What’s My Tune?

Reading fellow composers’ bios is one of my very favorite quasi- professional pastimes. Bios have been the subject of more than a few NewMusicBox screeds, so I’ll leave aside the structural problems necessarily inherent in any hundred-word description of a lifetime of work and study. I’m a simple man: I love nothing more than to curl up with a cup of tea and leaf through some composer websites in search of gold stars and dropped names to smirk at.

The inevitable pedagogical rolls of honor are always a good source of amusement. They represent a veritable playground of suppositions that, in the absence of actually hearing someone’s music, have to stand in for genuinely informed opinions. (It’s sort of like fabricating identities and life stories for people you glimpse on the subway: You’re probably way off, but until you encounter the person for real, it doesn’t matter.) Even if I know and admire the composers listed, I have no qualms about snorting dismissively. Studied with Samuel Adler? East coast automaton! Studied with Roger Reynolds? Staunchly defending a long-passed aesthetic frontier out west! Issuing sweeping and nuance-free generalizations is one of contemporary music’s most hallowed traditions (Studied with Herbert BrĂ¼n?), and as long they’re disclaimed to be completely baseless and frivolous, why not indulge?

Sometimes composers even cite a few of their favorite progenitors in their biographies, which for me is a bottomless mine of comedy gold. This practice is generally no more than a jockeying for aesthetic position, an attempt to stake out a context (or worse, a tradition) in which one’s music is supposed to be understood. I recently saw a bio that listed a clutch of early 20th century composers like Rachmaninov, Ravel, and Debussy alongside the likes of John Adams and Dominick Argento; this is tantamount to admitting that the experiential quality you seek most fervently in a musical experience isn’t a tension against the boundaries of the artistically conceivable, say, or the intricacies of immanent material/formal correspondences, but rather diatonicism. You have to be a little embarrassed for someone like this, someone who (we might assume) reads novels because he likes how paper feels when he touches it. But again, maybe this composer has cultivated some model of deceptively commodity-like counter-hegemony, some theory of the childlike that both reinforces and undermines conventional notions of the beautiful/sublime dichotomy, whereby his affection for diatonic music is expressed in his own work as a mind-opening, stunningly incisive originality.

That’s the other reason I like to read composer bios: It’s fun to scoff mock-pretentiously, but it’s also really enjoyable to speculate about what kind of awesome music someone who underwent the listed experiences might be moved to write.

35 thoughts on “What’s My Tune?

  1. ScottG

    I have to admit, Colin, the last bit of this article completely bewilders me. How have you made the jump that a composer who lists the likes of Debussy and other 100-years-ago composer as an influence must not actually engage in music at all, but be someone who “reads novels because he likes how paper feels when he touches it”? You save it in the end (Holter with the save!) but it still just looks bizarre to me. You seem utterly confused and put off by the fact that someone might be inspired by music other than that of their own time. Really? Is your music informed only by music of the last 50 years? Maybe the last 10 years? What about the omnivorous devouring of all music that Frank and others have put forth here? Is it only okay to devour music written by living people?

    (And, on another note, Debussy? Diatonic? Hardly!)

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  2. philmusic

    Colin:

    I composed an opera titled:

    Leading Opera houses in the United States and Europe.

    This work has two singing parts:

    Major Roles and Prima Donna

    So If you perform my work you can add to your resume:

    Performed Major Roles in Leading Opera houses in the United States and Europe.

    Or the Prima Donna in Leading Opera houses in the United States and Europe.

    Phil Fried–yikkes I hate spell checkers!

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  3. vladimir smirnov

    geez louise colin, you’re one of the most bitter/pissed off new music people i’ve ever encountered or read. You really like to scoff your colleagues whom you’ve never met as a passtime?

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  4. rtanaka

    This ain’t the 1960s, dude. Maybe it served a purpose back then but if you’re still towing the anti-diatonicism line then you’re going to find yourself being left behind. High modernism survived largely because of the Cold War, in reaction to the Soviet Union’s representational realism. Now that we’re moving into a new era of globalization you’re going to see the aesthetics of the nation move in a very different direction.

