Composers Forum is a daily web log that allows invited contemporary composers to share their thoughts and ideas on any topic that interests them--from the ethereal, like how new music gets created, music history, theory, performance, other composers, alive or dead, to the mundane, like getting works played and recorded and the joys of teaching. If you're a professional composer and would like to participate, send us an e-mail.
Have you heard of Lera Auerbach? I hadn't but she is a wonderful composer. Born near Siberia in 1973, she studied composition at Julliard.
I've written a review of her 2003 CD for an issue of New Music Connoisseur that will be out soon. The CD is BIS-CD 1242 (Lera Auerbach:24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, T’filah, Postlude. I am just so excited about her music. This CD is available on Amazon and if you are a violinist I encourage you to get the score and perform it if possible. I believe that her Twenty-four Preludes for Violin and Piano, Op. 46 (1999) is published in Hamburg by Hans Sikorski. It is a hour of ravishing beauty.
posted by Beth Anderson
Thursday, May 12, 2005
depends how one defines plagiarism...
I think most, if not all, composers are influenced directly/indirectly by what they've listened to in the past. I know this is the case with myself, and have often struggled to make sure what I write is my own, not "esteemed composer, version 2." But inevitably, some influences creep in, and I'm not sure that is a bad thing. Nor is it plagiarism.
Some examples: I've heard from no less an authority than Terry Riley that some of Steve Reich's early minimalist works were directly influenced by In C. Then again, LaMonte Young also will mention his influence on Riley and others, so it's a constant lineage, I suppose.
Many years ago when I was looking at a borrowed score of Copland's Piano Variations, someone had written in either "Stravinsky" or "Rite of Spring" over one of the variations that bore clear resemblance to part of Le Sacre. I agreed with the anonymous person who had previously borrowed the score. That doesn't diminish my affection for the Piano Variations, however.
There are parts of some Adams' scores that resemble Reich, and even Glass at times. There are also works by some composers that recall Feldman. I've even felt that one section of Corigliano's Clarinet Concerto cribbed from a brass fanfare in Bloch's Schelomo, but so what?
Cross-influences are bound to happen, are human nature, and represent the fact that we don't compose in a vacuum. Nor should we. Direct plagiarism is another matter, but that's usually a note-for-note copy of someone else's work without attribution. Would people consider Ives to have plagiarized? (I don't).
The other issue is "self-plagiarism." I'm not sure that's a good term for it. Perhaps it's more like "recycling previous work." Berg was pretty famous for including snippets of his past work in his later compositions (a quote from Wozzeck in the second act of Lulu, etc), but then he also directly swiped notes from Tristan und Isolde in the last movement of his Lyrische Suite so this is in character. Reich and Glass both recycle: play the Desert Music through, then go to the Sextet, then the Three Movements for Orchestra and this will be obvious.
Right now, I'm certainly willing to say that my work in the past year owes something to Feldman, mainly because I've listened to as much of his music as I could find in that time frame. Just as some of my works that use repetitive structures owe something to Glass and Reich, etc. But only if I felt that I was composing another Reich piece would I have a problem with it (and I would discard the notes). I'm not interested in writing as another composer, which would only be a second-rate version of that person's works. Rather, I'm ok with subsuming a lot of music I really admire and appreciate, but writing as myself, not that other composer.
Besides, Feldman owed everything (and nothing, as he'd add) to Cage, who also owed much to others himself. And so and and so on.
posted by David Toub
Plagarism from self or others. Is there a problem? Discuss.
posted by Jerry Bowles
Anyone who's in DC this weekend can drop by the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on Saturday May 14 at 6PM, for a free performance by the Potomac String Quartet of my string quartet The Soldier's Return. The Potomac String Quartet features NSO musicians George Marsh, Sally McLain (violins), Tsuna Sakamoto (viola) and Steven Honigberg (cello). The performance is a prelude to Roger Norrington and the NSO doing Bruckner 4.
In the spirit of bipartisan non-elitism I include the following program note:
Tom Myron (American, b. 1959 Troy, New York) PROGRAM NOTE
The Soldier's Return For String Quartet Duration: approx. 25 minutes
When, in January of 2001, the members of the DaPonte String Quartet approached me about writing a work for them, I turned to William Walker's Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1835) with the idea of using one or more of its hymns as a basis for the new quartet. I was particularly interested in Walker's collection because, unlike many other shape-note hymn collections, the music in The Southern Harmony has remained unaltered (un-retouched, if you will) throughout its long history of reprints. Right away the hymn The Soldier's Return jumped off the page at me. I found the over-all structure of the music highly appealing. The hymn consists of three 5-bar phrases. The first phrase is repeated, making a total of 20 bars of music. In the third bar of each phrase the music doubles back on itself, almost to the point of being a palindrome. The feeling of mirror symmetry is further heightened by the fact that the two treble parts move in near-constant contrary motion. This pervasive symmetry, coupled with the uniform length of the phrases, gives the hymn a feeling of monumental solidity and grounded-ness. Hearing it is like looking at a row of plain carved granite arches.
