Where will music go?

October 10, 2004 at 11:26 PM · The recent thread on composing got me thinking. All the great composers I can think of (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Wagner etc. impossible to list here) wrote music that utilised tradition in some respects but broke 'rules' and evolved the compositional style used up to that day. They often shocked audiences with what was then considered their modernity, yet today they are considered classics. So to make a composer great, or at least worth listening to, do they have to say something new? Does their music have to reflect the current 'style' while building on it, and thus making the whole writing of music evolve in some respect? Or does our culture today now mean that any evolution is unlikely to influence future generations, or even be noticed?

It seems to me that composition today has reached such a state of freedom that it seems there are no limits to what counts as music (even a couple of minutes of silence seems to count now). So where does a composer start? Has every possibility in composition been exhausted?

Replies (53)

October 11, 2004 at 03:11 AM · Interesting thread, Carl! If I assume (may I?) for the moment that you're referring to the future of Western classical music, I wouldn't be surprised if composition didn't make more of the conventions of Eastern music, with different scales, quarter-tones and so on. If we look back at the last twenty years or so of popular music, reggae was in the mainstream while the more innovative artists such as Kate Bush and, more recently, Jeff Buckley were experimenting with Bulgarian and Indian music respectively. Here in the UK today, the influence of Asian culture, and Bollywood specifically, is everywhere. I for one would be interested to see a more cosmopolitan face of classical music also.

October 11, 2004 at 05:23 AM · I really see the need for more exciting music, that every note has a purpose. As a whole, we need to do that and crank out 100% quality material before we start experimenting with quarter tones and such.

I don't see much of it happening besides orchestral movie and video game music. Anything by Nobuou Uematsu(of the final fantasy series) is top notch. I just wish there would be more of music that is like that.


paste that into your browser, and go to filefront server #4. dont worry, its completely legitimate.

Its just an idea of the type of music I would like to hear constantly. I like to take it up a notch and listen to 100% quality music. There are tons of more examples, but I just pulled that one out. I can't stand writing bland music and whenever I start doing that I start over.

Just because there is better music out there pushes me to try to get to that level and not just merely make harmony.

October 11, 2004 at 06:05 AM · Ed, I like this music too very-very much, especially from Final Fantazy 7.

October 12, 2004 at 04:49 AM · In order for me to appreciate a piece I think it must stick in my head after the first listening. Or at least one or two of the themes have to otherwise I don't feel the composer is saying too much.

The direction I think classical composition has gone is extremely disturbing. There is such a freedom and liberty now with a lot of these new composers. They show such a gratuitous disregard towards time and harmony. I certainly hope there are more possibilities to writing new good music which audiences can enjoy listening to.

October 11, 2004 at 06:50 AM · Yes Sue, I was referring to the future of Western classical music.

The integration of music from other cultures has surely been tried before (Ligeti springs to mind) but perhaps not exhaustively. The question is, are you then adulterating the original?

I bring this up because I myself am beginning to do some composition... and I can't bring myself to write atonal music.


October 11, 2004 at 10:16 AM · Carl - I can understand exactly what you mean - I can't bring myself to write anything atonal either!

I enjoy where certain movie music and game music has gone recently - I especially liked the music in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and to the Final Fantasy games.

But as to your question about possibilities in composition being exhausted i'm not sure. My initial thought is that it can't be (it might not be a possibility that you or I might particularly like) but i struggle to find a new angle on (Western?) classical music myself when i'm composing. Somebody somewhere will bring something to the table one day that may well change everyones ideas - i just hope its me that does!!! (Although I severly doubt it will be)

October 11, 2004 at 10:58 AM · IN each style of music, there are three stages within the style. For example, there is the experimentation, where people set up what is happening for the rest of the period. They show what trend people are taking, what direction the music is moving etc. Then there is the Consolidation where the composers use what has been done already and use it to tell people that this is what is prominent, and this is what you can do with it. Works in this period are usually a bit better than in the experimentation because alot of the work in establishing the style has already been done. Then comes the golden age - where many of the great works are composed. Here all the style guidelines have already been set up, and parts of the next style are starting to creep in.

If you look at every style of music that we have defined, you have the composers at the start that write good pieces, but are nothing in comparison to the great composers at the end of the age. We are currently in what we have called 20th Century Music, but really it is a bit misleading, because I feel that we haven't had the great works meaning that we're not ready to move onto the next style. Sure there have been some good works, and some commendable works, but no truely great works that have cemented their place on our orchestral performance schedules like the Beethoven Symphonies or The works by the great russian composers. Therefore we shouldn't be calling it 20th Century, but Experimental, or Second Rennaisance (sp?) as we are extending our musical knowledge, experimenting in every aspect of music to get a better understanding.

