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April 8, 2013
Johann David Heinichen's Comprehensive Instruction on Basso Continuo by Benedikt Brilmayer, Translator Casey Mongoven, Translator
The treatise, written in his middle to late 20s, established Heinichen as a major music theorist in elite music circles. It is the first German treatise on basso continuo accompaniment from a bass with or without figures, and the first to draw important distinctions between the stylus gravis and stylus theatralis. Perhaps most significant is its inclusion of what he called the musical circle and is now known as the circle of fifths, and for the first time describing it as being characterized by the major-minor dichotomy of today.
This first full translation from the German was inspired by the historical performance movement, and is intended to be of interest to performers as well as to musicologists and music historians. It is not indexed
April 8, 2013
Johann David Heinichen's Comprehensive Instruction on Basso Continuo by Benedikt Brilmayer, Translator Casey Mongoven, Translator
The treatise, written in his middle to late 20s, established Heinichen as a major music theorist in elite music circles. It is the first German treatise on basso continuo accompaniment from a bass with or without figures, and the first to draw important distinctions between the stylus gravis and stylus theatralis. Perhaps most significant is its inclusion of what he called the musical circle and is now known as the circle of fifths, and for the first time describing it as being characterized by the major-minor dichotomy of today.
This first full translation from the German was inspired by the historical performance movement, and is intended to be of interest to performers as well as to musicologists and music historians. It is not indexed
April 8, 2013
Werther by Mary Dibbern
A music director at the Dallas Opera, Dibbern (French diction, U. of North Texas) presents a word-by-word English translation, a translation into the International Phonetic Alphabet, and annotated guide to the libretto of French composer Jules Massenet's 1892 French opera Werther, based on Johann Goethe's 1774 famous German short story "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers" about an unhappy young poet. She mentions literary and historical aspects when necessary, but focuses on providing guidance for performing the opera. There is no index.
“Reference — Research Book News”
Book News Inc.
February 22, 2013
Trombone in the Renaissance by Stewart Carter
Carter (Wake Forest University ; co-director, Wake Forest's Collegium Musicum) expands on recent comprehensive histories of trombone by Trevor Herbert (The Trombone, CH, Oct'06, 44-0849) and David Guion (A History of the Trombone, CH, Feb'11 , 48-3179). He presents a detailed record of the instrument's development from the earliest known references to it in the early part of the 15th century through the end of the 16th century. He provides excerpts from several hundred documents of various types from many different kinds of sources1-churches, libraries, and museums . Records include letters about performances at celebrations and in churches and courts ; contract , agreements for performers ; and instrument and performance treatises. The more than 100 figures primarily feature the instrument in art works of the period, but the author also includes detailed photographs of the few extant instruments from the era. The documentation is organized by century and geographical area, with the most extensive source material coming from Italy and 16th-century Germany. The research and presentation are meticulous , a model of focused inquiry. Smaller collections are well served by the previously mentioned titles , but larger collections should include th current volume.
Summing Up: Highly recommended for all readers.
December 1, 2012
The Instrumental Music of Iannis Xenakis by Benoît Gibson
Whatever the desires of the musicological world, the world of new music has long seemed in desperate need of a book that is able to explain comprehensively the work of Iannis Xenakis and that goes beyond the biographical, but that does not rely—or relies only in part—on the mathematical conceits that dominate Formalized Music. Benoît Gibson’s The Instrumental Music of Iannis Xenakis is not that book. Indeed, it does not set out to be, and it would be a wholly unfair standard against which to judge it. Yet what this study demonstrates eminently clearly is that such a volume is entirely conceivable and that there is no need for scholars working on Xenakis to feel that understanding the equations of Xenakis’s own theoretical models is a prerequisite for writing. One of the great strengths of Gibson’s approach to Xenakis is that it demonstrates that there are valuable, illuminating strategies to be taken that are not necessarily dominated by the composer’s apparently preferred hermeneutic apparatus.
Gibson is keenly aware of the speciﬁc difficulties of approaching Xenakis’s work, stressing in his introduction the fact that, notwithstanding the formidable appearance and reputation of Formalized Music, on the odd occasions on which he actually allied his theoretical apparatus with a speciﬁc example from his music, he had little concern for whether the theory and the practice truly agreed, suggesting that on some occasions he made errors in writing the score—either “slips of the pen” or “theoretic errors”—or changed the strict results of the theory in the interest of aesthetic considerations. In a gloss worthy of Ferney-hough at his densest, Xenakis summarizes his position thus: “bi-univocal exactness realisation-theory may be sometimes non-absolute” (p. xviii). Far from being put off by the problems, Gibson laudably seizes the absence of any deﬁnitive answers from the composer’s hand, taking the ways in which Xenakis borrowed materials from his own scores in later work as his principal lens. Given the sometimes stark divide between the theoretical frameworks which Xenakis described and the way in which they were deployed in practice, the volume is also subdivided into two large parts, devoted to practice and theory respectively.
The ﬁrst part of the book, then, examines the contexts and ways in which Xenakis reused elements from earlier scores in his later music. Gibson is clear that he is, in the main body of his text, only scratching the surface of the volume of borrowing undertaken by Xenakis; a lengthy appendix gives a fuller picture, showing borrowings across Xenakis’s entire output in tabulated form, from the ﬁrst major example in Duel I (1959) to the latest in Mosaïques (1993), the title in the latter case overtly signaling the presence of borrowed materials within the piece. Nevertheless, the number of examples Gibson provides is striking, from near-enough literal insertions of fragments of one piece into another (as in the recurrence of elements from Nomos Alpha (1965–66) in Antikhthon (1971)), to more complex reuses of material, less obvious at ﬁrst glance, where rhythmic patterns recur with wholly different timbral or pitch characteristics (as in the relationship between Idmen B (1985) and à l’île de Gorée (1986)), or where pitch recurs almost literally, but with other characteristics adapted or transformed—such a situation occurs with Pithoprakta (1955–56) and Aroura (1971). One of the matters here illuminated is the degree to which Xenakis applies similar procedures, described here as micromontage, within individual scores, as for instance in Pithoprakta, Nomos Gamma (1967–68), or Kraanerg (1968–69), to generate textures exhibiting similar characteristics while being distinct from one another at the superﬁcial level. The number of examples of borrowing shown by Gibson is surely enough to convince the reader that there is no coincidence at play here. Yet, despite the proposal that “self-borrowings occur more often when Xenakis is in the process of developing new compositional procedures” (p. 162), the volume might have gone rather further in discussing what these borrowings mean for a listener to his music. Speciﬁcally, some more detailed discussion of how the experience of listening to any one of these pieces might change, after one has gained the knowledge of the other contexts in which its materials had otherwise appeared, would have been very welcome. It is worth noting, too, that in order to use this section of the book to its fullest, the reader ought ideally to have a strong knowledge of Xenakis’s output, both through particular performances or recordings and through the score.
The second part of the volume, the theoretical part, can be discussed more brieﬂy, although it is certainly the more substantial. In essence, it provides an explanation, here with analytical examples from Xenakis’s output, of certain parts of Formalized Music as well as showing theoretical approaches he took that were themselves formalized after its publication. After a brief, though largely extremely lucid discussion of Xenakis’s stochastic approach, Gibson looks at the ways in which he constructs sieves—which is to say principally the procedures via which he determined pitch space—and the way in which sieves can be transformed, often through quite simple operations that nevertheless have rather complex results. In truth, these sections are certainly not wholly without equations, and many who despaired at Formalized Music may be equally dispirited to read that a “modulus signals the repetition of an interval; the subscript index indicates its position in relation to the origin (reference point). A modulus m with an index i constitutes a residue class or elementary sieve” (p. 83). Yet despite brief sections of this sort (and there are certainly more complex bits of mathematics to work through for those so inclined), Gibson provides detailed examples of what is meant at all points such that the practice genuinely illuminates the theory. He is also keen to stress—and does so very successfully—the points at and degree to which what Xenakis actually does may be distant from the theoretical results of his calculations and, indeed, that there may be points where the calculations may not have taken place at all, where the piece was worked on intuitively, in the knowledge of the kinds of results the calculations would be likely to cause. These intuitions are themselves examined in the tree-like, graphic representations— arborescences—that Xenakis began to use in the 1970s. Where previously he had intuitively elaborated upon more-or-less strict theoretical processes, here processes acted upon the broadly intuitive drawing of wavelike shapes in order to transform his graphical resources into notational results.
The major difficulty facing the volume is a structural one. The idea of placing Xenakis’s practice in advance of the theoretical basis upon which is was carried out—however loose the relationship between the two—feels odd in principle and causes some genuine problems. On the second page of the main body of text, Gibson observes that “[i]n Xenakis’ instrumental music, geometric ﬁgures, arborescences or other forms derived from the principles of cellular automata constitute the main objects” (p. 4). Yet, although the part of the book devoted to practice relies strongly on Xenakis’s conception of arborescence, a footnote advises the reader that what is meant by this will not be explained until chapter 8, some 130-plus pages away. Similar problems persist throughout the early stages of the volume: on page ten, the reader is advised both that “[a]t that time, Xenakis’ composition procedures relied heavily on sieves” and that it will be page eighty-one before sieves, Xenakis-style, are explained; likewise, the concept of “sound tapestry” is introduced on page twelve, with its associated exegetical commentary also more than one hundred pages away. This sort of structural uncertainty is also strikingly highlighted in the second chapter, where “sound tapestry” is again referred to, here twice on the same page: both mentions receive a near-identical footnote directing the reader to just those pages to which the original mention of “sound tapestry” made reference. Though the volume is short enough that one can skip forward and backward within the text without too much difficulty, in truth it seems almost as if the overall structure was altered at quite a late stage and that, initially, the theory section preceded the one focusing on practice. The conclusion, too, even though it does point forward to a lengthy, and extremely useful, genealogy of self-borrowings in Xenakis’s output, feels as if it may, at some point in its history, have acted as a hinge between the theoretical and practical parts of the volume: this is most striking in the opening sentence of the last, relatively brief, paragraph: “We shall stress the importance of a genealogy that establishes links between Xenakis’ works” (p. 162; my emphasis). While there is no space to make that stress in the four sentences that follow, arguably that is precisely what the ﬁrst part of the volume seems to attempt.
If it is the case that the volume has been reordered in this way, the scars of the process still seem rather visible. I am certainly sympathetic to the decision to order the text thus: to be sure, the theoretical section of the volume is, if only comparatively and to some extent inevitably, relatively dry; the section devoted to practice is signiﬁcantly more immediately engaging and, as such, is doubtless the right place to begin. Nevertheless, and whatever the reasons for the structural decisions, the stitching together of the two parts of the volume could surely have been achieved more seamlessly.
