Saturday, August 04, 2018

overheard (from one teen girl to another in 2018) [a two-line poem]

You know why they call them `selfies’,
You’re s`pposed to keep them to yourself
This is another one of those epic poems based on a true story. Like that poem there's some backstory to this little poem, lightly adapted from an incident ... but you're not going to read anything about the incident here.  The little strophe is merely published for personal amusement.

an update on Redeemer Church Portland (former Mars Hill Portland) merger with Door of Hope, an ironic turn of events in light of Driscoll's 2011 "Jesus Loves Church Mergers" post in is Pastor Mark TV period

It's axiomatic that you're not supposed to trust anonymous comments on the internet.  But that caveat has a few provisos.  When I was a journalism student one of my professors said that "in general" you will find that anonymous sources aren't often going to share things with you that you couldn't find out from the public record if you just looked harder.  That said, anonymous tips are still worth considering if the information they share can actually be verified.

So, in that spirit, a person who left an anonymous comment about the recent changes at what was formerly Mars Hill Portland and then Redeemer that provides an update that can be vetted by a publicly available source, the Door of Hope church that has agreed with an interim board at Redeemer to assimilate Redeemer.

Anonymous said...
UPDATE ON REDEEMER CHURCH Portland OR as of 8.3.2018
Redeemer church Portland OR voted unanimously to join Door of Hope Effective July 19, 2018 see the following for more information - Thought you might like to know about this – Additional Info & the transition timeline is on Redeemer’s Facebook Page.
Facebook Announcement of Transition Schedule dated July 24, 2018 at 3:37pm
Hey Redeemer! As was announced on Sunday, our Board voted to join Door Of Hope. Here are some dates to remember over the next few weeks until we join them at Revolution Hall:
-Sunday, July 29 - Josh White will be preaching on their core values and lots of other information on how to serve in and connect to DOH - you won't want to miss it
-Sunday, Aug 5 - Tim will be back preaching in Psalms
-Sunday, Aug 12 - Tim will preach our last service as Redeemer Church. We'll have a family style celebration of what God has done in and through our church
-Sunday, Aug. 19 - join DOH for Sunday services at Revolution Hall
**Please like and share this post so word gets around!**
Door of Hope's FAQ Regarding Merger can be found on Door of Hope's website -

7:34 am
and here is the Door of Hope FAQ about the merger.  It's fairly extensive and provides background for the recent decision. 

In Brief

Door of Hope is currently in talks with Redeemer Church regarding the prospect of their congregation becoming part of DoH. [emphasis added] If we go forward, the Redeemer congregation would begin attending DoH services, and DoH would take ownership of Redeemer’s building, a beautiful historic church in the Sunnyside neighborhood of SE Portland. After some helpful repair and upgrade work, DoH would move Sunday services from Revolution Hall to the Redeemer building.

How did the discussion with Redeemer begin?

Josh White and Redeemer pastor Tim Smith were put in touch with one another through a mutual mentor at Western Seminary. In recent months, it became clear that this was an opportunity that could benefit both church bodies and help further our shared mission of serving the city of Portland. [emphasis added]

How does this opportunity fit into Door of Hope’s vision for its future?

We desire to plant churches in Portland that hold to Christian orthodoxy and express Door of Hope’s four pillars. Having Redeemer Church join DoH would enable us to hold Sunday services in a building that aligns with our philosophy of being present in the local community, while joining with the people of Redeemer to make Jesus known in our city. Additionally, this move would open up potential space for a future church plant in our Fremont building.

How many people are part of Redeemer? Do we have the pastoral and volunteer capacity to care for all of them?

At the moment, we’re expecting around 100 people from Redeemer to join Door of Hope. This would translate to an increase of around 10% in our Sunday attendance, which fits comfortably within our current capacity. [emphases added] We anticipate that we’ll need to expand our existing Children’s Ministry volunteer team, but are happy to say that the Redeemer building will offer a dedicated Children’s Ministry space that exceeds the capacity of our space at Revolution Hall.

Who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of Redeemer’s congregation?

Redeemer has an interim board that was established to make decisions regarding the future of the church. After prayerful consideration, the board unanimously voted in favor of joining Door of Hope’s community.

Are there significant theological differences between Redeemer and Door of Hope? Will this change the feel of Sunday services?

Door of Hope and Redeemer are aligned theologically, and share a common commitment to Christian orthodoxy and to proclaiming the Gospel in our city. Our approach to ministry will not be changing, and the new church building will still retain the distinctive feel and values of DoH. In fact, this building aligns even more closely with our desire to be a visible, welcoming presence within the local community.

Will the staff or leadership structure of Door of Hope change?

There will be no change to the leadership structure at Door of Hope. We would be hiring Redeemer’s current lead pastor, Tim Smith, as an associate pastor on DoH’s pastoral team, but Tim would be the only Redeemer staff member joining DoH. [emphasis added]

What would Tim Smith’s role at Door of Hope be? Would he be an elder?

Tim would serve as an associate pastor, working alongside our other pastors in shepherding the church. Additionally, he’d play a key role in helping the Redeemer congregation integrate into DoH. He would not be coming on as an elder. [emphasis added]

What will happen to leaders currently serving at Redeemer?

Ministry leaders at Redeemer would not automatically become leaders at Door of Hope. However, we’re excited to welcome in all members of the Redeemer congregation and help them discover opportunities to serve with their unique gifts.

What is the proposed timeline for Redeemer’s integration into Door of Hope?

We’d love to see Redeemer join Door of Hope before the sign-up process for the Fall community group season begins. The DoH elder board will be voting on August 4, and we’re currently looking at August 19 as a potential integration date. [emphasis added]

What still needs to happen before Door of Hope’s leadership makes a definitive decision?

While the DoH leaders are excited about the prospect of having Redeemer join our family, we want to take time to effectively communicate with our body, carefully evaluate the needs of the Redeemer building, and prayerfully plan the transition.

What work will be done on the Redeemer building?

