Making Time

There have been so many comments on these and other pages about how our music would be more “fill in the blank” if only we were more like the art world, or what’s on the bestseller list this week, or TV, etc. Admittedly, I’ve been one of the ones commenting. Every time I go to a crowded art show, for weeks I’ll be on automatic pilot with: “They lined up around the block for Jackson Pollock; why don’t they line up the block for Roger Sessions,” or something of that sort.

The same thing was about to happen to me again last weekend when I attended MoMA’s Brice Marden retrospective, which was still packed with people after being on display for several months. To my thinking, Marden, born 1938, shares a lot of aesthetic common ground with composers as diverse as David Borden, Gloria Coates, Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski, and Charles Wuorinen—all of whom were also born in 1938 and whose works display a reasoned approach to abstractly permuting patterns through physical gestures. Yet, not to cast aspersions on any of the music these folks write (which I treasure), I doubt there’d be lines around the block to attend a concert assembling any of their lives’ work, which is ostensibly what the Marden show was.

That’s because such a concert would last days, and even a typical concert of roughly two hours is sadly beyond the attention span of most people nowadays. Music is just, well, too long. It takes too much time. And that time has to be focused and continuous. You can walk by a hundred paintings as fast as the crowds allow you to. You can read a book anywhere you want, put it down whenever you want, and pick it up again without losing the thread. (Well, most books—at least the ones that get on bestseller lists.) Admittedly, watching TV also requires time—everyone knows how much time it wastes, but very few people who watch TV are actually focused on it completely. If they were, they’d probably be able to quit the habit more easily.

Imagine how much time we could save, and how many more people you could attract to new music, if we could completely eliminate the time element in music. Isolate single events and just sustain them: chords, timbres, etc. Allow people to experience them for as long or as short as they care to, as art viewers do with paintings and sculptures. Well, there already are folks like La Monte Young and Max Neuhaus and generations of sound installation artists inspired by them who create work that does just that.

But music is ultimately about time. Even sound installation pieces attain their clarity from the cumulative effect of experiencing their sonic content in real time. But, of course, that’s true for works of visual art as well. So, maybe instead what we need to do is be better facilitators at helping cure our society of its collective attention deficit disorder by proving that there can be great rewards from spending more time on focused perception.

49 thoughts on “Making Time

  1. JKG

    Casting aspersions…
    If you happen to NEED someone to cast aspersions on the creative efforts of the composers you cite, feel free to encourage me. If the others are anything like CW, I feel confident I’d be able to come up with something suitably disparaging *grin*.

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  2. harold.meltzer

    Knife Sharpening
    No one is encouraging you to trumpet your ignorance, or to cast aspersions on people’s music that you’ve never heard. Frank cited five very different composers. Try listening before sharpening your knives.

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  3. drysh

    Prior knowledge
    There seems to be a prevailing sentiment (and I’m guilty of feeling this way as well) that classical music supposes or even requires prior knowledge, whereas browsing an art gallery or museum doesn’t necessitate existing familiarity with terms, jargon, or an artist’s work. Unless I know a composer’s work, or at the very least the name, I won’t even think of attending a retrospective, whereas I’ll often attend art galleries where the featured exhibit is something I know next to nothing about. Partially it’s the ability to customize length at a gallery, as Frank mentioned, part of it is ticket price, and part of it is just the overall environment – walking around and exploring as opposed to being chairbound for a couple of hours.

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  4. JKG

    Okay…
    interesting list. Borden is a minimalist, so I promise to check him out for sure. Coates looks useful for her work concerning glissandi – how does one fabricate large works using such effects without wearing them out? Curran sounds like the type of experimentalist I can appreciate for his sound manipulation, yet I’ll wait and pass judgment as to whether his work is in fact music after I listen to a sample. Ah yes, an unapologetic Marxist, Rzewski – (Adorno resurrected?). And of course Mr. Wuorinen, whose false prophecies regarding the absorption of tonality into the greater atonal whole have been either ignored, bypassed, or generally shown to be ridiculously false. But hey, I’m sure all these folks are just fine people. Borden and Curran at least look like I could learn something from them, but the other three – I’m not impressed. It is one thing to be ignorant of beauty, yet quite another to remain ignorant of things generally meaningless.