The volume is also marred by some unfortunate carelessness in proofreading: commas abound a little too freely in the sentence “[t]hat is why, most frequently, Xenakis, borrows them [arborescences] without altering their structure” (p. 8); page 40 yields both “[w]hat is important, the melodic line is ‘thickened’ by the viola, cello and double bass playing a quarter tone apart as a moving cluster” and “long gray automn [sic] days”; the second footnote of the seventh chapter (“Ibid., pp. 155–177”) ostensibly thus refers to the same item as the ﬁrst footnote of that chapter—Xenakis’s score for Akrata (1964– 65)—yet surely is really intended instead to Bálint Varga’s Conversations with Iannis Xenakis. Indeed, there seems to be little consistency regarding when ‘ibid.’ is felt appropriate and when a cited item is simply repeated.
These quibbles should not take away from what is valuable in Gibson’s volume. First, his genealogy of Xenakis’s self-borrowings is comprehensive and he articulates the way in which Xenakis carried out the process extremely clearly, at the same time showing quite how ‘normal’ he is in this respect. That Gibson’s section on practice can be understood with little recourse to the later theoretical section is testament not only to the clarity of his description but also, more importantly, to the possibility of ﬁnding ways to approach Xenakis’s work that stand on their own terms, if one is not put off by his mathematically cerebral reputation. Second—and this, I suspect will be where Gibson ﬁnds his volume most used and most useful—the section dealing with theory does not shy away from the mathematical underpinnings of Formalized Music, but is signiﬁcantly more approachable. In certain senses, this part of Gibson’s volume acts as an exegetical commentary on Formalized Music, and I believe it will make practical sense of sections of Xenakis’s theoretical writing that remain, by and large, impenetrable on their own terms. Thus, though this remains very much a book of two halves—and halves that I’m not wholly convinced are fully reconcilable in the form the volume currently takes—each half does work. This will prove incredibly valuable, certainly for composers, but hopefully for musicologists and listeners too who have, thus far, been put off, principally by mathematics, from coming to terms with Xenakis’s remarkable output.
December 1, 2012
Thematic Catalogue of Troubadour and Trouvère Melodies by Donna Mayer-Martin
Scholars of troubadour and trouvère song are indebted to and deeply reliant upon catalogs. Most research on these repertories begins by consulting either the catalog of Alfred Pillet and Henry Carstens (Bibliographie des Troubadours [Halle: Niemeyer, 1933]) or that of Gaston Raynaud and Hans Spanke (Hans Spanke, (G. Raynauds Bibliographie des altfranzösischen Liedes [Leiden: Brill, 1980]). These foundational resources organized the sprawling corpus of troubadour and trouvère song into a tidy series of entries indicating the text incipits of thousands of songs and their manuscript concordances. Donna Mayer-Martin and Dorothy Keyser have combined the information in these volumes for the ﬁrst time, producing a single catalog of both troubadour and trouvère songs. They have also added a new thematic index of melodic incipits. The result is a welcome resource that is sure not only to facilitate future research, but also to help inspire comparative work on the troubadours and trouvères.
The catalog begins with a short introduction explaining its unusual genesis. The project began when Mayer-Martin signed the contract with Pendragon Press in 1984; Keyser joined her in 1992 and completed the catalog after Mayer-Martin’s death in 2009 (pp. vii–ix). Mayer-Martin was unable to complete a planned study of the manuscript history, a lacuna that has already been partially ﬁlled by Mary O’Neill’s recent monograph on trouvère song, which is curiously absent from the bibliography ((Courtly Love Songs of Medieval France [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006]). Keyser’s introduction offers a brief summary of the troubadour and trouvère traditions, a discussion of issues in transcription, and a bibliography.
The summary of troubadour and trouvère traditions could have beneﬁted from having been brought up to date with recent research. For example, Keyser’s statement that the origin of the music of troubadour song is enigmatic is certainly arguable, but should be read against Margaret Switten’s convincing study of the inﬂuence of the Aquitanian versus on the melodies of troubadour song (“Versus and Troubadours Around 1100: A Comparative Study of Refrain Technique in the ‘New Song,’ ”Plainsong and Medieval Music 16 : 91– 143). Similarly, the assertion that the northern French city of Arras hosted a puy or guild is inaccurate. The Old French term puy refers not to a guild, but to an elusive song contest purportedly held by the bourgeois members of the Carité de Notre Dame des Ardents, the ﬁrst confraternity of musicians. (Carol Symes, A Common Stage: Theater and Public Life in Medieval Arras [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007]). Keyser also addresses the thorny issue of rhythm in trouvère song. She adopts a nonmensural approach, including neumatic incipits for melodies with “mensural signiﬁcance” (pp. xii–xiv). She argues that the scholarly consensus supports a nonmensural interpretation for all sources except trouvère manuscript O. There are, however, many scholars who also adopt rhythmic interpretations of trouvère manuscripts M and T, a factor that is not discussed. Finally, Keyser provides a scholarly bibliography, helpfully cued to individual manuscripts. Unfortunately, the bibliography also lacks references to many relevant studies published in the past decade. In addition to O’Neill’s book (cited above), readers should take note of studies by Judith A. Peraino and John D. Haines (Peraino, “Re-Placing Medieval Music” Journal of the American Musicological Society 51 : 209–64 and Haines, “The Trans formations of the Manuscrit du Roi,” Musica Disciplina 52 : 5–43).
The most valuable aspect of this volume is the catalog itself, which is divided into two large sections devoted to the troubadours and trouvères respectively. Each song is given an entry with its melody, its position in the base manuscript (the choice of the base manuscript is not discussed), its concordances in other manuscripts, and any known contrafacta. Each section ends with a bibliographic list of the songs organized alphabetically by author, by title, and by the contents of individual manuscripts. The section then concludes with a table that cross-references the number in the catalog (M-M or Mayer-Martin number) with corresponding numbers in either the Pillet-Carstens or Raynaud-Spanke number. Because the literature on troubadour and trouvère song has relied so heavily on Pillet-Carstens and Raynaud-Spanke to identify songs, it seems unlikely that scholars will adopt Mayer-Martin numbers in their place, thus the concordance table is especially necessary.
The indexes are extremely useful, particularly the thorough lists of the contents of individual troubadour and trouvère manuscripts. Although similar tables can be found for a number of these manuscripts (see Sylvia Huot, From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrative Poetry [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987]), no other published resource provides such detailed song lists for such a large number of manuscripts. It is particularly valuable to ﬁnd them in one location; moreover, the catalog is designed to facilitate fast and effective cross-referencing. Recent research in medieval musicology has stressed the importance of considering the manuscript context of individual songs. The “New Codicology” emphasizes the ways in which manuscript compilation, the pattern of illuminations, and scribal activity inﬂect our understanding of individual musical works (see discussion in Emma Dillon, Medieval Music-making and the “Roman de Fauvel” [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002]). The indexes in this volume are a potentially valuable tool that could aid in the preliminary research necessary for this kind of work. They have the potential, for example, to make visible information such as the organizational schemes of individual manuscripts or patterns of regional identity among the authors.
The thematic index is also helpful for comparison of melodic incipits. Perhaps the index of troubadour melodies will inspire more comparative work on this repertory by musicologists, who have long been content to rely on foundational work by Elizabeth Aubrey (The Music of the Troubadours [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997]). A thematic index of trouvère song is less necessary than it might have once been, had not transcriptions of the trouvère corpus been made available in extensive detail in Hans Tischler’s monumental edition of trouvère melodies, albeit with his controversial rhythmic interpretations (Trouvère Lyrics with Melodies: Complete Comparative Edition, 15 vols., Corpus Mensura bilis Musicae 107 [Neuhausen: Hänssler-Verlag, 1997]). Tishler’s edition provides trouvère songs in their entirety, with the full melodies of their concordances and their manuscript locations. The information provided by Mayer-Martin and Keyser is comparatively partial; however, their catalog is admittedly less unwieldy .
This book is clearly the result of decades of painstaking work. Given this, it is all the more surprising to note that the text is riddled with an unusually large number of unfortunate errors in spelling, punctuation, and formatting. In spite of this, the catalog is a useful addition to our bibliographic tools for the troubadour and trouvère corpus.
September 15, 2012
The Dramatic Symphony by Robert Tallant Laudon
The Dramatic Symphony: Issues and Explorations from Berlioz to Liszt is a far-reaching study of examples and master composers of a conflicted but mighty medium. Laudon illuminates basic controversies at the beginning with a defining of terminology of dramatic compositions which includes a holistic circle model, including the categories of pure (absolute), programmatic (dramatic) and/or characteristic. The following chapter deals with beginning dramatic symphonies composed by Berlioz, Schubert, Reber, Kittel, Spohr, and Mendelssohn, in the season of 1839-40. This includes much fine analysis of the first dramatic symphony, Berlioz' Romeo et Juliette, as well as a fine retracing and display of the history of music critical thought regarding the dramatic symphony. A set of three basic concepts seem to be agreed upon: First, the symphony should display "a grandeur and an elevation of thought" in its use of orchestral components and action. Second, the symphony should include both action and interaction rather than stasis, described as "a kind of musical epic," often accompanied by a written guide or printed program. Third, it should be unified, based upon what Wagner called the "pillars of the dramatic edifice."
Further detailed analysis of the 7th Symphony of Schubert (rediscovered at this time and presented by Mendelssohn), and the other previously listed composers of 1839-40 follow in the succeeding chapter, “Other Fruits of the Season.” Further chapters trace the meteoric rise and development of the new expressive art form through other later works of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Douay, Berlioz, the French composer Felicien David, Franck, Scudo, Marx, and Wagner, and finally Lacombe, Weckerlin, Kastner, and Reyer. The final chapter, "Toward New Paths," closes in 1854, with the final paragraph summarizing the culmination of the effects of the dramatic symphony of symphonic poem on the evolution of the modern orchestra: "Thus, season by season, French musicians and some Germans... attempted to write symphonies united to drama, works they thought might rival Beethoven's mighty accomplishments. They composed and performed a variety of works that have been identified historically in this study as 'dramatic symphonies.' In the process they arrived at the 'modern orchestra.' Their efforts - heavily criticised by German scholars clinging to the traditional pure symphony - led eventually not so much to a new symphony as to a new style: the style of program music and symphonic poems that became accepted in the concerts of the period from 1850-1900 (p. 135)."
In addition to an extensive bibliography, The Dramatic Symphony contains some interesting material in appendices on musical parody in the public press, with several detailed engravings from the time, parodying performances of the dramatic symphony and other related elements. Appendix B, titled “Cruelty and Flight,” deals with the devastating effects of revolution on musicians and composers of the time. A number of black and white engravings are sprinkled throughout the book, adding intrigue and historical authenticity to the portrayal of this exciting era.
The Dramatic Symphony is Number 12 in the Franz Liszt Studies Series published by Pendragon, edited by Michael Saffle.
