Friday, November 24, 2006

an application of the principles of canon formation

Things I’ve learned from The Cambridge History of 20th Century Music:

  • In post-World War II modernism, Boulez, Cage and Stockhausen ruled the world. The effect of Berio, Brown, Nono (oh, what a problematic Marxist composer), etc were less significant.
  • There were two divisions of neo-classicism. One was a one-man movement that included Stravinsky. Everyone else was in the other movement.
  • Free improvisation was invented by European Concert Music composers.
  • Live electronic music was invented by John Cage.
  • Which, by the way, like almost all music in the 20th century, was a guy thing.
  • Free jazz was invented by Coltrane (or was it Coleman).
  • Cecil Taylor got his music from the conservatory.
  • Almost all developments in modern jazz were initiated by Miles Davis.
  • Anti-semitism was devastating, but the plantations were only a minor inconvenience for the slaves. (Although the really disastrous thing, apparently, about anti-semitism was having to leave your home.)
  • Musicologists can decide to discuss a limited set of historical actors on the following grounds: “…the pre-eminence of those discussed here was not, and has not (so far) been, seriously challenged….”
  • Apparently the phrase “hierarchic organicism” means something.
  • After Darmstadt, and a few false starts, there was only pre-minimalism, minimalism and post-minimalism. (A bit like pre-classicism, classicism and post-classicism?)
  • Vinko Globokar is a composer and performer, but not an improviser.
  • White people do not have race.
  • Misha Mengelberg is a composer, and Ornette Coleman is a jazz musician/improviser.
  • Women composers teach (e.g. Boulinger), are taught (e.g. Saunders), or just follow trends (e.g. Oliveros). This is in contrast to Boulez/Cage/Stockhausen, etc who come to the world as fully formed autonomous individuals. (Somehow Gubaidulina is an exception to this.)


Anonymous said...

"It's funny cuz it's true."

the improvising guitarist said...

Do you mean “true” as in you agree that The Cambridge History of 20th Century Music is “an application of the principles of canon formation,” or that you agree with the statements that I listed (e.g. “White people do not have race”)?


Peter Breslin said...

Hey- Finally made it over here. Nice little summary of yet another "official story." Don't know why it's taken me so long, several decades really, to figure out that comprehensive histories are impossible, not just difficult. The idea is highly appealing, but it's like trying to make a film version of Finnegans Wake. I'm sure there's classism, racism, elitism and many other -isms consciously and unconsciously involved in every such attempt, but more than that, I'm convinced it's just incompetence in the face of an impossible task.

I wonder what the long term damage is or isn't.