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 Posted:   Nov 28, 2013 - 1:06 PM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

It's like comparing Charles Dickens to the authors of Superman comics.
Even though the text bubbles of comics are subservient to the pictures, and severely limited by space and pre-determined length, some could make a good argument that the authors of Superman comics have provided something more culturally significant than a work of Dickens.

But would even the most ardent Superman comic lovers suggest that because their comics use words and pages, just like Dickens, that the two are comparable as works of intellectual literature?
To me, that would be the equivalent of comparing film music in general to "classical" concert music.

Film music composers, like comic writers, might have the most brilliant minds and be genuine artists of Wagnerian or Dickensian level, but when working in film music and comics, they are showing their mastery of distillation, not full expression.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 28, 2013 - 3:52 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

Yes, I'm sure the Leinsdorfs and Bazelons who criticize film music do so expecting their Superman comics to be Dickens and are utterly aghast that they're not. The brevity of film cues is probably a good portion of an explanation as to why these criticisms are levelled in the first place.

To put it plainly, I think there is still a strong 19th-century-influenced mentality floating about that for music to be profound and therefore of any value, it must be both 1) of sufficient length to take the listener through the composer's psychological journey, and 2) a pure expression of one's "inner self".

Both of these are violated by film music by its very nature. Perhaps it is this that they find so distasteful.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 28, 2013 - 4:27 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I don't accept for a minute the premise that film music is somehow analogous to Superman comics and their relationship to Dickens. There is no relationship - only 'narrative' per se. On the contrary, Superman comics more highly resemble film than literature.

There is a great deal of artfulness in film scoring - very good scoring, that is. Let us speak in terms of 'classically' trained musicians. Take this piece by Biber, written during the baroque. It is called "Battalia" and is meant to represent the military experience, complete with musical sound effects and a dominant theme. This music could belong with any film score, containing an 'opening theme' and several sub-sections representing different 'ideas' or axes of action: take a listen and tell me how it is different from film music!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9DJpaxT7wg

 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 11:53 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

I think that Batallia has renaissance written all over it. But it complicates things even further. I just put on North's Warrior Pope from Agony And Ecstasy (appropriate, don't you think smile) in which he largely wrote in a baroque mode which approaches the first segment of Batallia in style to some extent. But, still, they're not quite the same. It is very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what the common element is to both. Tempo, perhaps?

Parts of Batallia sound like it could accompany a film which is set during that period. The thing is it is dated and you couldn't really score an entire film in that style. At least, I don't think you could.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 12:33 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Hi Grecchus,

My point with the "Batallia" was to demonstrate that a 'collection' of pieces - very short at that - all put together under one programmatic title - is exactly how film music is composed. I'm suggesting that 'film music' (using it metaphorically) isn't new in the artmusik canon!! Therefore, to criticize film music because it lacks coherence and form is a nonsense.

 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2013 - 8:04 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

I'm suggesting that 'film music' (using it metaphorically) isn't new in the artmusik canon!! Therefore, to criticize film music because it lacks coherence and form is a nonsense.

Film music may not be new, but within classical music circles there's a distinction between music which depicts or evokes extra-musical scenes or ideas (that is programme music) and absolute music which exists on its own musical merits.

Indeed, there exists a bias against programme music within classical music because it relies upon the non-musical (literature, for example) as its basis.
Even if film music had never existed, the positioning of programme music as a second-rate music would continue onwards...

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2013 - 8:34 AM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)



Indeed, there exists a bias against programme music within classical music because it relies upon the non-musical (literature, for example) as its basis.
Even if film music had never existed, the positioning of programme music as a second-rate music would continue onwards...


