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foreignwords last won the day on March 1 2015

foreignwords had the most liked content!

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About foreignwords

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  • Birthday September 12

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  • Favorite Composers
    Mahler, Scriabin, Chopin, Babbitt, Schoenberg, Beethoven, Sibelius
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  • Instruments Played
    saxophone, clarinet, piano
  1. Oh how I wish I'd heard this a year ago. I was perplexed for the longest time why these two guys are almost always mentioned practically in the same breath in most 'music history' discussions, and yet... one of them was so utterly captivating while the other was, at the worst, boring, and at best, usually, lyrical or scherzical. I'm coming around to Brucker (extremely) slowly, but I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks these two have ​far far more not in common than in common. I quite love the third. It was one of my slowest to warm up to, though. I started with the fifth, then the second, then 1, 6, 4, then the rest. The strange number 7, of all of them, was perhaps the quickest for me to really come to love, although it is by no means my favorite. I know it's the black sheep of the bunch, but I really like it. The one I'm still least familiar with (aside from Das Lied) is the eighth, but only slightly less so.
  2. Ugh. This topic is so subjective. You could look at it from two absolutely opposite vantage points. 1. Things will never be the same, the greats are gone, and the best is behind us. This is the "walked uphill both ways in the snow barefoot" viewpoint. 2. The "things are only getting better" and "the old generation isn't in-touch" anymore, "we've moved beyond that" approach. In my opinion, both are radical. I posted recently in another thread about my thoughts on Boulez's comment that art (like, ALL the art) is too sentimental and should thusly be destroyed. That falls into the latter. But there are also those who fall into the staunchly conservative camp. It's a matter of taste, beauty in the eye of the beholder, etc. If you like it, then it's better. Something else that I was reading about the other day contained a quote from Milton Babbitt. He (ostensibly) said: "Listen, don't worry about whether or not the music sounds coherent to you the first time you hear it. What about the first time you hear a sentence in Hungarian? -- assuming you're interested in listening to and learning Hungarian." ​It got me to thinking about how the age of (electronic) recordings has influenced the direction of music. It was around the same time (at least the same decade or so) that music was more than just available to the live audience that twelve-tone music began to appear. I'm not implying any causality or relation, but I feel the opportunity to replay and listen again and again to music like that from Serialist composers (but perhaps not minimalists like Pärt or 'new complexity' folk) means that it's almost a necessity... I don't think that music like that of Schoenberg's twelve-tone stuff (and certainly not a lot of what came after) would have been as easy to approach in one pass at a single live performance. Just a thought. Someone else shared with me an article they read (I didn't see it) claiming the recording industry has promoted greater virtuosity among artists due to greater exposure to, I suppose, their competition. But that's beside the point. I think this is all highly subjective, and once words like "better" start getting tossed around, then we're just comparing opinions.
  3. YouTube, mostly. And Wikipedia. I do lots of reading on Wikipedia about pieces and composers and all of that, and inevitably will come across some person or work that I'm unfamiliar with, and it may lead to a Google search, etc. Granted, lots of it may be stuff that everyone else already knows about, but via YouTube channels like Hexameron and Unsung Composers (too lazy to link) I've found some really wonderful works (either directly as a result of their page, or did a search for it and they had it). The following come to mind, that may or may not have been from those channels: Felix Weingartner's first symphony, Cyril Scott's first symphony, Hans Rott's only symphony; Julius Reubke's piano sonata, Frank Bridge's piano sonata, Leo Ornstein's fourth piano sonata, the piano works of Samuil Feinberg and Nikolai Roslavets, Ernst van Dohnanyi's piano concertos, as well as those of Catoire, Winding, Thalberg. Lots of YouTube.
