Tag: musicology

How Recordings Changed New Music

37924378_m“It’s the latest popular song,” declared the phonograph, speaking in a sulky tone of voice. “A popular song?” “Yes. One that the feeble-minded can remember the words of and those ignorant of music can whistle or sing. That makes a popular song popular, and the time is coming when it will take the place of all other songs.” – L. Frank Baum

Before the late 1800s the only way you heard music was if you went to hear it live, or someone was playing the piano in the home. So you actively went to hear chamber music, or opera, or other live events to hear the newest music. It was very much the same as when a new movie comes out. We are going to consume something new and we hope exciting. (More on that in a minute.)

But with the invention of the phonograph, suddenly you could have a recording of a song you loved and play it over and over. Thus the first century of recorded music was born, and so was an industry. Phonographs, and then the radio brought music to listeners so they could hear their songs all the time and fall in love with tunes.

“As recently as the late nineteenth century, even the most devoted music lover might hear his or her favourite piece just three or four times in his or her whole life. Unless you happened to be a virtuoso musician with access to both sheet music and instruments, it was almost impossible to bring large-scale forms of music into your own home. Not until the dawn of recording and radio technology did our ancestors have any great choice as to what they listened to and when.” – Howard Goodall

With so much recorded music available for people to consume, the tastes changed for what they wanted to hear at live concerts. No longer were they going to hear a concert to hear new music. Now they were going to hear their favorite recorded song.

Audiences began to (and still do) demand these favorites in concert, rather than new, original pieces by artists. This changed the way new music was introduced forever, and still holds today.

Amazing popular composers like Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles aren’t actively writing and recording new songs because they know fans don’t really want to hear new songs when they go to their concerts. It’s not much different for current artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, big bands or cover bands. Modern concert audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard recorded, not the newest thing the artists are working on.

To be honest there is much more money in live performance for artists, especially today. Why spend time writing, recording, and marketing new material that will bring in little in royalties, if you can just hook a tour, repackage, and keep selling the old stuff while making a tidy profit?

This Ain’t the Movies

“There’s no business like show business!” – Irving Berlin

The film industry has worked out a unique strategy that keeps money flowing quite well. It releases its newest movies mainly in stages. They start with a big blowout, large theatrical release, then it goes to smaller screen theaters, then to pay per view, then DVD/Bluray, then Netflix, cable, broadcast, etc). It’s an amazing cycle of marketing opportunities and makes money every step of the way.

New music has been introduced for more than a century as a recorded form that people are inundated with first. Sure there still may be some orchestral works that have live premieres, but popular music by and large is blasted out to ears whether they want it or not. And those that have the deepest pockets get their music heard the most.

Don’t think people haven’t tried to think of ways of doing this “windowing” technique and trying to release music to CD then downloads then streaming. It just hasn’t and won’t work. People now want to stream it the minute it is released. It’s not about convenience for the artist or label, it’s about the wants and needs of the consumer.

The funny part of all this is that recorded music had an unparalleled run through the last century, due in part to technology starting with the phonograph through the CD. But the tech of this century has now put us in a quandary on the future of the whole recording industry.

Will we ever go back to hearing (or wanting) new music live again? Or will we continue to depend on media tastemakers to tell us what the best new music is?

Your thoughts (and best guesses!) are welcome.

“So people will come along and do new things and sometimes return to the spirit of an earlier age.” – Norman McLaren

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, or a fortune teller, but through the writings and community of Music History Matters, he can look back and see the parallels and lessons of the past in music today.

The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall

Story-of-Music_3DA Book Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

So, it’s not often I read a whole music history book from cover to cover. To be honest, most I start, or skim, or read parts that interest me. But The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall, got my attention from the start and kept it until the very last page.

In fact, I don’t often write book reviews but felt this book would benefit the readers of this blog as well as any folks who may be interested in music history from a sociological point of view like I am.

The subtitle for the book is “From Babylon to the Beatles, How Music has Shaped Civilization.” While this may be a tad hyperbolic, Goodall does a good job making sure this book clings tightly to what’s going on in the world and how each period relates to the people at that time. In fact, the book wastes no time getting to that very thing in its first paragraph.