June 15, 2012
The Basse Dance Handbook by David Wilson
The latest addition to the outstanding Pendragon Press 'Wendy Hilton Dance & Music' series, The Basse Dance Handbook, Text and Context: Seventeen Original Sources" transcribed and compiled by the late David Wilson and with informed commentary by Veronique Daniels, stands unique in the annals of academia. This 311-page compendium comprises major chapters providing an introduction and summary, addresses the social context of the French Basse Dance, provides a review of the sources, and offers informed conclusions on the structure of the Basse Dance, observations on other contemporary French dance forms, and comparison with fifteenth-century Italian Bassadanza. Enhanced with appendices on its name, instructions on its performance, 'The French Basse Dance in Art', and 'Two Contracts', as well as a bibliography and an Index, "The Basse Dance Handbook" is a seminal work of superb scholarship and a core addition to academic library European Dance History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
James A. Cox
“The Dance Shelf”
Midwest Book Review
May 2, 2012
Xavier Montsalvatge by Roger Evans
Journalists too have a role in advancing musical thought. Xavier Montsalvatge: A Musical Life in Eventful Times discusses the place of the musical journalist who showed pride in his Catalan heritage even in the face of the Francisco Franco's anti-Catalan Spaniard's stances. Throughout the twentieth century, his work in musical journalism offers insight into the world's music, making for a fascinating insight. Xavier Montsalvatge is a strong addition to international biography collections as well as musical journalism collections.
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief Midwest Book Review
“The Biography Shelf”
January 20, 2012
Music Philology by Bruce MacIntyre, Translator Georg Feder
Music Philology: An Introduction to Musical Textual Criticism, Hermeneutics, and Editorial Techniques is a precious monograph on musical textual criticism and editorial techniques aimed primarily at instrumental, not vocal music. Translated to English from the German work by Bruce MacIntyre with expert assistance (see Translator's Preface Acknowledgements, pp. x-xii), Music Philology makes the work of Georg Feder (b. 11-30-27, d. 12-11-2006) in musical textual criticism accessible to the English speaking audience. With precise analytical thought and logic, Music Philology is divided into eight chapters. They are, in order, I. Presuppositions, II. Definition, III. Foundations, IV. Textual Criticism, V. Hermeneutics, (including rules, or canons, objects of understanding, and the compositions's meaning,), VI. Work Criticism (Musical Aesthetic of the Variant), VII. Editorial Technique, and VIII. Remarks on the History of Textual Criticism in Music. Because the author created most of the text in the late 80's, a General Comments section in the beginning notes that "the translator has made some emendations when more recent discoveries, new publications, or electronic technologies warrant them (p.xii)." Although the essential nature of music philology is perhaps obscure, there is no doubt that this seminal work presents a defining setting of the compass upon the deep vastness of the universe of composed music (William Blake's painting echoes in the mind as these pages are read). The core value of Music Philology perhaps undeniably rests in much of the content of Chapter V. Hermeneutics, including hermeneutics canons, the meaning of the musical text - transcription and performance, and the composition's meaning. But flashes of analytic brilliance light many of the digressions, including most spectacularly Digression 4 (Chapter VI., Work Criticism), Musical Aesthetic of the Variant. For example: "Information theory...interprets the aesthetic rule as a general 'optimization principle' according to which the sign structures used by artists depend on a favorable relationship between information and redundancy. The sign structures must contain a large amount of innovation and, at the same time, reduce the information to a comprehensible size. Decisive in this is the creative productivity which is explained as a process of chance. Basically all these views go back to ARISTOTLE who in his Poetics says: "Beautiful is the style which uses unfamiliar words with moderation; the use of nouns which everyone uses and the avoidance of metaphors, rare words, etc. result in the vulgar, while their immoderate use results in a puzzle or barbarism (jargon), and their improper use in the ridiculous. In the end, the correct mixture, the right measure, cannot be determined. As Kant observed, the rule according to which the 'product of genius' comes into being can 'not serve as a direction in a kind of formula; otherwise the judgment about what is beautiful would be determined by concepts.'  Differently expressed, a rule for the deviation from the norm would itself be a norm, and would therefore conflict with the aesthetic principle itself." (p. 134). This portion is followed by a simple clarifying diagram showing a triangular relationship between inspiration and tradition or rule, and deviations and innovation. Similar nuggets of musical textual criticism and philosophy are found throughout the dense text of Music Philology, a rare gift to scholars and students of Western music criticism and analysis.
“Bookwatch: Lorraine's Bookshelf”
Midwest Book Review
December 11, 2011
Schubert's Great C Major by Mark Devoto
Attractively presented with a painting of Bad Gastein (by an unknown artist), the original location where the Great C Major Symphony was written by Franz Schubert, Schubert's Great C Major: Biography of a Symphony presents both history and complexities of the background of the mysterious title work and vigorous, inspired analysis of the exciting harmonics and theme presentation and development of the Great Symphony. In chapters arranged primarily by the four movements - Andante, Allegro con moto, Scherzo, Allegro, and Allegro Vivace, the orchestrated development of imaginative tonalities and themes are relentlessly explored and analyzed, often even reconsidered in light of later influences and composers. Other chapters deal with the amazingly complicated background of the Symphony, Schubert and the Orchestra (there is controversy about Schubert's mastery of instrumental music), the Harmony of Mixed Modes, a fascinating exploration of Schubert's pioneering use of modal interchange, and finally the last chapter, "Envoi - Ein Reicher Besitz," a reference to the gravestone caption for Schubert written by Franz Grillparzer, "The art of music has entombed here a rich possession, but yet more beautiful hopes."
In addition to the material presented in these eight chapters, there are five added appendices containing the material on the autograph (referring to the autograph full score of the Great C Major Symphony, in possession of the Archiv der Gesellschaft der Musickfreunde), Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift fur Musick of March, 1840, the first definitive review of the Great Symphony in both German and English, Bibliography, Discography, and scores of the Great C major Symphony. The offering of Schubert's Great C Major is indeed a biography of a symphony, one of the greatest musical compositions ever written or performed.
December 10, 2011
Thematic Catalogue of Troubadour and Trouvère Melodies by Donna Mayer-Martin
Medieval troubadors were more than itinerant or court entertainers, they were vessels by which culture and custom, ideals and ideologies were propagated through their poetry and music. Trouveres did much the same a few generations later, but are distinguished in that they wrote in Old French. Thematic Catalogue of Troubadour and Trouvere Melodies is a 369-page compendium developed by the late musicologist Donna Mayer-Martin who was unable to see the completion of her project. Fortunately, academician Dorothy Keyser was able to complete the project and bring it to publication for the enduring benefit of academia. This is an impressive body of seminal scholarship and will prove to be a valued and appreciation contribution to the growing library of Medieval Studies reference works. Graced with a lengthy, informed, and informative introduction, Thematic Catalogue of Troubadour and Trouvere Melodies is superbly organized beginning with a thematic catalogue of troubadour melodies, and index of trouvere composers and their songs, and the contents of both troubadour and trouvere manuscripts. Of special note for scholars is the inclusion of a 'List of Works Cited' and an extensive bibliography. A masterwork of specialized research, Thematic Catalogue of Troubadour and Trouvere Melodies will prove to be a prized addition to academic library reference collections.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
December 7, 2011
Guitar Methods 1760-1860 by Erik Stenstadvold
This is the fourth volume in the Organologia: Musical Instruments and Performance Practice series from Pendragon Press. While all three previous volumes have dealt with the flute and specific aspects of flute playing, this fourth volume concentrates on guitar method books from roughly 1760 to 1860. The middle range of this period, from around 1800 to 1840, comprises the core of the classical guitar repertoire, with composers found frequently on any modern guitar recital such as Dionisio Aguado (1784–1849), Matteo Carcassi (1792–1853), Ferdinando Carulli (1770–1841), Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829), and Fernando Sor (1778–1839). That all of these virtuosi produced method books— often several editions of method books—is surprising. In fact, the sheer quantity of pedagogical works for guitar during this period will surprise many: Stenstadvold counts over 300 tutors by some 200 authors; reissues and later editions bring the total to over 400 from the period. A large number (over 250) of these sources are French, and the author postulates that this number indicates not only the popularity of the guitar in Paris during the period in question, but also the fact that it was never accepted into the Conservatoire and thus lacked an authorized manual. So the guitar was at once enormously popular and, even at this early date, somewhat neglected by the musical mainstream. While many readers may be primarily interested in the tutors of the major guitar composers mentioned above, the bibliography contains information on sources going back into the late eighteenth century, a period that has only recently come under scrutiny in the guitar world. Music for four- and five-course guitar has been studied in some depth from its origins in the sixteenth century to its gradual fall from favor in the late baroque. But the key transitional period where the five-course guitar becomes the six-course and the six-string or modern classical guitar has been relatively little-studied. In addition, the period from the 1830s to the 1850s, when the guitar’s popularity as a salon instrument was on the wane, has also been neglected. So the bibliography serves to frame the core of the classical guitar repertoire from the early nineteenth century with preceding and succeeding eras rarely visited by modern scholars and performers.
Stenstadvold had some important decisions to make at the outset here and anyone approaching this text needs to know his parameters. By “guitar” he means primarily the six-string instrument usually tuned in fourths with a third (E-A-d-g-b-e_) or its direct predecessors, the five- and six-course guitars. All were often called in the period under question the “Spanish guitar.” Instruments with similar names but dissimilar origins, most notably the wirestrung cittern common in England and North America called the “English guitar,” are not included here. Nor are other instruments often confused with the modern guitar such as the Russian seven-string guitar, various Portuguese guitars, or the “guitare allemande,” all of which stem from different organological backgrounds. He does include variants of the modern instrument that have music in an identical style and were often played by the same performers, such as the ten-string guitar, the harpolyre guitar with three necks, the guitar-harp, harp-lute, and the lyre (basically a lyre-shaped guitar), all of which were popular for brief periods in the early nineteenth century. None of these instruments, even the six-string one, is exactly like a modern classical guitar, being smaller and softer than modern concert models. But the similarities in tuning and technique mean that they are as interchangeable as, for example, a modern concert grand piano and an early nineteenth-century salon piano. So the focus is on gut-strung instruments that lead to the modern guitar family, and these comprise the musical sources that are most relevant to modern performers. Not only was the guitar undergoing drastic changes during the late eighteenth century, the notation used for it changed as well. Early guitar music was written in variations of lute tablature and/or chordal short hands such as the alfabeto system. By the 1750s, guitarists were moving inexorably towards standard musical notation—although cluttering it with fingering to sometimes alarming degrees—and it is here that Stenstadvold draws his beginning line for his study: he is interested only in method books using primarily modern notation, not tablature. Thus he includes the earliest two guitar tutors in standard notation from the 1750s, both anonymous, but uses 1760 as a more convenient date for the title of the book. He has also limited himself to printed works, not manuscripts, which is perfectly understandable, although possibly giving a skewed picture of Spanish and Latin American sources. As for the end date, it appears to coincide roughly with the creation of guitars with recognizably modern bracing and form by Torres, as well as an even one hundred years from his starting date.
