Tag Archives: Composition

The new soundtrack

Launched by Edinburgh University Press in March 2011, The new soundtrack (ISSN 2042-8855; EISSN 2042-8863) presents cutting-edge academic and professional perspectives on the complex relationship between sound and moving images. The journal also encourages writing on more current developments, such as sound installations, computer-based delivery, and the psychology of the interaction of image and sound.

Alongside academic contributions, The new soundtrack includes contributions from practitioners in the field—composers, sound designers, and directors—giving voice to the development of professional practices. Each issue also features a short compilation of book and film reviews.

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

Cultural expressions in music

The College Music Society inaugurated the series Cultural expressions in music in 2010 with The tango in American piano music: Selected tangos by Thomson, Copland, Barber, Jaggard, Biscardi, and Bolcom by Oscar Macchioni. The book explores works from 1920 to 1990 that represent diverse musical styles, including tonal and non-tonal musical languages and both structural and improvisational writing.

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

Vexing the pianist

For an experiment involving both acoustical and MIDI data, the German pianist Armin Fuchs made an uninterrupted recording of Satie’s Vexations, fulfilling the composer’s apparent indication that the piece should be repeated 840 times; the performance lasted nearly 28 hours.

Tempo and loudness remained stable over the first 14 hours of alertness; after 15 hours a state of trance ensued, resulting in a destabilization of tempo followed by uncontrolled deviations in loudness.

This according to “Tempo and loudness analysis of a continuous 28-hour performance of Erik Satie’s composition Vexations” by Reinhard Kopiez, Marc Bangert, Werner Goebl, and Eckart Altenmüller (Journal of new music research XXXII/3 [September 2003], pp. 243–258).

Above, the full text of Satie’s composition. The official Satie website, which includes rare film footage, is here.

Below, a brief exposition of the work.

 

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

Rediscovering sonoristics

When he coined the term sonorystyka in the 1950s, Józef Michał Chomiński (1906–94) considered sonoristics a new branch of study centered on the sound technique of a composition. Discernible as early as certain works by Debussy, sonoristics involves a whole new layer of a musical work that emphasizes its actual sound, transcending older approaches in which structural elements were considered independently of their sonorous realization.

Among his expositions of his sonoristic theories, Chomiński showed how the first six measures of Webern’s Die Sonne (op. 14, no. 1) present no traces of melody or harmony in the traditional sense; rather, they embody a full transformation of both concepts into a sonic universe regulated by timbre, rhythm, and register contrasts.

This according to “Rediscovering sonoristics: A groundbreaking theory from the margins of musicology” by Zbigniew Granat, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history. Below, a performance of Webern’s op. 14; Chomiński’s example begins the set.

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

Motet database catalog online

Developed by Jennifer Thomas of the University of Florida’s School of Music, Motet database catalog online indexes manuscripts and printed anthologies of motets produced between 1475 and 1600 and contains about 33,000 motet and Mass Proper appearances. Each part of each motet is indexed as a separate record; the total number of records stands at 50,040.

The database allows scholars the flexibility to investigate the motet and its many contexts from multiple vantage points simultaneously by enabling sorting on various fields separately and in combination, a type of inquiry that is not possible on a large scale with printed books. Users can also search for specific words or groups of words, for particular names, or for many items in combination. Scholars with specific questions can isolate the data that will best serve their needs.


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Filed under Renaissance, Resources, Source studies

Macunaíma and brasilidade

In Macunaíma, o herói sem nenhum caráter (Macunaíma, the hero without character) by the Brazilian musicologist, ethnomusicologist, poet, and cultural activist Mário de Andrade (1893–1945), the title character leaves his home deep in the jungle for a mystical quest to São Paulo to retrieve the muiraquitã, an amulet said to embody all of the history and traditions of his culture. Macunaíma succeeds in his mission, but in the process he undergoes a series of dramatic transformations; finally, he is changed into a constellation. He leaves for the firmament with a cryptic remark: He was not brought into the world to be a stone.

The story can be read as a metaphor for the cultural developments that Andrade helped to shape: He advocated bringing the jungle to the city to create the modernist aesthetic of brasilidade that informed the growth of the Brazilian creative arts and the parallel development of musicology and ethnomusicology there. Like Macunaíma, Brazilian modernism did not come into the world to be a stone, with all its implications of rigidity, contour, and well-defined boundaries—rather, brasilidade relishes improvisation, exploration, and fluid boundaries that can be perpetually transformed.

This according to “Macunaíma out of the woods: The intersection of musicology and ethnomusicology in Brazil” by James Melo, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

Related article: Tropicália and Bahia

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

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis: Scripta

The series Schola Cantorum Basiliensis: Scripta was inaugurated by Schwabe Verlag in 2009 with Die frühen Werke Johann Sebastian Bachs: Stil, Chronologie, Satztechnik by Jean-Claude Zehnder. The book follows the young composer’s development from 1699 to 1708, showing how even in his teens Bach’s compositions evinced an innovative, experimental mind at work.

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Filed under Baroque era, New series

Iconoclastic romanticism

Although the pedagogue and author Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl (1823–97) was not formally trained in music, he wrote extensively about the social significance of music making, and he argued for an approach that treated music history as cultural history. He criticized music histories centered on great composers, and advocated a more inclusive cultural approach that appreciated the unsung heroes and everyday life of the past.

Riehl was even more critical of his own time, lamenting the costs of transforming Germany into a modern industrial society; while he called for a more encompassing definition of Germany’s musical heritage, he rejected all of the art music of the day, and particularly railed against the works of Wagner. Riehl, therefore, is an ambiguous figure: He championed the idea of music as culture, but he explicitly rejected a future for music as art.

This according to Sanna Pederson’s “An early crusader for music as culture: Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl”, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Literature, Musicologists, Romantic era

Melodiarium hymnologicum Bohemiae

Produced by a team of scholars from the Ústavu hudební vědy at Masarykova univerzita in Brno, Melodiarium hymnologicum Bohemiae is a digital catalogue of monophonic Latin, Czech, and German sacred song found in sources located in the Czech lands or imported into the Czech lands, from the earliest beginnings until the eighteenth century. The database, which is largely bilingual in Czech and English, includes facsimiles and text and melody indexes, along with numerous annotations. While users must establish logins, no fee is required; the resource is supported by the Ministerstva školství, mládeže a tělovýchovy České republiky.

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Filed under Baroque era, Classic era, Middle Ages, Notation, Renaissance, Resources

Alphabetical impressionism

Bach’s use of a musical motive based on his name, B–A–C–H, is well known, and several other composers have used it in tributes to the Baroque master. As connoisseurs of French chamber music also know, Ravel made similar use of the technique of deriving musical material from a composer’s name in his Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Faure and Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn.

Far less known is the further use of this technique by both Debussy and Ravel in more enigmatically titled pieces. For example, several of their works bearing the words hommage or tombeau include musical material derived from the honoree’s name. Such formerly puzzling titles, which have led the curious on wild-goose chases in their attempts to understand what on earth the music had to do with the named composer, may now be understood as sly references to uses of this technique.

This according to “Widmungsstücke mit Buchstaben-Motto bei Debussy und Ravel” by Paul Mies, an essay included in Festschrift für Erich Schenk (Studien zur Musikwissenschaft: Beihefte der Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, vol. 25 [1962], pp. 363–368); this journal issue dedicated to the Austrian musicologist Erich Schenk (1902–74) on the occasion of his 60th birthday is covered in our recently published Liber Amicorum: Festschriften for music scholars and nonmusicians, 1840–1966.

Below, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, one of the works discussed in the article.

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Filed under Curiosities, Impressionism, Source studies