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Maarten Bauer

[DISCUSSION] The role of contemporary?

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As a composition student in the Netherlands, which I still believe is one of the best countries for composers to live and work in, I am questioning a lot why I am doing what I am doing. I think the questions that I state below are the ones that I consider the most valuable for contemporary composers regardless the answers

I put these questions in the chatbox, but dedicating a topic to this is more convenient for a discussion. I am not sure about the title

What is the role of composers or more generally creative artists in society (especially in this crisis)?
Is there even such a thing as social purpose in contemporary music?
Did society ask for new music? Did people are for innovative / new music?
Does contemporary music have a function?

I hope that these questions are the beginning for a fruitful, open and respectful discussion!

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I'll take a stab at them, but bear in mind that my answers will undoubtedly be informed by the culture I grew up in (the USA). As you know, the US practically owns the entertainment industry, and artists from all over flock to New York or Los Angeles in an effort to "make it." Americans are avid consumers of entertainment, and the market is therefore rather large. However, the high arts—under whose umbrella I would place contemporary composers—are, by comparison, much less valued by society. (The selection of classical music on streaming platforms such as Spotify, for example, is abysmal.) This may also be true of cultures the world over; all I can speak to is my own culture, though.

4 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

What is the role of composers or more generally creative artists in society (especially in this crisis)?

In essence, I believe that the arts are what connect humans to the divine. I haven't heard of any other animal species being so moved by beauty that they devote their lives to creating it, or weep uncontrollably when confronted by it. For whatever reason, this divine connection is vitally important to humans, and artists have persisted in every culture and every society throughout history. Composers, of course, aren't the only ones who offer this connection, but we are the only ones who bridge that gap through music. (Some could argue that popular music can be divinely beautiful, too, and I won't disagree.)

5 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Is there even such a thing as social purpose in contemporary music?

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "social purpose." If by it you mean "what is contemporary classical music's role in society," then I would say it fulfills the same role as contemporary non-classical music: it's a creative outlet for members of the culture. Whether it resonates with society is another thing entirely, and I suppose some of that depends on exposure, acclaim by the "experts," etc.

6 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Did society ask for new music? Did people are for innovative / new music?

To be frank, no. The vast majority of humans are traditionalists (in my experience), and the thought of new and different is quite unsettling—to the point of near radicalization if such traditions are threatened. But these very people are our intended audience! I think it's inherent in the being of every artist to leave his/her legacy, and we feel that in order to do so, we must create "originally." Yet we overestimate what originality looks like, and off we go creating radical artwork that is really neither original nor art. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

In my own limited experience, I find this to be accurate. It's why so much avant-garde music sits ill with me. Very little of it seems to be created in an effort to capture the composer's truth, but rather as a statement of, "I am radical and original. Accept me on those grounds or not at all."

We should rather be about creating truthful music and not working ourselves into a frenzy trying to be original. This, I feel, is the music that resonates with society: the music that speaks to the veracity of human existence. It doesn't have to be new, but it does have to be true.

6 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Does contemporary music have a function?

As an expression of members living within a society, it does, indeed, have a function. How far-reaching that function is depends on the skill and intent of its creator. If, as a composer, your goal is for your music to sound like someone else's; or if, on the other hand, your goal is to sound completely original, I think you'll find that your music's function will be limited solely to your own personal enjoyment. The function of contemporary classical music, in my opinion, is to uplift society, to connect humans back to their origin, the divine—whatever you want to call it—through the expression of the composer's own personal truths via music.

***

So those are my thoughts. To summarize, my argument is that modern (contemporary) classical music, like all other artforms, is a means of supplying humans with a connection to the beautiful, the divine, etc. Unfortunately, our societies don't assign monetary value to that, so scraping together a living as a composer in that sense is exceedingly hard to do. And, I suppose that's why the questions were posed in the first place. Valuable services are financially compensated; modern classical music isn't compensated; therefore, modern classical music must not be of value. That's a valid logical construct, but the first assumption is incorrect: valuable services aren't always compensated monetarily.

The creation of classical music, as an artform, is and will be valuable as long as society produces people to craft it. Composers of it will almost certainly have to find other ways to subsist, but this doesn't undermine its value.

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To me these questions are among philosophical questions for which I can’t find an answer. The same could be asked about fiction, poetry, dance, contemporary film, spectator sports - perhaps even fine art. Basically there’s a human need to self-express or to exercise the imagination – part of a need to assert individuality maybe?  Or there was. Film has stolen many people’s ability to visualise and imagine.  For those lacking the creative spirit they’ll be entertained - perhaps a result of society constraining people’s lives so it helps take their minds off how vacuous their lives really are: work, rest, eat, sleep, etc. Does contemporary music have purpose?  Do these empty lives have purpose?

Culture or not, it’s to do with money. My text book “Bluff your way in Music” states very early, “music has long been officially recognised and installed as an Art. And anything that is an art is no longer a simple pleasure. Arts are a by-product of that general symptom of human decline called civilisation. Enjoyable pastimes become arts once money is involved.” Nice piece of cynicism, that – but like all such, it raises an unfortunate truth.

