Contemporary Music in Evolution; 16; 1940
I have now completed four decades of 20th century music on the Clinton logically continued surveying of contemporary music. We have so far witnessed since I started almost two years ago the first radical eruption in the world of harmony and rhythm and formal and structural principle and we saw how later a gentle kind of consolidation of the discovery took place. They come from a basin that often took the form of regression mostly under the guise of so-called neo classicism by the latter I don't mean just the brand of milk left of them but all the other versions of the same tendency to connect the recent path up with previous tradition. If you have followed my program consistently you have probably noticed that a considerable thinning out of quality took place during the latter come from a vacation period. Not only that except for the work of vagrant and no new or radical ideas presented themselves in the 20s
and 30s composers even bought up and abundantly or in one way or another and with varying degrees of success reworking revamping revitalising or trying to revitalize older Very often one thing an 18th century concept. Now in tackling the forty It is my particular view of the development of music during this time that the dearth of really important music masterpieces if you will continue and if anything increases until the late forties that is in the late 40s we will see and hear a kind of new beginning born to a large extent out of the development embodied innovative and that works and out of various experiments by composers like messing with lead and such relatively neglected figure that Harry Partch or Milton
Babbitt and still others. But I'm getting ahead of my story as I say these developments did not really come about until the last years of the 40s in the early 40s. The years of World War Two we have a great deal of composing. But in my opinion very little of great enduring quality compared. I think we must compare to maintain some basis for 300 compared with the math the pieces of an 18th century music and even such earlier 20th century works as the SACA Devinsky symphony of Psalms and so on. Let me rattle off a list of pieces composed in 1940 for example for the year we have now reached. You will perhaps agree with me when you hear these names and part of that while some of these pieces are competently written they are not works which are important and that a core innovation the landmarks Hindemith's violin and cello concerto of
the latter we heard last week on the violin concerto piano quintet Devinsky symphony and one of his most mannered formula ridden and academic exercises. Guiltily done of course. Procopius seventh Piano Sonata which because of its life the last movement has a kind of animal excitement and direct appeal but underneath it is really kind of crafting in an inspired me and you also have works like pits in the Second Symphony Walton's sculpting overture and below the top prelates. None of these as I say are pieces that added much to the luster of contemporary music or at least to its core with development that are not. There were two other pieces however composed in 1940 which I shall play. One of them by a very important work the other by and Copeland perhaps not so important piece but an
attractive pleasant moving and in a limited way I think of the successful people I am referring respectively to vegans. Variations for orchestra 30 and Copeland quiet sitting. Let's warm up with Copeland. He's the origin of this music goes back to 1939 when Harold Clurman director of the so-called Group Theatre asked Copeland to write some music for a new play by Irwin Shaw. The play was a realistic fantasy concerning and I'm now quoting Copeland. The night thoughts of many different kinds of people in a great city protagonist in this drama was a trumpet player and for the play Copeland wrote incidental music for trumpet saxophone clarinet and piano. The next summer in 1940 that is Mr. Copeland expanded the thematic material from the incidental music into an orchestral piece for trumpet with
horns and strings and it had become one of Copeland's most often performed works. In this piece Copeland had captured a kind of nostalgia. It is however not growing and sentimental. Although the recording by Howard from that I'm going to play unnecessarily injects some of the qualities into the work. Quiet critique of the work in which Copeland basically diatonic approach has been lean and simple melodic line and the Conoco techniques combined to create an atmospheric almost impressionistic piece of music but clothes as it were in a peculiarly suspended unresolved manner like the sound of a city in the quiet of the night. Who.
Why. Why why.
