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Heavy-handed "ethnic" attempts by the classical composers Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 12th February 2018
  #1
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Heavy-handed "ethnic" attempts by the classical composers

This is one thing that always struck me, even from the earliest days of my piano lessons-- there was a whole phony tradition of composers almost "mocking" the traditions of "different" cultures... Haydn with his entrance of the Queen of Sheba being the most glaring of the bunch-- he had her pirouetting on twinkle toes, when I really thought a slinky, smokey sashaying would be more middle Eastern, more exotic and sensuous. But that's the issue-- people reaching out of their zone, grasping at the chimera of their imaginations, a twinkle-toey dream of what life in the desert was like.

But then, the closer to home, obviously, the less disconnected and erroneous. I recorded a concert yesterday with Mozart summoning up Turkish armies-- yeah, a little garish, but by the 18th century, militarism was universal enough and it worked, more or less. Then you got Faure, a Frenchman, imagining a languid evening across the landscape over in Italy... and he gets a nice, dreamy, mystical effect... he must have even visited the place once or twice, seems like...

Sicilienne - Sage City Symphony - Clyp
Old 12th February 2018
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
This is one thing that always struck me, even from the earliest days of my piano lessons-- there was a whole phony tradition of composers almost "mocking" the traditions of "different" cultures...
This is a valid concern (not that you can do anything about Haydn at this late date).

But perhaps a worse one for me is when it's not about world cultures, but about musical cultures. For example, Gershwin. I cringe every time I hear a classical music orchestra (try to) play Rhapsody in Blue. And they just. don't. get it. It don't mean a thing because they just ain't got that swing.

It was originally composed for a specific jazz band (Paul Whiteman? IDR), not a classical music group. Even Ferde Grofe (one of the great orchestrators and quite a good composer in his own right who actually did know jazz) couldn't save it. I don't blame the orchestras -- I blame Gershwin. He set his sights on a *really* big band, and failed. Because Gershwin really didn't have that swing either. If he had, he wouldn't have "given" us the worst of both worlds like this.

But the worst is, he didn't learn from his mistakes. He wrote dozens of "symphonic jazz" pieces. And yes, I do hate them all. Every single one. Because they aren't symphonic. And they aren't jazz.

30 years ago I had a neighbor kid tell me (he was maybe 14) that if he never heard Pachelbel's Canon (I'm assuming the Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo) again, it would be too soon! (Exclamation point his). I fully understood, because I was thinking exactly the same thing about An American in Paris. And I haven't changed my mind all these decades later. Sigh...

I suppose we won't know the limits of the form if we don't push the edges. I'm sure people had similar complaints about Beethoven. But his compositions have largely withstood the test of time. Maybe Gershwin's will. But I'm not counting on it.
Old 13th February 2018
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
This is a valid concern (not that you can do anything about Haydn at this late date).
Or even Handel, who wrote the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba...
Old 13th February 2018
  #4
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Yeah, but they all were tryin' More than I can say for me some days

D.
Old 13th February 2018
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
I cringe every time I hear a classical music orchestra (try to) play Rhapsody in Blue. And they just. don't. get it. It don't mean a thing because they just ain't got that swing.
I usually feel the same way, but I REALLY like what Larry Adler (harmonica) & George Martin's Orchestra did with it:
.
Old 13th February 2018
  #6
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I always loved this one.



Sounds like John Williams ripped parts of it for the Empire theme in Star Wars.
Old 13th February 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
Or even Handel, who wrote the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba...
Do you mean... Handel and Haydn were different people? I thought they were just different spellings....
Old 13th February 2018
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Do you mean... Handel and Haydn were different people? I thought they were just different spellings....
Handle and hidin' are different spellings. So are aaron and tori.
Old 13th February 2018
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
This is one thing that always struck me, even from the earliest days of my piano lessons-- there was a whole phony tradition of composers almost "mocking" the traditions of "different" cultures... Haydn with his entrance of the Queen of Sheba being the most glaring of the bunch-- he had her pirouetting on twinkle toes, when I really thought a slinky, smokey sashaying would be more middle Eastern, more exotic and sensuous. But that's the issue-- people reaching out of their zone, grasping at the chimera of their imaginations, a twinkle-toey dream of what life in the desert was like.

But then, the closer to home, obviously, the less disconnected and erroneous. I recorded a concert yesterday with Mozart summoning up Turkish armies-- yeah, a little garish, but by the 18th century, militarism was universal enough and it worked, more or less. Then you got Faure, a Frenchman, imagining a languid evening across the landscape over in Italy... and he gets a nice, dreamy, mystical effect... he must have even visited the place once or twice, seems like...

Sicilienne - Sage City Symphony - Clyp
With the earlier composers I guess there's a double disconnect, between our era and theirs and then between them and whenever the Queen of Sheba was about. In terms of classical/exotic fusion, there's probably not much that works until Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade.