So I suppose contemporary music is an enjoyable pastime. It has its following albeit a minor one. It enjoyed a burst of activity (maybe even fashion) during the 20th century – probably from around Schonberg until approx 1980 then reverted to minor interest. It was never a money-spinner, in Europe supported mostly by national broadcasters and philanthropists who financed specialised festivals. Its basic problem is semiotic or linguistic which is why it never reaches mainstream.

It survives in academia because universities make it a money-spinner. People take degree courses believing they can learn to compose and these days it’s about contemporary sound organisation to make it seem at the cutting edge.  Some graddies go on to compose but usually support themselves in a different trade/profession. Some just don’t bother. And some, like myself, react against the creative immorality – that creativity can be taught at all and try to find their own way to an enjoyable pastime.

So…as it lives on donation, it’s only marginally relevant to whatever we assume our culture to be.

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On 5/22/2020 at 7:47 PM, Tónskáld said:

In essence, I believe that the arts are what connect humans to the divine. I haven't heard of any other animal species being so moved by beauty that they devote their lives to creating it, or weep uncontrollably when confronted by it. For whatever reason, this divine connection is vitally important to humans, and artists have persisted in every culture and every society throughout history. Composers, of course, aren't the only ones who offer this connection, but we are the only ones who bridge that gap through music. (Some could argue that popular music can be divinely beautiful, too, and I won't disagree.)

Just to have it clear for myself, what do you mean with the divine. Is it the untouchable / unreachable? Is it perfection? Some may claim that the fine arts are trying to come the closest to perfection in beauty, but that does not explain to me what divine is. Perhaps a superhuman perfection, but perfection in what?

Really interesting thoughts!

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1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Just to have it clear for myself, what do you mean with the divine. Is it the untouchable / unreachable? Is it perfection? Some may claim that the fine arts are trying to come the closest to perfection in beauty, but that does not explain to me what divine is. Perhaps a superhuman perfection, but perfection in what?

Really interesting thoughts!

 

This answer is probably venturing a little too far into the philosophical weeds. I don't think divine means untouchable, unreachable, or perfection. At the risk of sounding mystical, I think "the divine" is a connection of sorts into another plane: spiritual, metaphysical—whatever you want to call it. My position is that music (and fine arts, in general) gives us a glimpse into that spiritual plane. Not all music and not all art, obviously. But there are those works of art that seem to transport our souls to "somewhere else."

That, I think, is the true purpose of art in general, and contemporary classical music in particular.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/22/2020 at 3:49 AM, Maarten Bauer said:

What is the role of composers or more generally creative artists in society (especially in this crisis)?

The role of composers is supposed to be, as all the arts were before modernism, to create beauty and cultural affirmation.

Today, the main thing composers are seeking to do is be a part of corporate machines and like modern artists — churn out mass-produced junk, that doubles as anti-European propaganda pieces. Unfortunately. Now it's all abstract expressionism and conceptualist nonsense. 

You just lay on a drone or throw some paint at a canvas, and then try to tell everyone what it "means" with some florid artspeak — it's not even music or a painting (John Cage 4 '33 anyone?) at all, it's just literature meant to dazzle and confuse until the viewer believes that their instinctual disgust is "wrong" and that they just "don't get it". 

On 5/22/2020 at 3:49 AM, Maarten Bauer said:

Is there even such a thing as social purpose in contemporary music?

The fact that this is a question shows you how far it has fallen — as in the past, the social purpose of art, music, architecture, dance, etc. was obvious.

But we live in an age of the meaningless, the inane, and the ugly. One might turn to the fact that those in the hard sciences no longer see the value of art and the history of how this came to be, for answers. In the past, most men of science we also skilled artists. It was understood that just like knowledge of the sciences, skill in art and music were real things that could be taught.

Christopher Wren made important contributions to meterology, astronomy and as an anatomist — yet he is most known as the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral. Though he had many other impressive works of art. In Wren's time, being a skilled architect, architects were expected to have mastery of sculpture as well. Today, they are taught that such sculptures are monuments of an evil, colonial and "oppressive" civilization that must never exist again, and instead, they are taught to build hideous glass towers and gray, Soviet Apartment blocs.

Such men either do not exist today, or are extremely rare and left to passion projects. Modern scientists — with science seeking to deal in logic and objectivity — look at art today as something meaningless, largely because that's what it is; void of logic and now devoid of objective standards, opting instead to wallow in "subjective" solipsism where "anything is art" (and therefore nothing is) and so scientists now see little value in it.

On 5/22/2020 at 3:49 AM, Maarten Bauer said:

Did society ask for new music? Did people are for innovative / new music?

It depends on how one is defining "new".

In the past, new works were ones which hadn't been seen before, but still fit within the established aesthetic framework of tradition. Art Noveau was new. Beethoven was new. The electric guitar was new.

Since 1900, most of what is "new" in the arts, however, is that which rejects tradition and standards entirely, because where standards and traditions are to be found, so too will one find a hierarchy, and if there is a hierarchy, there is discrimination — but without such discrimination, good from bad cannot be differentiated and improvement or quality cannot exist.

Do people still want new and interesting pieces to listen to? Yeah, but they also want those pieces to be good

On 5/22/2020 at 3:49 AM, Maarten Bauer said:

Does contemporary music have a function?

I'm sort of repeating myself here, but it's necessary.

