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Music Without Magic

Miles Hoffman

In 1817, Franz Schubert set these words of the poet Franz von Schober to music in his song “An die Musik”:




O gracious Art, in how many gray hours

When life’s fierce orbit encompassed me,

Hast thou kindled my heart to warm love,

Hast charmed me into a better world.

Oft has a sigh, issuing from thy harp,

A sweet, blest chord of thine,

Thrown open the heaven of better times;

O gracious Art, for that I thank thee!




Schubert’s song may well be the most beautiful thank-you note anyone has ever written, but it’s also something else. It’s a credo, a statement of faith in the wondrous powers of music, and by its very nature an affirmation of those powers. We may view it as a statement of expectations as well. The poet thanks Music for what it has done for him, but there is nothing in his words that would make us think that Music’s powers are exhausted, and indeed the noble, exalted character of Schubert’s music would lead us to believe that Music’s powers are, if anything, eternal, and eternally dependable.

But just how does our gracious Art exercise these powers? How does it comfort us, charm us, kindle our hearts? We might start our search for answers by positing two fundamentals: a fundamental pain and a fundamental quest. A fundamental pain of our human condition is loneliness. No surprise here: We’re born alone, we’re alone in our consciousness, we die alone, and, when loved ones die, we’re left alone. And pain itself, including physical pain, isolates us and makes us feel still more alone, completing a vicious circle. Our fundamental quest—by no means unrelated to our aloneness and our loneliness—is the quest for meaning, the quest to make sense of our time on earth, to make sense of time itself.

Where does music come in? Music is both a balm for loneliness and a powerful, renewable source of meaning—meaning in time and meaning for time. The first thing music does is banish silence. Silence is at once a metaphor for loneliness and the thing itself: It’s a loneliness of the senses. Music overcomes silence, replaces it. It provides us with a companion by occupying our senses—and, through our senses, our minds, our thoughts. It has, quite literally, a presence. We know that sound and touch are the only sensual stimuli that literally move us, that make parts of us move: Sound waves make the tiny hairs in our inner ears vibrate, and, if sound waves are strong enough, they can make our whole bodies vibrate. We might even say, therefore, that sound is a form of touch, and that in its own way music is able to reach out and put an arm around us.

One way we are comforted when we’re lonely is to feel that at least someone understands us, knows what we’re going through. When we feel the sympathy of others, and especially when we feel empathy, we experience companionship—we no longer feel entirely alone. And strangely enough, music can provide empathy. The structure of music, its essential nature—with many simultaneous, complex, overlapping, and interweaving elements, events, components, associations, references to the past, intimations of the future—is an exact mirror of the psyche, of the complex and interwoven structure of our emotions. This makes it a perfect template onto which we can project our personal complexes of emotions. And when we make that projection, we hear in music our own emotions—or images and memories of our emotions—reflected back. And because the reflection is so accurate, we feel understood. We recognize, and we feel recognized. It’s a kind of illusion, but it’s a beautiful one, and very comforting. And, in fact, it’s not entirely an illusion, because even though the specifics may differ, we all share the same kinds of emotions. We all know love and loss and longing, and in different measure we all know joy and despair. We’re linked with the composer of the music by our common humanity. And if a composer has found a compelling way to express his or her own emotions, then to a certain extent that composer can’t really avoid expressing, and touching, ours as well.

Not to be forgotten among these psychological considerations is what Joseph Conrad called “the inexhaustible joy that lives in beauty.” The sheer beauty of music lifts us up and gives us hope, reminding us in our darkest moments, in our “gray hours,” that life itself can still hold wonders and beauties. Furthermore, the very “movement” of music, its rhythmic movement through time, carries inevitable associations with life, with positive forces and feelings. Life is movement and movement is life, and joyous music can literally get us moving again when we’ve been stunned or stilled by sadness.

Did I say “movement through time”? Ah, time. It passes in music. But not without purpose, not without reasons, not without . . . meaning. And that’s just the point: Music gives meaning to time. If all those overlapping and interweaving elements and events in a piece of music indeed mean something, if they remind, reflect, comfort, inspire, or excite—then by definition the time it takes for them to do all that means something too. When I played in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., years ago, I used to have a regular little joke. Before we began a lengthy symphony, I’d turn to my colleague on stage and say, “See you in 45 minutes.” A piece of music must take a certain amount of time; there’s no way around it. And though it may be just a self-contained fragment of time, a little world of its own, within that fragment time is used, arranged, and manipulated so that the passage of time makes sense.




I have a friend who’s fond of saying that it took a thousand years to invent the C major chord. The system of writing music in clearly defined major and minor keys is called tonality, or “tonal harmony,” and music written in that system is called “tonal music.” We can only guess at how the music of the ancients sounded (and my friend exaggerates), but we know that from the beginnings of Gregorian chant, somewhere around a.d. 600, it did indeed take about a thousand years for tonality to evolve, and to find general acceptance. By 1700, it had reached a position of unchallenged primacy in Western music.

What does it mean for a piece to be “in a key”? Well, when a piece of music is in the key of C major, for example, it means that the harmony of C major functions as the home base, the harmonic center of gravity of the piece. A piece in C major will establish the C major harmony at the beginning (using the notes of a C major chord) and return to it in no uncertain terms at the end. In technical terms the home harmony is called the “tonic,” and the gravitational force of the tonic—built into the system and cleverly exploited by the composer even if we’re not always aware of it—is inexorable. Between its beginning and end, however, a piece will inevitably traverse any number of other harmonies, major and minor. The various harmonies don’t follow each other randomly: They’re ordered in progressions, one harmony leading to the next, sometimes in predictable ways, sometimes in unusual or surprising ways. And the most important aspect of these progressions—indeed, the defining aspect of all tonal music— is that dissonant chords, chords that contain jarring or unsettling sounds, always eventually lead to consonant chords, chords that “please the ear.”


Let me emphasize immediately that the pleasing qualities of consonant chords and intervals, and the power of tonal relationships in general, are not arbitrary constructs. They were determined empirically, over the course of centuries. And they are firmly rooted in the laws of acoustical physics, with frequency ratios and a natural phenomenon called the harmonic series (or overtone series) playing vital roles. This is why Leonard Bernstein, in his 1973 Norton Lectures at Harvard University (published in book form as The Unanswered Question), devoted considerable time to a discussion of the harmonic series, and why he said, “I believe that from . . . Earth emerges a musical poetry, which is by the nature of its sources tonal.” Or to put it another way, the origins of tonality lie not in a set of inventions and decisions but in the fundamental nature of sound.

To be clear: Tonal music contains lots of dissonance. If you were to string together all the dissonant chords in a piece by Bach (or Schubert or Tchaikovsky or any other composer of tonal music) with no other chords between, the effect would loosen your fillings. But the dissonances in tonal music are never strung together that way, because the specific function of dissonance in tonal music is to provide tension, and that tension, in whatever degree it is established, is always resolved by a return to consonance. Indeed, the true genius of the tonal system is that in any given piece it enables a composer to combine the power and momentum of harmonic progressions with the simultaneous manipulation of melodic material, in ways that create the impression of a narrative, a dramatic structure complete with characters, rhetoric, direction, conflict, tension, uncertainty, and ultimate resolution.

So, pleasing sounds, striking contrasts, coherent dramatic structures based on expressive musical elements that form clear (if sometimes complex) relationships and patterns—for more than 200 years this remarkable system served as the unquestioned foundation of Western music, the foundation on which the works of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods were all built. From Vivaldi to Mahler, Bach to Verdi, Mozart to Mussorgsky, Beethoven to Fauré, countless composers of every conceivable individual and national style shared the basic framework of tonality; they spoke what was essentially a common musical language. Is the enduring popularity of these composers’ works unrelated to that musical language? Is the still-central role of these works in our musical life an accident, a matter of chance or good public relations? No, and no. Is it fair to say that the powerful and perennial emotional appeal of tonal music reflects its extraordinary capacity to meet our oh-so-human musical expectations, to satisfy our longings for beauty, comfort, and meaning? Yes, indeed.




Add two centuries and a little bit to 1700, and you arrive somewhere in the early 20th century. The basic framework of tonality was still in place, but by this point its boundaries had been shifting and expanding for some time, helped along by the brilliant harmonic innovations of such composers as Richard Wagner and Claude Debussy, and by the massive expansion of forms and forces in the works of composers like Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss. As the new century began, this reshaping and expansion of tonality’s limits was so extensive that, despite an ever-accumulating repertory of great works, some thought that the potential of Western music’s traditional tonal resources was nearing exhaustion. The foundation, according to a particular theory of music history that’s still current, was crumbling fast.

But was it? The composers I mentioned in the two paragraphs above worked from the late 17th century to the early 20th. But in listing those whose music either sits comfortably in a conventional tonal framework or makes sense only within a context of tonal elements and expectations, I could include any number of extraordinary composers whose careers extended well into the 20th century—and, in some cases, well beyond the century’s midpoint. I might start with Jean Sibelius and Sergei Rachmaninoff and continue with Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, George Gershwin, Paul Hindemith, Béla Bartók, Ernest Bloch, Leos Janácek, Sergei Prokofiev, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Bohuslav Martinu, Alberto Ginastera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Leonard Bernstein. Not a bad list, and by no means a complete one. These composers are among the greatest, most revered musical figures of the 20th century, and they simply don’t fit the theory. If tonality was on its last legs, somebody must have forgotten to tell them.

