A Conversation for Introduction to Orchestral Music

Inadequate

Post 1

erostratus

I'm not sure that this entry is valuable to any but the most uneducated of beginning listeners. I don't think the categorization of the various pieces listed is accurate (Debussy's La Mer is not Middle Romantic, but Early Modern), and I think that Gnomon's biases and personal tastes have clouded his recommendations.

For instance, John Tavener is hardly a "main composer" of the Modern Period.

And, like another converser, I have to point out the heinous oversight of serious American composers. Gershwin doesn't count and, sorry to say, neither does Bernstein. But Copland is one of the great moderns no matter how you cut it. He easily ranks with Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Britten; his best pieces come even with Stravinsky and Bartok. In addition to his own skill and import, is his creation of a legitimate American sound and style which, combined with heavy influence from Sibelius, led to the minimalist movement; a movement almost completely monopolized by American composers.

Another hideous infraction is the total neglect of the post-modern period and style. Many young listeners are very interested in more recent orchestral exposition and would appreciate the noise and novelty of say, Scelci or Ligeti or Boulez or Pinscer. These composers represent a real stylistic difference from even the modern atonals and deserve their own passage.

On the other hand, this is a compelling, easy to understand introduction that includes solid listening recommendations. And I love the inclusion of two Nielsen Symphonies. I think recording suggestions, especially for bargain buyers, would be helpful. Hopefully people will listen and unlearn the obvious fallacies.

I would be more than happy to assist in the creation of a slightly more complete and more accurate version of this document.


Inadequate

Post 2

Gnomon - time to move on

Thanks, Researcher 190203, for your comments. I know this article is full of my personal tastes and biases, but I had thought it was useful. Certainly others thought so too, since it went through the Peer Review process.

I take it from your comments that you are American. Certainly there is a European bias to the article. But most Europeans would feel that despite American claims, Copeland is fairly insignificant in the field of orchestral music. Gershwin is the outstanding American composer, bringing something uniquely American to the concert halls of the world. You only have to look at the pieces chosen by Disney for Fantasia 2000 as representative of modern tastes: Elgar, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, Respighi and Beethoven.

The categorisations are my own, but I feel they are more useful to a beginner than the strictest application of "Modern", "Post-Modern" and so on. To a beginner Stravinsky and Ligeti will sound similar, particularly if they are expecting Beethoven.


Reply

Post 3

erostratus

I have to disagree with the consignment of Copland to the unimportant pile. He is the father of minimalism, and that movement has dominated musical development for all but ten years of the last half-century.
Gershwin is not the great American composer. His "innovations" (by which you mean the introduction of Jazz to the symphony hall) were superceded completely by Copland several years earlier. Witness "Music for the Theatre" and the "Organ Symphony". In the same period, we had Barber and Piston and Ives as well. All of these were "greater" than Gershwin.

You may be right about Ligeti and Stravinsky sounding similar, but you are certainly unright about Fantasia 2000 setting the standard for current musical tastes. The pieces were chosen for their "programmatic" ("can we animate it, can we truncate it?")nature. Elgar and Saint-Saens, though personal favorites, are hardly as popular with record-buying and concert-attending audiences as Copland's Appalachian Spring.

I know this sounds like a Copland rant; I guess I'm discouraged by the English-centric position you take. We Americans take a lot of crap for being under cultured, I can assure you nothing is further from the truth. We have a mother lode of great orchestras and a committed musical culture, which, unlike your own, does not rely on government subsidy to thrive. And we have given the world a great modern. Our only Great Composer. And he is pretty great.

How do I change my nickname? I just joined. I like this.


Reply

Post 4

Gnomon - time to move on

Click on Preferences, type in a Nickname and click on Update Details. But take a few moments to choose a good nickname, because if you stay, which I hope you will, you will find it a nuisance to change it later when people know you by your original nickname.

I have to confess I do not like Copeland. But if he is considered great, he'll have to go in to the article. It's not quite as easy to add to an existing Edited Article as it is to change it during the writing of it, but it can be done. Let's see what we can do together.

I'm not English. I'm Irish. As a representative of a country which has produced basically no important composers at all, I hoped I could give an unbiased view. But of course, I'm a European.

The other thing you should do as well as assigning a nickname is to write a couple of lines in your Personal Space as an introduction. Once you have done this, people will be able to have conversations with you directly rather than just as addendums to existing articles.


Reply

Post 5

J'au-æmne

I'm English, and I like American composers. A particular favourite of mine at the moment is William Schuman, but I've not heard much of his work because its incredibly hard to get hold of over here. I'm also listening to John Adams at every chance I get; this is a little easier as there are at least two different CDs of his music that you can purchase in the record shops in the town where I live, although I now have copies of both of them!