Don't like where some people have taken music? Don't go there then. You should compose music that you yourself would want to listen to, and would want to perform. If you don't like the crazy works that have no melody, then write a melody. If you don't like the works that make no logical sense, then write a logical work. No-one is telling you what you have to write. All you are doing is writing down your emotions, your ideas, what you want to hear, what you want performed. If you are being true to yourself, then that is all that matters.

October 11, 2004 at 12:07 PM · Carl, I think the answer to your question has to be sought in the philosophy of music. One of the guiding ideas of classicism is that music is a universal language. Composers such as Haydn and Mozart were influenced by Enlightenment ideals of abstract, universal humanity (the Mensch in German). The tonal system, w/ its clean galante style, would seem to be this universal language. It was their way of making "world music". After Goethe and Schiller's early Sturm und Drang period, a somewhat different idea developed (although it was arguably not lacking earlier because folk elements have been traced in Haydn and Mozart's works too): universality could be attained through particularity. In other words, w/in Germanness, Frenchness, Italianness, etc. there was at bottom a common humanity. This is what Wagner, for all the nationalistic Germanness on the surface, believed. The ring presents a complex set of archetypes, but they are not exclusively Germanic, they are supposed to be universal. But to get to that universal archetype you would have to live through the experience of being German, French, Italian, etc. So the opposition between classic and romantic is not so great as it is made to seem. Both seek the universal, but the romantic considers particular/ethnic experience to be unavoidable and actually necessary to achieve the universal.

W/ modernist aesthetics, there is a radical difference, because there is a political ideology of revolution being assumed, which comes from the French revolution. The idea is that art is not an organic development of pre-established forms. Creativity is not imitation of a natural order. The creative act is, on the contrary, the destruction of the old order and the establishment of a new order. The greater the destruction, so much more "creative" you will be. The revolution will "liberate" humanity from its shackles, and so we will attain universality. All will be equal, free and brothers.

In short, a classical composer preserves tradition and develops its forms. A romantic is intermediate, w/ moderate revolutionary tendencies. The modernist is something of an iconoclast and tries to create a completely new musical order.

Perhaps all types of composer are necessary. But I think that while there is the risk of stagnation w/ the classical attitude, if everybody wants to be a modernist, then there will be so many personal revolutions that musical life itself will become chaotic and atomized. And then there is the public. In a multicultural society, there are no clear standards. The particular or ethnic surface is maximized and the challenge of world music is to find a core universal humanity somewhere in there.

October 11, 2004 at 04:49 PM · Ben and Tristan,

Thanks for your enlightening responses, I greatly enjoyed reading them.


October 11, 2004 at 05:12 PM · It seems to me that during the 20th century, there was an idea that compositions that were "derivative," based on old ideas of tonality and form, were not as legitimate creations as those that broke new ground. I love a lot of 20th century, even some out-there stuff. And yet, I still feel that some of those "experiments" were so far removed from human expression and communication that they simply will not stick in our evolving language of music. I see a return to tonality, for sure, and perhaps to a warmer mode of expression.

October 11, 2004 at 11:11 PM · Rita, that is the type of music I strive to achieve.

If anybody has composed bland music before and was proud of it, please tell me why one would deliberately do such things(besides study and teaching purposes).

October 12, 2004 at 01:27 AM · Ed, that's great, that you know what music you want to write and HOW to do it... and you WILL reach the high point in composing field, I'm sure. Please, let us know about your new works. I read Ben's response and he is right in everything. That's why his own music exercises sound really interesting and understandable. Good luck!

October 12, 2004 at 02:06 AM · Ed, I very much doubt whether any of us have gone out of our way to compose bland music... However, how many of us can truthfully say we've never recognised our own bland compositions in retrospect? I'm thinking of those first ham-fisted experiments with I, IV and V, you know the ones:)

I tried pasting the above link in, but couldn't play the music. Any suggestions?

October 13, 2004 at 10:17 PM · Sue,

I think the link updates every week. Try searching

"one winged angel .mp3" and look around, and as always, make sure you got a pop-up blocker and anti-spyware before you go around roaming the net without a definite goal.

October 14, 2004 at 08:28 PM · I think that western classical has had its peak, and produced some of finest music. But I think its time to move on to a more world perspective, and start using thoughts, ideals, harmonies, scales systems from around the world, particulary in the eastern region. For example, there is such a deep meaning in indian classical music, it just takes time and a little understanding. I would like to see a more universal classical music, instead of just western classical. Whatever the current trend in classical, I don't know it changes every five minutes, and most of the time makes no sense, I just don't feel that it reaches people, if classical music is to thrive it needs to reach people, I think many of the modern composers have gone too far, its pretty bad when even most classical musicians despise it.