Another composer made quite an impact in the early part of the 20th century, however, and his name was Arnold Schönberg. Born in Vienna in 1874, Schönberg was at first an exponent of the expansionist, superheated style of late-19th-century Romanticism. (His string sextet of 1899, Verklaerte Nacht, “Transfigured Night,” remains a brilliant and much-loved example of that style.) But by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, he was on his way to a dramatic renunciation of tonality—a renunciation that included a rejection of the importance of consonant harmonies and a happy embrace of dissonance. And by the early 1920s, he had introduced a novel method of composition that came to be known as the “12-tone” method. In 12-tone music, the composer orders the 12 tones of the chromatic scale (the scale that on the piano includes all the keys, black and white, in any one octave) in a series of his choosing called a “tone row,” and that row—in place of traditional scales, harmonies, and harmonic progressions—functions in complex ways as the basis for all the musical elements of the piece. Twelve-tone music (also called “serial” music) is by definition “atonal”: It’s not in a key, and it doesn’t depend on consonant harmonies to provide stability or resolve tension. In theory, the point in 12-tone music is not that dissonance is good and consonance is bad, but rather that they’re both irrelevant. In practice, however, Schönberg’s 12-tone works, especially his early ones, were strikingly dissonant.

Schönberg claimed to have “liberated” dissonance—liberated it, that is, from its status as a way station for consonance, from being tonality’s tool. And his strict avoidance of consonance in his early 12-tone works was a means of avoiding even the slightest whiff of tonality. This was necessary, he felt, in order to establish the 12-tone system on its own solid footing. There are some, however, who would say that, far from leading to a “liberation” of dissonance—a liberation whose necessity was by no means generally acknowledged, I hasten to add—Schönberg’s system led, rather, to a tyranny of dissonance.

Not that it led there right away, or that Schönberg himself even did the leading. In his later years, in fact, he actually retreated, moving back toward tonality. To strip certain complicated lines of development down to the bare bones, however, it’s accurate to say that the serial music of Schönberg became enormously influential, to an extent way beyond anything having to do with its general acceptance or popularity. This influence came about through Schönberg’s own tireless efforts as a teacher and musical zealot, through the proselytizing and philosophizing efforts of various musicians, writers, and critics, and through a strange and complicated confluence of aesthetic and political influences, especially after World War II. The works themselves were controversial from the beginning, to put it mildly. They were often critically reviled, and to this day they have never found more than a very narrow public. But Schönberg’s serialism led directly, especially through his student Anton Webern, to a postwar European avant-garde or “modernist” movement spearheaded by such composers as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and György Ligeti. It led to a simultaneous modernist movement in the United States whose seminal figure was John Cage and whose later exponents included such composers as Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, and many of their students and imitators. And it led ultimately to a 50-year modernist reign in the world of Western classical music, a reign in which to have any hope of being taken seriously by the critical and academic communities, composers were obligated, regardless of their specific styles and techniques, to avoid traditional tonal procedures and the comforts of consonance and to accept that dissonance was king.

Now, it’s true that we often add salt and hot spices to our food to enhance its flavor and heighten contrasts, and it’s important to remember that some people like their food much hotter and spicier than others. I should emphasize here— and I can’t emphasize strongly enough—that there are many contemporary composers, along with a host of not-so-contemporary composers, who have in varying degrees made use of 12-tone techniques and atonal procedures to write richly expressive and, indeed, powerfully moving and beautiful works. The extraordinary Alban Berg, an early Schönberg disciple, comes immediately to mind, as do some of the names on my earlier list of primarily tonal—but occasionally atonal!—20th-century composers.

It’s true as well that harsh elements can be a tool of great visual art, and that much great literature makes use of disturbing images or harrowing episodes, or both. But is there a chef on the planet who suggests swallowing a tablespoon of salt for an appetizer and following it with a bowl of Tabasco for an entrée before washing it all down with a cup of vinegar? We know from listening to tonal music that dissonance can be wonderfully useful when it’s employed imaginatively. It can enhance and even create meaning. But in and of itself, dissonance is something that people fundamentally don’t like—that’s its very definition. When composers nonetheless demand that their listeners endure dissonance at great length and without letup, it’s hard not to see that demand as something spiteful, as evidence of a musical philosophy that is stubbornly aggressive, even hostile. And it’s easy to understand why that philosophy has never proved terribly popular with the concert-going public.




The primary proposition in defense of avant-garde music of the relentlessly dissonant and persistently unpopular variety has always been that, through exposure and familiarity, we often come to appreciate, and even love, things that initially confuse or displease us. Here what we might call “the Beethoven Myth” comes into play. “Beethoven was misunderstood in his time,” the argument goes, “but now the whole world recognizes his genius. I am misunderstood in my time, therefore I am like Beethoven.” This reasoning, unfortunately, has been the refuge of countless second- and third-rate talents. Beethoven ate fish, too. If you eat fish, are you like Beethoven? But there’s a much graver flaw in the argument: Beethoven was not misunderstood in his time. Beethoven was without doubt the most famous composer in the world in his time, and the most admired. And if there were those who didn’t “get” his late string quartets, for example, there were plenty of others who did, and who rapidly accepted the quartets as masterpieces. In fact, the notion that great geniuses in the history of music went unrecognized during their lifetimes is almost entirely false. It’s difficult to find an example of a piece we now consider a masterpiece that was not appreciated as such either while its composer was alive or within a relatively short period after his death. “But there was a riot at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring!” Yes, that was at the premiere, in Paris in May 1913. But the Rite was performed again almost immediately, without riots, in Paris and London, and quickly acquired its stature as perhaps the most celebrated and influential piece of the 20th century. It has since been performed and recorded more times than anyone could possibly count.

Still, tastes do evolve, and we’re reminded that people who as children eat and drink only Velveeta and soda pop often later develop a taste for Camembert and cognac. That’s fine, even if it may be a little on the generous side to use “Camembert and cognac” as analogues for unpleasant sounds. But I’m afraid the “lesson” has usually been taken considerably further, and reinforced with large doses of intellectual condescension and intimidation. While much of the public would be perfectly willing to acknowledge that Camembert and cognac can be wonderful elements of a diet, what we’ve heard from the avant-garde establishment for years has been something like this: “Yes, we know from centuries of experience that most people find a steady diet of nothing but Camembert and cognac unappealing, and there is no reason to believe that that will ever change. Nonetheless, starting now we are going to feed you . . . a steady diet of nothing but Camembert and cognac. We don’t care that you find it unappealing, because we’ve decided that this dietary change is necessary; it represents Progress. And if you can’t accept this Progress, it’s only because you’re not knowledgeable or sophisticated enough to understand and appreciate it.”





If the joys and comforts of beautiful sounds were all we sought in music, the dominance of dissonance would be the only problem of avant-garde music that we’d need to consider. But we’re also burdened by our fundamental quest for meaning, our need for music to make sense.

“Before we can process and store the input our senses receive,” writes psychiatrist Anthony Reading in his book Hope and Despair, “we first have to be able to perceive the information that it contains, to distinguish meaningful signals from meaningless noise. Information detection involves perceiving recurrent patterns in data, deviations from apparent randomness.” Reading emphasizes that “information is contained in the way objects are arranged within a system, not in the objects themselves,” and just as Bach and Beethoven would wholeheartedly agree, so would Schönberg and his musical descendants. The musical objects—notes, chords, rhythms—in the works of many modernist composers (Babbitt and Carter are excellent examples) are in fact arranged with extraordinary care, and sometimes with dazzling intellectual complexity. The catch is that for the arrangements to convey “information,” to be meaningful, they have to be perceivable: Unrecognizable or imperceptible patterns are the same as no patterns at all. And without patterns— familiar ones or newly established ones—we lose our bearings. We’re not sure where we are or where we’ve been, and therefore we have little interest in wherever it is we may be going. This is where Schönberg himself so often failed, and where Babbitt and Carter et al. have most grievously failed. They have either grossly overestimated or willfully ignored the limits of the auditory perceptual abilities of most human beings, and somewhere along the way they have either forgotten or willfully ignored the reasons most people listen to music in the first place. They, or their boosters, may write detailed, not to say impenetrably turgid, analyses of the structural underpinnings of their works and the strict mathematical relationships inherent therein, but to the extent that those relationships remain completely unapparent to the human ear—as they so often do—they’re meaningless, and what we actually hear is . . . noise.

Or we could just call it bad music. Why not? Molière said, “Anyone can be an honorable man, and yet write verse badly.” No one would dispute that there have been many honorable, sincere, dedicated, and very nice men and women writing music over the past 80 years. But if there are such things as “good music” or “good pieces” or “great pieces,” then there must also be such things as bad pieces. There must be pieces that don’t work very well or don’t work at all, pieces that to most ears don’t make sense, and that therefore cannot do what honorable, sincere, and open-minded music lovers look for music to do. Do we agree that Bach and Handel were the greatest composers of the Baroque era? Then the other Baroque composers were . . . less great. And some were not very good at all. What’s interesting is that we have little difficulty in agreeing on many of these distinctions when the people in question are long dead. Why not make distinctions while people are still alive, when making these distinctions might actually be useful? Despite what we’ve been told so often to think, why not go by what we hear? Why not say this: If a piece has had 30 or 50—or 80—years to be “understood” by the public but still isn’t, the chances are extremely good that it’s not ever going to be. And that’s far more likely the fault of the piece, and the composer, than of audiences. Why not come out and say, without fear and without apology for our supposed shortcomings, that the emperor has been naked, and that too much of the music written over the past five decades has been just plain bad?