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  5. JKG

    Okay…
    interesting list. Borden is a minimalist, so I promise to check him out for sure. Coates looks useful for her work concerning glissandi – how does one fabricate large works using such effects without wearing them out? Curran sounds like the type of experimentalist I can appreciate for his sound manipulation, yet I’ll wait and pass judgment as to whether his work is in fact music after I listen to a sample. Ah yes, an unapologetic Marxist, Rzewski – (Adorno resurrected?). And of course Mr. Wuorinen, whose false prophecies regarding the absorption of tonality into the greater atonal whole have been either ignored, bypassed, or generally shown to be ridiculously false. But hey, I’m sure all these folks are just fine people. Borden and Curran at least look like I could learn something from them, but the other three – I’m not impressed. It is one thing to be ignorant of beauty, yet quite another to remain ignorant of things generally meaningless.

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  6. dalgas

    JKG wrote: It is one thing to be ignorant of beauty, yet quite another to remain ignorant of things generally meaningless.

    And then there’s writing meaningless things about which one remains ignorant.

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  7. John Kennedy

    canonizing the modern
    Thanks Frank. I think the sentiment of comparison to mass culture that has been all over these pages is most linked to pop culture envy, a kind of generational lust that I too had when I was younger. I don’t intend that to sound ageist, just an observation that the comparison of one’s obscure new music to what the world is paying attention to, has been made for a long time by those who have the healthy awareness that their art is not the only thing in the world.

    But in terms of MoMA, this is a beautiful thing that an artist who most people know little or nothing about, draws lines of people who think, of course I know something about Marden and I have to go see what I think I might know. This is the result of institutionalizing modernity as a permance within the history of art, that MoMA and the Centre Pompidou have done so wonderfully. There is a cultural currency there that has been accepted in a mass-culture way, that imprints importance to whatever is on the walls and it owes it success not just to the wonderful art but also to wonderful curation and communication by the presenter.

    Do we have such institutions in music? No. It is why we must argue for the importance of new music organizations in our communities alongside of our modern art museums, as community pillars, as bastions of art for our age, home to the world of music of modern times.

    Our symphonies and opera companies are not adequate for this as much as they might try (or not). They have not come close to communicating the fact that we have an amazing, rich, diverse, mind-blowing repository of music, as rich as the world of visual art, from the last 80 years that the public (or their conductors) knows nothing of. Who is going to tell this story? Who is going to make an Oteri their Artistic Advisor? All due respect to the All Stars, do we have an Ensemble Modern in this country? No. And would that the music funding community saw this and realized how much farther we might advance the cause of new music in this country if it was aimed at the MoMAs of music rather than the Metropolitans. Maybe then we might have lines around the block for a Rzewski retrospective.

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  8. philmusic

    It seems likely that many of those who line up to see Pollock’s work are not really interested in his art at all but are interested in his legend and the high financial value our art culture has placed on his work. Unfortunately a Roger Sessions manuscript will never sell for as much as a Pollock painting and in our culture value is everything..

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  9. JKG

    There are consequences…
    when someone writes a work which fails to communicate. It does not matter what the composer “meant” to say, if he or she does not actually say it. Most folks know that art, especially music, is a form of entertainment and meant to be scrutinzed from a subjective viewpoint; however, there are some who not only objectify music, but the general audience as well. Folks are always entitled to their opinions, of course, but there have been some the past few decades which have made doctrinaire the notions of originality and quirkiness at the expense of saying something meaningful to most folks. I know most of you are not blind to this fact at all, and yet the persistent railing and concern that so few take any interest in modern art. If it helps any of you, it is now just as difficult to get a tonal work performed by an orchestra as it is to get a non-tonal one played – why? – because the non-tonalists have so confused the matter of what music ought to be (from their positions of ivory-tower “experts”), that no one wishes to offend. The mannerist camp pleads, but does not pursuade. The scriptures mention, by the way, of those who call evil good, and good evil – hmmm…

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  10. pgblu

    conspic consump
    I second philmusic’s brief comment at the end there — Somebody always owns the Pollock painting that you’re looking at. Nobody owns the Sessions Violin Concerto, even if they had the manuscript. The manuscript is nice, I’m sure, but it’s obviously not the intended aesthetic object.