    It’s debatable whether or not high modernism really “challenged” the status quo, since it has and always has served a political purpose for special interest groups. (We just didn’t know about it until relatively recently, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.) But even if it did on some level it should be obvious by now that the aesthetic has largely already been integrated into mainstream society. The latest Batman movie is a good example of this — that style has always been great for exemplifying a type of psychological neurosis, because in a lot of ways that’s what the music is about.

    I can’t really tell if your post was meant to be ironic or what, because some of the things you say are inconsistent with itself. But then again that’s one of the trademarks of the avant-garde to begin with — self-contradiction, double-standards, inconsistency in form.

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  5. colin holter

    You seem utterly confused and put off by the fact that someone might be inspired by music other than that of their own time. Really? Is your music informed only by music of the last 50 years?

    Absolutely not, and in fact I think that intimacy with old music might be a more important ingredient in a developing composer’s formation than familiarity with the newest and shiniest. However, my objection to the bio I saw isn’t the love of old music – I’d have to include the names of Rameau, Ives, and Verdi alongside more recent ones if you asked me to cite my models – but rather that the Venn diagram of turn-of-the-century impressionism and present-day neoromanticism seems only to overlap at a very superficial place, namely the way that the harmonies sound. If this composer had claimed Ravel and Debussy on the one hand and Grisey and Vivier on the other, say, or Adams and Daugherty on the one hand and some arch-conservative late-Romantic composers we’ve never heard of on the other, I’d have a lot more regard for the name-checking, because these pairings seem to me to say a lot more about a) the places these composers occupied in their worlds and b) the priorities that they brought to their musical explorations.

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  6. vladimir smirnov

    diatonicism
    I would say it is superficial to see the only possible overlap of several diatonic composers in the diatonicism.

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  7. colin holter

    I would say it is superficial to see the only possible overlap of several diatonic composers in the diatonicism.

    I wouldn’t say that Terry Riley and Erik Satie are connected only via diatonicism, or Haydn and Mahler, or Schubert and Laurence Crane, to name a truly kick-ass living composer of diatonic music. If you’re so intent on waving this flag, could you cite a few nontrivial qualities that French impressionists and current American neoromanticists have in common? Seriously, please take a crack at it – as I said in my original post, it could be a great jumping-off point for genuinely inventive musical speculation.

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  8. Lisa X

    It might be fun to scoff Colin, but if you ever attempt at making a living making music you might regret all this mocking. Personally I have no more shame about ridiculous bios, one-sheets, or press shots. If anything I study them trying to figure out how to make mine more affective. I figure the better those work the more I can concentrate on music.

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  9. vladimir smirnov

    well i’m pretty bad at venn diagrams or technical terminology, but i would definitely say that there is a quality to the sound of american neo-romanticism that mirrors french impressionism very strongly. I think if you compare either one to other diatonic styles you can notice a sensibility that the two share that is not present in the others and this sensibility is not just the pitch structure.

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  10. rtanaka

    It might be fun to scoff Colin, but if you ever attempt at making a living making music you might regret all this mocking.

    Then again, you’ll never make it in this biz without a thick skin so you might as well get used to it. Anonymous internet criticism is probably the last thing people should be worrying about.

    It can go both ways too. It takes 5 seconds to look up his name to get to his website, only to find out that he’s doing some of the very same things he’s criticizing. So I don’t know if he was trying to be ironic or he really just doesn’t realize it?

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  11. gregrobincomposer

    “This ain’t the 1960s, dude. Maybe it served a purpose back then but if you’re still towing the anti-diatonicism line then you’re going to find yourself being left behind. High modernism survived largely because of the Cold War, in reaction to the Soviet Union’s representational realism. Now that we’re moving into a new era of globalization you’re going to see the aesthetics of the nation move in a very different direction.”