October 15, 2004 at 08:20 AM · Tristan's post induced me to do a little research, and a bit more thinking.

I read recently that Wagner's Tristan und Isolde was partly written as a reaction to Schopenhauer's 'Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung' - particularly the claim that lust and fulfillment were self-contradictory. So great music seems to be often inspired by the sentiment, or even philosophy of the times - I think that Beethoven's 'Eroica' is perhaps another example of this.

But what is today's philosophy? What is today's sentiment? Most of the population today wouldn't understand Beethoven's late quartets without having to learn a lot about music first - something a lot of them can't be bothered to do when pop music is more accessable to them. Most 'western art music' written today is inaccessable even to a lot of thorughly trained musicians! Is there even a consistent and universal philosphy that it is possible to express in art today, and still be universally understood?


(PS. Why do all my posts turn into a series of questions?)

October 16, 2004 at 03:03 AM · your questions got you a star.

this moderation thing is funny.

But anyways, I dont see a direct flow of music anymore. the classical movement is sort of stuck in a time frame...

October 16, 2004 at 04:35 AM · Where will music go? Where is music going? A recent trip to the Canadian Music Centre was a very intriguing experience for me. I'm learning a piece by composer, Sid Robinovitch. It was the compulsory piece for the 1991 E-gre competition. The piece is his reaction to the Persian Gulf War and I've found it a very intriguing, thought provoking work. Not only does it challenge me in musical developement but it challenges me in the general knowledge of the world. I was just over 2 years old when the piece was written and don't remember anything about the time during the war. Learning this piece has gotten me interested in researching the war more and all the political motivations behind it, to help me, hopefully have a better grasp of the work. It's a challenging work for both the listener and performer. It bends notes, uses odd harmonies and chromatic passage work, with severe contrasts between flowing and abrupt, interupted lines.

Classical, contemporary music, I think, is in a neat place right now. Many of today's composers are just as tonal and approachable in sound and harmony to the works of Beethoven and Mozart, while others challenge the listner and the mind. I don't think any one person can truly know exactly how to play a piece based upon it's influences unless we, personally have experienced that object or thing that the piece was written around. Every person will tap into a different emotional side of a work and find something new to breath into a work, even if it's a 300 year old composition that's been played millions of times. That's the beauty of music, everyone can find something...if only a few bars, or beats even, and find something inside themselves that it represents to them, even if the music is out there.

I'm excited about the contemporary music out there these days and look forward to what it might do in the future. What for sure will it do? Where will it go? No one knows, but it's pretty much gaurenteed to excite people, challenge people and make people really wonder and question themselves and their principles be it good or bad.

October 16, 2004 at 11:18 AM · We are in such a rich period of music composition!

There are many styles, and many forms: Tonal and A-tonal. It is my impression that choices are more today, than in yester years.

By going to New Music concerts, one will have the opportunity to hear many contemporary composers, each writing with their own personalities and imagination. I find all forms of high appreciation!

When it comes to Tonal music, I must say there was a long period of time when composing in this style was considered non creative. This is not so any more, as many tonalist composers are emerging, and are continuing to write many beautiful works.

One needs only to avail themselves by attending new music concerts; the excitement is in the discovery!

One contemporary composer with whom I have recently had contact has issued the following response: "Where is music heading? Anywhere you want it to go!" Recently when attending an art exhibit, he noted a strong return to classically styled, realistic painting. The works were very rich. He when on to state that he had a student with whom he was currently working, that composes very much in the 19th century romantic style. He felt this music would hold a great deal of popularity and he further qualified that he felt that this student would become a major composer in the near future. At the same time, he also commended our 20th century works. The modernist composers hold a great deal of imagination in the emotionality of music as it presents an image of modern times. Perhaps modern industrial times are more present in 20th century music, and nature more present in 19th century music. **imo** One need only listen, and allow the sounds to produce the effect in ones mind, to understand the power of each particular style.

In summary: each composition holds a master piece waiting discovery. I feel that Music will continue to grow and thrive in many ways, and will proceed down many diverse paths.

October 16, 2004 at 12:36 PM · Where will music go? Hopefully into the ears of people who appreciate it.

October 16, 2004 at 12:56 PM · I'd like to add something to Tristan Torriani's earlier post, which said:

"In short, a classical composer preserves tradition and develops its forms. A romantic is intermediate, w/ moderate revolutionary tendencies. The modernist is something of an iconoclast and tries to create a completely new musical order."

Coming from a literary background (not that I'm an expert on lit theory) but why was Post-modernism left out? I'd suppose that, as in so many other disciplines, music was also affected by this philosophical movement (if one could call it that).