    The person who commissioned the piece (and it’s usually an institution rather than an individual nowadays) doesn’t own it, either. The composer or a publisher might own the performing rights, but again, that’s not the same thing as hanging the piece in your living room.

    In addition to the reasons that Frank cited, and the lack of an American Ensemble Modern (for example), there is also in music a distinct lack of conspicuous consumption as a motivating factor for jacking up the hype and the prices. [Not to imply that the visual art world is mostly hype, by any means.]

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  11. lawrence

    assbackwards
    Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. Maybe what is needed is some good old American reverse campaigning — we need to convince the world that racing past a painting in a museum is rude and uncivilized, that they need to stop and give each art work their full attention for at least a hour or the art snobs will out them. Then maybe they’ll come to more concerts, where at least they can sit down.

    Politicians have greatly benefited from mudslinging, maybe now it’s our turn.

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  12. swellsort

    Maybe
    Perhaps this problem boils down to an issue of meaning. Which concerts are attended most by the general public? When Mozart, Brahms, Bach and other “ancient” composers are being performed. And just what are they trying to say in their music? Nothing! Mozart’s music in particular is just pretty little nothings being whispered into the air; yet virtually any Mozart concert will be sold out.

    Perhaps this is a hasty generalization, but maybe the general public doesn’t really care that much about what deep thoughts you might have to share with them via music. This is not to say that everyone should stop expressing themselves, but just something to think about. Does it really matter what a piece of music means?

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  13. mjleach

    If it will offer any consolation, you *have* to go to a museum show to appreciate a painting (and many paintings are privately owned), while you can listen to a composition any number of ways – in concert, at home on your cd player, on the radio, online, etc., so you get a little more critical mass with an art exhibition.

    Frank – those are five really diverse composers. I find it baffling that anyone reading this site wouldn’t be familiar with on average at least three of them. And for what it’s worth, Gloria Coates is one of our major orchestral composers, I don’t think of her and glissandos at all.

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  14. CM Zimmermann

    This is certainly a complex issue. I think that a major reason why quite experimental visual art is absorbed (or appropriated) into the broader culture much more quickly than music is that we entirely orient ourselves and appropriate the world in terms of vision. We are visual, generally speaking, rather than aural in the late Modern West. The way in which we relate to and process images is quite staggering. Our world is of the image. I am not saying that we are inherently visual or that this is an inevitability, but we do have much more experience with images and with ‘seeing’.

    CMZ

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  15. philmusic

    Museum attendance is up and one reason is that in our hectic and overworked world museums are so convenient. Most concerts and plays start at 8 PM sharp. At a museum you can check in and out as you like, pay attention as you like, chat as you like. and eat an expensive lunch–if you like.

    Phil’s page

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  16. swellsort

    If only
    I wish we were all like whales. We’d be able to process sonic information instead of visual. Then, the general public might be more interested. CM Zimmermann says: I am not saying that we are inherently visual or that this is an inevitability, but we do have much more experience with images and with ‘seeing’. I would go so far as to say that we are inherently visual beings. We perceive the world primarily through what we see. It is biological, just like whales’ ability to process sonic information.

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  17. sgordon

    There is a cultural currency there that has been accepted in a mass-culture way, that imprints importance to whatever is on the walls and it owes it success not just to the wonderful art but also to wonderful curation and communication by the presenter. Do we have such institutions in music? No.

    I think we do have the equivalent, only it’s on a much, much, smaller scale. I’m thinking of certain music labels – take, say, any associated with John Zorn as an example, such as Tzadik – they have a cultural cache such that anything within their “walls” is automatically granted “currency” so to speak – and, like MoMA, it’s success is as much about what’s presented as the presenter. Same goes for Glass’ Orange Mountain. Call it “celebrity curation” or something. Though I suppose a “name” composer need not be involved – CRI, Black Saint/Soul Note, HAT, etc – all developed a certain “cool cache” a la MoMA.

