7-24-13: It Should Have Been Nighttime

7-24-13: It Should Have Been Nighttime

This sounds like it should have been played ’round about midnight,
But no, it was played ’round about noon,
In July, not June.

2-25-09: Four Brief Episodes in Modernism

2-25-09: Four Brief Episodes in Modernism

Lest you think I was unaffected by modernism, think again. I listened to, studied, and wrote several works using my own, modified version of the 12-tone technique (discussed here) while in my early 20s. I even wrote a string quartet based on that technique that won the ASCAP composers prize at the 1984 Aspen Music Festival. It’s not that I don’t like, or have no use for post-tonal classical music, it’s just that I think it has a fairly limited use. I do think Schoenberg, Webern, Stockhausen, Boulez, and others opened up a new and important world of sound, some of which is quite beautiful. I still say, though, that the emotional range of that music is generally limited to variations on distress. Honestly, how much non-tonal music have you heard that is sweet or joyful, loving or sexy. How much of it can you or anybody you know sing?

Which, I suppose, is another way of saying that tonality has a wider emotional range, being ideal for expressing anything from simple joy to deep longing, to utter despair and rage. Part of the reason for tonality’s wider expressive range is that there are so many kinds of tonalities, each with it’s own unique colors and emotional characteristics (I’m speaking both of varying ethnic tonalities—like blues, or strange mysticism of the Eastern Orthodox—as well as specific composer invented techniques like quartal harmony, pandiatonicism, and chromaticism.) And while there are many approaches to non-tonality, including free atonality and more organized systems like the 12-tone system, they have much less differentiation in the actual listening experience than does the wider array of tonalities.

But there is another, more fundamental reason why tonality will always have a wider range, not to mention natural appeal: that is it is fundamental. It is what we naturally hear.

7-23-23: Back When I Was Alive

7-23-23: Back When I Was Alive

During  a long nine hour drive back from Branson, MO (we were there for my youngest daughter’s  softball tournament), I got to pick the music for an extended period of time because I was driving, and I was tired, and the morning coffee and the afternoon sweet tea alone were not sufficient to keep me focused on the task ahead. So unlike previous 2 hours, when my wife was driving, and my son picked a variety of music from his iPod, plugged into the car stereo (with the stipulation from her that it not be anything too heavy and annoying, e.g. no heavy Heavy Metal, but yes to everything from Judas Priest to Stevie Wonder to Sting to Cream, Earth Wind & Fire and ELO) I made the family sit through an entire album, from beginning to end. The album was Abbey Road, and while there was initially some resistance from the son and the wife, everyone—even the young softball playing daughter—was really happy we listened uninterrupted to the 17 tracks because that music tells a story—a story of its time and the people living in that time.  You couldn’t possibly get the story if you didn’t listen to the whole album. This, of course, is how music used to be made and experienced, back when I was alive (a clever phrase my kids use on my wife and I when we talk about the past.)