Saturday, June 06, 2020

Triablogue posts on the passing of Steve Hays 1959-2020

During the years that Michael Spenser was alive he found Steve Hays at Triablogue an occasional thorn in his side.  In the Boar's Head Tavern orbit Steve Hays was viewed as a trouble-maker.

I got to know Steve roughly twenty-seven years ago in college at a cadre at a little school by a canal.  I met him around the same time I met one of his debating partners, Jeff Lowder.  I would not have guessed back in the 1990s that I had ended up meeting members of the ... should I call it the dark web debates on Reformed Christianity and atheism?  Jeff was agnostic at the time but his shift to atheism seemed fairly certain to me but that's a whole other topic.  Steve Hays has died.

haiku about this year

film by Takashi Miike
script by Argento

The soundtrack could be by Penderecki perhaps

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

possible durational correspondence between the syntactics of a standard verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge, verse-chorus pop song and a sonata form (a Ragtime and Sonata Forms postscript)

Back in April I wrote my roughly 131-page Ragtime and Sonata Forms project and for all of the readers who stopped well before part 18 it was in part 18 I provided a possible road-map for ragtime sonata forms.  Well, since that got published I've been thinking more about how similar durational correspondences or proportional correspondences are possible in pop songs. 

Freddie Deboer on Jonathan Haidt's Belief in Belief and why he can't buy it

As with so many of his posts it may be up for only a few days but, well, I managed to read it, and so here's a lengthy passage that stood out.

Monday, June 01, 2020

it's not so good here in the Emerald City, stuff that i thought of writing about but may not for a while (but ironically just wrote about)

I'm okay but even I don't feel like blogging under the current circumstances and I had meant to blog some stuff that's really cool from a Leonard B. Meyer book I've been reading, one I referenced in Ragtime and Sonata Forms about proposed musical "universals".  There are books I've been wanting to write about for months and I haven't gotten around to it because life is life and life is stressful.  Last month's thesis pretty much was a thesis and there's other stuff in off-line life I've been working on.

Mahalia Jackson: "Keep Your Hand on the Plow"

Because she's been one of my musical heroes for a very long time ... and because after what's happened in Seattle over the weekend the message seems no less timely now than when Mahalia Jackson sang the song.

Atanas Ourkouzounov: Bul Bop for flute and guitar with score

Saturday, May 30, 2020

notes on Ep 8 of Older Pastor/Younger Pastor--Sutton Turner confirms that Mark Driscoll has blocked him across social media and won't talk to him in any capacity, and some other things

I thought it was going to be a seven episode run but there are eight episodes.
What is more, Sutton Turner has published the transcript of episode 8
Ah, thanks!  That sure beats Wenatchee The Hatchet having to spend a uncounted hours transcribing things like Mark Driscoll's 2008 spiritual warfare series before being able to do any analysis of it!

Excerpts from and thoughts/notes on Episode 8 are below:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

notes on the Older Pastor/Younger Pastor series with Ryan Williams, Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner on lessons from Mars Hill--UPDATE: quotes from transcripts

So the seven-part series has recently, if it goes to seven parts, wrapped up.  As Sutton Turner has commented and fielded questions here at Wenatchee The Hatchet he would probably not be too surprised that Wenatchee The Hatchet has taken the five hours needed to listen to all seven episodes, and likely Bruskas and Ryan Williams would not be surprised at this post either.  Nobody who knows the history of this blog as a chronicle of the life and death of Mars Hill would be. So ... some notes ...

Monday, May 25, 2020

the diatonic modes as inversions of each other, a little riff on George Rochberg's proposal that Western music has had cycles of favoring symmetrical and assymetrical paradigms for pitch organization in the last thousand years

It might be because I've been reading George Rochberg's A Dance of Polar Opposites this year, but I've been struck by a passage near the end where he wrote:

Alan Jacobs on Misunderstanding Critical Theory

Having spent half a decade swimming in Adorno's work to come to a sense of his approach to music, the sociology of music and how that has been relevant to Anglo-American musicology and music history; and having seen how conservatives by and large seem to make a complete and utter hash of defining or discussing critical theory (more or less it starts and stops at "so it's communism"), I'm not surprised Alan Jacobs recently felt obliged to explain that a lot of what conservatives define as "critical theory" has nearly nothing directly (if at all) with the Frankfurt school

Sunday, May 24, 2020

remembering an old poem I wrote, riffing on a specific American "rebel" mentality, during a time of lockdown

Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 Common English Bible (CEB)
4 Whoever is among the living can be certain about this. A living dog is definitely better off than a dead lion, 5 because the living know that they will die. But the dead know nothing at all. There is no more reward for them; even the memory of them is lost.

the action hero breaks the fourth wall

it is far better
to be a dying lion
than a living dog

Saturday, May 23, 2020

discussion series: Pastoral Lessons from Mars Hill Church with Ryan Williams, Dave Bruskas & Sutton Turner

The seventh episode of an apparently seven (?) part series has gone up in which Ryan Williams talks with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner.  Owing to offline life events I have had other projects going and haven't tackled MHC related stuff in a while.  Now that Ragtime and Sonata Forms is up, though, I'll have time to get to the series, eventually.  For those who haven't heard of the series the links to the episodes are available after the break.

