Author Topic: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?  (Read 27964 times)

mattborghi

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"Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« on: February 12, 2008, 11:36:31 AM »
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...

Matt

jblock

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2008, 12:01:14 PM »
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:
http://www.deccaclassics.com/music/mercurylivingpresence/

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mattborghi

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2008, 01:14:55 PM »
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.

dwight

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2008, 01:22:50 PM »
Matt,

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:

Brahms
Paul Hindemith
Charles Ives
Arnold Schoenberg
Telemann - all of his music for winds
Webern
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

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2008, 01:34:29 PM »
I typically reach for Bartok's Complete String Quarterts, played by the Emerson Quartet, which are really amazing.

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 essential...as are R. Murray Schafer's!

jblock

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2008, 01:42:49 PM »
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...

SACDs are higher resolution than regular CDs and are typically either two-channel or 5.1 surround and often include a regular CD layer in the discs. Some SACDs of recordings that were originally released in quad use 4 (or 4.1). Stuff like some of the Moody Blues SACD reissues, Jeff Beck Blow by Blow, etc. Anyway, these Mercury Living SACDs use three channels (left, right, center) and were originally recorded on three tracks. They also include a regular CD layer and are often quite inexpensive.
Jonathan Block
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dwight

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2008, 02:07:18 PM »
...Anyway, these Mercury Living SACDs use three channels (left, right, center) and were originally recorded on three tracks. They also include a regular CD layer and are often quite inexpensive.

I own quite of few of these Mercury recordings as SACD Hybrids and they are quite enjoyable.

jkn

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2008, 02:33:39 PM »
To say I really "know" a lot about classical would be a stretch - but it's always been in the background all my life and I've had deeper dabbles here and there.   My high school music teacher got me into Mahler.    I've love Debussy since I was a kid - Claire de Lune was my mom's favorite song.   I always loved the lack of tonal center - but not drifting into harsh atonality either...    I studied some of the Schoenberg stuff in college - played some Bartok from time to time.  I had a fantastic piano teacher that had me play lots and lots of more 'modern' classical that I have no idea who they were - wish I did.

I always enjoyed the 'biggie's' playing piano - Bach, Beethoven, etc...
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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2008, 02:50:56 PM »
I enjoy listening to classical as well as looking for "crossover" pieces with which to mix in ambient selections.

Some artists/composers I spin regularly: Arvo Paert, Yo-Yo Ma, Mozart, John Tavener, Vaughan Williams, Dan Trueman (experimental), Alexander Borodin, Murcof, Franz Schubert, Beethoven, Beaux Arts Trio, Gidon Kremer, Deaf Center (Nest, too), Franz Liszt, John Cage & Toru Takemitsu.

Here's a link to an interesting album by Dan Trueman Machine Language:
http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Trueman-Language-Arash-Amini/dp/B00029LNG4

1000snakes

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2008, 02:54:53 PM »
Matt, you have no idea how pathetically low-tech I am, ha,ha!!!

I listen to a lot of classical music these days but nowhere near the amount that I used to. I worked for the late Tower Records in Sacramento for over 20 years, during which I was both a jazz buyer and a classical buyer before I moved to management. I received many promos and purchased a lot of music at an employee discount over those many years. As a result I have a pretty large classical collection on CD (had tons of jazz on vinyl which wound up at Rick Ballard's store in Oakland when I moved to Canada).

I too enjoy the composers previously mentioned. Mahler sometimes arranged his orchestra with a special sort of "stereo field" in mind. He and Charles Ives among others had performers play offstage for sonic effect.

I fell in love with Paul Hindemith's music and had to collect everything by him that I could. The same thing happened to me with Czech composer, Bohuslav Martinu. Symphonies, concerto works, chamber or choral, I loved it all.

The works of Olivier Messiaen, Lou Harrison, Henri Dutilleux and George Crumb might also appeal to ambient listeners. Berlin school lovers might check out the works of electro-classical composer, Morton Subotnik or the freaky studies for player piano by  Conlon Nancarrow. 

The Mercury Living Presence series are very cool. One of my favorites is the "Hanson Conducts Ives, (William) Schuman and Mennin". That performance of the middle movement of William Schuman's "New England Triptych" was a definite influence on my piece, "Scarecrow" on the "Sounds of a Universe Overheard" compilation.


 
 


dwight

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2008, 04:25:19 PM »
I listen to a lot of classical music these days but nowhere near the amount that I used to. I worked for the late Tower Records in Sacramento...

....I fell in love with Paul Hindemith's music and had to collect everything by him that I could. The same thing happened to me with Czech composer, Bohuslav Martinu. Symphonies, concerto works, chamber or choral, I loved it all.

The Mercury Living Presence series are very cool. One of my favorites is the "Hanson Conducts Ives, (William) Schuman and Mennin". That performance of the middle movement of William Schuman's "New England Triptych" was a definite influence on my piece, "Scarecrow" on the "Sounds of a Universe Overheard" compilation.

Tower Records...What a great store! Really miss it!

Good call, I forgot Hindemith, brilliant material there.

