A displaced Californian composer writes about music made for the long while & the world around that music. ~ The avant-garde is flexibility of mind. — John Cage ~ ...composition is only a very small thing, taken as a part of music as a whole, and it really shouldn't be separated from music making in general. — Douglas Leedy ~ My God, what has sound got to do with music! — Charles Ives
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
One or the other among the three of you reading this page might have noticed the series of "Landmarks" (an index of all the Landmarks to date is to be found on the right-hand sidebar). I began the list without any conscious constraints upon it other than the individual pieces must be pieces that have changed the way I listen to and understand music and that continue to challenge. As time has gone on, the list has taken on a certain structure and life of its own, and each new entry has to conform to a set of rules that have emerged seemingly on their own. Each entry has to distinguish itself from its neighbors in some way, and some spread over time and geography within a very broadly taken "western art music" tradition seems to be implied. I've struggled with a few pieces that have been essential personally, but would seem to break some rules the precise nature of which remain obscure -- for example, to date, not a single composer has been represented by more than one work and I'm not sure if holding out for the K. 516 Quintet is in response to an implicit rule about this, or just biding time; or, I've often been tempted to add a Javanese work -- Gambir Sawit, the Patalon Wayangan, Gadhung Mlathi, or Gendhing Tukung -- or the Navajo Blessing Way, but my sense of the list is that adding any of these exquisite works might be taken as a form of musical tourism or worse. In any case, at any moment, I've got two or three pieces which are wrestling for a position in the series but the decision to actually add one always comes suddenly and unexpectedly: yes, damn it, this is important music and I have something, however small, to share about it.
Posted by Daniel Wolf at 10:13 PM
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I for one have found the Landmarks invigorating. Well, interesting, which word I use approvingly. As to your "rules,"
1) "not a single composer has been represented by more than one work" seems self-aware, if I may say so; these landmark works don't belong to the composers who revealed them, they are detached from Mozart and Scelsi and Lou and so on; since they are not expressions of their composers, why can't more than one, or fifty if necessary, rise in the cordillera you describe? (Is it right to condemn Ives's Fourth to eternal ignorance of the Concord Sonata?)
2) "I've often been tempted to add a Javanese work ... but my sense of the list is that adding any of these exquisite works might be taken as a form of musical tourism..." Again, a little self-conscious. What is wrong with tourism; are we not all tourists? Wanderers, to use a Schubertian term, among these waypoints?
Daniel, I just wanted to mention I think the landmark series is a great project. What I especially like is how you consciously construct something of a personal canon, and that's a wonderful example for how you could think about canons in general. Canonizing shouldn't be left to some 'authority': we should all be doing it.
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