Get Religion's Terry Mattingly on an Atlantic piece on QAnon and evangelicalism, proposes there's a conspiracy about conspiracies believed by evangelicals that may be a conspiracy theory on the part of journalists

There are times, when reading the sprawling “Shadowland” package at The Atlantic, when one is tempted to think that the goal was to weave a massive liberal conspiracy theory about the role that conservative conspiracy theories play in Donald Trump’s America.
At the center of this drama — of course — is evangelical Christianity. After all, evangelical Christians are to blame for Trump’s victory, even if they didn’t swing all those crucial states in the Catholic-labor Rust Belt.
It’s almost as if evangelicals are playing, for some strategic minds on the left, the same sick, oversized role in American life that some evangelicals assign to Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Bill Gates and all those liberal Southern Baptist intellectuals who love Johnny Cash and Jane Austen
Let’s focus on this piece: “The Prophecies of Q.” Toward the end, a fervent supporter of Trump and the mysterious QAnon offers her credo. It’s clear that she speaks for, you know, millions of people hiding like terrorist sleeper cells in ordinary pews from coast to coast.

Friday, May 22, 2020

as reactionary/right American paranoia goes ...

the "plandemic" rants
would be crazier if she
were now president

sundry links--The Atlantic laid off 68 staffers post covid 19, and Washington state temporarily halted UI payments in wake of fraud activity

The traditional journalistic job market has been on a downward shift for a generation.  The age of the internet meant that a lot of the jobs that used to be out there just stopped existing or were phased out, a point that Scott Timberg used to write about when he was alive.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Mr. T's birthday, for those who didn't know (but especially for those who do)

hope he had a great one.  Just throwing that out there.  He had a cartoon series on Saturday mornings I used to watch back in the 1980s.  No, I am not making that up. I always liked the theme song for the show.  I mean, who wouldn't? :) So here's to Mr. T, seeing as it's his birthday.

heard "Shallow" from the new A Star is Born again ...

and it still sounds like what would happen if Don Henley and Patti Smith got drunk at some party and decided to cover a Dan Folgelberg song.

Alan Jacobs is skeptical about a "deep literacy" longform lament at National Affairs and I can't blame him

While there was an article I thought was a great read at National Affairs on the Cold War and its legacy with respect to United States arts policy and the post Cold War crisis of purpose in US arts policy NEA and otherwise ( which I wrote about over here ...

There are other articles at National Affairs that are more in the "why oh why" category and Alan Jacobs has singled out one about "deep literacy".  My own response is that the article in question is a downbeat variation on George Steiner's In Bluebird's Castle

Saturday, May 16, 2020

catching up with Doug Shadle's blogging--arguing against essentialism is great but also can problematize cultural appropriation

Catching up to Shadle's blogging in the last month. A few rambling thoughts ... (aka about 3,000 words)

Van has an article on VIcente Lusitano, a Portugese composer of African lineage circa 1520-1561

I have long been skeptical of sweeping claims that what's conventionally known as classical music is music by "white" people.  Europeans?  Sure, okay, but definitions of "white" have varied over time.  Anglo-Saxons wouldn't consider Spaniards or Portugese to necessarily be white, let alone a Portugese man of African lineage such as Vicente Lusitano, whose life and work is featured in a recent article at VAN.
and for good measure

Never heard of Vicente Lusitano?  I hadn't either, and if you want to hear one of his works go over here.

and if you can read music and want to see his surrealistic chromatic polyphony for yourself go over here.

former Acts 29 pastor Darrin Patrick has died, investigation pending, as yet no comments from Mark Driscoll on the passing of his one time pastor and friend (unless someone's spotted them in the last 8 days)

The Mighty's Juliette Virzi 's piece doesn't mention the part about the cause of death as a suicide investigation is under way.  However, the piece samples Twitter condolences in the wake of the death.

Warren Throckmorton on R. R. Reno's era of First Things (update 5-18-2020 Reno apologizes)

Seeing Reno's tweets second hand I do wonder about the latest iteration of First Things.  I picked up a book by David Novak (a conservative Jewish scholar) on Judaism and natural law that, in Novak's introduction, he wrote was inspired by a challenge from First Things to further explore the connection between natural law and Judaism.  I've got a relative who's interested in legal theories and theories of judicial action (we're Batman fans, okay, it's actually relevant to that topic, believe it or not), so I was looking at the book as a gift idea and then decided to get it myself.

The more recent iteration of First Things does not come across like the kind of magazine that would inspire an academic monograph of the sort I've just alluded to.  First Things, with a few exceptions, under Reno's tenure feels more like, I dunno, a highbrow's Glenn Beck to me.  I used to actually read it, like, twenty years ago but haven't felt a need to read it much apart from selections from Carl Trueman and some other authors.

