Modern Music and After

Modern Music and After

Modern Music and After

Modern Music and After


Praise for the first edition:
"As impressive for its accuracy, as for the clarity, acumen, and wit of its writing."--Classical Music


The success of the avant garde -- especially the European avant garde -- in the 1950s and early 1960s can be measured not only by the festivals, courses, studios, journals, and record series that provided the new music with its matrix, but also by the impact the music had on composers who were already well established. There seems no parallel for this, that artists still in their twenties should have motivated masters of their parents' and grandparents' generations to change direction. Stravinsky, perhaps, was a special case: a composer with a constant inquisitiveness and intellectual rapacity. Messiaen, too, was maybe in an unusual position as the man who had had both Boulez and Stockhausen in his classroom, and whose prestige as a teacher brought him into daily contact with young composers. But there were so many others whose music grew leaner, less diatonic, more contrapuntal, and often more systematic: Carter, Wolpe, Britten, Tippett, Lutoslawski, Dallapiccola, Scelsi, Dutilleux. in some cases -- Carter's and Scelsi's, for example -- the change would seem to have come about independently. Nevertheless, change there certainly was.


The Stravinsky works that fall into the time frame of this book -- works which include the Mass, the Rake's Progress, the Shakespeare songs, Canticum sacrum, Agon, Threni, Movements, Abraham and Isaac and the Requiem Canticles -- would, if merit could be measured in pages (or, indeed, measured at all), occupy a large proportion of the volume. As time passes, the security of these achievements comes to seem one of the rare absolutes of music since 1945: in particular, Stravinsky's relationship with the new European avant garde begins to have a different sense. Where Movements, for example, was once viewed almost as an appendage of recent Stockhausen and Boulez -- even as a regrettable display of old age in pursuit of fashion-now the arrow turns, and the piece starts to appear as a pristine realization of possibilities hazy and latent in the younger composers' works. However, and partly for these reasons of Stravinsky's primacy even in his seventies and eighties, there are numerous other sources of information, and this section will attempt no more than a sketch.

The pattern of Stravinsky's composing was not immediately changed by the ending of the war: he continued to write orchestral pieces of diverse kinds (the Ebony Concerto for jazz band, the Concerto in D for strings, the ballet Orpheus), and he . . .

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