A thorough building inspection has been completed, with no significant findings outside of general maintenance needs. The building is functional and safe as it is, but we want to do a number of improvements, including installing an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system and upgrading the existing Children’s Ministry space.

Would Door of Hope be assuming the mortgage on the new building?

DoH would either assume the mortgage with Redeemer’s current bank or refinance it with our own bank. The value of the building currently exceeds the deficit on the mortgage, meaning that the assets would exceed the liabilities. The repayments would be significantly less than what we currently pay for the use of Revolution Hall, which means this would not only be a financially sound move, but a financially beneficial one. [emphases added]

How would this decision impact Grace City Portland?

We’re excited about the work that Grace City is doing and are happy to see the way that the Fremont building has served their needs as a church plant. Having Door of Hope move into the Redeemer building would mean that Grace City could continue to use the Fremont building for the foreseeable future.

What is the plan for the long-term future of the Fremont building?

Our long-term goal would be to plant a church into the Fremont building that would reflect our pillars and form part of a Door of Hope family of churches.
Who the mutual mentor may have been would have to be a guess here but someone at Western seminary is established.  Smith will be an associate pastor at Door of Hope.  Door of Hope would be assuming the mortgage on the Redeemer building, it seems, and the value of the building currently exceeds the deficit on the mortgage meaning the assets would exceed the liabilities.  So ... it would appear the merger makes sense in terms of a real estate pivot.   
The number of people who would be anticipated to join Door of Hope from the Redeemer side is stated as 100 people. 
100 people? 
Let's look at a snapshot of the Mars Hill FY2012 report
and from FY2013
since Mars Hill collapsed in 2014 there wasn't a big incentive to list the number of people in attendance in the annual report.  But ... there was a circa April 2014 financial slide in a document passed along to Wenatchee The Hatchet we can consult.
Giving households obviously can't be construed as attenders since peoplecan give to a cause even if they aren't members.  Still, the numbers do suggest that there was some kind of numeric decline that could be measured going on.
For the former Mars Hill Portland to reach a point where its operational liabilities make a church merger seem like a good idea and 100 people are anticipated by Door of Hope to join them if the merger goes through, that could seem to tell a story of Redeemer on the rocks.  As Justin Dean has been telling things in podcast interviews promoting PR Matters he's been saying all the churches are doing well, thanks. 

The Redeemer Portland merger that looks like it gets voted on today reminds me of something Mark Driscoll once wrote the following that we'll quote a large chunk of.  Keep your eyes peeled for references to Leadership Network people or the Vanderbloemen group while you're reading this 2011 chestnut that you may not be able to dig up at Driscoll's newer web presence.

Missional Mergers

The mergers we’ve been a part of at Mars Hill, and some of the mergers other churches in the Acts 29 network have been a part of, have by God’s grace been missionally focused mergers. By this I mean that they’ve been the result of two churches coming together to ask how they can work together to accomplish a shared mission, to see many people come to Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). Underlying this is the belief that if Jesus' name is made much of in the building, then it does not much matter whose name is on the sign of the building.

Each of these mergers has had different details surrounding them. Sometimes there are financial struggles, such as with Sammamish. Other times, there is a devastating loss to the leadership, as with the case of Pastor Bill and his wife at Doxa. These mergers were akin to an adoption, where a hurting church in need was adopted by a healthy church to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to the glory of God to accomplish his mission.

Sometimes there is simply a desire to be more effective and to have greater reach as a church, which leads healthy churches to join together to see greater impact for the gospel. Such was the case when we merged with City on a Hill in Albuquerque and with The Vine. These types of mergers are like marriages, in which two churches come together with strengths that complement each other to accomplish the mission of God. As within marriage, there is a leader in the merger, but unlike an adoption type merger, there is health on both sides.

Here’s the painful truth—the calls we are getting lately from churches we have not yet merged with are often cases where the senior leadership was disqualified because of sin, often sexual. Once the leadership leaves, often the best people remain and try to save their church, and a merger is a way to help such people save their church from death.

Other calls we are getting are from churches where the leadership has gotten off-track theologically and moved into false teaching and error. These churches are seeking help to right their ship.
And, sometimes the pastors of smaller churches are so burdened by the administration of running their organization that they want to merge with a bigger church like ours so that we can take those burdens off them and allow them to focus on serving people and making disciples, which is why they went into ministry in the first place.

Often times the whole story behind a merger is not told because of the painful circumstances that need not be made public. As a pastor who loves churches and God’s people, some of what I see and hear is heartbreaking, and if a merger can save a church from death and support godly people giving their all to keep yet another church from the grave, then I am certain it makes Jesus happy no matter what the critics may say.

In each case, the situation is never one of a larger church coming in to pick up the remains of a smaller church but rather of two churches wanting to be as faithful to God’s calling as possible.
These types of mergers are not unique to Mars Hill and are, in fact, growing around the country. Leadership Network research has indicated that 2 percent (6,000 churches) of US Protestant churches merge annually, and another 5 percent of churches (15,000) say they have already talked about merging in the future.

The good news is that a vast majority of churches that have merged with a shared mission in mind have experienced new vitality and growth, seeing their influence and ability to minister in the community grow exponentially. This is something we can attest to at Mars Hill and something I’ve personally seen in many churches across the country.

Granted, these mergers are never without their hardships and struggles, but by God’s grace they’re resulting in a great harvest.

Facing the Facts

The reality is that church mergers will only continue to grow. As the baby boomers begin retirement, there will be a growing decline in Protestant churches in attendance and a very real need for leadership at declining churches. Unfortunately, the upcoming generation is not only smaller in numbers demographically, but also less likely to be involved in church, and especially less likely to be involved in church leadership and the ministry as a vocation, according to some sources. This is creating and will continue to create a great crisis in which many long-standing, God-fearing, and Bible-loving churches who have a great heritage and a history of gospel work in their city, face the prospect of closing their doors for good—often selling their property to commercial interests or even other religious expressions. And once those churches close, the zoning changes and a church may never be able to reside in that community again.