CBC feature--during the covid-19 lockdown animation is an art form that's still moving along while live-action filming has shut down

Not all art forms have been equally battered by the pandemic.  There was a Canadian feature recently that highlighted that one of my favorite art forms is moving along, that is the art form of animation.  One of the paradoxes of the conventional highbrow and lowbrow distinctions is that cartoons tend to be viewed near the bottom of the ladder of prestige in the arts even though every single frame of an animated film is a work of art and in Wagnerian terms an animated film could be an apotheosis of the total work of art, with the drama of a story, the vocal performances, even songs show up often enough and all in the process of a story that is drawn by artists. But cartoons have often been viewed as not-art.

Over at The New Republic the status of Jordan Peterson is considered, if in the sort of way The New Republic would

an old piece from March but I noticed that there was less of Jordan Peterson online, which I admit is a bit neither here nor there for me.  TNR's piece goes in roughly the direction I would have guessed.

Friday, May 01, 2020

might take a little break, a postlude to Ragtime and Sonata Forms where I talk briefly about Henry Martin's ragtime-with-fugue and Richard St. Clair's Piano Sonata No.7 both ragtime classical fusion works that I like but have some criticisms of

Ragtime and Sonata Forms is finally done and since it amounted to 131 pages of content I think maybe that gives me some wiggle room to take a break from blogging about anything for a while.  Plus it lets the entire series stay on the main front page for a while in case people want an easier time of reading through the whole thing.  There are also hard links to each installment at the separate music page.

I've thought about blogging about Henry Martin's ragtime and fugue in G flat major as part of the project.

You can check out a lively performance of the piece that breaks down the work into its sections over here:

Fugue starts 2:37 and runs through to the end.

There's a lot I like about this piece but as ragtime I'd say it's way too complex.  There are strains but the strains get toccata like development episodes before they're completed which, this being a prelude and fugue it makes sense.  But at another level I'd say that Martin's piece, fun though it is, has made the classical music aspect of polyphonic and post-Romantic virtuosic display more high profile than it would be in traditional rag, or even maybe novelty rag a la George Cobb.

I do think that ragtime and fugue can work but having a ragtime lead into a fugue that reprises the fugal and ragtime strains is working at a level that's more abstract than audiences, or even musicians, may readily follow. And being something of an Ives fan, I think that cumulative setting might work better.  Find your ragtime strains and then use cumulative setting or cumulative form to develop preluding material; make your fugue subject just part of the first strain of your rag; and then let that incomplete ragtime strain idea as subject create an expectation that an audience familiar with rag will have that at some point the full A strain will appear. A Haydnesque critic of Martin might be to say there are too many good ideas thrown together too quickly so that you can't remember them (and as a Haydn fan and someone who went and got Martin's entire cycle, I'm not just saying that, the piece is cooler at a theoretical level than it is a piece that lingers in the mind after I hear it played).

Work has been done to put sonata and fugue into ragtime over the last thirty years and Henry Martin's work isn't even the only example I wanted to get to.

Take Richard St. Clair's Piano Sonata No. 7, which I think is a more memorable piece between the St. Clair and the Martin.

It might hew more closely to an eighteenth century sonata form (not that I mind that part) than to ragtime but St. Clair took more effort to clearly delineate his thematic groups and, since he composed the Sonata No. 7 for the centennial of the publication of "Maple Leaf Rag" he was more attentive to having a more explicitly Joplinesque style.

He even has a pretty sweet fugato passage about 2:35 in his opening sonata form.

Pertinent to my own position, these are attempts that veer so far into the classical approach they lose the aspect of ragtime that's most noticeable to fans, which is what Adorno would have damned as the obviously modular construction aspect of the style.  What to an Adorno would be the unforgivably schematic nature of audible structures where you see the building blocks being lined up is one of the charms of ragtime.  I think there are ways, per Ragtime and Sonata Forms, where composers can play with the time-space of rag and sonata types to preserve the recognizably self-contained aspects of ragtime strains while working them into the large-scale structures and developmental paradigms of sonata but if I could sum up my sympathetic criticism of the Martin and St. Clair attempts to work ragtime into the prelude and fugue form and the sonata cycle respectively it's that they nailed the style as style but sacrificed too much of what makes ragtime recognizable as dance music (and song) to the aims and interests of the concert pianist repertoire.

Which is not to say I don't have anything nice to say about the works.  I enjoy listening to the pieces but I don't enjoy them even half so much as I enjoy listening to Joplin or Scott or Lamb.  I've been thinking about why that is as I've worked on the research and the eventual writing of Ragtime and Sonata Forms so I thought I'd share that here as a kind of postlude before I take a bit of a break from blogging.

By the way, for anyone who wasn't reading back in 2016 Ragtime and Sonata Forms is kind of the other side of a long-term passion of mine to bridge the distances I've seen and heard between "classical" music and American popular styles.  There was a survey I did of early 19th century solo guitar sonatas composed by Diabelli, Molitor, Matiegka, Giuliani and Sor a few years ago.