Much contemporary music is just to serve as or aid the sale of a product. Think of all the assembly-line pop music that plays in the shopping malls.

Much like with Kandinsky, Picasso, or Shoenberg's avant-garde noise music, it's all about churning out product as fast as you can, getting youtube subscribers, getting it in the next vapid Marvel movie trailer, slaving 12+ hours a day in Hans Zimmer's music factory, etc. so you can (hopefully) fill your coffers.

Obviously, there is good pop music, there are still great composers for the orchestra and folk bands, but much like painters, sculptors, architects, etc. who are still good — whose works are the result of real mastery over their respective crafts — are usually banished by the elite into the realm of hobbyists.

That's my answers to your questions. Hope it helps :happy:

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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^^^ Impossible to disagree with most of what you've said. Should your views be thought cynical that's because they're realistic and (at risk of using the term) "truthful". What you've said is how it really is. "Modern Art" - well as I said, it's all about money. If you can get enough art experts to push your wares you're in, all swathed in intellectual-sounding claptrap.

Technology hasn't helped. Anyone can now fiddle around with a daw or notation software and a few samples and claim to be a composer. The sample market is loaded with superlatives - buy our product and you'll be the greatest composer born to this world. So even Vienna has come up with oven-ready orchestration - its Big Bang orchestra and the series that has spawned. Many others are at it. Join a few chunks in a sequencer, press the button and there's your instant film score.....except for 999 ‰ it'll get nowhere. But they do sell their stuff. Pre-made, just add water. Lego. Call that music? Well, technically it is but composing? 

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1 hour ago, Quinn said:

^^^ Impossible to disagree with most of what you've said. Should your views be thought cynical that's because they're realistic and (at risk of using the term) "truthful". What you've said is how it really is. "Modern Art" - well as I said, it's all about money.

Frankly, it is about politics as much as it is about money. I think that the "money" aspect is more prominent in music, especially instrumental music, though.

The more artspeak caters to liberal politics, the more praise you will get. Just look at the Hollywood film industry and the joke called "The Academy Awards." The award for best picture purely is given out based on what has the most self-elating political themes.

One thing a lot of people don't remember, but I do, is that in 2016, there was this massively complaining about how the Academy Awards were "too white". At the end of the show that year, the president of the Academy, herself an African-American woman, came on stage to say that next year, they would "do better".

What film won best picture at the 2017 Oscars? A film about homosexual black men, that nobody even in the audience even seemed to know (judging by their lack of reaction to it), I have never met anyone who has seen this movie, and they actually made a blunder where "La-La Land" a movie which was a musical that appears to have had superior costume design, production values, and was by most accounts a well-made musical, won initially, but was then retracted because "Moonlight" allegedly actually won...

Is there anyone who actually believes this "Moonlight" film was actually a better movie? It seems to me like the Academy made good on their 2016 promise of making sure black films would get more awards. So winning an oscar comes down to just how much your film caters to Hollywood's politics, and not whether or not your movie is actually any good.

Similarly, the more "subversive" and loaded with "Social Justice" your painting is, the more medals get pinned to it. Same with that Russian band "cat Riot", who have admitted they're more about protesting than actual music. Lauded by plenty of music "journalists" for their efforts...

1 hour ago, Quinn said:

Technology hasn't helped. Anyone can now fiddle around with a daw or notation software and a few samples and claim to be a composer.

This is an essay unto itself.

The thing I am most grateful for in my musical development, is that when I started, all I had was my guitar and sheet music. I did not know that DAWs and all this other stuff existed, and even if I had, there is no way that I or my family could've afforded it anyway. I had to learn how to write actual melodies, and couldn't just hold down a key in Action Strings to get an "accompaniment". I did not get my own home recording software, and virtual instruments until 2009, not long after I discovered it — and I have generally been disappointed ever since.

This is why I get in so many arguments with people about how a lot of these (generally orchestral) sample libraries suck. I started writing for instruments under the expectation that real people would one day play it (and often they did in my bands), and so I have a much higher expectation of what the samples should be able to play than many people today do.

Because those people have only ever known writing for samples, and therefore cannot understand why their $600 library that cannot cohesively play so much as the melody from "Jingle Bells" is over-priced and almost totally-useless, musically. Their expectations are very low.

1 hour ago, Quinn said:

its Big Bang orchestra and the series that has spawned. Many others are at it. Join a few chunks in a sequencer, press the button and there's your instant film score.....except for 999 ‰ it'll get nowhere. But they do sell their stuff. Pre-made, just add water. Lego. Call that music? Well, technically it is but composing? 

Oh, it gets worse than that. Get a load of what East West has coming out.

lePw7R1.png

 

Create "award-winning compositions in seconds" you say? Well, thank God! I was getting worried that I might have to spend more than 2 minutes to do that!

This is reflective of the fact that we are now a consumption-based society and don't really do anything for ourselves anymore. To reference my earlier point about starting with just an instrument and notation — being good or eventually becoming an expert is directly tied-in to actually having to DO things in the first place.

It was much the same before the fall of Rome, which — despite the tortured wishes of all those who are posting memes on Facebook right now about how "Just remember that after the plague came the renaissance" — is much more relevant to our present times.