  4. Bruckner is/has been/was a challenge for me. It took me some time to get really into Mahler symphonies, but the real challenge there was just the length, I feel, just getting my head around an 80-90 minute symphony, especially as early in my 'learn about classical music' efforts as it was, but I really love his stuff now. While he certainly has an overall style, each piece is so strikingly individual, each symphony very much has its own personality and identity, for better or for worse (I love them all, but I can see how some wouldn't). I say this being far less familiar with Bruckner than I should be (far less familiar with him than Mahler for sure), but my overall impression is that he wrote the same symphony nine times (or like... 10 and 3/4 times if you count the study symphony and the retracted one, and 9 being incomplete). I say that knowing full well that they're not ​the same, but my impression is that they're much more the same than Mahler's output, which isn't to say that the latter's are better or right, but that it's why they were captivating and easy to identify and remember. It took lots and lots and lots of effort last year to really begin to 'get' his fourth, but it was suggested (along with the seventh) as a good place to start. I listened to recording after recording after recording over and over and over again to start to get it, and it only got to feel emotionally significant when I was already quite familiar with it. It's puzzling to me what doesn't 'click' with me for Bruckner. I love the scherzos of his first and third symphonies, and the first movement of no. 1 is quite captivating, at least the opening. I'm familiar-ish with the ninth, and it's enjoyable, but it is taking me a long time to warm up to him, and I have been trying really hard. That all being said, I bought a ticket last night to hear his eighth here at the end of may and am looking very forward to it.
  5. Can we talk about Boulez for just a minute? He's still alive. He'll be 90 next month. I've been on this Babbitt thing lately, but at least Babbitt recognizes his "composer as specialist" ideas and techniques and isn't holding his breath for the general population to stop buying Nicki Minaj and start buying Babbitt. I find that respectable and realistic. Boulez's statement that "The aim of music is not to express feelings but to express music," sounds poetic and even purist, but when it comes down to listening to him actually explain his philosophy about music and what he thinks it should be, I find it actually like, angers me. I want to say it is in this interview (or some other one of his on YouTube) where he begins to talk about how the entire history, the legacy of art of the past like, four hundred years being too sentimental, too nostalgic, too emotional and that it should all be destroyed and that 'art' should be free from emotion or sentimentality. I find that to be such a radical statement... it does call to mind the disappointment he had with Messiaen for Turangalîla for being 'too romantic.' On the other hand, one has to acknowledge that he is a musical genius. While I know very little about his works, and have only begun to warm up to one (his second piano sonata) and don't really..... care for them (or know enough about them, but more, I suspect, the above philosophy is at play), I can say some of his recordings are superb. His Mahler cycle (recently released, or soon to be released) split between Chicago, Vienna, Cleveland, and Staatskapelle Berlin (and the tenth in London) has some gems, if you're amiable to his surgical, cold, sterile conducting style (again, perhaps a product of his emotionless approach, and excellent for score study, kind of the anti-Bernstein). I just think it's an interesting dichotomy, that he's so clearly talented, but those 'talents' that others perceive he doesn't seem to value. And in contrast to Babbitt above, it's almost like he's expecting the world to jump on the Boulez Bandwagon and do away with feelings. All the feels. Thoughts?
  6. I just kind of love all of this that you said.... While I'm really starting to get into Bruckner and LOVE Mahler (but can definitely see what you're saying), I do like the swathes of sweeping generalization that kind of quite accurately characterize the overall listening experience of some of these folks. Well said.
  7. There's something about Babbitt's music that fascinates me. I don't pretend to 'understand' it or to be able to hear the relationships or constructions built on aggregates (like in his Composition for Four Instruments) but just yesterday I bought what I believe to be the only recording of his Transfigured Notes (the piece that the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned from him and tried to premiere and canceled the premiere of three times. Interesting story, that, but anyway. It's captivating. I've listened to it ten or fifteen times so far, and while it sounds... a bit like nonsense, there is something alluring about it. And yes, Babbitt's works stem directly from the legacy Schoenberg left. He took the baton (literally and figuratively?) from Schoenberg and brought the idea to new extremes. I have trouble warming up to Boulez's works, but I keep going back to Babbitt. He's just about the only ultramodern composer I can stomach, at this point, though. Most of the others are a challenge yet.
