Saturday, November 10, 2007

1950 – 1975 Boulez and Stockhausen


1950-53     Korean War
1953         Death of Stalin
1963         Kennedy assassinated
1965-73     U.S. War in Vietnam
1974         Nixon resigns


As the musical avant garde advanced, many composers refused to follow, and the gap separating traditionalists and experimenters widened.





Twentieth-century tonality flourished in the opera. Most conservative were the neo-romantic operas of Menotti, The Consul (1950), Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951) and The Saint of Bleeker Street (1954) and Samuel Barber (1910-1981), Vanessa (1958) and Anthony and Cleopatra (1966). Neo-classic operas included Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (1951), Hindemith's Harmonie der Welt (1951) and Poulenc's important Les dialogues des Carmlites (1955). Other tonal operas were Douglas Moore's (1893-1969) The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956), Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (1955) and Britten's Billy Budd (1951), Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1961) and Death in Venice (1973), the next to the last with an important role for countertenor.


Choral music


Choral music included Britten's War Requiem (1962), Hindemith's Madrigals (1958) and Mass (1963), Poulenc's Gloria (1959) and Stravinsky's Mass (1951).




Shostakovich's masterpiece was Symphony No. 10 (1953). His symphonies continued in a more propagandistic vein until No. 15 (1971). Others were Tippett's No. 2 (1957) and No. 3 (1970).




Serialism split into two camps: (1) traditional serialists (including the converts from neo-classicism, Stravinsky, Copland and Sessions) who used Schoenberg's system and (2) pan-serialists who, following Webern's example, broadened the concept of nonperiodicity to include all aspects of composition.


Choral Music


Twelve-tone choral works were Stravinsky's Canticum Sacrum (1956), Threni (1958) and Requiem Canticles (1966) and Dallapiccola's Canti di liberazione (1955).




Other vocal works included Dallapiccola's Goethe Lieder (1953), Stravinsky's dance-drama The Flood (1961-2), his cantata Abraham and Isaac (1962) and Roger Sessions' (1896-1985) opera Montezuma (1947-62).




Instrumental works included Sessions' Violin Sonata (1953) and symphonies 3-8, and Copland's Piano Quartet (1950) and Connotations for Orchestra (1962).




Messiaen's experiments with rhythm gradually led to Mode de valeurs et d'intensit (1949) for piano which established scales of pitch, duration, loudness and attack, but was not twelve-tone. A burst of interest in total control followed, including Pierre Boulez' (1925- ) Structures I (1951) for two pianos and Karlheinz Stockhausen's (1928- ) Kreuzspiel (1951) for oboe, bass clarinet, piano and percussion and Punkte (1952) for orchestra. The effect of pan-serial works is one of discontinuous points of sound. The masterwork is Le Marteau sans maitre (1954, revised 1957) containing songs for contralto and instrumental movements in a more relaxed style by Boulez.



Electronic Music


In Paris in 1948 Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) began musique concrète which consisted of recorded natural sounds altered electronically (echo, etc.) and arranged on a multi-track tape. The chief work was Symphony for One Man (1949) by Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1927- ). Varèse's Déserts (1953) for winds, percussion and electronic sounds and Poème électronique (1958) for the Brussels World Fair were classics of the form. Stockhausen contributed Telemusik (1966) made up of national anthems.


The electronic studio in Cologne (from 1951) concerned itself with electronically generated sounds, as in Stockhausen's Studie I (1953). His Gesang der Jünglinge (1956) used both types of material, as did Visage (1961) by Luciano Berio (1925-2003) in Milan and Philomel (1964) by Milton Babbitt (1916- ) at Columbia University.


Working independently of the Europeans, Babbitt developed his own system of pan-serialism in Three Compositions for Piano (1948). When the first RCA synthesizer was installed at Columbia in 1959, he used it to achieve complete control of his system, as in Ensemble for Synthesizer (1962-4). Moog came in 1964.


Aleatory Music (from Alea, Latin for dice)


Chance or indeterminacy in musical composition was introduced in Cage's Music of Changes (1951) for piano, where decisions were made by coin tossing operations from the I Ching. Imaginary Landscape 4 (1951) was a precisely composed piece for twelve ordinary radios; Music for Piano 21 (1952) made notes of paper imperfections;  and Yannis Xenakis' (1922-2001) Metastasis (1953-4) created patterns from mathematical probability theory. The extreme was reached in Cage's 4'33" (1954) where the composer provided only a time frame for whatever occurred in the environment.




From the mid 50's composers moved away from the absolute control of pan-serialism to grant performers certain controlled choices and away from concern for non-periodicity to interest in color and density. Stockhausen's Klavierstücke XI (1956) allowed the pianist to choose the order of the composed bits. Earle Brown's (1926-2002) Twenty-Five Pages Pli selon pli (1953) may be played by from one to 25 pianos in any order. Boulez' (1960) for soprano and orchestra included small scale choices. The use of graphic notation, Brown's December 1952, Cage's Fontana Mix (1958) and Stockhausen's Zyklus (1959), left their ultimate interpretation to the performer.


Stockhausen serialized indeterminacy with a scale of control ranging from complete control to extreme variability in Momente (1958) where he also serialized the comprehensibility of the text. New colors included choral whispering, babbling and talking as well as clapping, banging and foot-shuffling. Sound for dramatic effect, including quarter tones, tone clusters, chant and choral sound effects, was characteristic of the Polish school led by Krzysztof Penderecki (1933- ), especially Psalms of David (1958), St. Luke Passion (1967) and his opera Die Teufel von Loudun (1969)

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