It is once again simply being a realist to point out that our present times much more closely-resemble the preceding civilization collapse into the dark ages — the Renaissance didn't happen until a thousand years later...

 

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Both @Quinn and @AngelCityOutlaw have given me lots of ponder-fodder.

Perhaps the most striking observation from your posts is how closely tied music and artistic expression are to a society's "temperature." It's not really something I've stopped to consider for any great length of time. The depreciation of high culture and the glorification of instantly gratifying artwork seems a sure symptom of societal decline, much like that of Rome or Greece or any other great civiliation on the trash heap of history. Our cultural nearsightedness—and here I'm referring specifically to that of Anglo cultures as I have no experience with other cultural groups—is but the tip of an enormous iceberg. This iceberg, borne of decadence and complacency, is the short-term mindset that pervades almost all of our society. For whatever reason, our postmodern warriors have "arrived" and are able to deem the deeds of humankind from not-too-distant centuries as misogynistic, racist, fascist, and a slew of other "isms" that work out to be nothing short of pure evil.

I suppose I should find it comforting that postmodernists of the 2020's discovered the code of morality and are finally able to apply it to the chronicles of history.

It seems to me that we do nothing of lasting import. As mentioned in a previous post, anything of societal acclaim is severely defined by the times: films, art, TV shows, music, songs—you name it—if it wins an award, you can guarantee it is fraught with social issues that have surfaced only in the last few decades or so. Gone is the timelessness of art that speaks to the universality of humans across time and space. As a society, we cannot see past the issues that affect us now, and we're even willing to rewrite history so that it better fits our narratives. (Please do not misunderstand. The societal evils that plague us today should not be ignored. However, the nearsightedness that demands we see these evils in every human action and thought is not helpful, and, by definition, will only result in a short-term solution to these problems.)

Despite my cynical tone, I'm not saying that any of this is morally wrong (although some of it is logically inconsistent). I think Maarten's questions allude to the deeper issues that plague Western societies, and are a testament to just how far-reaching this internal decay actually is. Fewer and fewer Westerners are able to see beyond the confines of their own struggles, and before long the "high culture torch" will pass on: to China or Japan or Korea (South), perhaps?

Lol, as a lover of all things philosophical, I am a bit pleased at where this discussion has led us. 🙂 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

For whatever reason, our postmodern warriors have "arrived" and are able to deem the deeds of humankind from not-too-distant centuries as misogynistic, racist, fascist, and a slew of other "isms" that work out to be nothing short of pure evil.

The goal of all modernism is to destroy European culture by redefining it as something nonsensical. Well, they intend that for everyone, but they especially hate European culture. There is actually no such thing as "post" modernism. That was just a term invented in the 60s to make it look like their was some actual development to modernism, instead of stagnation. What most people alive today do not realize, is that this "modern art" stuff is over a century old, and is basically the same as it ever was. 

These profiteering middle-men showed up in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sought to replace local traditions with mass-produced goods and free trade. 

Nationalism, the existence of different peoples and cultures with their own identities, and objective quality differences between and within them is bad for international business because nations will be self-reliant and attached to their own output instead of yours. High quality standards mean that the thing takes time to learn to even make in the first place.

"Modern" anything is easy to make a lot of quickly, and does not appear to have been made by any people in particular. The fact that everywhere has its own unique, local, home-cooked cuisine is bad for McDonald's; the fact that Iran, Germany and Norway all have their own traditional clothing made by locals and passed down through the family means it's difficult for Adidas and Nike to make sales...unless they can tear out those peoples' roots.

This permeates every aspect of society now, to the point that major cities in the world are no longer easily-distinguishable from each other.

16298844_1070153473139907_88504067632779

Ideally, they want people to be indistinguishable from each other entirely, so that no one will have any loyalty to anything — because there's nothing unique among them — but consumer products.

The modernists have made it so that "fascism", "sexism", "racism", and the other -isms and -ists are understood to be the worst labels that can possibly be applied to anyone (even though our ancestors never seemed to cross-examine themselves in this fashion) and so they can use it to browbeat anyone who expresses and interest in upholding the high-standards and uniqueness of our past cultures so as to dissuade people from rejecting their modernist, mass-produced junk.

You will notice that most "Individuality" today is totally determined by loyalty to certain brands. Do you ever notice how all of these hardcore YouTube "individualists" rooms they film in are adorned with action figures, movie posters, video games, plastic figurines and they're always wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with some corporate logo? Perhaps a metal band logo or Captain America shield? 

The weakest people of society eat all this stuff up because it is sold to them as "equality"; which doesn't exist in nature. If we accept the obvious truth that Bryullov really was a better painter than Kandinsky, it means that our work may be judged to be inferior to someone else's too. It takes a lot of effort to be good at something, and not everyone has it in them to BE good at a particular thing. So, when you offer to lower standards/the playing field, when you say that some paint thrown at a canvas is "just as good" as Bryullov, or some random notes on a keyboard is just as good as Mozart because of "it's all subjective" solipsism — the least-skilled people in society will eat that up because it offers them a chance to play too in a field they otherwise couldn't compete in.

But as we see, the result is ugliness, sameness, and cultural decline.

