordinates which we call "tonality", from human emotional
language that expresses itself in harmony and melody. Where tonal harmony and
melody are not required, talent is not required either. So, one by one,
talentless musicians started to realize that a new, easy path to fame was open
to them: since their predecessors already used a language that nobody could
properly understand, why couldn't they use any kind of gibberish, and get away
with it, pretending that such is "their artistic language"? Et voila!
The new era began, the age of the Emperor's New Clothes, and Andy Warhol, its
prophet, intoned: "Art is anything you can get away with". Talent and
skill don't matter, more than that -- they are orderly, purposely persecuted,
hunted down, and crushed. Mediocrity triumphs, bureaucrats of art are
entrenched in every artistic institution, their well-being depends on the
status quo, and the status quo requires that talent, in no way or form, should
be allowed within the sacrosanct confines of the Feeding Ground, "Serious
Art". Whatever remains of talent is relegated to vulgar field of commercial
art. Transition is complete.
There, you have it. Now, put me against the brick wall, and shoot away. I have
nothing to lose.
You know.. There is one problem. Our worldview as a
culture, especially in this country, is no longer limited to a European
background. This split was as beneficial as it was needed. The umbilical cord
that bound the US to Europe was cut after the last world war. How could we, as
a nation and a culture, find our own way, through the traditions that were no
longer relevant to our lives or our history? Why should we hand on to a way of
doing things which didn't reflect our population or our background? This is why
I don't entirely agree with your opinion on the direction of music.
Although I would eagerly send John Cage and his like to the eternal pit for
taking what was more then art and converting it to a coffee table drama, I
still think that a wider scope of "tradition" is quickly becoming an
integral part of what we call Classical music.
I also have a hard time attributing the loss of audiences to the music that was
played. I believe that we are undergoing a change which has ripped countries
like China apart. That divide between what was and what will be, the cell
phones and the rituals, the DVD's and the oral history, are exactly what cause
the loss of our audiences. The new Classical music, as I have always stated, is
in the movies. Movie scores have become the new tradition in this country, at
least where the ticket buying public lies. Movie music was a real American
divide, and is the genre where the best American composers play their talents.
It's not only the new opera: it has forced orchestras to rethink their
strategies to get people to come back.
As for Jazz, I have a different view. Jazz is and always has been a way to
express oneself, and make money. Like everything else, Jazz had simplistic
roots and developed into something which could not sustain itself. Now it has
returned to what it once was: a way of expression which draws from the
Ok.. shot fired.. I'll wait or the return. However, I wouldn't expect a
doctoral rebuttal on this board. We have always been a more casual community,
and perhaps that is why not many have replied yet.
You make valid points, which rather add to my view rather
than contradict it. Indeed, a break from European tradition has been
inevitable, and there were many reasons for it other than general mediocrity
that filled the void. I also agree that American movie music is, in a sense,
the only natural "sequel" to classical music -- I would say, movie
music is what's left of classics. Time to time, I hear in the movie music very
interesting and talented things, even real melodies and fascinating modulations
-- unfortunately, undeveloped and fragmentary. For example, the score for
Attenborough's BBC series, "Life of Plants", shows a lot of promise
and talent (forgot the composer's name, of course) -- but it lasts only as long
as the introduction lasts, and if it returns later in the film, it returns
unchanged. The general impression is that musically gifted composers are out
there but they are in exile, forced to write for omnivorous, tasteless
commercial clients -- or not to write at all. Some popular songs (20 or so
songs by Beatles (or by G. Martin?), some others, time to time, here and there)
show melodic and even harmonic inventiveness, but they are mostly vulgar, and
the philosophy they carry is intellectually repulsive. Tonal jazz... well, as
Russians say, "where there's no real fish, a crowfish will do".
The question is: Are these contemporary leftovers of classical music on par
with the masterpieces of the past? Where is the intellectual and emotional
depth, where is the indomitable beauty and staying power of real classics?
No, I don't call for the impossible complete return to European tradition, I
only call for tonal (that is, physiologically natural) music that is
simultaneously complex and accessible, written in language that can impress any
man who lived and thought, not only a few Manhattan glitterati with
artificially pointed ears. I am tired of music that is either primitive and
tasteless, or written with the only narrow goal in sight: to avoid anything
that ever has been tried before. No wonder any attempts of atonalists like
Penderecky and Stockhausen to write something tonal are so laughably inane.