Why why. Why. Were. And Copeland quiet that he was played by the rockers The Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Howard and we turn now to the other 1940 work on this program. Raven variations for August. In previous programs I have discussed and analyzed to some extent they have in development and I've mentioned from time to time how this development took place very much in terms of a synthesis of canonical techniques with variation techniques and I have tried to show this fight the handicap of poor recorded performance of how these techniques released innovative and a new kind of live for them and dramatic expression. When discussing and playing the piano variations in string quartet and the symphony all of which embody variation techniques of course I am sure some of you must have been utterly confused by the fact that verb and variations are not variations on a theme in the conventional nineteenth century sense. In fact since in most they have been music there is
no theme in that conventional sense. How then can there be variations. You might well ask even friend Beggs orchestra variations were still predicated on the development and bearing of a theme. Well they have an orchestra variations are his ultimate achievement in the renewal of variational techniques and thus the work affords I think an excellent occasion to clarify this point in its simplest terms of Evan's approach could be stated as follows. Once composers through the evolution of the 12 tone method had eliminated the theme by substituting for it the tone row and its various versions and once this fact had been linked with the concept of perpetual non repetitive variation as a logical consequence of 12 tone procedure then it followed that the variation as a musical form could and should
do away with thematic variation and become serial variants. This obviously Crees the music from a constant specific reference to a specific musical idea while at the same time still adhering to the structural principles and challenges of variation procedures. In fact one can say that with this development the variational technique moved from the surface of the music to its inner structure instead of involving only or primarily melody variation now applied to the complete outward and internal structure of the material to be varied and to jump ahead again for a moment. You can see how inevitable it was that serialization would soon experiment to encompass all the elements of music. Rhythm duration even and so on. Indeed Ravens orchestra variations by virtue of the fact that the entire piece is in a
sense pre-determined by the initial four note phrase in the basses. If the original forerunner and prototype of today's preview term and or as it's sometimes called totally organized serial music. The point to remember is that this variation concept this new variation concept has given the composer simultaneously greater means of freedom and discipline both being linked irrevocably to the same musical material and both complementing each other in the ways that had never existed in just that way in music before. So when you listen to these variations don't listen for the gradual embellishment and variations that by step of a theme what you must listen for simply the three unfolding of an opening statement in this case the first phrase of four notes stated in the bases. What
happens after that is a continual metamorphosis of this initial musical idea through a musical technique such as augmentation diminution in version reversion or retrograde turning melody turning melodic ideas into harmonic ideas and so on. Every note in this piece is nothing more than the same initial musical idea heard in 100 different ways. Some of these ways are rather remote from conventional variational techniques as you might encounter in Beethoven for example. I don't think for example even an enlightened listener can be expected to hear on first or even on Tenth hearing that these stuck out chords in the brass. You are simply a vertical version of a transposition of the inversion of the first musical statement.
But then I don't think that the whole question of whether this variation approach was comprehensible from an aural point of view ever occurred to them. Nor do I think that the this issue has ever been faced up to by composers since then. Raven was clearly more interested in the working out of the manifold serial implications and relationships and was not at all concerned about how this particular aspect of his work would communicate artistically. He knew that this approach was artistically valid and logical. And the public would have to come to grips with it in its own way. In due time. But it is worth while dwelling on this question for a moment because it is a problem still with us today obviously. And one of the most burning questions of music in contemporary society knew from bitter experience that his music was not exactly on the hit parade in concert halls
many earlier works were at the time of writing other variations. Still unperformed in fact and so the fact of communicating or not communicating via this variation technique probably never entered Raven's mind. He had probably given up on that score by then. In fact they've been instinctively hope that his music would communicate on the basis of its relationship to past tradition and on the basis of its lyricism and expressive content. By that I mean that he was much too pragmatic a man with all his idealism to assume that ordinary concert goers would bother to analyze the intricate make or serial relationships of his composition in the case of the orchestra variations. We know for example that the variation process was not the only formal structural aspect of the work that interested begun over and above the variation form. They've been thought of this piece as an overtone in the so-called andante or I dodge
will form like Beethoven's Prometheus overture or the Brahms tragic overture and Babe and proudly pointed this out to his friends. Accordingly may have been thought of the opening material of the piece as the introduction of the overture. Then variation one represented the overtures main theme such as the variation to a transitional episode variation 3 a second theme. What the Germans called was Eichmanns that's variation for was do they have in mind a recapitulation of the overture as main theme. Someone developed various In fine a recapitulation of the introduction and the transitional episode and variations takes the coda. In other words we could state this form schematically as A B C D B C and D. The point is that each
variation corresponded to one formal link in the structural chain comprising this particular over to form. There is every reason to believe that vagrant expected whatever comprehension there would be of the piece to come on this level and by way of this broad formal outline. But I think it is safe to say that in the heat of inspiration they have been greatly overestimated the perceptive capacity of his audience. Within this large formal plan the overtures form everything breaks down into further levels of structural units. Thus forming ultimately a whole hierarchy of small to large structures beginning with the opening for note idea. So in so many variants of it form his opening theme like statement. This unit in turn undergoes a series of variance and these latter variants combined in turn form the total form of the piece so