  8. That's kind of encouraging. I am the same way. I've listened through Das Rheingold a few times, as well as La Traviata, but that's about it. I think the two major things that kind of... turn me off to it or make it not as easy to listen to is that I do a lot of my listening at work or at least at a computer or doing other things. Opera isn't absolute music. I suppose it can be enjoyed that way, but I feel like I'm cheating myself if I don't follow the libretto. Granted, much of it is beautiful music by itself, but if you don't follow the story to some extent, the meaning gets lost. that coupled with the length of many of them. Even smallish operas rival the length of the longest Mahler symphonies. Das Rheingold is over two hours, and it's the petite-est of the set. They're putting on Fidelio at the local theatre this summer, and it's a fantastic orchestra, so I will definitely go see that. I'll take a cue from your suggestions here as well, Austenite. It's kind of the genre/form of music I've most blatantly neglected. Didn't think of that when I was writing the OP.
  9. I'm sure this can't just be me personally. I've noticed, no matter what kind of music from what style or era, the stuff that challenges me the most, that causes me perhaps the most confusion or perplexity at first listen is the same stuff that, when given serious attention to, also becomes the stuff I tend to love the most. For not classical music, the biggest example of this that I can think of is Joanna Newsom, starting with her album Ys. There are only five tracks on the album, and really each one of them is splendidly wonderful. A good example of her style, and one I especially love, would be the second track. A friend first introduced this to me a long time ago, and I was appalled. But at his encouragement to give it a chance, I listened repeatedly, and it clicked, and this album of hers (as well as her three-CD release after it, ​Have one on Me) hold their places among the small handful of 'modern' or 'pop' or just non-classical music that I hold dear to my heart. Classically speaking, a few examples would be the late piano sonatas of Alexander Scriabin. Early in my more studious listening efforts, when I decided it was time to start listening to stuff other than Chopin or Schumann, even Scriabin's earlier work seemed strange, but again... after repeated listenings, I really came to love them. They don't seem so... outrageous now. My favorites are probably the eighth and the ninth. The same was kind of the case with Mahler, not because of tonality, but his works present their own challenges. The length of his symphonies alone can be daunting. Anyway, I adore them. Perhaps the greatest contrast between first reaction to current feelings toward the work is probably Schoenberg's piano concerto. The first time I listened to it, I didn't. I mean, I got through maybe the first few minutes before I had had enough. And now I feel it is a stunningly beautiful work, perhaps one I'd choose to hear live over Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Brahms, anything else. It's remarkable. I want to say, though, that even if I was repulsed by some of these pieces at first listen (and I wouldn't use such an extreme word to describe my initial response), I still feel there was something that clicked, an inkling that at least told me to keep trying with the piece, but that could just be a biased opinion based on my current feelings toward them. I have not been inclined to give Boulez's Le Marteau or Berio's Sinfonia or Schnittke's first symphony second listens, for example. Boulez's piano sonatas still intrigue me, and I've gone back to listen to them a number of times, but my latest fascination has been Milton Babbitt, more specifically his second and sixth string quartets, Composition for Four Instruments, clarinet quintet, and Three Compositions for Piano. I am finding it to be really wonderful to get to know these pieces better. What about you? What are your hate-then-love pieces? What was the process like? (I have mainly discussed more modern works, but there's no reason why someone wouldn't have issues coming to love Mozart or Beethoven or Bach if their tastes lie more in complicated modern works. Perhaps the challenge is the lack of challenge, the straightforwardness, whatever. I'm only now really getting into the classical era and starting to find it more beautiful than bland).