    But you’re not gonna see the “line around the block” because people can buy CDs at their leisure. Though I will note that I’ve seen lines around the block at Tonic on more than one occasion.

    All due respect to the All Stars, do we have an Ensemble Modern in this country?

    Kronos?

    The scriptures mention, by the way, of those who call evil good, and good evil

    Oh, JK… “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

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  18. JKG

    Thank you, sgordon…
    You are so right – pride does go before a fall. Now apply that to the cognoscenti who deem it beneath their collective dignities to acknowledge the musical relevance of anything related to staid tradition. The argument wiull continue, of course, because many “intellectuals” don’t have a clue what it means to experience anything real to begin with. No wonder their music (in general) is so outright phoney. It is a good thing when someone approaches an expressive issue with a new hand or approach, but that by no means renders the approach expressive in and of itself. That’s what a few “composers” don’t get – that if others think their music stinks, there might be an actual reason. Instead, they go crying to all their untalented buddies for assurance that what they write was, in fact, music, and that the boorish public at large is just too philistine to understand. In actuality, it is the pedantic intellectual with no talent who is the real philistine. They are the ones pretending to be composers when they are not, and pretending to know about music when they don’t have so much as a clue. If its pridefulness you want, check out the emotional and psychological dishonesty of the modern mannerists. If anything, their audiences are shrinking.

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  19. Chris Becker

    “Folks are always entitled to their opinions, of course, but there have been some the past few decades which have made doctrinaire the notions of originality and quirkiness at the expense of saying something meaningful to most folks.”

    Thank God!

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  20. Marc

    Concerts take up people’s attention for a specific period of time, but so do movies, and so do plays, to take a less populated example. The issue Frank raises, and it’s a good one, is why an institution like MoMA can raise enough publicity for people to come out and see an exhibition of an artist most of the public isn’t aware of, but the New York Philharmonic can’t pull off a similar feat. But the Met managed to fill the house for a new opera. (Yes, opera at the Met is a different beast than music by indigenous American composers. But it’s not *that* big of a deal.)

    Questions like this ultimately come down to funding and to creating buzz, unfortunately. An American Modern Ensemble—boy, does that sound less dynamic in English—could be that instigator of that buzz, but dreaming up the institutions at this stage of the game, when MoMA’s already had a 78-year head start, probably isn’t the wisest route for achieving one’s goals.

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  21. philmusic

    Another point is that the “art world” is a much more unified beast than the music composition world. That is we understand that so called classical musics, and popular musics are different and can have different listeners and that only the most popular music makes the really big bucks (and not always for the musicians either). Unless of course you consider the million dollars commission fees of some composers or the high salary of some film composers. Anyway the “art world” sees no such distinctions –so the big bucks go all around and stay around. On the other hand our artifacts as works of art continue to attract “art” collectors. Anyone try to buy a good violin lately?
    Phil’s page

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  22. the people

    America (and the world) doesn’t give a damn about music theory. Consequently,
    America (and the world) doesn’t give a damn about modern classical music.
    And as for swellsort’s insane comment
    that Mozart and the other “ancients”
    music is worthless and has absolutely
    nothing to say, I can only say that his remark is so stupid I can barely type
    this sentence.

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  23. swellsort

    Misunderstood
    Whoa man, I didn’t say it was worthless! Although I am not a fan of Mozart, I respect and appreciate his music. What I am saying is that much of the body of work from that period doesn’t really mean anything. Take Haydn for example. His composed at an isolated palace (the court of Esterhazy, I believe) for parties and services and the like. He wasn’t trying to convey the meaning of life or anything like that. He was simply conveying musical ideas in an interesting fashion.

    Baroque and Classical music was never intended (when it was written) to be entertainment in and of itself. It was background music, music for dance, music for a party, music for a church service. It is a fairly modern idea that music can stand by itself as “entertaining.”

    And not all modern classical music has anything to do with traditional western music theory. Music theory doesn’t mean anything to anyone except people who understand it, so why would the public give a damn about it? Do you give a damn about the latest scientific developments in the mating patterns of coastal birds?

