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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 the series. The composer in the world of today. Commented 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 famous composer the 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 a symphony of premonition and reminiscing. Now the composer in the world of today.
And here is Beryl Phillips. Mr. Henry Powell one of that generation of American composers slightly older than this century was once known as the bad boy of American music. Here industry now in a variety of ways. Chief among which was an irreverent attitude toward the entrenched and the fossilised. He did not believe for instance that musical material will forever and of moral law be confined to the triad the seventh chord and to meters contained within time signatures like 4 4 6 8. He was an iconoclast in regard to matters of tonal color and at one time became known as the man who played the piano with his elbows. Because of his use of what he called tone clusters it is true he had not invented this term or the sound it had been given previously used by that great precursor of contemporary American music. Charles Ives. But Henry Cow made more of it and went on to other innovations. He was an is a man of the most active and productive imagination. You know Ed. He
more than most of his contemporaries have been a passionate and practical partisan for the American composer as an artist. In a world of often neglected or ignored the native Col has been associated with all of the movements or organizations or institutions that have fostered American music since the beginning of his own career and has been a moving force of respectable magnitude in the advancement of new music of all kinds. It is therefore a matter of no little astonishment to those whose knowledge of this kind of composer may not be complete. To realize that an admission to his rebellious and intractable past cow has a most imposing present and an assured future. He is a composer who as I say has written in all media. It would not be surprising then to find that he has composed symphonies but to know that he has completed the 11 of them is worth at least some mild amazement. It is our pleasure to talk about and hear his 11th symphony today. Knowing what Henry Cow is like as a composer we may be sure that what he writes and how it sounds in a symphony will be different than in many another
work in this ancient and honorable form. Most symphonies even modern ones have a tendency to be conscious of at least a little self importance. It is felt by many composers that this is the ultimate musical form and have a certain reverence as do it anyone who has attempted to write a symphony knows that there are probably more pitfalls to avoid in the symphony then any other kind of music with the possible exception of opera. These are not necessarily technical problems but are often aesthetic or psychological. This is not to say that the symphony is a narrow class of music which as immutable laws. On the contrary as a form the symphony is as wide as all outdoors and therein lies the trouble. All musical creation has a large element of forceful selection not only of material but a viewpoint on the part of the composer. If he can through his music convince the listener that his viewpoint is a good one then half the battle is won. But this primary selection of viewpoint is not easy to carry out. In the case of Henry
call's the eleventh Symphony the viewpoint selected is an engaging one to begin with. How has always been an eclectic composer and in this work his eclecticism helps create the viewpoint or starting point might be a better word. Here it takes the form of fusing two OP posed elements. The abstract and the pictorial. The symphony is traditionally the most abstract of orchestral forms. They told the Pastoral Symphony to the contrary notwithstanding and it has not been often that a real symphony emerges when there is a strong element of the pictorial couched in abstract terms in Cowes the eleventh Symphony the abstract element can be sensed in the handling of form and material. The pictorial of the stated boldly in the subtitle The composer gives the work. This is seven rituals of music. These rituals are the ritual of birth and work. Love the dance the ritual of magic the ritual of war and the ritual of death.
As can be seen These are really generalizations but used in connection with the abstractions of musical form. They loom up in their specific ways how to conciliate the abstract with a specific was Cal's problem and I think you will agree upon hearing the work of the conciliation successful. The first thing that comes to mind in discussing this work is the way in which seven different musical forms are connected related and contrast it in the matter of connection. Col introduces a short pause between each of the first four movements in the traditional symphonic style. The last three movements are more or less continuous. In the matter of contrast the movements are further set off from each other even when connected by differences of tempo. Again a traditionally symphonic technique. This difference of tempo is easily heard and it is a simple alternation of slow and fast successively throughout the seven parts of the work. In the matter of the relations between the parts cowl has indicated that there are premonitions and reminiscences which quite accurately describes a procedure any composer will use in
writing a symphony. The material of this work is simple being based on the lovely singing melody at the beginning of the first movement or ritual of birth. And upon the percussive motives in the second ritual and upon the material heard in the last movement the ritual of death the premonitions and reminiscences merely indicate the order of presentation and development in which these ideas have been arranged by the composer. Although the instrumentation of the symphony is not out of the ordinary for such a work there are some unusual sounds produced which we call a Henry column A generation ago. Such are those of the percussion the second movement and the mysterious sounds produced by string glissando and higher harmonics in the fifth movement. Also notice the occasional eclectic reference to the styles of Stravinsky's Firebird and George Gershwin's show music in extra and inexplicably combined in a second and sixth movements as well as a wonderfully amusing reference to Aaron Copeland's Al Salmi Co. In the fourth movement. Here played by the Louisville
Orchestra conducted by Robert Whitney. Here's Henry call's 11th symphony subtitled seven rituals of music a. A. Lawyer. I hate. Em. Eh eh. Eh. Eh eh.
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Composer in the world of today
Symphony of premonition and reminiscence
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, "A Symphony of Premonition and Reminiscence," focuses on the work of Henry Cowell.
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
Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965. Symphonies, no. 11
Media type
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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: 58-42-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:45
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Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; Symphony of premonition and reminiscence,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
MLA: “Composer in the world of today; Symphony of premonition and reminiscence.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Composer in the world of today; Symphony of premonition and reminiscence. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from