    I always find the globalization argument an interesting one. Am I to assume that eventually all this “lovely” cross fertilization culture absorption creates a better art. At one point all races ad cultures will dissolve into a unified whole and this is progress. Beethoven is no more apart of mainstream society than Colin. I think we ought to forget being left behind as anti-progressives tote the party line. Plus diatonicism and tonality are not the same thing. I do not think Colin is in danger of being left behind. History has a strange way of rebuking popular opinion, mass culture, and as we see in the global market a unified crash of entire systems. Long live the flat earth. That was global wasn’t it?

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  12. rtanaka

    You can distinguish tonality from diatonicism in that tonality is a Western idea, as with a-tonality, which is a reaction against itself. Diatonicism usually refers to music that is based on a collection of pitches — scales or modes — which is inclusive of many of the world’s cultures, including folk and jazz. And therein lies the possibility of creating a commonality between differing cultures.

    I think we’ve reached a point where political labels don’t really mean much of anything anymore because it really just depends on how you define the meaning of “progress”. What has always bothered me about high-modernism was that it never really bothered to define an objective for what it was doing or was trying to do, which is why phrases like “art for art’s sake” became a common expression around those circles. It sort of had this sort of pretentious attitude that the freedom and expression of the composer was of the utmost importance while the rules and laws didn’t apply to them because what they were doing was so damned important.

    Take that attitude of individualized self-entitlement and see if you can draw correlations to what has happened to the United States during the last 8 years. It’s not too far of a stretch by any means, really, but a lot of composers were giving legitimacy to that sort of thing even though it was probably unintentional. But that ideology has now collapsed on itself both economically and politically, so change is inevitable. What exactly is going to happen I don’t know, but whatever it is I doubt it’s going to be based on music that defines itself based on what it’s not.

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  13. pgblu

    I think we’ve reached a point where political labels don’t really mean much of anything anymore because it really just depends on how you define the meaning of “progress”. What has always bothered me about high-modernism was that it never really bothered to define an objective for what it was doing or was trying to do, which is why phrases like “art for art’s sake” became a common expression around those circles..*snip*
    Political labels don’t really mean much… but labels like “high-modernism” do? Can you name a “high-modernist” and then tell me where exactly he or she didn’t explain what they were trying to do? You are just as guilty of using meaningless labels as anyone else.

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  14. eaj

    Ryan, can you really sit there with a straight face and claim that, say, Pierre Boulez (who I assume you would agree is a “high modernist”) “never really bothered to define an objective for what [he] was doing or was trying to do”??!!

    What, then, is your explanation for those several books’ worth of writings?

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  15. IanPace

    Quote: ‘High modernism survived largely because of the Cold War, in reaction to the Soviet Union’s representational realism.’

    This is becoming a mantra repeated by many simply on the grounds of its familiarity. Could you give any evidence, specifically in the case of music, that this was the case (evidence over and above the fact that the likes of Richard Taruskin and Alex Ross claim it)?

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  16. rtanaka

    Political labels are less meaningful nowadays mostly because of the neo-conservative/liberal movement which thankfully is now largely defunct. An old-school liberal might argue against corporate hegemony for example, citing damages that it has done to labor and the environment. On the other hand, multinational corporations are the primary reason why globalization exists today because they opened up trade relationships throughout the world that grew beyond national borders. Hollywood often gets criticized for being “conservative”, yet the majority of people working within those mediums tend to lean left. So who’s the conservative and who’s progressive, really?

    High-modernism, on the other hand, refers to a fairly specific aesthetic that had the most influence during the 50s and 60s in what’s now known as the avant-garde. You can tell that the ideology still holds sway in New Music circles because there are still many who use the same rhetoric now that they did back then — being staunchly against diatonicism being one of them. I’m not trying to pigeon-hole anybody in particular here, but if people are going choose to argue the merits of music based on criteria that resemble previous movements, then it’s kind of hard not to draw connections.