Reading through the citations, it is obvious that Stenstadvold spent a good bit of time traveling and doing primary research. The main portion of the book (pp. 13–198) is an alphabetical listing by author of the tutors. Within each author’s section, the books are arranged chronologically, giving a quick view of the pedagogical work by any particular guitarist and the relation of successive editions. Each entry cites the complete title page, including publisher’s address and other information, and even the pricing, all of which can be useful for dating an item. Dating is particularly problematic with these sources, as it is for all musical sources from the period, but copyright registrations and contemporary advertising can often supply a reasonably accurate date. Stenstadvold includes his justification for particular dates, as well as information about the collation and modern location (with RISM sigla) of each tutor. The entries conclude with a sentence or two of general remarks about the source: the type of guitar intended, level and types of instruction, and other notes. All of this gives a clear indication that the author has usually gained first-hand knowledge of the sources. The bibliography (pp. 201–4) is a bit brief and dated, however. It surprisingly lacks what would appear to be an important source or at least a source with which any English reader on the subject would be familiar: The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era by James Tyler and Paul Sparks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). While this work is not without its bibliographic problems, the section by Sparks on the guitar in the late eighteenth century would appear to be central to Stenstadvold’s work.
The large majority of these sources is not generally available in modern facsimiles or even microfilm copies; indeed, many of the names and titles will be unfamiliar to even researchers, much less performers. But even performers or teachers wishing to explore the pedagogical writings of a major figure like Aguado or Carulli will find a quick overview of the works and how they relate. The performer will of course want the actual contents of the tutors, not just an annotated summary, but Stenstadvold’s book will point them in the direction of the most important sources. It also serves surprisingly well as an outline of the changes in guitar technique and construction during the period. As for more obscure works, these may remain so in the future, but there is also much here that calls for further examination from both scholars and performers. It is to be hoped that the present work will form the basis of a future monograph on guitar tutors and/or technique that draws together the main sources cited here into a readable and wider ranging narrative. We would then begin to get a picture not only of the “golden age” of the classical guitar, but the relatively unknown periods before and after it. Recommended for all collections with an active guitar program.
December 3, 2011
Dear Max/Lieber Malcolm by William Rudolf
The friendship between conductor Max Rudolf (1902-1995) and pianist Malcolm Frager (1935-1991), both internationally respected musicians with active careers, began with an exchange about Beethoven. Their ensuing correspondence, covering the period from September 1982 until Frager's death in June 1991, documents their musical insights and interchange of ideas on interpretation, particularly of great works that they both revered. Over three hundred letters are presented here in chronological order, with numerous detailed annotations by Paul Ellison that explain the names, events, and other references in their correspondence. Beethoven's music--particularly the debate over the metronome markings for the symphonies--was at the forefront of their common interests. Also frequently discussed are dynamic markings and consulted primary sources, including autograph manuscripts and first editions as well as more recent performing editions to support their arguments. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index, which makes it difficult for readers to discover all of the Beethoven references or the many other composers, works, musicians, and concerts mentioned in their correspondence.
The Beethoven Journal, Winter 2011 (Volume 26 Number 21)
December 1, 2011
Wendy Hilton by Susan Bindig
Wendy Hilton (1931-2002), a British historical dancer, teacher, choreographer, and scholar, was a pivotal figure in the development of baroque dance performance and scholarship. This book, described on the back cover as a memoir, is the first account of her life and work, and as such is a very welcome addition to the slim historiography of the historical dance revival. Anyone who has been involved in the field would inevitably be drawn to a book that offers insight into Hilton's role in its genesis: i.e., her dance education, the sources of her skills and knowledge, the extent of her work, the development of her teaching style, her creative process in dance reconstruction and choreography, and her intellectual growth during the course of her career. (Disclosure: I took classes with Hilton at the International Early Dance Institute, Montclair State University, and Universite Laval).
Started "on the recommendation of colleagues" (p. 270), only the three first chapters of Hilton's book were near completion at the time of her death. Susan Bindig, her former student, colleague, and friend, edited and completed Hilton's work, linking what had been written for later chapters with memoirs and correspondence of colleagues and friends, as well as information from Hilton's personal papers and other sources.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part (chaps. 1-6) contains Hilton's reminiscences of formative events that marked her early years in England from 1931 until 1959. She writes about her family, experience growing up during World War II, initial interests in dance and music, dance training, early career as a dancer working for dance companies and movies and television productions (and supplementing her income by modeling for artists), and her first meeting with the dance specialist Belinda Quirey. This section presents fascinating anecdotes not only of well-known twentieth-century dance figures such as Marie Rambert and Audrey de Vos, but also of bunous movie personalities such as Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, and Peter Sellers.
In the second part (chaps. 7-11), Hilton discusses her work in historical dance in England from 1956 until 1971. She talks (at times quite waspishly) about learning from and collaborating with Ottirey, meeting other dance historians such as Melusine Wood, Cyril Beaumont, and Karl Heinz Taubert, and forming the Domenico Dance Ensemble, an early-dance company. A research grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain allowed her to travel to France, Germany, and Sweden. Meeting with pianist and Bach specialist Rosalyn Tureck led her to visit the United States in 1968 and emigrate there in 1971.
The third part (chaps. 12-18) focuses on Hilton's career in America from 1971 until her death in 2002. This part begins chronologically but deliberately backtracks at two points: chapters 13 to 15 cover the years 1971 to 1994 and mostly explore Hilton's work on the East Coast, at the Juilliard School, Rutgers University, and SUNY Purchase, along with her problems with torticollis that eventually ended her performing career; chapters 16-17 concentrate on her work on the West Coast from 1968 to 2001, in particular on the summer workshop she directed at Stanford University froth 1974 to 2001; and chapter 18 returns to 1994 to give an account of Hilton's last years: her work as editor of the Pendragon Press Dance and Music Series (later renamed after her), her memoirs, her cancer, death in 2002, and commemoration.
In the third part, the narrative changes from first person to third, incorporating fragments written by Hilton as quotations. The problem of doing so is that the emotional connection established between the reader and the original writer (Hilton) is unfortunately lost. Furthermore, the perspective of the narrative keeps changing. Bindig writes sometimes as a biographer and at other times as her own memoirist, for example when she recalls: "Dancing in Masque of a Midsummer Night was a revelation for me, and it literally changed my life" (p. 176).
In Hilton's memoir, the reader will find a passionate artist-scholar with high standards who strives for perfection and demands no less from her students, but also whose discoveries sometimes lead to troubling and inconsistent conclusions. In one instance, for historical accuracy's sake, Hilton disapproved of casting an African American student in her baroque dance productions at Juilliard (pp. 181-82). In principle, she opposed choreographing works that were not originally intended to be danced (p. 163), but had no compunction about performing to the stylized dances from Bach suites and movements from other instrumental genres (p. 229). She also refused to set ballet and modern dance choreographies to Bach's music, but did not mind hearing it played on modern instruments (p. 229).
Since this book was edited and co-written by Hilton's longtime friend, it presents a highly respectful view of Hilton's work, interspersed with rave published reviews and praise from colleagues, friends, and students who admired her outstanding and groundbreaking work. For example, Bindig provides enthusiastic reviews of Hilton's Dance of Court and Theater: The French Noble Style, 1690-1725 (Princeton: Princeton Book Company, 1981), which she describes as the "only publication that lays out in a systematic way a full theory of performance practice based on the thorough analysis of original sources" (p. 200). This is somewhat misleading since Hilton's book, remarkable as it was for its time, is based on only a few (yet nonetheless significant) sources, even though she indicates her awareness of numerous other sources of potentially equal significance. Also, Bindig mentions only in a footnote (p. 200) the criticism received by Hilton's work, such as the 1997 re-edition of her book (Dance and Music of Court and Theater: Selected Writings of Wendy Hilton (Dance and music series, no. 5 [Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1997]), remarking that she "cannot address these criticisms specifically" (p. 200). This is unfortunate because a historiographer would appreciate some balanced assessment.
This book will appeal primarily to Hilton's former students, colleagues, friends, and anyone involved in historical dance. Many admirers who took her classes will look for themselves and their friends in the text and in the carefully chosen photographic illustrations that enrich the text and help visualize Hilton's life and work.
However, an overly lenient editorial hand necessitates a few quibbles. Repetitions found here and there make the narrative tiresome at times. Within a paragraph, for instance, one reads, "The island was left to grow wild, except for some slow- growing trees whose wood was to be harvested to make cricket bats. No one seemed to go to the island, which except for the trees, grew wild" (p. 7). Other repetitions are more distant but give the reader a sense of deja vu, such as when Hilton discusses the last performance of the Domenico Ensemble on page 109 and then again on page 118. Acronyms are not used uniformly. The name of the Dance Notation Bureau, for example, is spelled out on pages 133, 209, and 221, and written as an acronym on pages 141-42; the Royal Academy of Dance method is named only by the acronym RAD method (p. 35). A list of acronyms at the beginning of the book would have beenhelpful. Bindig occasionally fails to distinguish her footnotes from Hilton's (p. 43 n. 4), or to indicate the sources of her citations (pp. 199-200); she also sometimes positions her footnote numbers confusingly (p. 175 n. 18).
Strangely, Bindig chooses to list Hilton's articles, books, and videorecordings within her "selected bibliography." A separate bibliography of Hilton's work would have allowed one to better judge the output of this artist and scholar. Bindig should have compiled a comprehensive videography, which would include the numerous video recordings that preserve Hilton's dance productions and the few that show her dancing, even if some of these are discussed within the text. These are particularly important to further study Hilton's baroque dance style and her reconstructions and choreographies.
Hilton admits that she "arrived on the scene at the right moment" (p. 102) and that she believes her excellent reviews "put early dance on the map" (p. 102). This book documents the fortuitous confluence of timing and artistry that allowed Hilton's career to flourish. It sets the stage, and points up the necessity, for further studies of her achievement in a broader and more objective historical and scholarly context.
April 1, 2011
The Power of the Moment by Martin Boykan
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.
January 11, 2011
Analyzing Jazz by Steve Larson
The late Steve Larson has contributed articles on jazz analysis to a variety of scholarly forums since the 1980s and is considered one of the pioneers, along with Steven Strunk and Henry Martin, of jazz research within the field of music theory. For more than twenty years, however, theorists interested in the analysis of jazz and popular music waited with anticipation for the widespread availability of Larson's dissertation, which was never available through UMI/ ProQuest. Analyzing Jazz: A Schenkerian Approach thus represents the first publication of Larson's dissertation. Yet because many years have passed since he wrote the original document, Larson considers the present book as a "limited revision" of his dissertation and includes in-text citations of recent work where applicable. As part of Pendragon's Harmonologia: Studies in Music Theory series, this book positions the analysis of jazz alongside analyses of the classical canon and the history of music theory.