    Perhaps, “By the people” should think about a comment before calling it stupid.

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  24. Colin Holter

    I hope you’re wrong. Anyone who doesn’t care about new music because they don’t care about theory is an idiot. That’s like saying “I don’t care about my kids because I don’t care about boogers.”

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  25. Marc

    Why can Frank Oteri ask a simple question of whether people can and should take more time to listen to new music and then be greeted with the same infinitely boring statements that composers lock themselves in ivory towers and that new music only refers to itself? Is the issue he raises really so large that no one will take it on (aside from John Kennedy and a few others)?

    The new-music community would be infinitely better served if people could think together instead of saying one faction has it all wrong. No one person has the answers; it will be a communal effort. But that effort is doomed if the minutiae is allowed to drown out all other discussion. Call me a dreamer, if you must.

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  26. swellsort

    I think you nailed it
    Marc, you are right. I admit to sort of throwing fuel on the fire. My apologies.

    Ultimately, I think the issue comes back to Frank’s last paragraph. Our society has some serious attention problems, and it comes back to the very social and economic makeup of this country. Everything needs to be bigger, faster, more efficient. But this always at the cost of quality and interest. This certainly affects our society’s ability to spend more time on “focused perception,” as Frank put it. And even those things that we do perceive regularly (TV, YouTube, Internet, etc) do not require the focus that new music demands.

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  27. John Kennedy

    regarding the problem
    Seth, I agree that the curation of new music has been well-exemplified by some of the CD labels and that is a strong niche. With the focus on mp3 technology and accessibility the last several years, it seems like a lot of people cast their relationship to music through that much more than live performance. So to draw the fringe audience member, the person not a part of our sub-culture, is also to engage in the larger effort for luring someone to live music.

    Kronos as a comparison to the Ensemble Modern? As great as they have been for bringing the music of today’s composers to crossover audiences, it’s worth noting that behind their success is a marketing of a “band” image (perhaps more overtly done by a group like Ethel), more than a postmodern successor to the traditional art music ensemble (the orchestra). And obviously as a string 4tet it is not like the EM a kind of successor to a symphony orchestra. With the EM, there is a sense of possibility, open and variable instrumentation and technology, able to go where composers need, as a small orchestra of the future. With their new music series, the LA Phil often does an admirable job of this with high-level performances but of course within the context of their larger mandate. We have some great instrumentalists in this country who would love to dedicate themselves full-time to the work of today, and wouldn’t it be nice if instead of scrabbling their work together or going to orchestra jobs, there was a larger new music ensemble that could be their home.

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  28. cybasheep

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for dropping the name of Gloria Coates there. I heard one of her symphonies on the radio years and years ago, then forgot her name and couldn’t remember for the life of me, but I always remembered how fantastic I thought the music was (I kept describing it to friends as ‘sounding like a whole orchestra going straight to hell’, which might not really sound like praise, but hey, I thought it was cool).

    Anyway. You made me remember. Thanks!

    And apropos, I’ve been browsing nmb for a little while now, having been linked here initially via Wikipedia from their article on Dawn Upshaw … and I’ve discovered SO MUCH great stuff! Everyone seems rather (or at least a little) depressed about the state of things here pretty often, but let me tell you, this site has pointed me to more exciting stuff in days than german public radio managed to in years.

    Frank certainly had it right years ago (I read some old interviews on the site) when he kept saying that the future of new music is on the internet! Now if composers would take the next step and publish recordings of their work under a Creative Commons license and put it up on archive.org… but I digress. Thanks again!