My addendum to Tristan's elegantly worded philosophical overview would be, "A post-modernist may be any or all of the above, and then some."

Just my two cents :-)

October 16, 2004 at 05:44 PM · Where will it go? or where has it gone?

I attended two college recitals this week. One was the Foghorn String Band, a group composed of a guitarist, banjoist, mandolinist, violinist, and string bassist. It was a great, concert, and I had a rollicking time. The music was fun, the crowd was laughing and clapping along; there was even a temptation to get up and dance. Inbetween pieces, the jokes and anecdotes flew.

The second concert was given by faculty guitarist David Franzen. Everything was quiet, the faces were long and serious, and there was little talking. Franzen was visibly uncomfortable with addressing the audience about the music he was playing. This music was also good, but less involving to someone who wasn't willing to pay attention and listen.

This is a question I have. Is music for amusement, or should it be considered as an art, or is it both? From the reaction of the crowd after the string band's concert, I think they'd come back to hear the group again if it returned to campus at some time in the future. For the guitarist, though, the impression of a 'take it or leave it' atmosphere was quite heavy. And I had the sad impression that most of them would leave it.

I would say from this experience that perhaps music, as an art form, has many new horizons to explore; but as amusement, it's probably maxxed out.

October 20, 2004 at 07:59 AM · We can artificially distinguish three kind of composers .

- The one who wants easily make lot of money and write easy commercial music that please the major part of public.

-The researcher that develops theories and experiments

-The artist who try to convey emotion.

Those three kinds are not exclusive and most composers have at least two of the three salient features.

The light easy commercial music is ephemeral and does'nt lead composer to posterity.

Experimental music might require a long time to be accepted. Artistic,emotionnal music reflects the period and is subject to economy and politics.

It's therefore difficult to predict the music evolution and who will be the great composers

Bach was considerered "old fashion" by his sons and not famous in his time (compared to nowadays)

Mozart had manuscripts returned by editor because they contained to many errors

Berlioz was whistled and so on.

October 20, 2004 at 08:49 PM · This is such a huge question and I wonder how the answer to it should look like. Suppose somebody says: "It's simple, Carl, music is going towards X". What sense would that make? Is it a prediction, some kind of exercise in futurology, or is it an expectation that assumes a certain personal preference, taste, etc. (i.e., music _should_ go in that direction)? There is a distinction between is and ought. In fact, music may become more and more percussive and dance-oriented. That's more of a sociological and historical issue. The "ought" part of the issue is normative. It assumes that art is a regulated "praxis", an activity performed w/in a community w/ shared meaning and background. In the current multicultural and post-modern situation it is not clear at all that art or music must follow any rules, or that our society has any consensual culture that can be taken for granted and function as a backbone for what we would call good taste or common sense. The only common denominator we are committed to is an abstract ideal of liberal democracy, in which individuals enjoy the right of free speech. This is a specifically European ideal, and its effect on the self-understanding of modern artists (from the Romantics on) created a very different situation from that in other civilizations in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, which remained traditional. From this perspective, it's not so much the complexity of the music itself that matters, as the condition of the artist as a creator and an individual. An example: Greek tragedy was initially sung by a choir. Thespis introduced the concept of a protagonist, an individual who has to a degree severed himself from the group and gets special attention from the public, just as a violin soloist does today.

In Europe, education in the arts, in spite of prevailing traditionalism for many centuries, never lost sight of this dimension of individual freedom. Counterpoint was developed because somebody could all of a sudden realize that it was possible to add a note, say, a 3rd above a cantus firmus. The use of such technical discoveries for the purpose of personal expression is significant.

If we ask where is music going, it sounds as if music were autonomous and had a life of its own. If this is true, then we are mere participants and our ability to influence its path may be very limited. The usual analogy would be w/ language. Where is the English language headed to? What happened to Latin? If American speakers adopt ain't as a rule instead of isn't, does that make sense to a Brazilian trying to learn English as a 2nd language? And so on.

Jung had an important theme in his psychology that he called individuation, how an individual becomes himself or herself. This opens still another perspective. The young composer would like to be himself/herself. To do this s/he must distinguish him/herself from "the mass". But the "mass" is made up of self-absorbed individuals. So it becomes a quixotic enterprise to try to conquer the "mass". There is no shared background of meaning, no shared tradition, history or sense of community. There is only the market or academe. The "irony" of our current situation is that although the system ostensibly sought to provide individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness, what we have instead is the opposite, very much as de Tocqueville anticipated.

I hope this is a satisfactory non-answer. It's up to you in the end.

October 20, 2004 at 07:28 PM · Tristan, that was just the kind of answer I was hoping for!

