"Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?

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I'm sitting here now listening to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade, and before that some chamber works of Debussy on Vermont Public Radio, and it got me to thinking. As a composer and fan of music there's a very direct link to "classical" music (a loaded term, at best) including the likes of symphonic and chamber music of the last three or four centuries and ambient, spacemusic, whathaveyou. For instance, Gustav Mahler in the first few minutes of his Ninth Symphony (from 1910) uses an excellent compositional technique that really alludes to an echoed guitar or piano, pre-dating this kind of compositional method and technology by 40-50 years; it's done in the strings, and very much creates a textural and spatial experience that I find extremely reminiscent of Eno's Discreet Music, and portions of Pink Floyd's earlier post-Syd Barret, pre-Darkside work. Anyhow, as I sit here listening to Scheherezade, which is by no means anything other than a densely packed symphonic tone poem, there are still parts where the main melody floats on a textural harmonic fabric, which truly brings to mind some of the finest offerings of this genre, and of the Hypnos label, itself including James Johnson, Jeff Pearce and Richard Bone, as well as Justin Vanderberg's In Waking Moments, which I've been enjoying very much of late.

I just wanted to see what other kinds of classical or contemporary composition music is being listened to by fans of the ambient music genre. For me, there's Debussy, Vaughan-Williams, Satie (of course), Ravel (Daphne et Chloe, for sure), Arvo Part, Alan Hovanhess, John Barry, and Mahler.

One of the other things that comes to mind about "classical" and contemporary compositions and ambient is in both instances, these genres lend themselves to a deeper, richer and less superficial, listening experience. Curious to hear what others think...


I don't listen to classical music much, but when I'm in the mood I typically reach for Bartok's Complete String Quarterts, played by the Emerson Quartet, which are really amazing. I also enjoy some Prokofiev and Stravinsky, particularly the Mercury Living Presence CD reissues. Some of this Mercury series is available as three-channel SACD releases:

Three-channel? Interesting. How does SACD work? I remember my sister bought an SACD of Aqualung, maybe 10 years ago, by accident, and all I remember is that it wouldn't play in a regular CD player. I'm amazingly low-tech for somebody working in an audiophile's genre...

I have listened to some of those Mercury Living Presence series' before, and indeed they are quite nice. I'm intrigued with the Bartok String Quartets. Generally, I think of his orchestral work, but timbrally I could definitely imagine what that might sound like with a smaller group, and I like the impression in my mind's ear. Thanks for the recommendation! I'm going to check that out.


I listen at times more to classical then contemporary music. There is so much to learn here... Odd as this may be and with minor exception I did not listen to contemporary/pop/ambient until the late nineties. And while I am confessing I never heard any Roach or Rich until 3 years ago.

Here is what is in heavy rotation:

Paul Hindemith
Charles Ives
Arnold Schoenberg
Telemann - all of his music for winds
and there are numerous Russian composer I listen too often.

and like you I like Rimsky-Korsakov, Arvo Part. I also like Brayers and Taverner.

Lately, I have been really enjoying a Glenn Gould recordings of Schoenberg on Sony (nice)

Mark Mushet:

--- Quote from: jblock on February 12, 2008, 12:01:14 PM ---I typically reach for Bartok's Complete String Quarterts, played by the Emerson Quartet, which are really amazing.
--- End quote ---

Just saw the Emerson last week (unfortunately for me, playing Brahms and Schubert). They encored with a snippet of Webern which had me wishing for more modern fare.

I had the 1990 (I think) set of Bartok quartets on DG but found the sound quality wanting and traded it for a newer recording by the Vertavo Quartet. In retrospect it was probably my early CD player/speaker set up that failed the Emerson discs.

In any case, Bartok and Shostakovich string quartets are are R. Murray Schafer's!


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