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Re: [mythsoc] Rautavaara's Sampo

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  • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
    Pretty much. And the general ghostly atmosphere of Pohjola. It s actually a pretty tonal work. What does tonal mean? Why is it always so complicated to go
    Message 1 of 10 , Dec 4, 2003
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      Pretty much. And the general ghostly atmosphere of Pohjola. It's actually a
      pretty tonal work. >>

      What does tonal mean?

      Why is it always so complicated to go to amazon on these searches? Can't
      just take five minutes, no, precious....

      Lizzie Apgar Triano
      lizziewriter@...
      amor vincit omnia
    • alexeik@aol.com
      In a message dated 12/4/3 6:21:54 PM, Lizzie wrote:
      Message 2 of 10 , Dec 4, 2003
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        In a message dated 12/4/3 6:21:54 PM, Lizzie wrote:

        <<What does tonal mean?
        >>

        Probably too complicated to get into in an e-mail on this list, but it
        basically means music based on the kind of harmonic relationships (low in the
        harmonic series) that characterise folk music, popular music -- and learned music up
        to the early 1900's. As you probably know, 20th-century composers eventually
        experimented with ways of organising musical material that didn't refer to
        these basic harmonic relationships: the result is often called "atonal" (although
        the term itself is nonsense, since any music based on distinct pitches is
        going to be "tonal" in some sense -- the experimental 20th century music just
        relied on the rarefied tonal relationships high up in the harmonic series). Today
        most art-music composers are again comfortable with using a harmonic language
        we associate with traditional melody and chord-progressions, although without
        necessarily reverting to older styles. This makes their music much more
        accessible than that of composers of the mid-20th century.
        Alexei
      • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
        Probably too complicated to get into in an e-mail on this list,... Ow, ow, yes it was. Let s overgeneralize a bit here. Can it be taken to mean music you
        Message 3 of 10 , Dec 4, 2003
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          Probably too complicated to get into in an e-mail on this list,...>>

          Ow, ow, yes it was. Let's overgeneralize a bit here. Can it be taken to
          mean music you can consider singing along to? Versus the kind with no
          melody that requires a deep understanding of the mathematical side of
          music? If anyone else is considering listening to these pieces I can hope
          this thread is of interest at least a little bit.

          I did like the music to LOTR. I want the soundtrack. But it's just
          big-movie-sound music, right?

          Lizzie Apgar Triano
          lizziewriter@...
          amor vincit omnia
        • juliet@firinn.org
          ... I ll try as more of a lay student of music theory. Atonal music refers to music that avoids having a tonal center, commonly known as a key. With tonal
          Message 4 of 10 , Dec 4, 2003
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            On Thu, Dec 04, 2003 at 02:36:39PM -0500, Elizabeth Apgar Triano wrote:
            > Probably too complicated to get into in an e-mail on this list,...>>
            >
            > Ow, ow, yes it was. Let's overgeneralize a bit here. Can it be taken to
            > mean music you can consider singing along to? Versus the kind with no
            > melody that requires a deep understanding of the mathematical side of
            > music? If anyone else is considering listening to these pieces I can hope
            > this thread is of interest at least a little bit.
            >
            I'll try as more of a lay student of music theory. Atonal music refers
            to music that avoids having a tonal center, commonly known as a key. With
            tonal music, you can generally say whether a given note is Do, Re, or Mi.
            When you come back to Do, you can feel a resolution. Atonal music doesn't
            give you any of that kind of resolution. The notes don't give you any hint
            of what's coming next or when the piece has come to an end. It's the musical
            equivalent of art that's not a picture of anything, except I think the average
            person tolerates looking at randomness better than listening to it. It's the
            music they would have played in the Objectivity Room if they'd played music
            there.

            Julie
          • alexeik@aol.com
            In a message dated 12/4/3 11:11:16 PM, Julie wrote:
            Message 5 of 10 , Dec 6, 2003
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              In a message dated 12/4/3 11:11:16 PM, Julie wrote:

              <<I'll try as more of a lay student of music theory. Atonal music refers
              to music that avoids having a tonal center, commonly known as a key. With
              tonal music, you can generally say whether a given note is Do, Re, or Mi.
              When you come back to Do, you can feel a resolution. Atonal music doesn't
              give you any of that kind of resolution. The notes don't give you any hint
              of what's coming next or when the piece has come to an end. It's the musical
              equivalent of art that's not a picture of anything, except I think the average
              person tolerates looking at randomness better than listening to it.>>