It was during that process of blogging (and earlier, back in 2014-2015 or earlier than even that) that I began to notice how readily Giuliani and particularly Carulli sonata themes could be recomposed as ragtime strains.  So as an experiment in hobbyist musicology the 19th century guitar sonatas survey was the officially classical side while the recent project is more theoretical but from the ragtime side, although both styles are by now subsumed into "classical".  Still, as a classical guitarist I'd say that what's most interesting for me has been recognizing that the early 19th century European concert music for the guitar seemed to have a lot of points of overlap with late 19th century American popular music and that the key to developing a fusion of these two essentially nineteenth century styles of music (both probably falling on the "wrong" side of German Idealism and the "New German" school) would be to abandon nineteenth century conceptions of theory, form and development in favor of what might be called a more neo-galant approach. 

So if you read the "Ragging the Classics" part and wondered why I chose just early 19th century classical guitar pieces, that's the reason, it's one of my other musical passions and I thought it made sense to show that, whatever ideological and aesthetic turf wars were going on between highbrows and lowbrows, looking at the music itself in score forms, the distances between sonata forms and ragtime seem negligible. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 1: Ragtime as Musical Ice Cream

1.     Ragtime as Musical Ice Cream

Ragtime and ice cream are intertwined, for better and worse, in American history.  I have found this to be the case at both a personal and a cultural level. 

I think I first heard ragtime at an ice cream parlor my dad took my brother and I to once in Portland, Oregon when I was a kid.  It was there that I remember hearing Scott Joplin’s music.   I had no words for the melodic and rhythmic vitality of Joplin’s music I heard at the age I was, but it made an immediate and positive impression on me. I asked who wrote the music.  My dad told me the music was written by Scott Joplin, one of America’s greatest musicians. 

Throughout my childhood there was another, more regular, reason I associated ragtime with ice cream.  I, like many other children in the 1980s, heard the strains of “The Entertainer” ringing out in chimes or bells when ice cream trucks would roll through the neighborhood.  To hear Scott Joplin’s music was to hear the visits of the ice cream truck on your street.

As I learned more about the history of ragtime it began to be clear that the link between ice cream and ragtime went back to the days of Scott Joplin. John Stillwell Stark was an ice cream vendor before starting up an instrument shop and, eventually, a music publishing company.  Stark’s advocacy for ragtime in general and the music of Scott Joplin in particular is the stuff of American musical history, but had Stark been a less successful ice cream vendor would he have ever had the resources get into the music business as an instrument vendor or music publisher?  Ice cream sales turned out to be the economic foundation for the publishing firm that gave us Scott Joplin’s music.  Ragtime, despite Scott Joplin’s most determined efforts, has been musical ice cream ever since.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 2: Arthur Weld's plea to combat musical "cholera"

2.     Arthur Weld’s plea to combat musical vulgarity, including rag-time and coon songs

In his book Everybody’s Doin’ It: Sex, Music and Dance in New York, 1840-1917, Dale Cockrell quotes briefly from a piece written by Arthur Weld in the The Etude. Cockrell makes reference to Weld on page 124 of his book, noting that Weld was a professor of music at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Cockrell only mentions Weld in passing in a chapter discussing the ways in which ragtime as a musical style and a dance style was viewed as an exemplar of racial mixing and of gay sexuality in New York in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  More significant for the purposes  of this project is Cockrell’s observation that many recognized ragtime first and foremost as dance music rather than the concert music for piano we tend to think of it as being here on the other side of the 1970s ragtime revival.

For my purposes quoting Weld’s piece in its entirety is necessary:

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 3: A Case for Ragtime from Hiram Kelly Moderwell in 1915

3.     A Case for Ragtime from Hiram Kelly Moderwell in 1915

The arguments against ragtime as a genre of popular song and as instrumental music in the United States clearly failed.  Ragtime went on to become the foundational form of popular song in the United States and the rags of Scott Joplin and his associates found a place in the piano literature in formal piano instruction.  Had the opponents of ragtime in 1900 heard the directions popular song has taken in the last century, they would likely regard musical barbarism as having completely overtaken what is left of civilization. 

When the piano rags of Joplin can show up in a list of Dover scores in the second edition of John Borstlap’s The Classical Revolution the evolution of ragtime from vulgar popular song to canonized piano music might seem complete.  It now takes the work of a Dale Cockrell to remind us that ragtime was once a style of dance music that evolved in the brothels and dance halls of an underground network of sex industries. 

More than a century after the popular style swept across the United States, defenses of ragtime in its heyday can be easily forgotten, if ever known, and the defense made for ragtime by Hiram Kelley Moderwell from 1915 in The New Republic seems worth quoting in full to give readers a sense of what a defense of ragtime as the original and indisputably American contribution to then-contemporary musical life looked like.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 4: Adorno's "On Jazz" and his later polemics against popular music

4.     Adorno’s “On Jazz” and his later polemics against the popular music

It may seem impertinent to consult Adorno’s writings against jazz in a work called Ragtime and Sonata Forms.  This will, however, only seem to be the case for those who insist on a much firmer separation between ragtime and jazz then I think is historically defensible.  Yes, there are arguments that the shift from ragtime to jazz was a shift from 2/4 to 4/4 time, and there are also arguments that jazz introduced swing in a way that not everyone agrees existed in ragtime. 