The following are some sobering statistics from the upcoming book by Warren Bird and Jim Tomberlin of the Leadership Network, entitled Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work. I thank them for sending me an advance copy of the manuscript and encourage you to read the book when it comes out in April.
  • Roughly 80 percent of the three hundred thousand Protestant churches in the United States have plateaued or are declining, and many of them are in desperate need of a vibrant ministry.
  • Roughly three thousand of these declining churches (1 percent of all churches in America) will close their doors permanently nationwide in the next twelve months.
  • Among the 20 percent of growing congregations across the United States, many are in desperate need of space. These conditions present a potential win-win for forward-thinking church leaders who believe that “we can do better together than separate,” and it is revitalizing church topography.
  • Church foreclosures, virtually unheard of in the United States before the Great Recession of 2008, have recently increased in number. According to a Wall Street Journal report, nearly two hundred churches have had their properties foreclosed on by banks in 2008, 2009, and 2010, up from only eight foreclosures in the two years prior to that and none in the previous decade.
  • One recent study found that the percentage of congregations reporting some or serious financial difficulty more than doubled to nearly 20 percent since about 2000. From 2000 to 2008—before the recession’s toll was felt—congregations reporting “excellent financial health” had dropped from 31 percent to 19 percent. They dropped further to 14 percent in 2010. The recession only exacerbated their economic situations, according to survey compiler David Roozen, director of The Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
  • The biggest elephant in church boardrooms in the United States is the topic of senior pastor succession. It is a difficult conversation for most aging senior pastors to have with their boards and staff, so usually it is ignored until too late. Many are predicting a tsunami of church turnovers during the next decade as the aging baby boomers turn over the reins of U.S. churches to the next generation. According to William Vanderbloemen, founder and president of the Vanderbloemen Search Group, senior pastor succession “might be the biggest unspoken crisis the church in the US will face over the next twenty years.”
  • About 30 percent of churches going into a merger do so without pastors in both of the churches, according to the Leadership Network 2011 survey of church mergers.
At some point, the American church will have to face the facts that in order for many churches to survive and continue ministry and service to their community, it will take thinking differently about local churches working together and sometimes merging together.
So the irony of Mars Hill Portland becoming Redeemer in the wake of the implosion of Mars Hill Church without a clear line of succession within Mars Hill, and then Redeemer Portland getting to the point where it agreed to merge with Door of Hope and having the prospect of ... 100 people joining Door of Hope if the vote goes through ... that irony is hard to overstate.  Mars Hill Portland may have become in the mere four years after the demise of Mars Hill a church that's dwindling away and that has found it advantageous to agree to a church merger. 
There's a confirmation on the Redeemer side of things, too, and, per a recent comment, the hand-off/transfer has become official.
On July 19, 2018 the Board of Directors of Redeemer church voted unanimously to join Door of Hope in order to further the Gospel in the city of Portland. As of August 19th we will start meeting with them at Revolution Hall for worship for several months. During this time The Castle will undergo some much needed renovations and after they are finished, Door of Hope will move into the building. We are excited for this opportunity and thankful to the Father for His provision during our time of transition as a church.
Stay tuned here for further updates on when Door of Hope will be starting services here at The Castle.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Miroslav Miletić: Sonatina for Violin and Guitar

This is a Croatian composer whose work I haven't heard of earlier but since I'm on a theme of music for violin and guitar at the moment ...

Atanas Ourkouzounov: Sonatina Bulgarica for violin and guitar

Because since Atanas is one of my favorite living composers of chamber music for guitar I have to post something by him.  I haven't heard of these particular performers before but they are:

Elly Toyoda, Violin
An Tran, Guitar

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Annette Kruisbring: Five dances for guitar and double bass

Annette Kruisbrink's Five dances for guitar and double bass is another work I've wanted to blog about for years.  It's another work that, alas, I have to probably have on the back burner as over-ambitious blogging about contemporary chamber music including the guitar goes.

and if you want more of a studio recording audio experience  Dez Cordas has that

Another case where I've got the score for these and would love to blog about the work ... in the future ... but it's yet another case where regulars to this blog have some idea just how backlogged I can tend to get. 

Annette Kruisbrink: Cirex, for double bass and guitar

If I were to recommend a cornerstone for a canon of chamber music for double bass and guitar I would personally insist you have to start with the works of Annette Kruisbrink. 

Cirex is a duet that shares a number of gestures in common with a work called 60+

That piece is fun and is one of the better examples I can think of of post-minimalist guitar music.

Cirex, however, I feel is sublime.  :) Adding that double bass part takes the ideas to a new and more glorious level!

I'd blog at significantly more length about this because I most certainly have the score and have been wanting to write about this work for years but I have a lot of music I'm trying to write about ... and I'm trying to write about it in the way that I write about it.

So a more detailed score discussion can happen later.  For now, I hope you enjoy Cirex.

just because, the Emerson string quartet playing Shostakovich No. 11

I love all the Shostakovich string quartets but I'm linking to this one, just because.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

hegemony may be in the eye of the complainer--the Western art music canon or Anglo-American popular music can be the current hegemony depending on what you want to teach in a class vs what you see.

Having only managed to start getting caught up on musicology and new musicology in the last four or five years I'm starting to get a sense that there are academic turf wars of some kind.  Perhaps you've heard of the term "poptimist" and "rockist" 

There's a version of a poptimist vs rockist debate in actual popular music

and another in classical music!

That these sides can seem to be ... artificially constructed is a very hard sensation to shake.  I don't blame Adorno for viewing all popular culture as probably the tool of totalitarian regimes a la Hitler and Stalin ... but I think Adorno was still mistaken and hamstrung by his master narrative of history (much like I think that is the serious flaw in Francis Schaeffer's work but I'll try to save what I have to say about that for later in some other context).