that there are really three structural levels upon which the piece evolves simultaneously in the meantime babe and the other inexorable logic of his variation. Taking a logic which each of us can only fully appreciate after detail analysis. This logic was undoubtedly very own private justification for the work and his faith in it resided I'm sure in this unassailable logic. In other words Raven could afford not to worry about public or audience comprehension on this level since his own incredibly demanding criteria were satisfied namely every note was structurally justifiable that is its own that would be a monster ball at the same time the aural or auditory aspects of the work were also solved to his satisfaction. With that Rayburn could rest his case and let the world eventually catch up with him which is incidentally exactly what has been happening. Although admittedly very even still
isn't on the hit parade. There is one other point about these variations that intrigues me. I've tried to indicate that they have been like any great composer with concern to some extent with how his music affected his fellow man. At the same time of course remaining true to his own personal and artistic vision toward the end of his life I believe they've been became increasingly concerned over the brevity of most of his music. I have a private theory. Well it's actually just a hunch or a belief that they've been wanted in the worst way to write longer pieces like his friend I've been banned not only longer pieces but larger in format and scope and content. I think that the extreme condensation and limitation of his earlier works began to bother him and toward the end of his life he sought and found ways and means of expanding and freeing me of it. I referred to this last week when
talking about his opus 29 composite. This is further borne out by the fact that his later works did in fact become longer. Where earlier the average work except for the Opus One but the Count had a duration of about one to two minutes from his opus 20 string to the average duration is about five to six minutes with some works running as long as 10 or 11 minutes now in Batemans published cards fund and there are several letters to friends written for only after he had finished the orchestra variation regarding the duration of the work which he estimated at between 15 and 20 minutes. In fact however by a careful tabulation of the duration based not on performances I wouldn't have to rely on that but based on vagrant own metronome marking the piece is about 6 minutes long not 15 or 20. Now the intriguing question is how could a man who was so precise and meticulous
in his work miscalculate the duration of his work by so much. I think the answer is as I have suggested an overestimation with wishful thinking so strong in fact that it became a reality for him. All of which we may show that Rayburn was in certain ways a very simple and ordinary man about the Orks the variations up with 30. It might be well to point out once again what can be said about almost all of Aiblins late music namely that everything is honed down to the essential. There's no healing or passage heard and as a result every note is exposed and completely audible even more so than in a Mozart piece. For example the transparency in airiness in this school and its use of pauses and silence are in themselves a subject for an entire lecture. But I am reminded that this is not a lecture and we should now get to the music. And here I'm happy to report for a change that the Robert Craft performance
in Columbia is completely and that is quite good and it's probably the best performance in the entire set. It is still a little breathless and inflexible in its continuity. Kraft seems to have a built in aversion to written down those coming when they're called for. But on the whole it's a very creditable job. Ravens August event. Yes. Oh.
Oh. What. Why.
Oh you know. You just heard and performance of the orchestra variations over 30 bands on they have been in a performance conducted by Robert Kraft with an anonymous Los Angeles orchestra that wraps up the year in 1940 on this series and we plunge on to 1941. There were a number of interesting works written back here which would define the place on this program series if they were available in recorded form. Unfortunately works such as the piano concerto by Travis a concerto by the Argentinean composer one Carlos
quartet to the end of time and because those countries are all unavailable. What is left between what is usable and what is recorded is very little but the best I can offer is a rather successfully turned up piece about Bionic Symphony for strings considered one of the best composition. I like the dark brooding thing coloring of this work. It's alternation of dollars and moods with strongly written passages and in the finale the boisterous rugged widely skipping themes a little strained though they may be at times. I like the symphonies. I totally cringed chromaticism. I also enjoyed those moments in the corner movements where contrapuntal skill builds itself as in one of the climax of the first movement where a particular motive
which first appeared in the viola in the introduction is used simultaneously in three registers in three degrees of diminution in other words the same motive appears simultaneously in three different speeds. The second movement has a strange theme which seems a little forced and doesn't quite make it. And after a while without any development of the theme a certain monotony sets in for this monotony is broken by broken momentarily I should say by a wailing plaintive with a diva like phrase in the higher it is that of the bases this is a wonderful spots in free basses in that you might call it the viola register have a strange kind of intensity. On a good thing they also known as a second thing for me is now played by the bus and the orchestra conducted by someone who introduced the piece and eventually to this country. Right after the war.
You're. You're. You're.
Sure. I was.
I was. Her. Mom.
You heard a performance of the Second Symphony monk want to go to the symphony with spring played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the bank on Monday and that wraps up this computer program and I'll be back with more music from 1941 next week about the same time.
- Episode Number
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- Contemporary Music in Evolution is a radio program hosted by Gunther Schuller, which traces the evolution of Western classical music from 1899 to 1961. Each episode focuses on a specific year and chronicles some of the significant works, schools, and composers of the time. Schuller introduces several performance recordings in each episode, and gives commentary and analysis that also touch on previous episodes.
- Media type
Host: Schuller, Gunther
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-36-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 16; 1940,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kd1qm076.
- MLA: “Contemporary Music in Evolution; 16; 1940.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kd1qm076>.
- APA: Contemporary Music in Evolution; 16; 1940. 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-kd1qm076