 

 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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5 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

The goal of all modernism is to destroy European culture by redefining it as something nonsensical. Well, they intend that for everyone, but they especially hate European culture. There is actually no such thing as "post" modernism. That was just a term invented in the 60s to make it look like their was some actual development to modernism, instead of stagnation. What most people alive today do not realize, is that this "modern art" stuff is over a century old, and is basically the same as it ever was. 

These profiteering middle-men showed up in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sought to replace local traditions with mass-produced goods and free trade. 

Nationalism, the existence of different peoples and cultures with their own identities, and objective quality differences between and within them is bad for international business because nations will be self-reliant and attached to their own output instead of yours. High quality standards mean that the thing takes time to learn to even make in the first place.

"Modern" anything is easy to make a lot of quickly, and does not appear to have been made by any people in particular. The fact that everywhere has its own unique, local, home-cooked cuisine is bad for McDonald's; the fact that Iran, Germany and Norway all have their own traditional clothing made by locals and passed down through the family means it's difficult for Adidas and Nike to make sales...unless they can tear out those peoples' roots.

This permeates every aspect of society now, to the point that major cities in the world are no longer easily-distinguishable from each other.

 

Ideally, they want people to be indistinguishable from each other entirely, so that no one will have any loyalty to anything — because there's nothing unique among them — but consumer products.

The modernists have made it so that "fascism", "sexism", "racism", and the other -isms and -ists are understood to be the worst labels that can possibly be applied to anyone (even though our ancestors never seemed to cross-examine themselves in this fashion) and so they can use it to browbeat anyone who expresses and interest in upholding the high-standards and uniqueness of our past cultures so as to dissuade people from rejecting their modernist, mass-produced junk.

You will notice that most "Individuality" today is totally determined by loyalty to certain brands. Do you ever notice how all of these hardcore YouTube "individualists" rooms they film in are adorned with action figures, movie posters, video games, plastic figurines and they're always wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with some corporate logo? Perhaps a metal band logo or Captain America shield? 

The weakest people of society eat all this stuff up because it is sold to them as "equality"; which doesn't exist in nature. If we accept the obvious truth that Bryullov really was a better painter than Kandinsky, it means that our work may be judged to be inferior to someone else's too. It takes a lot of effort to be good at something, and not everyone has it in them to BE good at a particular thing. So, when you offer to lower standards/the playing field, when you say that some paint thrown at a canvas is "just as good" as Bryullov, or some random notes on a keyboard is just as good as Mozart because of "it's all subjective" solipsism — the least-skilled people in society will eat that up because it offers them a chance to play too in a field they otherwise couldn't compete in.

But as we see, the result is ugliness, sameness, and cultural decline.

The problem by using the term modernism and modernists I find highly problematic... It is a term that is too vague, too broad. 

Modernism in the end of the 19th century meant finding a midway between following tradition and what people wanted to hear and on the other hand making music that would stand out so that you could "compete with the masters of the past." 

This museum culture, this Canon of maestros was the biggest reason for modernism. Modernism is nowadays misunderstood, because it implies being modern. In my believe it has nothing to do with being modern. Strauss and Mahler were both considered modernists, but their music did not do concessions in quality because it was modernistic. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

The problem by using the term modernism and modernists I find highly problematic... It is a term that is too vague, too broad. 

Modernists seek to "progress" past traditions and revel in the "new" and the movement that defined this was abstract expressionism and by extension, conceptualism.

So the modernism definition isn't vague. Anything that deals primarily in expressionism and conceptualism are modernist.

1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Strauss and Mahler were both considered modernists, but their music did not do concessions in quality because it was modernistic

Mahler? Definitely. Also disagree about concessions in quality. Would take most of his predecessors over Mahler any day.

Strauss? Depends on which we're talking about.

There is also the fact that modernists, in textbooks, often try to assimilate earlier movements which were visibly/audibly "different" from the norms of the predecessors' works, but still rooted in their traditions, as "modernist". 

For example, art textbooks will tell you that Art Noveau and Romanticism were "modernism".

Absolutely not. 

Art Noveau

903806767615024020a1402a22246468.jpg

Romanticism

1280px-John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Lad

Kandinsky. The first true modernist, and abstract expressionist. 

 

larger.jpg&width=1200&quality=80

The difference here is obvious in that the first two examples are great and require no explanation to recognize the artist's skill and beauty of the works, which clearly are in line with the previously established craft and traditions: and the last is meaningless blobs that a child could paint, although to be perfectly honest — children generally possess greater artistic talent in that they can at least make something that resembles the world around them and which adults will recognize. 

It is those which are like the Kandinsky work which are modernist.

Likewise in music: Mozart and Vivaldi's works are much like the former two examples, where as Schoenberg's noise is the auditory equivalent of the Kandinsky work.

 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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1 hour ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Modernists seek to "progress" past traditions and revel in the "new" and the movement that defined this was abstract expressionism and by extension, conceptualism.

So the modernism definition isn't vague. Anything that deals primarily in expressionism and conceptualism are modernist.

We all agree that modernists are for progression, but this progression is made through tradition. Modernists make never heard music that is still linked with tradition. The term modernist is just complete nonsense in its form of using the word modern... It has more to do with tradition than with creating something out of the void.