I think this is a good entry for what it sets out to do: Introduce orchestral music. I don't want to appear to be blindly backing up Gnomon over this, but I think that people need a jumping off point to get into this type of music, and its boundaries as far as different styles are concerned. Even if Copland is a better composer, I bet more people who don't know classical music would recognise Rhapsody in Blue over Appalachian Spring, regardless of the technical merits of either piece, and I think it is important to start informing people from where they are.
After that, maybe, there could be an entry on the finer arguments of musical style classifications.

I guess I think you shouldn't think of composers not listed as main as less important, but as having less of a high profile to people who're not already interested in classical music.

Just my 2p (or should that be 2 cents smiley - winkeye) worth!

Welcome to the guide, btw, Erostratus smiley - smiley


Reply

Post 6

erostratus

Schuman's pretty cool, isn't he? Have you heard Bernstein's recording of his Symphony Three? A classic in the American Symphonic tradition. If you like Schuman, I recommend Harris, and his Third Symphony.

Adams: you've got to love Adams, don't you? He's our (America's) greatest living composer and probably our second greatest composer period. He pretty much has the tonal, serial field all to himself these days, and he's not yet reached his prime. What have you heard?

Gnomon has a good thing going here, I just think it could be a little more good. A lot more good, in fact.


Reply

Post 7

J'au-æmne

I heard Short Ride in a Fast Machine first several years ago, forgot it completely, and then heard Harmonium more recently. I love that piece, I love the poems, and I love the way he sets them, especially Negative Love. The chorus of 'no's is something amazing. There's recently been a load of hype I think about the Death of Klinghoffer Opera, I heard him talking about it on the radio, which is why I started buying up his stuff... although I haven't had time to listen to it all properly yet.

I haven't heard that Schuman recording, however, I feel I'm about to discover amazon.co.uk pretty soon, and then there will be no limits to the amounts of recorded music I can buy (except that I'm a student with no money...smiley - winkeye) I shall try out Harris, too - thanks for the suggestion.


Reply

Post 8

EddJC

I must say I have to agree - however I'd go much further - an no - I'm English - about as english as you can be and a music student at durham university for that matter - here is my points:

John Tavener is NOT and important composer
Ligetti does NOT sound like stravinsky, even to a beginner.
Ligetti howerver is not a big orchestral composer - most of the modern period is based around chamber music
Copland is not the father of minimalism, he was just the first true american composer as it were, and american composers in general were important for minimalism. In that sense though he WAS an important orchestral composer
People that should be in but aren't:
ELLIOT CARTER
Charles Ives
Harrison Birtwistle
Pierre Boulez
Olivier Messiean
Lutoslawski
Penderecki
various others
What about Bach?
What about Schumann and Schubert?
There should be sooo much more mozart
and less Tchaikowsky - it's not that important
Brahms is very important
as is Mahler

I can't think of anything else yet - but that article was sadly very very deficient - if you would like a list of changes, give me a bell...

Edd


Reply

Post 9

Gnomon - time to move on

You seem to have missed the point of this entry. It is not intended to be a summary of all that is good in Classical Music. It is intended only as an introduction to new beginners, who are confused as to where to start. Of course Bach is an important name in orchestral music, but Tchaikovsky is much more approachable for a beginner. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that a raw beginner listen to Bach's Mass in B Minor, for example, as the complexity of it would mean nothing to them.

The pieces suggested here are not the best in orchestral music, they are the easiest to approach. John Tavener is included because he is so popular at the moment. There is no mention of minimalism, because that is something that is best avoided until the listener has absorbed and appreciated all the works listed here.

This is not the definitive approach, but it is one approach, and it should work!


Reply

Post 10

EddJC

I don't think you understand what I mean - you're talking abou classical music as if it was bandstand - "I'd give tchaikowsky a 5 but I can't dance to it" - given that the most popular theory behind what classical (or western art) music *is* (as apposed to pop) is that it is music for music's sake - i.e. beauty in structure etc., then a guide to a beginner's listening should be based on objectivity rather than your own subjective opinions - therefore I suggested Elliot Carter for instance as apposed to Tavener because it provides a more important representation of modern orchestral music. Likewise Mozart was the key composer of the classical era simply for his work in characterisation and in the organisation of time, which is principally what that era is about. It is in the same way very important that the beginner recieves a large variety of western art musics from the beginning so that it is realised that there is a whole gamut of different styles and ideas and pieces, that not necessarily relate to or complement each other - you just provided the normal classic FM playlist. That's as good as sying "listen to classic FM and you'll know what orchestral music is about".
I totally disagree about minimalism - it's VERy important to stress that this is also a part of "classical" music for the beginner. Never mind whether you think that it should be introduced later - that's your own view of it - the point about providing a basic listening list is to provide a basic set from which the listener can broaden his/her tastes in whatever direction they want - whether that's through minimalism or not and whether that ever leads to minimalism is entirely up to them.