              As a composer, I don't entirely agree. While some "atonal" music is indeed
              based on randomness (eg, some of John Cage and Xenakis), the vast majority of it
              isn't. In fact, the main technique that has been used in so-called "atonal"
              music in the past century -- serialism [using the twelve notes of the chromatic
              scale in a preordained sequence] -- could justly be criticised as
              *overdetermined* rather than random. And any music with a preordained pattern of tones is
              going to have a tonal centre -- it's just not necessarily as obvious as in
              music with a diatonic structure.
              Much "atonal" music can actually be very beautiful and expressive, but it
              requires focused attention on the part of the listener (the music won't just
              "carry" you), and the problem, of course, is that most people can't focus their
              attention in that way for very long. The composers who first used these
              techniques understood this: Webern's pieces, for example, are never more than a few
              minutes long. But later generations of composers adopted serial techniques as
              a kind of easy "gimmick" and created large-scale pieces in that style that
              are impossible to listen to: they're more interesting as scores than in
              performance.
              It's funny that you mentioned the Objective Room. In the operatic setting
              of _That Hideous Strength_ I was doing some time ago I assigned two of these
              more "sterile" styles of 20th-century music to Wither and Frost: Wither was
              represented by "stochastic" randomness, and Frost by "post-Webern" pointillism.
              Alexei
            • David S. Bratman
              I don t think Julie was saying that atonal music is constructed randomly, merely that it (or much of it) sounds random to the lay listener. Julie was writing
              Message 6 of 10 , Dec 6, 2003
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                I don't think Julie was saying that atonal music is constructed randomly,
                merely that it (or much of it) sounds random to the lay listener. Julie
                was writing of the harmonic structure of atonal music sounding random to
                the tonally-trained ear, the way any pattern one doesn't understand can
                seem random, no matter how overdetermined it actually is.

                I'll go even further and note the curious fact that the most overdetermined
                music and the most underdetermined music can come to sound the same, in
                much the same way that life was pretty much the same for prisoners in Nazi
                concentration camps and in Soviet gulags, despite the utter disparity of
                the political philosophies that sent them there.

                The two musics look entirely different on the page, though. There's even a
                common term, "Augenmusik" (German for "Eye-music") for music that looks
                really interesting in score, but which just comes out as another identikit
                blur in performance.

                It is true, as Alexei says, that beautiful and expressive serial music has
                been written. Just not very much of it, and even less of other types of
                atonality. I've heard fine serial music by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg,
                and George Rochberg, but by hardly anybody else (certainly not Webern), and
                I've been diligently listening to modern classical music for 35 years,
                hunting for the good stuff. I've found plenty of good stuff, but to say
                that "serial, atonal, chance and random musics ain't it" is a _very_ strong
                working generalization with sadly few exceptions. Possibly the composer's
                name has to end in -berg.

                - David Bratman
              • juliet@firinn.org
                ... Thank you, yes, randomness was not precisely what I meant. As you said, any pattern one can t see seems as random as no pattern at all. Is that a
                Message 7 of 10 , Dec 6, 2003
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                  On Sat, Dec 06, 2003 at 11:21:49AM -0800, David S. Bratman wrote:
                  > I don't think Julie was saying that atonal music is constructed randomly,
                  > merely that it (or much of it) sounds random to the lay listener. Julie
                  > was writing of the harmonic structure of atonal music sounding random to
                  > the tonally-trained ear, the way any pattern one doesn't understand can
                  > seem random, no matter how overdetermined it actually is.
                  >
                  Thank you, yes, "randomness" was not precisely what I meant. As you said,
                  any pattern one can't see seems as random as no pattern at all. Is that a
                  corollary to the idea that any technology sufficiently advanced is
                  indistinguishable from magic?

                  Julie
                • alexeik@aol.com
                  In a message dated 12/6/3 10:32:25 PM, Julie wrote:
                  Message 8 of 10 , Dec 6, 2003
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                    In a message dated 12/6/3 10:32:25 PM, Julie wrote:

                    <<Thank you, yes, "randomness" was not precisely what I meant. As you said,
                    any pattern one can't see seems as random as no pattern at all. >>

                    Though if a pattern is actually there, one can learn to see (or hear) it,
                    even if it isn't obvious at first glance. In the case of 20th-century classical
                    music, this kind of familiarisation through exposure has in fact been
                    happening. If you read music criticism from a hundred years ago, you'll see that many
                    people originally reacted to the work of Debussy and other harmonically
                    innovative works as though they were random sounds without any perceptible pattern.
                    Few people, I think, would have the same reaction today. Similarly, if you
                    listen to a lot of serial or quasi-serial music, your ear gradually adjusts to
                    hearing the harmonic patterns it's based on. Of course, a great deal of such
                    music is simply bad and not worth listening to; but this is more a matter of
                    individual composers not having the skill and imagination to do the technique
                    justice, rather than something globally wrong with the technique itself (although,
                    because of the demands it places on the listener, the technique does carry
                    with it a high risk of failure).
                    Alexei
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