There's an American composer whose 'Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan' doesn't get the number of performances it deserves:

Old 13th February 2018
  #10
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Few pieces of music transcend the eras they were composed in...and the prevailing beliefs and clichés which were pervasive at the time.

If the music were meant for popular consumption, instantly identifiable 'motifs' were drawn in (like modern day samples) to invoke mental images (Napoleon in the 1812 Overture) A lot of this music was written under commission...so it was crafted to please the paying patron....and their prevailing interests. Compositions often had to be ''dumbed down so the Prince will get it" '

Imagine the pressure on Shostakovich after the 2nd denunciation...never sure if one of Stalin's taxis would arrive after midnight to whisk him off to a Siberian hot-spa resort, if the Boss took a dislike to his latest piece ? How would you second guess a psychopath's predilections....?

Nowadays you don't need "motifs"...because we have storey high video screens either side of the stage to project images and subtitles onto.

Fast forward 70 years from Stalin and I'm waiting for the White House's commission of the latest piece by Hans Zimmer: "What shall we do about North Korea" That'll be certain to hit a few populist chords ! If he gets it wrong, Hans will need one of those frames to walk with, once the CIA finish with him. Some things don't change. "Apolitical Blues" anybody ?

Last edited by studer58; 13th February 2018 at 04:32 AM..
Old 13th February 2018
  #11
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Joel, I don't get the whole "mocking ethnic" Bull**** you speak of. The good classical stuff only survives because its was good.

Old 13th February 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
But perhaps a worse one for me is when it's not about world cultures, but about musical cultures. For example, Gershwin. I cringe every time I hear a classical music orchestra (try to) play Rhapsody in Blue. And they just. don't. get it. It don't mean a thing because they just ain't got that swing.
Oh my God. Tell me about it.

Our ballet just performed an all Gershwin show, along with the local symphony. Rhapsody in Blue was one of the numbers they butchered. Their piano player was pounding away like a drunken gorilla, playing with the same sensitivity that he plays their rehearsals and classes with, which is to say NONE. And their rendition of Summertime was awful. They hired some opera singer who can't swing and has octave wide vibrato. And apparently she has never even hears the term "laying back".

The whole orchestra swung like a dead monkey. The only players keeping up were the brass and saxophones and the rhythm section, but they couldn't pull that whole train by themselves.

Of course our audience loved it, because they don't know a damn thing about real jazz here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I'm just glad that I wasn't the guy mixing the show, because there were more things wrong with it than just the musical interpretation. But it was such an embarrassment to listen to that I had to leave the theatre.
Old 13th February 2018
  #13
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Originally Posted by Noisewagon View Post
Joel, I don't get the whole "mocking ethnic" Bull**** you speak of. The good classical stuff only survives because its was good.

And who'd a thought Holst's Jupiter suite (from the Planets) would be recycled to become a cautionary tale for weed smokers:
YouTube

I think it's called the Resurrection Shuffle...lol !
Old 13th February 2018
  #14
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If we judge the composers of two or three centuries ago by today's standards, we are sure to find them wanting. Not sure it's fair to condemn the baroque and classical masters for indulging in a bit of fairly harmless exoticism, even if it was always probably quite a cheap effect.

However, I do have a problem with a lot of today's musical "fusions". Many nations of the world have wonderful and elaborate musical traditions, and I don't usually see what is gained by combining them. I'd rather listen to a good performance of Breton or Hungarian or Cajun music than hear them forced together in some sort of pointless mish-mash.
Old 13th February 2018
  #15
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Originally Posted by Peller View Post
If we judge the composers of two or three centuries ago by today's standards, we are sure to find them wanting. Not sure it's fair to condemn the baroque and classical masters for indulging in a bit of fairly harmless exoticism, even if it was always probably quite a cheap effect.

However, I do have a problem with a lot of today's musical "fusions". Many nations of the world have wonderful and elaborate musical traditions, and I don't usually see what is gained by combining them. I'd rather listen to a good performance of Breton or Hungarian or Cajun music than hear them forced together in some sort of pointless mish-mash.
I wholly agree...in my city we have an annual Womad 3 day concert, purporting to represent the world's musics in smorgasbord fashion. Maybe in their home states they play 'traditional music'...but by the time they get here it's infused with electronics, beats, samples.

It's a bit like ethnic cuisines undergoing the 'fusion' process...where the distinctive flavours and textures are subjected to ruthless hybridization in the name of progress, innovation and mass acceptance. The machinery driving this ? Internet, YouTube, mass migration. It's futile to stand in the way of such 'progress'...particularly from nations where the majority of its citizens are below the age of 25, the whole process is likely to be inevitable...when the elders aren't in a position of influence to preserve heritage music.