Indeed, I've seen a lot of people who lean toward symphonies, concertos, string quartets, and piano sonatas as the 'core' and anything else is just extra. And certainly concert programs reflect this thinking.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2013 - 12:28 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Curiously neither the Leinsdorf piece nor the Herrmann reply turns up in a search of the NY Times online archive. Herrmann is cited often that year for his radio concerts, many of them on ABC rather than CBS. The old radio listings are fascinating. So much live music in those days. It's also sobering to note the listings of war dead from that summer. A couple of (unrelated) Herrmanns are among those reported killed.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 11:23 AM   
 By:   Alfachrger   (Member)

Curiously neither the Leinsdorf piece nor the Herrmann reply turns up in a search of the NY Times online archive. Herrmann is cited often that year for his radio concerts, many of them on ABC rather than CBS. The old radio listings are fascinating. So much live music in those days. It's also sobering to note the listings of war dead from that summer. A couple of (unrelated) Herrmanns are among those reported killed.

I did a little googling and found the dates of both N Y Times articles. The Leinsdorf was published on June 17 1945 and the Herrmann response was on June 24 1945. I also found that on July 9 1945 Newsweek had an article quoting both the Leinsdorf and Herrmann articles along with responses from others on the subject including Aaron Copland.


http://books.google.com/books?id=ALbz24g5aOAC&pg=PA232&lpg=PA232&dq=leinsdorf+film+music+times&source=bl&ots=I8q2EGa2dt&sig=d4AeUPSzYo8OYZmKJ7IqwlDXf9M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=RjOeUvzkCorLkAf_zoDgCg&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=leinsdorf%20film%20music%20times&f=false

You asked for a link, page 232, 90. Sorry for the size of the link.

 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 11:31 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Good man. Could you please redit to include links to the source?

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 1:53 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Well, this is excellent sleuthing indeed! And it's a pleasure to be on a board which has such enthusiasts who are passionate about the subject and follow lines of inquiry.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 1:54 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Yes, I don't doubt the quotations, which have been referenced in several books. It's just frustrating that the Times's search engine can't seem to pull up the originals. It would be fun to see the "clippings" in .PDF, which is how I viewed the radio listings and obits.

 
 Posted:   Dec 4, 2013 - 3:35 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

For any who are interested, here's some postings from the website called Talk Classical on the subject of programme music:

To qualify as programmatic, it must be music written specifically to convey a literal narrative, or depict a scene of some sort. (Some of it succeeds better than much of the genre usually does.)

Certainly, especially without a grasp of form, i.e. formal structure and the syntax of music itself, many a listener will find themselves conjuring up either a story line, or picture a scene or a series of scenes which are also narrative in that they "tell some sort of story."

I would suggest that whatever story or image stream a listener might imagine could seem to be 'the true meaning' of the piece, where they are reacting to the musical sense of the internal logic and structure of that piece -- since the piece is cohesive, the narrative they imagine will be cohesive, ergo, their story seems "the right one."

A "good" piece of programmatic music does not rely on the meaning of the program to hold the listener's interest.

Couperin, by the way, loved to give titles with some humor to them, and sometimes his titles are a non sequitur or a red herring -- i.e. misdirection, or mocking the need to title a piece at all -- and some were meant to directly convey an image or idea.

A good number of the titles by which many know pieces of the classical era were given after the fact of composition, either suggested to the composer, who either agreed or said something akin to "Why not?" (Beethoven, "Pathetique" sonata, the title suggested by his publisher) ... or they were given to the pieces by others, sometimes after the composer was deceased :-)

Debussy's preludes, both books, have the title printed after the double bar, the index reading simply Prelude I, etc. We know sometimes Debussy had a title in mind when he began writing a piece, and just about as often, he did not :-)

Certainly, the minute you name a piece other than opus ___ or by form alone (sinfonia, partita, sonata, etc.) that is setting up a frame of mind in the audience bound to color most listeners perception, and sometimes that is a calculated idea, other times, an afterthought.

Still, you should know that some of those names seemingly welded to some pieces are in reality titles given after the fact of the music having been written: maybe the composer had some associative moment after the piece was done and gave the title. Others may work differently, the title giving them a transliterated idea of how the piece should sound, the form it takes, etc.

It seems the first "Tone poem" of Liszt got titled well after the fact of its actual composition...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_pr%C3%A9ludes

I think far too many people put way too much emphasis on "the meaning of music," including some of those pieces with actual titles.

