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Friday, March 18, 2005

some random (rambling, probably, repetitive, also, probably) thoughts:

1) I thought the death of twelve-tone music was old news thirty years ago. Sometimes I think people just want to keep it around as a boogey man to rail against, much the same way the Republicans don't actually want the NEA to be dismembered so they can raise money to defeat it. It's amazing to me the way people can get so emotionally exercised and worked up about how meaningless and empty certian kinds of music are supposed to be.

2) I don't believe audiences hate twelve-tone music. Now that the shock of that improbable statement has had time to take effect: Audiences have in fact been taught the urban myth that all twelve-tone music is mathematical and ugly and terrible, so they've learned that anything they don't like must be twelve-tone, if it's not "atonal" (in both cases, one might well add, "whatever that means); I'm not sure which is supposed to be worse. I really mostly can't tell if a piece is twelve-tone unless I know it is, and, even though I might be wrong, I'm willing to believe, unless somebody wants to disabuse me of the notion, that I'm not the only one. Another quote comes to mind: "The less [a field]is advanced, the more its terminology rests on an uncritical assumption of mutual understanding." (W. V. Quine)

3) With all the bashing of twelve-tone music that's been going on, just who is writing twelve-tone music anymore anyway? I can think of three (maybe): Babbitt, Martino, Wourinen (and I'm not really completely sure about Matino and Wourinen) (I'm not even sure if that's the way to spell Wourinen's name). Anybody else? If that's the number, then there really is a straw man being set up. What is it we're really supposed to be talking about?

4) Never having written twelve-tone music myself, I can't claim to be a recovering twelve-tone composer. It strikes me, though, as I've thought about it, that most of the information disseminated is about on the level of what Bernstein says about it in The Joy of Music, and, if that's the level of expertise, in the first place no wonder... I don't think, in my educational experience--at least early educational experience--I was ever told anything about why one might want to write twelve-tone music or what one would gain by doing it. I don't imagine anybody does now, either (anybody much, anyway). Once again, I could be wrong, but...

When I was an advanced student, I used to be at situations where people presenting their pieces (that kind of situation), and they would say things like "I never really liked twelve-tone music, but I felt like I had to..." I never quite understood that, but then I was always a bad student.


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