These people had no talent to begin with, they rode the wave of negative
reaction to anything meaningful or skillful, and they truly believe that they
are composers? There are exceptions, of course, but these unique curios are
destined to be drowned in the ocean of drum-machined musak and shoenbergian
I think that the first piece of music that expressed individual genius was
Monteverdi's "Vespro della Beata Vergine" (1610). For me, the last
true masterpiece of the classical music, a natural musical artefact that I can
accept without any reservations, is Puccini's "Nessun dorma", 1923.
In the same year, Puccini wrote to his friend: "What happened to the
world? Melody either disappeared or became vulgar!" Soon, Sibelius started
drinking and stopped writing, saying: "If what passes for music nowadays
is music, I am no musician -- period." Thus, the era of noble and natural
musical expression lasted little more than 300 years. We live among the ruins
and crude imitations.
P.S. Please, be as casual as it suits you. I am not trying to be a pompous
stuffed shirt. English is not my native language, I am not at ease with
American colloquialisms. Therefore, I am afraid of making a foolish mistake by
using some idiom in a wrong way, and stick to more ponderous but reliable
style. Actually, I constantly translate into English what I am thinking in
Russian, which affects my syntax and choice of expressions.
I think in today's day and age, I might be labeled a musical
conservative. Art has changed drastically and in my opinion, has taken a turn
for the worse. Noise is not art, nor is paint randomly splashed on a canvas. If
only I could have lived 300-400 years ago, I might have thorougly enjoyed the
arts and philosophy of the day.
I agree with you, our current culture thrives on unimaginative junk and
"musicians" write only so they can bring in a paycheck.
Lester Bangs once said, "The first mistake of art is to assume that it's
serious." I disagree with this statement in that art can be as serious as
it needs to be; do you consider the mighty symphonies of Beethoven or the
Brandenburg Concertos of Bach "not serious"? I would be appalled if I
ever heard someone disrespect such serious and beautiful works.
Yet, what is art but a way of seeing? If present-day artists would only look
past the guidelines and morals they are told to compose with, we might still
live in a world where free expression was looked highly upon, and where
geniuses still composed the masterpieces of our time.
I think I'm more in agreement than disagreement with you, Alex.
No doctoral dissertation is required as a response to any of
the observations above; certainly not to Scooter's comments about jazz, which
are really value judgements, anyway.
Any attempt to describe jazz by classical principles is inappropriate. The
futile attempt usually ends in a condescension, which is neither positive nor
productive. And the populist argument can be used to describe music of any
Every judgement about music is a value judgement. Even if I
believe that tonal music is natural, and atonal is not, I don't forget that
most of any tonal music is crap, anyway.
For one, I don't "condescend" toward jazz, because it is, obviously,
a complex, diverse, and evolved group of genres. I only can say that I don't
understand why other people like it so much, and that I am somewhat repelled by
the vulgar or bohemian cultural atmosphere usually associated with jazz (though
I remember that there are jazz musicians who don't necessarily represent such
I could suggest that classical music is a deeper, clearer language with wider
lexicon and farther possibilities, theorizing about ambiguousness of jazz
harmonies avoiding definite tonal centre by using 9- and 11-chords and
diminished 7-chords as its means of constant tonal shifts without definite
resolution. In fact, I think that lack of resolution, indecision, is one of the
main traits of jazz, musically and philosophically. In this sense, ironically,
Wagner's "Tristan", late Skriabin and jazz are affined.
But I admit that I simply have no ears for jazz, and that this is, probably,
the most important factor affecting my attitude toward it.
It certainly has been enjoyable to have a discussion about this with you.
Unfortunately, if you are speaking of the purity of the tonal and intellectual
value of modern day classical music, I'm afraid that the only refuge left is
the Band world. This is not merely because of the rise of bands, especially in
America. More to the point it happened because of the tendency of most
professional groups to focus on rehashing the past, instead of plowing ahead
towards the future. I'm not sure why any group would limit itself so, however
it seemed to be the mantra of professional symphonies, with some exceptions
like Corgliano, to completely abandon the genre as it pertains to new pieces
and new composers.
