Uneasy Listening


Uneasy Listening
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Adams Arnold Auric Bantock Barber Bartok Bax Benjamin Bennett Berg Berio Berkeley Bernstein Birtwistle Boulanger, L Boulanger, N Boulez Bridge Britten Cage Carter Chavez Coleridge-Taylor Copland Cowell Dallapiccola Debussy Delius Durey Dutilleux Eisler Elgar Falla Feldman Gershwin Glass Grainger Henze Hindemith Holloway Holst Honegger Ireland Ives Janacek Knussen Kodaly Korngold Kurtag Lambert Ligeti Lutoslawski Lutyens MacMillan Maconchy Mahler Martinu Maxwell Davies Messiaen Milhaud Nancarrow Nielsen Nyman Orff Panufnik Part Payne Penderecki Piazzola Poulenc Prokofiev Puccini Rachmaninov Ravel Rawsthorne Reich Riley Rodrigo Satie Saxton Schnittke Schoenberg Scriabin Shostakovich Sibelius Smyth Stockhausen Strauss Stravinsky Szymanowski Tailleferre Takemitsu Tavener Tippett Turnage Var�se Vaughan Williams Villa-Lobos Walton Webern Weill Weir Wolpe Xenakis Zemlinsky A caricature guide to 20th-century composers The traumatic story of 20th century classical music told in captioned caricatures by John Minnion If composers could choose their times, how many would have opted for the twentieth century, with the disruptions of two world wars and a Russian revolution, the proliferation of muzak, pop music and traffic noise, the woeful decline of concentration spans. Everything you wrote would run the risk of going out of fashion by the end of the year, or being played to empty houses because everyone was at home listening to recordings of music from other centuries. And God help your reputation if you wrote tunes. It was the century when pieces of music became less like stories, more like paintings. When composers went one way, in search of textures and soundworlds, and listeners went the other way in search of easy listening and background music. Mahler, Debussy, Stravinsky Bartok, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Messiaen, Boulez... John Minnion's collection of caricatures and captions provide a fascinating view of the protagonists and an insight into what they were up to. Uneasy Listening Published March 2003 112pp 110 illustrations �12.50 UK Postage free Steve Reich b.1936 American minimalist, a drummer and philosophy graduate with eclectic musical interests. His early music, eg. Come Out (1966), used identical tape loops played simultaneously but at slightly different speeds, moving gradually out of phase with each other and creating many varied patterns and strange acoustic effects before arriving in phase again. He replicated this approach with musicians (usually taking part himself), starting with Piano Phase (1967). By the mid-70s he had a cult following... Back to Composers | Order this book Morton Feldman 1926-1987 ...His close friends included the artists Rothko, De Kooning and Pollock, and he himself was the nearest to a painter of any composer ... Mostly his pieces have no sense of beginning nor end nor direction nor intention, but are sparse brushstrokes of sound mixed with silences. They demand a heightened form of listening, a contemplation, as of ripples on a lake, which can be very rewarding. In the late 1970s his pieces began to expand in length (eg. the five-and-a-half-hour bladder-challenging String Quartet No.2)... Back to Composers | Order this book Dmitri Shostakovich 1906-1975 Composing giant of the USSR. His 15 string quartets reveal much introspection and despair while his 15 symphonies, heir to Mahler's in language and narrative scope, tell of his epic battle for creative freedom. His First Symphony was written whilst a teenage student, supporting his widowed mother and sisters. Fell foul of Stalin in 1936 and again in 1948 and slept with a bag packed, in perpetual danger of being made a non-person. His music reflects his ambiguous position, with undercurrents of irony and hollowness in its declamatory moments, and Mahlerian juxtaposition of the sublime with the banal. The emotional range, from grotesque humour to searing despair, and his habitual, often perplexing, quotations from his own and others' music, portray a complex as well as brave character... Back to Composers | Order this book Constant Lambert 1905-1951 For a while England's leading young composer, writing bright, jazz-influenced music. He wrote Rio Grande at 24, taking London by storm. Directed Sadler's Wells Ballet and became Margot Fonteyn's lover. Prone from childhood to illness (he had one lame foot and one deaf ear), he succumbed to heavy drinking and ill-health (including undiagnosed diabetes). His son Kit, who also died young, was manager of The Who... Back to Composers | Order this book John Cage 1912-1992 'He's not a composer, he's an inventor - of genius' said Schoenberg about his pupil Cage, the influential American Zen philosopher and mushroom expert (he won $6,000 answering questions