“You may think that music is a luxury, a plug-in to make human life more enjoyable. That would be a fair supposition in the twenty-first century, but our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have agreed. To them, music was much more than mere entertainment.” (pg 6)

And from here we are off. Starting with early civilizations of cavemen, Goodall begins The Story of Music. From there we traverse through time, eventually touching on the first known composer, “a spectacularly clever and imaginative German woman, Hildegard of Bingen, who was born in 1098.”

“Instead of handing on the tried and tested chants, as had been the norm in earlier centuries, Hildegard made up her own chant tunes. This seems to us an obvious thing to do, but in the twelfth century it was both daring and unexpected.” (pg 27)

One of the things I love about this book is how accessible it makes music history to us who are living and working in music now. This is something I think is crucial to keeping the history of music relatable and helpful in ours and students’ future professional music lives. Almost every important point is correlated to how we deal with music today and that makes this book relevant, even though many are stories we already have heard or know well.

“The distance in form, intention, mood and expression between Schubert’s songs for voice and piano and those of, say, Adele is remarkably short, considering they are separated by two hundred years. The only thing that would shock Schubert about ‘Someone like you’ is the fact that a young woman is the song’s creator, not its object.” (pg 221)

One important aspect this book brings up several times is how the advent and subsequent accessibility of recordings brought about something that continues to plague music to this day.

“At a concert in February 1814, for example, Beethoven presented the première of his eighth symphony alongside a performance of his seventh, which itself was only two months old. No one at the time thought this unusual. By the mid-twentieth century, however, the tables had been turned: old favourites became the bread and butter of live concerts, with new works squeezed in between them apologetically.” (pg 313)

Goodall speaks extensively in several different points in the book about the early glut of classical recordings and how audiences began to prefer to hear their old favorites in concert, rather than new music. This isn’t only a classical music problem, as pop music audiences often prefer the songs they know and love to new music at concerts. More on this in a future article.

The books ends with a very optimistic flair and, as is the case with the whole book, Goodall brings the history of music to a close with our current music situation.

“J. S. Bach was probably the cleverest composer who ever lived, but he gave his performers almost no detailed instructions as to how they might play his sublime music. He hastily scribbled down the notes and left them to it. It is as if he is saying, ‘trust me, and play’.

We, more than any previous generation, can readily identify with Bach’s request. We press ‘play’ and a million styles, sounds, aural colours, echoes and voices breeze in towards us as if through an opened window. We are like children with a thousand games at our fingertips. We have, at last, reached a point where there are no wrong or right decisions about what music we may or may not enjoy – just one gratifyingly simple instruction: ‘play’.”

Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

 

Excerpts From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks.

This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l

Or at Amazon here.

Bringing Up Mozart

Let’s face it, parenting just isn’t an easy job. But the job is even harder when you are rearing a creative child with an incredible amount of talent.

themozarts

No one ever faced a tougher job than Leopold Mozart, known in music history as the driving father who put his children, especially his son Wolfgang, on a grueling tour of Europe. What is interesting is that Leopold didn’t face anything much different than what we face each day as parents. Especially if you have or are a talented creative child.

Worry

OK, so as a parent you know you have something special on your hands. It may not be talent the kid was born with as I’m not sure that is even possible (see “Talent is Overrated”), but there certainly is aptitude there, and they keep surpassing your expectations and even your own ability.

Leopold saw this in Wolfgang, and tried his best to keep his son disciplined and on the right path. But that wasn’t so easy with the precocious Wolfie. His carefree, playful spirit can be found at the end of a letter to his sister Nannerl.

“Well, farewell. I kiss you 1000 times and remain, as always, your little old piggy wiggy.  (signed) Wolfgang Amade Rosy Posy”

Leopold worried his talented and free-spirited son would wind up married to someone poor, and that was not what Leopold had hoped for.

“Leopold had a graphic view of his son’s possible fate as an impoverished musician. ‘ Utterly forgotten by the world, captured by some woman,’ he wrote, ‘you will die bedded on straw in an attic full of starving children.’ His anxiety was justified to some extent but he could see his son’s future only in extremes: success and glory or misery and starvation.” – Francis Carr, Mozart & Constanze

I think many of us fear the destiny of our own talented children like that: they will either be world renown and rich, or destitute doing their own thing.

Disappointment

There is a time in every parent’s life when they are let down by their kids. You know the drill. They understand the parameters of what is allowed, yet they still choose to break them. Wolfgang did this repeatedly and sometimes even gleefully!

