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Dave Tatro
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« Reply #40 on: Oct 26, 2006, 05:00AM »

Quote from: "Andrew Meronek"
I suppose the obvious answer would be to write a suite for orchestra of popular dance forms - a funk tune, an old swing tune, a rock tune, a heavy metal tune, some hip-hop thrown in, etc.

To make this work, the orchestration would likely have to be rethought as well - no cheesy canned rhythm section will do; it has to ROCK and be TIGHT.


I think this concept is intrinsically interesting, and I have certainly been influenced by these things in my writing. I like to listen to rock, alternative, punk, techno, and some others. It is hard to keep what you love to listen to out of what you write!

That said, I think that it is very hard to write compelling orchestral music which is very closely based on modern forms of pop music. There ARE exceptions, of course, but most modern pop music has little intrinsic (that is, melodic or harmonic) musical merit and most of what makes it appealing to the listener are the vocals, the beat, and that all-important production factor. Ever listen to an acoustic version of a great newer rock song? Sometimes they are really lame without all the studio effects! They just don't stand up on musical merit alone. But like I said, there ARE exceptions.

So what about jazz, latin, funk, bluegrass, etc. They certainly have more intrinsic musical interest than pop musics, but I feel that they do not transcribe well to orchestra because they lose something that cannot BE transcribed: STYLE. Not to mention that these musics have developed around a particular timbral pallete which is not easy to replicate with orchestral instruments alone.

I will offer a personal caveat here. I feel that when orchestras try to play rock, or swing, or latin, or country, or whatever, that the result is most often a weak, uninspiring mishmash that loses the true character of both the orchestra and whatever music is being played. I feel that the orchestra is a true ensemble in its own right, that it has a musical heritage and a "style", if you will, and that it should MOSTLY sink or swim based on playing its own "type" of music. I don't think that orchestras should exist simply to regurgitate "classical" versions of current pop fads.

On the flip side of that, I would say that bluegrass bands should MOSTLY stick to playing bluegrass. If bluegrass bands had to play Mozart to keep from starving, then I would have to say that bluegrass was a dying music. I believe that orchestral music can be reinvigorated from within, on its own terms, and does not need to use pop music as a "crutch".

The final point in my argument against "popifying" orchestral music is that many of the classical stalwarts, who are avid concertgoers and whose ears are offended by 20th century writing, would be just as offended by hearing hip-hop in the concert hall as they would by hearing Schoenberg. (Now I may have misunderstood Gary here, but I interpreted the point of his original post to be about writing modern music which appeals to "Mozart" ears, rather than "Brittney Spears" ears. Sorry if I was incorrect in that assumption.)

Now please bear in mind that these comments only apply to orchestral writing. If a composer wants to write in these various styles for more appropriate instrumentations, or for different audiences, then I think that is great. Also, I realize that this is the real world, and that there are mouths to feed, and concert halls to fill, etc. A few pieces of "novelty" music here and there are not going to bring orchestral culture crashing down, and are probably a good thing for getting orchestral string players to get their heads out of their stylistic butts once in awhile!

I am certainly not an orchestra "snob", and I welcome new and different approaches to writing music for it. However, I think that I'll leave the pop to the  Brittneys of the world.....
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Dave Tatro
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« Reply #41 on: Oct 26, 2006, 05:05AM »

Oops, forgot to mention that anything goes on a pops concert! (I think that pops concerts tend to draw a different crowd and are by nature a venue for lighter and non-traditional music for the orchestra.)

Also, I HAVE observed some acceptable use of pop influence in a few modern (non-orchestral) pieces. One that jumps to the front of my mind at the moment is the slow mvmt. of the De Meij T-bone Concerto. Take the melodies from that mvmt., put sappy words to them, add drum machine, and voila, instant pop hits!
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Dennis K.
« Reply #42 on: Oct 26, 2006, 06:29AM »

What you guys a discussing is a fusion of pop and art genres.  
Beware - you may end up with such wonderful works as "A Fifth of Beethoven" - that awful Disco version from Saturday Night Fever done by the BeeGees, then arranged for orchestra - I really need to find that barfy emoticon....
The idea of fusing styles certainly has both merit and precedent.  The problem arises in that, from an artistic standpoint, the fused styles tend to have elements that are superficially tacked on, as opposed to being an organic part of the composition.  Thus you end up with 5ths of Beethoven.
Bela Bartok clearly showed a fusion of musical styles - but he did it in a much more involved fashion.  He did not simply "arrange" orchestra music in a folk style.  He spent many years immersing himself in the style - listening, transcribing, analyzing, recording - then he walked away from it, to let it ferment in his mind until "it came back as his mother tongue."  (his words).

