Jump to content
luderart

What Is It That Makes A Modern Composition Original Yet Intellectually Coherent And Great?

Recommended Posts

What I am getting at is that nowadays too often originality comes at the cost of intellectual coherence and greatness. Originality becomes only due to novel sounds and effects. This kind of originality would be something that, for example a deaf Beethoven would not value, let alone pursue. So, is the kind of intellectual greatness that is distinctive of a Bach partita for solo violin/cello, or a Beethoven quartet, or a Mozart quintet for example, still possible and attainable in composition today without the sacrifice of any originality, where the originality would not be superficial (as in mere sound) but in intellectual depth and style, in pure musical greatness of the inward kind?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I no longer believe in 100% originality: every composition nowadays is at least in some point eclectic. I think the originality is not so important as it is a artistic power one posesses. It' hard to explain, you simply feel it when you hear it.

I am happy though, there are less composers thinking about inventing sounds instead of writing music. I am also a firm believer in not inventing things, but making already invented material into musically accessible art. There were times when somebody invented something, (s)he immediately abandoned this, without searching the available resources of this invention. The audience never really accepted these novelties because there was no time to get used to them.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting question indeed...

I think "originality" by itself is an overrated concept, esp. in art. In my opinion, originality must go along with coherence and, above all, authenticity. A composer should strive to grow and find a personal voice, but especially to stay true to himself. Say what you really want to say. You might enrich yourself musically by studying a diversity of styles - but without allowing anyone to tell you that you must compose in a given style just "because this is the way it is to be done now (or the way it has been done for the last 300 years)". Just as in any other language, no matter if the words are the same, there is always a new way to say things. There's no point in originality without authenticity - but go for authenticity and your originality will eventually come to light.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the originality is not so important as it is a artistic power one posesses.

Exactly, look at the three most famous composers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think "originality" by itself is an overrated concept, esp. in art. In my opinion, originality must go along with coherence and, above all, authenticity. ...There's no point in originality without authenticity - but go for authenticity and your originality will eventually come to light.

I tend to agree... and without going into an Adorno-esque diatribe, I'll note that authenticity to yourself should be at the forefront of your artistic goals.

...whatever that means.

@ Phil - obviously he's referring to Duke Ellington, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ignoring the generalisation about contemporary music, I would answer by saying: exactly the same things that have made all music original yet intellectually coherent and great. Chiefly originality must not be the sole motive of the work - and I believe this would be futile as it would be nearly impossible to fulfil anyway. On the other hand it should not be ignored as a subsidiary motive in the process of writing. What great music consists of is presenting something that is fundamentally familiar in a new way, to create something that allows the observer to approach a previously unseen part of the idea. Personally I feel that what makes an artwork great is to have some small element that is unexpected or apparently illogical i.e. it would not exist if the composition were created strictly adhering to its material. An example I can think of is the first movement of Beethoven's Eroica where, after the development, he inserts a melody in the oboe that has not been heard in the exposition nor used in the development. 'Logically' it should not exist, yet it does and this is what I feel constitutes true originality, notwithstanding the work's generally innovative nature (although we can appreciate that in fact it derives clearly within the Haydn/Mozart tradition it now is considered to be part of)

What is perceived to be extreme originality can be successful as long as it is done with integrity and if it contributes towards the purpose of the work. I say perceived, because what at first appears to be strikingly different is often a carefully handled development of an existing model. An obvious example would be Stravinsky's Rite. On a first hearing, it may seem like a disordered cacophony which bears no resemblance to music preceding it. Later, the listener may appreciate that all the elements in the composition are in fact tightly under control, exist within the piece for a good reason, and draws many of its ideas from the Russian symphonic tradition and folk music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand the question.

I have no idea what "intellectually coherent" or "greatness." In fact, I'd go as far as saying I don't even know what "originality" means.

But, as usual, this entire argument falls on "f.u.c.k modern music is awkward and bad why can't it be like the stuff I like better since I can't be bothered to learn a damn thing about it to begin with to even be able to form a coherent argument that articulates any kind of intelligent point?!"