But what I have been noticing is that the hegemony of contemporary music, to borrow a line from Ben Kenobi in Return of the Jedi, the hegemony of contemporary music you perceive depends very much upon your point of view.  If you are an academic with a yen for popular music you can survey the Western art music canon and regard it as oppressive and inescapable.  Conversely, if you're an academic and you've dedicated yourself to teaching and in some way continuing or expanding work done in what's colloquially known as "classical music" you'll find that popular music is inescapable and regarded as in some sense sacred on the basis of extramusical associations but also on the basis of dedication to timbres.  Kyle Gann was writing about this a while back.

The Unapproachable Sacredness of Pop

An introvert, in Jung’s view, was someone who not only is focused on his own thoughts and perceptions, but considers his own viewpoint the final arbiter of reality. When popular opinion and one’s own perceptions come into conflict, the introvert cannot but decide that the world must be mistaken. However, in Jung’s view, every conscious principle is balanced by a compensatory principle in the unconscious, and it is common, he observed, almost necessary, for an introvert to elevate public opinion to a deity-like monolith with which it is useless to argue. Secretly, introverts assume they possess the truth, but also assume that the world holds all the cards.

I think composers of my own age and especially younger have internalized some such attitude toward pop music. They’ve studied classical music and can deconstruct it and criticize it, but the very popularity of pop, its perceived universal appeal, makes it, for them, immune to criticism. They compensate for a secret guilt over the self-consciousness of their classical background by considering pop music sacred. I’ve encountered this attitude for years with my undergrad students, and I discussed it at length with the more experienced composers at the Atlantic Center, because I truly want to understand it. It’s not a universal opinion, and there are many nuances and varying viewpoints, but the general attitude is too common to be ignored. My teachers’ generation considered pop music beneath serious discussion; my students believe that whenever pop and classical collide, classical must be in the wrong.

I happen to think that pop and classical have a lot to learn from each other, and that neither has a monopoly on musical truth. Sonata form was an important contribution to culture, and so was the concept album inaugurated by Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds. I believe, as an ethical principle, that classical composers should learn from pop, and incorporate what lessons they gather – because I think its popularity is based on something real, if not all-embracing. Having come to pop music comparatively late in life, I don’t appropriate its elements much myself, but some of the composers I admire most are those who have tried to fuse aspects of the two: Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, Mikel Rouse, Eve Beglarian, Ben Neill, Nick Didkovsky, and so on. I don’t believe, as some of my contemporaries have claimed to, that pop music is kind of a neutral vernacular with the same status as folk music: i.e., that borrowing pop influences is analogous to Haydn inserting rustic folk songs in his symphonies. Far from being anonymous, pop music is drenched in the personality of its performers; every byte of it is owned by someone, and often valued exactly for its personal associations. Nevertheless, if something of the physicality and contagious energy of pop can be imported into more extended or complex notated forms, so much the better for the progress of music.

But, as I’ve documented here before, I am not encouraged by the public reception of music that explores this aim. Music that borrows pop elements is rushed into an inevitable comparison with pop, and never to its advantage. Restrict yourself to cellos and oboes and marimbas and accordions and you can write whatever you want, but the second you insert an electric guitar or trap set, you’ve conjured up the genie of a pop-music comparison, and it is not going to go back into the bottle. For a hundred years or more, composers have been gleefully divesting classical audiences of their expectations: expectations of first and second themes, of tonality, of stylistic consistency, and a hundred other things have been thrown on the dust heap of history. But the expectations raised by comparisons with pop music are not to be denied. They are sacred.

For instance, many composers, in the habit of determining every rhythmic detail of a piece, have tried notating rhythms for trap set. But god help you if your drummer plays those rhythms accurately and doesn’t swing them, if they sound measured out rather than improvised in the heat of the moment. Pop fans are accustomed to a certain kind of time-distorting drummer energy, and if you tie your drummer down to a 32nd-note grid, it makes no difference at all how brilliant your rhythmic structure is: they are not going to be impressed. Pop musicians also determine their personality by the obsessive search for a particular high hat sound, an exact guitar distortion. Classical composers have never been in the habit of notating music with specific sounds in mind; you write a drum part, you notate the cymbal, and you assume that the drummer, whoever he turns out to be, owns a high hat cymbal. A little bit of classical new music gets made with exact timbral specificity – Poème Electronique springs to mind – but it is entirely exceptional.

In short, the pop record has turned its fans into cognoscenti of precise timbres. One reads constantly how proud they are of being able to recognize a tune or album from the first split second of a single note. There are possibly classical music mavens so familiar with recordings of the Brahms symphonies that they can recognize which orchestra is playing from the first note; but what does that have to do with Brahms’s intentions? Most instruments are neutral, and can be easily dissociated from the music they are associated with. We can hear a piano without being disappointed that it isn’t Chopin or Horowitz or Bud Powell, we hear an oboe without thinking of Mozart or Strauss, even an accordion without necessarily thinking of polkas. But trap sets and electric guitars, at this stage of the game, are not neutral, and cannot be bent to any compositional use the composer imagines. They make musicians want and expect to hear a certain kind of energy and virtuosity, and no music that fails in that comparison will be well received.

For those conversant in the literature about this Theodore Gracyk, if memory serves, coined the terms "ontologically thin" and "ontologically thick".  Classical music as it is generally and colloquially known is the ontologically thin music, which is to say it is often as Kyle Gann described above.  The aim is not to control timbre all that precisely whereas you are likely to be specific about pitch, duration and rhythmic relationships.  "Ontologically thick" means you care whether Dave Gilmour was playing a Fender Telecaster or a Fender Stratocaster and whether he was playing that guitar through a Marshall amp or a Peavey or maybe whether Clapton was playing through a Marshall or a Pignose on Layla.

