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What is written music and why is it more serious?
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 7:21 am    Post subject: What is written music and why is it more serious? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

This is my last post in this thread http://electro-music.com/forum/post-33365.html

Quote:
This thread is actually touching upon issues we could discuss in the Composition forum. It seems to me that we might need some sort of clarification of current traditions in "serious music". All you guys are actually working and writing music in a way that actually does conform 100% with the serious way of doing things.
Using a term like serious in this context is of course laughable, but it has come to be an accepted term within the academic music circles for "proper music" vs. how the lesser gifted are making their music. Large parts of this is mythology and the truth about how things really are will probably be a good thing.


We have discussed what music is before, and I guess that thread will get back to life again soon.


If you actually make your own music, there is now doubt you are a composer. So how do you write?

The "I just have to know" thread pretty much proved that most of you guys are actually writing music, but you are not using traditional musical notation much. The methods and concepts at work, like how Jan described his work, are however dead serious stuff.

It is easy to understand why we have traditional musical notation, and how it has evolved. In some ways it is a slightly more organic and sloppy way to record music than say midi, and it has proved itself quite useful.

However, it has become accepted that "great" composers are allowed to write music using their own notation in order to describe better what is suposed to happen. "New" music is also allowed to contain improvisation and random elements. A musical piece can just as well be performance art.
Quote:
Attack the steel plates with a grinder. Keep at it for 11 minutes and 20 secs."

So, this is a piece of music.. serious too. And does this strike you to be more serious than Jan´s high end noodle stuff? No?

A lot of contemporary musical notation has gone in the direction of extremely detailed descriptions too. Many performers are complaining about the notation is so overtly detailed that it is hardly playable and the musicians part in the music has been reduced to the role of a synth rack module.

I am using notation a lot myself, but I am completely aware that we don´t have a sensible universal markup language describing patches and how they really should be played .. at least within the realms of traditional notation. I don´t see this as a problem. It is quite possible to make decent music anyway, even though you have to use patch sheets, notebooks with scribbled instructions or plain midi or what have you.


Noodles are probably a great example of something that is 200% human music within the current serious contemporary music tradition.

A huge orchestral score containing sections with comments like " do something with the bow around C, but try to phase in with the woowind and harp" attempts to go into the beatiful noodle territory, but with less sensible instructions. A lot of contemporary classical art music is in fact badly written noodle music.

Programming music, using rules rather than strict event descriptions, is writing music.

If serious composers are allowed to write highly detailed notation with attention to the most minute detail, why is it less serious to actually do it well.. by doing it with midi or whatever?

If it is the serious and the decent highbrowed thing to do, to drag your music into a concert hall and have it played sloppily by human players not trained in making those special sounds,.. would it be less serious to
perform the music yourself using the right tools.. for an audience that is actually interested in hearing your music?

A lot of "serious" music is great. What I want to kick is the silly mythology.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have actually discussed music with the guy who goes " do something with the bow around C, but try to phase in with the woodwind and harp".

He wanted to "explore" what happens when.. etc etc etc.. yadayada..

My take on this was
"why don´t you find out, then write the damned music"
"why be so lazy, go learn the proper tools"
"if you had been performing music yourself you would already have known a damned lot about how that would sound"

He agreed with me on all of these points. He is a very nice guy.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think you are treading on dangerous ground here, Elektro. The people in that thread aren´t saying they write out their music at all, they say they write out their *notes* when using implementations of synths that require note data (particularly midi). They might do all sorts of other things to this sound afterwards and many other elements might be involved, written or non-written.