In my opinion, music (generally at least) will not 'develop' because that implies there are still traditions that are yet to be stretched or deviated from. Obviously, if society has reached a point of such freedom, people are free to write any kind of music they want.

I was reading Schoenberg's 'The Fundamentals of Musical Composition' earlier today and thought 'well, this is how to compose like an early 19th century writer' - but Schoenberg himself certainly did use many of these 'fundamentals' in a lot of his music. To me, this indicates that the writing of music reached a stage where its principles of construction can no longer be simply decoded into teachings; this is because there are no general principles any more.

A new question: is this a good thing?


October 20, 2004 at 09:06 PM · It may be fun to pontificate and to pass judgement on history, but how can we be sure we're not prejudiced? After all, we're an interested party. Should the answers to my aesthetic/artistic doubts be what I want to hear so that I'm productive (but why should I want to be productive, aren't there so many unplayed violin concerti out there)? It was easier to be a true believer some time ago. One could believe in something and write about it. When you compose, you can think of the piece as a statement of what you believe in musically. But if we're so self-absorbed, do we care for each other's statements, or only for our own? Ok, you made your musical statement, it's there on paper. Suppose it's a piece for solo violin, you play it yourself, record it and post the mp3 on a site. But you want feedback. Why? Because we don't compose only for ourselves. Although we're not necessarily making a verbal utterance, it's not just a unilateral expression of taste. We expect some response. Why? Because composing is communicating w/ people (dead or alive) in a special way, on a different level. If there is no response, we experience that as failed communication. This creates a temptation to shatter the indifference that hurts us, to blame everybody for their lack of sensitivity. After all, we as artists are victims of global capitalism!

If you start questioning your motivation for composing, you won't write a note. It has to make sense somehow, so that you just sit down and write.

Some people consider Western classical music to have exhausted its possibilities, and when I listen to R. Strauss I really do get that feeling. However, I am suspicious of the usual gloomy critics of the death of Euro-American culture. I see this in the case of Italian dialects. There is this complaint that the dialects are dying. Well, one thing that can be easily done is to create newsgroups in those languages. It's not a solution, because elderly people have more difficulty using a computer and would rather talk in person w/ their friends, etc. Sometimes it is not even clear how the words should be typed (accents, etc.). But the point is that communications networks make it possible for individuals to associate and reconstitute new communities on a new basis. www.violinist.com is an example. So one would expect that these reconstituted communities provide a group context for composition of a certain kind.

This is why I do not share nihilist views of some people. I agree that global capitalism has destroyed the foundation of western civilization, and this is pretty clear when we see how the former wages its wars in the name of the latter. While I wouldn't call myself an optimist, there are grounds for optimism if communication continues to be freely accessible. Truth does prevail in the end. I think this applies to politics as much as it does to music. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms were the truth. If only people had access to the truth and were not constantly deluded by the media as the people in Plato's cave! What lies do is give time to the liars to pull their tricks. They claim that something is music, people get confused, there's all this controversy. By the time the truth has sunk in it has all become an academic issue. But hindsight shows us what is worth revisiting and what not. Certainly, a thorough understanding of history is critical to help sort out the lies from the truth, to tell the liars from the real victims and so on. But it's up to the individual.

October 20, 2004 at 09:24 PM · I personally don't agree with a-tonal.

There is no tune

there is hardly any emotion

i can form no image from it

so I often end up questioning myself and think "Am I listening to music?"

I think classical music may end up to be quite similar to pop music in the future


Something which is so weird to listen to.

However, I seem to love film music. I think that won't change wiht me. Every piece of film music just seems to have that 'ding' shine to it.

I dunno. Just my thoughts as they come out randomly. ;)

One-Sim :)

October 20, 2004 at 11:41 PM · I have a contempt for atonal music.

It's like artists that draw paintings that look ugly, but become "art" just because they knew what they were doing. The fact may be that my cat can make something will a similar result, but because of a person's knowledge-it suddenly becomes art. Regardless, the ugly painting has no life and meaning to anybody, it conveys very little message-except with "external" influences (i.e. titlem, caption).

October 22, 2004 at 07:10 AM · Modal,tonal,atonal,counterpoint,harmony and so on have to be understood as "fields of a scholastic study " similar to English grammar, vocabulary, litterature and so forth.If we consider them separately we cannot see the hidden coherence of the musical evolution.