There's expectations and conventions attached to instruments thanks to the history of popular styles of music and popular songs.  If I had a Telecaster, for instance, someone might declare that I should be playing country on that thing and not rock and most certainly I shouldn't be playing Toru Takemitsu's "All in Twilight" on a Fender Telecaster (I have done it, though, and it was a blast!).  Classical music can be "ontologically thin" to the point where music written for the classical guitar could be played on a solid body or hollow body electric and so long as the appropriate notes get played the timbres are less important.  In an age in which an electric guitarist can arrange a movement from a Shostakovich string quartet for electric guitar ensemble I hope we see and hear more of this kind of thing. By the way, if you want to get a sense of what it sounded like as originally written go over here and start at 5:33.  Just to put my cards on the table, my favorite string quartet cycles from the 20th century are by Shostakovich and Bartok.  All that to say that we're in an age in which there are musicians and composers on either side of the "rock" or "pop" or "not classical" side of things and the "classical" side that have fun exploring just hwo permeable the barriers and conventions across and within styles and traditions are.

But the purity code police do exist for any given genre.  As Gann was describing it, there are sets of expectations about how to play a trap set if you're going to introduce one into an ensemble performance.  Gann, however, went on to point out something else that might possibly get overlooked by people on the side of popular music, which is the amount of money pop has at its disposal compared to other styles.
The attempt to compete timbrally with pop music is usually doomed to failure not only in terms of instrumental deficiencies but in terms of production values. The amount of money that went into making Sgt. Pepper, or any of Bjork’s albums, what they are is unimaginable to the new-music composer. Most of us make do with the machines and software we can afford to own. The great majority of electronic composers skirt the issue by relying on synthesized electronic timbres and gradual sonic transformations that never remind anyone of real instruments. Those of us reliant on MIDI, trying to simulate melodies, harmonies, and rhythms – in my case because I’m looking for tunings and polyrhythms that live ensembles can’t currently play – are generally reduced to a repertoire of sounds summarily dismissed by audio software experts who can recognize their source. And even those who have their own groups and record in the studio rarely have access to the best microphones, the best mastering, the best guitar-shredders in the business.

This isn't just a roadblock on the compositional side.  If a classical guitarist plays some standard repertoire too quickly and too cleanly the insult of choice is to say "this sounds like MIDI rather than a human being". I've seen this barb brought out for Ana Vidovic playing Bach partitas at a tempo guitarists can consider nearly unmusical and yet I can think of a Szigeti or a Hahn performance at the same tempo being just fine.  Violinists can apparently handle tempi that guitarists can't in the case of the Bach partitaas, maybe? 

And finally, some composers will never use pop elements to pop fans’ satisfaction because they’re trying to do something else instead. What classical music, generally speaking, has to offer pop is a more global sense of structure, a reconceived relationship of detail to overall form. For those details to be as imagined by the composer, the performer can often not get carried away. You may set up some nested polyrhythms, or an interaction of two isorhythms, which would lose their rhythmic meaning were the drummer to play them imprecisely. Many composers, myself included, think music through notation, and there are limits to which the performer can interfere. What I listen for in music may be perfectly well satisfied by a composer using vernacular elements. But for most pop music fans, the points of comparison are sacred, and admit of no leeway.

Perhaps ironically what I am afraid may be the case with classical musicians performing music influenced by popular music are likely to do is to want way, way more instructions about timbre and attack issues than would be customary for pop or rock musicians to bother writing down.  I mean ... I'm havin gflashbacks to debates about whether to use a plectrum or fingernails in my rock band days.  I'm remembering how the bassist wanted me to use a pick because it had a sharper attack.  Eventually after a few years he began to feel that I was far, far more accurate using just my fingers than I was with a pick and I was glad of this observation because I got training as a classical guitarist rather than as someone doing metal with a dedicated plectrum or hybrid plectrum technique.  Sure, I could never "shred" at the speed habitually acquired by even mediocre metal guitarists but my compensatory discipline was that I had worked out how to play double counterpoint on the guitar.  But I digress.  Back to Gann.

Well, so what? I find it a little sad, because a tremendous amount of music that I find powerfully written and brilliantly conceived gets dismissed as worthless because of timbral and production-value reasons that have nothing to do with the music’s intent. I trust that the state of affairs is temporary. It may be that a new generation coming along now will become so expert at studio techniques that they will be able to merge a classical sense of composition with the most timbre-oriented recording values. It may be that a future generation less in thrall to pop records than ours will return to the pop-influenced music of the last 20 years and hear all the wonderful things it had to offer without perceiving as a negative the things it wasn’t trying to do. Whatever the case, I think we need to acknowledge that the sacredness of expectations based on pop music comparisons puts the would-be-pop-influenced composer in a difficult double bind. One can continue writing music that has nothing to do with pop, and resign yourself to endless facile charges of elitism no matter how transparent, pretty, or cogent your music is; or you can cross the line and try to draw on the other music you love listening to, and almost certainly draw yourself into a contest you are going to lose. I’ve become convinced: a pop-classical fusion may indeed be the eventual future of music, but given the way people are conditioned to listen today, there is no chance it will be the immediate future. I admire the people who try, but personally I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Gann is convinced that a pop-classical fusion may indeed be the eventual future of music.  I agree that it's a future worth pursuing.  I'll admit that it has been an avenue of compositional and theoretical reflection I've been doing for twenty years.  It's only in the last five to ten years that I have felt like I"m getting in the zone of the possibilities of the start of a fusion of, for instance, ragtime with sonata forms or even with fugue and let's all remember that ragtime is a form of popular music that crossed over into the Western canon and can be thought of as proto-jazz or even a subset of classical music that is no less than a century old. 

What I'm finding, not so much among actual musicians I have the pleasure of playing music with or talking music with as among ... scholars or academics who blog ... is that there's a kind of turf war afoot on whether classical music or pop music is the hegemony of the day when it seems really, absurdly easy to see how either one can be the hegemony of the day depending on whether or not teaching one of the two but not necessarily always the other is your primary passion.

