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The composer in the world of today. The School of Music and the radio service of the University of Illinois invites you to listen to another 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 Beryl Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famed composer the composer in the world of today is produced and recorded by WRAL. The University of Illinois radio service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasts. Today Mr. Phillips will discuss the paradox of strict limitations. Now the composer in the world of today and here is Beryl Phillips.
Throughout the long history of music composers have probably created their works under almost every conceivable situation. Some of these circumstances have been favorable and good many have been adverse and bad. One needs only to think of the pressing poverty of Mozart how the general lack of security and the OBX security of Beethoven's deafness. To realize however that the creative spirit and creative vitality when present in men of genius are not necessarily choked to death in adversity. It is equally true that favorable surroundings comfortable circumstances and public attention do not assure a composer that he will write immortal music. Indeed it is more often the case that a wealthy and idolized composer succeeds in writing lasting works only in spite of a comfortable life. Adversity or Felicity unequally distributed as they are among all members of the human race are extra limitations that composers of every age have to live with. But there is
another kind of self-imposed limitation that seems to be especially typical of 20th century composers. It does not operate from outside but from within and willfully as Igor Stravinsky has written in his book on the poetics of music. It is very often limitations which stimulate the creative imagination not her freedom. He was not the first to say this and I hasten to correct the possible impression that it is a present a composer only who has experienced the effects of limitation limitation of a kind has always existed in the writing of music. But the point to be made here is that strict and self-imposed limitation seems to be very evident in the procedure of the composer of today and not so noticeable in other and earlier times. What might be called a natural imitation that operates every time a composer so much as puts a note on manuscript paper is a limitation imposed by the particular medium in which he intends to write a string quartet will have very different potentialities of development
and form than will a symphony for orchestra. This arises out of the obviously smaller combination of instruments in the quartet with smaller resources produced by the four instruments. It means that the dynamic range of the quartet will be narrower than that of the symphony and this in turn makes it necessary to perform the work in a smaller room in the orchestra hall which in the natural course of events means that the audience will be smaller. This smaller audience will have different loyalties and will react to music of a different kind than that of the symphony which means the composer can go a good deal farther in packing his work within the intellectuality than he could successfully do with the orchestra. Besides this kind of natural limitation of size there is also the limitation of form and limitation of purpose that is whether the music has to be abstract for the concert or recital hall or dramatic for the stage. There is a limitation which operates subconsciously all the time for the composer and that is a limitation imposed on him almost the demand imposed on him. To be truly of his own time
this will just as surely limit what he can do and what his music can say as any other and more technical imitation. The paradox of limitation consists in the fact that limitation does not hamper the composer. It stimulates him and if he is lucky and gifted it intensifies his musical language and clarifies what he has to say. The 20th century composers have added to the list of limitations in a variety of ways. Perhaps one of the most significant ways a contemporary composer limits Himself is in his choice of a tonal system chosen consciously by him to do a specific thing in his music. This is a present day phenomenon and is not to be found in the past as all previous tonal systems were the result of long and gradual evolution and not in general changed much by each generation of composers. Whether or not we agree that this purposeful selection of a tunnel system produces great music the fact that it is one of universal procedures today is significant. It has resulted in the choice on the part
of a sizeable segment of today's composers of the so-called 12 tone system. This is a way of writing music in which the 12 tones that make up our modern musical scale are pre arranged in a pattern which then through the composition acts as a kind of dominating theme or subject or idea. Or the composer may go to the other extreme and use a tonality based on only a very few notes. Maybe not more than two or three. There are composers today who sometimes select a limitation which uses only the unusual colors which instruments can produce. Not the normal ones. And there is a limitation based on exclusive use of certain rhythmic systems. Sometimes a composer will use all these self imposed choices. Sometimes he will stick to only one but whether multiple or single. The sense of power and vitality of a voluntary limitation gives the composer is a very real thing. The music that we will hear today exemplifies in a marked degree what can be accomplished when limitations are
self-imposed. It is written by a young man in his 20s who has had experience both as a composer and performer. His name is George and Rick's and he is a native of the Midwest. The music is for violin and viola and is expressed in quite unconventional forms being a series of unconnected pieces and all very short. The most important thing to say at this juncture is that although none of the pieces over one page long. They are not sketches but complete and definitive. This kind of musical composition is extremely difficult to bring off successfully. But I am sure you will agree Mr. Hendricks has done it. To illustrate the limitations Mr. Anderson as a composer impose on himself in the composition of these duels for violin and viola the first of the series is one based on a symmetrically form scale consisting of alternate whole and half steps. This produces an eight tone scale of a kind quite different than major or minor. Notice the country fiddlers sound. It comes about because of the speed of the movement and the nature of the
figure used as background and accompaniment. The second piece a quiet one makes use of a device whereby each of the two instruments play an opposed keys. Because these keys are intervallic leap distant from each other there is no sharp dissonance. The third piece again a fast one is perhaps the most strictly limited piece of the whole set but limited in a way that Henry Pursell made famous at the end of the 17th century. This is music based on one note personal called Here's a fantasy on one note and wrote it for Viles one of which had no other music from the one note throughout the piece in Mr. Anderson's music. The viola no matter what else it plays always plays the note G. The violin most of the time also has its repeated note D but is not as strictly treated as a viola. Here are the first three of a set of violin and viola by George and Ricks performed by Peggy and Rick's violin
and with the viola part played by the composer.
