Category Archives: 20th- and 21st-century music

Slime mold music

Physarum polycephalum

Die Lebensfreude is a pioneering piece of music composed with the aid of an amoeba-like plasmodial slime mold called physarum polycephalum.

The composition is for an ensemble of five instruments (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) and six channels of electronically synthesized sounds. The instrumental parts and the synthesized sounds are musifications and sonifications, respectively, of a multi-agent based simulation of physarum foraging for food.

Physarum polycephalum inhabits cool, moist, shaded areas over decaying plant matter, and it eats nutrients such as oat flakes, bacteria, and dead organic matter. It is a biological computing substrate, and has been enjoying much popularity within the unconventional computing research community for its astonishing computational properties.

This according to “Harnessing the intelligence of physarum polycephalum for unconventional computing-aided musical composition”by Eduardo R. Miranda, an article included in Music and unconventional computing (London: AISB, 2013).

Many thanks to the Annals of Improbable Research for bringing this to our attention! Above, the co-composer; below, the work’s premiere.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Nature, Science

Tippett and Eliot

tippett-eliot

Michael Tippett called T.S. Eliot his spiritual and artistic mentor, and their numerous discussions in the 1930s proved a lasting influence on the composer’s beliefs about the coming-together of words and music.

Tippett quoted from and alluded to the work of Eliot not only in his early pieces, as has previously been noted, but in much later compositions such as The ice break, The mask of time, and Byzantium.

Eliot’s essay The three voices of poetry examines the number of voices in which the I of a poem can speak, freed from the specificities of prose, and Tippett, influenced by Eliot, harnessed the form of oratorio, freed from the specificities of opera, to allow it to speak in many voices.

This according to “Tippett and Eliot” by Oliver Soden (Tempo LXVII/266 [October 2013] pp. 28–53).

Today is Tippett’s 110th birthday! Below, the opening movements of A child of our time, another of Tippett’s works that was influenced by Eliot.

1 Comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Literature

Revista Vórtex

Revista Vórtex

 

In 2013 the Escola de Música e Belas Artes do Paraná at the Universidade Estadual do Paraná launched Revista Vórtex, an open-access online publication.

The journal encourages the submission of works from research areas including composition, computer music, musicology, theory, music education, and ethnomusicology. Vórtex accepts the submission of articles, translations, interviews, and scores in Portuguese, English, or Spanish. Concert, festival, CD, DVD, and book reviews are also accepted.

Below, a work by Dániel Péter Biró, one of the contributors to the inaugural volume.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New periodicals

Alfred Schnittke’s deep roots

Alfred_schnittke

Since its premiere in 1986, Alfred Schnittke’s Концерт для смешанного хора (Koncert dlâ smeŝannovo hora/Concerto for mixed chorus) has gained prominence as a masterwork in the choral repertoire.

Schnittke himself said that his goal was to provide the musical language with “deep roots”, an idea that is expressed in the relationship of the work to the sacred Russian choral tradition.

An analysis of the work confirms that it shares many characteristics with various genres of that tradition. The concerto’s modern influences, such as tone clusters, demonstrate an expansion of this tradition and highlight Schnittke’s individual compositional voice.

This according to Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for choir: Musical analysis and historical perspectives by Mark David Jennings, a dissertation accepted by Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 2002.

Today would have been Schnittke’s 80th birthday! Above, a 1972 portrait by Reginald Gray; below, the concerto’s third movement.

1 Comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

Charles Ives and baseball

Charles Ives baseball

Baseball played an important part in Charles Ives’s life, music, and writings; it was a place where he proved himself as a man, and it provided a framework within which he could build new musical ideas. Ives’s identity as a U.S. composer links him to this game, and a brief chronology of baseball history demonstrates significant changes in the game over the course of his lifetime (1874–1954).

Baseball provided Ives with a vehicle to establish his masculine identity, counterbalancing societal and self views of his musical participation as feminine. His pieces and unfinished sketches about baseball provided a vehicle for him to invent new musical ideas in reference to specific baseball situations that he could use as part of his basic musical language in later pieces.

Analyses of Ives’s baseball-related completed pieces (All the way around and back, Some southpaw pitching, Old home day, The fourth of July) and unfinished sketches (Take-off #3: Rube trying to walk 2 to 3!!, Take-off #7: Mike DonlinJohnny Evers, and Take-off #8: Willy Keeler at the bat), compared with passages from later works, reveal these associations.

This according to Baseball and the music of Charles Ives: A proving ground by Timothy A. Johnson (Lanham: Scarecrow, 2004).

