Composer in the world of today; Meaning and pattern in music
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 another program in this series. The composer in the world today commented and illustrations on 20th century American music by an American composer conducting the series is Burnell full professor of music at the University of Illinois and an internationally acclaimed composer in the world of today is produced and recorded by W I L L the 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 meaning and pattern in music. Now the composer in the world today. And here is Bernard Philips. These two terms meaning and pattern will be used to pay to describe two
opposed concepts in the writing of music in the 20th century. There are perhaps many other word pairings that would serve somewhat the same purposes but the word meaning has come to be used so often in talking about certain aspects of music that it has almost the sanction of being an absolute. The same may be said of the word pattern. The other arcs contain the same dichotomy as does music although every art has a different proportion and even within one given art there are times when one term or the other will have preponderant application. It is the intention of the program of today's broadcast to discuss this economy as it applies to music of the present day in America. And to illustrate it by excerpts from works by two American composers. The word economy has been used. Maybe a better word would be dilemma because there is an essential dilemma in all art when the creator and art sets about his creative business. It happens when the creative process has to steer a course between the elements of communication
and the elements of form characteristic of that particular art in steering this course certain arts for instance architecture. Well be always closer to the coasts of form than can communication while others like poetry will more often than not stay on the other side and favor communication over form in music because the art is based upon highly abstract ideas in the Tiriel it is true that one would expect form to be the most usual aspect that the composer deals with. Perhaps this is what prompts such sayings as that baroque architecture is like frozen music. On the other hand it is even more often said about any given work of music that it communicates something that the composer knew what he had to say that this piece of music speaks to our emotions and so on giving the idea that even in such a highly abstract art as music is there is an element desired element of communication. As the word communication sounds a little crass like something happening over the telephone
let us use the word meaning. And as the Word form is vague let us use the word pattern. Then we can define these terms meaning and pattern and finally find out how the contemporary composer uses these elements. It has been said that any musical style which keeps the listener in mind is music that is psycho social and character. I would assume by this that any such music would thus contain a strong element of what we mean when we say the word meaning there are musical forms in which this is quite obvious. Most of these forms contain words such as a solo song choral compositions. The opera. There are others that communicate ideas through the medium of the dance but would that rule out all other wordless stage less form. We know from the past it would not because our experience has taught us that the symphony the string quartet the solo Sonata are all forms which are not pure abstractions. It merely indicates that some music may have specific meaning like that based upon words
and other music may have a general meaning being more abstract and being wordless. In the past this distinction was always present but never to such a dramatic degree as it is in this part of the 20th century. Recently there has arisen in this country a school of writing whose music writing music which uses what some of its proponents describe as total organization. This means that all elements of such music are tightly controlled by the composer at all times. It embraces a style based on the 12 tone row and embraces the music produced by electronic tape in which the various sounds become abstract and there is not even the human element of the performer lying somewhere between these points as a string quartet. Elliott Carter an American composer living in New York. This quartet is strong in the elements of pure pattern. First it is for the string quartet the most abstract sounding of any of the traditional instrumental groups.
Second it makes use of a total style remote from any traditional one although not purely derives from a post school and third it makes use of an invention by its composer called metrical modulation device or procedure whereby the old tyranny of the barline is abolished. This makes this music the very antithesis of March music or dance music. Its tempo its meter and its rhythm are all completely flexible and so plastic and unmeasurable as to make it sound like the audible representation of unpredictability a byproduct of this is that the absolute individuality of all four parts in the quartet can really be heard for perhaps the first time in the history of string quartet music. This is music which is an artifact like a statue or a building. It is not meant to be a communication but pure music of strongly patterned cast. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the string quartet by Elliott Carter played by the Walton quartet of the University of Illinois.
Did you think. Thanks. Nothing.
I am. In the air. You're. In
a. In a. In a. In. The at. The NIH. I am. Cold.
I am. The law. That was an excerpt from Elliot Carter's String Quartet played by the Walton quartet at the
University of Illinois. As could be heard it makes use of every available kind of abstract material. And he is an example of what has come to be called music of total organization. Every line every rest by color and range of every instrument are all rigidly controlled by the composer almost in the same way as steps in a complicated scientific experiment. As opposed to the style we will hear next part of the work by William Schumann American composer editor educator and at present head of the Juilliard School of Music in New York. The music was written for a ballet called undertow. As such it already classes itself as having meaning because the story of undertow can be told in words as well as in music. Other elements Mr. Schumann emphasizes are almost all diametrically opposed to those found in the Elliott Carter quartet. First the orchestra is now the medium perhaps one of the least abstract in music. Second the tonal style is at least a traditional 20th century American one with melodies that are vocal and along in a
line. And third there is no attempt to abstract abstract sounds from an art already abstract. The rhythms are those of the dance of human bodies in motion the sounds are arranged to emphasize drama. Something we are aware of even without knowing the specific story. When we hear this concert version here is a part of the beginning of William Schumann's undertow played by the Louisville Symphony Orchestra. You.
Know. What you mean. You're. You're. You're. It with.
Knew Whitney. Yes.
I am. That was part of William Schumann's undertow choreographic episodes performed by the Louisville
Symphony Orchestra out of the direction of the composer. It was used as an example of music which is not content to simply be but could perhaps be said to be music which does. Just what it is that it does is up to the judgment of each listener. Earlier we heard an extract from Elliott Carter string quartet. Which unlike undertow is really music it simply is like a statue or a building. The way each of these two Americans went about his creative task should give us some hint as to his musical profile and examining the dilemma of meaning and pattern. We should be able to know a little of what it is like to be a composer in the world of today. You have just heard meaning and pattern in music. Another program in the series the composer in the world of today 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 the composer in the world of today.
The composer in the world of today was produced and recorded by Kenneth Cutler. Music supervisor of the radio service of the University of Illinois under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the AB Radio Network.
- Meaning and pattern in music
- Producing Organization
- University of Illinois
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- Meaning and Pattern in Music
- Series 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
- Media type
Host: Phillips, Burrill
Performing Group: Lousivlle Orchestra
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-42-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; Meaning and pattern in music,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-7d2q9282.
- MLA: “Composer in the world of today; Meaning and pattern in music.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-7d2q9282>.
- APA: Composer in the world of today; Meaning and pattern in music. 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-500-7d2q9282