That people who would like to teach Stevie Wonder songs in music coursework can feel as though there's an institutional expectation that they teach Chopin instead may not even need a linked-to example.  I know I never once heard discussions of Stevie Wonder songs when I was an undergrad in any of the coursework I took for what was possibly one of the larger music minors a person could have had.  It didn't even come up in a course I took called  "Survey of popular music", which I was only able to take, technically, because I was not officially a music major.  I think that music majors should have been "able" to take that course and even, frankly, have been required to take it.  It's not going to kill a music major to be aware of the wealth of popular song as a historically significant part of the last century of Western music--although that does get me to the next thing I want to quote.

There is, after all, something of a case to be made that if someone is studying to acquire traditional musical literacy in the Western literate musical tradition they probably don't "need" to study popular music because there is hardly anywhere these days a person can go in a post-industrial Western "First world" society where you won't constantly be hearing popular music, and Anglo-American popular music in particular. 

But who is the ‘we’, or indeed the ‘contemporary culture’, of which Zagorski-Thomas speaks? Personally, I can rarely go into a bar without being barraged by Japanese gagaku music, cannot go shopping without a constant stream of Stockhausen, Barraqué, mid-period Xenakis, or just sometimes examples of both French and Rumanian musique spectrale, piped over the loudspeakers, whilst when I jump into a taxi cab in most countries, I can be sure that there will be no escape from music of the Italian trecento. This is not to mention the cars going past blaring out the darkest Bach cantatas, or the endlessly predictable torrents of Weimar modernism which the builders will always put on the radio. Or not, obviously; in all of these cases I can be sure to hear Anglo-American popular music from the last few decades, which should make one ask which musical forms are genuinely hegemonic in contemporary culture.

Now I like a lot of popular music myself, of all types, and have done so since very young, but I would find it a bleak world if this was all that was heard, produced or studied. And I would hope that in high-level education we can do more than simply teach students about music with which they are already well-familiar, but open their minds and ears to a much wider range of music and sounds from different times, places, social strata, and so on. Furthermore, that it is possible to study musical traditions in detail, rather than just styles to be surveyed in the manner of a tourist. Many of those studying non-Western musics, music technology and indeed popular music are allowed to concentrate primarily on their specialism; I do not see why classical musicians should not be granted the same privilege, though it is increasingly frequent that this is not the case, at all levels of education.

One of the complaints that can be made about the rockist vs poptimist debate that is intra-popular is that these debates are not necessarily about the music at all but about the non-musical or rather extra-musical cultural associations narratives and sumptuary codes (to get mean about it) that are associated with these styles of music.  Debates about authenticity are debates less about whether it's okay or not for John Lee Hooker to vamp for minutes on end on a tonic chord and never more than implies the harmonic changes of 12-bar in a laconic 12/8 than it is about what kind of cultural narrative about race and class is supposed to undergird the music. 

There are plenty of occasions for scholars advocating on behalf of blues to say it broke all the rules of classical music which suggests a lack of familiarity with how ad hoc and mutable the Western art music idioms have been over the last millennium.  Or someone might talk about how blues and jazz has all this microtonal inflection that can't be captured in traditional Western musical notation and to this there can be at least two rejoinders:  1) go check out the microtonalists and advocates of extended just intonation and you'll discover that Western musical notation has been adapted in the last century the by the likes of Wyschnegradsky, Haba, Johnston and others to reflect differences in pitch as small as a few cents and 2) to even imply that microtonal inflections haven't been part of the Western musical tradition is a dicey assertion and while we're at it there's 3) Native American traditional music can have its share of microtonal inflections as can Czech music and music in Asiatic music traditions so here's hoping that people aren't trying to use a lazy set of generalizations that suggest a glib contrast between African American music and Western musical traditions that may tell more about what some people haven't bothered to learn about the shared legacy of these musical traditions than what they have picked up. 

The whole problem with this sort of scholarly (or pseudo-scholarly) approach to highlighting the differences between blues or jazz and Western art music is that it has to glide over the most substantial shared legacy all these styles tend to have, the use of equal-tempered instruments.  Attempts at developing instruments able to use 53 pitches spanning an octave go as far back as centuries.  Just because it didn't become conventional doesn' tmean it wasn't tried.  Even in the case of Liszt's proposal that quarter-tones could be used in music, his instructor Anton Reicha had theorized that before him.  I am not even a professional scholar but I can find it distressing how readily people say they are scholars seem content to traffic in stereotypes about "high" and "low" musical traditions in contemporary debates in ways tha tseem ... in light of all the things we can study and discover ... hard to excuse. 

My own feeling has been over the last twenty odd years of my music-making life is that we could do without the academic turf wars for or against high and low and work on exploring ways to rejuvenate a healthy ... you know I might as well use the term since I've been slogging through so much Adorno in the last two years ...  there's got to be any number of ways we can restore the dialectical synergy between high and low art that was observed to have taken place in historical and musical terms up into the 19th century and that, arguably, has probably never even stopped happening in the arts--if it has "stopped" it has probably stopped because of the tunnel vision of academics who have dedicated themselves to turf wars that quite possibly incidental to musical life. 

What poptimists may not realize is something that the old lefties like Adorno or Dwight Macdonald were perhaps too acutely aware of, the extent to which corporate juggernauts produced and promoted what they regarded as the sonic bilge of contemporary mass-appeal popular music.  The assumption they had to make was that the chasm they perceived between high and low was impossible to bridge and that perhaps it wasn't worth it to even try to bridge the chasm from either side.  In the last century advocates for high and low seem to have contented themselves with the idea that consciously setting out to bridge the gap isn't worth talking about because ... I'm reminded of Eric Nisenson's complaint in The Murder of Jazz that most rock critics aren't musically literate in the sense of being able to play instruments or read scores and are, far more often than not, English majors ... it can often seem that what is being discussed is not the music in musical terms but the cultural and personal narratives of the people who produce or receive the music.  I could try to talk about chains of chromatic mediant chords spinning out of an opening tonic or about a descending octatonic bass line and I might be talking about Scriabin or Charles Ives or Stevie Wonder or maybe Dusan Bogdanovic.  The thing about the theory and formal analysis is that it "can" be applied to popular music, too.