Today is Ives’s 140th birthday! Above, the Danbury Alerts, ca. 1890; a young Charles Ives is the first seated player from the left. Below, James Sykes plays Study no. 21: Some southpaw pitching.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Sports and games

Bulletin of the Kazakh National Conservatory

Kazakh

In 2013 a new scholarly journal, Құрманғазы Атындағы Қазақ Ұлттық Консерваториясының Хабаршысы/Вестник Казахской Национальной Консерватории им. Курмангазы/The Bulletin of the Kazakh National Conservatory of the Name of Kurmangazy (ISSN 2310-3337), was launched by the Kazakh National Kurmangazy Conservatory in Almaty.

This quarterly is published in Kazakh, Russian, and English. Its goal is to present a broad spectrum of  research in arts, musicology, and contemporary music education, as well as in social studies, humanities, culture, criticism, and journalism. The full text of the first issue is available here.

Below, Kyz Žibek by Evgenij Grigor’evič Brusilovskij, a Kazakh opera discussed in the inaugural issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New periodicals, Opera

Outsourcing composition

Kreider 2007

Johannes Kreidler’s 2009 conceptual performance piece Fremdarbeit (Outsourcing) was composed, as the title suggests, by means of hiring foreigners. Kreidler  payed a composer in China and a computer programmer in India to study his previous work and produce a chamber composition in his style.

This according to “Fremdarbeit: Kompositionsaktion für Ensemble, Sampler und Moderator–Ein Gespräch” by Carolin Naujocks (Positionen: Texte zur aktuellen Musik 93 [November 2012] pp. 26–29).

Above, the composer with the performance artist Leowee Polyester in 2007; below, a documentary about Fremdarbeit with English subtitles.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities

Peter Maxwell Davies and sonata form

Peter Maxwell Davies

Throughout much of his career, Peter Maxwell Davies  has had a preoccupation with sonata form. He has exploited the tension between this form and his other conflicting musical preoccupations, such as a penchant for continuous development and an abhorrence of exact repetition.

In his earlier works, Davies at times referred to the presence of a “ghost” of sonata form, whereas more recently he directly states that some of his pieces are in this form. Throughout its evolution the salient elements of sonata form have been contrast, conflict, and resolution, all three of which apply in an examination of Davies’s use of it.

In his second Taverner fantasia, the first movement appears on the surface to be in sonata form, but is actually driven by other principles such as recurring chordal material. The opening movement of the first symphony has the general outline of a sonata form without adhering to its contrasting thematic implications. The more recent third quartet combines the formal and harmonic implications of a pre-Beethovenian, essentially binary, sonata form, with a highly complex and idiosyncratic serial technique derived from magic squares.

This according to “The ghost in the machine: Sonata form in the music of Peter Maxwell Davies” by Rodney Lister, an essay included in Peter Maxwell Davies studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) pp. 106–28).

Today is Sir Peter’s 80th birthday! Below, Davies conducts the BBC Philharmonic in his first symphony.

BONUS: How to pronounce the composer’s last name.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

Milhaud and jazz

Milhaud Brubeck

In a 1922 interview in New York City, Darius Milhaud described how jazz had recently taken the French musical scene by storm, to the delight of young composers like himself.

“Jazz interests us tremendously. We are fascinated and intrigued by the jazz rhythms and are devoting serious study to it. There are new elements of clarity and rhythmic power that were a real shock to us when we heard jazz for the first time.”

“It was in 1919, immediately after the war, that the first jazz band was heard in Paris. To us it was a musical event of genuine import. Music had long been under the domination of the impressionist school. Poetry was the predominating element. Jazz came to us as a good shock—like a cold shower when you have been half asleep with ennui.”

This according to “Jazz, says Darius Milhaud, is the most significant thing in music today” (The musical observer XXIII [March 1923] p. 23; reprinted in Jazz in print 1856–1929: An anthology of selected early readings in jazz history [Hillsdale: Pendragon press, 2002] p. 235).

Today is Milhaud’s 120th birthday! Above, with Dave Brubeck at Mills College; below, La création du monde from 1923.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Jazz and blues

The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies publication

The Jewish Experience in Classical Music

Cambridge Scholars launched the series The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies publication in 2014 with The Jewish experience in classical music: Shostakovich and Asia, edited by Alexander Tentser.

The book’s juxtaposition of two highly dissimilar composers allows an exploration of the breadth of influence of traditional Jewish culture on Western classical music in the 20th century and beyond. The first part focuses on the humane qualities of Dmitrij Šostakovič’s personality—his honesty and courage, which enabled him in difficult times to express Jewish torment and suffering under both the Soviet and Nazi regimes through his works; the second part is dedicated to the music of Daniel Asia and to his philosophical and religious identification with Judaism.

Below, Šostakovič and Nina Dorliak perform one of his settings of traditional Jewish songs, and Jonathan Shames performs Asia’s Why (?) Jacob.

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New series