All the names for the Chopin Etudes and Preludes were given those pieces by either editors, publishers, or music journalists: a few of the names given Beethoven sonatas were suggested by an editor, the infamous "moonlight" named by a music publisher after Beethoven was dead. Knowing this, many a composer will put a title on a piece because they know if they don't, someone else will!

And the vast majority of the repertoire, hiding secret stories or not, is titled very neutrally by form, or more modern appellations like "Music for Stringed Instruments, Percussion and Celesta," or "piano and string quartet."


That 90% of yours is more a fact if you reverse that to 90% of classical music is abstract, or "Absolute."

Whatever floats your boat, though :-

... and ...

I'd like to add to the discussion that the description "programmatic" generally isn't applied to works including a sung or spoken text, as it is taken for a given that the text will influence the music.

Also, what works as absolute music for listeners today, that is, needs no additional explanation or guiding hand for comprehension, is in some cases something that would have otherwise been difficult to an audience of the time. The example of Debussy above is a good one; the etudes for piano are to this day some of his least popular works. Although in musical terms they are not far removed from his other piano works, the abstract titles offer no interpretations that might help the listener.

For another example, look at Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, which would certainly not have caught on nearly as well if it had retained its original title, 8'37". Yet people hear atomic bombs and screams in the music even knowing that the title was not in mind while the piece was composed. Appalachian Spring is another example. Copland knew nothing of the ballet scenario or its eventual title while he composed the piece, but people "read into" the music all the same. In this case they are getting Martha Graham's interpretation.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 4, 2013 - 4:08 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I think one needs to be cautious about Talk Classical music message-board. There are many self-appointed experts on that site and many of them are very young! The situation with regard to 'program' and 'absolute' music is very complex.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 4, 2013 - 10:31 PM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)


Certainly, the minute you name a piece other than opus ___ or by form alone (sinfonia, partita, sonata, etc.) that is setting up a frame of mind in the audience bound to color most listeners perception, and sometimes that is a calculated idea, other times, an afterthought.


In one of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts he did an interesting thing with Richard Strauss's Don Quixote -- he, without describing what the music ACTAULLY refers to -- used excerpts as if it were telling a Superman story. It's kinda neat.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 5, 2013 - 12:54 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

My mother used to do the same with me when I was under 10 years of age in the 1950's!! She'd put on von Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture", or other similar music, and make huge narratives out of these - straight from her head - and this engaged my interest in serious music immediately. It continues today, directly from those early experiences with her.

And, from what you've just posted about Leonard Bernstein, she cannot have known about his work in this area until after 1962 because we had no television before then.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 5, 2013 - 8:55 AM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

The Leinsdorf and Herrmann articles may be found in the Routledge Film Music Sourcebook. The following link is the table of contents.
http://www.gbv.de/dms/goettingen/635006596.pdf

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 5, 2013 - 10:57 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Leinsdorf was something of an elitist. I recall an interview in which he said that the twentieth century had produced only five composers (he named the usual suspects) of real substance. The rest were "mere epigones," though perhaps deserving of an occasional performance.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 5, 2013 - 11:35 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

The Leinsdorf and Herrmann articles may be found in the Routledge Film Music Sourcebook. The following link is the table of contents.
http://www.gbv.de/dms/goettingen/635006596.pdf


Thank you so much for this excellent reference! I'll see if I can get it through Amazon. I note in the table of contents one essay refers to "Pictures" instead of "film". Wonderful!!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 6, 2013 - 12:45 PM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

The Leinsdorf and Herrmann articles may be found in the Routledge Film Music Sourcebook. The following link is the table of contents.
http://www.gbv.de/dms/goettingen/635006596.pdf


Thank you so much for this excellent reference! I'll see if I can get it through Amazon. I note in the table of contents one essay refers to "Pictures" instead of "film". Wonderful!!


I don't own this book, I just found it on Google. If you purchase it, let me know what you think!

 
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