Tuesday, October 11, 2005

John Adams Dances

I am currently tuned to Adams' The Chairman Dances.
If this music doesn’t make you want to dance, I don’t know what will. The irregular accents complemented with a very steady and danceable beat- A classical version of techno music. But can you picture a classical music audience dancing? they didn’t seem afraid of it in Holst's time when spirited dancing broke out during a performance of Jupiter.

no no, we're far too dignified to dance.

Adams overrated? I have heard some mumble these words, but I see no truth in it. What's overrated are super-icons like Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Madonna and, gasp, the Beatles. In fact, practically by definition, popular music is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Beatles just fine, but they sound like shit when compared to the likes of Beethoven and Bach, or, for that matter, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

Adams, Phillip Glass and Reich may be pomo superstars, but they are barely known outside of the classical music world. This begs a question to Adam's critics- how could he be truly overrated in this world when people like Paris Hilton are famous? He's far more worthy of fame and a handsome income than most anyone else who's ever achieved musical popularity. He may not be the greatest composer in America, but just be happy that a contemporary composer has actually achieved a degree of public recognition.

And what’s this crazy business about putting “an” before a word like “handsome“? that’s crap. Its a consonant, not a vowel, no matter how British your h’s may be.

13 comments:

Bryant Manning said...

Keiser said: "Don’t get me wrong, I like the Beatles just fine, but they sound like shit when compared to the likes of Beethoven and Bach, or, for that matter, Prokofiev and Stravinsky."

sounds like shit? wow. where is your point of comparison? "If I fell" sounds nothing like a violin partita and vice versa. And I don't think the Beatles were hoping to emulate their classical forefathers -- instead, they did their own thing. "If I Fell" opens up new worlds Beethoven couldn't even dream of, nor was he capable of producing.

this attitude by classical fans makes me want to hang out with the pop fans. seriously.

Andrew Yen said...

I'll have to agree with Bryant on this one. I too enjoy classical music both old and new and hold it to very high esteem. However, I think it is of a different sort of music than pop music or jazz or something that more people listen to.

So, like Bryant, modern non-classical musicians, singers, and artists are not trying to create a form meant for the sort of critical review most art music demands, though some pop/rock/etc. artists have taken their work to a different level, which is another story.

Music in general comes in many different mannerisms. For example, Richard Strauss' setting of "Zueignung" may be the premier of Romantic love songs, but The Beatles' "Something" is also a love song of that sort of calibre, but they can't be directly compared to each other. Both have to be considered in their own terms and framework.

And as for "The Chairman Dances", they sound danceable I suppose, the description of the piece supplied by Adams is sufficient for me to visualize how it is so, but to term it a foxtrot seems odd. It sounds more like a lazy tango to me.

If you're looking for something in the classical world that is more blatantly techno, try the one-hit wonder Todd Levin and his works "Blur" and "Everyday" which can be found in the DG label.

Bryant Manning said...

Imagine how poor this world would be without the different kinds of aesthetics each music provides.

M. Keiser said...

man, i wish i didn’t have to leave in 20 minutes so i could give you an accurate picture of my criteria for judging the Beatles or Beethoven against or apart from eachother.

You're right when you say "Imagine how poor this world would be without the different kinds of aesthetics each music provides" it would be very poor, but just because you're genre is rock and roll doesn’t give you a carte blanche to make dull music.

And all this discussion has to start with a basis in Aesthetics. If i value an intelligent design (ha!) in music, if i value something that is produced with an intent of expression and intended as an art, then you can see where rock music begins to falter.

Aesthetics is all about values, right? (really, its just a set of values) so if i place the highest value on intelligence in art, that is, a degree of thought put in and put out by a work, then there is no choice for me but to value the music of Beethoven and Bach, or Stravinsky and Prokofiev.

The Beatles are cool, definitely, but they're lack of technical understanding limited them- and it shows. Not that technical understanding is completely necessary to produce something great, but its like writing poetry with a very limited vocabulary- the chance of writing something great is slim.

Songs like Eleanor Rigby and A day in the Life, as wonderful as they are, were in collaborations with more technically skilled musicians. John Lennon admitted this, he said something to the effect of "People think we know what we're doing, we dont". Unfortunately it shows.