What must be avoided is trying to arrange in a style, and passing it off as art - Think of that hip-hop sax arrangement of the Bach Air on the G String. (barfy emoticon).  New World Symphony with a drum beat.  (barfy emoticon). etc.
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Dave Tatro
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« Reply #43 on: Oct 26, 2006, 07:20AM »

Dennis, couldn't agree more. Well put.
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« Reply #44 on: Oct 26, 2006, 08:06AM »

Quote from: "Dave Tatro"
(Now I may have misunderstood Gary here, but I interpreted the point of his original post to be about writing modern music which appeals to "Mozart" ears, rather than "Brittney Spears" ears. Sorry if I was incorrect in that assumption.)

Nope.  Your assumption was a correct understanding of my original question.

BUT - what about "Rhapsody in Blue"?  Certainly it is art music.  Certainly it is jazz-influenced (jazz to most people's ears, but sans improv).  I agree caution must be used to avoid campy, crappy cat-foody music.
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Dennis K.
« Reply #45 on: Oct 26, 2006, 08:42AM »

I would suggest that those pieces are fine examples of new elements being incorporated organicly into a composition.
The same could be said of Prokofiev's Classical symphony - classical form and instrumentation, with a more modern harmonic palette.
A great composer will take elements from another style and bring out those elements in a new context - much in the way that  lighting can change the apearance of a sculpture.  We see this approach frquently in visual art mediums.  The aforementioned 5th of Beethoven (barfy emoticon) is the musical equivalent of hotel room art.

Signed,
Dennis - whose analogies are worth 1000 words, especially when they are 1000 words.
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« Reply #46 on: Oct 26, 2006, 08:58AM »

Quote from: "Dennis K."


Signed,
Dennis - whose analogies are worth 1000 words, especially when they are 100 words.


LOL Grin

[edit]Hey, you changed it!  I liked it better ^ that way!
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Gary P Kimzey
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« Reply #47 on: Oct 26, 2006, 10:17AM »

Quote from: "Dennis K."
I would suggest that those pieces are fine examples of new elements being incorporated organicly into a composition.


I tend to agree with that, Dennis.  It brings us back, I think, to the original question, which (restated) was, "How do we organically incorporate new elements or techniques into a composition is such a way that they are accessible to the average listener/concertgoer."  

Of course, that question assumes that the average listener = the average concertgoer, which may not be the case.
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Gary P Kimzey
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« Reply #48 on: Oct 26, 2006, 11:41PM »

I've been working on a work for orchestra which is basically adaptations of some progressive metal/rock charts.  I think it works quite well.  The parts, however, are highly technical and hard to play.  I can almost play all the trombone part to speed...

I'll shove it up on my site.  You'll be able to hear it by downloading the 'scorch' plugin.  There will be a link at the bottom of the page.

Tell me what you think so far (some of the percussion doesnt play correctly btw - theres some random whistles and things that arent meant to be there)!

Only the first couple of bars of the second movement are there.  The third movements there.  There shouldn't be any pizzing in the strings though...

http://tromscriptions.com/ness/Hommage%20to%20a%20Dream.htm
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« Reply #49 on: Oct 27, 2006, 12:41AM »

I think good music, of any era, of any style, has a balance of UNITY and VARIETY.
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Thomas Matta
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« Reply #50 on: Oct 27, 2006, 01:53PM »

i would just like to throw out some more names of 20th century composers who are making/have made beautiful, or tonal, or accessible, or just plain amazing music.  
-lukas foss (my girlfriend's string quartet is just learning one of his pieces- it's incredible.  pretty badass.)
-john adams, i'd like to second (there was a piece he wrote for 9/11 that is pretty darn haunting.)
-steve reich (even if you're not into "minimalist" ideas, his music is beautiful)
-ligeti
-Arvo Part!  i almost forgot.  he's one of my favorite composers of the past 100 years.  his works are so beautiful and amazing.  he has done a lot of choral music, he was kind of into a sort of "neo-chant."  anyway, seriously, if you think that people aren't doing tonal/listenable/just plain AMAZING music, please check out arvo part!  