I think music, particularly electronic music can be a lot more then just the notes. For example, after writing down a set of notes the final step in recording the song might be a live, improvised, mixdown on a desk, involving dub techniques like cutting/muting and delaying some lines some of the time. This would make for a hybrid form between formal and improvised music, even though all "notes" would be written down. I think it fairly comon for techno to be made this way; you "formally compose" a set of loops, then "improvise" based on those during the mixdown, yielding you final piece. You could argue that the same thing happens in "modern clasical" (I hate that term) music, such as in Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt, but in that case the way in which to improvise is dictated while with techno it´s implied by the ideas of the producer and to some degree the conventions of the style. Would that make it fundamentally different in your view?

Within computer music we find another problem in that it often becomes quite hard to seperate the music itself from the notation. Would you for example say that a wave file would be a acceptable form of musical notation? Worse; composing, directing and playing will often be quite hard to seperate within modern electronic music.

It´s not so much that I disagree with your observation; I think it hold a lot of merrit, but I also think it shows we should beware of aplying the names and terms of classical music to modern music in a overtly simple way. If we call all electronic music that doesn´t get played on instruments directly "serious" because some form of notation is always implied then the word "serious" loses a lot of it´s meaning and usefullnes. I also think "serious" as a word has many conotations and it might be preferable to talk about music as "improvised" or "defined" (or something in between), then see "serious" and "lighthearted" as a seperate dimention.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, you are pretty much making my point.
The way I see it, a lot of electronic music is far more "written" in any possible meaning of the term written music, than traditionally musical notation allows. This also inlcudes the application of "modern serious ideas" like adding free improvised sections as well as overtly detailed sections. Serialist concepts, embedded with contrapuntal methods, is not that uncommon either. Algorithmic music is cool too.

And yes, why cannot an array of waveforms as well as an aif file be part of the "writing"?

My main point is "messing about in the piano roll", as well as setting up a noodle patch. are both completely valid ways of writing music, and there is already an established academic tradition in order to embrace such compositional tools and methods.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
The people in that thread aren´t saying they write out their music at all, they say they write out their *notes* when using implementations of synths that require note data (particularly midi). They might do all sorts of other things to this sound afterwards and many other elements might be involved, written or non-written.


Yes, great.. and all this is way within what is formally accepted in modern serious music. but you aren´t supposed to know that.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ok, so, to get this straight; If I would doodle on a midi keyboard then that´s not serious music but if i record the midi output to a sequencer it´s serious?

And if I may follow Schroedinger(sp?) with his infamous cat; what if I doodle on a midi keyboard equiped with a radio transmitter, not knowing wether the monkey in the other room has turned the matching receiver on, thus enabeling the recording? Does that mean the seriousness of my piece goes into a quantum flux?

well?

Hmmm?

I expect some answers, mister, and fast!

:¬p

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
It´s not so much that I disagree with your observation; I think it hold a lot of merrit, but I also think it shows we should beware of aplying the names and terms of classical music to modern music in a overtly simple way. If we call all electronic music that doesn´t get played on instruments directly "serious" because some form of notation is always implied then the word "serious" loses a lot of it´s meaning and usefullnes. I also think "serious" as a word has many conotations and it might be preferable to talk about music as "improvised" or "defined" (or something in between), then see "serious" and "lighthearted" as a seperate dimention.


Great points made.

I am not fond of the term "serious" in this context, but fact is that there is something called "serious music" and I am not arguing that a lot of this is most excellent stuff.. I have boxes full of CDs all over the place, but I am arguing the "us" vs. them thinking that is very very common in certain circles these days.. and "them" in this is context is us.

I am trying to dispose of the "serious music" term, and also taking back the concept of "writing" music. Using "writing" as an holistic term for the act of creatiing electronic music would probably make a lot of sense.



Shocked

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Using "writing" as an holistic term for the act of creatiing electronic music would probably make a lot of sense.


Yes, I´m very much in agreement there. The problem with accepting that definition of "serious" and also accepting that one can have many notations, including wave (or aiff if one is so inclined) means hardly anything wouldn´t be serious anymore. Some sheppard, playing his flute is after all "writing" his music byt encoding it in airpresure deveations on the medium air. That this mdedium doesn´t hold that information forever shouldn´t affect the "seriousness", if it did then Bach wouldn´t be serious anymore for his paper wil crumble....

