Soir d’Hiver: The Spectacular Modernist Christmas SPECTACULAR!

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The Adoration of the Magi, by Emil Nolde (1933)

We’re back with our tenth episode. Musicologist Jill Rogers (University College Cork) joins host Matthew Friedman for a holiday special exploring how modernist and avant-garde composers have marked Christmas in their music since the early 20th century. Whether mobilizing patriotic sentiment in 1914, or trying to find a space for the sacred in the rubble of war, and the shadow of the Holocaust, modernist and avant-garde composers of the 20th century reflected the often dark, always complicated spirit of their times, while marking a season of contemplation and the promise of redemption.

This episode features music by Claude Debussy, Nadia Boulanger, Benjamin Britten, Krzysztof Penderecki, Francis Poulenc, and Peter Maxwell Davies.

The Death of Europa: The Rise and Fall of the Inter-War Avant-Garde

The infamous "bathroom scene" from the premiere of Paul Hindemith's opera Hin und Zurück at the Kroll Opera in Berlin, in 1929.
The infamous “bathroom scene” from the premiere of Paul Hindemith’s opera Hin und Zurück at the Kroll Opera in Berlin, in 1929.

Click play for the ninth episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores the adventurous, and often chaotic street-level avant-garde of Central Europe between the World Wars. In Berlin, Prague, and Vienna, radical composers, writers, and critics promoted a new vision of European culture that rejected the “immutable truths” of the Anciens Regimes. For a brief moment in the 1920s and 1930s, Central Europe’s opera houses and cabarets swung to the pulsing rhythms of unrestrained experimentation, revolution, and jazz. But the rise of the Third Reich, and the Nazis’ campaign to cleanse Europe of “Bolshevism, modernism, and Judaism,” snuffed out avant-garde music and art — and the artists who created it, in exile, and in the camps.

This episode features music by Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Stefan Wolpe, Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek, Viktor Ullmann, and Erwin Schulhoff.

In Phase/Out of Phase: The Radical Simplicity of Minimalism

Steve Reich performs at the Whitney Museum in 1969.
Steve Reich performs at the Whitney Museum in 1969.

Click play for the eighth episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores the American avant-garde’s turn to minimalism in the late 1960s and 1970s. Launched as a critique of modernist intentionality, and the complexity of 20th century music, minimalist pioneers like Terry Riley and Steve Reich drew on diverse sources, from Asian and African music, and earlier experiments by the European avant-garde, to the ideas of the hippie counterculture, in order to craft a musical aesthetic that was, itself, the process of making music. And in the process, they innovated the inevitable soundtrack of post-industrial, networked society.

This episode features music by Riley, Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, John Adams, Ravi Shankar, Erik Satie, and Gabriel Faure.

Music of Changes: Cage, Chance Operations, and Indeterminacy

The New York School in 1962: Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, John Cage, David Tudor, and Morton Feldman.
The “New York School” in 1962: Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, John Cage, David Tudor, and Morton Feldman.

Click play for the seventh episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores the profound impact of the work and ideas of John Cage on the American avant-garde. Seeking to liberate sound from the restraints of conventional music, Cage introduced new compositional practice based on chance, and nurtured a generation of composers whose music was in a state of continual change.

This episode features an interview with the composer Christain Wolff, and music by Cage, Wolff, Henry Cowell, Morton Feldman, and Sonic Youth.

You can download Karlheinz Essl’s Fontana Mixer, a generative sound environment based on Cage’s Fontana Mix here.

Synthetic Sound: The Second Electronic Music Revolution

Click play for the sixth episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores sound synthesis, and how the invention of the electronic synthesizer inspired avant-garde composers, and transformed how listeners listened to music. This episode features music by Milton Babbitt, Morton Subotnick, Charles Wuorinen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Raymond Scott, Gershon Kingsley, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

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The Buchla synthesizer.

Space Explorations: Avant-Garde Music in Three Dimensions

Click play for the fifth episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores how avant-garde composers rediscovered the spatial nature of sound in the 20th century, and explored the three-dimensional implications of their music. This episode features music by Charles Ives, Erik Satie, Edgard Varese, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, David Tudor, and Henry Brant, as well as Giovanni Gabrielli, and Georg Philipp Telemann.

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The Phillips pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. Designed by Le Corbusier, with Iannis Xenakis. The interior space resonated with Edgard Varese’s Poeme Electronique.

The Tale of the Tape: The First Electronic Music Revolution

Click play for the fourth episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. Host Matthew Friedman explores the impact of magnetic tape recording technologies on avant-garde composers, and on the birth of electronic music. This episode features an interview with composer Pauline Oliveros, music by Oliveros, Pierre Schaeffer, Halim El-Dabh, Otto Luening, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Alice Shields, Lejaren Hiller, Steve Reich, and Jacob Druckman.

The San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1964. From left to right: Tony Martin Bill Maginnis, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, and Pauline Oliveros.
The San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1964. From left to right: Tony Martin, Bill Maginnis, Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, and Pauline Oliveros.

Listening in the Dark: The Avant-Garde at the Movies

Click play for the third episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. “Listening in the Dark: The Avant-Garde at the Movies.” Host Matthew Friedman explores the intimate connections between avant-garde music and cinema. Since the early days of the 20th century, avant-garde music has provided the soundtrack of the world’s cinematic imagination.

The soundtrack album for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) stimulated unprecedented interest in adventurous avant-garde music, and sold 500,000 copies within a year.
The soundtrack album for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) stimulated unprecedented interest in adventurous avant-garde music, and sold 500,000 copies within a year.

Order From Chaos: Modernism and Rationality in 12 Tones

Click play for the second episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. “Order From Chaos: Modernism and Rationality in 12 Tones,” explores the radical conservatism of Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone composition method, and its impact on western avant-garde music before, and after the Second World War.

Modernists in exile in America. From left to right: Rudolf Kolisch, George Szell, Max Horkheimer, Felix Khuner, Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler, an unidentified person, and Eduard Steuermann
Modernists in exile in America. From left to right: Violinist Rudolf Kolisch, conductor George Szell, Max Horkheimer, violinist Felix Khuner (squatting), Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler, an unidentified person, and pianist Eduard Steuermann.

This episode features music by Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Hanns Eisler, Luigi Dallapiccola, Igor Stravinsky, Milton Babbitt, and Donald Martino.

Moondrunk: Pierrot Lunaire at the Edge of Modernity

Click play for the first episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden.  “Moondrunk: Pierrot Lunaire at the Edge of Modernity” starts at the beginning — or beginning — of the avant-garde, when Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire shocked the music world, and ensured that nothing would ever sound the same again.

The ensemble following the premier performance of Pierrot Lunaire in 1912.
The ensemble following the premier performance of Pierrot Lunaire in 1912. Albertine Zehme is at center, with Schoenberg to her right.

The European concert season of 1912-1913 signaled the end of the old cultural order, even before the anciens régîmes marched into a suicidal conflict in the trenches of the Great War. In May 1913, Paris had rioted at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, the previous October, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire served notice in Berlin that the old practices, conventions and tonalities of European music were to be shattered by a the modernist avant-garde.