thumbnail of Composer in the world of today; Music by Peter Mennin
Transcript
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
With. The composer in the world of today. The School of Music and the radio service of the University of Illinois invite you to listen to the first program in the series. The composer in the world of today comment and illustrations on 20th century American music by an American composer. Conducting this series is Bernard Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famous composer. The composer in the world of the day is produced and recorded by W I L L University of Illinois radio service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters.
Today Mr. Phillips will discuss music by Peter M.. Now the composer and the world of today. And here is Beryl Phillips. At almost a decade after the midpoint of the 20th century the writing of music by Americans is a booming proposition. Some parts of this enterprise are by way of being true industries with capital investment boards of directors and the other usual trappings even to the extent of hazards of the trade like ulcers and nervous breakdowns. It has been said too often to be refuted that more money is spent on serious music in the United States every year than on all baseball minor and major leagues both. This is exclusive of the Broadway musical stage television broadcasting juke boxes or movie scores. And it points to a concern with the cultural rather than the industrial use of music on the part of the American
public. Even in this relatively less rhinestone studded area there is enough glamour surrounding the stars of the system. The conductors of symphony orchestras the instrumental soloists the operatic prima donnas the dancers of the ballet to furnish grist for many writers and commentators on the musical scene. What is almost never inquired into is the one figure who stands at the center of this web. The American composer. His viewpoint his ideas and his ideals are practically unknown. Even the critics who are liaison man between the inside of the intricate musical life of the country and the general public scarcely ever bother themselves with more than a very occasional article about a composer. When such does appear journalistic requirements always make any treatment in depth impossible. And as we're touching on more than one composer or even attempting a sketchy coverage of
as many as a dozen. This is indeed extremely rare. Hence what information there is about our American composers at this point in the 20th century is mostly buried in fees and biographies and a few textbooks conned over by academic and professional circles but not very interesting to the general public. This series of programs will make an attempt at changing this even if ever so slightly. This series will leave to a more hands. The interesting biographical information the narrative elements in a composer's life it will leave to the experts and the specialist those fascinating points of conversational daring do the techniques of performance of staging and production. It will leave to the proper authorities a discussion of the sociological implications of the composer's music and it will leave to the academy the task of the section and analysis what the series will attempt to do will be by means of discussion illustration and comparison to present to his listeners as clear a picture as possible of what the 20th century American
composer is doing and what he is like. As was said earlier the writing of music by Americans at this present time is a booming proposition for obvious reasons. We will have to circumscribe the area of discussion and decide early just what Americans we are talking about. That being the case we will set the limits at those Americans between the ages of 20 and 60 who are not primarily known as figures in the field of mass culture. This is not as arbitrary as it sounds because within this 40 year period there has grown up in the United States a condition favorable to the development of a kind of composer who was a true artist and not either an academician or an industrial hack. The reasons for the growth of this environment we may go into at a later time. But the point is that now there are composers who are articulate who have mastered the difficult techniques of the art who have erected a system of aesthetics for themselves and above all. There does appear to be enough richness of variety in this
country so that we have produced many viable schools of composition. This is a healthy condition and that is the reason for the selection of the word booming use earlier. It has been said that there are four elements in music pitch or high and low duration or the element of time and movement intensity or loud and soft and color are the easily heard difference between instruments and voices or between instruments of different kinds. A composer in any period from primitive man down to and including the most recent experiments with electronic music has to work within these four walls of his art because there are infinite possibilities of combination and permutation music founded on a simple proposition is endlessly fascinating to its creators. The success of any piece of music its viability its appeal depends on how much of this fascination the composer can transmit to his audience the way a composer
habitue it treats this raw material determines his style his creative profile. Even whole periods or schools of musical composition are affected by how the important composers of the time react to and handle the four elements. Which ones they emphasize and which ones they neglect. For instance the fourth element out of color has been a favorite with most composers since the opening of this century when the French impressionists began its intensive cultivation and the second element of time and movement has been given surprisingly less importance by many 20th century composers than it had for hundreds of years before. The reasons behind these curious shifts of emphasis and interest are not in the province of this discussion but to trace them out and illustrate them and to talk about music which contains them certainly is and we will try to look and listen from the viewpoint of the composer. The one man who is closest to the origin of all this and the one whose job it is so to order his artistic materials that his listeners are conscious of him as a creative individual.
