Sunday, October 28, 2018

Project 366 - Modern Time Capsules

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

As we near the end of our series of Time Capsules, we now focus on the music of the last 100-plus years and some of its main currents forming what we collegially call “Modern” or “contemporary” music.

1913 is an important uear in music, and for many people it marks a clear inflexion point in Western Classical Music – the Skandalkonzert of March that year and the infamous evening of ballet in Paris a few months later represent significant events – to quote Don McLean “the day the music died”, or certainly Romantic traditions and approaches. Harmonies and rhythms that were the norm for centuries now were displaced by serialism, 12-tone and miminalism.

Listener Guide # 228 – Alban Berg (1885-1935)
A pillar of the Second Viennese School, Berg wrote atonal and 12-tone compositions that remained true to late 19th-century Romanticism, strongly influenced by the young composer’s musical gods, Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner. (ITYWLTMT #281 – 1 June 2018)

Modern music trends aren’t limited to atonal construcycts. Mush music of the 20th century, especially that composed in Europe, relied on motifs inspired by local folk music, or even nature. The next set of time capsules illustrates some of these currents.

Listener Guide # 229 – Messiaen, the Spiritual Composer
It is quite an understatement to say that Messaien's music is rhythmically complex. Messiaen chose to make use of rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources, and the musical language (and sometimes even the titles of his works) have a strong Mid- and Far-Eastern flavour Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 45 – 2 March 2012)

Listener Guide # 230 – Jewish Inspirations
We also sometimes talk of music as either sacred or secular. I’m not quite sure where to place music of Hebraic or Jewish inspiration in those contexts – are we talking about a tradition, or a form of religious music? None of the pieces I selected for this Time Capsule are in my view religious in nature, but they do share the common distinctive sound, at times “schmaltzy” we associate with Jewish folk music. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 259 – 22 Sept. 2017)

Listener Guide # 231 – Bela Bartok: The Three Violin Sonatas
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Béla Bartók's death, violinist Gullermo Figueroa was featured at the first complete New York performance of the composer's violin sonatas. These three works represent two different stages of Bartók's creative life: the Two Sonatas for Violin and Piano, from his most radical and experimental early period, and the Sonata for Solo Violin, one of the four last great works written shortly before his death. (Once Upon the Internet #2 – 24 July 2014

Across the pond, music composed in the-Americas developed its own specific sound, mainly inspired by the Blues and Jazz and latin rhythms South of the Equator; though, some composers such as Charles Ives merely extended the overall exploration of his European contemporaries.

Listener Guide # 232 – Bernstein Conducts Ives
I loath to pigeon-hole Charles Ives as an “American:” composer, as his work transcends the ill-defined notion of “American Music”. His music is a blend of late-Romantic and modern music, more akin to, say, Scriabin than to Schoenberg or Stravinsky in that sense (save for the mysticism). His later works can be challenging to listen to at times, but the set assembled by Bernstein is quite accessible, and some of the pieces have become American classical music “standards”. (Vinyl’s Revenge #37 – 24 April 2018)

Listener Guide # 233 - Due South
The theme for this Time Capsule has to do with “going South”. South can be both a relative and an absoluter term. It includes two 20th century works: one by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, the other by the Argentinian King of the Tango, Ástor Piazzolla. (ITYWLTMT #284 – 13 July 2018)

Listener Guide # 234 - Ragtime: Original piano rolls (1896-1917)
Scott Joplin never made an audio recording as a pianist; however his playing is preserved on seven piano rolls. All seven were made between April and June 1916: six released under the Connorized label and the other roll, a recording of "Maple Leaf Rag" was recorded on the Uni-Record label in June 1916. (Once Upon the Internet #53 - 29 Nov. 2016)

Listener Guide # 235 - King Of The Delta Blues Singers
The Robert Johnson legend rests predominantly on a pair of recording sessions. The first session was held on November 23, 1936, in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, which Brunswick Records had set up to be a temporary recording studio. In the ensuing three-day session, Johnson reportedly performed facing the wall, which has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer. The slide guitarist Ry Cooder speculates that Johnson played facing a corner to enhance the sound of the guitar, a technique he calls "corner loading". (Vinyl’s Revenge #28 - 16 May 2017)

Listener Guide # 236 - The Blues
What is the Blues? Some would say it’s a form of musical expression, others a musical genre, and I think both are right in their own way. It’s about worry, broken hearts, despair and it’s also a musical genre with its own “code” and “patterns”. A key ingredient is the Blue Note – or the worried note - sung or played at a slightly different pitch (typically between a quartertone and a semitone). Like the blues in general, the blue notes can mean many things. One quality that they all have in common, however, is that they are lower than one would expect, classically speaking. (ITYWLTLT Montage # 211 – 27 Nov. 2015)

Listener Guide # 237 - Threatre of the Mind
Our last Time Capsule for this chapter presents speculative works – that is to say, works written (one could think) in anticipation of a stage work. All of the pieces I chose are intended either to depict stage music, or suggest stage music, whilst not necessarily designed to accompany any specific stage work – other, maybe, than the type of stage performance, be it a theatrical play, a ballet or an opera. (ITYWLTMT Montage #282 – 15 June 2018)


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