Edd


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Post 11

Gnomon - time to move on

That's certainly a valid view, but I feel my approach is equally valid, even if it is the Classic FM approach. I'm concerned that I don't scare off the listener, as I think I would do if I introduced most Bach at the start.

While Mozart is revered as a god by many now, he was out of fashion for about 200 years, so he is not as important an influence as you are making out. But my list includes Mozart because he is approachable.


Reply

Post 12

EddJC

who cares about fashion? who cares for that matter, what point in time mozart was in fashion? It's quite clear you have absolutely no clue about waht you are talking about - that is partly why everyone is disagreeing with your Classic FM Bias. Orchestral music, and Western Art Music in general is all about objectivity and beauty of structure.If you were to introduce some newbie to something like Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano concerto "because it sounds good" you would be totally misrepresenting the very drive behind "classical" music. Hence an objective approach is needed - Can't you just take criticism? I notice the fact that despite various outraged copland fans you haven't chaged anything in the article.


Edd


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Post 13

Gnomon - time to move on

Who cares about fashion? I do! I'm trying to make a guide entry for beginners! It's easier for them to relate to something which is in fashion. I don't care whether a composer is important or not. A good teacher knows that students are interested in what is important, there interested in what is good. You have to start with the easy to listen to stuff and wean them onto the more elaborate stuff later.

Copland may be considered important by Americans, but America has not really produced very much music worth talking about (other than Gershwin), so I'm not sure that it is worth putting him in. The entry is not meant to be inclusive of every single composer ever. It is meant to be an introduction.

It is not true to say everyone is disagreeing with my approach. This entry is not just my own view, it went through Peer Review and was agreed by the h2g2 community before being published in this form.


Reply

Post 14

EddJC

fashionable is not synonymous with good - it's often the very popular side of classical music that puts people off - things like italian opera etc. In particular forinstance, when I used to listen to that rubbish, I bored my two brothers (who are into drum and bass and all things loud that may be considered to be "outside" classical music) with things like Rachmaninov etc. Then one day, because I was learning about it at the time, we had an argument - my brother was arguing that classical music is not rhythmical and doesn't move you rhythmically. So I Played him Stravinsky's "Les Noces" (Piano Version) - I admit this isn't the most obscure work but it certainly is not on your list and I do't think it ever would be. He loved it - he didn't realise classical music could be like that. Likewise if you play people wishy washy romantic stuff, then you are often trying to coax them onto clssical music with the very stuff that they abhore. There will always will be some sentimentalists who do latch onto the romantic stuff - I was sorta one of them (although to be honest, I was far more interested in Bach and Beethoven) however the majority of people abhore that side of classical music. To be honest, so do most studying musicians, until they realise the objective background of alot of romantic music.

>A good teacher knows that students are interested in what is important, there interested in what is good

But then a good teacher should understand that not all pupils will agree with his idea of "good" - in fact as the word "good" is a purely subjective term, you must realise your own bias here. According to what you are saying, if you were teaching a live set of pupils and one of them says "I don't like classical music" then who are you to disagree? It's quite likely that the kid is ignorant, but it's even more likely that you are, and that you just haven't given the kid a wide enough choice.


>Copland may be considered important by Americans, but America has
>not really produced very much music worth talking about (other than
>Gershwin), so I'm not sure that it is worth putting him in. The entry
>is not meant to be inclusive of every single composer ever. It is
>meant to be an introduction.

absolute rubbish - again a purely subjective and very ignorant viewpoint. I agree on the scale of classical music Copalnd isn't really that important - he's mostly interesting as a nationalist composer. However, when we are talking about an introduction to ORCHESTRAL music, his importance suddenly increases 15 fold - he was the _first_ american to compose orchestral music - the argument being that orchestral music is a purely european phenomenon. He did more than that though, he took folk music and interesting orchestration and made orchestral music america's own - his music is so very different to european orchestral music. That is why it's so important. And then there's CHARLES IVES. An extraordinarily important composer, especially of orchestral music. Listen to the "Holiday symphony" or more importantly "The Unanswered Question" - seminal works in orchestral music history. And finally for the Americans, there's ELLIOT CARTER. He's very very very important - he's american's answer to darmstadt in one way, and in the other he's extraordinarily important for his use of counterpoin and his unorthadox orchestrations, simply by them being fairly orthodox in nature. Go away and listen to "sinfonia". These are not every single composer, however they are totally unissably if you are talking about orchestral music.