Through hearing his music. It has perhaps been too often unknowingly assumed that the music of this century and particularly of this latter part of the century is monstrous because it has no ties with tradition or with the finest music of the past. It is not only the listener who falls into this they are but some young composers as well. The complaint most composers hear about modern music is that it has no tunes no melody. It would be easy but incorrect to say that this complaint is unjustified. There is plenty of modern music which never set out to have a tomb or a melody. But it is when such a complaint is registered about modern music which does have a melody which is even drenched in melody that the composer of it is obliged to count to ten slowly. I would think that the American composer who is the center of today's discussion never has to count to 10 because his music is so obviously founded on melody as to make the usual accusation groundless and yet the spirit of his music is intensely that of the twentieth century.
As a matter of fact the music that we will hear was written as recently as six years ago. Its composer is Peter men whose name will have been familiar to many listeners because of an extensive list of broadcasts and recordings of his orchestral music. The music master mentions that we will hear today however is unusual in that it is for piano solo a medium seldom essayed by this composer. Peter madam is a young man still in his 30s. He has had a notable career with performances by major orchestras in this country and abroad commissions in great profusion and consistently favorable critical notice. He follows a familiar pattern in that he is a teacher of composition in a music school. His position is at the Juilliard School in New York has had two Guggenheim fellowships and awards such as that from the American Institute of Arts and Letters. Incidentally this pattern or others like it seems to be emerging in the case of many younger American composers of the present time. But Peter M. is not like anybody else in his creative work where many of his
age were early or late converts to the serial are 12 tone row technique. Mr M. has never used it. Being convinced of incompatibilities where Still others of his age have erected rather elaborate intellectual and aesthetic systems around or under their music. Mr Menand seems to be content to be quite unassuming about it and simply goes ahead writing music. Leaving it up to posterity to decide what his system was if any. He has an immense facility in writing for the orchestra but the result is unlike that of most other composers whose orchestral interest is paramount. Most of the time others whose work is largely in the orchestra as Mr. Mims is are quite carried away by the color potential of that most seductive medium and it often affects the sense of form and movement to the general impoverishment of style. Peterman it might be said dryly has never been seduced by this phase of the orchestra but has maintained a sober balance in which all the elements that make up the art of composition are present and all work towards crispness and clarity.
There are all kinds of melody merely to think of the varieties I can recall a major periods of the past the simple but direct and powerful melodic style of the sixteenth century vocal polyphony the lush and sweet fullness of most 19th century composers. The steel hand in velvet glove kind of melody that characterizes Pursell or even Mozart. The sense was melodies of the French impressionists every young composer is confronted with this mounting accomplishment of the past and orientate himself creatively and to his own satisfaction with the past or stubbornly against it. Whatever is his nature. In Peter man's case he has always favored the melodic procedures of the J.S. Bach era and of the earlier Baroque composers. He thinks primarily melodically his musical ideas come first and foremost in melodic form and all the associated facets of the art center around the source. One of the principal ones is a power of polyphony. When a composer emphasizes factor that is a simultaneous
use of more than one melody. Other things almost automatically follow. For instance it is likely that the sense of movement and rhythm will be heightened in the work of a composer whose main style is a contrapuntal or polyphonic one. This heightened awareness for movement brings another most important feature in its train the sensitive control over elements of form and balance. The emphasis on the architecture of the work and on its dramatic content and then the physical sound itself it is presented to the ear the texture of the music its density or its thinness its spacing whether heavy in the middle or even from top to bottom and so on. All this flows from first having created a polyphonic style. Mr Manning has chosen a polyphonic idiom and it is used by him in practically every medium in which he writes orchestral solo mystic choral or for the piano. Thus his music will be greatly affected by this choice in a large and general way. We might say that the music is serious rather soberly colored. No matter what
the medium and it has a very highly satisfying effect from the standpoint of time that is things happen in the form we feel it should happen and the whole edifice is neither too long or too short. This is what is meant by balance and M. is a master of it as a means of making all is as clear as possible. It might be a good idea to hear along with the two piano pieces that have been selected from Peter man and suite called five piano pieces. Some music from the past not so much for the sake of comparison but to point up similarity and contrast of aims and procedures. As a consequence preceding this tremendous piece for piano called Aria we will hear the little ray from the fifth French suite by J.S. Bach. And before Mr. Penn mentions the second movement of Bach's Concerto in the Italian style. The little ray of Bach and the aria of mystery men are similar in many points as you will hear. Both are Polyphonic in about the
same way. That is nothing complicated or dense like a few but open and moderate both are on the slow side. Box does not always have a melody in the top part and neither does the aria of M.. As Bach's was written for the club here which had a tone that did not persist for any length of time or at least not as long as that of the modern piano the aural sound will be different. And Bach lighter in men and heavier for the same reason there will be much more dick or Dave or fancier writing and Bach and a plainer line a minute's peace. All of Bach's Lura is a dance and that's written to a more or less rhythmic figure and mentions Aria is free rhythmically they both have the effect of functioning in time and hands move from the beginning logically through to the end. This is not always the case in modern music but forms one of the distinguishing features of men and style. Due to the conventions of the early 18th century Bach has cast his little uniform having to
exactly balanced sections both being the same length. The pleasure that comes from hearing such a small masterpiece as the little ray arises from the conviction with which Bach makes all the simple elements melody melodic combination and form balance so that the impression we get is of a perfect whole. Here is a little right from the fifth French suite of J.S. Bach.