Thus some very talented composers sought exile in the band world. Some greats
that come to mind, and remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg, are Eric
Ewazen, Eric Whitacre, Alfred Reed, David Maslanka. They developed new styles
and techniques without compromising our senses or our ears. Whitacre's
"October" remains one of my most loved lyrical works, wrought with
brilliant resolutions and motives. Maslanka's "In Memoriam" is a
return to the days of Berlioz, if he had composed in our time, of course. Other
memorable composers are writing for a select group of instruments, like
Ewazen's "Colcester Fantasy" for Brass Quintet.
I think that we are in no way losing the talent of great composers. I think
that perhaps, like all fields, they have become more specialized. They are
divided between orchestra, movie music, commercial (of which there are a few
great ones writing for cartoons and such), small ensemble, jazz, musicals, and
band. As other professions, such as the medical field and the law, are becoming
more specialized, so are we.
Could you explain, in simple terms for uninitiated, what do
you call "Band Music"? Is there some general definition? I am totally
unfamiliar with the term.
really? Well, Band music simply means anything originally
scored for winds and percussion only, usually but not always with the following
1st and 2nd flutes,
1st, 2nd, and 3rd clarinet
alto sax, tenor sax, and bari sax
3 to 5 trumpet/cornet parts
1st, 2nd, and 3rd trombones
mixed percussion including tympani
does that help?
So, if I want to include string instruments, it cannot be
called "Band" any more. Russians use only the "Wind Ensemble"
term, the equivalent of "band" ("gruppa") is reserved for
rock music, etc.
I don't know... Music without strings... winds only... all right, if they tune
their instruments well, it can sound fine, but most of the wind ensembles I've
heard live were badly tuned(mismatched?).
On the other hand, if what they play is atonal, tuning doesn't matter, does it?
I am somewhat repelled by the vulgar or
bohemian cultural atmosphere usually associated
So. What does this have to do with the quality of the music?
I am repelled by much of the European culture that surrounded and undoubtedly
influenced the work of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. But it has almost nothing to
do with my appreciation of their music.
says it all.
But I admit that I simply have no ears
One could argue that cultural atmospheres associated with
various musical styles, as well as cultural preferences in general, do mean a
lot. There are no cultural moral absolutes, of course, but even cultural
relativism, like any relativism, pre-supposes comparison. And comparison
reveals one culture to be more evolved and diverse than another. Jazz culture
seems to occupy a narrow slice of society, whereas the culture of tonal classical
music has dispersed throughout the social fabric of every country. Which proves
to me that the language of tonal classical music is richer and more accessible
at the same time.
This is not to say that there aren't jazz pieces rivaling classical music in
complexity or inventiveness. There are, I am sure, compositions for Hindu sitar
and Bali instruments which bring a lot of pleasure to connoisseurs. The
reservation is that one doesn't need to be a connoisseur to appreciate the best
achievements of the tonal classical music. It speaks in language familiar to
absolute majority of human beings, regardless of the place or of the time of
their birth. The same cannot be said about jazz.
In other words, you write here in English, not in Laotian, because you want to
be understood, not because you think that English is somehow "better"
than Laotian. The same with classical music and jazz. Jazz is
"Laotian" for everybody but some people who grew up in its cultural
milieu, and developed special ears for it. Tonal classical music is understood
equally well by Amazon Indians, Chinese, Russians, Indonesians, Germans, Jews,
and Australian Aborigines. It is the most universal, democratic, and
time-independent musical language of all.
I'm sorry, Alex But I have found the opposite to be true in
my experience. Win Ensembles, Wind Symphonies, Symphonic bands, whatever you
may call them, are usually far more in tune then a string group of the same
age. Perhaps it is the wind instrument's intrinsic propertied which make it
less susceptible to immediate changes in pitch, or perhaps it is the modus
operandi for sound production with wind instruments but wind groups are
typically more in tune. As to style, we can argue all day, and I'm sure that we
will agree by the end about who is better. It does make me worry about the
quality of the wind programs in your home country if they aren't a match for
And by the way, cultural relativism as it has been known is dead, and shall
ever be. There ARE moral absolutes. There have to be, or our entire system of
right and wrong is subject to change by the whims of current "pop
ethics" if you will, and the moral ineptitude of some downtrodden cultures
who have yet to migrate out of archaic times. We must think with a world view,
not a "culture view".