  10. I would agree with this statement. I'm no musicologist, and my knowledge of music history has some gaping holes in it, but I would go so far as to say that there hadn't been such a dramatic advancement (not as in 'better'; just move toward modernism) or shift in styles or thought or attitudes toward music as with Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique. Hauer should get some credit here for his twelve-tone ideas that were ultimately overshadowed by Schoenberg's system. One could maybe argue that it was an idea waiting to happen... In a video on YouTube about Schoenberg's (wonderful) piano concerto, Mitsuko Uchida talks about how Debussy's rebellion of traditional harmony was to kind of chuck it out the window and leave it behind, while Schoenberg grabbed it with both hands and actively fought against it. He was a big deal, and other people of (roughly) the time (like Stravinsky, Mahler, Scriabin) have kind of lost their shock-value or controversy, in my opinion. While they're not universally admired, their works hold solid places in the repertoire. It's been 100 years and Schoenberg is still a point of contention for many people, I'd say. After Schoenberg, the next BIG one for me would be Milton Babbitt... I'm surprised he didn't make the list already, and I have lately been obsessed with his work. His Three Compositions for Piano, as I recall, was the first piece to use "total serialism" or whatever you want to call it, apparently coming in a few years before Frenchmen like Messiaen or Boulez (rightfully on the list). I have come to be really fascinated by his stuff. I can't say I understand it or get it, but his string quartets (the second and sixth in particular), clarinet quintet, and even his first piano concerto are at the very least extremely interesting if not downright enjoyable. But he still seems to garner quite a lot of spleen from music critics and musicians who see (hear) him as nothing but a bunch of noise. The same I suppose could be said for Boulez and many others who worked with serial techniques; I just picked him because he was (by some accounts) the earliest adopter of the idea. I still find Boulez's works hard to warm up to. Babbitt far more approachable, to me. Aside from those already mentioned, I'd say Ferneyhough and Finnissey are good contenders; I find their works wholly unintelligible, but then again... haven't given them much effort. Same goes for Stockhausen, Reich, Berio, Schnittke. Great topic, by the way.
  11. It's been a while since I've been on here. I have put dreams of writing a symphony off until I can manage a small-scale piece (solo piano, for instance), and spent the month of June writing a little bit of something (new) each day. Got through thirty days and had some good ideas in the mix, but the largest problem I had was developing them beyond the 8-10 bars that I'd constructed. That's another issue. I wrote this and somewhat unintentionally expressed the train of thought of an entire day at work (between meetings) despite my efforts to condense it. In the interest of time, I will post the actual question at the end of said train here, and again at the end of my actual post: Based on what factors does one determine whether it is a work of genius, a flop, an acquired taste, or just the housecat prancing around on the Steinway in the living room? An extension of that question, and I suppose the real heart of my issue is, based upon what can I critique the works that I write using this method? What will be my goal in expression if it is not tonal? And now for how I got there. Also, I promise this post about 'atonal' or 'serial' or 'twelve-tone' music or whatever you want to call it is not to troll... but I can see how it may seem that way (or seem like a very amateur question, which not be out of character). In that regard, I recently started playing around with writing out some twelve-tone matrices. The issue I was having with developing or broadening or expanding motivic material lies partly with my imagination, but the root of that problem is probably more in my lack of music theory knowledge (i.e. my ability to use and manipulate the rules of harmony, voicing, etc.). I've studied entirely on my own and have a very good general understanding of (the most basic) harmony, the ideas and concept and treatment of sonata form, and the like, but to get in and start writing music, voicing chords, etc. proves very difficult for me, so it's slow going and very rudimentary. Back to Schoenberg and his twelve tones. In composing in this manner, one of the decisions left to a composer is removed, or at least greatly limited. Generally speaking (incredibly vaguely), a composer deals with a few things: pitch duration orchestration tempo dynamic harmonization intonation or attack Composing based on a twelve-tone row greatly