Friday 7 December 2007

Stockhausen RIP

Karlheinz is no more.

One of my finals essays was, 'Melody in Boulez and Stockhausen.' I wrote on why integral serialism destroys everything we expect a melody to do and yes a sense of expectation is there in most music. All that octave shifting does make it hard to whistle, never mind the stuff with the dynamics. Makes early Webern sound positively Impressionist.

One of the essay titles I could have written during the course, (Western Art Music Post-1900 - known as late late, for you had to do pre-1540 or 1540-1700 and 1800-1910 or 1900-present. I did early early and late late, being an extreme kinda musician. Believe me, when Palestrina sounds modern, you know your perspective has been shifted, but I digress as usual, I need footnotes clearly,) was, 'Karlheinz, you cannot be Sirius.' Apparently, he believed that he came from the aforementioned planet.

Anyway, something I quite liked doing was reading the biographical bits about composers ( in this case it put off the moment when you had to listen to the stuff and get into the tone rows...)Stockhausen's Mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the 1930s probably suffering from post-natal depression and was killed as part of the 'let's get rid of ill/disabled/old...people' policies of the time. Stockhausen was quite young at the end of the war (16?) and ended up working as a hospital orderly with very gravely injured soldiers. No wonder he wanted to come from another planet and his music was a little challenging... Also probably explains why he was all into electronic stuff and sine waves. All really pure, take nasty people out of music, lots of rigorous patterns, nothing down to chance, all predetermined. Trouble is if you do the intellectual bit first, you don't usually end up with good music. My school music teacher described spending a day as a student listening to his stuff and said he felt like throwing himself under a bus on the way home, so one to avoid if you are feeling delicate.

Interestingly, both Boulez and Stockhausen were taught by Messiaen who managed to write works of superabundant crazy happiness. We had Turangalila (1947?) blaring out this pm, because we might be taking the boys to hear it. Who was the Catholic? - Messiaen. Which modern composers write tunes and sound like they mean what they write? Gorecki, Part, MacMillan. Pattern?

People did seem to spend lots of time really getting sensitive to melody in the past. It was prized. On one of my many unpublished rants on liturgical music, for I keep not putting things up, I went on about how when people write hymns with words that do not follow a particular metrical pattern, the poor punter trying to sing has an element of uncertainty injected into the proceedings. (Don't even mention the pitches of the melody, nor the dismal harmony.)I noticed the difference reading the English translation of some Latin in my new Old Missal. It makes the sentiments have a feeling of strength, order, completeness, clarity, which is a good thing. Unless of course you want to communicate complexity, doubt, ambivalence etc.

Parting questions. How many Gs are there in last line of ,'Make me a channel of your peace.'

Does 'In bread we bring you Lord,' finish on an F or a C? Tonic or Dominant?

How many verses of 'On Eagles Wings' have an anacrusis? Why is it hard to come in on a C# against a G major triad? Aren't Augmented 4ths a bit dodgy? Didn't those clever monks 'invent' Bb to avoid the dreaded tritone?

No prizes alas.


Anonymous said...

i'm afraid i'm musically illiterate but enjoy the Oratory choir just the same..

Mulier Fortis said...

Heheheh... Leutgeb, you've been tagged!

leutgeb said...

Jackie, I say listen to what you want and be happy. I just have the vocab to explain why things annoy me. I don't have an English degree and read novels...

Mac, not again dear and this one covers every aspect of seasonal celebrations....

What about brandy butter, cream, custard hot/cold on the Xmas pudding? Sometimes all four in my family.