This topic is a bit shocking, I must admit.
Please excuse, like Alex, the quality of my language because it's not my first
neither and I try as much as possible to express myself the clearest possible.
I sense that you might miss something in your speeches. You look like saying
that tonal music is the most natural thing that that it is more valuable than
any other system. We're talking here of a language, and more than that, we're
talking about occidental values. I'm not sure that european tonality is more
valuable than any modal music from arab countries or gamelan, for example.
During the last century, we exposed our little occidental selves to the other
face of the world, we also discovered the history of music, things that we
haven't really get into before (they didn't sing polyphonic songs of 1500 back
in 1800), it's more or less an overture that leaded us to the question: is
there more than our system? Is there other ways to express? The answer is yes,
and spiting on the other avenues is like creating a shell over our ears and
shutting ourselves on our own culture.
The 12-tone system appeared in a time when the tonal system had the historical
NEED to be abolished, because it wasn't able to express the tragedies of the
composers anymore - I'm mostly talking about shoenberg and his pupils, those
genious composers who found the way to find another language for what they
wanted to express. Of course, their music aren't beautiful and are hard to
listen to; but their life wasn't exactly beautiful and they didn't want to
express beautifulness. They were true to their expressionnist nature, and they
just continued Wagner's romantic work. If you compare Berg's Wozzeck with
Wagner's Tristan, you'll find ressemblences, because they were written in
About the neo-classics and the so called 'futurists', they were the one who
didn't want to continue the traditions of Wien, they found their own way of
expressing through their overture to the world. Don't blame the pioneers, they
are the ones who made us evolve.
I personnaly think that the ones who dislike 12-tone pieces are usually the one
who never really listen to it or never tried to understand it - and play it.
Here, I do have an objection; not all 12-tone music is good, it's like tonal
music; not everything is good there neither (I personnaly don't really like
Webern's pieces) but just listen to some of the tragical pieces of Shoenberg
(who did return to tonal msuic at the end of his life) and Berg (who's a really
really sensitive composer, the most of the group in my sense - wozzeck is just
so superbly sad and very powerful). Personnaly, 12-tone is far from being my
favorite language, but I can appreciate it when it's well-written. I really
prefer free atonality, because it almost always plays on tonal tensions.
There is also the french school with Messiaen and Boulez, we could only blame
Boulez (you absolutely can't say they don't have talents, they are both total
geniuses) of writing too complex msuic that only him can understand. And he
also understood his mistakes, you know... he breaked from serialism before he
realized that there were no avenue.
And for Messiaen, well, it's a spiritual man. For those who say that tonal
music is the most natural, then you should know that Messiaen claimed exactly
the same thing about his language.
The main problem of this century isn't the loss of tonal music. This is
ridiculous. Don't think I don't like it, I'm a musician and a music-lover as
you all, and I do appreciate tonal music, and I don't know one single person on
earth that totally hate it. But the problem is not there; the problem is the
kind of individualism that came over our composers nowadays.
From the begining of the xxth century, the styles became more and more
heterogenous, leaving the copmosers with an idea of renewal at any price,
revolution after revolution, musics against musics, and in the end, all those
styles became so eprsonnal that every composers lost a bit of what I call the
desire to be understood. The music became more and more complex, written for an
elite and that doesn't reach mr. and ms. everybody.
But that was a few years ago, because music is always changing. People don't
really write serial msuic anymore - there is a few, but not a lot amongst the
students that will be the composers of tomorrow. There's a flow of renewal, a
lil come back in the past values, but without falling in the easy romantism.
The music is less intellectual and a decade ago and more near to the emotions,
but it probably won't ever return to absolute I-IV-V-I tonal music. Music has
understood its mistakes and now, I think it's the people who are listening to
music that should make an effort. We live in a time where we tend to lost any
identity and I feel that the XXth century will only reflect that state of our
society: the quest for an identity.
But as I said, things are changing... just go to modern music concerts, with
actual music (I say actual, by young composers) and you'll see that things are
different. We're sick of intellectual and elitist works. And it's you're bold
enough, you'll see what happen to music around the world; I often see in the
english-speaking boards that when talking about contemporary music, the general
names are always from the united states... cage, glass, adams, etc. There is
really good music in canada, in France, and in Japan too! And once you discover
something, and you try to understand it, you can't help but being fascinated by
Those were my two cents. ^_^
(edit: I really really can't conceive that someone can actually claim that
Ravel and Prokofiev wrote music in the idea of sounding 'new' greater than the
idea to be understood. o_O That's unbeleivable... no offense, Alex, I respect
your opinion, but I do have serious doubts about it.)