Seriously, I go away for months and this retarded s.h.i.t never changes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SSC - It is the nature of the internet to recycle. I mean we get new people with diverse backgrounds who come here. And anyway, in real life if you are a university prof you will run into this with young college students and even those graduates who just never cotton to it. Granted the difference between the two groups is the latter is more likely to simply admit a good deal of modern music is not to their taste, and they have no intellectual base for the prejudices.

As I have told you before, your comments are best served here for reviews and answering the basic questions over in Ask YC etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand the question.

I have no idea what "intellectually coherent" or "greatness." In fact, I'd go as far as saying I don't even know what "originality" means.

But, as usual, this entire argument falls on "boo hoo modern music is awkward and bad why can't it be like the stuff I like better since I can't be bothered to learn a damn thing about it to begin with to even be able to form a coherent argument that articulates any kind of intelligent point?!"

Seriously, I go away for months and this scraggy never changes.

Please keep your disrespectful, offensive and vulgar remarks to yourself! Just because you have no understanding of originality does not mean that it ceases to be a communicable word with a concept behind it. The same goes for "greatness" and "intellectual coherence"! For your information, I like a lot of modern music like Part, Mansurian, and others. It's the stuff that tries to hide in the diverse world of modern music that I can't stand or understand, the stuff that uses sound effects without intellectual justifications behind it and passes it off for a cheap originality! I don't think it would stand the test of time. And I believe it is distorting the image of modern music. And for your information, Beethoven's "Great Fugue", an absolutely intellectually coherent, great, and original piece of music, has been described by the modern composer Stravinsky as "an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Luderart, seconded. I have long felt that Beethoven is one of the most modern-sounding composers, although this may be because he is still influential today and so does not seem outdated. Actually this brings up a different avenue of enquiry to this subject: should we assume that all contemporary music is actually 'modern'? Aside from composers who intentionally set out to write in a 'historicist' style, such as our own J. Lee Graham, or the school of medieval revivalists, if a work has a surface style that is novel but uses the underlying structure of music from a past era (or vice versa) can we really declare it modern? Or is all music bound to have some past influence and the degree of modernity is determined by other factors such as aesthetics?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's the stuff that tries to hide in the diverse world of modern music that I can't stand or understand, the stuff that uses sound effects without intellectual justifications behind it and passes it off for a cheap originality! I don't think it would stand the test of time. And I believe it is distorting the image of modern music. And for your information, Beethoven's "Great Fugue", an absolutely intellectually coherent, great, and original piece of music, has been described by the modern composer Stravinsky as "an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever".

Well it's nice and all hearing about your tastes, but since when is the forum your personal blog? I mean, sure, you can think whatever you want about the music you don't like but asking it like you're doing doesn't lend itself to discuss anything. In fact, it just lends to "Good for you!" and that's it, since to even begin to discuss anything we have to define what your terms there even mean to other people than yourself. With no linguistic common ground it's rather difficult to discuss anything at all.

But what bothers me about this whole thread is the attitude of complaining and scalloping about "Oh there's music I don't like! Oh no!" Seriously, what is there for me to say? Too bad? If you don't like some music, you don't, but was it really necessary to make a thread where you complain to others about your personal opinion? I mean what do you expect people to reply, seriously?

It's neither mine nor anyone's objective, I hope, to convert or "make you like" any kind of music, of course. The point here is only that the OP post could as well be a flame and I could as well lock the thread for this fact. You're not actually providing anything at all to discuss in what, in summary is simply a thread complaining about what you don't like.

Speaking of which, I never said anything against Beethoven.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well it's nice and all hearing about your tastes, but since when is the forum your personal blog? I mean, sure, you can think whatever you want about the music you don't like but asking it like you're doing doesn't lend itself to discuss anything. In fact, it just lends to "Good for you!" and that's it, since to even begin to discuss anything we have to define what your terms there even mean to other people than yourself. With no linguistic common ground it's rather difficult to discuss anything at all.

But what bothers me about this whole thread is the attitude of complaining and scalloping about "Oh there's music I don't like! Oh no!" Seriously, what is there for me to say? Too bad? If you don't like some music, you don't, but was it really necessary to make a thread where you complain to others about your personal opinion? I mean what do you expect people to reply, seriously?