Im not judging the Beatles on the fact that they played guitars and drums instead of violins and pianos, THAT doesn’t matter, but what does is something deeper than an instrument- harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic invention. A power chord is the same damn thing on a piano as it is on a electric guitar, doesn’t matter. If Beethoven couldn’t of dreamed up of rock music its only because he couldn’t dream up the instruments its played on, not the harmony or rhythms -those was certainly familiar with him.

I wouldn’t ask the Beatles to emulate anyone, and i'd be disappointed if they did, but a little intellectual stimulation from time to time would really be worth something. I love yellow submarine and i sing along with it, but its all pretty much flat in that department. Its a lot of chanting and its fun, but musically it lacks substance.

Its not that that i de-value popular music to the point of dismissing it, either.

I've really got to get ready for class... But i will certainly add more when i find the time.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. I should probably get around to posting something on my view of Aesthetics one of these days... if it doesnt bore everyone to hell.

bryant manning said...

"I love yellow submarine and i sing along with it, but its all pretty much flat in that department. Its a lot of chanting and its fun, but musically it lacks substance."

there are over 200 Beatle songs and you pick the one that was intended to be a child's song? c'mon man.

my personal opinion would say "happiness is a warm gun" is more musically interesting than a handful of bagatelles. and you can quote me.

PWS said...

You can't compare pop music and classical music very much. It simply does not work. It's like comparing cartoon animation and oil portraiture.

Just because there is more substance, content, meaning and work in classical music doesn't mean pop music isn't wonderful.

If you still want to compare apples and oranges, some of the Beatles arrangements are absolutely amazing. And melodically-they are equals of many great classical composers

M. Keiser said...

i love the way Happiness is a warm gun starts, but i think it goes downhill towards the end. Its beginning may in fact be much more interesting than many pieces of classical music. Telemann, for example, is a the most un-interesting of composers, and i value the beatles far higher.

I didnt know Yellow submarine was for children, but it makes sense. total sense.

But i hope my response makes sense. It'd be easy to classify me as one of those snobbish classical musicians/music lover, but dont, i like the doors as much as Brahms and i like the beatles equally much, and Radiohead and Bjork.

"You can't compare pop music and classical music very much."
Agreed. You cant compare them , very much, but you can still compare them. If you couldn’t... well, it'd fall into a sort of nihilism that i will address some other time.

"It simply does not work. It's like comparing cartoon animation and oil portraiture."

I like the analogy. Personally i do think cartoons are underrated in the art world, but then again, art is underrated.

"Just because there is more substance, content, meaning and work in classical music doesn't mean pop music isn't wonderful."

Agreed, and like i said earlier, we all need music to sing to every now and again, and i think popular music serves an important function. More important i think classical musicians can and should learn from popular music, instead of ignoring it.

"If you still want to compare apples and oranges, some of the Beatles arrangements are absolutely amazing. And melodically-they are equals of many great classical composers"

Music is music is music. Its all got its points its all gots its aims and goals and it always expresses something. All i do is allow the values to speak for themselves and judge them on that.

bryant manning said...

"Music is music is music. Its all got its points its all gots its aims and goals and it always expresses something. All i do is allow the values to speak for themselves and judge them on that."

Okay, you seem to admire the Beatles yet you said they "sound like shit?" Your objectivity in recent posts makes this confusing for me. with the infinite variety of sounds the beatles were capable of making, that statement seems a bit immature.

i personally think the doors sound like shit all the time, and you need not even compare them to beethoven or bach :) again, you can quote me on that one.

(i say this all in good fun keiser, no need to get offended -- not intended to be)

patty said...

Heh ... I just have to laugh a bit when someone brings up the Beatles and wants to compare them to a classical composer or to "classical" music in general. I like both. They are different. They appeal to me. I don't care why or how most of the time. I'll cry with a Beatles tune. I'll cry with Beethoven. I'll dance with either as well (but only when no one is looking). I've been in this biz so long, and the comparison thing ... well ... it does just get old to us old folk. :-)

I "do" music. Many different kinds, although, of course, there is rarely a need for oboe with rock/pop. (I've played for Moody Blues, Rod Stewart and someone else who is slipping my mind. So I have, though ever so rarely, witnessed that pop thing going on.) Maybe I just don't feel the need to diss most types ... even when something doesn't appeal to me. Maybe it's my age. Or maybe it's my personality. And maybe, too, it's my desire to be accepting, hoping that those who say they "hate classical junk" might learn, as well, to accept it eventually. Putting out the "your music sucks" just alienates.