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  29. the people

    I am glad that swellsort appreciates Mozart. However, I take issue with his comment that music from that period of time doesn’t “mean anything”. It might not mean anything to swellsort, but it sure as heck means EVERYTHING to the world.
    The problem with the new music community, in my opinion, is that people are constantly stepping on each other’s right to free speech. Despite
    what the music conservatory theory police tell you, there is no right or wrong way to compose music, there is only the music that the a composer hears in his or her head.
    The reason why general audiences are turned off to modern music, is because
    in the words of a friend who hates most new modern music, “I feel like I’m listening to a math problem, instead of listening to music”. Swellsort does not
    seem to understand the point that I was trying to make – it is precisely because people CAN’T understood various modern music theories, that new music audiences are shrinking or, at worst, not even bothering to show up. People need to understand the “system” or in this case the “theory” of a music piece in order for the music to make sense in their brains. In pop music, the “system” is immediately understood. You don’t have to listen to Elvis Presley sing “Heartbreak Hotel”, a song I would’ve been thrilled to have written!, 30 times in order to “get”
    the music. And there is a scientific reason why that is so. Recently, medical
    researchers who study the brain
    have discovered that human beings are
    genetically wired for melody.
    However, many modern music composers use a musical language that does not originate in biology, but rather in math and physics books. Therefore,
    popular acceptance of their work will never be a reality and that’s all right.
    It is their free speech to communicate in the way that they see fit. I don’t care what kind of musical language a composer uses as long as he or she respects the beauty of personal choice – no composer bashing please!
    Thank you!

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  30. JKG

    Example of talent…
    jbunch asked me to provide an example; okay. In my opinion, John Adams is one of the most talented composers in the US. He takes a layered pastoche and turns it into something phenomenal, and his music generally resonates with listeners regardless of academic background or expertise. My favorite, all-time example of talent is definitely Respighi – I would also have to say the young Richard Strauss and Beethoven are fine examples too, yet I realize you likely mean living composers. There are numerous women composers, my favorite being Amy Beach. My definition of talent is “to take what others have done, and then do it one’s own way.” This precludes abject originality for the sake of it alone (a la Boulez). Does this help?

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  31. pgblu

    Now you’ve done it.
    Boy, swellsort, you’ve really done it this time! Now you’ve incited the anger of “the people”. Well, “the people” have spoken! It’s too bad the people and I are reading different research, though. Nobody doubts that people enjoy melodies, and that their brains somehow light up when they hear familiar melodies. If that is what you call hard-wiring, then fine.

    People are just as ‘hard-wired’ for racism. The way we become tolerant of other races is through education, social conditioning, etc. When people are raised in multi-racial communities, taught to respect one another, and constantly challenged by other belief systems, then the knee-jerk reactions to ‘otherness’ that reside in our brainstem become quiet. Source: Robert M. Sapolsky, “A Natural History of Peace,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006, pp. 119-120. But I found it on delanceyplace.com

    All this is meant to illustrate is that “hard-wiring”, or lack thereof, is an important conclusion, but it is not an aesthetic argument, and certainly not a moral argument, for or against any kind of music. Not that you’re saying it is, but others might read your comment that way. If you “the people” are so interested in tolerance, then it’s all probably an argument FOR non-melodic music, since it challenges our “wiring.” But I am not going to make that argument. I am as much against moralizing as you are.

    Look, just as “Heartbreak Hotel” might kick some aesthetic butt, there are other parts of our brainstem that are completely entranced by the sound of the dishwasher. A producer trying to sell records actually might know this, and try to include tracks of gentle lulling noise into their productions. It’s happened, and has had an at least anecdotal positive effect on their bottom line. Isn’t that just awesome?

    Sorry to go so far off Frank’s great topic, but it haddabesaid.

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  32. the people

    I am truly insulted that PGBLU dragged the evils of racism into my comments as to why composers who use complex musical language will alway have trouble marketing their music to the masses.

    I never stated ANYWHERE in my last post
    that composers who write atonal music, or whatever they wish to label their music, should EVER be deprived of perfomance opportunities or be discouraged from writing the music that they hear in their heads. I am horrified that PGBLU tainted my post with his
    agenda – he infered things that I NEVER
    said! Unfair and unkind.

    I simply stated the facts. Please see online:
    “MUSIC ON THE BRAIN: RESEARCHERS
    EXPLORE THE BIOLOGY OF MUSIC”
    Harvard Gazette, March 22, 2001

    And I quote from the article by William J. Cromie:
    “Babies come into the world with musical preferences. They begin to respond to music while still in the womb.
    At the age of 4 months, dissonant notes at the end of a melody will cause them to squirem and turn away. If they like a tune, they may coo.