i can never think of as many composers as i'd like... but that's a good start.  

oh yeah- i would also like to recommend the band Rachel's.  they do sort of chamber music with an indie-rock/post-rock vibe to it.  same deal with Godspeed, You Black Emperor, although they're a little bit less accessible.  but no less amazing, in my opinion.
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« Reply #51 on: Dec 21, 2006, 09:56AM »

About 22 years ago a music publishing company was founded and devoted to issuing audience-friendly contemporary music - BRIXTON PUBLICATIONS. It is difficult to find new music which has substance, originality, and audience appeal, but I think Brixton does a pretty good job of it. You can read about the compositions (and hear some sound samples) at http://www.brixtonpublications.com/trombone-2.html
This music is not avante guarde, but is at times progressive.

Also, it is possible to write avante guarde music which has audience appeal to old and young, sophisticated and not. I think a good example of this would be CAMEL MUSIC by Howard Buss (published by Smith Publications). Sound samples are on the composer's web site at http://www.brixtonpublications.com/list_of_compositions-2.html

I hope this helps.
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« Reply #52 on: Dec 21, 2006, 10:47AM »

I think a good example of this would be CAMEL MUSIC by Howard Buss (published by Smith Publications).

That's you, right?  Brian ponders why Howard Buss refers to himself in the third person. :D
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Brian

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« Reply #53 on: Dec 21, 2006, 11:58AM »

I heard a CD of string quartet records of AC/DC tunes.  It definitely wasn't my cup of tea, but it wasn't all bad.

Copland's popular works evoked contemporary styles without mimicking them.  Maybe today's composers should be influenced by pop styles without consciously writing them--it's the music they grew up with. In other words, it's a more organic process--instead of "This is school music and this is the other kind," saying, "This is music".
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Dave Tatro
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« Reply #54 on: Dec 21, 2006, 04:06PM »

I heard a CD of string quartet records of AC/DC tunes.  It definitely wasn't my cup of tea, but it wasn't all bad.

They have done these for many different rock groups, and I guess it's a gig....

Many of the newer composers that I have been hearing lately do seem to have received at least some inspiration from today's pop styles.

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« Reply #55 on: Dec 25, 2006, 09:47PM »

While falling somewhere outside what we're talking about slightly.

There is Apocolyptica. They're a metal cello trio from some Scandinavian country. You can search them on google video. While their music leans more towards just metal with a different axe it is still interesting to see classically trained musicians branching into that area.


As for balancing popular music and art music. I think it's one thing to take existing material and pop it up, and another totally to write while infusing certain popular elements into it. I know I wrote an arrangement of Dear Old Stockholm for big band, and in the development section, there would be alternating sections of straight ahead swing, and then sections of what I can "swing funk" that is popular in contemporary gospel and hip hop music. Whenever I would play it for any of my students that's where the head-nodding or toe-tapping really started.

I think it's more important to selectively infuse art music with elements of popular music - Not try to "pop up" classics, or to write arrangements of pop tunes for art ensembles.
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Clay Cobb
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« Reply #56 on: Dec 30, 2006, 11:00PM »

i think that maybe the answer lies in popular forms as performed by the forward-thinking avant-garde of the pop scene... much like Tropicalia founder and composer Tom Ze... look to people like Beck(The Information), Radiohead(Kid A), Sonic Youth(Murray Street), Jim O'Rourke(Insignificance), Richard Thompson(Grizzly Man)... i think most of my favourite current avant-classical yet accessible music is coming from people like these... who get you with a hook and a beat, but the more you listen, the more you hear just how progressive people's ears can be trained to be!!!

justin
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« Reply #57 on: Jan 23, 2007, 11:43AM »

I tend to agree with Mike Suter .  I think some of the problem maybe in the "advertising". 