The shape of the melodic line is also intriguing. The fact that it contains leaps of sixths and sevenths (in places contiguous) struck me as unusual for a shape-note hymn. Though perfectly sing-able, the line seems to possess an 'instrumental' quality. On impulse I transposed it into the key of D and scored it for violin, adding double stops based mostly around adjacent open strings. The delightful result was a very authentic sounding fiddle tune.
Needless to say, this turned out to be no coincidence. Like so much of the music in The Southern Harmony, The Soldier's Return has origins of considerable antiquity. George Pullen Jackson first noticed the tune in his White Spirituals of the Southern Uplands (1933). In that book he noted that the tune has a Scotch or Irish flavor and he listed it in his section on fiddle tunes. He revisited the tune in his Spiritual-Folksongs of Early America (1937). In that book he calls it a 'Folk Hymn' and says that it was borrowed from Robert Burns' collection When the Wild War's Deadly Blast, which was widely used in the British Isles during the 18th century.
Individual movements of my quartet take the form of virtuoso square dances, lyrical ballads, atmospheric waltz fragments, a Beethoven-esque parody of 18th century quartet writing, a funeral march and a battle scene. The concluding Fantasia consists of a series of linked episodes that culminate in a restatement of the opening hymn transcription. On a dramatic or narrative level I hope that listeners come away from this work with the sense that there are many ways (and states of mind) in which a soldier might return from '…the wild war's deadly blast.'
From time to time, the charge of elitism has surfaced in this forum, which has led me to wonder about the evolution of this term. In recent years, it has been a powerful political weapon used against people who have subtle, nuanced approaches to moral issues. I suppose the logic is based on the idea that anyone who thinks carefully about an issue, rather than simply going along with group wisdom, is an intellectual, and intellectuals have a natural disdain for anyone who doesn't share the same powers of analysis.
Which reminds me of Maurice Maeterlinck's astonishing, anti-elitist statement that great thinking is just insofar as it connects with people who do not think at all. Would anyone care to defend the parallel proposition for composers: that music is only great if it connects with people who care nothing for music?
posted by Lawrence Dillon
Monday, May 09, 2005
21 Years Too Late
Anne Midgette's profile of James Tenney in the Times has been deservedly linked all over the blogsphere. Tenney was recently, as mentioned in the article, at Dartmouth College for a residence at the annual Festival of New Musics. I attended two of the concerts (at the time, unfortunately, I was too swamped with day-job work to review them on the main page, but they were good.) and at the after-party for the main event I chatted with Tenney briefly about "Chromatic Cannon," which had been on the concert. I asked if he saw a connection between that piece and Reich's "Piano Phase," since they seemed closely related to me. He said that they were, and that in fact he had premiered "Piano Phase" with Reich, and then told the story Midgette quotes in her piece: "'Reich went to the concert with me,' Mr. Tenney said. 'Afterwards he looked at me with a mock glare and said, 'You've put me in bed with Schoenberg.' I said that was the whole point.'"
At the end of my Masters at NEC last year, I wrote a piano piece as a thank-you to Lee Hyla. Lee's music is fairly downtown, but he has something of an affinity for uptown as well, and used to hang out with the Bang on a Can crew -- and he was more than able to coach me in my downtown aspirations. I oh-so-cleverly called the piece "Two Pages for Lee Hyla," and structurally it's a highly repetitive cycle through a set of chords created by simultaneously adding a new pitch while subtracting an old one. The joke is that the cycle of pitches is one of the more tonal-sounding all-combinatorial sets.
Of course Tenney's 1983 "Chromatic Cannon" is "The ultimate juxtaposition of opposing elements, it fuses Minimalism with the 12-tone system, starting with a single repeated interval and gradually building it into a tone row." Apparently I lose. Although, in my own defense, I was only 3 or 4 years old in 1983.
posted by Galen H. Brown
E-mail, We Get E-mail
Dear Sir/ Madam I'm trying to put together a list of contemporary composers who have or would be likely to compose an Oratorio - preferably UK or Europe based.
Is that something you can help me with or do you have someone there I might speak to?
posted by Jerry Bowles