March 29, 2017

Thoughts on Copland’s 12-tone pieces: “Inscape” and “Connotations”

For the first time, I listened to Copland’s “Inscape”. This piece to my ear is stronger than “Connotations”, which was written 5 years earlier. Even though it’s not my favorite Copland, it is strong and bold (in the sense of Ruggles), and like Stravinsky, Copland maintains enough of his stylistic elements from the past to still sound like- Copland! In both these pieces, it is curious that the rhythms and meters are not nearly as complex as those elements his earlier works- even pieces like El Salon Mexico and Appalachian Spring (works in his popular tonal style)! Copland seems to concentrate in these 12 tone works entirely on sound, intervals, line, and color. What fascinates me is when tonal composers adapt to an atonal style, and visa versa! (Del Tredici, Rochberg, etc.) Indeed, music history is full of surprises!

Gunther Schuller Autobiography

Anyone interested in classical music and/or jazz should not miss reading Gunther Schuller’s new book: GUNTHER SCHULLER, A LIFE IN PURSUIT OF MUSIC AND BEAUTY. It is the first book of a two-volume autobiography, but more than that, a historical account of 20th century classical music and jazz.

Schuller worked with most of the great jazz and classical musicians of the times, played in (as a fine horn player) and conducted most of the great orchestras, and was (is) a prolific composer. In fact, in his 80s, he is still composing lots of new music. The book, filled with so many interesting details and fascinating stories involving his friends who were important historical figures – from Stockhausen to Samuel Barber to Miles Davis, makes for an unforgettable read!

Having studied composition at Tanglewood with Schuller, I also had the opportunity in my student days at New England Conservatory to play orchestral piano under his baton, and observe him as a musician. He was and still is a great inspiration to me, and one of the most fascinating people I have ever encountered.


Coco Chanel and igor Stravinsky

What a surprise- a film involving a 20th century composer in this time of cultural indifference!

Beautifully photographed, it does a great job of presenting the scandal of the famous premier of THE RITE OF SPRING, as it tells the story of the relationship/affair between these two famous people. Although a bit stiff and lacking in passion, it is well worth seeing.

Now we need some new films about the fascinating and dramatic lives of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Bernstein, Chopin, Schumann, Mahler, etc.