When Wolfgang began to write of being enamored with Aloysia Weber, Leopold did not approve. In fact, when his son wrote about accompanying the Webers to Paris, Leopold went ballistic.

“As for your proposal to travel about with Herr Weber and his two daughters, it has nearly made me lose my reason?…a horrible idea! Could you really make up your mind to go traveling about the world with strangers?” – Letter to Wolfgang, February 11th, 1778

It almost sounds like a modern day parent warning their guitar player adolescent son about going on the road with a rock band.

Why This Matters

Well, it’s pretty obvious we all share Leopold’s struggle. Just like we have to treat disadvantaged or struggling kids special, it’s a struggle to be good, strong parents to those who are on the other end of the spectrum (especially with “adult” kids).

In all likelihood, Leopold meant well, and Wolfgang likely didn’t make it easy. In the end, you could say Mozart’s talent won out despite his folly, personality, spending habits, marriage, and competition. His tremendous catalog and output still happened regardless of things that were in or out of his father’s control.

Your kid may not be Mozart, but you can still help him navigate the waters of an artistic life with good guidance, a patient hand, and consistent discipline.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but he plays one of the Internet. We’d love any and all thoughts you may have on this post, but since this is a blog meant to (hopefully) encourage real life application, please make them positive and on topic. However, corrections as always are welcome.

Art vs. Commercial (Rossini meets Beethoven)

artvscommAt the end of his career Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers to have ever lived, was completely deaf. Around this same time, Gioachino Rossini had also become quite popular with his comic operas including the huge hit, The Barber of Seville. With the public’s mixed reception of Beethoven’s vast Ninth Symphony, Rossini perhaps outshone Beethoven as Europe’s most popular composer at the time.

Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.

There are various accounts of this supposed meeting.

“The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but the Italian Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’. The two composers did meet once, an encounter brokered by the kindly Antonio Salieri, and we have it word for word since Beethoven, being deaf, had to have the conversation written down. The rules of engagement between the two types of composer were even evident in their short back-and-forth in 1822, with Beethoven congratulating Rossini on his success but warning him not to write anything other than comic opera as ‘his character wouldn’t suit it’. It is a conversation that continues to be played out between self-styled ‘serious’ composers and ‘crossover’ composers to this day.” – Howard Goodall, The Story of Music

Other sources tell different, but similar accounts.

30-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.” – Wikipedia on Rossini

Why This Matters

To be honest, there are so many different takes on how this meeting really took place, or if it is just an anecdotal tale (although I like the thought that it had to be written down due to Beethoven’s deafness and therefore could be somewhat preserved.)

But the point is that we may have many meetings with those who either feel our commercial music is not as “important” as their art music, and vice versa. Rossini just wanted to meet his idol, but Beethoven saw the real truth: it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music.

Beethoven’s work, like his Ninth Symphony, was so large, so groundbreaking in some ways, it was hard for crowds looking for pure “entertainment” to always get it. While he was certainly revered as a genius, there were mixed reviews.

“Beethoven’s musical revolution received mixed reactions. A critic who attended the (Ninth Symphony) premiere effused praise: “the effect was indescribably great and magnificent, jubilant applause from full hearts was enthusiastically given the master.” A London critic who heard the work in 1825 called the hour-plus length “a fearful period indeed, which puts the muscles and lungs of the band and the patience of the audience to a severe trial.” – Oxford University Press

This account, true or not, just shows how the debate of art over commercialism in music has raged for centuries. Where do you fall in the debate?

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy music producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Bibliography

(Excerpt From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gioachino_Rossini

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premieres

Pay for Play (Music History Repeating)

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw

Those who deride, denounce, and generally decry the new music business world of streaming and single downloads should know we’ve been here before. I won’t go into 45 “singles”, and in fact this particular story predates even those years by almost 70 years.

0dca9-cowboysIn the book “Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry”, by Gareth Murphy, he tells an early story of the first (and only) recording industry monopoly. Around 1895, business tycoon Jesse Lippincott bought into Thomas Edison’s phonograph (at that time the prevailing “talking machine” technology was still a wax cylinder machine.)

He exclusively licensed the technology across the nation to dealers who in turn leased the machines to users. His partner in this business was Edward Easton, the industry’s first record producer, and the grandfather of Columbia Records.