I think "serious" implies intention, much more then it does method, I believe that it´s much more usefull to aply it to intention too so we might as well sue the word like it´ll be understood by most lay persons (for a change).

Still with me?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
Ok, so, to get this straight; If I would doodle on a midi keyboard then that´s not serious music but if i record the midi output to a sequencer it´s serious?


Hmm..

If you have a studied composition and contemporary music for like 5-10 years, and if you have kept your path clean all this time, then possibly all this could be called music. You must of course get an art grant for exloring the fringes of improvised music, spend 2 years writing "I sit in front of an audience playing doodle on a midi keyboard for like 14 minutes" - plain text - across a sheet music page. You then apply for a grant in order to perform the piece.

Shocked Very Happy

Seriously, I see now problem with whatever being music, but I you see my point?

Improvised music is of course no less serious than "properly" written music. However, that is some of the shit academic jazz has been messing about with for the last 50 years. I reckon the consensus is that improvised music is OK if you do it like some old dead modern jazz hero would have done it..? Shocked Cool

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
Using "writing" as an holistic term for the act of creatiing electronic music would probably make a lot of sense.


I think "serious" implies intention, much more then it does method, I believe that it´s much more usefull to aply it to intention too so we might as well sue the word like it´ll be understood by most lay persons (for a change).

Still with me?


Yup, indeed. I do think all of us are serious about making music, and seriously into it too. So we have that covered. However, as far as intentions go.. I will claim my freedom to be seriously outragously silly as well as writing music about serious matters.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:

Improvised music is of course no less serious than "properly" written music. However, that is some of the shit academic jazz has been messing about with for the last 50 years. I reckon the consensus is that improvised music is OK if you do it like some old dead modern jazz hero would have done it..? Shocked Cool


Ok, but I have a plan. What if we secretly play our "music", yet we´d call it "electronic sounds" or something like that. We´d play those in some remote location where no accedemics could find us, then deny it afterwards?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sounds like a demon plan! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Kassen wrote:

Still with me?


Yup, indeed.


That was quick. Should we solve the Israel/Palestina thing now too while we´re at it or leave that one for after dinner?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

We just might do that..


Cool

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

or we might figure out how we can ditch the academics..?

Well, that is the wrong attitude.

Anyway,I am not completely happy with the how the modern holistic idea of art has turned out. You could say that the art has been taken out of hands of both the artists and the audience. Art has to be properly curated before it becomes art. This is of course a completely sily idea, but that is how it works anyway.
In art history, that is exactly the kind of situation that artists will respond to.. and fight. Are we there yet?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Whoops, missed this coment.
I think that as what "art" is depends heavily on what you believe it to be, it´ll only get draged away from the audience and the artists if they alow it to be. Sure, there´s a lot of realy boring stuff going on in musea and galeries, but on the other hand there are also a lot of people that just draw/paint/doodle on a midi keyboard.

This friend of mine used to paint a lot, went to the art acedemy and so on. These days he designs record sleeves and does t-shirts. Every few weeks he´ll have a new iconic image and puts that on a few hundred shirts. Is that art? I don´t know and I don´t care because it looks good. Good luck to "the powers that be" controling that kind of thing. He sells well in both galeries and in shops for the skating market....

check it out.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sheesh. I have thought so much about this I don't know what to think anymore. I've personally been in the academic camp with a degree in music composition and all that. I like to go to classical contemporary music concerts which I review from time to time here on this site. I'm also into hardcore experimental music, often made by people not into the formal academic scene - like circuit benders or noise musicians. I like everything - at least some of it.

I personally want to see the gap between these and the other camps of contemporary music broken down. I hope that's one of the things this site is all about.

I think the point made here by both of you is that the camps are really artifical and pointless. That a circuit benders music can be just as serious as anyone elses.

