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The Power of the Moment

Essays on the Western Musical Canon

Martin Boykan
2011

107 pp.

1 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576471647

Paperback 6x9 $48.00 $39.00


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The Power of the Moment is a collection of critical essays on some of the most familiar works from the musical canon. Not unlike literary essays by poets or novelists it pointedly avoids abstract constructs in order to elucidate what it is that we actually experience in the course of a performance. On several occasions alternate versions of a passage are compared to the original to provide a graphic illustration of the composer’s intentions.
April 1, 2011

The Power of the Moment: Essays on the Western Musical Canon is a collection of six chapters of musical analysis revolving arc und tonality, change and continuity, and the power of every musical moment. The sixteenth volume in the "Harmonologia: Studies in Music Theory" series, The Power of the Moment contains chapters titled "Introduction," "Words About Theory," "The Power of the Moment: The Hammerklavier and the Archduke," "Voice and Piano in Dialogue: Seven Songs from the Winterreise," "A Recurrent Tonality: The Meaning of the Kiss in Verdi's Otello," "Restarting the Clock: The Scherzo of Beethoven's Fifth," "The Power of Every Moment: Musical Continuity in J. S. Bach," and "Coda."

In a succession of demanding scrutinies of powerful examples of Western music composition, these essays examine meaning through an intense, aesthetic experience of the immediate. One summarizing statement says: "...I should like to think that our analytical studies have been able to shed some light on meaning in music by showing in specific instances how, in an art-form, where the experience of the present is so intense, the precise shape of a moment is critical for the meaning of the work as a whole (p. 107)." The author continues, saying, "Music has always been central to the human experience, I suspect that this is so because it releases us, however briefly, from our usual anxiety over the passing of time, not by distracting us, but on the contrary, by intensifying our awareness.

"We find ourselves enveloped in an extraordinary wealth of sensuous stimuli, and with time moving slower than usual, it becomes possible to grasp relationships that are complex and constantly in motion . . . In the course of these essays we have often had occasion to note how a musical passage acknowledges the past even as it demands our attention to the present. It seems to me that this ability to invest a span of time with a sense of gradually accumulated meanings is the definition of real music (p. 107)."

This, then is the complex legacy of the essays of The Power of the Moment, a fiery illumination of certain key components of the soul-arresting qualities of significant passages of famous Western music. The Power of the Moment is a many-faceted contribution to "Harmonologia: Studies in Music Theory" that will intrigue musicians and professional faculty at all levels.

Nancy Lorraine
“Bookwatch”
THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Martin Boykan:

Studied composition with Walter Piston, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith, and piano with Eduard Steuermann. He received a BA from Harvard University, 1951, and an MM from Yale University, 1953. In 1953–55 he was in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship, and upon his return founded the Brandeis Chamber Ensemble whose other members included Robert Koff (Juilliard Quartet), Nancy Cirillo (Wellesley), Eugene Lehner (Kolisch Quartet) and Madeline Foley (Marlborough Festival). This ensemble performed widely with a repertory divided equally between contemporary music and the tradition. At the same time Boykan appeared regularly as a pianist with soloists such as Joseph Silverstein and Jan de Gaetani. In 1964–65, he was the pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Boykan has written for a wide variety of instrumental combinations including 4 string quartets, a concerto for large ensemble, many trios, duos and solo works, song cycles for voice and piano as well as instrumental ensembles and choral music. His symphony for orchestra and baritone solo was premiered by the Utah Symphony in 1993, and his concerto for violin and orchestra was premiered by Curt Macomber in 2008 with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose. His work is widely performed and has been presented by almost all of the current new music ensembles including the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, The New York New Music Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, the League ISCM, Earplay, Musica Viva and Collage New Music.

He received the Jeunesse Musicales award for his String Quartet No.1 in 1967 and the League ISCM award for Elegy in 1982. Other awards include a Rockefeller grant, NEA award, Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright, as well as a recording award and the Walter Hinrichsen Publication Award from the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1994 he was awarded a Senior Fulbright to Israel. He has received numerous commissions from chamber ensembles as well as commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, and the Fromm Foundation. In 2011 Boykan was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.

At present Boykan is an Emeritus Professor of Music, Brandeis University. He has been Composer in Residence at the Composer's Conference in Wellesley and the University of Utah, Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York University and Bar Ilan University (Israel) and has lectured widely in institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, The American Academy in Berlin, etc. He has served on many panels, including the Rome Prize, the Fromm Commission, the New York Council for the Arts (CAPS) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Over the years he has taught many hundreds of students including such well known composers as Steve Mackey, Peter Lieberson, Marjorie Merryman and Ross Bauer.

Boykan's music is recorded by CRI (available through New World Records ), Albany Records, and Boston Music Orchestra Project (BMOP). Scores are published by Mobart Music Press, and C.F. Peters, NYC. In 2004 a volume of essays entitled Silence and Slow Time: Studies in Musical Narrative was published by Scarecrow Press (Rowman and Littlefield). In 2011 a second volume of essays entitled The Power of the Moment was published by Pendragon Press.

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