“Despite a moderately promising start, Lippincott’s company and all of its affiliated distributors began hemorrhaging money. Wisely, Edward Easton went out to investigate what was happening on the ground. Throughout March 1890, in what would be the first nationwide study of the nascent record industry, Easton traveled coast to coast, visiting thirty-one of Lippincott’s regional branches.

“To his amazement, Easton observed something nobody saw coming. A San Francisco distributor had transformed the phonograph into “pay to play” jukeboxes. Custom-built, in beautifully decorated wooden cases and fitted with coin slots, they were placed in arcades, saloons, drugstores, and various strategic places of passage.

“The fashion spread from California to other cities. Although the average take for most of these nickel phonographs was about $50 a week, the most popular jukebox was believed to be in a drugstore in New Orleans. It averaged $500 a month. Within a year, Lippincott’s monopoly began to collapse.” – Gareth Murphy, Cowboys and Indies

It would seem throughout music history, consumers choose to pay for one song as they want it. I’m sure if they could have come into a music hall and demanded orchestras play just the piece they wanted, they would have.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

The plain truth that all current musicians have to live with now is that we are moving away from recorded music in general as a commodity. Until the late 1880’s the only way to even experience music on demand outside a music event was playing from sheet music, and that had only flourished since the widespread availability of the printing press.

Now, technology has freed music from such primitive constructs as cylinders, wax discs, tapes, and even digital discs. Music is everywhere, on every portable player, phone, tablet, laptop, and other device. It’s even available over the air in every restaurant or store, or on music channels in our cable package.

Just as jukeboxes transformed the first early record business, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Beats, Rhapsody, and others offer users the ability to hear any song any time, and it is rocking the recording business just like it did 150 years ago in it’s infancy.

It’s just music history, repeating.

John Eric Copeland isn’t a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. Be sure to sign up to get this blog when it posts, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkenIn for daily tidbits.

The Curious Case of Fanny J. Crosby

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” – Albert Einstein

fdabd-fanny-crosbyI work with songwriters all the time, especially songwriters who are writing Christian or gospel songs, hymns, or worship songs. Many start after a conversion, or a significant faith change in their life. And many start later in life to try to get their songs out to the world.

Fanny J. Crosby, was no different, except that she was very different!

She is most likely the most prolific hymn writer in history. She didn’t start writing hymns until she was in her thirties, and didn’t get started really publishing them in a big way until her forties! She was also blind almost since birth.

Many of us grew up with hymns in church, and if you didn’t, you recognize them as different and many times more endearing than today’s standard worship fare. If you’re not a churchgoer, you likely still know Amazing Grace or some other hymns very well.

Well, Fanny was the grandmamma of the hymn. She wrote more than 8,000 of them, including well known songs like “Blessed Assurance”, “To God Be the Glory”, “Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home”, and “Praise Him, Praise Him”.

When she was six weeks old she caught a cold and developed inflammation of the eyes. According to her, mustard poultices were applied and this damaged the optic nerves. Doctors today say it was more likely congenital. Either way, she was blind her entire life.

Even as a child, though she “saw” through her condition, even writing about her blindness in her first poem at the age of 8.

One blog could not even get close to letting you know about this lady’s vast works, from poetry, to the hymns, to cantatas, to popular songs, and more. It’s kind of staggering.

To get a better idea of the incredible life of Fanny J. Crosby check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Crosby

WHY THIS MATTERS:

Can you apply the life of this lady in the kind of scary looking pictures to your life as a songwriter?

Likely you won’t write almost 9,000 hymns, but the story of Fanny J. Crosby shows it’s never too late for God to use your songs at any stage of your life. She lived to be 95 and was inspiring presidents and church leaders long after her writing decreased in her later years.

She was a household name in America as a songwriter, and she was a blind woman in the late 1800s from humble beginnings. Oh yeah, and she had nary an internet connection, Facebook nor Twitter to build an audience.

So what’s your excuse?

“The human mind will not be confined to any limits.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

EC

Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he plays one on the Internet. We invite you to comment and add to the understanding of music history.

Mrs. Poynter, Bernstein’s West Side Story, and the First Moments of my Music Maturity

94ff7-west-side-storyGod bless Mrs. Poynter! She was a perky young teacher that I had in ninth grade, and thank goodness she had some amount of artistic leanings.

One day, as part of our assignment on something, she told us we would be watching Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story. Now, personally, I feel this is one of the great works of the 20th Century. Growing up, I had the album at home and I had listened to it many times with only the LP album art to clue me in on what the characters looked like.