That was a little ray from J.S. Bach's fifth French suite. You will have noticed that the melodic lines were symmetrical and for the most part rather short. Now in the aria by Peter min and the lines are awesome metrical and longer than and Bach also because there is no necessity on Minna's part of following one thousandth cent. convention the form is free and open with no repeated cadences as there were in the Bach Luray. There are other points of difference. Notice that the texture of the Menin piece is thicker at times than the body. This is because the relatively more sustained sounds of the modern piano demands such a treatment. Chords being introduced that have as many as 10 tones and once a procedure that would make no very good sense on a harpsichord. Perhaps also because this is an aria which means a piece to be sung usually with some passion. Yes music contains a higher and more intense climax than could be heard in the Bach. This kind of song without
words technique makes the arias sound more romantic and less reserved in the box. But it is not a 19th century kind of romance. There is no scenery chewing in this but a poetry which has its parallel with that of some of the younger American poets of the present day. Here is the aria from five piano pieces by Peter M..
That was Peter minions are you. As a preliminary to the last piece Konto from Peter mends five piano pieces we will next hear the second movement from box Concerto in the Italian style. This is not just confined in many respects of the form as was a little dance from the French suite but it has its moments of rigidity in form this movement is a very remote relative of the American style of boogie woogie and so maybe naturally enough is Peterman and Konto this in Bach takes the form of a figure 1 measure along the left hand which is repeated throughout the piece or forty eight times. Against this on the right hand is a very long and a looping melody with some of the most convoluted lines of Bach ever wrote. It stems from improvisation and could be two or more people playing it rather than the one pianist. This is the way it resembles the movie will be idea but it does not sound of course like that American style. It is a slow movement and has
two recognizable inner divisions mostly marked off from each other according to key. And it is about the same length as a minute piece which will follow it. Here is a second movement from Bach's Concerto in the Italian style.
Like that portion of the second movement of Bach's Concerto in the Italian style Peter minims Konto has two recognisable sections but unlike the Bach they are not separated from each other by key but rather by difference in dynamics. The first ending with a tremendously powerful climax. The second beginning quietly. The Billy Bass aspect in the M. is a little less obvious than in the body but it is there. The lines are just as long but are not like improvisation and seem slower. The melodies are well executed for the piano but I have a cast to them of the vocal quality. This is one thing again which distinguishes Mr. Mynors music from others of his generation not only its melodic basis but the fact that the melodies are like those suited to the human voice. Here is comment from Peter mentions five piano pieces.
Konto And are you two months from Peter man and five piano pieces have been heard today as examples of one small area of the composer's style. They illustrate also that this contemporary composer has roots in the finest traditions of the past and writes music with the universality of appeal even if it is cast in a small form. It is not necessarily typical of the whole span of contemporary American music but it does exist as an illustration of what at least one young American composer in the world of today is doing is able to accomplish and gives promise of writing in the future. You have just heard music by Peter Menin. The first program in the series the composer in the world of today comment and illustrations on 20th century American music by an American composer conducting the series is Bernard Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famed composer. We cordially invite you to join us again next week at this same time for the next program in the
Series
Composer in the world of today
Episode
Music by Peter Mennin
Producing Organization
University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-5t3g2g2s
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-5t3g2g2s).
Description
Episode Description
This program looks at the music of 20th century American composer Peter Mennin and how it illustrates characteristics of contemporary music midway through the century.
Other Description
How the composer of today sees the contemporary world around him. Interviews, commentary and musical illustration provide a better picture of the modern composer. The series is hosted by Burrill Phillips, composer and professor of music at the University of Illinois.
Broadcast Date
1958-01-01
Topics
Music
Subjects
Piano music--20th century--Analysis, appreciation.
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:30:13
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Credits
Host: Phillips, Burrill
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Subject: Mennin, Peter
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-42-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; Music by Peter Mennin,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 6, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2g2s.
MLA: “Composer in the world of today; Music by Peter Mennin.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 6, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2g2s>.
APA: Composer in the world of today; Music by Peter Mennin. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-5t3g2g2s