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May 08, 1960 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1960-05-08
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Avant Garde

Music's Avant Garde What's

Continued from Page Five
24" with less than two hours of
AFTER hearing the American
pianists Paul Jacobs or David
Tudor perform it is conceiveable
that anything can be played, and
played well. After all, throughout
the course of musical history the
techniques and traditions of per-
formance were developed from the
music being written, and not vice
The broadcast of Luening and
Ussachevsky's "Concerted Piece"
was one of the first American
network radio performances of
music in an area now in its sec-
ond decade of development. "Con-
certed Piece" is a recent electron-
ic, or American "tape recorder,"
composition, and was written es-
pecially for this particular New
York Philharmonic Concert.
Early significant work in elec-
tronic music was produced be-
tween 1950 and 1956 in the Stu-
dios of NWDR in Koln, Germany,
and RAI in Milano, Italy. Other
electronic music has been com-
posed in Belgium, England,
France, Finland, Holland, Japan,
Sweden, and the United States.
But it was in the German and
Italian electronic music composed



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From Chairs
To Erasers
PNAPRIL of this year the Ameri-
can musical public heard the
New York Philharmonic, under
Leonard Bernstein's direction,
broadcast three recent musical
compositions. Most people who
heard the program were aston-
ished, many were shocked and
bewildered, some were fascinated
and excited.
The three works performed were
"Antiphony One" by the Canadian
Henry Brant, "Improvisation sur
Malarme I" by the Frenchman
Pierre Boulez, and the "Concerted
Piece for Tape Recorder and Or-
chestra" by the Americans Otto
Luening and Vladimir Ussachev-
For a good part of the audience
this was the most "advanced"
music they had ever heard. The
conservative critics assured their
readers that the avant garde were
only having a field day, next week
everything would return to nor-
mal and the Philharmonic might
again play Brahms. -
For the radical critics it was not
at all shocking. To them the Brant
had its moments but was generally
pretty old stuff, Charles Ives
having done that sort of thing
around the turn of the century.
The Luening-Ussachevsky was too
much like stock-in-trade TV and
science fiction film sound effects.

Cage -Score for "Fontana Mix"

before 1956 by Karlheinz Stock-
hausen, Gottfried Michael Koen-
ig, Luciano Berio, and Bruno
Maderna which clarified the prob-
lems of electronic music for other
composers and established musical
precedents on which further elec-
tronic music could either depend
or rebel.

MOST interesting is the fact
that the amount of electronic
music composed since 1956 has
steadily declined. This is account-
ed for by several reasons, first, by
a change in the character of the
European contemporary music
festivals which occured about
Continued on Page Ten
- - -

Webern-Spiritual father of the avant garde serialists.

_I _ _ _




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" - - popular serialist
Finally, for the radical critics,
the Boulez was lovely, but it was
an early work, and wouldn't it
have been nice if we could have
heard something more recent.
AS THE DEBRIS settles it is a
little easier to evaluate what
is happening in the contemporary
musical world, and to determine
what sort of menace the "avant
garde" really presents.
The Brant "Antiphony One" is
an example of "music in space"
and is scored for several orches-
tras which are located at different
points in the concert hall. Each
orchestra requires its own con-
ductor, and the audience sits in
the middle of all the sound. It is
not a new idea, Gabrielli wrote
antiphonal music for St. Marks in
Venice in the 16th century, Ber-
lioz; Mahler, and numerous others
from the musical past have made
use of music in space.
Recently, in Ann Arbor, Josef
Blatt and the University Sympho-
ny performed Leos Janacek's
"Sinfonietta" with the orchestra
on stage and a retinue of brass
players in the balcony. In pre-
vious years the University per-
formances of Bach's "St. Matthew
Passion" have used a large choir
in the second balcony.
The interest in and sales suc-
cess of stereophonic apparatus in-
dicates that the public is as ex-
cited about music in space as
many composers.
IT IS WORTH mentioning three
further examples of music in
space. The unfinished "Universe
Symphony" by the American vis-
ionary Charles Ives is written for
several orchestras placed at vari-
ous heights on the mountains sur-
rounding a valley in which the

audience is seated. (To date there
have been no performances).
For the "ein irrender sohn" by
Swedish Bo Nilsson, the perform-
ers are spaced about ten seats
apart, throughout the audience.
A most extreme example is a
work by -the American Lamont
Young which was performed last
April at a concert at The Living
Theatre in New York City. The
performers included the pianist
David Tudor and composers John
Cage and Toshi Ichyanigi. The
musical instruments were not
pianos, but rather were large
wooden benches and barchairs.
The performers dragged and
pushed these benches and chairs
around the reverberant tile fldor
of the theatre lobby while the be-
wildered audience wandered help-
lessly about, surrounded by in-
credible scraping sounds.
"Improvisation sur Malarme I"
by Pierre Boulez is an example
of avant gard serial music for
conventional instruments. It is
scored for soprano voice and a
large group of percussion instru-
THE TERM "serial music" ap-
plies where the order or se-
quence in which sounds occur is
important to the structure of the
music (as the progression of tonal
centers or keys was in the music_
of Beethoven's time).
This sequence is called a "ser-
ies." The avant garde serialists
have expanded their applications
of the series from the manner
used by Berg, Schonberg, and
Webern in the early 20th century
(when it was still only a "tone
row") to include the length of
sounds and their rhythmic pat-
terns, the loudness of sounds,
methods of attack and articula-
tion, and the appearance of dif-
ferent instruments and timbres.
The serialists who compose for
music in space have also applied
their techniques to the direction
of sound.
Some composers employ the
elaborate mathematical proced-
ures of group theory, set theory,
Markov processes, and differen-
tial calculus for both analysis
and composition. The bewildered
reader finds musical journals like
die Reihe, Melos, and Gravesaner
Review laced with mathematical
formulae. Much of this mathe-
matical decor may be bunk, but
some of it has revealed exciting
new musical relationships.
THE READER who is sceptical
of mathematical applications
to music (or to any art) should
consider the impact of mathe-
matics, specifically geometry, on
the artists of the Renaissance.
The sketchbooks of Piero della
Francesca or Leonardo da Vinci
will be most revealing.
These rigorous new composi-
tional procedures have resulted in
music which is often extremely
difficult to perform. Indeed, many
serious musicians consider it im-
But this music is being played
with increasing frequency, and
performers who specialize in new
music point out that the problem
is rooted in' the academies and
conservatories where musical per-
formers are still learning tech-
niques which apply only to music
of the 18th and 19th centuries.
That even the radical innova-
tions soon become a part of the
general performance techniques
is illustrated by the experience of
an American orchestra which re-
cently recorded the serial music
of Anton Webern, Rehearsals of
the earlier (and easier) music
consumed several weeks for each
piece. But increasing familiarity
with Webern's musical language
enabled these performers to record
the very .difficult "Concerto Op.
Continued on Page Eight
IGordon Mumma has studied 1

composition with Homer Kel-
ler, Ross Lee Finney and Les.
lei Bassett. Four of his own
electric compositions were per-
formed in New York last year.



Boulez is the avant garde's stro
composer, conductor a


darling of the radicals

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TUN DAY, MAY 8, 1960

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