On Monday at Westminster, we have the final concert for the composition class. While we’ve studied a number of pieces this semester, I’d like to give the students a list of suggested further listening. What would you recommend as a list of 10-20 pieces for a student composer – to provoke, inspire, and enrich their knowledge of the repertory?

Kitty with 'table from openphoto.net

Kitty with 'table from openphoto.net

7 Responses to “Listening list for emerging composers”
  1. Tom Myron says:

    1. Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta
    2. Barber: Knoxville Summer 1915
    3. Shostakovich: Symphony #10
    4. Bernstein: West Side Story
    5. Berio: Sinfonia
    6. Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    7. Walton: Symphony #1
    8. Fussell: Specimen Days
    9: Myron: Violin Concerto #2
    10: Matthews: 4th Sonata for Orchestra

  2. david toub says:

    Feldman: String Quartet #2
    Shapey: Fromm Variations
    Wolpe: Piece in Two Parts for Six Players
    Glass: Music in Changing Parts
    Reich: Drumming
    Riley: In C
    Cage: Four
    Eastman: Gay Guerrilla
    Monk: Dolmen Music
    Beyer: String Quartet #1
    Andriessen: Worker’s Union
    Dallapicolla: Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera
    Earle Brown: String Quartet
    Ligeti: Three Pieces for Two Pianos
    Messiaen: Cantéyodjayâ
    Michael Denhoff: Hauptweg und Nebenwege
    Nancarrow: Study No. 25
    Otte: Das Buch Der Klänge
    Kline: Zippo Songs
    Scelsi: Quartet #3
    Tenney: Chromatic Canon
    Xenakis: Ergma
    Young: Trio for Strings
    Stockhausen: Stimmung
    Gordon: Yo Shakespeare
    Chatham: Guitar Trio
    Foss: String Quartet No. 3
    Giteck: OmShanti
    Grady: Beyond the Windows Perhaps Among the Podcorn
    Spiegel: Drums

  3. Toch: Geographical Fugue
    Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time
    Ligeti: Music Ricercata
    Britten: Cello Suite No. 1
    Reich: Piano Phase
    Johnson: Narayana’s Cows
    Andriessen: Hoketus
    Crumb: Black Angels
    Lang: Cheating, Lying, Stealing
    Bettison: O Death

  4. Jason Hibbard says:

    As a non-composer, I would find it really valuable to also include a word or two of *why*. What interesting lesson has a recommender picked up from studying a given piece?

  5. david toub says:

    I picked my list (and it was hard to pare down) based on what I considered to be pretty significant and diverse works from the past 50 years or so. There is no objective rationale for my list-it’s admittedly totally subjective and your mileage will vary.

  6. i picked each of mine to show young composers some tool or method of thinking i find valuable (like a way of dealing with speech in the toch, or excessive constraint in pitch material in the ligeti, or mathematical process in the johnson, hocketing in the andriessen, etc..). it is a very personal list, though — it’s by no means a thorough, unbiased survey of the century.

  7. Chris Becker says:

    Charles Mingus – Self Portrait in Three Colors, Haitian Fight Song, and Open Letter To Duke.

    Diamanda Galas – Wild Women With Steak Knives, The Divine Punishment, You Must Be Certain Of The Devil

    John Zorn – Cobra, Speedfreaks, Forbidden Fruit

    Mingus for counterpoint, harmonic and rhythmic invention, and melodic development. His compositions sort of look backwards and forwards simultaneously. It’s amazing to me that one composer wrote all three of those pieces – but open up and study the Mingus Fakebook and your mind will be completely blown.

    Zorn for his groundbreaking use of improvisation in a composed context. Cobra is an incredibly ground breaking piece for improvisers – as important as “In C” in IMHO. In much of Zorn’s early work, music is pushed to a point of being near noise but only just so. Speedfreaks for how it is paced, its overall compositional arc (not sure how else to say it), and again how it sits on the razor’s edge of profundity and hilarity (noise/music).

    Galas is an vital composer/performer that more students should be aware of. Her music is crucial and uncompromising and still (IMHO) misunderstood in much of the U.S. The scope of her vocal and compositional technique is very inspiring.

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