Yet if we consider the scope and vitriol of Adorno’s arguments against jazz, whether its foursquare phraseology or, especially, his claim that jazz constituted a “false amalgam” of the march and salon music, we’ll find that the substance of Adorno’s polemic against jazz can be addressed as accurate or dubious by way of the music that preceded it.  Only the most pedantic scholastics would refuse to concede that ragtime is the trunk from which manifold popular American styles have grown.  It does not seem too strong a point to propose for the sake of this work that, whatever Adorno’s arguments against jazz were, can be taken back in time to address ragtime.  An argument for the compatibility of the musical vocabulary of ragtime with sonata forms can then be “brought forward” to encompass possibilities for jazz sonatas (as if no one on earth knew about, for instance, the piano sonatas of Nikolai Kapustin by now).

So, let’s get to Adorno on jazz.  As notorious as this essay is, it’s worth revisiting.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 5: Adorno's contrast between "light" and "serious" music ...

5.     Adorno’s contrast between light and serious music: organic development vs prefabricated building blocks for prefabricated feeling
Introduction to the Sociology of Music
Theodore W Adorno
Seabury Press
ISBN 0-8164-92662-2
pages 21-22
Conversely, as long as the objective spirit was not yet wholly planned and steered by administrative centers, the higher art would recall the extent to which its own principle involved injustices to the many. Time and again it felt the need of something else, of something that would resist the formative esthetic will and that might serve as the touchstone of that will-and so, whether unintentionally or intentionally, it would absorb elements of the lower music. Some of this shows in the old custom of parody, of setting spiritual texts to profane melodies. Bach did not shrink from borrowing from below even in his instrumental works, as in the Quodlibet of the "Goldberg Variations," and neither Haydn nor the Mozart of The Magic Flute or Beethoven would be conceivable without an interaction of what by then were separated spheres. The last instance of their reconciliation, utterly stylized and teetering as on a narrow mountain by pass, was The Magic Flute-an instant still mourned and longed for in such structures as Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Ariadne auf Naxos. There were times far into the nineteenth century when it was possible to write decent popular music. Its esthetic decay is as one with the irrevocable and irrelative dissociation of the two realms.
page 26
... The higher music's relation to its historical form is dialectical. It catches fire on those forms, melts them down, makes them vanish and return in vanishing. Popular music, on the other hand, uses the types as empty cans into which the material is pressed without interacting with the forms. Unrelated to the forms, the substance withers and at the same time belies the forms, which no longer serve for compositional organization. [emphasis added]

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 6: Adorno on Types of Listener, popular music as mood altering drug

6.     Adorno on Types of Listeners, Popular Music as mood altering drug

We just saw in the last chapter that Adorno made reference to the “emotional listener”, the kind of person who listens to music as if it were a mood altering or mood stabilizing drug.  The emotional listener could be seen as a kind of contrast to the structural listener, someone who could discern musical qualities and also hear the structural processes in large-scale musical works.  The emotional listener was not at the lowest level in Adorno’s taxonomy of listening types but he had few kind words for the type:

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 7: Adorno's legacy on aesthetics and popular music, by way of Roger Scruton

7.     Adorno’s legacy on aesthetics and popular music by way of Roger Scruton

We’re going to repeat a lot of material presented so far but there’s a reason to do so.  Adorno was catastrophically wrong in his verdict on jazz as a musical art but along the way he made arguments against popular song that, as we’ll see, have been preserved in the works of the anti-Marxist conservative philosopher Roger Scruton.  It may be a testament to the influence of Adorno in the philosophy of the aesthetics of music that Scruton took up so many of Adorno’s concepts even as he rejected Adorno’s Marxism and Adorno’s damning appraisal of jazz.

But first let’s get to a passage from Adorno we haven’t already quoted that may help establish what Adorno saw as a problem in the American concept of a “music appreciation” regime. Plus, as a mostly life-long Haydn fan I can’t resist quoting Adorno on how he was sure Haydn’s work was misunderstood and misrepresented in American contexts:

Theodore W. Adorno
Polity Press
(c) 2009 by Polity Press
Introduction by Robert Hullot-Kentor

ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-4285-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-4286-4(pb)

page 190

The allegation that Haydn "standardized" the sonata form, is a fatal blow to the life of musical forms. Standardization is a term applied to industrial mass production and not to works of art, but apparently the commentator is under the spell of the industrial age to such an extent that he does not even notice its inadequacy. Haydn crystallized the sonata form, not as a rigid standard, but as a highly dynamic framework responding to any impulse of the composer in the specific work he is writing. The standardized sonata form would cease to be a living form and would become nothing more than a schoolmaster's set of prescriptions. The real danger is such statements is that they promote the idea that it is the task of a composer to "make things easier", as if it were Haydn's merit that after him it was easier to compose; actually and fortunately, it became more difficult after Haydn to write symphonies. Musical development is not like gadgeteering. 