Although Larson's application of Schenkerian analysis to modern jazz may be problematic for those who do not have considerable knowledge of traditional Schenkerian theory (especially Schenker's Der freie Satz, from which Larson draws most of his analytical parameters), he does reveal important insights about composition/ improvisation, motivic economy, and how different jazz performers make a single tune their own. However, the title of the book deceives the reader somewhat by suggesting that the book might offer a wider application of the theory, extending to multiple tunes and soloists on varying instruments from the modern jazz period. Instead, Larson bases his analyses on complete and accurate tran- scriptions of recorded piano solos by just three artists: Thelonius Monk, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans. All but one of these-transcriptions reflect improvisations on Monk's tune, "Round Midnight," with the exception being a single chorus from Bill Evans's solo on Ray Noble's "The Touch of Your Lips." Nevertheless, the notation of entire improvisations by these virtuosic pianists is hardly a small task. Indeed, it is a unique accomplishment in jazz research, and the production of these transcriptions creates exciting opportunities for analysis via any methodology, including Larson's Schenkerian approach.
The physical appearance and organization of Analyzing Jazz reveal its Schenkerian influence. The book is formatted in the horizontal, landscape layout of Schenker's Der freie Satz, Das Meisterwerk in der Musik, and Der Tonwille. In general, Larson clearly formats all of the musical examples, analyses, and transcriptions, but the real advantage of this layout exists in the wider spacing, allowing the author to produce full-page Schenkerian graphs showing the various hierarchical layers involved in a passage. Instead of publishing three separate volumes for analytical examples, transcriptions, and text (as with Der freie Satz) Larson chose to amalgamate all three components. However, because he integrates the text with his analyses but appends the transcriptions, the reader may become frustrated by having to flip back and forth from the text to the analyses (when they do not coincide on the same page) to the transcriptions.
In anticipation of objections to his method, Larson poses and answers three important questions in Chapter 2 ("Questions About Method").* These are crucial for understanding how he adapted Schenkerian theory to jazz. The first question concerns the suitability of Schenkerian analysis for improvised music, given its status as a method for the analysis of composed music. While a thorny conceptual question, Larson explains that Schenker's writings do address improvised music (e.g., "The Art of Improvisation" from Das Meisterwerk in der Musik) and that his ideas are drawn from C. P. E. Bach's Versuch iiber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, which discusses harmonic and melodic strategies for improvising upon a figured bass. Larson also tries to dissolve the distinction between improvisation and composition. In Larson's view, it would be unwise to describe compositions as inherently structured, and their performance or analysis as a realization of that structure, while improvisations are ostensibly unstructured. Rather, both composition and improvisation reside in a similar domain, as evidenced from the clear working and reworking of ideas in recordings of alternate takes of jazz performances, often as part of one album. Taken further, one might also compare the virtuosic composers of the classical canon (e.g., Liszt and Beethoven), who often improvised or developed their musical ideas at the keyboard before deciding what to write down definitively, and jazz musicians, who often chose to omit the writing component of composition but still carefully honed their ideas before producing a definitive recording. In short, it seems inequitable to define composition as pertinent only to notated music.
A more contentious objection comes from the second question, "Can features of jazz harmony (ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths) not appearing in the music Schenker analyzed be accounted for by Schenkerian analysis?" Contrary to what the question implies, Larson explains that these traditionally dissonant chord extensions occur in both the common practice (i.e., "classical") and jazz repertoires. In the context of common practice music, the Schenkerian view accounts for these dissonant intervals in the foreground, or surface, of the music as melodic embellishments of more structural tones. In the deeper layers (i.e., those closer to the background structure of the work, or Schenker's Ursatz), these dissonances no longer appear. However, Larson maintains, albeit with caution, that such a hierarchical tonal system also exists for modern jazz compositions/improvisations: "Although these [foreground] notes may receive greater emphasis and may be treated more freely in modern jazz than in classical music, their basic meaning remains the same: they derive their meaning from more stable pitches at deeper structural levels".
To demonstrate this, Larson puts forth a lengthy discussion with accompanying musical examples that draws on Steven Strunk's research regarding pervasive dissonances in modern jazz. Strunk conceives of these musical "tensions" as "substitutions" for structurally superior pitches, which function as the "resolutions" of such tensions. These resolutions may or may not appear immediately, or be realized on the surface of the music, but nevertheless constitute the idealized structure of the otherwise embellished harmonic surface. Because Schenkerian analyses seek to uncover the consonant contrapuntal and harmonic skeleton of a composition, Larson must creatively explain how dissonances—such as the augmented ninth, and sequences of ninths and thirteenths—resolve or are realized in the background as consonances.
Opponents of the Schenkerian view of jazz analysis find such sly modifications particularly problematic. For instance, it seems, from Larson's Schenkerian perspective, that the jazz improviser's choice of notes must be "wrong" in some way if they are ultimately guided by the underlying Schenkerian structure instead of the phenomenologically oriented chord-changes that call for such dissonances. Why must these tensions be relegated to "substitutions" regardless of the aesthetic preferences or colorful desires of the improviser (e.g., Monk's whole-tone passages and austere dissonances)? It is because the Schenkerian methodology that Larson imposes would not work without somehow accounting for novel voice-leading phenomena specific to jazz as embellishments of a deeper consonant structure.
The third objection Larson addresses concerns the poiesis of jazz improvisations and the intentionality of jazz performers. As the culmination of the second chapter, he uses an interview from the 1970s with Bill Evans and Marian McPartland to answer the following: "Do improvising musicians really intend to create complex structures shown in Schenkerian analyses?" In the interview, Evans demonstrates how he conceives of his own method of improvisation/composition by taking McPartland through a chorus of "The Touch of Your Lips." Larson transcribes both the text of the interview and every note that Evans plays in order to emphasize Evans's artistic strategies. For instance, although he does not refer to Schenker specifically in the interview, Evans states, "I always have, in anything that I play, an absolutely basic structure in mind. I can work . . . between the strong structural points differently, but I find the most fundamental structure, and then I work from there. [By 'structure'], I'm talking about the abstract, architectural thing . . . the theoretical thing". While being cautious about the "intentional fallacy," Larson parses Schenkerian meaning from these sentences. In doing so, he refutes other Evans scholars such as Gregory Smith, who argues both that Evans relies on formulaic patterns rather than complex Schenkerian structures in his improvisations, and that an analysis of these patterns would offer a more realistic view of Evans's conceptual structure. Conversely, Larson points out that Evans quite likely learned some Schenkerian theory as a student at the Mannes College of Music. He then offers a complete Schenkerian analysis of Evans's solo on "The Touch of Your Lips" in order to introduce some of the central features that contribute to tonal and motivic coherence. These analytical themes reappear in chapters 3, 4, and 5, which explore the various versions of "Round Midnight" by Monk, Peterson, and Evans in significant detail. One idea, for example, stems from Schenker's concept of "hidden repetition," where melodic stepwise motives recur in different structural layers. With few exceptions (for example, when Larson must cross different structural voices to construct the repeated stepwise motive), this concept also gives more credence to Larson's Schenkerian method as a perceptible connection to an abstract idea.
Besides hidden repetitions, Larson reveals other compositional devices in the Peterson transcription: use of formal transformation, metric ambiguity, and "withholding." Peterson plays with form in at least two ways. First, he begins with his own introduction to "Round Midnight" and returns to it in various manifestations throughout his improvisation. Second, he uses what Larson calls "abbreviated returns," where Peterson may play the entire form and then begin in the B section on the repeat, as opposed to the first A section. Peterson also often adds stunning yet ephemeral cadenzas interlocked between sections that temporarily suspend the meter. Larson's concept of withholding, as found in both Peterson's solo and Evans's ensemble performances, describes wily peculiarities of their improvisation. At structural points of the form, Peterson and Evans will seem to withhold a melodic note that would typically end the phrase or motive.
Analyzing Jazz provides a compelling demonstration of the adaptation of Schenkerian analysis to modern jazz music. By drawing not only on Schenkerian analysis, but also aesthetics, the history of theory, and rhythm-and-meter concepts, Larson reaches a wide audience of music specialists. Furthermore, this book offers topics for seminars in both advanced jazz studies and tonal music theory. Larson particularly engages the reader through his Schenkerian reductions of the modern jazz transcriptions to elucidate a deeper structural meaning of the music. As a result, he has laid the groundwork and executed a model for future research in jazz analysis.
* The material in this chapter previously appeared in Steve Larson, "Schenkerian Analysis of Modern Jazz: Questions About Method," Music Theory Spectrum 20/2 (1998): 209-41.