I don't see how your opinion contradicts my conclusions. You
also observe that music has deviated from accessible, diverse language into the
realm of esoteric, unintelligible personal self-expression, and that it must return
to some level of comprehensibility. Consonant and dissonant intervals produce
corresponding physiological emotional reactions, which constitute the emotional
system of co-ordinates natural for human ear and brain. Sorry, but this is a
scientific fact, rooted in mathematical proportions expressed by consosnant
intervals and perceived as "harmonious" by human brain. Such system
of coordinates is the only musical language that could be universal, that is,
understood by any human being. Other systems can enrich the tonal one, but they
could never substitute it. Either we can agree that tonality is inseparable
from humanity, or we will live in eternal hell of musical Babel Tower, where
everybody speaks his own musical language unknown to others.
You also assume that I don't know much about Shoenberg, Berg, Webern, etc. I've
heard enough of that stuff. Dodecaphony is a negative reaction to tonality and
harmony, not a thing in itself. It can only exist as a "novelty" on
the background of tonal musical literature; on it's own it loses any meaning
(with the exception of those spots where Berg cheats: he introduces hints of
tonality by skipping this or that tone in his 12-tone series, making it a fast
"Wozzeck", in my opinion, is hysteria itself, expressed in opposition
to European culture that, from Berg's poin of view, resulted in horrors of the
World War I. To me, comparing "Wozzeck" with "Tristan" is
like comparing an eggplant with the evening sky: yes, there's something bluish
to both, so what? They are things of completely different, incompatible orders.
Shoenberg's conscious position was one of a destroyer; he hated European
cultural heritage, and expostulated expansively on this subject in writing. No
wonder Shoenberg's and Penderecky's tonal pieces are so uninventive and boring
-- they have chosen atonality exactly because they could not produce anything
new within the natural system. Shoenberg, a tragic case? Yes. Shoenberg, a
genius? I think not.
I don't see what is so unusual in observing that Prokofiev, for example, always
chased novelty and originality above all, and very rarely became emotional or
deep. I don't know a colder composer; he played with notes like an egotistical
child, and it didn't matter to him if his music praised the most inhuman regime
in human history. As a result, very many of his compositions leave casual
listeners uninterested. But Prokofiev was a talented musician enough not ever
to abandon tonality.
There can be varying opinions on Ravel. I don't deny that he was extremely
talented (he also never abandoned tonality) and meticulous, even perfectionist.
I don't like his exquisiteness that sometimes borders upon negligibility of
Messiaen pays attention to the meaning of the combinations of sounds, and therefore,
could be more or less interesting for a moment or two. But his language is
extremely esoteric, and almost nobody is ready to spend much time learning it.
Boulez, Cage? They lost themselves to the audience in the labyrinth of their
experiments. Who can say with clear conscience that he or she really enjoys a
piece by Boulez? Nobody. In the final analisys, art isn't "anything one
can get away with" for 15 minutes -- these experiments are nothing but
musical hooliganism, mockery and waste of listener's time, like many other
phenomenae in modernist art.
Naturally, my opinions are shocking to you -- we represent two very different
cultural systems. Believe me, your opinions are equally shocking to me, even
though I've heard similar "calls for understanding" from many
musicians who grew up within the confines of insitutionalized perversion and
persecution of tonality that prevailed during the last half of the 20th
No offense, either. We speak from different worlds, and only very long time
will decide who was right.
P.S. Your native language is French, mine is Russian. But we both write in
English here. Why? Because we want to understand each other. For the same
reason, I think, tonality is destined to win over atonality and other experiments,
however interesting ones.
is not my native language (I'm French), and I regret being unable to express
correctly my ideas... How do you say in english the word
"ETHNOCENTRISME" ? I think it is the name of your sickness, Alex... I
know your opinion because... I had the same, exactly the same, with the same
arguments... But I've changed a little... I agree with you on many point but...
take care of extremism...
tonality is inseparable from
J'enrage de ne pouvoir m'exprimer correctement !