The limitations the composer set himself in the next two pieces are quite self evident as they are color limitations. The first of the two was a clever and mercifully brief piece of music played entirely in glissando the second of this group has played with mutes and the cello or with crossing the strings of the bridge with a resultant tone of sounds and glassy and hard. This is common in string music but not usually with the smooth phrasing Mr index gives it. I.
Love. You.
Next comes a group of three pieces which I am like all the others of the set. They're individual and strict limitations. The first has a limitation of probably the most ancient kind. It is a straightforward Canon a type of composition exactly like popular rounds such as three blind mice or from a job. The second of the three is built entirely with 12 tones and the others which are first announced by the alone. This rhapsodic little piece has only twelve measures but within that narrow frame there are four different treatments of the twelve tone pattern parcel out in separate ways between the two instruments. The third piece of this group is another form based on the limitation of color tones are plucked. In this Mr. and Rick's has had eminent forebears but not many with as much flexibility as there is here.
The next group of three pieces confines itself to three different kinds of limitation. The first piece uses only intervals which are usually considered dissonant seconds. Seventh and ninth here they are not dissonant to the speed of performance. The sinew is line of the melodies and the distance apart the two instruments are placed. The second of the group is based entirely on half step movement melodically of what is called chromaticism. While a third of the group of three has a three voice which somehow played on only two instruments convinces the listener that there are three instruments.
The next two pieces are built on a common pattern of the 12 tones. The first of these makes use of a great variety of tonal color while a second although played puts a kind of throughout is based on the contrast between loud and soft. Oh.
The last group of three pieces for violin and viola by George and Rex uses the same tone row as the two we have just heard all of each in a new way. The first of this group is a kind of piece in which the listener is invited to follow the adventures of a little 4 not figure which the viola plays at the very beginning. It might be said that these adventures turn out to be quite intriguing. The second piece in this last group of three treats does not material in a completely consonant way which lends an unusually pecan flavor to the music. The last piece of the sept using the same tone row that the previous four have used is a highly original flight a rhythmic fancy that waves a figurative farewell in a musical gesture completely typical of the composer. Here are the last three pieces of a set of 16 duos for violin and viola. By George and Rick's.
I. Know who. You are. Where who. Are you. Laning.
From a man born in the womb. LANE.
We have heard today 16 duels for violin and viola by George and Briggs played by petty Andrex violin and George and Ricks Viola. Each piece in the set was based on an idea differing from all the others and the limitations the composer impose on himself characterize some of the important ways in which the composer works in the world today. You have just heard the paradox of strict limitation. Another programme in the series the composer in the world of today conducting the series is Bernard Philips a professor of music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famed composer. 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
Composer in the world of today
Paradox of strict limitation
Producing Organization
University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, "Paradox of Strict Limitation," discusses the virtues of self-imposed limitation in modern composition.
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.
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Host: Phillips, Burrill
Performer: Andricks, Peggy
Performer: Andricks, George
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-42-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:40
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Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; Paradox of strict limitation,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 19, 2022,
MLA: “Composer in the world of today; Paradox of strict limitation.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 19, 2022. <>.
APA: Composer in the world of today; Paradox of strict limitation. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from