Tavener has absolutely no importance on the scale of things - far less than Copland, so I don't know why you've included him. Perhaps you don't either?

>It is not true to say everyone is disagreeing with my approach. This entry is not just my own view, it went through Peer Review and was agreed by the h2g2 community before being published in this form.

So Peer Review are the beall and endall of classical music are they? To be honest I thought they were just a bunch of people who check that your article makes sense, is reasonably articulate and has no offensive material in it. Don't drag them into it, you should be able to answer for your own mistakes. How old are you?

I certainly didn't say everyone anyay, I said that you have had a lot of criticisms, alot of which are by knowledgeable people, making reasonable comments, even if the copland one was a bit ambiguous, and the reason for these discussion parts are so that people can learn from other people. So learn.

Edd


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Post 15

Gnomon - time to move on

How old am I? Old enough! I'm not an ignorant teenager, if that's what you mean.

OK, I was perhaps being a bit hard on Copland. But given the difficulty of changing an edited entry (I'm not able to do it, only the editors can) I decided not to bother going through the process just to put Copland in.

You argue your case very convincingly. You know a lot more about the details of music than I do, since you have studied it. I have only the results of thirty years of listening to the stuff. But what you are saying would require a major rewrite of the approach of this entry. Is it worth doing? Who's going to do it? Are you? I'd be willing to work with you on a replacement for this entry which both of us would be happy with. We could then submit it to Peer Review, and the editors should agree to replacing it.


An Overview

Post 16

J'au-æmne

It strikes me that what is required by people who don't like this entry is a university project on an "overview of orchestral music" with an in depth discussion on each of the main classes of orchestral music, complete with references to composers of that genre, famous or not.

I've already said I think this is a good entry - for introducing people who've heard orchestral music on the radio/in commercials etc but could not classify what they've heard or understand how one piece of music fits with another in the grand scheme of things.

At the end of the day, h2g2 is a text based medium. I think it would be off putting in an entry aimed at introducing a subject to include lists of composers who people have never heard of - if we could have recordings of their work available with the entry then that would be great, but if someone is to make use of this entry, as it stands they'd have to buy the music - Gnomon has however mentioned pieces that they may already own - and even if you don't own something, you'd be happier buying something you'd heard of!

For example, on collective ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective ) I read a review of a new album by a band called The Bees, who I'd not heard of before. Because they had realaudio recordings of their music on collective, I could tell I liked it, and I went and bought the album. There'd have been no way I'd have spent money on it otherwise.


An Overview

Post 17

Azara

I think that trying to combine two different individual approaches would just result in a mishmash.

Eddc, why don't you write your own entries and submit them to Peer Review? There's plenty of room in the Edited Guide for entries on minimalism, on Copeland, Ives and Carter. You can do them what you condsider to be full justice, and go through the same Peer Review process that this entry has already been through.

By the way, you should realise that there are plenty of people who would find your casual rubbishing of Italian opera just as 'ignorant' as you claim to find Gnomon's priorities in this entry

Azara
smiley - rose


An Overview

Post 18

EddJC

hmmm - yes i would write an entry - in fact I have the start of one drafted on my page, however I'm far too busy studying the stuff at the moment to actually write about it - the moment I think I've written a useful essay on something then I shall not hesitate to enter it in The Guide.

Re: Gnomon - I'd quite gladly do a joint edit on the entry if you wish.

Re: Italian opera - I wasn't quite being that serious in the sweeping statement I made - however it is worth noting that those that would argue for italian opera would be largely arguing in a subjective sense, whereas the point of some of my arguments is that of objectivity. Italian Opera is certainly something you couldn't dismiss when talking about the influence on large scale romantic works, however their importance is not often realised for the right reasons - but that could be said of anything really...

Edd


An Overview

Post 19

Gnomon - time to move on

In the meanwhile, although this entry may be inadequate by some people's standards, I've got the editors to add a few pieces by Copland, Barber and Ives to the entry, to make it more balanced towards American composers.

Thanks, Anna, for doing those changes.smiley - ok


An Overview

Post 20

Azara

smiley - biggrinsmiley - ok

smiley - rose


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