But Mrs. Poynter changed all that.

The janitor wheeled the TV and VCR into our ninth grade room one afternoon, and the lights were turned out. Everyone was glad we weren’t doing some kind of silly work, even if it was a boring musical. For me however, it was a life-changing experience.

From the first moments of the film, the high whistles and the mysterious percussion bring a sense of mystery. To be honest, we all giggled when the tough guys started ballet dancing, but it was the music that hooked me. Still when I watch or listen to the first numbers before and during “When You’re a Jet” I love the flowing sax and string lines intertwining with larger orchestral melodies. It builds and flows, and carries the performers along like they are in a river.

Then later when an old style march transforms quickly into a tumultuous mambo, Bernstein really gets going. One minute the strings and woodwinds are plodding along in a very honky traditional fashion, then Bernstein somehow devolves into horns blaring the stabbing lines of the Latin number. Everyone yells “Mambo” and it’s off to the races.

But still the defining moment is coming. A moment that makes me realize I may be a little different from my fellow students.

The song “Maria” begins with a very 20th Century and now classic melody. Through the song, kind of like Tony knowing “Something’s Coming” earlier, I was hearing this genius melody (and lyric, “say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying”. Wow, nice Sondheim.) But towards the end, when the entire key changes for the tag (“The most beautiful sound I ever heard…”), then Bernstein writes the notes that forever changed me. “Mari-a.” Ending back on the third of the original key. Gasp.

A chill went up my spine that day. I might have cried, don’t remember. I hope not because that was the year I finally got that bully off my back.

But I DO remember looking around at all the other kids. They were sleeping, or pulling each other’s hair, or staring off into space bored. They were NOT having chills. They were NOT on the verge of tears. Those notes meant nothing to them. Those notes would not stop them in their tracks anytime they heard them the rest of their life.

That’s when I knew I was different. I wasn’t writing songs yet, or even singing (although I was playing trombone in band), but I knew “something was coming”. I was headed for a life that had to do with notes, chords, and orchestration like Bernstein wrote there.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

We all had a teacher, a parent, or someone that inspired us, or helped make a connection to something that drove us more into music. Mrs. Poynter was certainly not the only music influence, or maybe the most important music teacher in my life, but this incident I will always remember.

Do you have an incident like this? If so, share it below.

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he does play one on the Internet. For more on his unique twist on Music History and why it matters today, subscribe to this blog or join us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

Dvořák and the Struggle for Success

It’s easy when you’re an artistic person, whether you’re a music composer, author, singer, painter, or anyone creative…sometimes you just feel tired of beating your head against the same wall.

Is it all really worth it? Will anyone ever take note of your hard work?

For the first 20 or so years of his professional career, Antonin Dvořák struggled to find widespread success. He managed to make a living as a musician, but he faced challenges including having an opera spurned as “unperformable”.

But somewhere along the way he caught the ear of Johannes Brahms, who Dvořák himself admired. Through Brahms he found a publisher and began to find a larger audience eventually receiving commissions by the Royal Philharmonic Society of London, and becoming the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City.

In an article he wrote for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in February 1895, Dvořák had this to say about art and “making it”.

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly that art, as such, does not “pay,” to use an American expression – at least, not in the beginning – and that the art that has to pay its own way is apt to become vitiated and cheap.”

Wow, doesn’t that sound familiar? More than anything, Dvořák understood that the real value of being an artist is in mentoring and educating of younger artists, as Dvořák was mentored by Brahms.

“My own duty as a teacher, I conceive, is not so much to interpret Beethoven, Wagner, or other masters of the past, but to give what encouragement I can to the young musicians of America.”

WHY THIS MATTERS:

Perhaps you can find that mentor that can help you to the next level of your artistic success, or perhaps you can BE that mentor to someone you know who is struggling.

We all need it, especially in an age where the master/apprentice model has seemed to be harder to find.

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, but he does play one on the Internet. For more on his unique twist on Music History and why it matters today, subscribe to this blog or join us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

Debussy vs. Atonality

18995-schoenberg-of-borg
Schoenberg of Borg

Subtitle 1: Resistance is Futile
Subtitle 2: Star Trek vs. The Berg

(It will really help if you have some kind of Trek background here.)

I have a theory about almost anything by Debussy. If you put his music behind the original Star Trek shows it works perfectly as the backdrop music when Kirk is spouting off some soliloquy, or when they are on a strange planet (which is much like the one they were on last week).