    I don’t really care what style people decide to write in (I like Elliott Carter’s music for example) but more than ever I think it’s becoming a necessity for musicians to be able to articulate what they’re trying to achieve through their work. Otherwise there’s really no way to assess whether or not a piece of music succeeds or fails or if it’s deserving of government or institutional funding. What people want is greater transparency, that’s all…”art for art’s sake” doesn’t really cut it anymore.

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  17. jonrussell20

    “This practice is generally no more than a jockeying for aesthetic position, an attempt to stake out a context (or worse, a tradition) in which one’s music is supposed to be understood.” That’s an awfully cynical position to take! Who says the composer necessarily has such crass ulterior motives – maybe they are simply, honestly listing the music that inspires them without trying to make any particular claims about anything. That’s what I do in my bio. And if the music a composer most loves happens to be French impressionism and American neo-romanticism, so what? Why not let the audience know that? Why the need to be so judgmental? Stop worrying about what other people are doing so much and just write the music you want to write.

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  18. colin holter

    That’s an awfully cynical position to take!

    You’re right. I don’t mean to insinuate that every composer who lists his or her top five is engaged in a calculated, mercenary campaign of self-aggrandizement. However, I do think that citing one’s influences contributes to the construction of identity that necessarily takes place in bios, and I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find a composer whose named favorites weren’t selected in part to project a certain “brand” (in a loose sense of the word). I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; maybe your hands are totally clean of such marketing strategery.

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  19. rtanaka

    The problem with a lot of the rhetoric of the avant-garde is that what they’ve said more often than not contradicts what they were doing so their “explanations” tend to be argumentatively weak. There was this idea of “removing the composer from the process” argued by both the integral serialists and Cage but that’s obviously bunk because they’ve still hung onto the practice of authorship — i.e. putting your name on the work.

    There’s also the obvious contradictions involved when artists try to say that their work is about “free-expression”, “rugged individualism”, “going against the grain”, when they’re being generously supported by government and patron money while holding cushy jobs at prestigious institutions.

    So while there may be explanations, when you apply a little bit of common sense and logic everything turns into an absurdity. This bothered me for a very long time but when you think of it in the context of the Cold War everything finally begins to make sense. If you’re looking for more evidence about the ties of the Cold War with modern music, there’s lots of books written about the subject — one major one is Who Paid the Piper!?: CIA and the Cultural War which is not music specific but entertaining and informative nonetheless. Or simply look up “Congress of Cultural Freedom” on Google. The CIA even admits that they did it, which is pretty surprising considering its the CIA.

    So you might notice that the years avant-garde music was the most prominent correlates directly with the years the Congress of Cultural Freedom was in operational effect. The CIA openly admits that they were covertly funding abstract expressionism and the New York School painters, therefore by extension, a lot of the composers affiliated with the experimental music tradition. What’s relatively unknown right now are the details of who and how, but the fact that it has happened is already an established fact so I’m guessing that will come with more research.

    I just think that enough time has passed since in that we should be able to look at that era with a sober eye and not get sucked into the self-glorified narrative of history that the artists have written for themselves. We need opinions from people outside (like musicologists and art historians) of our field who can give us an objective assessment of our work. The Cold War explanation makes a lot more sense to me than the “those guys were so awesome!” narrative.

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  20. pgblu

    Forgive me if I’m wrong.
    but I believe Ryan’s last comment, being an only slightly less tortured re-wording of the previous one, shows that he has decided not to respond to the other participants. Might be best to look elsewhere for something resembling an actual conversation.

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  21. rtanaka

    NewMusicBox has started moderating the boards, which means that the comments are updated only periodically. My last comment was submitted before I even knew of the previous ones, but I hope the last one answers some of them.

