"Letter to the Editor". After receiving the following email message:
Prof. Tipei, I don't mean to be offensive by my comments, but I wish you would consider them. Today you called the brief opera excerpt beautiful music. Well, it sounded pretty ugly to me. I don't know that that is bad, I was pleased that I could tell it was expressing something. But an art should also be able to express love and joy. Early in the class, you said it was up to us future teachers to make this music more widely understood, if it is to be understood at all. However, if we can not see what is beautiful in it, what impetus is there to extol its virtues to less educated and less interested audiences? You know the part you said sounded like birds? Sounded like pretty mean ugly birds to me. Were they supposed to be mean and ugly? If the were supposed to be little twittery sweet birds, what happened in the steps from idea to composotion to performance to listener that changed their character? I also wonder about things we have learned so far. I think it is great that someone can put the Fibonacci sequence into music, or the golden mean or whatnot else. But what good is it if you have to dig into the score to get it? What good does that do the listener? If we are just trying to bury neat things withing the context of a score, what are we doing other than making new kinds of crossword puzzles? For instance, I once heard of a string quartet Brahms wrote shortly after breaking up with a woman he loved. After writing the quartet he was finally able to "let go." The most impassioned climax of the composition, also spells out the woman's name in german lettering. To me, that is great art. The aesthetic matches PERFECTLY the sentiment revealed in deaper levels. I can list other examples for you too. But when I listened to the examples in Bartok, there was nothing that SOUNDED fibanacci-like. ANd so Messiean discovered a new technique for making modes. What can he say with the new modes? You said yourself, the output of this technique is so pre-determined, that you can't help but sound like Messiean when writing like that. SO we discovered a new toy. But what good is it as art if it does not allow us to more perfectly express ourselves? And one more point. I've heard it said that the point of atonal music is to abolish the heirarchy of pitch (intervals). Well fine, but such an act can not be undertaken arbitrarily. There are acoustical principles which govern the consonance and disonance of intervals, it was not a notion arbitrarily assigned by the creators of tonality. The invervals within music already have an heirarchy, like it or not. One can not simply declare them to be equal. What strikes me when I have listened to the Bartok and the Stravinsky, (and Benjamin Britten for that matter) is not that the piece is unexpressive, but that which the music expresses (to me) is different from what the text is about. These are some of my basic gripes about 20th century music (considering what little I know). And I am not even opposed to the music in general, I simply want to know what is going on. For my sake, I would appreciate it if you could respond to some of these comments either over email or in person. For the class' sake, I wouldd like request that you teach us also what is beautiful about the music, not simply what is novel and different. How else will we find meaning to teach to others? Thanks for your patience with my inquires.
we discussed these issues in class. We concentrated on:
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