As a band director my hardest job is picking music for the kids.   You want to pick music that a)they can play  b)fits the ensemble c)educates them (historically, theoretically, or stylistically).  However quite a few people forget another BIG factor... e)Audience friendliness.  I tried to pick mostly tunes that are familiar, popular or that you can grasp the idea of easily.  But I also try to expose the audience to new or different things as well (aleatoric, tone clusters, etc)


Without an audience we are doomed.  If we only pick music to make the "musicians" happy there might not be an audience.

I think any audience wants to hear something they recognize, or that they "think" they recognize (sounds familiar).  Once an orchestra, jazz band, or any performer has a following they can start adding pieces to the repertoire that are "out there" or new.  However to draw in that audience is the problem.

People want to hear the song that is on the radio live.
If you go see Chicago in concert and you don't here "Saturday in the Park", "25 or 6 to 4", etc. you may feel slighted, especially if you have never seen them live before. 
But if they do all the favorites and slip in a few new songs you are more likely to buy into those new ones.

I saw James Taylor in an interview where somebody asked him if he gets tired of playing "Fire and Rain". He responded by saying that during sound checks there have been some very interesting versions of the song. However he knows that there is at least one person in the crowd who has never heard him play that live and he performs for that person.
I am sure that he could almost play it in his sleep and it is not a "challenge" for him to play it, but it helps the audience keep coming back.

Another issue is the exposure (or lack of) instrumental groups in the media. When is the last time you the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on MTV?  People need to be exposed to Jazz Bands, Orchestras, and such.  PBS in my hometown used to have the Boston Pops and classical concerts quite often, but not as much anymore.  As an educator I feel that not only do we to expose the kids to the music but also to the ensembles. I know most of us on this forum could do this, but how many kids sitting in a high school orchestra, jazz band or wind ensemble can name 3 professionals on their instrument? Not very many.  How many kids on a high school football team can name at least 3 pro football players? They can probably name half the NFL.
Why?  Because the media (TV and Print) have sports on all the time.  Kids see it everywhere, you can't miss it.  Where do the see "Classical Music", on some DVD in the class room?

Some orchestras are doing some nice things. I know the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has open rehearsals with free tickets for school groups (I am sure there are others.).  I friend of mine took his school group and they loved it, but had no idea what an orchestra was until that day!?!?

If we can get more people to be aware of "good ensembles" and  keep the audience in mind, that could help the matter.

Sorry for rambling.
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« Reply #58 on: Mar 27, 2009, 06:41PM »

It looks like a lot of time has passed since this thread ended -- sort of.  It is something worth continuing today -- 3 + years later.

To me too much attention has been given to gimmicks and fads.  Not that things like matrices and 12 tone process aren't good it is just that no one (the listening audience) really understands what's going on with them. The trouble with the major pieces of yesteryear, is that they no longer exploit the the technology of the instruments that we have today.  They did so very well of what was available to the composers then, but not now.  Composers need to learn to harness all of the power that is at their disposal.  They also need to see that many musicians today are more versatile and developed than their counter parts of 100 years ago.  I have often said that film-score music is the classical music of this century.  I really believe that it could be except for the fact that the genre requires scores to be compilations of bits and pieces of themes, and each of these themess could be developed into some very great works.

I also believe that today's formal musical presentations lack sensory appeal.  We go. We sit in a darkend room. We listen.  We leave.  I feel like a lop-sided inner tube after things like this.  Today's audiences like interaction, they like seeing things related to the music.  They like being brought into the process.

One other thing.  Formal, classical orchestras have historically worked under the come-to-hear-us-here mentality.  In my experience is hasn't been hard to see that there is a vast listening audience that resides on the fringes of the sphere of influence for most major orchestras. These folks are too far out both geographically and economically to be able to make it to the symphony.  It is time to take the show on the road.  Get some sponsors --they are out there and easy enough to find -- to defray the cost of transporting a group of musicians, and take the music to the people.
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« Reply #59 on: Apr 13, 2009, 08:33AM »

Here is a relevant essay by Ben Johnston:

How To Cook An Albatross

And here's an interview with Ben from that same website:

http://www.newmusicbox.org/page.nmbx?id=4935

As a guy who studied with the likes of Harry Partch, John Cage, and Milton Babbit, and who, during his composing career, has created some really excellent, modern music, he has some interesting things to say. :)
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