    Either way, I’m willing to talk about any subject and defend any of my points if needed. You asked for a definition of high-modernism and I gave it to you based on what I know from the literature. As far as I can tell the term is well-defined and is commonly accepted among academic circles and you might disagree with my assessment of it but the definition itself should be non-controversial. If you disagree, I’d like to hear what your ideas of it are.

    I’ve also had the problem of having my posts censored probably because a lot of it was drifting too off topic. So please keep that in mind because I can’t possibly address every single point by every single person here without the discussion going off into space. (One of the reasons why I haven’t been around here much lately.) Please be specific if you want certain things answered.

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  22. pgblu

    My post was also not in reaction to the one just above it, but to one further up… your penultimate post made mine irrelevant.

    I don’t actually have a problem with the term high-modernism. What I had a problem with is the notion that high-modernism is less problematic than the word neo-conservative as a label. Believe it or not, these words do mean something, but their meaning may change in different contexts. Hollywood is both liberal and conservative. The actors embrace liberal causes (for the most part) for the sake of their public persona, and the movies are relatively conservative in their use of form, plot, etc.

    The other thing I object to is your allegation that high-modernists make no effort to explain their intentions. Could you clarify what you mean by this? Cage, Stockhausen, Boulez, Carter, Babbitt, have all taken great pains to make their intentions clear. Whether what they say is understood, and whether what we hear in their music corresponds with and justifies what they say — well, that is a very different matter and is open to discussion.

    What a composer, or any artist, high-modernist or otherwise, says about their work should never be accepted uncritically. It is no more than a starting point (one of many valid ones) for engaging with the work at hand, should one wish to do so. Needless to say, should one not wish to do so, that is one’s prerogative as a listener. My teaching, however, is predicated on the fact that students must be willing to engage critically with music, both ‘on their own terms’ and ‘on the composer’s terms’, including music that they find objectionable. I would find it silly to try and foist such standards on the general populace, however.

    I think it’s easy to see how this position can be distorted to make me look elitist. I ‘shove music down their throats’, I hold students to a different standard than ‘average’ listeners, etc. But I don’t have much time for music that is written with the specialist listener in mind. The only music I ever cared about was music that was ‘for everyone’ even if not everyone cared for it or wanted it.

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  23. rtanaka

    Okay, I see what you’re saying. Maybe I exaggerated a little when I said that they didn’t bother explaining what they were doing. That’s actually not true.

    But I think the question that tend to get overlooked is whether or not their methods were effective in creating the type of change that they were looking for, and if it did, how did it manifest itself into society? And were these changes positive or negative, and for whom? These are questions that musicologists look into, but it’s fairly rare to see composers talk about their work in this way. It’s difficult, because we’d all like to think that everything we do is a success, but unfortunately that can’t always true.

    Boulez’s arguments on music, for example, often resemble the ideas from French philosophers at the time (Deluze, Derrida) in that they were interested in challenging the hegemony of language through typographical experimentation. This lead to all kinds of works that had strange uses of punctuation, syntax, and wordings in order to keep the reader “on their toes”. This may have been its intention, but a by-product that came out of that was a culture where it was no longer necessary for the composer to be clear with their intensions, which is perfect for politics shrouded in secrecy.

    The reason why I draw a connection from neo-conservatism to high-modernism is because many of their ideas are actually fairly similar. Both John Cage and Ronald Reagan were admirers of Henry David Thoreau, for example, and they both lived in LA. Say, if you take Cage’s ardent individualism and the idea of not “worrying about the outcome” and apply that attitude to a Wall-Street banker, what do you get? The last 8 years. Political rivals often have more in common than they are different.

    No matter how thorny or angular or atonal or complex a piece of music might be, you can’t really expect it to serve as a critique of society unless its underlying ideas actually offer an alternative to what’s already there. I think it’s a mistake to assume that writing atonal music is in itself a subversive act, whereas writing diatonic music is just pandering to the masses’ complacency, especially since the former has already been integrated into the mainstream. Folk musics can be pretty subversive in their defiance of mainstream culture as well, although it’s coming from a different world.