on funghi on a quiz show). Believing harmony to be unimportant, and not blessed with much of an ear for it anyway, he concentrated on percussion. Invented the 'prepared piano' by placing various objects between the strings. An explorer of concepts in music such as disconnection and chance, he redefined music as 'organisation of sound' and asked for a new approach to listening: '...not an attempt to understand something that is being said... just an attention to the activity of sounds'. His biggest challenge to listeners was the composition 4'33" consisting of silence... Back to Composers | Order this book Edgard Var�se 1883-1965 Uncompromising visionary who set out with siren, tape-recorder and sundry electronics to prove that noise could be music. His earlier pieces had been more romantic but were lost in a fire when he left Europe for New York. This move he celebrated with Am�riques, which one reviewer likened to the progress of a fire through a large zoo. Born before his time, he dreamed of electronic music before the technology was available. Lack of appreciation left him depressed throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but when Le Corbusier designed the Philips pavilion for the World Exhibition of 1958 he arranged for Po�me �lectronique to be blasted out from hundreds of loudspeakers, fulfilling Varese's dream of sound moving through space and time... Back to Composers | Order this book Charles Ives 1874-1954 The father of modern American music, a weekend composer - he ran an insurance firm. Indulged in wide experimentation unhampered by concern for European tradition, for public taste, or indeed for whether his work was performed at all. Thus by 1920 he had, uncannily, anticipated most of the century's new trends. A forthright, pioneering New Englander with a sentimental attachment to hymntunes. Believing most European music was 'goddam sissy' (Mozart: effeminate. Chopin: wore a skirt), he loved good masculine cacophony (as when he heard two marching bands meet head-on, playing different tunes) yet married a woman called Harmony... Back to Composers | Order this book Gustav Mahler 1860-1911 Would have been remembered as one of the great conductors even if he had never composed a note. In fact he composed a vast number of notes: ten titanic symphonies embracing huge dramatic ideas such as Resurrection, Redemption and Death - in particular his own death, which haunted him and duly arrived when he was only 51. In his spare time he was married to Alma, 'the most beautiful woman in Vienna'... Back to Composers | Order this bookCHAPTER ONE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMANTIC EMPIRE The 19th Century was the Age of Romanticism in Europe, and as it drew to a close music had become overblown and confessional... In Vienna, the capital of the fin de si�cle musical world, maestro Gustav Mahler ruled the Opera House and spent his summer holidays writing gigantic symphonies for huge orchestras, often with solo singers and choruses on and off stage. In Munich, Richard Strauss (aged 35) had written Ein Heldenleben (The Hero's Life), a tone-poem starring himself and quoting from many of his previous hits. In Russia, Scriabin had come to believe he was some kind of deity and was planning Mysterium: a multi-media extravaganza featuring orchestras, choruses, dancers, perfume and an organ that would produce colours instead of notes. Unfortunately he died of a septic boil on the lip before the event could come to pass. In England things were more measured, though the scale was still large. Oratorio was the most popular musical event, performed with vast forces in packed houses. The piece of the moment was Hiawatha's Wedding Feast by Coleridge-Taylor, and a great composer had arrived at last in Edward Elgar, leading an overdue English musical renaissance with noble music that reflected the self-confidence of the Empire. The Romantic bubble was about to burst, along with a few other bubbles. For a start, with expression becoming so personal the strain on musical syntax was becoming intolerable. Sonata form was barely adequate for these bloated new programmes and the boundaries of harmony were being stretched as composers came up with their personal new chords. The tonal system, based on major and minor scales that had served music since Renaissance times, had never been quite the same since Wagner and was beginning to break up. Atonalism beckoned... ...Mahler's death and World War I marked the end of Romanticism as a movement. For most of the 20th Century, romantic traits such as introspection, sentiment and nostalgia were kept at bay in classical music, and the epithet 'romantic' became a sign of disapproval. With this bathwater a number of babies may have been thrown out. Accessibility, for a start, and, most seriously, melody... Back to Composers | Order this book