Am I being too harsh? Have I exaggerated the intensity of the distaste that so much modernist music has aroused? No, sad to say, not if we keep certain factors in mind. One is the strength of the needs, the intensity of the desires, that we fulfill with music. Our expectations of music—expectations of the type nurtured, reinforced, and satisfied for generation upon generation—are enormous, and enormously important to us, and when those expectations are disappointed, we take it very badly indeed. Music is a loved one, after all, a family member. It should be no surprise that we’re troubled much more by its bad behavior than by that of strangers. Another crucial factor is time. One of the more obvious reasons we appreciate music’s giving meaning to time is that our supply of time is so limited. But this is also why we so strongly resent having our time wasted! If you see a painting hanging on the wall and don’t like it, you simply turn your gaze elsewhere, and hardly any time has been squandered. But if you go to a concert and the program includes music you find ugly or unpleasant, precious minutes of your life tick away, lost. You could have done something else with that little part of your life, anything else, but you’re stuck four seats from the aisle, and time is passing. From resentment to hatred is but a small step.

And, of course, not many people enjoy being insulted, either, or falsely accused. In a 1964 speech at the Colorado campus of the Aspen Institute, the English composer Benjamin Britten said, “It is insulting to address anyone in a language which they do not understand.” And if what’s said—or played—seems so often to be couched intentionally in a language that virtually nobody could understand, and yet one finds oneself blamed over and over again for not understanding. . . .




Let me repeat: People have written, and are still writing, very good and very moving pieces in styles that have little or nothing to do with tonality. Good composers find a way to write good music, and it’s just as great a mistake to equate “atonal” with “ugly” as to assume that “tonal” always means “beautiful.” Heaven knows the history of music is littered with mediocre tonal compositions! But while tonal music benefits, as we’ve seen, from a built-in logic established by centuries of development, any primarily atonal idiom requires the composer to create his or her own logic, and that can be very difficult. When it’s done well, the logic makes itself understood, even on first hearing. Notes, harmonies, and rhythms follow one another in patterns that make sense, and the musical language, though perhaps unfamiliar, unusual, or highly spiced with dissonance, is comprehensible and convincing. Narrative, drama, and emotional impact are all possible.

Inevitably, however, we return to the fact that there’s something basic to human nature in the perception of “pleasing sounds,” and in the strength of the tonal structures that begin and end with those sounds. Blue has remained blue to us over the centuries, and yellow yellow, and salt has never started tasting like sugar. With or without physics, consonances are consonances because to most people they sound good, and we abandon them at great risk. History will say—history says now—that the 12-tone movement was ultimately a dead end, and that the long modernist movement that followed it was a failure. Deeply flawed at their musical and philosophical roots, unloving and oblivious to human limits and human needs, these movements left us with far too many works that are at best unloved, at worst detested. They led modern classical music to crisis, confusion, and, in many quarters, despair, to a sense that we’ve wasted decades, and to a conviction that our only hope for whatever lies ahead starts with first making sure we abandon the path we’ve been on.




From a distance of centuries, knowledgeable observers can usually discern when specific cultural developments within societies or civilizations reached their peaks. The experts may argue over precise dates and details, but the existence of the peaks themselves is rarely in question. In the case of Western music, we don’t have to wait centuries for a verdict. We can say with confidence that the system of tonal harmony that flowered from the 1600s to the mid-1900s represents the broad summit of human accomplishment, and that our subsequent attempts to find successors or substitutes for that system are efforts—more or less noble—along a downhill slope.

What lies ahead? Nobody can say, of course. But with the peak behind us, there’s no clear cause for optimism—no rational cause, anyway, to believe that another Beethoven (or Berlioz or Brahms or Bartók) is on the way. And even if he were on the way, in what musical language would he write when he got here? The present is totally free but totally uncertain, the immediate past offers little, and the more distant past is . . . past. And yet, irrational creatures that we are, we keeping hoping for the best, and it’s right that we do. We owe it to Music. The good news is that there are many composers today who, despite the uncertain footing, are striving valiantly, and successfully, to write works that are worthy of our admiration and affection. They write in a variety of styles, but the ones who are most successful are those who are finding ways—often by assimilating ethnic idioms and national popular traditions—to invest their music with both rhythmic vitality and lyricism. They’re finding ways to reconnect music to its eternal roots in dance and song.

They’re also rediscovering, in many cases, the potential of tonal harmonies, and this seems like a positive step. Still, I can’t help wondering: Will anybody ever find ways, new ways, that are so striking, so wonderful, that our entire musical landscape will be transformed as if by magic? Well, magic itself may actually turn out to be our only hope for such a transformation. The mathematician Mark Kac, in attempting to describe the extraordinary genius of physicist Richard Feynman, came up with the following formulation: “There are two kinds of geniuses, the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians.’ An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. . . . It is different with the magicians . . . the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible.” If we’re very lucky, a musical magician may come along one day who will perform miracles in ways that are completely unforeseeable to us now. Others will learn from his or her work and contribute new riches. The term “modern music” will take on a wonderfully positive ring, and the heaven of better times will be thrown open to us.

O gracious Art, let’s hope we get lucky.

Miles Hoffman is violist and artistic director of the American Chamber Players, and music commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition. He is the author of The NPR Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z (1997).

(Sursa: Wilson Quarterly)

3 comentarii:

music and art lover spunea...