I sometimes wonder if it's not in the vested interest of academics entrenched in debates to sideline this fact.  To fans of popular styles the traditional styles have the hegemony while to those who are fans of the traditional styles the popular styles have the hegemony. I've written in the past about how academics can regard the financial one percent as the bad guys while to the financial one percent that may dislike where the theorizing of academics may go about capitalism the academics are the one percent, a cognitive one percent but a one percent.  The trouble with a term like hegemony is that it can be like, well, what Susan R Garrett said about the charge of witchcraft in the ancient world, it can be used as a buzzword allegation by whomever takes it up.  The Demise of the Devil, her monograph on the Gospel of Luke is where I read that, by the way.  Fun book!

So I admit that this is all kind of a vent.  I love a lot of popular music and I love a lot of what would have to be called "classical" music, too.  I can see why to one side the hegemony is all on the other side depending on what the point of view and can also see how in both cases the hegemony is mainly in the eye of the complainer, too.

having finally seen A Quiet Place ...

Richard Brody's review of the film seems even more idiotic.

Any case that Brody could make that the film is reactionary, racist or white supremacist wants for substantially more of an explanation than just supposing that lizards are subtextually necessarily black people.

Had the whole film been made with Denzel and Thandie I would have enjoyed the film as much as I would though, in fact, it starred Emily Blunt and John Krasinski.  Since the last film I remembered Blunt and Krasinski working on at the same time prior to A Quiet Place was Hayao Miyazaki's magnificent The Wind Rises I figured that if these two were working on another film together it would, at absolute worst, be a decently made horror film.

And it is a decently made horror film.  I don't feel any need to spoil the thing if you haven't seen it because this post is less about the film than about having seen the film and being more convinced than ever that the film critics at The New Yorker are managing to make themselves look like complete and utter morons when they write about genre film.

It's not that I can't take a film critic seriously who writes about arthouse or foreign film.  I may not always agree with Charles Mudede but as film critics go he's shown that he has a sense of how to engage genre and pulp film on its own terms and then switch to other standards.  For those who never read the point and counterpoint he was involved in at The Stranger about Batman Begins, he wrote the he thought Nolan's film was a really well-made superhero film and that it's a Batman movie, he wasn't going to find it wanting for not being a Bergman or Kieslowski film.  Or as a more famous film critic put it, Roger Ebert said there's such a thing as telling people whether the hot dog was a good and tasty hot dog rather than insistently telling them they should. not. be. eating. hotdogs!

What makes Brody's reactionary stance toward A Quiet Place seem so stupid is that the criteria for the verdict boomerangs on approval he's given to another genre film.  If it's reactionary and racist for white parents to fight to protect their children then was it reactionary and racist for the queen mother of Wakanda to work with family to ensure T'Challa could by all means possible be revived?  Brody wasn't complaining about Coogler's film.  I had a blast watching Black Panther and I enjoyed A Quiet Place.  Smaller budget high concept horror may be having something of a renaissance and perhaps I should say that whether it's A Quiet Place or Get Out the horror films that have been notable work on having a clear grasp that it is suspense that energizes a narrative more than jump scares and gore. 

You know, unless you're mining the splatstick idiom like Sam Raimi but that's practically a different subgenre all its own.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

John Borstlap on the impossibility of pop, world music, jazz and film music being able to revitalize the Western art music traditions--an assertion that seems at odds with the actual history of Western art music even within Borstlap's recommended reading list

The Classical Revolution: Thoughts on New Music in the 21st Century
revised and expanded edition
John Borstlap
Dover Publications
Copyright (c) 2013, 2017 by John Borstlap
ISBN 9780486814483
ISBN 0486814483

page 21
... A contemporary composer with the talents of a Beethoven, Mahler, or Debussy will not be found among the "composers" who think that tonality is a superfluous and outdated tool or that they can infuse their work with the drab confections from pop or world music, jazz or film music [emphasis added], without restricting the art form's potential.  Given the immense richness of past achievement, a really great talent will try to emulate, not to destroy or deny it. ...
The exclusions of what "can't" be relied upon to invigorate the Western art music tradition seems pretty stringent, more stringent than even Adorno would have ever endorsed.  We'll get to Adorno soon enough but let's take these excluded categories in the order in which they are mentioned.


So, obviously, let's take "pop" first.  Former champion of all sorts of modernist music, Charles Rosen, had this to say about Haydn:

Charles Rosen
Copyright © 1997, 1972, 1971 by Charles Rosen
ISBN 0-393-31712-9 PBK

Page 329

By 1790 Haydn had created and mastered a deliberately popular style. The immensity of his success is reflected in the volume of his production in the next ten years, the decade after the death of Mozart: fourteen string quartets, three piano sonatas, fourteen piano trios ,six masses, the Sinfonia Concertante, the Seasons, twelve symphonies, and a great number of minor works.  Today, when Haydn is almost a connoisseur’s composer whose music cannot compete at the box office with that of Mozart and Beethoven, this atmosphere of enormous popular success must be borne in mind in order to understand the late works, above all the symphonies and the oratorios.  There have been composers who were as much admired in their lifetimes, but none who so completely won at the same time the unquestioned and generous respect of the musical community and the ungrudging acclaim of the public. 

So if Haydn was so popular that his music could be known and loved in America within the first decade after his death he had to have become popular somehow.  H. C. Robbins Landon and others have noted that Haydn was popular through bootleg editions of his string quartets and other works.  So, it would seem that there's at least one composer who was intercontinentally popular in the classical tradition.  Then there's Rosen's comments about one of Haydn's friends, too. 