Starting from the early middle age with gregorian music based on modal scales we assist, in Bach's time, to alteration of the seventh degree at the end of phrases that will lead to the tonal music. Bach is the culmination of counterpunctal and modal music but also one of the Tonal music founder already using venturous 11 th dominant chord by mean of suspension.Although Beethoven is the tonal music pinnacle,he still use the pretonal model with the seventh degree on its two form at the same time .With Schubert chromatisme harmony enhancement slowly brings the lost of the tonal structure that leads to Debussy "chordal" modalisme which combined to chromatisme give forth to Schoenberg's dodecaphonism then atonalism. However ,serial music uses counterpoint technic and some tonal characteristic (Alan Berg uses Tonic chords for relaxation and Dominant choirds for tension ).

Now if you compare baroque musiic to Jazz, you will find many common point:choice in chord construction, unequal notes,almost sytematic appogiature of leading note and you'll notice that Jazz tends to multi-ethno modal kind like classical music

October 22, 2004 at 01:35 PM · Atonal music isn't something that no thought has been put into. there has been significant thought put into it. Growing up in a tonal world, the composer has to go to great lengths to make sure that his atonal pieces don't have anything that the ear can latch onto - eg dominant 7th going to a I, intervals of a perfect 5th, etc. The piece is written so that the listener doesn't have anything to latch onto and hence puts them at slight discomfort.

Obviously it's working.

However, to say that atonal music is to music like a cat's painting is to art, I find is disrespectful to the composers that work so hard. A lot of thought it put into these compositions, and a whole heap of logic as well. If you bother to sit down and analyse them, perhaps you might start understanding them.

October 22, 2004 at 04:36 PM · I feel that the most modern music mixes jazz with classical, a sence of chromatic harmony and harmonizing non diatonic scales and blending improv with structure...

Stravinsky for example was influenced by jazz

October 23, 2004 at 04:34 AM · "However, to say that atonal music is to music like a cat's painting is to art, I find is disrespectful to the composers that work so hard. A lot of thought it put into these compositions, and a whole heap of logic as well. If you bother to sit down and analyse them, perhaps you might start understanding them."

You totally missed my point

Ill state that

I've read Structural Functions of harmony.

You said that I said

Atonal=Cat's painting to art????

You did not accurately depict my analogy.

I said:

Atonal music is to music like a Artist drawing bad paintings is to being construed as "art"

I did not say atonal music was in anyway random. My point was that exactly that while it isn't, it still sounds bad. It can be called art because the composer meant to put it that way, but that does not make it good by any means. That is why I brought up the painting analogy. A painting that looks like it has no purpose (i've seen a two black squares filled with red and blue called "The Ocean"). The artist can add meaning that isnt in the painting, and then you call it art.

Do you get the point now?

By the way,

If you really want to put your audience at uneasiness get into binaural subsonic frequencies.

October 23, 2004 at 07:21 AM · Ed,

Prince Krazalkovicz,an illuminated amateur, asked musicians to play a quatuor , stopped them and said they were out of tune.They answered that they exactly have played what was written .He then tore the score to pieces to "avenge the good taste outrage".It was the C major Mozart quatuor K465 returned from italian editor because it there were to many mistakes.

Just a question of time.



October 23, 2004 at 04:03 PM · But 'good' and 'bad' are subjective terms...

October 23, 2004 at 08:59 PM · But 'good' and 'bad' are subjective terms...

It can be, but is saying that licking the sidewalk tastes bad as subjective as saying liver is bad?

Things can relate to us differently but there are things that as humans we all react similarly. There are different degrees of subjectivity and sometimes lean close to the realm of objectivity.

October 24, 2004 at 02:12 AM · Yes, I agree that there are degrees... but when it's a case of personal aesthetic/artistic values I don't believe any of us are in a position to play judge and jury on behalf of others. I love Steve Reich's music, and believe that he has made a significant contribution to the Minimalist movement. However, although my father is an ex-pro guitarist himself, he cannot bear Reich - indeed, barely acknowledges his work as 'music' - and cannot remain in the same room as a Reich CD. Just because you do not perceive beauty in atonal music does not preclude others from doing so.

October 24, 2004 at 04:57 AM · I 15 and am not around many musicians. I excuse myself if there are people that find that music beautiful. The thought had never crossed my mind, because laws of dissonance prevailed over my judgement. I thought the music was meant to sound bad, was a worthy assumption, but as any assumption-it can be wrong.

October 24, 2004 at 05:53 PM · Ed, this is interesting because we've been discussing exactly this question in my Music Theory class. The teacher is also a serialist/jazz composer. He says that something sounds "good" or "bad" only because we have been conditioned to think it is that way. For example, if you (raised on Western music or jazz) listen to a Classical Arabic Ensemble you will think they are out of tune and can't play in unison. Someone who is raised with classical Arabic music hears the half flats and the modes and the heterophonic improvisations and thinks it sounds beautiful, and that Western classical music is cold, unornamented and too mathematical and that we can't hear the half flats and can't play the modes.