Music without Magic - Miles Hoffman Many thanks for this article. May I take the liberty of sending a lecture recently delivered by a colleague and myself?Emancipating Dissonance - Developing Methodist VariationsThe Introduction to "Unmasking Methodist Theology" begins with the question: "What is so special about Methodism?" "Nothing" - comes the reply, and yet it exists! 1This paper argues that there is a highly distinctive and special Methodist way of doing theology, but it needs to be painstakingly looked for, or more appropriately, listened to with greater attention than we are currently disposed to give. We shall be using, as a metaphorical methodology, a particular approach towards music (worked out largely by the Marxist philosopher and musician Theodor Adorno ) for this demanding enterprise.Our starting point is John Wesley's famous dictum about Social Holiness, since, we shall argue, it is from this that so many distinctive ways of being Methodist (e.g. committed to Christian perfection, being connexional, placing a strong emphasis upon Christian experience, demonstrating the catholic spirit) have all developed. In the Preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems 1739 (note this musical hymn-singing context) we read: "The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love is the length and depth and breadth and height of Christian perfection. This commandment we have from Christ, that he who loves God, loves his brother also; and that we manifest our love by doing good unto all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith…"2When these words were written, the idea of Sonata Form was taking shape in the Western Classical musical tradition. According to Adorno, it was Mozart (who died in the same year as John Wesley) and supremely Beethoven , who "took hold of" Sonata Form and developed its potential to a very high degree. For our purposes, the constituent parts of Sonata Form create a powerful metaphor for the whole concept of holiness which Wesley developed in a distinctive way, and which we need to celebrate in present-day Methodism. It can be argued that Wesley's approach to holiness was something of a reaction to the prevailing English tradition, which was distinctly solitary in character. He eventually viewed the ideas such as those promoted by Jeremy Taylor, Thomas Traherne, the Puritans and mystical writers like Jakob Böhme, with suspicion because of their lack of a societal nature.The sections that make up Sonata Form are as follows:The Exposition (here the principal themes/main characters are introduced), followed byThe Development (here the themes undergo development through the relations into which they enter) followed byThe Recapitulation (here the tensions generated by the encounters in the Development are resolved) There is no doubt in our mind that Wesley's impatience with "holy solitariness" and his insistence on "social holiness" was a clear movement away from the Exposition of solitary religion and into the Development of societal expression.The aspect that now interests us most is what actually happens in the Development section itself. Theodor Adorno believed that Beethoven was the truly great exponent of making the most out of the Development in his works, and it was Arnold Schoenberg who later devised the phrase "Developing Variations"3 for this creative process. Here every component part of the musical material expresses "everything it has got" within itself, by inversion, by retrograde steps, by tonal, rhythmic variations, and mostly in its relationship to other sounding tones.Schoenberg makes the point that Johannes Brahms understood this concept of Developing Variations far better than his rival Richard Wagner. In Brahms’ work repeated phrases, motives and other structural ingredients are expressed only in varied forms. Wagner, however, had to increase intensity by using sequences that were continuously repetitious and differing in nothing essential from their first appearances.4 One obvious outcome of Social Holiness in its developing form in the early days of Methodism was the building up of Class Meetings and the importance placed on living "in society". Each individual was encouraged to develop their Christian life in relation to others, just as the musical material does in the Development section of Sonata Form. It is our belief that this aspect of Social Holiness must be celebrated.However, Adorno has traced a highly significant further stage, which is heard most effectively in the late works of Beethoven, and most notably in his late String Quartets. Written at the time when total deafness had enveloped him, here there is an anti-harmonic music from which deep suffering and profound developments were born.Example - Beethoven, String Quartet, Op ?In such an example, it seems as though dissonance becomes the truth about harmony, and therefore a more accurate reflection of the human condition. Now it appears that the more the artist pursues reconciliation (cf the Recapitulation above) the greater is the degree of resistance he/she meets in the material. Also, the greater is the corresponding force or violence that is required from him/her to formulate such reconciliation. As a commentator on Adorno puts it, It is the increasing entropy of structures which generates the move away from structure, and such a move is often experienced as a liberative high-energy moment, a liminal state. 5 The artist is thus brought, through engagement with the material itself, to the realisation of the artificial and illusory nature of the reconciliation (recapitulation) s/he is seeking. Does this apply to our Methodist tendency to be over-prescriptive in our apparent obsession with unnecessary worship book rubrics and our need for a standing order for everything?What kind of overtones do you hear in this quotation? -Now however, that I have definitely started on my journey, I may confess to having broken off the bonds of a bygone aesthetic, and if I am striving towards a goal that seems to me certain, nevertheless I already feel the opposition I shall have to overcome. I feel also with what heat even those of the feeblest temperament will reject my works, and I sus pect that even those who have hitherto believed in me will be willing to perceive the necessity of this development. [Schoenberg commenting on the premiere of his Song Cycle of 1910] 6At this point we would want to argue that the pursuit of Social Holiness and the life of growth and development in grace has an aspect which must include the full recognition and value of this dissonance and atonality. In other theological words, it must have a proper crucicifed shape. Our developing Methodist spirituality should recognise that the life of Holiness must never be confused with a life of happiness and comfort, and the pursuit of a rule of life can never be essentially about feeling good, as though all things must return to a clear resolution or recapitulation.As an example, the popularity of the Radio station Classic FM rests on its playing works that have a clear resolution of discord, along with those essential qualities of "cool" and "relaxation". This kind of ‘easy-listening’ approach to our faith can infect and distort our understanding of the pursuit of holiness. For instance,there appears to be a serious contradiction in John Tavener’s comments on music, theology and commerce . He implies that the purpose of his music is iconic, but it seems to end up in the market-place nonetheless. This is borne out by the fact that Classic FM has actively promoted a work such as The Protecting Veil. Tavener is double-minded here, but maybe no more than most of us. The inherited Methodist emphasis on Social Holiness with its emancipation of dissonance must counter this.7 Dietrich Bonhoeffer touched on this cruciform aspect of holiness when he referred to his ethical approach to Christian discipleship as "polyphonic", another powerful musical motif. The disciple of Christ is to embrace the entire scope of Christ's life, and develop the same polyphonic character. This is discovered by: incarnation (affirmation and co-operation)crucifixion (judgement and rejection)resurrection (bold creativity and newness)We affirm this polyphonic interplay of the three-fold Sonata Form shape, along with Bonhoeffer's insistence that "there could be no greater error than to tear these three elements apart" 8 However, our plea at this stage is to ensure that the crucifixion has its fully emancipated (and therefore anti-harmonic and dissonant) position in our pursuit of Social Holiness. Without it, our discipleship would be nothing other than a comfortable commodity. Now the exploration of Commodification is a passionate concern for Theodor Adorno and his social theory. Adorno's writings are considered by some to be ultra-critical and narrow in scope, as well as extremely dense and complex. He comes across as scathing when he considers, in particular, the merits (or lack of them) of Jazz and popular culture, the neo-classic tendencies of Stravinsky and Hindemith, and much of the musical output in the 20th century, which he sees essentially in commodity terms, bolstering up the entertainment industry. Many of these works he regards as fetishist, pandering to society's craving for comfort, and holding back from their innate potential for development. Negative or not, there can be little doubt that Adorno has well observed that much of the music written and performed today is packaged up and designed for the all-consuming market economy and our celebrity-conscious culture.Wesley's idea of social holiness with its attendant catholic spirit must not rely upon any such commodity issues, but on communion with God and with one another. Methodism's emphasis upon connexionalism, its natural "feel" for the catholic spirit and the central place of ecumenical commitment, arise out of a communal and social imperative - never out of a market-based economy or a sense of commodification. We recognise, of course, that Methodism has not always based its pursuit of holiness on the supremacy of loving relationships. The heart of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant, signed in 2003, can be found in the - social holiness - desire to "join hands" with those who share in the communion of the love of God. Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered: It is. If it be, give me thine hand.9There must not be any hint of commodified gratification which lacks expression of the cruciform or dissonant mix of social and communal relationships. The potential for developing variations must not be suppressed, for instance by avoiding the painful but compelling course which our present liminal state demands.This is illustrated well in our understanding of Methodists as a "singing people" - that great musical Methodist tradition. It is clear that Wesley intended hymns to be sung so that the Gospel faith could be expressed in the social act of singing - a kind of musical moving icon, setting forth social holiness. It is our view that this intention has been stifled to a very high degree throughout Methodist history, and the act of singing hymns has become synonymous with gratification and "having a good sing" (as though such an activity makes one feel so much better!). In other words, singing Methodists have succumbed to the commodity market. The words of Walter Brueggemann are apposite here:"Clearly the church is tempted to transpose its practice of good news in order to compete for a share of the market. And who among us does not have the simplicity of our faith made seductively complex by attractions that are shrill and loud and constant, promises of well-being and comfort and communion without the shadow of the cruciform entering in?……" 10Brueggemann suggests that hard work is needed to move from commodity to communion. And certainly we would suggest that, for Methodists especially, there is some hard work to be done to ensure that the hymns and songs we compose and sing, the liturgies we devise and revise, and the worship we celebrate, are stripped of commodification, and allowed to sound with the three-fold polyphony of Christ (outlined above). This is our urgent, and distinctive, task.But how can it be done? There may be a clue in the Wesley's quotation about Social Holiness where it refers to "the length and depth and breadth and height of Christian perfection". For here, we can introduce another significant observation in Adorno's work, a powerful thought which traces the development of musical material in such a way that every musical tone has within it the potential to fill the whole musical space, in all its length, depth, breadth and height.At this point we will need to identify some musical terminology. In the Mozartian/Wesleyan period, musical sounds were understood in tonal terms, and tonal music is that which is written within the tonal (or key) system, i.e. it is music with a tonal, or key centre. The central unit of classical tonality is the triad (a chord made up of a "root" note, a note that is an interval of a third from the root and a note that is an interval of a fifth from the root).Adorno believed that this classical root position encapsulated bourgeois, hierarchically-controlled society. As this triadic-form developed and became more fragmented, independent and released from a tonal centre, so modern non-hierarchical society was reflected in it. By the early 20th century, Arnold Schoenberg, in particular, had reached the conclusion that each tone in the musical scale had become emancipated, and its true value and worth no longer depended upon its connection to the root chord, i.e.each musical tone (voice) was treated with equal dignity, and was heard in its own right. Adorno believed that this movement from triadic tonality to emancipated atonality was another important expression of developing variation.It is our contention that Methodism's tonality has within it the seeds of an all-embracing atonality which allows many voices to be heard in the life of social holiness. Our Arminian foundations can enable the emancipation of ethnic voices, women's voices, gay and lesbian voices, voices of those with impairments and other voices which have been for too long - and still are - silenced by the oppressive hierarchical triadic tonality of a past age.When Wesley refers to the length, depth, breadth and height of Christian perfection, is he not celebrating the rich and wonderful potential and fullness of life in which all voices are heard and freely expressed? Are they not voices that are distinctive in themselves and subservient to none other? And within that distinctiveness is there not a quality of mutuality that is itself holy? And was this not part of Wesley's vision?The final page of Schoenberg's Erwartung illustrates this in a visual as well as an aural form:11 Here we have a saturation of musical space in a few short seconds. In a movement that gets ever faster, every note in the range of the orchestra is played in a kind of glissando. The filling out of musical space is Schoenberg's substitute for the tonic chord of the old (and now redundant) traditional musical language. For him the absolute consonance is a state of chromatic plenitude. This Pleroma is sufficiently all-embracing and all-pervasive that we can be tempted to liken it to Christian perfection!The finale of Schoenberg's 2nd String Quartet is another defining moment in this celebration of these atonal voices. The new free-floating harmonies accompany the words of Stephan George making the work famous in the history of twentieth century music:Perhaps part of Methodism's work is to allow such air from other planets to be felt and heard.Adorno was fully aware of how difficult it can be to grasp these intricate and yet tantalising thoughts about developing variations, tonality and atonality, etc. He was of the view that things were made even more difficult because of the way modern society listens. He was persuaded that most people fall into a category called "Regressive Listening", in which the main consideration is conformity and the need for music as a comfortable distraction. Adorno analysed this regressive form of listening in great detail, even suggesting that our listening habits could be compared to those who are "dealers in narcotics"! There are "emotional listeners", "anti-intellectual listeners", "culture consumers", and "resentment listeners" (obsessed with historical authenticity), "entertainment listeners", etc.12 Do such words as these resonate with our experience as members of the Methodist community?The strength of Adorno's argument comes to the fore when he distinguishes two types of listening "experience", and of course Methodists will "sit up" at the mention of that crucial word "experience". The two types are Erlebnis and Erfahrung, originally identified by another great German philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer.13 Adorno is highly critical of Erlebnis since it implies a focus on individual sensuous moments, and isolating particular aspects of the listening experience which demand familiarity and standardisation - all those fetishizing categories just mentioned above. Our paper has been suggesting that such listening experiences are too frequently identified with a way of life devoid of development, and should be rejected.Our Methodist way of listening is to be associated with Erfahrung, since this is characterised by what Adorno calls "mimetic understanding", tracing the shape of a work "from the inside". It is a kind of interpretive mode of understanding, a listening with an active attentiveness.It is essential that our distinctive Methodist approach to social holiness involves Erfahrung so that we trace "from the inside" polyphonic living, the movement of developing variations and the fullness of chromatic atonality. This will mean that our great tradition of "no holiness but social holiness" will be developed in all its length, depth, breadth and height. And we believe such attention is urgently required of us today.Theodor Adorno wrote in a letter in December 1925, to the composer Alban Berg : "For the sake of the symphony you must destroy the symphony".14 The word used for "destroy" is "Tilgen" which can be translated "extinguish, expunge, blot out, uproot." Many of the thoughts expressed in this paper call for radical and dramatic change so that proper development can be fulfilled. Dare we ask if we can say: "For the sake of Methodism you must destroy Methodism"? copyright: Harvey Richardson & Heather Noel-Smithlatest update: 21/8/041 Unmasking Methodist Theology ed Marsh et al, Continuum 2004 p xi2 Preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739, paragraph 53 Style and Idea , ed Stein, Faber and Faber p1294 Op cit5 Robert Witkin, Adorno on Music Routledge 6 Quoted in Donald Mitchell, The Language of Modern Music, pp33/4, Faber and Faber, 19937 8 quoted in Reading in Communion, Fowl and Jones, SPCK 1991, p1549 Sermon on the Catholic Spirit XXXIV, Sermons on Several Occasions, Epworth 1954, p44210 Inscribing the Text, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2004, pp204-511 Erwartung extract reproduced by permission of Universal Edition AG, Vienna.12 Paddison Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music CUP 1993, p21213 Truth and Method, p14 Adorno/Berg letters , Edition Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1997,letter pI would be most interested if you have any comments/reflections?Harvey RichardsonPosted by: Harvey Richardson 06/02/2005