    Scientists cite such responses as evidence that certain rules for music are wired into the brain and musicians violate them at the risk of making their audiences squirm. “Music is in our genes,” says Mark Jude Tram, a musician, prolific songwriter, and neuroscientist at Harvard.”

    The previous two paragraphs are taken from the above mentioned article.

    Consequently, Stravinsky, who is without question a genius, will never be as popular as Beethoven.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of a setting complex modern music is presented in, whether you borrow marketing from art museums as Frank suggested or from whatever, the music will never have mass appeal, it will always have a small audience just like jazz. Stating this does NOT mean, however, that I believe complex modern music should not be written. As I stated previously, I support free speech, whoa PGBLU, calm down!

    I’m a jazz composer, and no matter what I write, no matter what Duke Ellington wrote – God knows, I am NOT Duke Ellington ! – jazz records will NEVER have the sales of pop records. Jazz has less than 3 per cent of the record market. I accept that reality
    and simply try to keep myself and the audience that is there happy. If the audience grows it will only be because of audience demand. Instead of worrying about marketing schemes, the best thing, I feel, is to simply concentrate on the music…My philosophy, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. My last word.

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  33. pgblu

    Oops
    Okay, I hit a nerve there –

    I was not at all implying that you are racist. Please read my post carefully. I just have a problem with hard-wiring as an aesthetic argument. I like melodic music, and I am tolerant of all forms of music-making.

    I really apologize if I upset you.

    By the way, I don’t know what you think my agenda is, but I think it’s the same as yours: be tolerant of other opinions, and don’t rely on your first instincts when judging a piece of music. Or a piece of argument.

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  34. pgblu

    Also
    I see that racism was an unnecessarily incendiary thing to bring up — there are other examples of things in our brainstem we wish we didn’t have, such as a love of fatty, sweet foods. Dear people: will you please substitute “a love of sweet, fatty foods” for racism in my above post? I hope we can still talk.

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  35. the people

    For PGLBU, I was truly very happy to read your two replies to my last post. You are obviously a very intelligent person and I look forward to your posts. Good Luck!

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  36. swellsort

    My turn
    I’ll be brief, I promise. “the people” are right in alot of ways. Regarding the meaning of music by Mozart and the like, it can certainly mean something, but that is a matter of subjectivity and opinion. Historically, they wrote their music, as I have said, for various services, like parties and church. Mozart did of course try to break out of this and freelance as it were, but that is beside the point. If it does mean something to you, then great! I, by my nature, have to take a more pragmatic approach.

    Regardless, those composers of old certainly wrote to please for their audiences; and that is a lesson that transfers to art music today very well. The question I think the new music community needs to ask itself is what is the target audience? Who or what are we trying to reach?

    Thank you everyone for some vigorous intellectual discussion!

    Reply
  37. dalgas

    maple021 wrote: And I quote from the article by William J. Cromie: “Babies come into the world with musical preferences. They begin to respond to music while still in the womb. At the age of 4 months, dissonant notes at the end of a melody will cause them to squirm and turn away. If they like a tune, they may coo. Scientists cite such responses as evidence that certain rules for music are wired into the brain and musicians violate them at the risk of making their audiences squirm.

    Seems to me it only shows that after 4 months immersed in their culture, babies respond in a way consistent with their culture. Though they do say the baby responds to music in the womb; but was that a squirm or a coo?

    Consequently, Stravinsky, who is without question a genius, will never be as popular as Beethoven.

    Using that line of reasoning, it would be obvious that Beethoven can never be nearly as popular as Dunstable, Vivaldi, or even Philip Glass.