    So again, I think there needs to be an awareness on the part of the composer of where their music stands in the bigger picture of things. The world is big enough to accommodate a wide variety of musics, but with the world becoming more complex, there’s a need for musicians to be more specific with what they’re trying to accomplish in their work.

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  24. ScottG

    If this composer had claimed Ravel and Debussy on the one hand and Grisey and Vivier on the other, say, or Adams and Daugherty on the one hand and some arch-conservative late-Romantic composers we’ve never heard of on the other, I’d have a lot more regard for the name-checking, because these pairings seem to me to say a lot more about a) the places these composers occupied in their worlds and b) the priorities that they brought to their musical explorations.

    See, for me, the point of listing influences in your bio (a practice in which I personally do not engage, but have done in program notes) is to show the diversity of your influences, the varied nature of material from which you draw inspiration. To give an example:

    Were I to do such a thing, I would probably list both Richard Strauss and Arvo Part as influences on my music. Yes, they overlap because of their diatonicism. And yes, they have not very much in common, perhaps similar to how you’ve criticized the bio in question.

    But this, to me, is the point. I get very different inspiration from these two composers, inspiration that is (by the way) pretty much entirely unrelated to their diatonicism. I reference Strauss (in part) because of my deep love of sweeping dramatic gestures, huge waves of harmony that overwhelm in their lushness. And I reference Part (in part) because of his unadorned musical ideas, the way in which he is willing to leave a simple idea how it is, not messing with it.

    These are both very real influences on me, with fairly little in common with each other, but both contributing things that affect my musical output. And yes, they have diatonicism in common, but in neither case is that the reason why I admire them. Does that make sense to you? Perhaps this helps you get inside the mind of a composer like the one whose bio you perused?

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  25. colin holter

    Does that make sense to you? Perhaps this helps you get inside the mind of a composer like the one whose bio you perused?

    It does. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  26. mdwcomposer

    Hey Colin – do you find that knowing which performers are listed on a composer’s website as having played that composer’s works give you any insight on what the music sounds like?

       —
    Mark Winges

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  27. philmusic

    Artistic trends change and folks always find a way to show the rightness of this change. Especially if they like the new trend better.

    That politics was partially responsible for the “artificial” support of non-tonal music seems plausible. Arnold Schoenberg as the”godfather” forcing those other composers to “sleep with da fishes” is not.

    In either case this misses a much more important story.

    Over the last decade American capitalism has abandoned any pretense of caring for the American worker – its not like their going to go out become communists are they?

    The unintended results of the fall of communism is this:

    The benevolence and artistic liberalism of American capitalism is revealed to be a sham. Jettisoned as soon as its not needed.

    Why should the support serial or any difficult art be any different?

    Phil Fried

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  28. colin holter

    do you find that knowing which performers are listed on a composer’s website as having played that composer’s works give you any insight on what the music sounds like?

    Yes – and in fact I think that knowing which players have worked with a composer actually does say a lot about the composer. Whereas the student generally chooses the teacher, the performer generally chooses the composer, so I often interpret a performer’s name as an endorsement of sorts.

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  29. Johnny Schicchi

    I’d be interested in seeing you post on this phrase:

    …the experiential quality you seek most fervently in a musical experience isn’t a tension against the boundaries of the artistically conceivable, say…

    You hold that up as one possible way to listen to and, I’m assuming by extension, compose music. Do you find that experiential quality even possible in this (post-)post-Modern era? When was the last time you listened to a new work that created a “tension against the boundaries of the artistically conceivable”?

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  30. colin holter

    Do you find that experiential quality even possible in this (post-)post-Modern era? When was the last time you listened to a new work that created a “tension against the boundaries of the artistically conceivable”?

    I absolutely do find it possible – and I heard a few pieces by Dror Feiler at the Huddersfield Festival a few months back that I would describe in exactly these terms, to furnish an example.