1 hour ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Mahler? Definitely. Also disagree about concessions in quality. Would take most of his predecessors over Mahler any day.

There is also the fact that modernists, in textbooks, often try to assimilate earlier movements which were visibly/audibly "different" from the norms of the predecessors' works, but still rooted in their traditions, as "modernist". 

How do you think that being modernist can decrease the quality of your compositions?

I do not believe that styles and genres can be modernist. Modernism is an attitude.
I am not familiar really an expert in Kadinsky's work, but I believe that he is a really odd example of modernist. He is the opposite... The link to tradition and the core modernism idea of creating something from tradition for the sake of progression is completely absent.

1 hour ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Likewise in music: Mozart and Vivaldi's works are much like the former two examples, where as Schoenberg's noise is the auditory equivalent of the Kandinsky work.

Also I want to point out that one always needs to separate one's artistic skills from the work's beauty.
You cannot deny Schoenberg's skill for composition, you can deny his work's lack of beauty.

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13 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

I suppose I should find it comforting that postmodernists of the 2020's discovered the code of morality and are finally able to apply it to the chronicles of history.

You are right, I see this trend everywhere in the conservatories I have been, Birmingham, London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague.
The new millenial generation realises that they lost the audience because of avant-gardism. In our theory class we were called post-modern relativists by Cornelis de Bondt, a colleague of Louis Andriessen. The students of these days are feeling and thinking really different about contemporary music than the teachers.

Post-modern relativists was meant as a friendly, joking attack to the students, but we adapted the term as a nickname.

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In the end, you have to have an audience.  Though my exposure to modern music is admittedly low, I did study music composition at the university level and was generally discouraged by the seeming attitude of modern composers (at least whom I was exposed to) where their style was more as a deliberate attempt to be iconoclastic rather than pushing music to evolve in a more natural way.  To me, no one personifies this more than John Cage.  When you're considered a great composer and your most famous work is 4'33" of silence, there is something seriously wrong.

As another example, during my time in college, a pianist friend of mine was asked to premiere a new work for four hands by the composer in residence at the time.  The work was for "prepared piano" so it involved various coins and other objects in the piano and the piece itself was virtually unplayable as written so she and her partner didn't really practice it much at all.  They were understandably nervous when then the performance came and they completely mauled it to their admission.  So when the composer came up to them after the performance, they were bracing themselves for being chewed out.  Instead he commended them for a wonderful performance that was even better than he could have hoped and asked if they would be willing to premiere another piece in progress which they politely declined.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, bkho said:

In the end, you have to have an audience.  Though my exposure to modern music is admittedly low, I did study music composition at the university level and was generally discouraged by the seeming attitude of modern composers (at least whom I was exposed to) where their style was more as a deliberate attempt to be iconoclastic rather than pushing music to evolve in a more natural way.  To me, no one personifies this more than John Cage.  When you're considered a great composer and your most famous work is 4'33" of silence, there is something seriously wrong.

As another example, during my time in college, a pianist friend of mine was asked to premiere a new work for four hands by the composer in residence at the time.  The work was for "prepared piano" so it involved various coins and other objects in the piano and the piece itself was virtually unplayable as written so she and her partner didn't really practice it much at all.  They were understandably nervous when then the performance came and they completely mauled it to their admission.  So when the composer came up to them after the performance, they were bracing themselves for being chewed out.  Instead he commended them for a wonderful performance that was even better than he could have hoped and asked if they would be willing to premiere another piece in progress which they politely declined.

 

Just an aside: A lot of people miss the point about Cage's 4'33". To me Cage was foremost a philosopher. What he wanted to show was that there's no such thing as silence. 4'33" does just that. His "Indeterminacy - New Aspects of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music" could be brought into question alongside. What is it? 90 stories? Or a demonstration of indeterminacy in music? On first encountering these I was looking in parallel at Mallarmé's later work, Le Livre and Un Coup de Des so I was at the stage of just listening, reading, watching. We have to give these people the credit for being experimenters in the middle of that fashionable era. Hardly different from big band jazz fans facing those amazing works by Graettinger - This Modern World and The City of Glass - performed by Stan Kenton. Many such experiments just led up blind alleys. (I feel this about Webern.) Some persisted.  

Your second paragraph highlights the problems with live performance of avant garde works (to distinguish from post-whatever). Do composers know what they've composed? Do performance errors matter if they can't be noticed by an audience member not 100% familiar with the score? It marks the fact that the only reliable repeat performance can be via a recording.

During such education as I had, I attended try-outs of student composers' works. Too often the conductor would play the piece then ask how the composer felt. Often the composer would say that it sounded fine, only to be picked to pieces by the conductor about missing or wrong entries, flawed timing, wrong notes and whatever, suggesting the composer didn't know their own work. They'd obviously spattered symbols on paper without any thought of what it musically meant. However, would that matter to an audience of those aficionados of this music. 

It would seem that the prime demand of a listener is to listen, not to expect or anticipate. Hence the issue that it communicates nothing other than the phenomenon itself: sound, sight. It hasn't the propensity to develop mood or emotion which the bulk of listeners seek out in music, i.e something at least metaphorically related to language and semiotics.

.

