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.

Episode 4 Playlist: The Tale of the Tape

schaefferPierre Schaeffer, Cinq Etudes de Bruits
The French Avant-Garde in the 20th Century, LTM Recordings ‎– LTMCD 2571

 

antholohy_of_noiseHalim El-Dabh, Wire Recorder Piece
An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music Vol. 4, Sub Rosa ‎– SR250

 

pioneer_electronicOtto Luening, Low Speed
Pioneers Of Electronic Music, New World Records ‎– 80644-2

 

CPEMC1Halim El-Dabh, Leiyla and the Poet
Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, Columbia Masterworks ‎– MS 6566

 

cpemc2Alice Shields, Study for Voice and Tape
Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center 1961-1973, New World Records ‎– 80521-2

 

cpemc2Ilhan Mimaroglu, Prelude No. 8 for Magnetic Tape
Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center 1961-1973, New World Records ‎– 80521-2

 

oliveros_soupPauline Oliveros, Beautiful Soop
Alien Bog/Beautiful Soop, Pogus Productions ‎– P21012-2

 

women_electronicPauline Oliveros, Bye Bye Butterfly
New Music For Electronic & Recorded Media. Women In Electronic Music , New World Records ‎– 80653

 

reich_earlySteve Reich, It’s Gonna Rain
Early Works, Nonesuch ‎– 9 79169-2

 

hillerLejaren Hiller, Machine Music for Piano, Percussion and Tape
Twelve-Tone Variations for Piano/Machine Music for Piano, Percussion and Tape/Sonata No. 3 For Violin and Piano, Turnabout ‎– TV-S 34536

 

druckman_animusiiiJacob Druckman, Animus III for Clarinet & Tape
Animus III / Synapse/Valentine, Nonesuch ‎– H-71253

I Remember: The Music of the Holocaust

An undated archive photograph shows Auschwitz II-Birkenau main guard house which prisoners called "the gate of death". An undated archive photograph shows Auschwitz II-Birkenau's main guard house which prisoners called "the gate of death" and the railway with the remains of abandoned crockery. The railway, which was built in 1944, was the last stop for the trains bringing Jews to the death camp. REUTERS/HO-AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM
The Auschwitz II-Birkenau main guard house, “the gate of death.”

At the end Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis, Kaiser Uberall accepts his fate: he will be the sacrifice which will restore the balance of life and death that his own arrogance and brutality so tragically upset. It is one of the most powerful moments in 20th century opera. It is a moment of hope and high ideals; a plea for humanity, and a promise of peace. It is also a moment of unimaginable horror and tragedy, for the opera was never performed during its composer’s lifetime. Ullmann died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 18 October 1944.

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, begins tomorrow night. And as we approach that solemn day of remembrance for the millions murdered by the Nazis, I find my thoughts going back to the final moments of Ullman’s opera.

Continue reading “I Remember: The Music of the Holocaust”

From the Bins: Three West Coast Composers

2016-04-30 19.06.04I had just paid for an armful of LPs at Iris Records, my local vinyl emporium in Jersey City’s Village. I was turning to leave when Steve, sitting behind the stacks of records crowding around the cash, stopped me. He pulled a record from the pile “This just came in,” he said with that slightly fiendish grin he gets when he knows he’ll hook me into buying another record. I’m sure I’m not the only customer who regularly flips through Iris’s avant-garde bin, but I’m probably the most consistent. It is my work, and my passion, and Steve knows to keep an eye out for me.

One of the challenges of listening to avant-garde music is finding avant-garde music to listen to. Most major cities have some kind of contemporary and experimental music scene. You can usually find something going on in a gallery, at a local conservatory (like the Juilliard School here in New York), in a particularly adventurous performance venue (like Le Poisson Rouge, also in New York), or as part of a contemporary music festival (there are still a few of those). There’s always radio and, with the Internet and smartphones, you can listen to WQXR’s Q2 stream pretty much anywhere. The challenge is listening to recorded avant-garde music on your own time.

Continue reading “From the Bins: Three West Coast Composers”

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.

