Thursday, March 30, 2006

Theology and musical synthesis

My blog experience has been that it's not so much fun I do it more than afew times a month. Some people really get into it, though. There's acertain kind of monomania needed to compose a blog and keep it remotely interesting. I think I can safely guess that apart from maybe my mom just about no one on earth reads this. :)

My embrace of a few things from the musical avant garde is based on theological concerns. If Jesus reconciles all things to God through himself then that means thatliterally any and every musical style is fair game for a Christian composer. So I adopt rhythmic elements of Sufi music and compositional techniquesfrom twelve-tone into my otherwise major/minor key compositions; in asimilar way I employ Haydn's monothematic sonata principle in a way informed by Beethoven's approach to large scale cyclical works and with an ear for the jazz styles of Brubeck and Thelonious Monk.The theological framework I have is what allows me to see an inherent unity in all these things.

Christians who see Christianity and its legacy as the heritage of the West are, to put it mildly, completely missing the point ofwhat Christianity is actually about. My concern lately is that the ... well, there's no way to put this delicately, old people on either side of the culture war who claim to be Christian are basically missing the point where Christianity is concerned. I have friends who are socialists (basically) and I have friends who are standard neo-cons but we actually have Christ in common so we can agree on several basic things about the value of human life and that we have something in common beyond our very real political disagreements.

My ambivalence and disdain for the religious right and left is that it seems both sides have retooled Jesus in their own image when, the more I study Jesus and the biblical documents, the more it seems to me Jesus was crucified by a bipartisan committee. Thus, my earlier post.
It's easy for Republicans and Democrats to say Jesus is on their side and neither would admit, even under duress, that they'd all want him dead. How this ties into my music? Well, the possibility of reconciling seemingly unrelated concepts in music is something that interests me.

The idea of a big divide between rock/pop/folk/jazz/blues on the one side and classical music on the other seems to be a matter of companies and institutions instituting, if you will, their own hegemonic tendencies.

Few things aremore hegemonic, too, than anti-hegemonic types. I recall a professor sayingI shouldn't/couldn't create a string quartet in which the classical styleeventually trumped the blues style because that was creating a hierarchy. Hierarchies exist in the natural world so I don't see that that is a meaningful objection anyway but, besides all that, the objection misses a more fundamental point. Before we can begin to work on points of unification across style we can't diminish or ignore difference. Before we can begin the task of formal assimilation across music we have to understand what characteristics are dominant in each style before proceeding toelements less common.

This means that I had to begin my musical journey by pitting classical music against blues and blues against classical in adramatic structure the better to see how they contrast AND the better to seehow I could get from one style to the next. How I accomplished this was through discerning patterns that could be held in common across the two contrasting styles and the pattern held in common was the gesture, maybe just a four note sequence that could be presented in either style. The end goal, complete assimilation and synthesis so that a single work could be played as either a jazz/blues piece or as a chamber piece, has not yet been attained, but I am much closer now for having tackled each style onits own terms and combining them through slow and steady assimilation rather than by attempting to produce some equality at the outset.

Political theorists who teach communication classes are the kind of cultural idiots who ran Soviet music boards. They won't let real musicians solve the real musical problems that could lead to the ideals they keep spouting off about.The only teacher as memorable as a truly great teacher is a truly awful teacher but I should save that diatribe for later.

Oh, incidentally, while I HAVE finished a sonata form in which a classical style gets interrupted by a 12-bar blues near the end and reverts to classical this piece hasn't really been performed anywhere to speak of. Eventually if I can get a piece published I might be able to make some reference to a piece so you don't just have to guess from my blog what my music might sound like. Getting published or performed, for now, is a pretty big if.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

All Rise

Wynton Marsalis and the Marsalis clan in general have not exactly inspired me but I want to give this new piece by Wynton a shot because there's no denying this clan has talnet and skill even if they haven't won me over with alll the music they've played in the past. This looks like a work cast in a mode somewhat like Ellington's longer form works ... but even longer.

I haven't heard it yet but I'm hoping it works better than Dave Brubeck's The Gates of Justice. Cross-over and fusiion experiments always seem to be rough, if not merely just rough around some edges. Brubeck's cantata was hard going and I couldn't finish it. McCartney's oratorio? Well, I honestly have no plans to hear it. But Marsalis actually plays both jazz and classical styles enough that I feel I could actually trust him to do a good job ... or at least I am willing to post as much on my blog before I've heard All Rise yet!

More to come later. For those keeping score, I still owe you more details on the Tamulionis pieces I've heard in the last seven months.