I think discussions of this are more about the musicians than the music. I know many classical tradition composers. From my experience, these people are almost universially interested in music history. They want to earn a place on the totem pole of the great classical composers. If not, they are trying to earn a reputation in a field they creat themselves. When I think of the word serious in regards to composers, this is what occurs to me.

Pop musicians are equally obsessed about being popular or famous. They want to be well known now. I guess this is some sort of variation on the sexual drive.

Some of us are rebels - they don't want to be popular or serious. They are iconoclasts on the outside. Anytime someone tries to define them the get uncomfortable and change.

There are a few people who really don't care. They have discovered pure joy in making music and are following it where it goes.

If you play just the music from these different musicians, it's sometimes difficult to identify where they are coming from. The music itself can transcend these categories we like to create. Some of the musicians can also get beyond it too.

If you listen to the music on this site, or go to the electro-music 2005 conference in Philly this June, you'll hear all kinds of different styles. We as musicians and music lovers need to take an active role in opening ourselves to an ever increasing and ever expanding universe of music and musicians.

Why is this destratification happening now? Because the music technology makes it possible for almost everyone to write almost any kind of music. If you can't read or write music you can still general spectacular scores and play the music on superb orchestras. If you are interested in new and exciting electronic sounds, for a few hundred dollars you can have a studio more powerful than those that costed millions just a few decades ago.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very much with you there. If I may elaborate; I think that frankly all forms of hunting for fame come from the sex drive, more or less directly. For this reason I always have a hard time valuing that element of a composer or musician´s output, it being just a simple chemical, though of cource the music itself may well be great.

What I think we need to concentrate on in determining where to place some arbitrary piece is the intention of the composer and his method. I suspect the old way of looking at this asumed somebody who used formal notation must have a "serious" intention with his piece too. With current methods where notating and playing are blurring this turns out not to work and those two turn out to be seperate dimentions that can be completely independant in many cases.

Personally I don´t think anything realy changed, to me it apears that some misidentifications have taken place in the past that are now being exposed.

[setting up my provocation]
In the end you can wonder wether any of this mattters at all. We have musicians who hopefullly get something out of making music and we have listeners who want to get something out of listening. I often wonder wether a listener ever gets out of a piece what the composer put in. I suspect the culture of formal music lives in a mortal fear that the two are virtually unconected beyond the most superficial notions (cheerfull song, sad piece, etc). I think giving up this fear may be profoundly liberating. I´m having fun and so are you and if it turns out we are miscomunicating that doesn´t suddenly devaluate the fun.
[/setting up my provocation]

[provocations]
Perhaps techno with it´s emphasis on anonimous composers and blacked out spaces for "concerts" where the sound volume is way above converstation level is realy on to something, more so perhaps then the writers of the theory books.
[/provocation]

House is the new Chamber.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
I know many classical tradition composers. From my experience, these people are almost universially interested in music history. They want to earn a place on the totem pole of the great classical composers. If not, they are trying to earn a reputation in a field they creat themselves. When I think of the word serious in regards to composers, this is what occurs to me.


This is probably true, but it is also a systemic "problem". An interesting thing about a lot of modern academic music is that it is very often critiqued and valued using parameters that seems completely irrelevant and at times completely off the rocker. Some of the music I may find to be very good, but a lot seems to be music created in order to get a fair academic review. Music constructed to fit the bill of what is accepted right now. This is fine, they make pop music the same way too.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Music constructed to fit the bill of what is accepted right now. This is fine, they make pop music the same way too.


This is sorta my point. By being as open and unrestricted as possible, we can span more and more of these target audiences. If you step back from it all and just make music for the joy of it, getting a hit (getting an audience) is a hit or miss affair.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Why is this Topic more Serious than Others.. Question Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:

And if I may follow Schroedinger(sp?) with his infamous cat; what if I doodle on a midi keyboard equiped with a radio transmitter, not knowing wether the monkey in the other room has turned the matching receiver on, thus enabeling the recording? Does that mean the seriousness of my piece goes into a quantum flux?

well?

