Although both were American immigrants who ultimately lived in California, I seem to have made the arbitrary editorial decision to have aworks cover all the music of Igor Stravinsky and none of Arnold Schoenberg. I can rationalize and say at least Stravinsky's output was influenced by American life and Schoenberg's wasn't although to be honest, I don't actually know if that is true. I did make a list last year of everything Schoenberg composed after arriving; it was longer than I expected but having heard little of it, I can't say to what extent it reflects his American experience.
This gives me an arbitrary opportunity. I have some core beliefs I would like to articulate, challenge, refine, refute etc. Although the premise of aworks is to treat each piece on its own terms and not make over-generalized and useless personal declarations about the overall results of a composer, it's also fun to make over-generalized and useless personal declarations about the overall results of a composer. (I've mentioned a couple of these before. And I have some ideas on how to atone for this overall post).
Ok, here's my list of 10 current aworks beliefs:
- Igor Stravinsky has written no music I actually like but since he was and will continue to be relevant to American cultural life, it all merits listening.
- Arnold Schoenberg has written no music I actually like but I'll leave the listening to someone else so they can judge its relevance and merit.
- I never expect to like the music of Elliott Carter but sometimes I do.
- Steve Reich can't write for orchestra.
- Morton Feldman can't write for orchestra.
- Philip Glass is not a bad person for being so prolific.
- Terry Riley's keyboard music is not interesting when played on conventional piano.
- Terry Riley's voice is interesting albeit unconventional to American ears.
- Frank Zappa's music is interesting albeit crude because it sits is at the intersection of two different and key musical spectrums:
- classical/elitist/sophisticated/enduring versus popular/middle class/vivid/ephemeral
- notated versus improvised
To reel this conversation back to grounded reality, via The Rambler, Natural Harmonics describes how Stravinsky was "slumming" in his Ragtime for 11 Instruments (written while the composer was still in Europe):
Ragtime was a flourishing, elegant style bursting with rhythmic energy, but Stravinsky strips it down into a wheezy, ricky-tick joke- crass and dry, crudely syncopated, all elbows-and-knees.
partial list of composers with a star on the hollywood walk of fame : anderson armstrong basie berlin bernstein brubeck davis ellington george & ira
gould mancini monk schifrin sousa spears stravinsky
partial list of composers not yet honored: adams cage feldman glass reich riley schoenberg williams zappa