 

Edited by Quinn
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I will say that I am hopeful that there are more creative, innovative, original works of art in all mediums yet to be created that will deeply touch large amounts of people, make them reflect, and cause them to think in new ways. In fact, I expect this to be the case. Given the entire course of human history to date, it would be shocking if anything else were to happen -- if, suddenly in our day and age, all of humanity were to cease making works of artistic value.

That said, I think the mediums of expression in art music will shift / are shifting from the forms we've come to accept as standard. You might find more artistic value in a contemporary musical than in a contemporary opera, for instance. Or you might find more musical value in a rock album than in a contemporary symphony or concerto --who knows? However, I do think that people who've become attached to the established forms of the past will find these changes more difficult to accept. This whole process is normal, though, over the course of time. Common forms / modes of expression fade away in the wake of new forms, over the protestations of those who'd prefer to keep using the old forms.

I intended that to be short but it seems it got rather long 😄

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It seems we have injected quite a few pregnant terms in this discussion, namely modernism, postmodernism, contemporary, and avant-garde. It also seems we each have slightly different definitions. For me:

Modernism is a broadly-encompassing idealogy that developed in the late 1800s and lasted for about a century, characterized by its reliance on reason and logic to expose truth.

Postmodernism is a broadly-encompassing idealogy that developed in the late 20th century. It is a reaction to modernism: that is, it seeks to establish that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Everything is relative.

Contemporary music merely means music that is created by artists living today.

Avant garde music is that which largely departs from the established norms of traditional music. (You know it when you hear it.)

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@Tónskáld, I've been pretty hesitant on participating/reacting to/modding this thread, so thank you for attempting to define common terms. Socrates and Plato would be proud. 

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3 hours ago, Noah Brode said:

I will say that I am hopeful that there are more creative, innovative, original works of art in all mediums yet to be created that will deeply touch large amounts of people, make them reflect, and cause them to think in new ways. In fact, I expect this to be the case. Given the entire course of human history to date, it would be shocking if anything else were to happen -- if, suddenly in our day and age, all of humanity were to cease making works of artistic value.

That said, I think the mediums of expression in art music will shift / are shifting from the forms we've come to accept as standard. You might find more artistic value in a contemporary musical than in a contemporary opera, for instance. Or you might find more musical value in a rock album than in a contemporary symphony or concerto --who knows? However, I do think that people who've become attached to the established forms of the past will find these changes more difficult to accept. This whole process is normal, though, over the course of time. Common forms / modes of expression fade away in the wake of new forms, over the protestations of those who'd prefer to keep using the old forms.

I intended that to be short but it seems it got rather long 😄

 

I'm one of those that's kind of on both sides in a way. A lot of my pieces are written without a formal scope and so in that way are towards 21st century. But on the other hand, when I do write a piece with a formal scope, it is always the older forms(symphony, fugue, sonata, etude, quartet, rondo, etc.) and very often in a way similar to Beethoven, my favorite composer of all time and my biggest influence. And while contemporary music might be shoving atonality by the wayside, I still prefer listening to works that are Neoclassical(Haydn and Mozart influenced), Neoromantic(Chopin, Liszt, etc. influenced) and Neobaroque(Bach, Handel, Pachelbel, etc. influenced) over those that are just 21st century and have no further obvious classification.

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36 minutes ago, caters said:

I'm one of those that's kind of on both sides in a way. A lot of my pieces are written without a formal scope and so in that way are towards 21st century. But on the other hand, when I do write a piece with a formal scope, it is always the older forms(symphony, fugue, sonata, etude, quartet, rondo, etc.) and very often in a way similar to Beethoven, my favorite composer of all time and my biggest influence. And while contemporary music might be shoving atonality by the wayside, I still prefer listening to works that are Neoclassical(Haydn and Mozart influenced), Neoromantic(Chopin, Liszt, etc. influenced) and Neobaroque(Bach, Handel, Pachelbel, etc. influenced) over those that are just 21st century and have no further obvious classification.

I wonder if this will be the "tone" of classical music of the 21st century. I think contemporary composers have found the experimental music of twelve-tone rows, serialism, indeterminacy, etc. to be just that: experiments. Perhaps our generation will see a return to the fundamentals of music, and subsequent experiments will arise from that.

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11 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

We all agree that modernists are for progression, but this progression is made through tradition. Modernists make never heard music that is still linked with tradition. The term modernist is just complete nonsense in its form of using the word modern... It has more to do with tradition than with creating something out of the void.

It's not. Modernism only showed up around the 20th Century, and truly began with Kandinsky and then spread out of painting and brought this abstract expressionism to other arts.

As I said earlier, modernists in academia assimilate some earlier movements into their definition in an effort to make it look like these squiggles with paint, serialist and expressionist noise, and monolithic glass towers were an organic movement and the natural evolution of the arts.

However, when you look at guys like Clement Greenberg (who invented this Artspeak stuff back when), you realize that all this was a consorted effort to undermine local traditions and standards.

We are taught to believe that our ancestors would look upon us with envy for these glass towers, kiddie paintings and noise music as though it were some achievement that built upon what they started, even though it is entirely antithetical to, and dismantled everything they did.

11 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

How do you think that being modernist can decrease the quality of your compositions?

I do not believe that styles and genres can be modernist. Modernism is an attitude.
I am not familiar really an expert in Kadinsky's work, but I believe that he is a really odd example of modernist. He is the opposite...