As long as the idea of making things easier prevails in musical education, no actual musical understanding can be expected to develop. Such understanding consists in the very spontaneity of the listener's response that is jeopardized by the feeling that everything has been settled for him by other people who have standardized the forms.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 8: Adorno's Philosophy of New Music and norms of musical cognition

8.     Philosophy of New Music and norms of musical cognition

Theodore Adorno
Copyright (c)2006 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota
translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor
ISBN-13: 978-0-8166-3666-2
ISBN-10: 0-8166-3666-4

page 31
... Music knows no natural law, and this fact accounts for the dubiousness of all psychology of music. In seeking to make the music of all ages invariably "understandable," the psychology of music presupposes an unchanging musical subject. This assumption is more closely related to that of the constancy of a natural material than the actual psychological differentiation would allow.  ...
... an ontological law is on no account to be attributed to the tonal material in itself, or to what has been filtered through the system of temperament. However, this is precisely what occurs in arguments that want to conclude, for instance--whether on the basis of the physiology of the ear or the relation of overtones--that the triad is the necessary and universal condition for any possible musical understanding and therefore that all music must be committed to it.  ...

Now what springs to mind for me, reading this passage again, is something Richard Taruskin pointed out in the work of the late Leonard B. Meyer in Cursed Questions.  Being an admirer of Meyer’s work myself it’s not hard to find the passage Taruskin quoted:

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 9: Between forms of non-choice--Adorno's criticism of serialism and aleatory in his later writings, while still rejecting jazz (and rock) in his final work

9.     Between forms of non-choice: Adorno’s criticism of serialism and aleatory as techniques that obliterated the decision-making subject

When I read The Classical Revolution a few years ago I ended up moving from that book to what ended up being about half a dozen books by Adorno.  I eventually got to reading a few books by Roger Scruton, so I have made a point of reading a few books by Future Symphony Institute authors in the last few years.  One of the ironies of my reading has been discovering that Scruton and Borstlap have leveled charges against serialism and aleatory as musical styles that lack musical substance and expressive humanity that were, in sum, made half a century ago by none other than Theodore Adorno.

The irony of all of this, which I hope to demonstrate, is that the legacy of Adorno on aesthetics as a philosophical enterprise may live on a bit more in the work of Roger Scruton than in those who have appropriated ideas from the Frankfurt school in order to praise popular music as a new art music.  Now I think that, ultimately, Adorno was spectacularly wrong in a number of his assertions about the exhaustion of tonality and the non-art status of jazz but I don't want to get into all of that.  

But another irony is that the criticisms Borstlap and Scruton made about the work of Stockhausen and Boulez were put in an even more vitriolic form half a century ago by ... Adorno.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 10: Finding a 21st century future for ragtime in 18th century composition manuals with the help of Elaine Sisman

10.     Finding a 21st century future for ragtime in 18th century composition manuals

In her monograph Haydn and the Classical Variation, Elaine R Sisman opened with observations about how variation technique and variation as a form fell into disrepute in the nineteenth century.  Virtuoso ornamental variation came to be seen as trivial for a variety of reasons Sisman enumerated in the first few pages of her book: 1) eighteenth century variations were seen as borrowing a theme and keeping that theme more or less in full view; 2) variation form at the time consisted of a sequence of repeated episodic ornamental variations that were seen as trivial according to the ideologies of organicism and character, contrapuntal or transformational variation; 3) the sheer number of virtuoso variation forms produced between 1790 and 1840 led to a glut that, here in 2020 might be likened to a musical equivalent of too many shallow, obvious superhero movies.

Sisman’s summary is literally on pages 1 and 2 of her book, which is a fantastic account of Haydn’s handling of variation technique and variation form.  I believe that a future for ragtime can be found in studying Haydn rather than attempting to find the dance genre wanting in light of Romantic era aesthetics and ideologies.  This is not “just” because I personally admire and enjoy the works of Haydn more than Beethoven but also because I believe that the formal, aesthetic and even technical challenges Haydn dealt with in his time are more germane to the potential fusion of ragtime as a style with the formal possibilities of sonata forms.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 11: Ragging the Classics ... with the music of Giuliani and Sor

11.     Ragging the Classics, with some help from the music of Mauro Giuliani and Fernando Sor

Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History
Edward A Berlin
University of California Press
Copyright 1980, 2002 by Edward A Berlin
ISBN: 978-1-5040-30649-9

At Location 1521 and Location 1573, Edward Berlin noted that the musical game of “ragging the classics” dated back to the beginnings of the ragtime era.  The basic game was to translate an older established classical work into the new popular style.  Particularly popular for this musical game were works by Mendelssohn, although works by Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff were also given a “ragging the classics” treatment. 

