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The Modern Composer and His World

The Modern Composer and His World

John Beckwith
Udo Kasemets
with a foreword by Louis Applebaum
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1961
Pages: 170
  • Book Info
    The Modern Composer and His World
    Book Description:

    Proceedings of the International Conference of Composers attended by SCEG at the Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario in August 1960.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5676-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-ix)
    Louis Applebaum

    Canada is a very stimulating, satisfying, and happy place in which to live and work. In the arts, especially in music and painting, the present is exciting, the future hopeful. This optimistic, self-satisfied estimate comes out of great personal bias, it is true, but it can be supported by statistics and experience.

    As recently as twenty-five years ago, the composer was an uncommon creature in Canada’s society, well hidden and rarely audible. The genus could count few members and their total effect on the community was not significant. Whether musicians did or did not create made little basic difference to...

  3. The Participants in the International Conference of Composers
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. I The Composer in Today’s World

      (pp. 3-16)

      One might begin a discussion of this vexed question by stating, rather bluntly, that over the last fifty years the public has almost become a factor which does not count. For some years the only active part left for them to play in musical life has been strictly limited to the payment of an entrance fee. For the rest, the composer seems to have decided once and for all that the public didn’t understand him or his work. The public very soon reacted in the easiest way: they deserted the concert halls. I fear my country is not the only...

      (pp. 17-34)

      You write that you would like to prove to your friends and, last but not least, to yourself that you have something worthwhile to be expressed. Thus your next attempt will be to pay a personal visit to a good publishing house. (The experience that a modern giant publishing company returns the submitted scores without examining them, you will have already behind you.) You take your most recent score and meet a lector who explains politely, yet resolutely, that in 999 cases contemporary music is bad business. The publishing houses have only limited resources at their disposal; nevertheless, a world...

      (pp. 35-46)

      In approaching the theme of today’s discussion, the relationship between composer and performer, I should like to state briefly what this relationship is like in the Guild of Czechoslovakian Composers. During the first years of this organization’s activity, it was made up of composers, musicologists, and critics only. But we have come to consider the performance of new works as our foremost task—which has meant, in the course of the last year alone, about eighty-eight concerts of contemporary music sponsored by our Guild (two-thirds being chamber music concerts and one-third orchestral concerts), not only in Prague but also where...

  6. II The Composer’s Métier

      (pp. 49-76)

      I am sure that many composers today would agree with me that a separate discussion of serial music is somewhat dangerous. It suggests that it is some other form of composition and that its problems are something apart. In 1960 few would deny the validity and power of music which is not tonal. If one fails to accept the great new forces of our time, one is not actually living in our time. If one seeks to ignore or ridicule such great forces as the struggle for racial equality or communism, or if one fails to acknowledge to oneself that...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      (pp. 77-101)

      We hear a good deal about the “malaise” or the “unsettled state” of the arts today, about the “impasse” in which music, in particular, finds itself. I find such pessimism without foundation; yet we are all aware that we are living in a period of transition, characterized essentially by an extraordinary acceleration of scientific advances, advances which clearly exert their influence on the composer—a figure long misrepresented in the guise of a dreamy and romantic poet. The composer wishes to be “of his own time,” just as he always did, and there is reason to believe that in 1960...

      (pp. 102-108)

      I certainly have no qualifications for talking in general words about opera, having a very limited experience, in fact, having written only one so far:Aniara. Moreover I am on the whole very sceptical about generalizations when talking of contemporary art. Each work of art is unique and the motives for creating this work are equally unique. The discrimination of trends and styles and schools and so on is for posterity to do. And for the musicologists. The composer is—as I see it—reliable only when he is talking about his own works. And very often not even then....

      (pp. 109-133)

      I would like to make it clear that I am a physicist, not a composer. Perhaps I’m here under false pretences; perhaps you will find it strange to see a physicist on a panel discussing music. However, if this is strange, it’s no stranger than the presence of an electronic music studio in a place so august, respectable, I won’t say conservative, as the University of Toronto.

      If any of you have been to an electronic music studio, I’m sure you will know what I mean. In the first place, if you were to visit the studio during working hours,...

    • FORM
      (pp. 134-148)

      Curiously enough, the dualism of the last century is still generally considered the natural basis for our ideas about form, in that one principally distinguishes between ideas likesubstanceandform. In order to undertake an analysis, such distinguishing is naturally practical, even necessary, but one must not forget that this analysis is not an examination of musical reality (the reality which only exists in the dimension of time) and that the analysis has to express itself in a symbolic way on the basis of a number of written notes. Naturally, the background for analysis is the knowledge about musical...

  7. III Summary

      (pp. 151-162)
      Marvin Duchow

      We have at last come to the close of this incredible week of intense, often informative, and always stimulating deliberations and encounters. If we could now, for but a brief moment, regain our equipoise after these exhilarating, if vertiginous, shifts from the fantastic realm of electronic sound to the earthbound intricacies of musical copyright,¹ or from the metaphysical profundities of psychological time to the reverberating rhythms of improvised jazz, or yet again from the steely rigidities of total serialism to the unnerving fluidities of musical indeterminacy, then we might, I think, be in a position to cast a sober backward...

      (pp. 163-170)
      Udo Kasemets

      Though the presentations of prepared papers, the ensuing panel discussions and the question-answer periods from the floor provided considerable insight into the working methods, artistic philosophy, aesthetic convictions, and technical manipulations of the participating composers of the Conference, the aim of the meeting would have remained without fulfilment if these verbal encounters had not been complemented by presentations of live music. It was for this purpose that the programme of the Conference included five concerts, devoted mainly to works by participating composers.

      Technical and financial considerations did not permit the inclusion of music by all (almost three score) delegates of...