• Steve Reich

    Set 26 2009, 0h42

    I think by now it is official:
    Steve Reich has forever cemented his place among my "favorite composers of all time" and is now placed with Gyorgy Ligeti as my two favorite composers of music ever. Reich's minimalistic music is so beautiful and clear, hearing Daniel Variations nearly bowled me over with the sheer amount of beauty. Upon listening to that song, i got the same feeling when I listened to either Ligeti's Lontano or San Francisco Polyphony...

    It's a deep welling up in the heart, near the very core of being. The music speaks to you and your chest nearly bursts with every rise and fall of a tone... A note held is a breath held, and the sudden explosions and releases euphoric. Beethoven was quite right indeed in calling music a form of revelation... Few would dispute him. Indeed, I have felt all of this and more on listening to Reich and Ligeti's works... Though they occupy two different ends of the emotional spectrum.

    Ligeti's music is always tinged by melancholy, and this nervous force of prickly energy (that is absolutely beautiful), whereas Reich's works are bittersweet, sad in a hopeful way, or just generally uplifting in nature. Exceptions abound of course, but the point being, Ligeti nurtures the depressed man inside of me, whilst Reich soothes the romantic sap in me. I have found myself in only one area of human activity to ever evoke a heartfelt sigh, and that is in listening to music. Whether it be the Beethoven of my youth, the Schoenberg of my second awakening, or now the Reich of my seeming maturation (highly doubtful; in essence, I know nothing), music (and a good novel! Can't neglect the other half of my creative side!) has been able to bring a semblance of peace to my countenance. I am sure others share this similar disposition.

    I won't create a long and highly-reflective journal post, as is my usual wont, but I will suffice in saying that those who read this who are as interested in making and listening to music as I am (and to come to this lonely corner of the web you probably are rather interested):

    For the contemporary listener of music, things seem like they are in a great state of flux... The past is there but unchanging and static, and therefore, ignored. The future is feared and ridiculed, because the people who look to the future are to ensconced with their own dreams of grandeur to recognize that they have no clue where they are going. The listener can and should respect the past, and be mindful of the future and the changes it might bring which he or she may like. However, it is in the present in which one lives, and therefore, the present must be paid with the utmost attention, because it touches our lives most immediately. Don't wish for a bygone age, or prepare for a revolution that will never come, but rather, when one lives for the now and all what that comes to mean, things have a sweeter shine to them, and the sun comes up a bit faster and a bit brighter.
  • Composition as philosophy?

    Set 10 2009, 4h48

    My brother is a philosophy major, so he is well-versed in the thoughts and ideas of the great thinkers of the 20th century- and before that (has the 21st century done anything of note yet?). He often says fondly that philosophy is not only the so-called love of wisdom, it is as well the pursuit of truth and the ascertainment of truth. In this, one asks questions and infers and logically draws conclusions from such... That's probably a bad description, but we'll move on. I have noticed that philosophers are often concerned with, among other things, first causes, effects, behaviors, and sometimes, some certain and unchangeable truth that dictates the laws of everything that follow from that one truth. For Democritus, Lucretius, and Epicurus, it was that all things were made of atoms and empty space. For Descartes and his ilk, that the mind was at the very least, existent (to put it broadly). For Nietzsche and the post-modernists, the truth was, well, there IS no truth.

    All of the differing opinions are (quite honestly) a lot to take in. Too much, sometimes. Some people revel in such discussion, while others prefer to find on truth they think is right and they tend to stick with it. This can lead into some complications with people who hold different truths as true, but it seems to me that at least the liberalism that is pervasive in the society (or maybe just pure apathy) dictates to the common man "As long as one does not force his truth on me, I have no desire to do so on him." And so life goes on. Or so I assume.

    Recently, I heard a small prepared speech by the composer Pierre Boulez who had one a prize for one of his pieces from a Japanese committee. Only a minute or so long, a youtube video no less, but even then, he said something that caught my attention.

    To paraphrase he was happy that music was counted as a category among the arts and philosophies included in the festival.

    He also said that music should not be written off as entertainment (even the high end of entertainment was not good enough), but that its rightful place WAS right there with all the philosophies of mankind. In essence, with the Plato's and Kant's should stand the Beethoven's and Messiaen's.

    A truly interesting thought.

    I begin to wonder... Did I only see music as an art? Do I only see it as a means of expression of an artistic ideal, or for mere entertainment?

    Could a song express the same complex notion as Beyond Good and Evil?

    Truly puzzling thoughts indeed. And I'm not sure of the answer, either.

    However, Beethoven himself said that music was the highest form of revelation. But he might have been a little biased.

    How does a composer seek the truth, or more pertinently, what truth is he even trying to seek? Does a person who sees things in terms of sounds, notes, and harmonies really love wisdom so? Is wisdom for him harmony? Is the music of the soul just that, music?

    Music has often a much more immediate effect on the audience than does a controversial piece of philosophy. The essay or treatise gives you a great deal of time to absorb the information, it provides all of its rationales (one would hope), and the reader mulls it over before giving himself to emotion or merely responding. With a piece of music, the listener is forced to confront the entire worldview of the composer, with no time to see the rationale and no time to take in all the varying intricacies of the composer's mind.

    That is why the reaction to say, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or even Schoenberg's String Quartets were met with such strong negative impulses. People had to react immediately to the things that they had just experienced. And since it was not of their worldview, they reacted against such things.

    But does that really equate a Composer with a Philosopher? Do the two love wisdom, or does the Composer love Art and the Philosopher the Idea? What is the wisdom in music, I wonder. What is the truth in sound? We all hear sound (God-willing), and likewise, we all know music when we hear it (or do we, so says the modernist). That is certainly an unchangeable truth. But is it worth seeking?

    Is Art Wisdom?

    Or is Wisdom Art?

    Does my brother think I am full of nonsense? Probably.
  • Modern Music

    Ago 21 2009, 17h44

    Contemporary classical music often seems an exercise in futility: No one wants to listen to it, no one wants to make it, and its perception is either that of avant-garde trash or over-grand sentiments of finery fir only for mockery.

    Yet why then does the musician, the composer, the artist, why then do they persist in the face of the indifference of the rest of the world? What makes them decided to create, one song and one note and one sound at a time, the catalogue of infinity? What makes them feel that beauty or ugliness still need to be heard?

    Are they the trees that fall in the forest, with no one to hear them?

    Are they the passing wind that one hears, and either enjoys or dislikes, but soon forgets?

    Did they destroy themselves in order that they might live again?

    Or did they merely destroy themselves?

    Contemporary music is a complex labyrinth, an abyss. And staring into this abyss for so long, it begins to stare back at me.