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  31. Johnny Schicchi

    Dror Feiler isn’t doing anything new. Search “Keiji Haino Yamatsuka eye John Zorn” to hear John Zorn’s “tension” against the same boundary. I’m sure other readers could come up with similar examples of music that sound empirically similar to Feiler or were created in the same spirit of “noise as art.”

    I think creating a “tension against the boundaries of the artistically conceivable” would be incredibly difficult today after a century of the Moderns and Post-Moderns vigorously exploiting the landscape of musical invention. I would be quite surprised to witness an artistic concept that wasn’t already breached by them. Dror Feiler is definitely doing something fresh and different than John Zorn, but I wouldn’t call it pushing a new boundary. He’s doing his thing in an area previously explored. Does he need to do anything more?

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  32. colin holter

    Dror Feiler isn’t doing anything new.

    Have you ever heard a Feiler performance firsthand? I’m familiar with Zorn’s work, and the “noise vs. music” boundary they’ve both investigated isn’t the aspect of Feiler’s music I’m talking about when I say “tension against the conceivable.” What I am talking about is something that can’t be conveyed by high-end audio reproduction, let alone streamed audio: The sensory context that Feiler creates, and the events that he fills that context with, provide an experience that I wouldn’t have thought possible (or “conceivable”) unless I’d been through it. I’ve never had a comparable reaction to Zorn’s music, which has always struck me as the result of thinking roughly half as hard as he probably should be about the cultural issues he proposes to address.

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  33. Johnny Schicchi

    Have you ever heard a Feiler performance firsthand?

    No, I haven’t, but I have been to live performances of other works that have created sensory contexts and then subsequently filled those contexts with amazing things, albeit nothing beyond the boundaries of the artistically conceivable. But that’s a subjective description of an individual experience, isn’t it…

    Perhaps if you could describe to me in musical terms what makes Feiler worthy of being called a pioneer, I could better understand.

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  34. colin holter

    Perhaps if you could describe to me in musical terms what makes Feiler worthy of being called a pioneer, I could better understand.

    First, let me stress that I’m not sure I’m calling him a “pioneer” – I don’t think the significance of his music lies so much in the fact that it is new but rather in the ways it produced a listening experience that was, for me, entirely new and, more importantly, represented an authentic perspective on the present.

    So, in musical terms, what made that such an impression on me? I saw two of his pieces, both probably about an hour in length (maybe a bit longer), and in both cases I was unable to walk straight after the concert due to the pressure on my inner ear. This in itself is not necessarily a musical virtue, and indeed it would have been simply annoying if Feiler hadn’t developed a really ingenious way of “inverting” musical texture – imagine if the negative space on a spectrogram were the positive space instead. The striations and fissures in that full spectrogram became, in a sense, the material of the pieces. This is to say nothing of the staging, the theatrics, and Feiler’s own terrifying stage presence.

    I mean this in the most non-adversarial way possible, but until you witness one of Feiler’s pieces in the flesh, I don’t think we can fruitfully continue this conversation. I say this because I’ve heard a lot of noisy music and I wouldn’t have believed that this could be so different unless I’d really been there, so I can’t expect you to. I’ll have to ask you to take my word for it.

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  35. jchang4

    I snickered when I read your bio. Take that! J/K

    It’s hard to say what makes a good bio. I tend to like the one’s that are different in some way. [Like, "composer and model"? Cool ;) ] But once I see a laundry list sentence I’m completely turned off. Studied with such and such people, won so and so prizes, performed in these places with these orchestras.. These are all great accomplishments, but, honestly.. sooo many bios read like that. And, most significantly, they don’t really say anything about the music. Funnily enough, it’s when you try to say something about the music that the snickering usually starts. I think that’s a big part of the reason why it’s so much more difficult for sound artists. You need the sound in order to really get it. Unless you’re Alex Ross and you’ve got an uncanny way with words or something ;)

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