December 20, 2010
Analyzing Jazz by Steve Larson
Typically, Ph.D. dissertations are placed on library shelves and left undisturbed. Occasionally, an aspiring academic or ABD candidate might place an interlibrary loan request for a certain dissertation. In the ﬁeld of music theory—or, more speciﬁcally, jazz theory—there have been a handful of dissertations that not only have been very inﬂuential, but also so daring in their ideol-ogy and scope that they have shaken the very foundation of the discipline they purported to advance. Steve Larson’s dissertation from 1987 is clearly such a work, and, at last, can be widely appreciated by jazz scholars and practitioners in a handsome volume published by Pendragon Press. Analyzing Jazz: A Schenkerian Approach takes us back to the beginning of Larson’s academic career, a budding period in jazz theory scholarship when novel concepts were suggested and fresh analytical directions were attempted. In 1987, Larson’s study was an outgrowth of earlier works by different scholars: George Russell’s The Lydian-Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization for Improvisation, for All Instruments (New York: Concept, 1959), Steven Strunk, “The Harmony of Early Bop: A Layered Approach” (Journal of Jazz Studies 6 : 4–53), and others; since then, such research has affected the work of jazz theorists such as Henry Martin (Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation [Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996]) and Keith Waters (“Blurring the Barline: Metric Displacement in the Piano Solos of Herbie Hancock,” Annual Review of Jazz Studies 8 : 19–37), to name just a few. Having subsequently written profusely on the subject of Schenkerian theory and its jazz applications (Steve Larson, “ ‘Strict Use’ of Analytic Notation,” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 10 : 31–71; “Composition versus Improvisation?” Journal of Music Theory 49, no. 2 : 241–75), it seems odd that Larson decided to publish the original version of his dissertation with only limited revisions. In the preface Larson writes: “I chose to study Schenkerian analysis of modern jazz because of my interest in the theories of Heinrich Schenker and because of my interest in jazz” (p. x). With this declaration, Larson sets a rather lofty—if not unattainable—objective, given the overall conceptual framework of Schenkerian theory. While Schenker was largely sympathetic toward improvisation (as his writings on C. P. E. Bach indicate) and did not consider written composition to be completely divorced from the act of improvisation, his theoretical construct was designed for a very speciﬁc musical repertory. And, as with any theory—be it scientiﬁc, literary or other—that has a consistent and coherent testing apparatus, Schenkerian theory is most accurate and fruitful when applied to the musical genres and styles approved by its creator himself, which consists almost entirely of masterworks by C. P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Domenico Scarlatti, Schubert, and Schumann. There is an apparent trap in trying to ap¬ply a speciﬁc theoretical model—especially one that had been so carefully designed—to a musical repertory that falls outside of the explanatory scope of that model. To put it more bluntly, employing a theory to analyze a repertory that the theory’s author would have most likely detested seems risky at best and irrelevant at worse. Clearly, Larson’s study ventures far beyond the familiar turf reserved for Schenkerian purists and follows the research of a more progressive crowd for whom no musical style or genre is off limits from Schenkerian analysis. Given his apologetic tone at times, Larson is well aware of apparent difﬁculties and ensuing criticism his book might trigger. But despite the obvious risks, his magnum opus constitutes—for the most part—a well-thought effort with subtle recontextualizations of some crucial tenets of the original theory, and lives up to the reputation it has accumulated over the years. The book is neatly organized into six chapters, a preface, and the transcription section. The introductory Chapter 1 offers general remarks about the overall structure of the book. In addition, a reader who is unfamiliar with transcribing can learn about the transcription process with its nuanced pitch and rhythm notation. I would be more cautious than Larson, however, in declaring that “available editions of jazz repertoire—whether in lead sheets, in published sheet music, or in transcriptions—are often inaccurate and/or incomplete” (p. 1). Jazz scholarship, especially in the area of published transcriptions, has improved considerably since 1987; one needs only peruse any of Bill Dobbins’ transcriptions to encounter well-produced, professional, high-level work in this area. Chapter 2, “Questions about Method,” launches an important theoretical discussion concerning the validity of Schenkerian theory and its use in jazz. The content of this chapter is anchored around three pivotal questions: (1) “Is it appropriate to apply to improvised music methods of analysis developed for the study of composed music?” (p. 4); (2) “Can features of jazz harmony (ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths) not appearing in the music Schenker analyzed be accounted for by Schenkerian analysis?” (p. 5); and (3) “Do improvising musicians really intend to create the complex structures shown in Schenkerian analyses?” (p. 10) While these are obvious questions (and Larson answers them all in the afﬁrmative), I would pose a few slightly different questions: What essential modiﬁcations and/or expansions need to be applied to the Schenkerian model so its theoretical apparatus is effective in explaining the structure of jazz music? And a follow-up question: At which point does the number of modiﬁcations and expansions alter the original theory so it becomes a new model barely resembling the original? The second question hints at Kuhn’s famous paradigm shift responsible for progress within a scientiﬁc discipline. I think that these are equally valid questions to ask, and ﬁnding answers to them might momentarily shift our attention from local concerns about the methodology, to more global ones about the structure of theoretical systems. After probing the questions, one might be surprised to discover the need for a completely new theory for jazz music that emerges, via a paradigmatic shift, from the Schenkerian model. The main premises of Schenkerian theory—the concept of prototypical progressions, the mode of explanation, simplicity of design, graphic representation of structural levels, and, even the recursive principle that preserves the same rules of voice leading, counterpoint, and harmony of prototypical progressions at various levels of the musical structure—are so powerful (and amazingly ﬂexible) that they might serve as the pillars for the establishment of a new theory. The real power of Schenkerian theory lies not in the adaptability of its concepts to different musical repertories, but in its conceptual framework that might spur the development of new theoretical systems. Chapter 3, “ ‘Round Midnight,” offers an exhaustive analysis of the Thelonious Monk classic. Particularly interesting and original is Larson’s take on the internal structure of the tune as a series of variations on the theme. Given the opening quotation by Hofstadter, “Careful analysis leads one to see that we choose to call a new theme is itself always some sort of variations, on a deep level, of previous themes” (cited by Larson on p. 33), Larson’s observations are quite ﬁtting, especially in light of Monk’s creative prowess and the overall nature of jazz improvisation. The voice-leading analyses of the A1, A2, and A3 sections are impressive; by horizontally aligning the four structural levels and providing a relevant analytical commentary, the reader can marvel at Monk’s ingenuity and Larson’s analytical insightfulness. Not only does the inclusion of Schenkerian concepts such as hidden repetitions or motivic parallelism in explaining melodic, contrapuntal, and voice-leading properties of the tune render it highly relevant, but it also is crucial in pointing out the role of motives occurring at various levels of the musical fabric. Chapter 4, “A Solo-Piano Performance by Oscar Peterson,” analyses a version of Monk’s “ ‘Round Midnight” from the album Freedom Song: The Oscar Peterson Big 4 in Japan ’82 (Pablo Live 2640–101, 1983). This chapter attempts to reconcile the problem of integrating a theme with the subsequent improvised choruses. Larson asks: “[H]ow can an improvisation based on such a theme [an AABA form] avoid excessive sectionalization and achieve integration?” (p. 51) Again, in Larson’s typical matter-of-fact manner, the answer declares that “Peterson’s performance of “ ‘Round Midnight” . . . exploits an aspect of Monk’s theme: hidden repetition of the linking motive” (p. 51). Larson’s superbly produced transcription highlights the latter, making for succinct and precise analysis of Peterson’s rendition. The only problem is whether Peterson, while improvising, was at all aware of these hidden repetitions of the linking motive. It is quite probable that there were other, less tangible factors inﬂuencing the improvisational outcome, and these factors are likely less classiﬁable than Larson wants us to believe. In analyzing Peterson’s performance, Larson often reiterates his main point pertaining to the integration of the individual sections. Not only would Larson’s ﬁve conclusive remarks make a theorist smile, but they would also make a jazz improviser reconsider the value of musical analysis in performance. Indeed, devices such as “(1) lead-ins [that] connect half cadences to the downbeats of the following sections; (2) cadential suspensions [that] postpone or eliminate the complete arrival of tonic at authentic cadences; (3) elisions [that] bind formal sections, reducing or even eliminating the closure of authentic cadences; (4) structural puns [that] overlap formal sections, allowing one passage of music to serve two functions simultaneously; and, (5) ﬁlls and cadenzas [that] add content within phrases at cadences” (p. 66) can be quite useful, even for a seasoned jazz improviser. Having established the theoretical apparatus for integrating and concatenating sections of the improvised solo with short rhetorical declarations: “proximity,” “similarity,” “substitution,” “withholding,” and “conﬁrmations,” Chapter 5 continues to advance some important points in relation to Bill Evans’s improvisations. Chapter 5 tackles two versions of “ ‘Round Midnight”: a live version appearing on the album Bill Evans: Recorded Live at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, Hollywood California (Riverside RS-3013, 1968) performed with Chuck Israels (bass) and Larry Bunker (drums), and a studio version appearing on the album Conversations With Myself (Verve Records V-8526, 1963). Given the relative complexity of these performances, Larson arrives at similar theoretical conclusions as he did in the previous chapter. Not only does Evans integrate formal sections of his improvisations, but his remarkable skills (as well as skills of participating musicians) enable a tight integration of sections of the respective performances. Chapter 6, “Conclusions,” adds some additional material that differs from the original dissertation. In a succinct manner, Larson recapitulates his main points: the role of a theme and variations procedures in the improvised performances, the explanatory power and “artistic economy of means” of Schenkerian theory, and the role of structural levels in the study of rhythm—an area of research still underdeveloped both in common-practice and jazz music. The “Transcriptions” section, which accounts for roughly half of the volume, offers excellently produced transcriptions, some of which, like an overdubbed version of “ ‘Round Midnight” from Conversations With Myself, require an impressive set of musical ears to produce. The landscape layout of the book helps readability of transcriptions and analytical graphs. The concept of theme and variation, as seen in Larson’s various transcriptions of the same tune, lends itself quite well to Schenkerian analysis. The pioneering aspect of the book is not only evident in the selection of different performances of “ ‘Round Midnight,” but also in Larson’s ability to implement a theoretical model that pinpoints the different soloistic approaches to this tune in particular, and to the role of creativity in general. Throughout the book, Larson revisits his premise that Schenkerian analysis of jazz improvisation can reveal much about the art of improvisation and analysis. Given his profound analytical intuition, Larson demonstrates the validity of using Schenkerian theory to analyze jazz. As I mentioned earlier, one of the truly attractive features of Schenkerian theory is its logical, positivist structure, yielding considerable explanatory power. Any future scholarship that Analyzing Jazz: A Schenkerian Approach might stimulate should concentrate more on developing new theoretical systems carefully attuned for jazz analysis that borrow only the logical, explanatory facets of Schenkerian theory rather than rehashing, revamping, or restructuring the existing model, regardless how venerable and popular that model might be.
Dariusz Terefenko, Eastman School of Music
“Music Library Association”
Project Muse Notes, Volume 67, Number 2
December 11, 2010
Beethoven’s "Orpheus" Concerto by Owen Jander
The quest for meaning in Beethoven's Fourth Concerto has mainly focused on the second movement in its well-known association with Orpheus's descent into Hades to rescue his wife, Euridice, through the power of his lyre. This, Jander claims, was the generative movement of the entire concerto, influenced by Cluck's setting of the scene where Orpheus confronts the Furies in his opera Orfeo ed Euridice. In this book Jander culminates several decades of thinking and writing on the Fourth Concerto, expanding his thesis to connect the Orpheus legend to all three movements. The first two chapters reiterate much of Jander's previous research on Beethoven's awareness of the Orpheus legend and his creation of the dramatic narrative in the second movement. Jander then works backward to the first movement, asserting that the cyclic plan of the concerto mirrors the three "chapters" of the legend as told by Ovid in Metamorphoses. For the first and last movements, Beethoven worked within the confines of classical form, so in order to uncover the narrative, Jander looks at the moments when Beethoven departs from the norm. As "The Song of Orpheus" opens with the testing of his lyre, the fortepianist gently rolls the opening chord of the first movement; the orchestral tutti that follows relates to Orpheus's declaration on his art; building up to the fortissimo passage at mm. 50-60 where Orpheus proclaims "I would sing songs about boys beloved by gods." This nascent expression of homosexual desire becomes more explicit in the last movement, when Orpheus confronts a gang of "crazed women," the Bacchantes. Having lost Euridice, a bitter Orpheus turns against women in general. In retaliation for his misogyny, the Bacchantes torture and kill him, throwing his lyre into the River Hebrus. The music of the third movement depicts the attack, a violent act, Jander claims, best expressed on the fortepiano (the modern instrument being overly bombastic). The lyrical, second theme of the Rondo represents Orpheus's severed head floating down the river, calling Euridice's name (in Virgil's version of the story). As the loving couple is reunited in death, the lyre is transformed into a constellation of stars (mm. 546-53). The concerto concludes with the punishment of the Bacchantes. Clearly, this will be a controversial interpretation for some readers. Jander supports his theory through the analysis of numerous musical examples from the movements. He follows up his analysis with a study of the Mahler portrait of Beethoven from 1804 that he argues contains references to the concerto (the front cover of the book reproduces this image of Beethoven holding of a lyre). The final chapter offers a brief conclusion and chronology of events that shaped the concerto and this interpretation. A discography of recordings on period instruments is also included, as well as a bibliography and index.