Manners, people! Harvey, please learn some discussion board etiquette: long posts (like yours) should be mentioned and linked to, not posted whole. Also, vanity posts (like yours) are not allowed. Especially if they're stupidly off-topic. I don't want to read your lecture--I'm here to read the boneheaded essay above, and the discussion about that. Posted by: Stuart Sims 06/02/2005



uninformed; gross oversimplication It's hard to believe that someone who is a commentator on NPR could present such a horrible oversimplification and to boot, lump John Cage with Milton Babbitt and Charles Wuorinen. The broad brush used here by Hoffman is a terrible disservice to those who might be interested in the full range of works, not to mention the world of creative musical artists generally found in the realm of concert music. Elliott Carter's music is not one thing; not one style; not one dimensional, as Hoffman implies. Same thing for Babbitt, same for Schoenberg. These composers had and have a large output and the music varies greatly from piece to piece. To treat the catalogue of Carter in a singular manner makes me wonder how much Hoffman has actually heard. My take is he is basing his opinions on a few works, not really understanding the depth and breadth of these composers. And, in an what I can only describe as an ad hominen attack, he lumps John Cage in with composers who wrote with a vastly different intent (even if Cage studied with Schoenberg), a vastly different style, and what can be fairly described as an different school of thought, meaning, and practice, well, in my humble opinion, pretty much relegates this article to the garbage heap. Shame on you Mr. Hoffman. Posted by: Richard Kessler 06/02/2005



How is he wrong? Let me count the ways... "But in and of itself, dissonance is something that people fundamentally don’t like"...Well, there's an unfounded generalization. (Listen to any blues records lately? That "dissonant" 7th is not only pleasant, it's a stable sonority, for crying out loud.) And I have to say, I was surprised to learn that the vanguard of atonal modernism in America was led by John Cage. (Cage, I think, would have been surprised to learn it, too.)"...[A] reign in which to have any hope of being taken seriously by the critical and academic communities, composers were obligated, regardless of their specific styles and techniques, to avoid traditional tonal procedures and the comforts of consonance and to accept that dissonance was king." EXCEPT for all those composers you mentioned three paragraphs previous. Please. Apparently it isn't enough that you gaze at your own navel, you want your music to gaze at it, too. "And when we make that projection, we hear in music our own emotions—or images and memories of our emotions—reflected back." So any music that tries to express an emotion that isn't already in your own limited experience is bad music? You charitably mention the handful of atonal pieces that you think merit attention. What about the reams of godawful tonal music that's thankfully sunk into oblivion? The sheer quantity of it dwarfs our beloved three B's. (A full evening of Spohr chamber music would certainly make me question the underlying worth of the tonal system. Of course, a Spohr fanatic would scold me for that argument, and rightly so -- it's the compsoer that counts, not the vocabulary.)You don't like atonality? Fine. But making a subjective judgment into an objective statement is a pretty specious way to put forth an argument.Enjoy the Velveeta, by the way. Posted by: Matthew 06/02/2005


Re: Dissonance "'But in and of itself, dissonance is something that people fundamentally don’t like'..."Well, there's an unfounded generalization. (Listen to any blues records lately? That "dissonant" 7th is not only pleasant, it's a stable sonority, for crying out loud.)"Following up this point, the idea that dissonance is a constant is not borne out by history. In European music up through about the 15th century, the only intervals accepted as "consonant" harmonically were the octave, fifth, and fourth, all of which are naturally prominent in the harmonic series. It was only in the early Renaissance period that composers began to use intervals of the third and sixth. These were theoretically "dissonant" intervals, but in the ears of many musicians they sounded good together. Slowly theory evolved to justify the practice, and the tonal system developed out of the prominence now granted to triadic harmony.It is similarly misleading to say, on the one hand, that "...the specific function of dissonance in tonal music is to provide tension, and that tension, in whatever degree it is established, is always resolved by a return to consonance," and yet name as "tonal" composers the list in the thirteenth paragraph of this article. Many works by these composers do not resolve into "consonant" triadic harmonies, though they may be considered tonal in that they have strongly defined hierarchies of importance among the chromatic pitches. For instance, the "tonic" chord at the end of a Bartok work is often not a "consonant" major or minor triad, but a "dissonant" collection of pitches with a strong center tone, usually in the bass.For these reasons, I do not accept the argument in this article that "modern music" is unappealing because it does not adhere to a natural order of harmony, which the author equates with tonality. As others have written here, it is every listener's prerogative to like or dislike a piece of music, but I know from personal experience that one's taste can be expanded by exposure to new sounds. When I first heard the music of Messiaen I found it unpleasant and incomprehensible, but I now count him as one of my favorite composers. The major error I see in both Schoenberg's theory and this article is that they begin from a desired conclusion (tonal music is dead, or atonal music is bad) and then adapt the theory to justify it. Posted by: CarlMacs 06/28/2005



Accepting Musical Modernism I am reminded of an anecdote concerning Charles Ives, an early Twentieth-century American composer whose works were infused with dissonance. (And not part of Hoffman’s list of good or bad composers.) When a listener was hissing at the performance of some modern music, Ives turned to him and reportedly said, "When you hear music like this, sit up and take it like a man!"Hoffman, that hissing listener, is a poster child for the type of narrow-mindedness that has occurred in both listeners and performers of music for well over one hundred years. To say that the only music worth our attention is tonal music would be akin to saying that the only arts that are worth participating in are those that make us feel good. Why is it that American society is so able to accept abstract forms of modernism in literature, art and plays, while at the same time completely avoiding abstract forms of modern music? What about James Joyce's Ulysses? What about Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot? What about Pollock's drip paintings? Do these various art forms warm the cockles of our hearts? No, they make us think; they help us to move beyond our narrow frames through which we see the world. So if we can accept modernism in other art forms, why can people like Hoffman, a trained musician, not sit up and take the music of Schoenberg, Carter, Babbitt, Cage or Wuorinen – who, according to him, are the bad children of our musical family – like a man? (And as one other readers have noticed created music of quite different styles.) It is time for us to wake up from our fantasy land that only music which is “pretty” and completely understandable is meaningful. Here was a chance for Hoffman to help lead his readers into the twenty-first century, where the rest of the arts can be found. But he failed. Posted by: Mark Porcaro 06/02/2005


Pretty Music Avoiding "modern" music, as opposed to avoiding other "modern" works of art, is a puzzling question. Perhaps inserting some kind of "human" action, like in a stage play, might ameliorate the tendency to turn away (though that argument doesn't work for "modern" opera since it also has humans). In the art gallery, as Hoffman says, you can turn away and look at something else. I think "taking it like a man" is irrelevant to this argument, whether Ives said it or not. That comment is even more dated than classic notions of beauty, especially with the brazen sexsim of the comment (Alert Susan McClary!). Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of "manly men" who would start moaning in agony about 10 seconds into "Erwartung," ready to evacuate to the nearest Hooters for [Frank Zappa song].Nearly a century after Modernism began in earnest, I think many of us know better than to believe the validity of pre-Modern notions of beauty. Perhaps notions of "prettiness" and beauty have evolved since that time, with some of our "baser" instincts receiving their artistic due. 100 years on, Strauss' "Salome" can still shock. Perhaps the music does not shock anymore, though one could say that the music stretches notions of beauty. However, stagings of the opera can still shock more staid opera goers (at least if either Atom Egoyan or Karita Mattila is involved). Once again, the human drama probably helps attract crowds... then again, maybe it's also the queer beauty of Strauss' music. Posted by: South Park Liberal 06/28/2005