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 12: Adorno's modes of cognition, George Rochberg on time-space and space-time

12.     Adorno's modes of cognition, George Rochberg on time-space and space-time

Adorno categories of the dynamic-expressive and rhythmical-spatial listener are, obviously, not the only ways we can think about how people think about music.  The American composer George Rochberg approximated Adorno’s categories in an essay published in 1963. Since it’s easier to let Rochberg explain Rochberg:

Copyright (c) by The University of Michigan 1984
ISBN 0-472-10037-8

The Concepts of Musical Time and Space  (1963)

pages 97-98
... For it must follow from the two terms which comprise the conjunction that only two orders are possible: time-space and space-time. This type of verbal logic is no idle exercise, for it is completely corroborated, as we shall see, by the evolution of music, particularly twentieth-century music. The two conjunctions, time-space and space-time, may be viewed as prototypes of fundamental significance. As prototypes, they will serve as the basis for penetrating structural relationships which resist traditional approaches. These prototypes will permit us to comprehend structural relationships which define totally different types of music and, at the same time, provide us with insights into the reasons for the crisis which has driven the audience of our own time from the music composed contemporaneously with it--a problem which cannot be taken lightly.

Until the twentieth-century, Western music was rooted in one prototype--time-space.  ...

page 100

To appreciate fully the essential difference between time-space and space-time it becomes necessary to discuss first "direction in music." Essentially, direction in music is the creation of an integral order which is perceived or sensed as structural goal or purpose. This is to say that when a composer creates an order in his music which defines its own form as it emerges in concrete sound, one can sense its direction, or, as we say, "we know where it is going." Direction in music derives from a clear perception of, and therefore corresponds to, the clear presentation of temporal and spatial points of departure and movement or passage en route to points of arrival or destination. The sense of direction coincides with, or runs parallel to, the actual growth process of the music and the order in which the growth process occurs. The classical music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven offers us a prime example of the growth process of such an integral order in which structural direction is dependent on two essential conditions: periodicity of rhythmic motion and tonality.  By their very nature, both are essentially directional ...

I’ll pause in quoting Rochberg to note that for those familiar with his story, 1963 as still before the composer’s repudiation of twelve-tone and serial techniques, not after.  Rochberg was, so to speak, still on Adorno’s side of the atonality/tonality divide in twentieth century aesthetics of music, but not for long.  

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 13: George Rochberg on pluralism and questions of style

13.     Rochberg on pluralism and questions of style

The story of how Rochberg rejected serialism in the aftermath of his son’s death is just well known enough that I don’t wish to recite in detail.  That Rochberg’s ars combinatoria approach is one of a number of potential pathways to a synthesis of ragtime and sonata form is simply a proposal at the level of theory.  Joplin did not need a Rochberg to write the long since lost piano concerto.  Thanks to the influence of thinkers like Adorno, however, Rochberg’s formal rejection of serialism and move toward a polystylistic juxtaposition of tonal and atonal musical idioms fortuitously overlapped with the ragtime revival. 

Rochberg was rejecting the American academic standard for serious composition during the period in which the most influential popular style in the history of American music was being revived not within the realms of pop music but by classical musicians. If as Edward Berlin and others have noted, the ragtime revival coming at the behest of classical musicians may have skewed our understanding of ragtime toward the solo piano literature of the Joplin school, a fringe benefit, noted with acid humor by Tom Wolfe in the introduction, was that in the 1970s there were American compositions that had actual tunes that could be included in academic concert life at a time when serialism still held sway. 

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 14: Leonard Meyer on pluralism, styles, and the ideologies of Romanticism in the late 20th century

14.     Leonard B. Meyer on pluralism, styles, and the ideologies of Romanticism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries

“Pluralism” can be a cause for celebration or lament depending on who is using the term, how they’re defining the term, and what they believe it means for “us”.  For those who regard pluralism in any form as an attack on Western values it is a threat. Those who regard pluralism as an outworking of the best ideals of Western thought pluralism can see it as a goal to strive for.  Leonard B. Meyer, observing the mid-twentieth century musical world around him, concluded that we collectively found ourselves in a polystylistic steady state, one in which no one style of art would be THE style:

Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright (c) 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago
ISBN 0-226-52143-5

pages 171-172

But suppose the paradigm which posits cumulative change and the discovery of a common style is no longer pertinent and viable? Perhaps none of the "revolutions" will be definitive; then astonishment would disappear. Suppose, too, that there are no "imperatives" of the sort that Boulez assumes (Whose imperatives? What is "our time" but the totality of actions, including art works, that take place in it?), and, consequently, that no style is necessarily superfluous. Suppose, in short, that the present pluralism of coexisting styles (each with its particular premises and even its attendant ideology) represents not an anomalous, transient state of affairs, but a relatively stable and enduring one.

I am suggesting not only that such a hypothesis is neither theoretically absurd no empirically impossible but that, once it is adopted, seemingly incompatible pieces of the puzzling present begins to form an intelligible pattern. If our time appears to be one of "crisis," it does so largely because we have misunderstood the present situation and its possible consequences. Because a past paradigm has led us to expect a monolithic, all-encompassing style, the cultural situation has seemed bizarre and perplexing. The "crisis" dissolves when the possibility of a continuing stylistic coexistence is recognized and the delights of diversity are admitted. The question then becomes not is this style going to be THE STYLE, but is this particular work well-made, challenging, and enjoyable.