The Beethoven Journal, Winter 2010 (Volume 25, Number 21)
January 10, 2010
Analyzing Jazz by Steve Larson
While jazz is an original American music, it has achieved and enduring world-wide popularity, with improvisational jazz being considered its purest form of expression. It is also the subject to theories originating with Heinrich Schenker with respect to such factors as melody, rhythm, and harmony. In Analyzing Jazz: A Schenkerian Approach, the latest title in the outstanding Pendragon Press 'Harmononologia: Studies in Music Theory' series, musicologist Steve Larson provides analytical transcriptions into musical notation for five recorded performances of the classic jazz composition 'Round Midnight' by the legendary improvisational jazz musician Theolonious Monk. Of these five, two are by Monk, one by Oscar Peterson, and two by Bill Evans, allowing the jazz student to benefit from comparisons from three different musicians.
Analyzing Jazz is a 204-page. compendium that should be a part of every professional and academic 20th Century American Music History reference collection in general, and American Jazz Studies curriculum supplemental reading list in particular.
January 11, 2008
Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow (Lives in Music) by Gabriel Banat by Gabriel Banat
A Swashbuckling Violinist, Fresh From the 1700s
One of the most fascinating figures of the 18th century was the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a composer, violinist, fencing champion and military hero whose fame spanned continents. That he was black, born in 1745 to a white planter and his slave mistress in Guadeloupe, not only shaped his life in France, but has fed a growing interest in him today.
Though Saint-Georges's life reads like a Hollywood screenplay, it was his musical talent that most interested Gabriel Banat, a concert violinist and musicologist whose biography, The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow, was published by Pendragon Press in 2006.
"He's not a Mozart, but his innovative violin technique makes him a bridge between Italian virtuosos like Vivaldi and Locatelli and Beethoven in his violin writing," Mr. Banat said in an interview in his home here. "He did a lot for the violin in bringing Italian virtuoso technique to the great masters."
Saint-Georges, who died in 1799, wrote 14 violin concertos, 8 symphony concertantes and 5 operas, among other works. (His second symphony will be performed on April 12 and 13 by the Stamford Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theater in Stamford.)
Mr. Banat, who had an acclaimed solo career before becoming a 23-year member of the New York Philharmonic, considers Saint-Georges the first significant black classical composer. Now retired, Mr. Banat, 81, has spent years researching and writing about Saint-Georges, who made music in the court of Marie Antoinette and went on to lead a regiment of black soldiers in the French Revolution.
Born as Joseph Boulogne, Saint-Georges took part of his title from his father, George Bologne de Saint-Georges, and became a chevalier when he was appointed a Versailles guard-on-horseback by Louis XV. Known for his striking looks, sweet temperament and swashbuckling ventures, he became the subject of a 19th-century romance novel that spawned distortions of his life in later biographies, according to Mr. Banat.
Some of the more innocuous errors about him, Mr. Banat notes in the preface to his biography, include "the year of his birth, the identity of his father, the spelling of his family name and the place where he spent his childhood." Mr. Banat said that legends of Saint-Georges being a "ladykiller" and Marie Antoinette's lover were "tinged with racism" because of their insinuations about black male sexuality. Nor, he said, was Saint-Georges the queen's music teacher.
Mr. Banat said he first heard of Saint-Georges in the 1970s while browsing in the New York Public Library for new material for his recitals. "I picked up a score and said, `Who is this lovely Saint-Georges?' "he recalled.
Mr. Banat said he wanted to delve deeper, especially after learning of the composer's difficulties as a person of mixed race - Saint-Georges could not marry within his social group, and although he led a prestigious orchestra that gave the premieres of several Haydn symphonies, he was denied the position of director of the Paris Opera. "As a young Jewish boy violinist, I had to fight against discrimination, and I felt empathy for him," said Mr. Banat, who was born in Romania, trained as a violinist in Hungary and spent much of World War II in hiding before coming to the United States in 1946.
Although Mr. Banat's book was published more than a year ago, Saint-Georges is still on his mind. "Chevalier," a film about Saint-Georges is now in development by Griot Pictures Entertainment and is scheduled to start production later this year. Mr. Banat says he is concerned about how the composer will be portrayed.
Thomas Hopkins, the film's producer, said the movie would take some liberties as a biopic, but that it would not "overstate the historical facts." "It's not a documentary," he said noting that the story was mainly about "a guy who was born an aristocrat and became a revolutionary."
January 10, 2007
Jubilate Amen! by Paul A. Richardson
People involved in music and religion celebrate the work of Hustad (b. 1918), who was responsible for publishing hymnals in evangelical Christianity. After appreciations, including one by Billy Graham, a biography, and a bibliography, they present articles and essays on such topics as inner logic and composing through in 88.88.88. tunes, an African addendum on music in missions, to and fro with Cum Rhondda, proclamation and praise, the church's music in the church-related college, and the Scopes trial songs. Seven hymns close the volume.
Book News, Inc.
August 16, 1990
Arts/Sciences: Alloys (Paperback) by Sharon Kanach
Any written addition to our understanding of the music and thought of composer and theorist lannis Xenakis is highly welcome. Aside from his book Formalized Music and a handful of articles, Xenakis has, until now, said very little about his work, especially in `nontechnical' terms. His other book, Musique Architecture, has been translated from the French into Japanese, Italian and Catalan but not yet into English.
Arts/Sciences: Alloys is all the more important because of its essentially philosophical, conversational tone. Xenakis and his colleagues candidly discuss aesthetics, the nature of the compositional process and, perhaps most interesting (especially to readers of this journal), the marriage of music and science, particularly mathematics. The latter topic is one of the primary thrusts of Xenakis's work. Many readers, fascinated by Xenakis's beautiful, visionary and demanding music but unable to navigate the somewhat difficult mathematical explanations in Formalized Music, may find in these conversations a kind of Rosetta stone for Xenakis's thought.
The very form of the book is intriguing: a transcription of a thesis defense for a Doctorat d'Etat' at the Sorbonne in 1976. In Xenakis's own words from the preface, "In France the `Doctorat d'Etat' may be awarded on the basis of a `file' consisting of previously published theoretical and creative works. This thesis file must then be defined before a jury whose members (not necessarily academic personalities) are suggested to the sponsoring university by the candidate. Once all the members have been agreed upon, a five-hour deliberation session is held between the candidate and the jury. At the end of this 'defense', the jury decides whether the degree should be awarded, and if so, with what honors". (Needless to say, Xenakis's doctorate was awarded, with `Very Honorable' mention.)
One aspect that makes this book so interesting is that Xenakis himself chose those thinkers `against' whom he wished to defend the voluminous material in his file (articles, books, scores, recordings, etc.). The five members of his jury—Olivier Revault d'Allones, Olivier Messiaen, Michel Ragon, Michel Serres and Bernard Teyssedre adopt highly diverse, but usually admiring views of Xenakis's work and thought.
The book would be greatly improved by brief biographies or even one-sentence descriptions of these five. Non-French readers may not be familiar with these scholars (indeed, a quick canvas of some fairly literate musician friends showed this to be the case!). A cursory knowledge of their respective disciplines would, I think, greatly illuminate much of the dialogue in the book, as well as supply the intellectual motivation for many of the questions.
Xenakis is unarguably one of the great visionaries of twentieth-century music. I have a habit of telling my composition students, when they first come to me, that there are perhaps five books with which they absolutely must be familiar if they are to consider themselves conversant with the musical ideas (especially American) of the second part of this century: Partch's Genesis of a Music, Tenney's Meta + Hodos, Cage's Silence, Ives's Essays Before a Sonata and Xenakis's Formalized Music. Xenakis's work is a successful and forward-looking integration of the most profound ideas from science and music; and the sheer sonic integrity and fascination of his music has always made detailed study of his compositional processes and theories rewarding.
This book tends to focus on one of the most interesting realms of Xenakis: the integration of art and science. Xenakis and his colleagues are not interested in simply applying scientific principles to artistic activity (in fact, they point out that the converse has been surprisingly overlooked). Rather, they initiate an investigation of what Xenakis calls `global morphology'—a search for deep forms that motivate human thought processes and concrete manifestations (art, science, technology, architecture and even the evolution and perception of biological forms). Xenakis's statistical and group-theoretical musical constructs are the beginnings of a search for a unitary theory of thought and of perception, which includes as a necessary subset his musical and architectural creations.
In Arts/Sciences: Alloys Xenakis presents for the first time (at least in English) some of the most fundamental philosophical motivations for his work. Often these ideas are surprisingly simple (he likes what he likes), but more often they evidence a critical facility of almost overwhelming integrity and what one might call 'persistence of vision'.
Before dealing with the specifics of the dialogues, a few words about the book itself are in order. Sharon E. Kanach, the translator (and also a composer) , must be congratulated for bringing this work to press, and for her deep sensitivity to the ideas expressed and the often thorny style of conversation. In general, the conversations read fluidly and intelligibly. What occasionally sound like awkward paragraphs must surely be attributed to the problems inherent in translating the spontaneous language of five French philosophers! For example, consider this sentence (from Revault d'Allones): "Speaking of pedagogy, it seems clear to me that neither innocently nor by chance, pedagogy, such as it is practiced in our society, creates literati on the one hand, and on the other hand, scientists, as you were saying". This type of English occurs several times in the book, and perhaps the only thing the translator can be accused of is not requesting that the participants speak readily translatable French! Xenakis's own (English) titles have always seemed to me to be rather awkward, possibly because they are too literal translations from the French (e.g. Formalized Music from Musiques Formelles). To me, this current title has gained a kind of rigidity in the move from French to English.
The structure of the book itself is of interest. It begins with a brief introductory statement by Xenakis, with its two sections subtitled "Subtended Philosophy" and "Coagulations". This introduction attempts to give a broad philosophical overview of his work as it relates to such general notions as intelligence, creativity, talent ("talent, then, is a kind of qualification, a grading of the vigor and richness of intelligence"), causality, inference, connectedness and existentiality.
The introduction is followed by five 'dialogues' (with welcome interjections), in which each participant attempts to investigate and probe another area of Xenakis's work. After the dialogues are five appendices. The first three are theoretical (and excerpted from Formalized Music). Appendix 4 is a catalogue of Xenakis's work, and appendix 5 is a very brief bibliography. Lastly, there is a brief postface by (I assume) Sharon E. Kanach.
The first dialogue, with Olivier Revault d'Allones, begins with an insightful and seminal question regarding the coevolution of music and mathematics. Revault d'Allones finds them currently to be 'unequal' partners. Specifically referring to Xenakis's use of abelian groups to generate scales, he ponders why
“musical thinking has not sufficiently utilized all the mathematical resources it could. . . . When Xenakis realized that for a musician, pitch scales constitute a well-ordered group, and abelian scale, (a trivial definition for a mathematician's mind), this put the 'bug in his ear', as they say. There are well- ordered groups; therefore, perhaps there are groups that are not orderly. Here's an abelian scale, can't there be a scale which is not? We understand very well how musical thought can thereby be fertilized by mathematics, but given the relatively elementary level of mathematics in these concepts, I would say that the interest is null for mathematics.”
