Alexander Feht - Composer, Poet, Translator

My Take on Current Situation in Music

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.

Thank you,

Alexander Feht




ScooterTB23

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 populists' wallet.

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.

Scoot


Alex Feht

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 abysmal noise.

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.

Thank you,

AF



Adagio


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.

Thank you,

ML



Andonicus


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 idiom.

Ando



Alex Feht


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 an atmosphere).

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.

AF



ScooterTB23


Well Alex,
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.



Alex Feht


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.

AF



ScooterTB23


really? Well, Band music simply means anything originally scored for winds and percussion only, usually but not always with the following instrumentation:

1st and 2nd flutes,
1st, 2nd, and 3rd clarinet
oboe
bassoon
alto sax, tenor sax, and bari sax
bass clarinet
3 to 5 trumpet/cornet parts
1st, 2nd, and 3rd trombones
4 horns
tuba
mixed percussion including tympani

does that help?



Alex Feht


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?

AF



Andonicus


Quote:
I am somewhat repelled by the vulgar or
bohemian cultural atmosphere usually associated
with jazz

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.


Quote:
But I admit that I simply have no ears
for jazz,...

That says it all.

Ando


Alex Feht

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.

AF



ScooterTB23


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 the strings.

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".



caacrinolas


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 similar ideas.

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 it.

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.)



Alex Feht


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 transitional one).

"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 content.

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 century.

No offense, either. We speak from different worlds, and only very long time will decide who was right.

AF


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.



Fugato


Quote:
tonality is inseparable from
humanity

English 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...

J'enrage de ne pouvoir m'exprimer correctement !
Que c'est frustrant...

Just a question, Alex : Do you like Nietzsche?


caacrinolas

we both write in english but we both can't fully express our ideas.

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.



Alex Feht


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 "ethnocentrism".

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, freezing cold.

AF


caacrinolas


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.



kfigaro


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 music)



Adagio


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 all about?

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