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Is romantic music etc more complex than today's music?

 
 
aperson
 
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 06:22 am
I am having an argument with my friend... who unfortunately knows a lot more about music than I do. The argument is that "old" music, ie baroque, classical, and particularly romantic, is much more complex and musical and intelligent than today's music. I really disagree... listen to Dream Theater's "A Change of Seasons". It's over 20 mintues and contains some of the best and most genius music I've ever heard. And it's rock. However, because he knows about one hundred times more about music than I do, and I am / try to be logical, I can't say that I am right. In fact, I pretty much just have to trust him. However, I think he is majorly biased and a complete music snob.

So, can anyone give me an INFORMED AND NEUTRAL answer to my question?
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Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 06:52 am
@aperson,
It is a simplistic and disingenuous position for your friend to have taken. "Today," we have composers (John Williams is an example) who write musical scores for orchestras which are very bit as complex as anything written by Vivaldi, Hadyn, Schubert or Sibelius. Within the recent modern era, composers of "classical" music (using the term classical in its less precise meaning) have written scores for motion pictures, which is where "classical" music "went" when it no longer commanded the attention it once did with the public. So, for example, Sergei Rachmaninoff both wrote scores for motion pictures, and appeared in them as a performer. Although he did not write the original score, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a new musical treatment for Sergei Eisenstein's famous 1925 silent motion picture, The Battleship Potemkin, and it is Shostakovich's score which is most often heard in modern restorations of the movie.

Aram Katchaturian, an Armenian composer, wrote the truly beautiful score for the motion picture Spartacus, which he then rescored as "symphonic pictures" for public performances by symphony orchestras. Eisenstein's 1938 motion picture Alexander Nevsky was scored by Sergei Prokofiev, who then reworked the score as a concert contata for orchestra.

So, comparing The Beatles or Coldplay to Mozart or Beethoven is a glaring case of comparing apples to oranges. There was popular music, and popular minstrels in the days of those composers, and there always have been popular music and popular minstrels. In addition to composers from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern or Neoclassical, there were the composers and lyricists of popular music which was never intended for orchestral performance. And composers of orchestral music have deeply mined popular and "folk" music for their own compositions. One of my favorite pieces of orchestral music is Joseph Canteloube's Songs from the Auvergne, scored for soprano and orchestra. It is based on the folk songs of the Auvergne, a region of France. Another of my favorites is the Bachianas Brasilieras by Heitor Villa-Lobos (a Brazilian composer, the son of a Spanish immigrant, which explains the name). It is in nine suites, all of which are, allegedly, written in the style of J. S. Bach, but based upon popular Brazilian airs. One is about a small steam engine which labors up a mountain in Brazil, and uses the orchestra to imitate the sound of the little engine, in a supposedly Baroque style. My favorite is No. 5, scored for soprano and eight cellos, and based on a haunting melody which is one of the most popular songs in the Brazilian song book.

So, your friend is either profoundly ignorant (which i doubt) or is playing a silly game of comparing apples to oranges--ignoring that while Wagner was writing his operas, Stephen Foster was writing popular songs based on melodies of the American South, and traditional folk songs, most of them from the slave and former slave communities. He is ignoring that while Lennon and McCartney were writing their songs, John Williams was writing a score for the movie The Valley of the Dolls (the movie is appallingly bad, the music is wonderful). Williams is probably most famous for writing the score to Star Wars. George Gershwin successfully combined popular American music, particularly jazz, with orchestral scores to make a very successful career with both musicals and orchestral pieces. Gershwin asked Maurice Ravel if he would give him some lessons in composition. Ravel asked Gershwin how much money he had made the year before, and when told, said to Gershwin: "How about you give me some lessons?"

The next time you see your friend, tell him: "Oh, piss off . . . you're comparing apples to oranges."
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 07:14 am
Here's a marvelous example. If you are an American, you will be familiar with the child's song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." We get that Mozart. When he was in his late teens and early 20s, Mozart lived in Paris. There was a popular song in Paris then entitled "O, Vous Dirai-je Maman" (roughly, very roughly, that means, "Oh Mom, the Things I Could Tell You.") Mozart took the melody, and wrote a set of variations for it. That work became very popular, but was eventually forgotten. But the melody became popular, and even after Mozart's variations were forgotten, the song remained. So Mozart took a popular song, turned it into a complex concert piece for solo piano, which again became a popular song.

It is known as "Twelve Variations in C Major for Piano," or "Twelve Variations on O, Vous Dirai-je Maman."

aidan
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 08:09 am
@Setanta,
Wow! She's good!

It's my impression - though I have no proof or links to back it up and this is totally anecdotally from speaking with friends who are music teachers and young people who are 'composing' and 'making' music today -that it's a totally different ball game than it used to be.

Even twenty years ago, you couldn't write or play a song unless you had a basic understanding of music theory, notation, and had mastered an instrument.
Now if you have a computer- you can write and 'create' (play) music that sounds like you're playing an instrument, if not several.