Denial As A Lifestyle Miles Hoffman has written a brilliantly cogent explanation of just how art music has come to be rejected as insulting and irrelevant by its public. Not surprisingly, three out of four responses posted at the time I came across this article have served to demonstrate just how insidious is the phenomenon of the Emperor's clothing.While they each strive to overtake the others in heaping scorn, ridicule and contempt upon Mr. Hoffman's observations and conclusions, none of them seems eager to take up the task of refuting the inescapable fact that no post-tonal style of composition has yet found an audience of any size."When small men begin to cast large shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting." Posted by: Daniel E. Gawthrop 06/02/2005


Oh, please. I agree wholeheartedly with the refutations of this terrible essay, with its limiting assumptions about what music "should" be, and it's facile sense of what art does for the human being--though the author is right that music does do the things he elaborates, it does not follow that it only can or should do those thing. Open your mind, for goodness sake!Daniel E. Gawthrop stokes the fire by stating that, "none of them seems eager to take up the task of refuting the inescapable fact that no post-tonal style of composition has yet found an audience of any size."I would refute that hip-hop and electronic dance music are absolutely post-tonal styles of composition, and have found sizable audiences throughout the world, and continue to gain in popularity. Unless, of course, you were being elitist in the "kinds" of music to which you would apply a consideration such as "post-tonal".The atrophy of an audience for concert music is an issue far too complex for internet discussion boards, but one must at least consider several key factors: 1. An increasing complexity in musical composition, tending toward abstraction (along with all other arts through the first half of the 20th c.). The problem in music is that it's abstract to begin with, so....2. The invention of recording and broadcast technology, and its subsequent ubiquity. The decline in piano sales through the 1930s is mirrored by the rise in radio sales. People became less and less their own music-makers, and more and more music consumers.3. The market's steadily intensifying response to this shift, by providing more and more consumer friendly "products" of music, driving the commodification of the art form.4. Etc. Add your own here, I'm tired of typing. But please, stop over-simplifying and stop using a critique of others' biases and prejudices to justify your own. Posted by: Stuart Sims 06/02/2005


a-tonality Stuart, if you mean to say " I would refute that : hip-hop and electronic dance music are absolutely post-tonal styles of composition"... then I'd have to wonder why you think that. Most popular musics like hip-hop and dance are very conventional in their melodies and harmonies, only the rhythms are more complex or dynamic. I wonder what you all think of Chinese music? Isn't that a case of our ears being conditioned to a completely different system of harmony and tonality which makes Chinese music alien to us, or 'difficult' to say the least? How much influence have Schoenberg and Cage had on modern music? Have they at all enlarged the acceptable limits of what "sounds right" ? Or did modern jazz do that job more effectively?Posted by: medway 06/28/2005


And I've put on weight, too! I'm guessing that I'm one of the three that Daniel dismisses, since I didn't quote Adorno."[N]o post-tonal style of composition has yet found an audience of any size."Well, it's found an audience of at least one, namely me. And frankly, I'm getting a little peeved at people saying that I'm deluding myself, or fooling myself, or trying to project a certain image of myself, because I persist in liking what I like. I don't come down on people for liking Schubert and Beethoven exclusively, I come down on them for saying that to do otherwise is unacceptable.You want to put musical taste to a popular vote? Guess what -- everyone in this forum loses, most likely to "American Idol" and plodding gangsta rap (where's Eric B. when you need him?)and ersatz pop-country (where's Bob Wills when you need him?).Just because a few thousand people like the Emperor's clothes, as opposed to a few million, doesn't mean the man's naked.Posted by: Matthew 06/02/2005



Still Fuming... OK, this did get to me a little bit. Connecting to my earlier reply to Daniel, I still don't understand what Miles is complaining about. As he mentions in his essay, there is essentially an unbroken stream of composers writing in tonal or quasi-tonal idioms throughout the 20th century--so where's the gripe? Tonality never died. The dogma in institutions may have temporarily shifted to the gospel of serialism or whatever, but have you visited a composers concert at a major university lately? Some pretty fantastic, complex, imaginative, relevant, and--yes--listenable stuff. (I'm speaking specifically of the studios at the University of Michigan and Juilliard here, but I'm sure there are others.)And, if we all bowed down to the throne of 19th century "beauty" in music, how would that change the programming of most of America's major symphonies? NOT AT ALL. It's not like orchestras are having constant Wuorinen or Babbitt festivals. What, exactly, is offending you here? Posted by: Stuart Sims 06/02/2005



The elites It is amusing and perhaps a little disturbing that the clichés of the postmodern attitude toward art still rear their tired heads. "Keeping an open mind" and setting aside bias and prejudice are good things, but the tone of some of the critics of this article is more akin to the slobbering ferocity of a witch-hunt. An open mind is precicely what this attitude does not contain. It is, I think, anti-art.I would not suggest that the value of a piece of music is to be decided democratically, but when no piece can ever be called bad because we don't know what constitutes good and bad anymore, surely this is just a state of absurdity! Why don't we know what good and bad is? As with the work of Jackson Pollack and every other abstractionist, it's all bad! But we want to be considered "open-minded" and without prejudice, so we must follow what the elites say about art (however arbitrary their estimation). Good art should let us see its goodness for ourselves (not necessarily right out of the box--perhaps we must be trained a little to understand the idea of the art form first). Jackson Pollack was no genius and neither were many 20th century composers. He dripped paint onto canvasses for goodness' sake! It may have been an inspiration to radically alter our way of seeing painting, but beyond that it is nothing. There is no meaning. It is all inspiration. It is a breathing in and a breathing out of nothing.We can toss around the label "elite" all we want, but let us make sure our motives are sound. Music is not about who is saying what is good, but about what is good--a thing that can be argued, to be sure, but that must at least make some sense. If there is no bad music (or worse, no rubric on which to base our judgments), then what is the point of art at all? Posted by: APQ 06/02/2005


Hmmm... APQ, a thoughtful post. Some thoughts in response:"I would not suggest that the value of a piece of music is to be decided democratically..."Why not? What listeners tell me again and again (and show, through what music they choose to support with actual money) is that the value of a piece of music lies exactly in the experience of it. My own biggest prejudice as a formally trained musician, is that I view music as an object, and consider its worth on that basis. Yes, a Beethoven designed and executed his symphonies exquisitely well. But, the value for MOST of those who hear it is the experience it gives them, the internal changes it brings.Many people have substantive experience with all kinds of music....I don't like to eat mushrooms, but I have a friend who is a real enthusiast--who is wrong? What does "wrong" mean in this context?You also say, "Good art should let us see its goodness for ourselves (not necessarily right out of the box--perhaps we must be trained a little to understand the idea of the art form first). " If we have to be "trained a little," then the art isn't letting us see its goodness for ourselves, now is it? As a 5 year old, no one had to tell me that Beethoven was great art--I heard it and I knew. I was absolutely certain by the time I was 9. And no one else in my family has any musical inclinations, I was all alone in this discovery and judgment. When I was 19, no one had to tell me that John Adams was a modern genius, either. And when I was 28, and discovered (opened my ears to, dropped some prejudices) electronic and computer music, no one had to tell me that some very interesting things were going on there, either.I do believe that one can make objective cases for substance in a work of art--but that has nothing to do with its value in society, what that art means to those who receive it, how it may shape the world in which it exists.Tastemaking is a futile activity, one rooted in control. I have had to learn the importance of separating my critical discernment (gained through extensive formal training) from my visceral, human joy in music. Sometimes, they complement one another; often, they cause prejudice.Posted by: Stuart Sims 06/02/2005


amusing The anger and verocity of the "rebuttals" is all too revealing of the insecurity and closed-mindedness that is so typical of those who champion modernist/post-modernist extremism in Art. Posted by: Jenkins 06/02/2005


Chuckling into your snifter That's "ferocity," Jenkins. (Unless you meant "veracity," in which case I'll agree with you.)Closed-mindedness? I'm the one who likes more music than you. And my experience is that amusement is the reaction of those who are afraid to take a stand, because they know they'll be shown to be foolish. And are afraid of being foolish. (I don't know which is worse.)And I do like this lumping together of "Modernism" and "Post-Modernism." Wasn't the one supposed to be a REACTION against the other? (Of course, again, we're dealing with an article that puts Cage and Babbitt in the same camp; maybe you're just slyly playing off that solecism. My apologies!) Posted by: Matthew 06/02/2005


"Closed-mindedness? I'm the one who likes more music than you. And my experience is that amusement is the reaction of those who are afraid to take a stand, because they know they'll be shown to be foolish. And are afraid of being foolish. (I don't know which is worse.)"There's the attempt at intimidation the author of the article described. Posted by: Mr. Jenkins 06/02/2005


"Well, it's found an audience of at least one, namely me. And frankly, I'm getting a little peeved at people saying that I'm deluding myself, or fooling myself, or trying to project a certain image of myself, because I persist in liking what I like. I don't come down on people for liking Schubert and Beethoven exclusively, I come down on them for saying that to do otherwise is unacceptable.You want to put musical taste to a popular vote? Guess what -- everyone in this forum loses, most likely to "American Idol" and plodding gangsta rap (where's Eric B. when you need him?)and ersatz pop-country (where's Bob Wills when you need him?).Just because a few thousand people like the Emperor's clothes, as opposed to a few million, doesn't mean the man's naked."Oh, he's naked, and repulsively so. In the Classic and Romantic eras new music was all the rage, but in ours old music--namely, the best of those earlier eras--dominates. This starling difference stems from the horrid extremism of Schoenberg and his disciples because their music can neither find a functional, substantial audience among classical fans and thereby fail to establish a contemporary sense of classical music where popular esteem has some worth and we care about living composers as much the dead. As it stands, the lack of any meaningful reception for much of 20th century classical music is nothing more than inhuman music getting the reception it deserves. Posted by: Mr. Jenkins 06/02/2005