limits if not eliminates the variables of pitch and harmony (obviously hexachords and vertical use of the series are not out of the question, but not with the freedom of choosing to use a minor/major/diminished/ninth chord, etc.), so the others play a much greater role in the style/interpretation feel of the piece. I am realizing that just from my writing out of the matrix. Just to clarify, I'm not talking about integral/total/multiple serialism like in Boulez's piano sonatas, for instance. Just the pitches and their sequences. So my question, ultimately, is this: in the tonal scheme, with tonics and dominants and tonal centers, it is very easy for even a total beginner to hear a piece like a Chopin nocturne or a Mozart sonata and 'understand' it emotionally to some degree or other (happy, sad, peaceful, etc.) because of its use of tonal expression. Even late Scriabin pieces, while highly chromatic, still make use of tonality to express emotion and feeling. People will rate the quality of the music, whether it is 'good' or 'bad', based on their ability to understand it, which as Milton Babbitt has pointed out, only happens in music and politics. My question then, is this (I did say that earlier) : since the average human innately understands the pentatonic scale and has some foundation for understanding "good" use of harmonies to some degree, he can identify with "good" music, or music that adheres to the rules of harmony (more advanced, even to the point of identifying and appreciating key changes, and modulations and their relationships to the tonic). Not being able to hear immediately the relationships between notes in a twelve tone series once we get to the inversion and retrograde, etc. how is one to distinguish "good" serial music from "bad"? I can listen to Schoenberg's op. 11 with some degree of appreciation, but it's a stretch. I have absolutely zero comprehension for Boulez's sonatas or anything by Babbitt, though. Based on what factors does one determine whether it is a work of genius, a flop, an acquired taste, a work with potential, or just the housecat prancing around on the Steinway in the living room? An extension of that question, and I suppose the real heart of my issue is, based upon what can I critique the works that I write using this method? What will be my goal in expression if it is not tonal? I suppose that is a subjective and individual question, but it still seems one worth asking. Thanks in advance for thoughts and ideas.
  12. Funny You should say that. That's immediately what I started doing when I started reading this thread. Haven't finished yet, so if anyone else has done it, I didn't see. When I wake up in the morning I will tally results. There are some clear favorites. Oh, well I guess that is the end. I love excel, so I'll do averages and totals based on composers, but here are the winners to date: At ten votes: Beethoven 7 Beethoven 9 Dvorak 9 At nine votes: Beethoven 5 Mahler 5 Mahler 6 8 votes: Tchaikovsky 6 7 Votes: Mozart 40 6 Votes: Mozart 41 Beethoven 3 Sibelius 2 Sibelius 7 Mahler 8 Prokofiev 5 5 votes: Tchaikovsky 4 Messiaen Turangalila Webern Symphony Brahms 3 Bruckner 9 Mahler 2 Mahler came in first place with 43 total votes, Beethoven in second with 41, Tchaikovsky third with 22, and Mozart and Sibelius tied for 19 total votes.
  13. Soooo...... I was going to update the one piece I have been working on but apparently every upload is malware, so I can't access it.

    1. TJS


      Sure you can: just ignore the warning. Who cares about identity theft when there is a file to be updated? But seriously, the admins need to do something about this ASAP.

    2. DanJTitchener


      Is it admin's fault or chrome's?

  14. This sounds like good homework. I don't really know where/how to use dominant/diminished sevenths, augmented sixths, etc. effectively. I am almost done with orchestration and I have harmony as well. Sounds like it should be my next one (probably should have read that one before orchestration). I am interested that you mention the reason for the film-score-ness. What do you mean about C instead of C#? There wasn't any particular reason I chose Dm, but that's where it started and I kind of liked it. Where does C# come in? I'll go do my homework now. Thanks!
  15. Welp, I went ahead and posted the .mp3 and score here. I wrote a bunch of little notes and other stuff about it there. I can elaborate, but I'm wordy so I tried to keep it simple. I am eager to hear thoughts and feedback. I'm excited about even this little bit I have, but am kind of just unsure how to get the broad symphony-like structure and phrasing and development out of it instead of that film-score or concert band structure. I dunno. Have a look and thanks in advance!
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