Tuesday, July 5, 2011

hi ho

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Music is a reflection of society, and will always evolve as society does. Composers have always sought to push the bounds of conventional harmony, and tonality, as a way of further expressing themselves. Composers such as Schopan, Strauss, Berg, Busconi, Stravinsky, Debussy, and others, all attempted to create something new, and exciting whether they used a traditional framework or not. They all attempt to further the musical concepts of the time; it is this concept of art for art’s sake that is fundamental to understanding the importance of these contributions. These composers were no longer concerned with the audience, they no longer cared about the audience, they moved away from creating music for someone else and decided to create music solely for themselves. This is the probably the most important basic development that occurred during this period of 180-10. Along this same line, the actual musical technique evolved at this time, and will be important to observe. Likewise, we will examine the social changes occurring at the time, and see how the changing society influenced the composers and music of the time.


We should beginning this discussion with a brief description of how the technical methods that the composers utilized at this time evolved from what had previously occurred. The move from a rigidly structured music to one of dissonance and atonality was bound to occur. It was in essence inevitable. In further evolving music it was necessary to attempt something new, something that hadn’t been tried before. This is the reason for dissonance and atonality; it was creating something new out of a concept that hadn’t been explored before. “Chords containing non-harmonic tones must be incorporated into harmonic theory and recognized as valid musical materials. Non � harmonic tones form chords, hence they are not non-harmonic; the musical phenomenon they help to create are harmonies, as is everything that sounds simultaneously. ” Therefore we see a marked break in what composers had been doing prior to this period. Music was conceived of in very rigid terms. There were rules that had to be followed, as this was the traditional sense of music. A return to the tonic was expected, the musical plot was always returned too. The opera or musical piece was always a simple package for the audience to understand. It was expressed in very simple terms, expectation, and routine would be the best terms to describe the music and the experience at this particular time. The composers such as Stravinsky realized the importance of dissonance. They realized that it only enhanced the musical experience. They realized that dissonance was not an evil of music but rather another character to explore and add to the story. They attempted to create something new by using new theories in accordance with some of the traditional rules. For example they “preserved a fixed order within the presentation of a harmonic unit. ” Therefore they didn’t seek to make something completely new, but rather evolve some of the traditional aspects of harmony and dissonance, to further express themselves artistically. By furthering the practice of serialism, we certainly see how basic rules of harmony and tonality were followed but how the evolution of tone allowed for the creation of the retrograde, and the inversion, all of which gave composers more freedom of expression. It seems as if this is a pervading societal phenomenon as well.


We should go back to the quote from the book written by Schoenberg on the function of harmony as it provides the perfect segue to the more fundamentally important part of this essay. We should examine the societal implications of what was occurring at this time. This book, was written in 1, it is therefore important that we understanding what society was going through at this time, and how this is important to the understanding of technical achievements within music. The Roaring 0’s was time in American history of great investment in the economy and the pervading sentiment however wrong was one of prosper. Generally when the economy is doing well, and people are able to spend more money, they generally have more time to focus there time on other things. Nothing was different for musicians, we see around the turn of the century, composers moving away from the traditional way of creating music. They no longer relied on the aristocracy for patronage rather they were able to teach, or make money through the creation of their music, they no longer needed to create music that was mundane and ordinary. They began to have the freedom to explore other avenues of music. This is certainly a reflection of the period of time we are studying. The 0’s in particular were an important time for people to push boundaries. There was a brief sexual revolution; it was certainly a time when many were trying to push boundaries of normal societal action. So the music created at this time was created out of an important concept that was buttressed by the pervading social atmosphere. Composers no longer cared if everyone liked what they created, but they realized it was important to create because it was new. Much like society had shrugged off its Puritanical history, musicians too had evolved. They no longer were tied down to those who really cared nothing for their achievements. As Debussy writes in his “Conversations With M. Croche” “They [the audience] never grasp the noble dramas woven into the symphonic conflict in which one is conscious of the possibility of reaching the summit of the structure of harmony and the breathing there an atmosphere of perfect beauty. ” Composers at this time knew that they were on the cusp of something incredible. They knew that by pushing the bounds of convention that they were affording themselves far more freedom of expression.


The technical side of music although fundamentally important to the full understanding of music, is certainly not what I feel as the most important aspect. An attempt was made here to show how Music reflects society and how the music at this time was pushing convention and was looking to break away from the ordinary from the mundane, and truly be something amazing, it is this point that drives this essay. The point of art for art’s sake is truly an important idea that needs to be explored by artists. This concept allows them to push boundaries, and although some of the pieces we have listened to in class is more radical than others, it is the affect they have on the music that in the middle that is most important. Regardless of whether it is too far left, or too far right, by pushing the conventional boundary one makes way for the unconventional to become the standard by which to judge the conventional. To draw a parallel to government, the objective of the third party in American politics is not to win every election, because it realistically would not happen, but rather more importantly the object of the third party is to bring their issues into the American spotlight, by doing so they force the two major parties to debate the issues of the third party. Music in essence does the same thing, when musicians or composers create something entirely new the effect on the music in the middle is what is most important.


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