Nope, sorry "Inhuman"? "Repulsive"? "Horrid"?And you accuse ME of intimidation? You're escalating the discourse to include vocabulary that explicitly denies the humanity of those that disagree with you. I sincerely hope you're just trying to score debating points.I like a good argument. You seem to like a bad one. No thanks. Posted by: Matthew 06/02/2005


Even though it was written several months ago, the short blog entry at the following URL strikes me as apropos rebuttal of the present article.http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2005/03/its_that_damned.html Posted by: dzalman 06/02/2005


"Even though it was written several months ago, the short blog entry at the following URL strikes me as apropos rebuttal of the present article."That's not logically sound at all. When it comes to classical music the masterpieces from the romantic and classic eras are extraordinarily prominent to us to today because--within the genre--there hasn't been that much (important qualifier) modern music that can, like that older music, survive on its artistic merits in addition to its approachability from generation to generation. The idea that critics of modern extremism in classical music haven't accepted the music because of expectations for the logic of earlier music strikes me as nothing more than an excuse for bad music as it conveniently excuses away the fact that this extremist music has been driving audiences away for nearly a century, shifting the blame on the audience rather than those who insist on producing bad music and praying that, maybe--just maybe--one day it won't be seen as horrible. Yes, it's the audience's fault that the ugly noise isn't being perceived as music. Apparently the contemporary composer is untouchable, and above the criticism that his or her music is bad. Do you honestly think that under such conditions there can be any meaningful progress? Posted by: 06/02/2005


That's not logically sound at all. When it comes to classical music the masterpieces from the romantic and classic eras are extraordinarily prominent to us to today because--within the genre--there hasn't been that much (important qualifier) modern music that can, like that older music, survive on its artistic merits in addition to its approachability from generation to generation. The idea that critics of modern extremism in classical music haven't accepted the music because of expectations for the logic of earlier music strikes me as nothing more than an excuse for bad music as it conveniently excuses away the fact that this extremist music has been driving audiences away for nearly a century, shifting the blame on the audience rather than those who insist on producing bad music and praying that, maybe--just maybe--one day it won't be seen as horrible. Yes, it's the audience's fault that the ugly noise isn't being perceived as music. Apparently the contemporary composer is untouchable, and above the criticism that his or her music is bad. Do you honestly think that under such conditions there can be any meaningful progress? Posted by: Mr. Jenkins 06/02/2005


Sigh.... Mr. JenkinsMatthew has a point--your language is dehumanizing and violent to an extent that is grossly disproportionate to a merely strong opinion. My opinions are strong, and I'm passionate about them, yes; but I don't dehumanize those with whom I disagree, and I try my best to avoid ad hominem attacks.A few points in response to yours:1. You're ignoring the large body of work composed in the 20th century that has found a large (for its genre) audience: Shostakovich, Copland (gasp! a Modernist!), Britten, Bartok, even Messiaen! I was at a performance of Turangalila Symphonie in San Francisco that was riveting, and received a thundering ovation from a packed house with four or five callbacks for guest conductor David Robertson. So where, exactly, is this 'lack of audience'? For Schoenberg? I seem to remember Tommassini writing a thoughtful piece in the NYTimes last year, remarking that he went to hear a couple of performances of a Schoenberg festival, and the line to get in stretched around the block, and the hall was packed--mostly with young listeners (in their 20s)! He was astonished, and could only posit that perhaps he (and his compositional progeny, and Ives, etc.) really were that far ahead of their time. Which raises my main point: don't you think 19th century Europe was awash in bad music? The erosion of time has washed away all that was dirt, and left us with the precious gold (if I may wax poetic); time tells us what has lasting value. Ergo, we won't know about last century until well into this one.Also, more fundamentally, what's with imagining that great musical flowering of the 20th century as some sort of unrelenting flow of obtuse, dissonant, "modern/postmodern" music? Surely you're aware of the mind-boggling diversity of compositional output? Posted by: Stuart Sims 06/02/2005


Young people and Schoenberg Interesting to hear about a large number of young people, mainly in their 20s, coming to a Schoenberg festival. They were probably there to get extra credit for a class taught by a Schoenbergian fuddy-duddy. Posted by: South Park Liberal 06/28/2005



Dis-sonance It takes much planning to facilitate chaos. Every abstraction, even the concept of abstraction itself only has meaning in the context of an objective and foundational a-priori order. Same goes for concepts like um...meaning. You can have meaning-less (or at least aspirations to-) without an a-priori of meaning, otherwise, you're left with the uncomfortable conceptual labor of trying to posit a negative and not laugh. Posted by: Josephus35 06/03/2005



Dis-sonance It takes much planning to facilitate chaos. Every abstraction, even the concept of abstraction itself only has meaning in the context of an objective and foundational a-priori order. Same goes for concepts like um...meaning. You can have meaning-less (or at least aspirations to-) without an a-priori of meaning, otherwise, you're left with the uncomfortable conceptual labor of trying to posit a negative and not laugh. Posted by: Josephus35 06/03/2005


dis-sonance * a correction Meant to say in my last sentence "You can have NO meaning-lessness..."Sorry mates. Posted by: Josephus35 06/03/2005


dis-sonance Tee-hee, Josephus35.Of course, you're right, as any metaphysical realist knows.The True. The Good. The Beautiful. One potentially non-negative effect of the PoMo movement is it might help unshackle the culture from Descartes and Kant. From thence into the abyss. And then A New Renaissance. We live in hope. Posted by: Arthur W 06/28/2005



Psychoacoustics A wonderful book -- with an admittedly lousy title -- a propos to this discussion is _Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy : How Music Captures Our Imagination_ by Robert Jourdain.He notes that, while musical forms differ greatly from culture to culture, the octave is universal, and the fifth nearly so -- because our the mechanics of our hearing are set up to respond to the physics of sound. Structures respond in fundamentally the same way to frequencies of N, 2N, 4N, etc. (A fifth, of course, is approximately 1/2 N.) That's _all_ physical structures, not just those in our ears.Further, Jourdain notes the results of studies of professional musicians vs. amateurs and non-musicians. Professionals do much, much better than the others at identifying scales, chords, progressions, etc. -- but their ability to recognize serialist structures (inversions, retrogressions, and such) are no better than those of completely amusical people.When a composition ignores reality, it cannot hope to be accepted except by devotees of the unpleasant. When I want to admire mathematical rigor, I'll do mathematics; when I'm doing music, I want to hear admirable music. Posted by: Vepxistqaosani 06/28/2005



Music Without Magic One is, alas, sick unto death of this same, tired argument by proponents of this point of view. For once and for all, Schönberg was a great composer and a great musician, who created a difficult, contrapuntal style based firmly in the "great tradition" which is so often exploited as a foil for his musical approach. It is also true that he and others who have followed the path he laid out have composed wonderful, expressive and yes, "beautiful" music which appeals both to the ear and to the soul. It strikes me that any listerner who has truly engaged with the great tradition of musical composition will find little problem with this body of work. But, in the final analysis, style is not really the question. The question is whether or not a composer is able to write music; good music which is 'comprehensible". There is no question that, just as with the composers of good old tradition, there are composers who have worked within the serial method and beyond who have written some of the great 20th and 21st century masterworks which must be programmed regularly and performed with conviction in order to make their case to a wider audience. Dolling out meaningless comparisons between music and food does not contribute to deeper understanding, but confuses the issues involved in the appreciation of challenging music. One would hope that this publication will print opposing points of view concerning these questions and allow others to make the case that there are beauties of a sort that can be appreciated by listeners truly familiar with the tradition they purport to know and love so well. Posted by: Tali Makell 06/28/2005



Injustices That the classical musical commentator for NPR should venture into the burgeoning field of the relation of music theory to human psychology/physiology is admirable. However, that Hoffmann's essay only futher reinforces myths and inaccuracies should lead lovers of music in all its varied forms to ask for his dismissal from such an influential post; he appears to be one of the only classical music commentators on one of the few bastions of "culture" left on the radio airwaves.. I am glad this article has provoked so many responses that offer an alternative viewpoint, and I will humbly contribute my own personal reactions when I have sufficently digested his long-winded, reference-deficient article. But for now, has anyone else noticed that Hoffmann errs in saying that the music of Babbitt, Carter et al contains relationships which ignore "the limits of the auditory perceptual abilities of most human beings"?Earlier in the article, he mentioned "The Rite of Spring" as an exapmple of a celebrated piece of modernist music. Perhaps he is not familiar with the vast analytical literature that has dealt with the extremely sophisticated and dare we say "complex" structural organization of this music? Perhaps a closer look at the pitches and rhythms of this piece would make him realize that dissonance in particular and complex musical relationships in general are only as good or bad as the ways in which a composer utilizes them, and that he may find quite similar structures in the works of Carter, for one.Nonetheless, he makes a serious error in suggesting that "Le Sacre" does not contain some of the same structures that can be found in the music of modernists he denigrates. (It is also amazing that such a prominent commentator on classical music would perpetuate the myth that the people of Paris rioted in 1913 because of Stravinsky's music. I believe it is fairly well-established - I lack the reference here, though a look at Taruskin's book might help - that the choreography and not the music was the most significant factor in stirring the crowd.)Another point that he does not address is WHY people like Stravinsky and Copland turned to serialism at the end of their lives. Stravinsky wrote some of his most arresting music in what can only be called a post-tonal vein. While late works such as Agon (1953-57), Anthem "The dove descending breaks the air" (1962) and Introitus "T. S. Eliot in Memoriam" (1965) - works that incorporate twelve-tone techniques - may not have been as widely recorded as The Firebird, it is a serious mistake to suggest that these pieces lack emotional power or are untelligible to ordinary human ears. Also, Hoffmann dives into this debate with almost no reference to the already-existing literature that has dealt with this very subject. Hoffmann would have done well to read Joseph Straus' "The Myth of Serial 'Tyranny' in the 1950s and 1960s," (Musical Quarterly 83/3, Fall 1999, pp. 301-43), which refutes the idea that serial composers were the predominant voice in american music. So many problems...I would hope this discussion continues, as it is all too important for lovers of dissonance such as myself to not let people as powerful - relatively-speaking, of course - as Hoffman to pontificate unfettered and consequently make it harder for us to promote the music we love.Posted by: dodecaphonic 06/28/2005