"Hanson Conducts Ives", true fact that is an interesting recording!

And while I am at it, "Scarecrow", what great track!!

mattborghi

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2008, 05:15:28 AM »
Man, so many great recommendations...

The references to Howard Hanson DO remind me that I have a pretty good series of Gerard Schwarz conducting most of his symphonic works. Hanson's No. 2 blew me away the first time I heard it. I had never heard of him and when I got deeper into his work I realized that he was a symphonist on par with Vaughn-Williams, and Mahler. It's also true that Mahler did seem to compose for a stereo effect, and Ives' Three Places in New England in many ways was a real stab at creating a natural open-air ambience where you he created an effect of two contrasting marching bands come by as if one were on a mainstreet during a parade, sort of creating that sonic experience.

I find that while I like listening to recordings, I REALLY like listening to radio for the sort of discoveries that come from the arbitrariness of the selections. Some stations I keeped plugged in are WOSU out of Columbus, Ohio, Vermont Public Radio's classical stream, Minnesota Public Radio, at one time it was syndicated as Music through the Night, but really it was just a 24 hour music service, and a real fave is KING FM in Seattle. Anybody have any other recommendations?


1000snakes

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2008, 08:40:46 AM »
Thank you for the kind words Dwight.

I used to listen to KXPR back in Sacramento. I particularly enjoyed a program called "The Record Shelf" hosted by Jim Svedja. He would compare a number of recordings of the same piece and play portions of those recordings. Very interesting and informative. Also there were composer overviews and interviews. I believe that you can find an internet stream of "The Record Shelf" through this link: http://jrabold.net/radio/2rec.shtml

Matt, I enjoyed Schwarz's Hanson series as well. He made some fine recordings of other American composers that included David Diamond and the previously mentioned William Schuman. I discovered a lot of wonderful music through Schwarz's recordings.

ffcal

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2008, 09:46:56 PM »
I had a pretty heavy dose of the classics when I was growing up.  Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and a smattering of the contemporary stuff that would creep in when our family would see the LA Philharmonic.  I remember very clearly seeing/hearing a John Cage premiere that was to commemorate the nation's bicentennial.  The piece had about three or four different sections going on at once at different parts of auditorium, and I remember a very old lady near us rolling up her problem and booing loudly.  I also remember putting my hand over the end of her program because I wanted to hear more of the music!  (I had a lot of cheek as a teenager.)  As a teenager, I was also exposed to Bartok (his concerto for orchestra is still one of my favorite works) and Copland (though Appalachian Spring was great, but couldn't get into his serial works), and was also familiar with the progification of some these works through progrock groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  I also remember being introduced to Rachmamninoff's Symphonic Dances from a classmate who now teaches composition at UCLA.

I stuidied a bit of formal classical composition when I went to college and belonged to a collegium, but didn't think I had the discipline or the chops to make a go at a career in classical music.  Probably the most lasting influence from the classical area on my own music came from the minimalists like Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley.  Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" was particularly a revelation to me.  These days, I actually lean more towards stuff that I didn't listen that much when I was younger--baroque music (particularly concernto grossi), Debussy solo piano music and Mozart piano concertos.

Forrest

craig

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2008, 01:51:27 PM »
Gustav Mahler is by far and away my favourite classical composer and the one I listen to most. Though I also listen to and enjoy Rachmaninov and someone who probably wouldn't be everyone's first choice as a classical/orchestral composer, Frank Zappa. I think certain styles of classical music appeal to ambient music fans as although by first appearance they may seem worlds apart, aesthetically they're quite similar and the motivation behind the music i think is similar in the respect that it's often appreciated more when you listen by yourself, rather than in a group setting as you need to pay close attention to the detail to appreciate it in full.

you also have crossover composers such as Edgar Varese whom i think could quite easily fit into both genres, despite the fact he was composing long before ambient music was conceived as a genre.


uhurit

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2008, 04:20:43 PM »
Check out Theatrum Chemicum, whose  driving force is Enrico Cosimi, aka Tau Ceti.
Also, can never go wrong with Gustav Mahler and contemporary Scandinavian composers like Norgard

sraymar

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2008, 08:41:49 PM »
There's a melancholy movement in Elgar's "Spanish Lady Stuite" I like and tried to learn using synth strings but backed off from out of laziness that has some ambient qualities.

Also I recently bought a Paul O'Dette lute CD featuring composer Daniel Bacheler's music called 'Bachelar's Delight'. I dable with classical guitar and I like how articulate the lute is.

Steve
Ambient isn't just for technicians!

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dwight

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2008, 12:36:47 PM »
Paul Hindemith - Music for Cello & Piano
Weber on Cello/ Buck on Piano
Nice recording. Cheesy cover.

Telemann - Paris Quartets
Nice recording. One of those SACD hydrids


dwight

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Re: "Classical" Music or Contemporary Composition Listeners?
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2008, 09:44:05 AM »
I would also suggest reading Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall by Joseph Horowitz.

A rather interesting commentary on institutionalized music and soloist. As well as a great historic review of why Orchestras are in their current state of decline.