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The Music of the Future One can be modern without being avant-garde, without lapsing into sound effects. It is printed here with the gracious permission of the author.

Important composers, from Schoenberg and Stravinsky to Ligeti and Stockhausen, have been premiered in this place and before this audience. Along with Darmstadt, Donaueschingen has helped to restore Germany to the central place in European musical culture that it has occupied in the past and will always deserve.

Now, in its latest and securest phase as the Musiktage, the Donaueschingen festival has become a symbol of musical modernism, and it is a great honour to be invited to speak from this podium to one of the most educated musical audiences in the world today. But in this short talk I will try to outline why I question the prominence in our musical culture of the experimental avant-garde.

And of course Wagner was entitled to write in this way, given what he had achieved in Tristan und Isolde, which was finished the year before his essay appeared, and which introduced the chromatic syntax that was to change the course of musical history. For Hegel history has a direction, and this direction is revealed in laws, institutions, and sciences, as well as in literature, art, and music. Each period is characterised by its Zeitgeist, shared among all the products of the culture. In Feuerbach the Zeitgeist idea is allied to the belief in progress, understood in terms of the life and energy of human communities.

The future, Feuerbach believed, is not merely a development of the past; it is better than the past. It marks an increase in knowledge and therefore in power over our own destiny and therefore in freedom. It is not easy now, after the communist and fascist experiments, to endorse the belief in progress that they both so vehemently shared.

But somehow, in the arts, the belief survives. We spontaneously incline to the view that each artistic form and style must be superseded as soon as it appears, and that the true values of art require constant vigilance against the diseases of nostalgia and pastiche.

Each composer faces the challenge: why should I listen to you? And each claims originality, authenticity, the plain fact of being me, as a vindication.

But it was also rooted in a real sense of tradition and what tradition means. His innovations grew organically from the flow of Western music, and his harmonic discoveries were discoveries only because they also affirmed the basic chord-grammar of diatonic tonality.

They were discoveries within the extended tonal language. In the course of the opera the chorus brings the new melody and the old harmony into creative relation, and the work ends jubilantly, with the new incorporated and the old renewed.

This is nothing like the radical avant-garde departures that have dominated music in more recent times. Both the continuous development of the romantic symphony in Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, and Shostakovich, and the incorporation of modernist devices into the tonal language, lay within the scope of the existing language: these were developments that issued naturally from the pattern of musical discovery that has characterised Western classical music from the Renaissance.

As things stand now, however, there is absolutely no guarantee that a new work of music will be recognized as such by the educated musical ear, or that it will be possible to hear it as an addition to the great tradition of symphonic sound. A radical break seems to have occurred, with two consequences that the listening public find difficult to absorb: first, modern works of music tend to be self-consciously part of an avant-garde, never content to belong to the tradition but always overtly and ostentatiously defying it; second, these works seem to be melodically impoverished, and even without melody entirely, relying on sound effects and acoustical experiments to fill the void where melody should be.

I draw your attention to the example we heard yesterday, when Nathan Davies used live filtering to give the effect of resonators, extracting tones from white noise, and turning those tones towards music. The effect was undeniably striking, at times entrancing: as though the tones were being purified so that they can be used as though new. But until those tones are used, and used in melodic and harmonic structures, the result will remain at a distance from the audience, outside the reach of our musical affections.

It is only the loved and repeated repertoire that will ensure the survival of music, and to be loved and repeated music requires a dedicated audience. Music exists in the ear of the listener, not on the page of the score, nor in the world of pure sound effects. And listeners, deterred by the avant-garde, are in ever-shorter supply: not in Donaueschingen, of course, but in the wider culture of our cities, where music will survive or die.

I identify four developments that have led to the place where we now are. Thanks to these developments a new kind of music has emerged which is less music than a reflection upon music, or perhaps even a reflection on the lack of music, or on the impossibility of music in the age in which we live. The first development is, in many ways, the most interesting from the philosophical point of view, and this is the radical attack on tonality by Theodor Adorno and his immediate followers.

It concerned what he was against, rather than what he was for. Tonality had to die because the bourgeois order had to die. Such is the inevitable result of attempting to make use of an idiom that has died.

The true work of art says something new, and is never a patchwork of things already said. This is the case even when the work employs an idiom already perfected by others, as when Mozart, in his string quartets, writes in the language of Haydn. Thomas Mann wrote a great novel about this, Doktor Faustus, meditating on the fate of Germany in the last century.

Mann takes the tradition of tonal music as both a significant part of our civilisation, and a symbol of its ultimate meaning. Music is the Faustian art par excellence, the defiant assertion of the human voice in a cosmos of unknowable silence. Mann therefore connects the death of the old musical language with the death of European civilisation. And he re-imagines the invention of twelve-tone serialism as a kind of demonic response to the ensuing sense of loss.

Music is to be annihilated, re-made as the negation of itself. This brings me to the second development that has fed into the obsession with the avant-garde, and that is the invention of serialism. I call this an invention, rather than a discovery, in order to record the wholly a priori nature of the serial system. The new harmonies and chromatic melodies of Tristan were discoveries: musical events that came into being by experiment, and were adopted because they sounded right.

In retrospect you can give quasi-mathematical accounts of what Wagner was doing in the first bars of Tristan. By contrast, serial organisation was an invention — a set of a priori rules laid down by Schoenberg and adapted and varied by his successors.

These rules were to provide a non-tonal grammar for music, determining what comes next independently of whether its coming next sounds right or wrong to the normal musical ear. It is not the tone or the scale but the maths that matters.

There is no reason, of course, to think that serial organization should not also lead to sequences that do sound right, or come to sound right in time. But their sounding right is quite independent of the serial organisation. One of the advantages of working with a framework of a priori rules is that you can say just why this note occurs in just this place: the series requires it. But in another sense you lack such an answer, since the series requires the note regardless of the heard relation to its predecessor.

