Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ferdinand Rebay--Historische Suite for flute and guitar

Historische suite für flöte und gitarre: 1. Praeludium a la Bach


Historische suite für flöte und gitarre: 2. Menuett a la Haydn


Historische suite für flöte und gitarre: 3. Andante con variazioni a la Mozart


Historische suite für flöte und gitarre: 4. Scherzo a la Beethoven


Historische suite für flöte und gitarre: 5. Rondò a la Schubert


Eventually we'll have to discuss this suite for flute and guitar because I've committed to, however intermittently and belatedly, discussing the music of Ferdinand Rebay.  Also ... I want to discuss this work as an example of sequential presentation of imitative styles as a possible comparison to Rochberg's Caprice Variations for solo violin.  Rebay wrote this work some time around 1930 to go by what I've been able to read on the manuscript from Gonzalo Noque's edition.  So code-switching from late Baroque through galant to early Romantic styles and forms was something even a composer as conservative as Rebay could take up writing a chamber piece for flute and guitar.

I am aware some music fans are dismissive toward Rebay but to invoke Leonard B. Meyer ...
Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright (c) 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago 
ISBN 0-226-52143-5

page 188
The ideal of individualism and the goal of intense personal expression have now been repudiated by two of the important ideologies of our time and have been derogated by some traditional artists. In their place has been substituted the concept of the work of art as an objective construct. Originality is no longer tied to the discovery of means expressive of an artist's inner experience, but to the ordering of materials; and creativity is seen not as an act of self-revelation, but as a species of problem-solving. Since any style can constitute a basis for objective construction and for the presentation of principles of order, such views are not incompatible with the use of past art works as sources for materials, relational patterns, and syntactic procedures and norms. Form and technique have thus superseded inspiration and expression. Logically, all modes of organization and all styles become equally available and viable. 

page 190-191 
If a work of art is an impersonal construct, and creation a kind of problem-solving, then experiments with mixtures of means and materials, either within or between works, need not constitute an imperfection. On the contrary, the skillful and elegant combinations of disparate styles (or of ideas borrowed from different works and different composers) within a single work may become a challenging and attractive problem. 

page 191

... if earlier styles and materials are employed in contemporary art, music and literature, it will most likely be done by those inclined toward formalism, rather than by those who still consider works of art to be vehicles for personal expression. One cannot "use" the expressive quality of a Bach, a Rembrandt, or a Donne. ... In like manner, it will probably be the formalist rather than the expressionist who delights in the possibilities of mixing styles and materials from different epochs within a work or in employing different stylistic models in successive works.


That this is indeed the case is shown by the fact that it has been avowed and explicit formalists, such as Eliot and Stravinsky, who have employed past procedures, models, and materials most patently and most extensively. And we are thus confronted with an amusing paradox: the end of the Renaissance--of belief in teleology, individualism, expression, and so forth--has made possible a return to the styles and materials originally fostered by those beliefs. 

What's also interesting about these two particular formalists is that, as Richard Taruskin could point out, their daring avant garde roles within the arts did not preclude them having monarchist and fascist political sympathies.  Taruskin may have a point in hammering this particular point, the observation that daring artists and innovative figures in the arts should not be presumed to be in favor of a liberal society or liberalism as it's defined in the West.  He's gone so far as to argue that fixating on art as autonomous from the artist has been the result of a bad faith relationship between arts historians and the reality of how many daring and innovative musicians and poets and artists had no problem siding with fascists, communists and other totalitarian movements.  Meyer would observe, for his part, that figures like Eliot and Stravinsky could be radicals in the arts while being arch-traditionalists on a subject like religion.  But let's get back to something else Meyer proposed.

page 193

...  If this analysis is correct, it should follow that in the future a particular past will be favored and explored because of the specifically artistic problems it poses rather than because of the ideological position it represents. 

page 209

... New idioms and methods will involve the combination, mixture, and modification of existing means rather than the development of radically new ones--for instance, a new pitch system or a new grammar and syntax.  ... 

Complementing this stylistic diversity and these patterns of fluctuation will be a spectrum of ideologies ranging from teleological traditionalism, through analytic formalism, to transcendental particularism [elsewhere Meyer refers to this as radical empiricism]. 

For the sake of being playful I'm floating the idea that Ferdinand Rebay may have been conservative to the point of irrelevance during his own life time, an era in which Stravinsky and Webern and Schoenberg were active.  But in our era, half a century after Meyer published Music, the Arts and Ideas, Rebay as conservative may still be useful because, to take this work for flute and guitar as an example, however conservative Rebay was there may have been a formalist streak in him.  Or at any rate, this particular formalist finds things interesting and memorable about Rebay's best works. 

Now Meyer was mainly writing about what we'd call high art traditions and so he was not necessarily anticipating sampling as it exists in popular culture.  However, I don't think it's altogether unreasonable to point out that Meyer could be said to have anticipated that sampling as a paradigm was going to play a more prominent role in musical activity in the West.  Whether or not hip hop is the style of music you enjoy it certainly could be thought of as fitting into what Meyer describes as the ethos and praxis of a "formalist" in his book (this particular book Music, the Arts and Ideas, not his other book Emotion and Music where the term formalist actually means something else).

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