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November 24, 2005


Chip Beckett

When you write that Copland is cliched, I would argue that the problem is he wrote what is now cliches.

Reich? Actually his vocal work is quite good, you just have to listen to vocals differently than you might normally do. (I write as an ex-choral member).

Stravinsky and Schoenberg? You can yawn as much as you want, but they beat the punch on most of what you write about.

Personally, I like Nancarrow's player piano. It asks questions we have no answer for.

I have a lot of agreements and some arguments with your list, but thanks for posting it.

Oh, by the way, Ashley and Duckworth and Tyranny?

M Keiser

Stravinsky- yawn?!?! can you possibly yawn at the Rite of Spring? or his symphony in 3 movements? I am shocked and know not what to say.

Robert Gable

Ok, some followup comments:

I agree Copland's music was not cliche when he wrote it but through influence and over-exposure, it has become that.

I'm not a singer but except for Different Trains, Reich's vocal and choral music just doesn't do much for me. Particularly disappointed in the Three Tales.

Ashley, Duckworth, and Blue "Gene" Tierney: Liked what I've heard but haven't heard enough to be able to over-generalize.

It occurs to me that ****** ***** could be interpreted as Robert Ashley. That's not who I was thinking about.

Schoenberg I am still willing to give a chance. As time permits, I hope to listen to more of what he wrote in the US.

In Stravinsky's case, I heard Rite etc. early on and liked it but I spent a fair amount of time broadening my exposure to his music, both with CDs and with the San Francisco Symphony and while I acknowledge the talent and likely enduring nature of his music, it's just not for me. I'm not a complete heathen; I like Bach and earlier composers but there something about Stravinsky's neo-classicism that misses for me.

Just to do a quick spot check, my favorite interpreter of Copland is Bill Frisell. So to see if maybe an oddball performance might add zest to it, I'm listening right now to Alice Coltrane playing something from Rite of Spring. Nope, nothing. Ok, I do like Joan Tower's Petroushkates even if not the original Petroushka.

M Keiser

well, just remember, Stravinsky is America's greatest composer.

Robert Gable

Ouch, that hurts :-)

richard friedman

These kinds of lists are so useless. Except that they are provocative. Usually, all they do is outline the writer's own ignorance. But to condemn the entire output of an artist in three or four words is really lame.

I abhor these lists myself. If I were to do a list, it probably would consist of two entries:

Tchaikovsky - Sucks
Meridth Monk - Leaves the room screaming.

The rest is negotiable.

M. Keiser

Well, im just so glad that you're completely above that kind of thing, mr. friedman.

richard friedman

Above? Nah.

Come back next week and right another list. Don't peek at last week's. Bet it's a different list each time.

But except for Peter Illych's songs and piano music, I have never been able to sit thru his symphonies, except maybe the "Little Russian" (is that #2?). Too much pork for my taste.
Oh, maybe Souvenir of Florence. See, I'm softening my position already....

Still, not worth a mention.


I like some Stravinski a lot: Petroushka and Firebird especially. But I think Rite was really a publicity stunt more than anything else. I just don't personally see what all the fuss is about.

As far as his neo-classical stuff, the Variations on Vom Himmel Hoch are absolutely stunning. Have you heard that? It's hard for me to imagine anyone not liking it.

richard friedman

Le Sacre: Study the score. Then you'll find out what all the fuss is about. An absolute masterpiece of orchestration and overall design. Then, compare it with all the music being written at that time (1909-1911). He made a gigantic leap forward, and it seems to have come straight out of thin air. Afterall, Stravinsky was a great magician (I mean, musician.)

Chip Beckett

A few final thoughts, then I'll check out. I enjoyed the list. Yes, lists are problematic, but with the right level of unseriousness, they can be a lot of fun. I hope my earlier comments were taken in that vein.

I'll argue for my composers (Ashley, Duckworth, and Tyranny) as much as anybody wants to, as long as it's over beers. And I'll be serious and frivolous at the same time.

Stravinski? It's there. He really was that good. Yes Petrouschka was good, as were the others mentioned, as well as the Symphony in Three Movements and the Symphony of Psalms. And my favorite (when conducted by Stravinski) Agon.

Reich and vocal music. "Proverb" is an excellent piece of music, and an excellent piece of choral music. Ditto "Tehellim," though not as much. Your experience may vary.

Have fun all, and good night.


Stravinsky adored Tchaikovsky, and rightly so.

The Rite of Spring's notoriety has everything to do with Nijinsky pretending to jerk off onstage and very little to do with the music itself, which is one of the most perfectly written pieces in history.

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