As I listen to The Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”, I swear I could see Captain Kirk with some green chick on a planet, where the fake plastic flowers are purple and green. The flute descending and rising with the shimmering strings behind…well it just puts me in the mood to see some bad acting.

See if I’m not right: 

The calm, flowing melodies beautifully paint the picture of an afternoon on a clearing (where alien deer roam perhaps?). Flute gives way to clarinet, as the score gets deeper, and more complex. It would be hard to imagine the composer of this piece moving totally into atonality, and in fact Debussy flirted with and came back from that direction. He was not assimilated by it.

Schoenberg and his drones, Webern and Berg however, were fully seduced by the dark side of atonality and the pure difference of it.

In a similar fashion to how Debussy would have fit so well in the classic, sixties Star Trek score, Berg’s Three Orchestral Pieces could be scored behind modern Star Trek’s most feared foe. The horror, the dissonance, the pure mechanical and obtuseness of it fits the evil robot Borg race, as they seek to take from what has been and use what they want for their own devices.

Almost scary as it gets going, with twists and turns chromatically, percussion slamming out of nowhere like a bad acid trip in a haunted house, The Berg come at you from all directions as seems typical with atonal pieces. Shields are not holding! There seems no defense (except to turn it off as one critic in his day stood and demanded.)

I’ve always felt atonal music seemed random, obtuse on purpose, as if the composer was drunk and just wrote whatever notes he fashioned. “Ha, let’s hear this together. That will freak them right out. Resistance is futile, helpless turn of the century earthlings! You will be assimilated to this new music, and like it!”

In the Three Orchestral Pieces third movement, Berg both paid tribute to and mocks Beethoven’s Fifth. You can almost hear Schoenberg, Webern and Berg speaking monotone as one to the previous Viennese School composer. “We take what we want, and will add your musical and technological distinctiveness to our own.”

While you can hear snippets of atonality with Debussy, it’s obvious that melody just won out. Like the malevolent Federation in Star Trek that only seeks to seek out new life and new civilizations in peace, Debussy was willing to explore the unknown. He just made sure he came back to Earth.

But Schoenberg (classical music’s equivalent of the Borg Queen) and his drones were not interested in beauty, peace, and easy harmony. They craved disharmony, all for various reasons probably. And like the Borg, once they got a taste of the power, the complete look of astonishment, and the sheer outrage of those who did not understand what they were doing, they knew they were doing something right.

In the end, they formed a new race of being, a new complete school of music.

And the galaxy of music would never be the same.

Kirk out.

John Eric Copeland loved Star Trek long before music history, but now sees the value in both. KAAAAAAAHN!

You Can Handel It

Think you have it tough? At a scary point in your music career?

George Frederic Handel is of course known for his amazing works like Messiah, Water Music, etc., but do you think it was all gravy?

See if this sounds familiar…

Money trouble. Once one of the top paid musicians for Kings and Queens of England, later in life Handel was facing debtor’s prison since his audiences (and patrons paying the tab) had faded.

Competition. Other goofballs, with obviously less talent were getting all the accolades.

Fickle audiences. Opera was fading from the London scene, and Handel was trying to push his new “oratorio” style, which mixed religious passion plays with opera style production. Churches and ministers were not pleased by this new “outrageous music”.

Health issues. Rheumatism, strokes, and eventually eyesight issues plagued him his last decade.

We current day composers, artists, and musicians live with all these, and so did Handel. In fact, at the very time he was facing debtor’s prison, and in bad health, he was approached to compose the great work Messiah. And even that now-beloved masterpiece was not a hit in England immediately. It took years to win mass audience approval.

He died England’s most beloved composer, and left a hefty inheritance. But like any musician, there were some serious highs and some pretty bad lows.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

Those who make it in art are those who keep working harder than the rest. They believe in themselves, not just in the good times, but the bad also.

When it seems that it’s getting pretty hard to compete in your particular part of the music industry, then maybe it’s time to redefine yourself. Look for new interests, perhaps a new branch of study, a new instrument, or a new job.

It’s a great big music world out there, and maybe you’ve been hiding in your hole too long, or stuck in a rut. Time to pick yourself up and attack again in a new way.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is not a musicologist (yet), but does play one on the Internet. For more on his unique twist on Music History and why it matters today, check out http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.com