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Anonymous
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'Progressive' View of Western Music History new
      #1026111 - 28/12/12 05:35 PM
I was talking to some classical musicians about repertoire, about why there's a main focus on just a few composers. It seems there is a widespread belief that a handful of composers 'sum up' the musical Zeitgeist of each 'era'.

This is a very strange concept to me, as though music were like technology, where each development renders prior inventions almost obsolete.

The idea suggests that we don't need to waste time with Hummel, for example, because it's all there in Chopin, or perhaps only listen to Frescobaldi for a historical perspective, because it's all there in J.S. Bach.

Surely, these were just human beings expressing themselves and exploring their own specific musical avenues. Is there something within human (language-thought) logic that leads us astray?

I understand what Virginia Woolf meant when she wrote: “...for masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”

But, I think each individual's personal 'gamut' is more interesting than the historical position or genre. I take much delight in hearing and getting to know a composer's voice, and long to revisit them like a private sound-world (in the same way I also get addicted to certain pieces of music before I've consciously digested them).

Also, I was listening to Frescobaldi recently, and although you can certainly concentrate on the influence he had on J.S Bach if you wish, there's are many interesting avenues that Frescobaldi explored that Bach didn't (simply because Bach was focussing on the then relatively new and fruitful multi-tonal major-minor duality approach rather than on the subtleties of modal writing).

I do think the information age is helping to blow this concept to smitherines (why people like me can access Frescobaldi) but the classical repertoire still seems to be fixated on performing two composers from each era...

J.S Bach/Handel, Haydn/Mozart, Schubert/Beethoven, Schumann/Chopin, Brahms/Wagner, (or more rarely) Schoenberg/Webern

...with exceptions mainly for piano competitions (e.g. Liszt and Rachmaninov), opera (Tchaikovsky and Verdi), orchestral works considered to be exceptional (Mahler and Stravinsky), and other iconic pieces (Elgar, Straus, Mendelssohn, etc).


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Daniel Davis



Joined: 10/03/06
Posts: 873
Loc: Edinburgh
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1027824 - 09/01/13 09:22 PM
I think you'll find this is the attitude of classic fm and the like, but very definitely NOT the attitude of classical musicians and educated listeners.

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Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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Gone To Lunch
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Joined: 11/06/04
Posts: 1028
Loc: London
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1027830 - 09/01/13 09:47 PM
You might be interested to read 'The imaginary museum of musical works' by Lydia Goehr
Which explores the idea of how the idea of canonical works are created, thus giving rise to your list of the favoured few...


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Chaconne



Joined: 21/02/05
Posts: 1376
Loc: Oxford
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1028318 - 12/01/13 07:30 PM
I think you can investigate both frameworks at the same time. For example it is fascinating to follow the development of the symphony, and it is hard to argue against the fact that someone like Haydn defintately put more of a stamp on things than say Stamitz - but that is our privaleged historical view.

On the other hand if you listen to C.P.E Bach say, you hear a highly individual voice which would be hard to argue was somehow inferior to anyone, yet he is only regarded by those 'in the know'.

But its like this with all music, radio plays the hits, enthusiasts explore all the nooks and crannies - but it does not mean that the 'generalist' view is of no value either - its fascinating to be able to follow musical development, even if perhaps its a poor substitute for never having been there when Mozart first turned up in London...proably considered a precocious annoyance for many working composers at the time!

But the O.P is correct in respect of appreciating the less well known without thinking of those that cast them into shadow because all of them that are worht listening to had something to say in thier own right. Its just unfortunate that some artists are born when the ground has been dug, allowing them to perhpas unfairly pull together all the best ideas for themselves!

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DC-Choppah



Joined: 20/07/12
Posts: 352
Loc: MD, USA
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1030299 - 25/01/13 12:26 AM
Quote Anonymous:

I was talking to some classical musicians about repertoire, about why there's a main focus on just a few composers. It seems there is a widespread belief that a handful of composers 'sum up' the musical Zeitgeist of each 'era'.





I don't buy it. When I go see the National Symphony in DC and they are doing something from a lesser known composer, fewer people show up. I think they learn to program the music that people will show up for. So it's the audience driving this, not the choice of the music program material - although that Zeitgeist thing sounds good. But this is OK. I mean, music needs an audience.

The real shame IMHO is that people don't like what modern composers are doing so we are left with listening to good music that we like, - but music from the past.


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Daniel Davis



Joined: 10/03/06
Posts: 873
Loc: Edinburgh
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1030543 - 26/01/13 01:08 PM
Most pieces by composers in the 18th Century or before were only heard by aristocrats, and many pieces by 19th composers that we now consider houshold names weren't even performed in their lifetimes. Thus whilst it is true that more people today go to see old music than new music, it turns out that contemporary music has an audience larger than at any time in history. Many canny orchestras sneak in a little contemporary number programmed together with a Mozart symphony - a little bit of what does you good along with a little bit of what you fancy.

--------------------
Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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tacitus



Joined: 04/02/08
Posts: 963
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History new [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1030635 - 27/01/13 08:55 AM
Thank God for Radio 3 and other stations not dominated by a playlist. It may have dumbed down, but R3 still plays lots of stuff I've never heard before. Also, lots of younger players and orchestras seek out stuff that isn't done so much to give them a bit of individuality. But it's certainly true that programming for full concert halls does limit both the number of composers and the number of their works you get to hear.


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feline1
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Joined: 23/06/03
Posts: 4371
Loc: Brighton, UK
Re: 'Progressive' View of Western Music History [Re: Josif A. Soterίou]
      #1031627 - 01/02/13 04:24 PM

It's basically that "Streets of London" sketch, innit?

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~~~ A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen as you are tossed with! www.feline1.co.uk ~~~


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