To translate this into theological terms, if the philosophy of history that had guided European arts from the seventeenth through early twentieth centuries had been predicated on a kind of postmillennialist optimism that “civilization” would spread throughout the world, the crisis of “pluralism” was discovering that postmillennialism got us into not one but to World Wars and that the sense of European entitlement that emerged from millenarian philosophies of history had been used to justify a whole lot of imperialism.  This is, in 2020, not even a particularly scandalous observation. 

Meyer made the following prediction:

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 15: Leonard B. Meyer on the shift from the 18th to 19th C from seeing sonatas as "scripts" to seeing sonatas as "plans"

15.     Leonard B. Meyer on the shift from the 18th to 19th centuries of seeing sonatas as patterned on scripts vs developed by plans

In addition to being somewhat humorless, and committed to a philosophy of organicism in “how things are made”, Romantic music was very committed to plans.  The difference between following a script and having a plan is not at all subtle and Meyer only touches upon those differences.  As I’ve done before, I’ll quote him at some length:

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 16: Are we REALLY "done" with the Romantic era? Leonard Meyer and Raymond Knapp on a paradox of Romanticist ideology and pop music

16.     Are we actually “done” with the Romantic era?:
Meyer on the advent and replication of novelty
Raymond Knapp on the German Idealism of pop music criticism

Meyer’s contention that we are still living in the Romantic era in terms of its ideologies of art can be debated but I’m not debating those points.  If anything I think Meyer was right to point out all the ways our own era is still a continuation of the Romantic era.

Meyer articulated what Richard Taruskin has described as a “race to the patent office” form of modernism.  Meyer proposed that we have become so beholden to innovation we have overlooked other important aspects of thinking about the arts.

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 17: William Caplin's Classical Forms--building blocks of themes, possible application toward Joplin's "The Entertainer"

17.       William Caplin’s Classical Forms--the building blocks of themes in the eighteenth century and possible application toward Scott Joplin’s themes in “The Entertainer”

At long last we’re ready to discuss formal analytical literature that deals with sonata forms.  In the last few decades there has been a renewed interest in formal analysis in American music theory scholarship.  William E. Caplin’s work has been useful to me for thinking through music at the nuts and bolts levels.  His work has dealt with music at the phrase level and the theme level.  If you have not read his work I strongly recommend you read it.  If your background is mainly popular music rather than classical music Caplin’s work will nevertheless be useful to you.  If we who have enjoyed pop songs and have thought in terms of verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge and the like feel that classical music from, say, the eighteenth century is a bit opaque, do not fear.  Caplin devotes a big chunk of his book on classical forms to what he calls “tight-knit” themes. These are themes that can be examined at the level of the sentence, with a presentation phrase and a continuation phrase; the period, with an antecedent phrase and a consequent phrase; as well as small ternary and binary forms.  Caplin deals with simple theems, hybrid themes and compound themes in the first 90 pages of his work. 

Ragtime and Sonata Forms, Part 18: syntactic scripts for the time-space of sonata forms, charting out possible ragtime sonatas

If you want the part that bottom lines everything in a way that charts out how you could try writing your own ragtime or rock/pop sonata, this would be the installment to read.
18.      Elements of Sonata Theory by Hepokoski and Darcy—syntactic scripts for the time-space of sonata forms, charting out the ragtime sonata

Put aphoristically: radical individualism seeks to undermine the norms on which its expression depends (Style and Music, Leonard B. Meyer, page 220)

Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth Century Sonata
James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy
Copyright (c) 2006 by Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
ISBN -13: 978-0-19-977391-6

.. Within the humanities norms, generic options, and more-or-less standard procedures are not laws at all. And since they are not, there was no need to suppose that the existence of numerous exceptions as deviations invalidated the norm. Perhaps the many deviations were purposeful dialogues with the background norm. But this would mean, paradoxically, that the deviations helped to reintroduce the socially shared norm that was being temporarily overridden. (Otherwise, how could they be perceived as deviations at all?) Page 7

Our intention is not to lay down binding laws or invariant rules concerning either the parts of a sonata, or the sonata as a whole. Instead, we are trying to sketch the outlines of a complex set of commons or generic defaults. It is not that any attempt to recover standard patterns is a flawed enterprise; rather, it is that prior elements have been inadequately conceived. We offer Sonata Theory as a heuristic construct that can help the task of analysis and hermeneutics.  Pages 8-9

Since it was published in 2006 Elements of Sonata Theory has been part of a renewed scholarly interest in American musicology in formal analysis.  There have been debates as to the accuracy of the elements of Elements but these are debates among scholars debating the merits and demerits of whether what Hepokoski and Darcy have come up with is a suitable toolkit for analysts and analysis.  My assessment of Elements is based only partly on its usefulness for analyzing eighteenth century music and a great deal more, mostly in fact, on the ways I find Elements of Sonata Theory useful for composing music.