One of the great disappointments for me is that Revault d'Allones's question is never really answered in the book, and the importance of the friendly accusation he makes to those of us who work in this field is never fully dealt with. When he says that "today, the benefits which the arts and sciences could share seem to me to be quite unequally divided", I hoped for an answer that would give us a possible direction to the solution to this fundamental problem. Should science look more deeply at the extraordinary logic of art and creativity for help in understanding its own roadblocks? Are there significant problems in the arts (like aspects of similarity theory in perception, information reduction in computer-generated images and sounds, or the mathematics of the creative process itself) that might perhaps motivate scientific progress in the same way that the problems of applied physics and chemistry often motivate advances in pure mathematics?
In addition, what of the work of mathematicians/theorists like David Rothenberg and John Myhill, whose search for musical constructs has often motivated mathematical approaches that might not occur but for the 'fuzziness' of the musical issues? It is true that in the areas of musical artificial intelligence, digital synthesis, image generation and so on, artistic creations and ideas have largely been fabricated from the debris of science and technology motivated by other applications (sadly, usually for military defense). Perhaps this is a problem not with the fundamental interest and complexity of artistic issues but rather with the social and economic motivations for investigating these problems. Given similar human, technological and economic resources, it seems plausible to me that artists (and their unsolved problems) could generate technological and conceptual advances at least comparable to those produced by military-minded personnel. The answer to Revault d'Allones's question, then, may havenothing to do with art itself but instead with societal allocation of essential resources.
Unfortunately, these issues are avoided in this dialogue (and in those that follow), which does not go unnoticed by Revault d'Allones. Michel Serres attempts to answer him, primarily with unqualified praise of Xenakis's work (e.g. "Xenakis's music is a step ahead" and he "presents a general idea of scientific thinking"). Revault d'Allones agrees with Serres's assessment of Xenakis's work but contends (correctly, I think) that his fundamental question has still not been answered. Later, in the dialogue with Olivier Messiaen, after Messiaen congratulates Revault d'Allones for the ideas he raised earlier about Xenakis's technique, Revault d'Allones responds with wonderful candor: "Personally, I failed. He, Xenakis, didn't speak!" .
In this first dialogue Xenakis is quite eloquent on other aspects of the relationship between music and mathematics.
“What is indeed curious ... is that music is much closer to mathematics than any of the other arts. Why? I can say that the eye is quicker, much more immediate and in direct contact with reality, than the ear, which is less agile and more recessed, demanding reflective thinking. Consequently, the ear must be more abstract and therefore create bases which also are more abstract, bringing them closer to mathematics.”
The second dialogue, with Olivier Messiaen, more strictly addresses musical questions, like the evolution of musical syntax, the teaching and role of 'musical technique', the use of permutations and even the subject of tetrachords. I found this dialogue to be the most poetic, and perhaps the most interesting of the five. I attribute this to a deep communality of spirit between Xenakis and Messiaen (who was the former's teacher). Xenakis speaks here with an obvious reverence for the older composer and thus assumes a kind of passion and an almost revelatory tone that is absent from the other dialogues. In fact, he and Messiaen speak directly of the nature of musical revelation, as the following remarks by Xenakis indicate: "I said earlier, (or maybe I didn't) that in the artistic realm there is revelation. In philosophy, in knowledge, it's the same thing. Yes, revelation is absolutely indispensable. It's one of man's crutches. He has two crutches, revelation and inference. And in the artistic realm, both are valid. In the scientific domain, there is one which takes precedence over the other, and that is inference". Here, Xenakis 'takes sides' in favor of the mode of art as opposed to the mode of science; perhaps it is the (revelatory) nature of Messiaen's own work that inspires him to do this.
Xenakis and Messiaen also speak unabashedly of love, of the necessity of that emotion when the arts utilize highly formal process of technology. Messiaen asks, "In your case, a machine will give you the millions of permutations within a few minutes: it's a cold and unexplicit list. How can and do you choose directly from within this immense world of possibilities without intimate knowledge or love?". The two composers seem to be in agreement about love—that it is a way of interpreting knowledge or, as Xenakis calls it, the "epiphenomenon of knowledge". Xenakis adds that "when I look at the starry sky, I love it in a certain way because I know it in a certain way; hut if I must know the successive stages of astrophysics, well, that may happen without love". It seems to me that this short dialogue may be the real answer, as Messiaen suggests, to Revault d'Allones's original question.
Another interesting, and perhaps autobiographical (a tone rare in Xenakis's writings), exchange between Xenakis and Messiaen occurs when the subject of teaching composition and technique arises. Revault d'Allones points out that Xenakis adopts a kind of 'hermetic' approach to certain areas of his compositional process when he (Xenakis) says, "Listen, I have nothing to add. Listen, and if you don't understand, listen again. And then, like it, if you like it". Messiaen and Xenakis make this kind of discourse less apocryphal when they attempt to define, mainly for themselves, what each of them considers to be within and beyond the realm of technique. Messiaen describes his own teaching process as one where only technique is discussed. "Outside of purely musical fact, of course, I would not allow myself to reconcile intentions, because I would certainly be incapable of doing so". For Xenakis, Messiaen's use of durations, harmonies, modes and colors are all outside of the realm of technique! When Messiaen adds that "orchestration is also a question of technique," Xenakis very cryptically (but, I think, tellingly) responds, "Which means one can speak of these things".
The third dialogue, with Michael Ragon, focuses primarily on Xenakis's architectural ideas (Xenakis remains a well-known and visionary architect). Ragon questions Xenakis on his utopian and far-reaching sociopolitical designs, like the 'vertical city' ("a city like this would simply be like stretching a garment"). This dialogue will be of great interest to those, like myself, less familiar with Xenakis the architect than Xenakis the musician. In addition, Xenakis the utopianist emerges from this dialogue—not surprisingly—for many of the most visionary composers feel it necessary to develop cosmological and societal visions that are equal in depth to their perception of the possibilities of the worlds of form and sound. Xenakis proves, in this dialogue, that he is no exception.
The fourth dialogue, with Michel Serres, ostensibly deals with mathematics but seems rather to be about more general ideas of time and form. Here Xenakis very clearly elucidates his notions of 'local' and 'general' morphology. On global morphology, Xenakis's thought resonates with a great deal of modern 'synergistic' thought, from Rene Thom to Rupert Sheldrake:
“Well, in every domain of human activity, form exists as a sort of froth. I have noticed some figures, some forms, which belong to either the domain of abstract speculation (such as mathematics, logic), or to more concrete speculation (such as physics, treating either atomic or subatomic phenomena), or to geometrical expressions of genetics (such as chemical molecular reactions). Yet these figures, these forms which belong to so many dissimilar domains also have fascinating similarities and diversifications and can enlighten other domains such as artistic activities.”
Xenakis is less clear on the subject of 'local morphology', which I think he means as a more direct application of one realm to another. For example, "when the idea of proportion was first applied to architecture on man-made forms" is cited as a case of local morphology.
Later in the dialogue with Serres, the discussion centers on the concept of time. Xenakis briefly adopts a wonderfully cosmological perspective, in a statement that makes one wish that one of the five respondents here was the British physicist Stephen Hawking: "Time is not reversible; it's time's movement which is reversible. Time itself (to my knowledge, it's a kind of postulate) or the temporal flow never goes backwards". He also speaks clearly of the important musical idea of 'orders outside of time', a concept with which many music theorists seem to have difficulty. Here, Xenakis is referring to statistical functions that have no necessary temporal order, or even to the way that the amplitude envelope of an instrument (like a flute or oboe) might relate to its register. Xenakis's own music, with its sophisticated use of probability functions, makes these theoretical concepts quite clear: "There can be order in non-temporal things. That's why it's absolutely indispensable to distinguish between what is in and what is outside of time. For example, I'll take a group of keys on a piano (an elementary case). I then have intervals which repeat themselves, but they are never repeated in time; they're there, fixed. The piano keys are on a piano which doesn't move".
The final dialogue, with Bernard Teyssedre, deals with the principles underlying Xenakis's compositional philosophy. Of the five, it is the most direct discussion of Xenakis as a composer. Teyssedre engages Xenakis with questions about the use of probabilistic and, in particular, ergodic forms and goes into some depth in discussing Formalized Music. Students of this book (what young composer today isn't?) will be particularly interested in this section.
An unusual thing happens in this dialogue—Teyssedre questions Xenakis about the work of other composers. Xenakis has usually been either silent or, at best, oblique about this topic, preferring to concentrate his public statements on the explication of his own music. Of course, this explication has been most important, since the fecundity of his music absolutely demands an articulate linguistic concordance, and Xenakis has always been more than capable of providing this. However, as is always the case with a musical intelligence of this stature, one wonders what he thinks of the music of other important composers.
Anecdotally, I recall when Xenakis taught at my home institution, Mills College, for one week. Though highly articulate and open about his own music and theory, he showed a real reluctance to consider student work. When asked about this, he replied quite frankly that if he did not like the work, he would have to say so, and why. As a rather brief guest, he did not want to be put in that position. At the time, I greatly admired the complexity of his concern for the feelings of the composition students, who would certainly have been deeply affected if someone of Xenakis's obvious integrity and intelligence disliked one of their formative pieces!
However, in this dialogue, he is quite blunt. When Teyssedre says that the music of Cage "brings up another musical principle, different than yours", Xenakis answers, "Fine, and I'll tell you why. Very simply because we all have fortuitous sounds in our daily life. They are completely banal and boring. I'm not interested in reproducing banalities." When Teyssedre later asks, "In summary, you don't like silence?" Xenakis is less than oblique: "Silence is banal".
Some conclusions. The book is tantalizingly short, and it is not clear if the entire five hours of the `defense' are in- chided in these pages. Since Xenakis's writings are rare, the important questions touched on could have been explored in greater depth. The discussion moves rapidly, and ideas shift and are transmogrified rather quickly. Digressions from which there is no return are frequent. Of course, this is to be expected given the nature of such informal conversation, but the loose ends can be frustrating for the reader. Also,the dialogues themselves are a little too polite and full of mutual admiration. Even Revault d'Allones's justified frustration is couched in so much respect for Xenakis that a good healthy argument never ensues (although one is clearly merited, and certainly would have been fun!).
Xenakis is clearly not the 'petitioner' here; this is precluded by his own personality and stature. The reader gets a lasting impression of the profundity of his inner surety in his own historical contribution. Indeed, he makes this quite clear in appendix 1, "Correspondences between Certain Developments in Music and Mathematics", where the only names he mentions after the year 1950 are himself and Lejaren Hiller!
This is a rich and important work that sheds welcome light on one of the most inspired and profound composers of this century.