However, it is to be argued that all music has certain things in common which are native the human ear, such as not liking to hear screeching fingernails on a chalkboard and badly played piccolo. grins

October 25, 2004 at 01:16 AM · Without meaning to be patronising in any way, I think much of music in question here is an acquired taste, like black coffee. I thought Steve Reich sucked when I first heard his music as a teenager, and it wasn't until my musical experience had broadened significantly that I was able to perceive any attractive quality in it.

I think Bartok's 44 Duos are some of the most interesting pieces out there for beginner violinists. However, when I started teaching I didn't take into account the limited musical experience of my students. I soon found that even though they could play the dots, the advanced harmonic structure of Bartok's music was so far removed from what they had been conditioned to consider 'music', they could not enjoy playing these works at all.

October 25, 2004 at 11:03 PM · Why did I recieve a demerit...


Violates the site's guidelines for writers. That includes any post containing plagiarism or obscenity.

Contains a demonstrable error of fact.

Is spam -- promoting a commercial product, service or website without relevance to the discussion at hand.

Is a duplicate of a previous post (most likely 'cause the writer hit the "submit" button more than once.)---

I was explaining myself because I was attacked and had my analogies twisted. Why does the attacker not get a demerit as well.

I try to post statements that are insightful and helpful, and never expect a "star" (which i dont recieve), but I get an X (something that will eventually make my post disappear)for something that is only defensive.

How is saying that atonal music sounds bad offensive?

If you read my other statements, you saw that I corrected myself as well, and gained a new understanding concerning people enjoying atonal music.

I do think somebody is abusing this privelege as I've seen demerits dolled out in a non-sensical manner.

If this person could explain itself.

October 26, 2004 at 12:18 AM · Agreed, Ed! I realise there's a thread specifically dedicated to the moderation system, but this is the second time today I've seen demerits used inappropriately. The last one was mine, and - like Ed's on this thread - I seemed to have been demerited for having an opinion. As Ed rightly points out, this is *not* the function of the moderation system, and I too was irritated. I notice that the moderator in question is reluctant to identify themselves here also...

October 26, 2004 at 12:38 AM · Hey, Ed, I liked your analogy of licking the sidewalk. It's a good visual imagery, if you ask me. I also ask what exactly it is that defines good taste, especially when it all seems so subjective, yet I know that there are some rules in there somewhere. Licking a sidewalk is definitely outside the boundaries of good taste.

October 26, 2004 at 05:41 AM · Sue,

Yes pretty odd when you just talked about a violin bridge and suggestions. Nonetheless, it has been corrected :) .

Emily, I do think there are boundaries in music which constitute "bad sounding", which in one extreme could have all notes of the piano being pushed together by two big ruler, played repeatedly at half-note intervals for 5 minutes.

Which brings me to:

To those that listen to atonal music and enjoy it-what do you listen for in it, what do you derive from it, and what is it that draws you to the music?

October 26, 2004 at 04:30 PM · Atonal music can be just as interesting and exciting as Mozart or Beethoven. Harmonicly and melodicly it takes a bit of getting used to if you aren't really into that sort of thing. I can't say that there is any specific thing that I listen for, but rhythms, uses of clusters and harmonies are things that have always been interesting to me. The walls of sound can be quite amazing and how the composer constructs those walls of sound(s) and can make them shimmer or tear apart or go into something completely different I find quite fascinating. The piece, Adieu Babylon by Robinovitch that I'm working on right now isn't really atonal persay, but it isn't a piece that most people would sit down and go "Gosh, this is delightful!" but to me I knew a bit about the piece before I heard it and started working on it and things stuck out to me based upon the circumstances that the piece was written around and I found the chromatic, rhythmic figures to be very evocative. There is really an endless amount of things that stick out to me when listening to atonal and music in general, and generally it's the same things no matter what kind of music it is, it's just a matter of if it's atonal or "out there" the average person I know would listen and just say that it's noise before they even really give it a chance and listen to how the harmonies or yes, "melodic" figures develope and how the pieces seems to work out as a whole.

October 26, 2004 at 04:45 PM · So when you ask "Where will tje future of music go?" do you mean, where will the popular demand go?

Music of all types is being written all the time regardless of the "popular" modalities. What may be contemporary in the mainstream may have been conceived a long time ago, but the public didn't receive it well or it was never published in the first place. And by published, I mean put out there.

Of course there are general trends in the academic and/or professional music world that push and pull what we hear as "periods." But with our current information sharing technology, I think this will slowly begin to change as there are fewer constraints as to what is widely available to listeners.