Um., How About Non-Western Music? Just so I'm not missing anything, is it too cynical to point out the incredible cultural bias inhering in both this essay and the discussion of it? Am I crazy if I find gamelan more beautiful than Schubert? Posted by: J 06/28/2005



quandry of the lowest common denominator hoffman's telling us that if a piece is challenging it's not valid or good, but rather irksome and spurious. what instead appeals to the masses, is in an easy to understand syntax, hence valid and good? long live pop!what a compelling argument... Posted by: phaschen 06/28/2005



quandry of the lowest common denominator hoffman's telling us that if a piece is challenging it's not valid or good, but rather irksome and spurious. what instead appeals to the masses, is in an easy to understand syntax, hence valid and good? long live pop!what a compelling argument... Posted by: phaschen 06/28/2005



quandry of the lowest common denominator hoffman's telling us that if a piece is challenging it's not valid or good, but rather irksome and spurious. what instead appeals to the masses, is in an easy to understand syntax, hence valid and good? long live pop!what a compelling argument... Posted by: wkitts 06/28/2005


oops... That was odd!Anyhoo- I just wanted to chime in that I was also wondering about the Western slant of this essay. However, if we're talking about Modernism (and even PoMo) that's still very squarely in Western/European territory. Posted by: wkitts 06/28/2005



Subjective, but oh-so-true Yes, Hoffman’s article is indeed subjective. Still, I say: BRAVO! It’s the perfect tonic (heh heh) to the politically-correct “liberation of dissonanace” mongering by disciples of Schoenberg. I consider myself quite liberal socially and politically. However, when it comes to orchestral music and opera, I’m downright stodgy. My favorite composers are those who use dissonance to great effect, rather than those who use dissonance as a means and an end. Though this list certainly does not include everyone, my favorites include Wagner, Mahler, (Richard) Strauss, Bartok, Janacek, and Prokofiev. I also listen to The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, U2, and nine inch nails. Yes, nine inch nails’ “Downward Spiral” album is dissonant and “unpleasant” in its subject matter, but it still has a beauty that I find as compelling as Mahler’s Ninth. In any case, I enjoy music that moves me somehow. There has to be that emotional appeal, that sensual aspect (be it subtle, or writhing and throbbing) for me to “bond” with a piece of music.As for Schoenberg, I will admit that I tried liking his music. Perhaps that explains my scorn, because I wanted to be open-minded about it. Unfortunately, my mind kept closing as I squirmed through “Erwartung” and “Moses und Aaron.” I have heard some of his romantic pieces as well, such as “Transfigured Night.” “Pelleas und Melisande” was pretty, but in the end it was warmed-over wanna-be Wagner. However, Strauss and Mahler were writing better stuff around the same time, which is probably why Schoenberg decided to “try something new” (though not necessarily better). I think I understood Schoenberg better after hearing Leonard Bernstein explain his approach in "The Unanswered Question," but that doesn't make me like it. Still, I have my Schoenberg recordings, in case I someday have time to give him another chance. In the meantime, I currently don’t have that much time to burn.Schoenberg disciples can worry about liberation of dissonance all they want. It doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. In the meantime, I prefer to concern myself with more urgent kinds of liberation. (Apropos, does Susan McClary plan to concern herself with real rape, or will she keep worrying about its supposed appearance in Beethoven’s Ninth?)Posted by: South Park Liberal 06/28/2005



Time is the Only Judge --Amazing, all this massive high-brow-ness and you learned musical heavies trying to out- 'esotericalize' each other. The best music never gets old and the only true judge is time. Where music is concerned, of any category, (and in the end it's all poular music)in WESTERN SOCIETY, the great ally is time and the great dividing line is and always will be MELODY, pure and simple. --Nobody ever perambulates the avenue whistling a dissonant classical piece, as disonnance simply renders the piece too difficult. Nor do you hear any dudes choogling down the line whistling a rap or hip-hop number--they would simply be whistling a beat, as there is no engaging melody. The result of both complex dissonance and ultra-simplistic hip-hop is their total lack of memorability.Indeed, Hip-hop may be remembered for it's social popularity, but the individual songs themselves will all be forgotten. Similarly, dissonant Classical pieces will suffer much the same fate, remembered for their ground-breaking experimental value perhaps, and noted in dusty tomes by musical scholars, but in the long run, both styles will always occupy a very distant view from the opposite end of the telescope; melody is king. Posted by: JWC 06/28/2005



Necessary Caveat As I read through this article rehashing a long-exhausted argument, I kept thinking of a friend who, before launching into related territory, conceded the irrelevancy of the discussion by writing "A lot of people with a lot more to say about serial music than I do have spilled a lot of ink over a lot of years on this topic."Posted by: Not Charles Wuorinen 06/28/2005



Let's begin by imagining Let's begin by imagining that the art form so eloquently described by Mr. Hoffman in the opening of his essay is expansive enough to encompass those that play the necessary role of spoonfeeding content to prospective listeners in order to ensure the survival of the form.....To imagine that this spoonfeeding encompasses the whole of the form would be to mistake Gerber for haute cuisine (pardon me if the analogy has an elitist ring to it.)I enjoy Mr. Hoffman's efforts via NPR (limited in scope as they are) and while his slavish adherence to the basic forms of the common practice era may build an audience (again, a necessary function for the preservation of the medium--not only of the music itself but of NPR as a vehicle,) they by no means address the vastness of the art form.Mr. Hoffman doesn't fail to note that, in terms of "progress"--a tenet to which we have unfalteringly held in western civilization since the renaissance--tonality reached an apex in Wagner, Strauss, et. al. beyond which it could only be exploded, dissected, disaggregated and reintegrated. Expressionism (and the modern variations on its forms) is the logical and unavoidable result of the ongoing pursuit of development in music that began with the end of the middle ages (the same development that led, say, Brahms beyond Beethoven.) Because atonality (and apparently polytonality/ other variations on tonal forms as well, judging by the popularity of Stravinsky, Hindemith and the other 20th century composers Mr. Hoffman uses to bolster his argument but fails to feature on his NPR program) have not attracted huge audiences is a reflection on their function as commodities--not as forms of artistic expression.There is no denying that a piece such as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire resonates deeply with basic human emotions--whether or not these are the types of emotions Mr. Hoffman's audience would choose to see explored is a different question altogether.I'm not sure that his contemporaries would have viewed Beethoven as a "very nice man." History has proven, however, that he was indeed both honest and sincere. Faced with a society that is plagued with niceties that present myriad forms of escapism, I will choose the crisp and relentless honesty and sincerity of an Anton Webern anyday. Posted by: mreams 06/28/2005



An Analogy with Fiction As a fan of classic detective fiction I often feel the same way Hoffman does about modern crime stories: it seems to me that the writers just don't get the point. Classical crime writers were extremely popular in their day and even today Agatha Christie outsells any other crime writer: why don't modern crime writers write like Agatha Christie?But HOW, exactly? If I simply rewrite Christie's books and release them under my own name then I'll be sued. If I try to write similar books set in the same period then I become a historical novelist; and all the research there is still can't make up for actually living at the time. If I try and set Christie plots in the modern day then I have to cope with all kinds of modern issues that weren't around when the books were written. And even if I succeed, I'm still competing with an author whose books can be borrowed from any library or bought for fifty cents in any charity shop.The same applies to any modern composer who admires, say, Bach. They could spend a lifetime learning to write like Bach - but why? - or they can try and achieve something of the same result that Bach did with the materials and the audience that now exists. That way people who want to listen to Bach can, and people who want to listen to Nigel Westlake can too. I think that's a Good Thing.The invention really behind the Golden Age of music was not tonality but notation. That's why Bach's still with us. If there was no way of recording music then each generation of composers would be free to reinvent tonality. As it is, the only real hope for a revival of traditional music would be if everything written before 1900 disappeared forever in some monstrous cataclysm. But until that happens, we have to live with the past. And thanks to notation and recording technology, those of us like Mr Hoffman and myself who prefer to live IN the past can do that too. Isn't that great?Jon.Posted by: Jon 06/28/2005

Anonim spunea...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

Anonim spunea...

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