Kandinsky was literally the first modernist.

All modernism is derived from abstract expressionism and conceptualism.

John Cage's 4'33 or "Lights off and On" are examples of conceptualism because they put concept above the work itself. In fact, there is no work — you're supposed to be in awe at the "concept" of it all.

A great deal of now-old composers' works (and many contemporary ones too) are abstract expressionism. There is no real theme or melody, no obvious rhythmic flow, etc. just meandering lines, stabs, swells, trills, clusters and chords which don't even really resemble music but rather directionless orchestral noise in some kind of soup, and it's all supposed to "mean" something; it allegedly represents some vague, abstract concept.

Both of these ideas are the polar-opposite of tradition. How does it decrease quality? Because it eschews all the craft that we know makes an aesthetic piece, and this was perfected after hundreds, if not thousands of years.

According to any research I can find on it, the most-performed composers by Orchestras are, in order: Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Mahler, Schoenberg and his cronies don't even make the top ten lists.

Interesting that these three composers are also the most-popular among the average person, around the world, centuries after their deaths. In the same way that, centuries after they were built, people from all across the world still flock to the great castles and cathedrals of Europe. They still pack classical art museums to look upon the works of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello and the like, while modern art museums are laughed at the world over and usually sparsely populated with art students, hipsters and money launderers. 

11 hours ago, Maarten Bauer said:

You cannot deny Schoenberg's skill for composition, you can deny his work's lack of beauty.

I can absolutely deny both of those things, just as I can deny Kandinsky or Van Gogh's skill in painting. 

If one is incapable of creating something beautiful, then it is because they do not have the knowledge and practical skill to create it.

4 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

Modernism is a broadly-encompassing idealogy that developed in the late 1800s and lasted for about a century, characterized by its reliance on reason and logic to expose truth.

Modernists are, by necessity, enamored with Scientism

4 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

Postmodernism is a broadly-encompassing idealogy that developed in the late 20th century. It is a reaction to modernism: that is, it seeks to establish that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Everything is relative.

The logical consequence of the destruction of objective beauty standards.

4 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

Avant garde music is that which largely departs from the established norms of traditional music. (You know it when you hear it.)

Which is exactly what modernism (abstract expressionism) did.

All three of the above are exactly the same thing: Modernity.

"Post-modernism" is not real; it was a term invented in the 60s to make it appear as though there had been an advancement in modernism. "Post-modernism" claims that it deals with the idea that no objective value judgement can be made "because all is relative", but it is this very solipsism which characterizes all modernists works.

Anyone who claims this is not the case should be asked to provide examples of "post-modern" works and compare them against "modern" ones and see if anyone can actually spot a difference.

How come in the Renaissance, and for centuries, musicians were not competing for public performance against those who just made noise? How come the painters weren't having their works strung up next to "paintings" made by monkeys, or abstract lines and shapes? How come Bernini's sculpture was never next to a pile of metal poolnoodles arranged in a random order into a block of cement?

Because everyone in their time knew that such "works" were of low-quality and not worthy of the exhibit or even the label of "art". 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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23 minutes ago, Tónskáld said:

I wonder if this will be the "tone" of classical music of the 21st century. I think contemporary composers have found the experimental music of twelve-tone rows, serialism, indeterminacy, etc. to be just that: experiments. Perhaps our generation will see a return to the fundamentals of music, and subsequent experiments will arise from that.

 

I am also curious about that. The new generation already started looking back further than the 20th century. Especially to Renaissance and medieval trends. 

What is dangerous and I believe we should be cautious of is that we fall into neo genres. I prefer something new than having a previous particular style as a fundament like neoclassicism. Yes, nice things happen there, but sometimes in this case the stress on characteristics of the fundamental style, classicism, seems somewhat forced and unnatural to me. 

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29 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

I can absolutely deny both of those things, just as I can deny Kandinsky or Van Gogh's skill in painting. 

If one is incapable of creating something beautiful, then it is because they do not have the knowledge and practical skill to create it.

At this point we start talking about subjective judgment, which is really tricky in such a philosophical discussion

I personally believe that quality is not per se linked to beauty. Skill is not linked to making beauty either. Schoenberg's idea of nuda Veritas made him to compose ugly music, the music itself can be doubted to be beautiful, but the composer's skill is undeniably great. Also, it is nonsense that Schoenberg was incapable of beautiful music and therefore claim that he was not skilled. 

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1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

At this point we start talking about subjective judgment,

I do not believe we are talking about subjective judgement at all.

Picasso's inferiority to Bryullov, for example, is quite visceral and apparent.

1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Schoenberg's idea of nuda Veritas made him to compose ugly music

Music and art are not supposed to be ugly.

To champion the deformed, the ugly, the abstract is to be anti-art.

1 hour ago, Maarten Bauer said:

Also, it is nonsense that Schoenberg was incapable of beautiful music and therefore claim that he was not skilled. 

That is a perfectly sensible claim, as only the skilled can make something beautiful

but even monkeys can make the ugly and the nonsensical

https://gawker.com/5776710/1-in-3-art-students-cant-tell-famous-paintings-from-paintings-by-monkeys 

 

 

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