As for my simpleton's address of the atonal v. melodic music topic, I think of it like this:

There are times when I like to get into philosophical or thought-provoking conversations of an esotoric nature; times when I actually crave it. There are times when I prefer laughing over completely inane conversation with "the guys." And try as I might to maintain an even keel, there are times when I really need to vent for whatever reason. And still yet, there are times when I feel like listening to the comforting words of someone wiser and more understanding than my friends of the previous two groups.

I see music this way, too, for both listening and writing. For someone to say that your listening preferences are invalid is akin to saying that your intellectual, emotional or communication needs are somehow flawed as well. Music needs to be free to become what it will, and it takes all kinds to develop the different forms. But we need all these different forms.

Ok, enough with the sappy soapbox talk. Personally, I'd like to know where my own music will go. I don't have time to worry about the future of the rest of the music world, but it's an interesting thread, nonetheless.

October 26, 2004 at 08:38 PM · About the concept of 'popular demand', I'm reminded of something that hit the news not so long ago: a research project that was developing a computer programme designed to identify the elements of a popular song that lead it to be well-received - in other words, devising a computerised 'formula' for smash hit singles derived from certain melodic lines, drum beats, cadences etc. that the wider public finds aurally attractive. Any thoughts on this?

October 26, 2004 at 09:01 PM · Well, there's certainly something 'formulaic' about pop songs (don't forget modulating up a semitone near the end of a song).


October 26, 2004 at 11:03 PM · the modulation at the end of pop songs always got to me. it was fine the first time but when you do it every single, it gets old.

So I do think that can be formulated to a great extent.

October 26, 2004 at 11:55 PM · I have been watching Australian Idol (like Pop Idol or American Idol... I don't watch it because I like it, but because my second cousin is in the running). There was one show where pretty much every performer had a modulation, and it got to the point where the final performer had 4 modulations at the end of her performance... she got voted out.

October 27, 2004 at 01:38 AM · But Mack The Knife typically has twelve modulations, and you don't hear anyone complaining about that...

October 27, 2004 at 01:48 AM · Re: the formula for popular songs:

There are lots of songwriters, producers and musicians out there who can churn out pop titles by the bucket full, which is to say, "yes, I believe there is definitely a formula or formulas."

The half-life of popular tune formulas seems to be somewhat unpredictable, however, as what sells is not necessarily merely what sounds good.

These days, it inevitably comes down to how well an artist or group is marketed. You don't necessarily have to be pretty, but you do have to have an image that sells and a producer who can push it hard. Either that, or you gotta have a lot of time on your hands and a lot of energy to self-promote (anybody seen anyone go through this nightmare?).

October 27, 2004 at 04:23 AM · Greetings,

interesting thread. Don`t have much to add, but the question of what you know and get used to resonates with me...

My first experience of contemporary music was in a decent school orchestra at around age ten. We played a piece called `Rebecca-the girl who slammed doors and perisheed miserably.`by Paul Patterson. It was written using (I suspect) a greta deal of contemporary notation and we had a great time making weird noises and playing behind the bridge and things like that. It never occured to any of us that it wasn`t music, and it went down really well with the parents too.

Then I moved into a very high level youth orchestra system and again was exposed on a yearly basis to works including and post-rdating the rite of Spring: Varese, Xenakis, Young, Nigel Osbourne, Berio, Stockhausen ,Tippet, Cage, penderecki etc.

Again it never occured to me to consider this in relation to Mozart and Brahms as `bad.` I had been living with different sounds for so long that I could (and still can) enjoy sound, and silence, improvization in any permutation as long as their is a greta composer behind it. I regard Xenakis as one of the greatest composrs of all time and see much of his influence in young contemporary composers.

But, although I belive people can enjoy and learn from this kind of music I have no idea how to get them over the threshold. It is not possible to say okay let`s start with Mahler and then ease into Wagner and after that the 2nd Viennese school will start to make sense a bit and Webern is real fun and then in ayear or two you will see the chaos theory behin Ives sfour and after that maybe a little Varese? (its not really that kind of linear prgression anyway but I do feel the ears/senses need some kind of development.

What I do know for sure is that one reason a lot of contemporary msuci does not get accpeted is that classiclaly trained musicians are often too close minded to playt it -well-. They just can`t be bothered so they never undertsand what it is about and the performance lacks any kind of integrity which audiences spot instantly.

Right now I am having a spot of bother with my accompanist because she is so resistant to the idea of palying when she wants to she can`t get into the Japanese piece we are supposed to be doing in a recital soon. The idea that one lets go of the standard patterns of western music and use the material as give and take or not at all in space is , aparently too much for someone who grew up on mostly Chopin and pieces taht have a clear beginnign and end and no toilet breaks in between,



October 27, 2004 at 05:05 AM · probably where philosophy has basically reached...

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