I guess it's time to venture forth, Lomax-like....to record the vanishing indigenous musics before they get dissolved in the great gumbo-cauldron of world music ? Spoken languages and dialects are vanishing from the planet at a rapid rate, and I fear the same is happening to the musical sources.

When I first heard the term 'World Music', I thought they were talking about Billy Joel...whose songs at the time seemed to be in the top 10 of every nation on Earth. Now I simply don't know what the concept means.....
Old 13th February 2018
  #16
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In the time of Handel people thought music older than 50 years was ancient music. Music was composed mostly for one time events, and after that often forgotten. It is in our times with the mediation of music, we can place 17th, 18th and 19th century music in our time, which unfortunately can lead to some sort of misunderstanding, since today we listen with other social ears to that music than the people who heard the premiere. Often these exotic pieces are related to very special events, ballets and operas, and by means mediation on CD, we miss these parts. I agree on what is said about Gershwin, but frankly speaking, which orchestra outside Austria plays better Strauss & Co than our friends in Vienna?
Old 13th February 2018
  #17
As global cultures increasingly cross-pollinate, one can hope there will be more examples, like Debussy's, of musicians who are deeply affected by their exposure to unfamiliar musics, but eschew pastiche and rather synthesize this more subtly into a very personal and organic musical language.

Old 13th February 2018
  #18
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Can't get more "ethnic" than this YouTube

Porgy and Bess in Moscow...

Nice selection of microphones....
Old 13th February 2018
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Imagine the pressure on Shostakovich after the 2nd denunciation...never sure if one of Stalin's taxis would arrive after midnight to whisk him off to a Siberian hot-spa resort, if the Boss took a dislike to his latest piece ?
Stalin complained to the director of the Bolshoi Theatre during intermission
that there were too many minor keys. The director was scared and said they
would only use major keys for the rest of the concert.
Old 13th February 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adorno View Post
...which orchestra outside Austria plays better Strauss & Co than our friends in Vienna?
Agreed.

And this holds true for other music.

My wife was born in Czechoslovakia and often comments that Czech and Slovak music is best played by musicians from those countries as they feel the heart of the music musch better.

She always complains when Czech music is played by an English orchestra, for example, because they cannot "feel" it.

On a similar note ...

At one time she used to teach Italian to opera singers, as it's only by properly understanding the language that you can put the proper feeling into the music.

A few years back we went to the Opera in Bratislava - as she was looking at the cast, it turned out that half of them were her former students.
Old 13th February 2018
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aracu View Post
Stalin complained to the director of the Bolshoi Theatre during intermission that there were too many minor keys.
Stalin and Ian Stewart had that in common.
Old 13th February 2018
  #22
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The New York subway system has eliminated the words "ladies" and "gentlemen" from its announcements because they are "sexist" and replaced all references to people with "gender-neutral" words (i.e., "passengers").

Similarly, with respect to this topic, I propose we recompose all music, starting with the classics, to sound politically correct. Who's with me?!
Old 13th February 2018
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Russ View Post
The New York subway system has eliminated the words "ladies" and "gentlemen" from its announcements because they are "sexist" and replaced all references to people with "gender-neutral" words (i.e., "passengers").

Similarly, with respect to this topic, I propose we recompose all music, starting with the classics, to sound politically correct. Who's with me?!
Well, I guess it's just as well...

...I mean, these days most human males are not gentlemen and most human females are not ladies.
.
Old 13th February 2018
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Russ View Post
I propose we recompose all music, starting with the classics, to sound politically correct. Who's with me?!
Maybe not start with the old-old classics, but with more contemporary classics where the change will be obvious. Like this one from Tammy Wynette:

Sometimes it's hard to be a life-partner
Giving all your love to just one life-partner
You'll have bad times
Your life-partner will have good times
Doing things that you don't understand...
Old 13th February 2018
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Agreed.

And this holds true for other music.
or not.
YouTube

Nearly all the generalizations in this thread are questionable.
Old 13th February 2018
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Maybe not start with the old-old classics, but with more contemporary classics where the change will be obvious. Like this one from Tammy Wynette:

Sometimes it's hard to be a life-partner
Giving all your love to just one life-partner
You'll have bad times
Your life-partner will have good times
Doing things that you don't understand...
Your new lyrics for that song are SEXIST!

It is as if you wish to downplay the importance of Ms. Wynette's womanhood!
.
Old 13th February 2018
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Nearly all the generalizations in this thread are questionable.
...Well except (of course) for the above statement.
.
Old 13th February 2018
  #28
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[QUOTE=12ax7;13138930][INDENT]Your new lyrics for that song are SEXIST!

But if you love me you'll forgive me
Even though I'm hard to understand
And if you love me... be proud of me...
'Cause after all I'm just a person.
Old 13th February 2018
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
...Well except (of course) for the above statement.
.
Old 13th February 2018
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
'Cause after all I'm just a person.
Oh, what a bloody giveaway!

Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
.
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