Moreover the grammar of serialism is not based on the scale or any other way of grouping tones dynamically, in terms of what leads to what. A series is the basis for permutations, not linear movements.

In listening to music, however, we listen out for progression, prolongation, question and answer — all the many ways in which one tone summons another as its natural successor.

Serialism asks us to hear in another way, with the brain rather than the ear in charge. In a great serial composition, such as the Berg Violin Concerto, we hear harmonies, melodies, sequences, and rhythmical regularities, just as in the great works of the tonal tradition, and we do so because we are hearing against the serial order.

It is as though the composer, having bound himself in chains, is able nevertheless to dance in them, like a captive bear. The third development, associated particularly with Boulez, Stockhausen, and Nono, is the move towards total serialisation.

Composers decided to serialise time values, unpitched sounds, and timbres, hoping thereby to exert total control over everything. Interestingly enough this development went hand in hand with the emergence of aleatoric scores, in which instrumentalists are handed bundles of notes that they could choose to assemble in any order, or scores which ask for indeterminate sounds.

Randomisation had the same effect as serialisation, which was to deprive musical elements of their intrinsic ways of relating to each other.

Whether we impose a dictatorial serial order, or present notes in unordered bundles, we undo the demands of melody, harmony and rhythm, which are inherent in the traditional grammar, and replace them with systematic requirements that can be explained intellectually but not, as a rule, heard musically. In Stockhausen composed a two-piano piece, Mantra, for this festival.

In a subsequent lecture delivered in Britain, which can be seen on YouTube , he sets out the twelve-tone series on which the piece is based. He plays the notes one after another, assigning an equal time-value to each, and tells us that this melody occurred to him at a certain point, and that he decided to work on it, composing flights of new notes around each of its elements, arranging the series in conjunction with its own retrograde, and so on. Of course there are twelve-tone melodies — for example the beautiful melody that Berg assigns to his destructive heroine Lulu in the opera of that name.

It is a musical object, but not a musical subject. And as he explains what is done with it you understand that it is treated as an object too — a piece of dead tissue to be cut up beneath the microscope. We understand the distinction between subject and object because we ourselves exemplify it. The true musical theme is a subject in something like the sense that I am a subject: it has a consciousness of itself, a meaning and a point of view.

This is simply not true of the helpless dead sequence that Stockhausen presents us in his lecture. The effect of such innovations was to replace the experience of music by the concept of music. The eclipse of art by the concept of art occurred at around the same time in the visual arts, and for a while the game was amusing and intriguing. However, this particular bid for originality has dated much more rapidly than any of the harmonic discoveries of the late romantics.

Do it once, and you have done it for all time. This is certainly what we have seen in the realm of conceptual art in our museums and galleries. And it is what we have heard in the concert hall too. In conceptual music the creative act is always, from the musical point of view, the same, namely the act of putting an idea about music in the place where music should be.

This leads me to the fourth development, which is in many ways the most interesting, namely the replacement of tones by sounds, and musical by acoustical hearing. These experiments are not what I have in mind when referring to the replacement of tones by sounds and musical by acoustical hearing.

I am thinking of a more general transition, from Tonkunst to Klangkunst, to use the German expressions — a transition of deep philosophical significance, between two ways of hearing, and two responses to what is heard.

Sounds are objects in the physical world, albeit objects of a special kind whose nature and identity is bound up with the way they are perceived.

Tones are what we hear in sounds when we hear the sounds as music. They have features that no sound can possess — such as movement, gravitational attraction, weight, and position in a one-dimensional space.

They exemplify a special kind of organisation — an organisation that we hear and which exists only for someone who can hear it. The object of musical hearing is organised by metaphors of space and movement that correspond to no material realities. Music goes up and down, it leads and follows; it is dense, translucent, heavy, light; it encounters obstacles and crashes through them, and sometimes it comes to an end which is the end of everything.

Those metaphors, and the order derived from them, are shared by all musical people. The order that we hear is an order that we — the musical public — hear, when we hear these sounds as music.

And although there is, at any moment, an indefinite number of ways in which a melodic line or a chord sequence can continue without sounding wrong, the ideal in our tradition has been of an uninterrupted sense of necessity — each melodic and harmonic step following as though by logic from its predecessor, and yet with complete freedom.

When we hear tones we are also hearing sounds; but we are hearing in those sounds movement, organisation and gravitational forces in a one-dimensional musical space. That is the fundamental musical experience, the experience that causes us to hear one note as moving on from another, answering another, attracted to or repelled by another.

It is what enables us to hear tension and release, beginnings and endings, goals and starting points. It is at the root of the art of music as we have known it, since it is what gives music its fundamental nature as an art of motion, which grips us and takes us with it in a space of its own.

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Jacob saw his brother, Esau, for the first time after many years of hiding from him. During their childhood, Esau was angry at Jacob because he thought that Jacob had stolen his birthright. I have everything. Esau, a selfish person caring only about his materialistic possessions, proclaimed that "I have plenty" because "plenty" is quantitative. His material possessions are what he saw as his net worth. If he would ever lose a majority of his possessions, then he would be plenty no more.


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Read the entire thread. It could very well be about Price, because the ease with which her music has been brought into the spotlight also indicates how quickly it could fade. Just wildly inaccurate narration that deflects responsibility from the real individuals and institutions that actively marginalized and still marginalize real women. A responsible storyteller needs to specify who did these things. What would this paragraph look like if we inserted historical agents? Florence Price was the first Black woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major symphony orchestra Chicago Symphony, Whether through prejudice or ignorance, most conductors have since neglected her music, depriving her and the world of the legacy she deserves.


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