I would think that this may give rise to more 'complex' arrangements being more easily derived and performed.
But I have to say, it seems a little like cheating to me.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 08:18 am
She made several obvious errors, not exactly gaffes, but she flubbed it several times. Her timing was uneven, too--but she didn't do badly for an eight-year-0ld. Not everyone is a Mozart. But i thought it was appropriate to show the piece performed by a child, since it has remained popular as a child's song. She was cute, too.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 08:19 am
@Setanta,
For someone whose hands are still so small - she was VERY good!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 08:46 am
Mozart was touring as a performer on the pianoforte at age six, and composed his first symphony (actually, a sinfonia concertante) when he was eight years old. As i said, not everyone is a Mozart.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:03 am
@Setanta,
obviously-but she's very good
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:04 am
Maybe she is now . . .
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:05 am
@Setanta,
she was then too
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:10 am
No, she wasn't. Her timing sucked, and was all over the road throughout the performance. She made several errors, and rather than proceed past them, she attempted to return and "do it right." She would never be paid to perform in that manner, and she is only good if one does not expect an eight year old child to perform such a simple piece without making errors. She's now about 13 or 14, and if she has worked diligently, she may well have a chance at a career as a concert pianist. That she is good now, and that she "didn't do badly for an eight year" doesn't mean she was good then. Good is not a very high standard, but to achieve it, in music as in anything else, it is reasonable to expect someone to perform without error.

This reminds me of that nonsense they do these days in which every child who attempts something is give a ribbon or a prize, as though making an effort and failing were going to be sufficient in real life. It isn't, and she wasn't.
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:19 am
@Setanta,
Do you play the piano Setanta? Very few pianists - even professionals - EVER play a piece totally without error. It's not that they don't know what they're doing, or don't have the piece down pat- sometimes fingers slip from a flat or sharp to the natural on one hand before you've moved on to the next note on the other hand...any number of things.
Yes, as people get older and have more experience, they learn how to disguise those small mistakes so that most people don't hear them.

Good does not mean perfect or without error. This little girl was very good.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:30 am
Without error doesn't mean perfect, either. If you go back to youtube to the page with that performance, there are several performances of adults of the same piece, and it's very easy to hear the differences in the performance. You keep saying she was very good--no, she wasn't. She was, at best, good, and then only if one makes allowance for her age. As i've already pointed out, good is not a very high standard.

The Welsh cell-phone salesman, Paul Potts, went on a television talent show, sang Nessun dorma indifferently (he missed several notes, and his pitch was not reliably steady). But he was on the tee-vee, and got his 15 minutes, so now he gets recording contracts, and people who don't normally do opera, rush out to buy his cds. That doesn't make him good, although if he has the sense to spend some of his cash on voice lessons, and takes good care of his throat and lungs, he might someday be good. Once again, good is not a very high standard. He would last about five seconds in an audition for an Italian opera company.

In 1971, Luciano Pavarotti performed at La Scalla, the toughest opera crowd in the world. He hit high C nine times--Paul Potts was unable to hit it once. Pavarotti had been performing and touring for ten years before they would even let him do a performance at La Scala, and the crowd that came that night, if not hostile, was not prepared to be impressed unless he performed impressively--which he did. Someone started a thread about Paul Potts not long after he became famous, and raved on an on about his performance and how is redounded to the glory of God. It told him his God's standards must be pretty low, and linked a performance of Nessun dorma by Pavarotti to show how it sounds when it is done properly.

I have already explained why i used that performance. I don't suggest that every performer can achieve perfection in every performance--but professionally, every performer is expected to perform without error, even if they don't turn in a "perfect" performance.

That child was "good" only if one qualifies by referring to her age. There's no way in hell she was "very good." Once again, it's like giving out a ribbon to every child who shows up. What are you basing your judgment on? Do you think that was special olympics piano?
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:39 am
@Setanta,
I'm basing my assessment on the fact that I know how small an eight year old's hands are, how short her fingers were, how small the reach that eight year old hand is capable of- and then how obviously limber and practiced those short little fingers were on that particular song.

I would call her very good- especially if she's only eight years old , that means to me that she'd probably been playing at the very most four years, and she exhibited a level of competence that many adults who've been playing for three or four years do not achieve.

I think she exhibits above average talent - and I call that VERY GOOD-regardless of her age.

You're welcome to your level of discernment - I'll keep mine.
I think it enables me to look at the world through slightly kinder eyes and enjoy it more - special olympics, regular olympics, whatever- it's no skin off my nose to tell someone they've done a good or VERY GOOD job when it's obvious they've worked hard.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 09:47 am
@aidan,
Quote:
I would call her very good- especially if she's only eight years old . . .


That's a point i made--you can only call her good by reference to her age. Mozart was performing flawlessly at the age of six--and, tediously, once again, not everyone is a Mozart. Adults who cannot perform to the low, low standards of that performance are not going to have a career as concert pianists, so remarks about that are meaningless.

As for your "level of discernment," my experience at this site is that you have little to none. A good example of that is your idiotic assumption that you enjoy the world more than i do. You have, and can have, no idea of how much i do or don't enjoy the world.
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 11:00 am
@aperson,
Quote:
today's music


Does your friend take it for granted that "today's music" means pop music? If he's hung up on complexity, I wonder how he would measure Brahms against, say, Xenakis, a more recent composer whose music is only fully appreciated by those with advanced degrees in mathematics. (I exaggerate only slightly.) This would be a fairer comparison and it would test your friend's apparent belief that "complexity" is an important musical value in its own right.
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 12:07 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
That's a point i made--you can only call her good by reference to her age.

Wrong- it's less about age and more about hand size...which can and does vary despite age.

And I made that point before you did - in my second post.

You're so ******* peevish and always willing to point out everyone's mistakes...you may enjoy the world more, but I doubt the world enjoys you very much.

Have a good evening Mr. Discernment....
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 12:08 pm
@aidan,
Quote:
You're so ******* peevish and always willing to point out everyone's mistakes...you may enjoy the world more, but I doubt the world enjoys you very much.


So . . . you don't do irony, huh?
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 12:11 pm
@Setanta,
Laughing Laughing Hell yeah I do irony - whoever said I didn't do irony?
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 May, 2009 12:11 pm
@aidan,
I can also play the piano.
 

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