Episode 3 Playlist: Listening in the Dark

ligeti_requiem_aventuresGyorgy Ligeti, Requiem, Hessian Radio Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Michael Gielen
LigetI: Requiem/Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures,  ‎WERGO – WER 60045-50

 

ANTHEIL_FIGHTING_THE_WAVESGeorge Antheil, Ballet Mécanique, Ensemble Modern
Fighting the Waves: Music of George Antheil, BMG Classics ‎– 09026-68066-2

 

cage_prepared pianoJohn Cage, Works of Calder II, Giancarlo Simonacci
John Cage: Complete Music for Prepared Piano, Brilliant Classics ‎– 8189

 

forbidden_planetLouis and Bebe Baron, “Ancient Krell Music,” Forbidden Planet
Forbidden Planet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),
Small Planet Records ‎– PRD-00

 

herrmann_scoresBernard Hermann, “The Knife,” Psycho, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen
Bernard Herrmann: The Film Scores,
Sony Classical ‎– SK 927767

 

rosenmanLeonard Rosenman, “The Planetarium,” Rebel Without a Cause, London Sinfonietta, John Adams
The Film Music of Leonard Rosenman: East Of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, Nonesuch ‎– 7559-79402-2

 

planet_of_the_apesJerry Goldsmith, “Main Title,” Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes Soundtrack
, The Masters Record Label ‎– Masters 1249

 

takemitsu_filmToru Takemitsu, music from Woman in the Dunes
Film Music of Takemitsu
, Nonesuch ‎– 79404-2

 

2001Gyorgy Ligeti, Atmospheres
2001: A Space Odyssey (Music from the Motion Picture Sound Track)
, MGM Records ‎– S1E-13 S

 

adams_violin_concertoJohn Adams, “A Final Shake,” Shaker Loops, Orchestra of St. Lukes, John Adams
Adams: Violin Concerto/Shaker Loops, Nonesuch ‎– 79360-2

Rites of Spring: The Concert Season at the End of the World

Nicholas Roerich's costumes for Le Sacre du Printemps
Nicholas Roerich’s costumes for Le Sacre du Printemps

Outrage flooded into the aisles of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées on the night of 29 May 1913, and spilled into the streets of Paris’s 8e Arrondissement. The premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, a new ballet staged by Sergei Diaghilev’s Les Ballets Russes, with choreography by Vaclav Nijinsky and a pulsing, dissonant score by 31-year-old Igor Stravinsky, had incited a riot. The well-heeled patrons from the 16e, the tony, bourgeois quartier around the Trocadero Palace, howled in disgust, demanding a refund for their tickets and the heads of the men responsible for the travesty of taste that they had just witnessed, though not necessarily in that order; the bohemians from Montmartre shouted back in defence. Epithets flew, backed with fists, umbrellas and handbags. One of the greatest works of musical theatre of the young century debuted in chaos.

It was, Diaghilev gaily commented, “exactly what I wanted.”

Continue reading “Rites of Spring: The Concert Season at the End of the World”

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.

Episode 2 Playlist: Order From Chaos

schoenberg_hillArnold Schoenberg, Five Piano Pieces, Op. 23, Walzer, Peter Hill

Berg/Schoenberg/Webern: Piano Music, Naxo – 8.553870

 

stravinsky_shadowdancesIgor Stravinsky, Octet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Stravinsky: Shadow Dances, Deutsche Grammophon –  453 458-2

 

schoenberg_boulezArnold Schoenberg, Variations for Orchestra, Variation 1, BBC Symphony, Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez conducts Schoenberg, Sony Classical ‎–  88765429572

 

webern_completeAnton Webern, String Quartet, Op. 28, 2nd movement, Emerson Quartet

Complete Webern, Deutsche Grammophon ‎–  457 637-2

 

berg_mutterAlban Berg, Violin Concerto, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine

Berg: Violin Concerto/Rihm: Time Chant, Deutsche Grammophon – 437 093-2

 

dallapiccolaLuigi Dallapiccola, Variations for Orchestra, Andantino Amoroso, BBC Philharmonic

Dallapiccola: Tartiniana; Due Pezzi; Variazioni per Orchestra; Piccola Musica Notturna; Frammenti Sinfonici dal Balle, Chandos – CHAN 10258

 

eisler_kammermusikHanns Eisler, 14 Arten, den Regen zu beschreiben, Op. 70, Berlin Deutsche Opera Chamber Soloists, Friedrich-Carl Erben

Hanns Eisler: Kammermusik, Berlin Classics – 0093542BC

 

stravinsky_craftIgor Stravinsky, Agon, Bransle Double, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Robert Craft

Stravinsky: Three Greek Ballets, Naxos – 8.557502

 

babbitt_quartetMilton Babbitt, Quartet No. 2, The Composers Quartet

Ruth Crawford Seeger / George Perle / Milton Babbitt String Quartets, Nonesuch  ‎– H-71280

 

martino_wuorinenDonald Martino, Notturno, Speculum Musicae

Martino: Notturno/Wuorinen: Speculum Speculi, Nonesuch ‎– H-71300

 

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.