Hmmm?

I expect some answers, mister, and fast!

:¬p


Um, yes.

Quote:

By being as open and unrestricted as possible, we can span more and more of these target audiences. If you step back from it all and just make music for the joy of it, getting a hit (getting an audience) is a hit or miss affair.


Then I must be really enjoying myself.

I would resent the term 'serious' if it was applied to the music I make (I might also make certain observations regarding the stability of your perceptions). For me, notation is a hurdle, a wall, a major blockage in the atery through which creativity flows. It's also the best way to make a record of a piece of music but I think that composers in the past would have dropped the quill were they able to play an entire orchestra with their own bodies and leave the notating as an excercise to composition students. Computers open the possibility of playing that whole orchestra with one body. Wahooo! So what is the point of trying to adapt an cheap, albeit necessary, hack for communication to this new way of creating or, even worse, constrain a new method by the rules of the old. Wouldn't it be ultimately more prductive/conducive towards creativity to explore ways in which this new method can be expanded and improved? I think we are smart enough (or just enough free of archaic notions) to throw together whatever cheap hacks we need at the moment in order to communicate an idea to performers. I sympathize with those musicians that think modern notation is too complex. My attitude towards academia is that what it has to offer is not worth the trouble of sifting and trudging through all the arcane, over-complicated and, most of the time, extraneous terminology. It's easy to hide a lack of creativity by using fancy words to describe nothing.

That being said, strange new systems of notation can be an enjoyable pastime.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

There are many many musicians in academia that have no lack of creativity. I think it's best to avoid making generalizations like this about a group of people, whether they are artists or some ethnic or racial identity. Music is like any other human communication. The most effective communication comes when the listener suspends judgement and biases from past experiences and opens up to hear with all of their being.

Charles Ives once got upset at a concert of new music when someone was snickering at the performers because he couldn't understand what was happening. Ives said, "Stop complaining, open your ears and listen like a man."

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
There are many many musicians in academia that have no lack of creativity. I think it's best to avoid making generalizations like this about a group of people, whether they are artists or some ethnic or racial identity.


Agreed, and I still presume that we have partly been discussing systemic issues rather than people.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

What a great discussion. Forgive me for only browsing please.

I think it needs to be said there can be a degree of freedom in expression that comes with structure. I feel a lot of experimental music is quite poor because it exists in an open universe with no rules. There is so much room to creatively fill that nothing specific or memorable can be accomplished. Compare this to a violin player playing a rigidly notated 18th century solo. The notes are already created. More so, even the switches in bow directions have been debated and formalized over 200 years. The creativity is thereby focused like a jet stream into the strength of the vibrato or the speed of the bow and slight changes in tempo. The violin is liberating the emotional conveyance by carefully focusing what the performer presents and what the audience is listening for.

I find experimental music similarly palatable when it is created in an environment of known rules. These rules can be unique to the piece and time but I still think limits are a welcome thing. Imagine your ears are your eyes. We can find art in still images where the rules are nothing changes. We are allowed in this context to let our minds wander across vivid pictures or paintings finding new meaning in discovering new details. Similarly, we may be watching a dancer where the rules of the art are limited to the silent, very limited moves of the human body. Rarely do we find memorable art in open ended dynamic visuals. Movies have to have very little onscreen or move very slowly when they are more complex. I think of music as just the audio part of art but in no less need of structure and limits.

I think our palate is simply unable to get around the variety of dynamic textures without the limits of rules and structure. Perhaps "serious" music is just one that creates the known limits before beginning as opposed to an open ended creative process that is still searching for its defining boundaries.

Once these boundaries are defined, the art is focused and notation becomes a relevant thing, adding and supporting the structure.
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