It's neither mine nor anyone's objective, I hope, to convert or "make you like" any kind of music, of course. The point here is only that the OP post could as well be a flame and I could as well lock the thread for this fact. You're not actually providing anything at all to discuss in what, in summary is simply a thread complaining about what you don't like.

Speaking of which, I never said anything against Beethoven.

I think there was a time when the great was simple. Now in the profusion and diversity of modern music, it seems that this kind of simplicity is lost forever. In a booklet of a CD of Mozart's K.421 string quartet, the writer finds similarities with Beethoven's last quartets written 40 years later and declares, "Could it be that there is only one language of genius? The coda seems to prove it." I don't think that this can be asked of much modern music. But I think that great music has a simpleness and genius that despite the difference of styles seems to speak in the same language. But much of modern music has seemingly lost that simpleness and therefore the common language of genius. This could be a result of modern civilization with all the information overload that has become the lot of humanity.

But again, this is my opinion. But your disagreement also remains your opinion. There was a time however, when the simplicity and genius of music lent it an objectivity where the greatness was agreed upon by everyone and was no longer a matter of opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was a time however, when the simplicity and genius of music lent it an objectivity where the greatness was agreed upon by everyone and was no longer a matter of opinion.

On what earth exactly? No, seriously? When was this? Give me any single epoch in the history of western music and I can show you the very same debates we are having right now. I mean, people still wrote cyphered bass sonatas well into Beethoven's late period! Likewise, the most popular composers at his time were Italian opera composers (Rossini was pretty much a rock star, eclipsing EVERYONE else.) Someone like Schubert was practically unheard of during his own lifetime, where other lied composers (now ignored) were much more popular than he ever was.

It has always been, and always will be, a matter of opinion. No matter how scared some people are that they can't find some magical justification for their own tastes, it's still tastes.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems like the people on this forum disrespect (and in some cases attack) people who actively dislike the more progressive contemporary music or think it is bad.

One thread I've noticed in friends that I've talked to I guess is that when prodded they think a good portion of contemporary music is actually bad, not that they just don't like it. Like it's my opinion I don't care for Debussy a lot of the time but I easily see how other people could like it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems like the people on this forum disrespect (and in some cases attack) people who actively dislike the more progressive contemporary music or think it is bad.

Hey, it wouldn't be a problem if every single kid out there on the interwebs decided to NOT attack things they don't like as to force us to actually reply to them that their tastes aren't absolute. The aggressiveness most often comes from those spewing venom at modern music for one reason or another, like in this thread!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems like the people on this forum disrespect (and in some cases attack) people who actively dislike the more progressive contemporary music or think it is bad.

Kefienzel: be confident that (save for less than a handful of easily identifiable members - who pop out without being called) the opposite is true - there are quite a few people on this forum (such as Morgri, Rosenskjold, J.A.Woodruff, ComposerOrganist, among others) who show it is indeed possible to passionately advocate "modern" music in a very balanced and respectful way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I don't know how popular this concept is, but I make my pieces "original" through using the "rules" of music. Wait? isn't that the intellectual part that makes all music similar? It is if you use all of them. But I don't see them as rules, more as guidelines, of which I can choose which ones to follow and which to not. And there's originality. :) of course, there are many other ways too, and this question is way to broad to be given such a detailed answer. So, my advice to you as a composer, write whatever you like and ignore the genre, let others choose what type composer you are.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me, the only way one can truly be "original" is to provide his own voice in his compositions. It is absurd to think that any person who takes any art seriously will put themselves in a box and NEVER grow outside of it. Sure, by society's labels they may not be seen as pioneers, but they themselves have grown and become better artists. If you keep to yourself, you'll find ways YOU can make new music. If these are new techniques, so be it. If it's rediscovering the awesomeness of "Kitsch" music, you'll find new ways to make people tap their toes. As somebody before me stated: it's more the artistic power behind the work that matters.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My answer: Enough variety in rhythm, instrumentation, and melody to sound unique, and enough repetition to give the piece a sense of coherence. What constitutes "enough" is up for discussion.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kefienzel: be confident that (save for less than a handful of easily identifiable members - who pop out without being called) the opposite is true - there are quite a few people on this forum (such as Morgri, Rosenskjold, J.A.Woodruff, ComposerOrganist, among others) who show it is indeed possible to passionately advocate "modern" music in a very balanced and respectful way.