Que c'est frustrant...
Just a question, Alex : Do you like Nietzsche?
we both write in english but we both can't fully express our
I agree with the loss of values and the mistakes of music of being too complex
for a normal person, but I really disagree about stating tonal music as the
real absolute answer. The music has evolved. we can use elarged tonality or
references to it, but we can't return at puccini's time.
And I personnaly think that Prokofiev is one of the most interesting and
hcallenging lyric and melodist composer.
And don't say that nobody listens to Messaien's or Boulez's art... there's a
lot of people who does, trust me. It might be impossible to you, but there ARE
people who are actually enjoying Pli selon Pli, the magnificent Turangalila
symphony or the spiritual andenjoyable 20 regards sur l'enfant jésus for
piano... You should not consider your own values as the universal ones.
No, I don't "like" Nietzsche, though I think that
he made many true, talented and interesting observations. (His attempts at
composing music were abject failures, as I have observed in his scores.) I
don't forget that application (or misapplication, as some might point out) of
Nietzsche's "superman" dream stimulated a self-delusion of the whole
German nation, which, in turn, resulted in disaster for the whole human race.
However, blaming Nietzsche, personally, for German National-Socialist crimes
would be tantamount to blaming Jesus Christ for all the crimes of the Church or
blaming Robert Owen for the mass atrocities of the Bolsheviks and Maoists.
My point of view is that we all are mutants, that humanity mutates and evolves
biologically with neckbreaking speed, and that there are many points of this
growth in many directions. Some of the growth is healthy, some is cancerous.
I can read French (though would prefer not to write in French). So, please, you
are welcome to use French expressions when you find it difficult to say
something in English.
There is an English word "ethnocentrism". However, I don't locate any
cultural center in any ethnic unit or race. I declare tonality to be the
universal musical language, accessible to all human beings. On the other hand,
dodecaphonists, Boulez, Berg, etc. are purely local European phenomenae, and
over-emphasizing their significance could be called an
There is nothing absolutist in saying that tonality is natural, and atonality
is not. It is a scientific fact, either you like it or not. I don't mind using
atonal chords and fragments as special means of expression, but to be
understood correctly by a majority of people, these special means of expression
must be anchored in universally understood musical system of emotional
co-ordinates, that is, in tonality.
No, "a lot" of people don't listen to Boulez. Very few do. A lot of
people listen to Bach and Beatles.
I also think Prokofiev was very talented, harmonically and melodically
inventive, and often simply interesting. I also happened to know that he was a
rare fool and a coward, and one can hear his foolishness and cowardice in his
music. Consider a single fact from his biography, for example: Prokofiev
returned to Soviet Russia with his young and beautiful wife. Stalin's secret
police arrested her almost immediately, and she perished in the Gulag.
Prokofiev didn't say a word about it, and went on writing oratorios praising
Stalin and his Party. THIS MAN UNDERSTOOD ANYTHING ABOUT "ROMEO AND
JULIET"? Yeah, interesting, sometimes beautiful music, but cold as a fish,
I prefer what you say now than what you said in your
previous posts. I conceive that's it's a bit fool to admit that Shoenberg,
Messiaen or Prokofiev weren't geniouses - you even staed that some were 'sick'.
That attitude is a bit extremist.
And concerning your blaming of ethnocentrism, we never stated that the european
evolution of music was the correct one, as opposed to your vision of tonal...
it's a language among other, here is the difference.
I am not agree at all with Alex's point of view :(((, if
Webern and Boulez are often hard to listen.... I love very much the music of
Messiaen (Poèmes pour Mi, L'ascension, St François d'Assise), Bartok (images, 4
pièces for orchestra, the wooden prince) and Lutoslawski, OK, they compose
atonal music but lyrical and beautiful music in the spirit of Debussy (modal
I can't take sides in an argument like this.
However, if I hear a tonal piece that is very beautiful and expressive, I enjoy
that. If I hear something atonal (perhaps Shostakovich Polka), sure it's not
very pretty, but its enjoyable to a certain extent.
The truth is, human beings should enjoy whatever music they wish without
worrying about opression, opinions, or discrimination. If we enjoy what we
hear, we should listen and that is that. After all, isn't that what music is