    Reply
  38. JKG

    Funny.
    I’ve been reading this thread (I’m sure some of you are horrified at that fact). MOst of us are so grateful to have performances while we’re yet alive, that some folks will go to any extreme to make sure they get performed, even if it means alienating everyone (including the audience) in the process. There is a quiet desperation to be understood, especially with a language so sublime and meaningful as music. Folks may not be “hardwired” with regard to the mere manipulation of sound – however, they are generally receptive to what is played around them and representitive of various experiences within their generation. Thus, ultimately, it is always the common man who decides whose music will be of value, not the aesthetician. This is true, even if the composer works to describe his work otherwise. Great music has great meaning – crap music has little if any meaning. And yes, where would most music professors be without the mechanic, the plumber, the realtor, the baker or the child? Mannerist composers have no monopoly upon the future of their art – it is definitely in the hands of those who care about what something said, than what something sounded like. Some of you really don’t get it, do you? Have you been so indoctinated by willful and self-absorptive teachers that you have become like them? If there are ever venues where the public (or anyone else) will place value upon musical experimentation, it will definitely be within the forums of context and comprehensibility. All other “art” (e.g., Boulez?) will or has become useless.

    Reply
  39. philmusic

    “MUSIC ON THE BRAIN: RESEARCHERS EXPLORE THE BIOLOGY OF MUSIC” Harvard Gazette, March 22, 2001 And I quote from the article by William J. Cromie: “Babies come into the world with musical preferences. They begin to respond to music while still in the womb. At the age of 4 months, dissonant notes at the end of a melody will cause them to squirem and turn away. If they like a tune, they may coo. Scientists cite such responses as evidence that certain rules for music are wired into the brain and musicians violate them at the risk of making their audiences squirm. “Music is in our genes,” says Mark Jude Tram, a musician, prolific songwriter, and neuroscientist at Harvard.”

    Shockingly a scientist/songwriter discovers proof that babies love songs! Hmmm. Of course Harvard scientists could never be wrong. I also wonder which “world” we happen to be speaking of, as what constitutes “dissonance” tend to be different in every culture.

    Babies may love baby food too, I just don’t think its for me anymore.

    Phil’s page

    Reply
  40. philmusic

    continued..
    Most likely these above facts–that children are sensitive to music –are being taken out of context to prove a very spurious point. For example, I don’t know of any “melodies” that don’t also have at least one dissonance.

    Reply
  41. the people

    Philmusic seems very irritated by the Harvard article that I referenced in my most recent post. Philmusic, you might find the article interesting, take a look online and no, nothing that I wrote was manipulated or taken out of context. And spurious – hardly! And I wasn’t attacking atonality, just posting some research.
    Curious as to why you are so defensive.

    The reason why reading about the
    biology of music intrigues me is that it looks at music through the lens of science. This topic fascinates me.

    For example, I love the sound of bagpipes and yet, when my husband hears bagpipies, he wants to head for the hills!!
    I am not Scottish, it is not part of my culture, but I love that mournful sound.
    What happens in my brain that makes me love that sound, while my husband hates it? He tells me it sounds “wrong” to him. Why? And isn’t that the same problem new music composers face, they feel they are writing beautiful music, but all the general public hears is cacophony. Science may or may not have some answers…

    A question I’d like to throw out to everyone, though I play classical piano, my background is actually jazz, so I’m not used to this war about tonal vs. atonal composers. That seems like such a dead topic from the Seventies or Eighties and yet, whoa! I’ve seen on other forums, composers going INSANE we’re talking World War 3!!!, over this issue. Also, I don’t live in New York City, so could someone tell me what is downtown vs. uptown music? Do composers now slam each other over zip codes? What is this? I ask most respectfully, what the hell is going on here? Thanks!

    Reply
  42. philmusic

    “And I wasn’t attacking atonality, just posting some research. Curious as to why you are so defensive. ..And isn’t that the same problem new music composers face, they feel they are writing beautiful music, but all the general public hears is cacophony. ”

    HHmmmm. Well your generalizations seem to be attacking atonality. Are we being a might disingenuous?

    Reply
  43. philmusic

    “The reason why general audiences are turned off to modern music, is because in the words of a friend who hates most new modern music, “I feel like I’m listening to a math problem, instead of listening to music.

    …no composer bashing”

    I see its not you but your “friend” who is aggressive. Your post is so unspecific you, I’m sorry your “friend” could be attacking anything.

    No composer bashing… Really!

    Reply

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