Thanks :) I'm glad I've managed to appear respectful of other's opinion. So often I have to remind myself that the debate on aesthetics never ends, and that no one has the right answer. So may posts I had to delete when I realized how provocative and ridiculing they were xD

To answer the question of the thread:

I don't know :D Annoying right? It seems to me that there's still a tendency to think that a new technique can justify a piece, something I'm not such a big fan of. Of course this is all just a guess, but I think that composers like John Cage made it popular to explore the instruments, and let the techniques be the central part of the piece, instead of the sound. I don't know what's going to succeed this trend, I think it's going to be a new minimalistic approach to music. Going back to the basics of what a good piece is: A good melody.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And what if the composer simply wanted to make good music? What then?

It's funny that while this question seems pretty innocent, it sounds very hostile to me. I've developed a view of a bitter and angry composer based on your posts. Bitter because you wish classical music had steered in the direction that you like, and that your aesthetic ideal is now perceived as an established and "ended" period in classical music. And angry just because of the way you discuss with people in general.

I'm going to answer the question itself though, and not read more into it. If a composer only wanted to write good music, he should establish an ideal which, when lived up to, represents good music, and then his music should be judged accordingly.

edit:

ha ha, almost exact same post, nice one phil :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But that begs the question then, what if said ideal is unknown or undefinable? And yet, it is still called "good music." You can't just put each piece or composer in a little box and judge each to itself, that's silly. You got to evaluate music within the whole. For example, in concert music, there are certain good qualities that a piece should have in order for the majority of listeners to consider it "good quality." Things like it not being boring enough to fall asleep, being emotionally captivating, giving the listener something to take away from the hall after its over. Stuff like that. We see this in other arts all the time, especially cinema. Does music get its own special exemption from critique because "well, its whatever the composer intended". It may not be couth or wise to say this, but to hell with the composer! Was it good music or not? The music is not the composer. In order for it to be useful in evaluation it must stand alone from its creator. If we use the composer's justification as the sole means of evaluation then we dwindle down into "everything is good" therefore there is no such thing as "good." And that's just silly.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, I certainly have missed a very lively debate here on the nature of our craft's end result.

I'll put my two cents in the mix here:

For me, music is both an extension of my own personal thoughts/ideas and a continuation of the overall stream of human experience. Let me elaborate on both of these, before the trolls start pouncing.

By personal thoughts/ideas:

My music is structured to convey my own ideas and thoughts. I, like I'm sure others here, do my best to present my ideas and thoughts in an intellectually coherent way. With my harmonic language, which while not out there in totality isn't Common Practice, that requires a great deal of thought and planning. To this end, I think I succeed in creating music that seems logical, natural, organic, and intellectually coherent. It get's what I want to say across and does it in a way that other's can comprehend and appreciate it - or at least I hope.

By overall stream of human experience:

This is where, I'm sure, trolls will pounce. I believe that each of us rests on the shoulders of giants. Our work, at our earliest stages, is built upon and inspired by the work of these giants. Whether it be Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovitch, Schoenberg, or Dittersdorf, we all have started our foundations with aspects taken from the works of these giants. Thus, the same as I. I studied the masters to death. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Handel, and Schubert especially. My foundation was built on things I took from my studies. My own experiences however moved me from their language to embrace the language I now use. Each of us, even those who have yet to experience life, move through experiences and are shaped by them. As artists, that shaping is most profound in the art we create - as has been chronicled by virtually every composer/painter/author since time immortal, lol.

To close in my thoughts on this, it is my belief that if you are serious about your art/craft that you will indeed move through the normal stages of being a composer. You start by studying and finding what it is that speaks to you. You write it - knowing you'll make many mistakes at first. You write it some more and expand on it. You experience life and emulate it through your music. You grow. Everything else outside that circle, all the theories and philosophies and opinions... is mute.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...