Just tossing this out ... not arguing but tossing ... you can toss what I say out too! ;-)

But about that "an & h" problem. I don't want it before ALL h-words. But I like it before "historical" when I say "an historical event." So go figure. I certainly wouldn't say "an hippie" ....

M. Keiser said...
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M. Keiser said...

"Okay, you seem to admire the Beatles yet you said they "sound like shit?" Your objectivity in recent posts makes this confusing for me. with the infinite variety of sounds the beatles were capable of making, that statement seems a bit immature."

Ha! you'll never figure me out! no, im kidding. The "sounds like shit" was hyperbole (tha was clear, right) and in a comparison- they sound like shit... that is compared to Beethoven and Bach. Then again, so does Telemann, or Marcello, but that isnt to say they sound like crap on there own, they're fine, but next to those guys, they’re put to shame.

"i personally think the doors sound like shit all the time, and you need not even compare them to Beethoven or bach :) again, you can quote me on that one. "

I like the doors because a) i like the blues done well (ie. people are strange ), and B) i like the association they have with drugged-out 70s music (same with Leonard skynyrds “freebird“) . Its not purely about the music, though they're better than most. I also have existentialist sympathies, and believe it or not, they include a lot of existentialist imagery into their lyrics.

I do try destroy any association attached to music so i can pass a more valid judgment of music- but the doors, they're the doors. I grew up with them and they're really not bad. The crystal ship is actually quite beautiful, at least they understood chord progressions and had a degree of understanding of tonality instead of just incompetent modality (there are minor seconds and chromatic shifts in the Whiskey Song as well as an array of minor chords ).

Anyway…

“(i say this all in good fun keiser, no need to get offended -- not intended to be) “

No worries. im not easily offended and it takes a lot of ad-homs for me to get upset, though I must say the phrase “this attitude by classical fans makes me want to hang out with the pop fans. Seriously.” was sort of a bummer. I hope I don’t offend you to that point…. And after all, I could be playing devil’s advocate. J

Patty- that’s awesome. Moody blues? Wow. They’re my dad’s favorite band. Nights in white satin is a good song.

I agree that saying “your music sucks“ alienates, so I usually hold my tougue, but sometimes I cant help it. Its not like I don’t back up my statement with evidence and criticism.

My professors usually said “an historical” but I wouldn’t write it in a paper, and it seems clumsy in the mouth, but then again, im clumsy in general.

As a side note, im currently listening to freebird. I makes me want to learn the guitar.

patty said...

"Patty- that’s awesome. Moody blues? Wow. They’re my dad’s favorite band. Nights in white satin is a good song."

Listening to the MBs is much better than playing the stuff, to be honest. And the audience was so loud I'm not sure what they heard out there. The most bizarre thing about playing these gigs (and this was some time ago at this point ... maybe even 6-10 years; I can't keep track!) is that they have a camera that occasionally zooms in on one of US. I remember looking up at one point and seeing MY face on the big screen. UGH!

"I agree that saying “your music sucks“ alienates, so I usually hold my tougue, but sometimes I cant help it. Its not like I don’t back up my statement with evidence and criticism."

You can always help it! Really. We are all accountable and can all hold our tongues when necessary. I have a rule for myself (not that I'm perfect with following it!). What I say must be true. Then it must be kind or necessary (or both). Because of the state of our art right now, I do think cautious behavior is good ... why alienate those who just might decide to like the stuff we play at some future date?!

"My professors usually said “an historical” but I wouldn’t write it in a paper, and it seems clumsy in the mouth, but then again, im clumsy in general."

Interesting, because it is easier for me to say that "a historical". I think it's because using "a" causes me to have to stop between the two words, and using "an" doesn't. I'm also into poetry and maybe it has something to do with the way it sounds to my ear. I dunno. I would always write "an historical". Just works better for me. But I'm OLD. Maybe it's an age issue.

Anonymous said...

Of course "Whiskey Bar" is "Alabama Song," a Brecht/Weill composition, so it is and it isn't a good example.