Page 332
The procedures of Haydn and Mozart must be understood in a larger context, that of the creation of a popular style which abandons none of the pretensions of high art. Their achievement is perhaps unique in Western music; Beethoven attempted a similar synthesis in the last movement of the Ninth symphony, and his triumph, which seems to me incontestable, has nevertheless been contested.  This solitary success in the history of musical style should make us wary of critics who reproach the avant-garde composer for an uncompromisingly hermetic style, or the popular composer (like Offenbach or Gershwin) for low ideals; that is like blaming a man for not having blue eyes or for not having been born in Vienna.  The most esoteric composer would welcome the popularity of Mozart in Prague, where people whistled `No piu andrai’ in the streets, if he could achieve it as Mozart did without sacrificing a jot of his refinement or even his `difficulty.’ Only for one brief historical period in the operas of Mozart, the late symphonies of Haydn, and some of the Schubert songs, has the utmost sophistication and complexity of musical technique existed alongside—or better, fused with—the virtues of the street song.

So it would seem that even among fans of the modernist music Borstlap doesn't like there could bee a quick and ready concession that popular level music that was as accomplished as work by Offenbach or Gershwin was worth celebrating even if by the criteria of the highest academic ideals the music might seem a bit wanting. 

If Charles Rosen could throw a bone to Gershwin and Offenbach as being good popular composers ... you know ... it reminds me that even Adorno had very nice things to say about Offenbach and even Puccini.  That's stuff that folks who have arrayed themselves against Adorno have not tended to bring up.  I didn't discover that Adorno wrote positively about even these sorts of composers until I actually slogged through Aesthetic Theory and Philosophy of New Music.  Now there's a case to be made that Adorno comes off as racist and ethnocentrist about tonality and who gets to use it "legitimately", but some of Adorno's most vitriolic comments involve demeaning comments about Slavs rather than blacks; and Adorno grudgingly conceded that "if" someone could chart a middle path between the extremes of Schoenberg and Stravinsky it would be Bartok.  This, too, is not something that I would have learned about Adorno from reading Borstlap. 

For that matter ... I probably wouldn't learn anything much at all about what Adorno actually wrote except for Adorno's arguments against tonality and advocacy for the music of Schoenberg ... but even that doesn't get at "why" Adorno was convinced that atonality "had" to embraced as an alternative to what he regarded as the exhausted parameters of tonality.  That's something for some other time.


Having touched upon pop music we're now at "world music".  On this point, too, Rosen is useful. Rosen's observation that:

Page 331
We know that Haydn was interested in collecting folk tunes, and that, as a young man, he gained experience in the popular music of street serenading.

If Haydn made use of folk tunes that could be thought of as having Czech, Hungarian or even Polish pedigree then in relationship to the "mainstream" of a German or French or Italian or English art music tradition that's ... "world music". 

When 18th and 19th century composers wrote anything "a la Turk" did that not count as "world music"?  What about Chopin's mazurkas?  Do they get cast aside because "world music" can't revitalize or recontextualize the Western art music tradition?  What about Debussy's interest in gamelan?  Stravinsky's interest in Russian and Ukrainian and Lithuanian folk tunes?  Alois Haba's interest in regional folk song that had microtonal elements?  Even Xenakis had works that he wrote for chorus that make more sense in musical terms if you understand which elements if Greek folk music he was drawing upon.  The idea that "world music" in the here and now can't revitalize Western art music theory and practice runs pretty hard against the historical realities that that's precisely what nationalism in music ran with over the last ... two centuries, or even the last three centuries. 

Borstlap's general distrust that "world music" could be used to revitalize the Western concert music tradition is particularly self-defeating in light of the thousands of pages that have been written about Stravinsky and Bartok making use of the folk music of their respective regions.  Did Russian and Hungarian folk music magically become not-world-music after Stravinsky and Bartok wrote music that made into the concert music canon?  I have been reading Taruskin's Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions (good luck finding a cheap version!) over the last couple of years as it is so I'm puzzled that Borstlap could speak in such sweeping terms about how "world music" can't be used to reinvigorate classical music when a number of the books he recommends people read at the back of The Classical Revolution can be regarded as literally textbook historical case for precisely that happening over the last century or two.  Debussy's use of gamelan music as an inspiration for his own composing couldn't be a more textbook case of a Western composer being influenced by "world music".  When Ravel wrote a "blues" in his sonata for violin and guitar was drawing upon an African Americna idiom on the part of a French composer "not" a case of what could be called "world music"?  That "world music" can be construed as "cultural appropriation" isn't something I want to delve into here, the point is that intercultural borrowing has been so routine in the centuries of Western music the idea that suddenly it's off limits now requires a more extensive historical and cultural case than Borstlap has seemed willing (or perhaps able) to provide.


For someone who has taken such pains to denounce the legacy of T. W. Adorno as a disastrous influence on Western European art music and patronage systems; and who has been so consistent in denying that jazz could possibly reinvigorate anything about European art music traditions the weirdest irony about John Borstlap's position is that for as long as he takes that position about jazz and classical music, that the latter could never possibly be admixed with the former there are two simple observations that can be made.

The first is that as early music studies continue the conceptual similarities between European "early music" and jazz in terms of recorded practice (if hardly anything in theory) suggests what practical musicians in the jazz and classical world have been observing over the last forty years, that there's room for jazz and Bach to, so to speak, share a space.

But the second and more amusing irony is that when Borstlap inveighs relentlessly against the very idea that making use of jazz could revitalize classical music he sounds like Adorno.  But Adorno's essay "On Jazz" as ghastly as it reads in the 21st century, is probably best understood as a rant against capitalism first and foremost, and as a claim that the freedom of jazz was illusory at multiple levels. 

The first level of the illusion of freedom was in "hot jazz" having improvisational "breaks" that did nothing to interrupt the steady pulse of the marching rhythms of jazz on the one hand and, on the other, stereotypically and even mechanically appeared at precisely those points at which a harmonic and melodic cadence had already formally resolved a phrase.  Adorno saw this as even more mechanistic and conformist in practice than earlier musical styles and forms to which jazz and, more emphatically, it's fans and marketers, claimed to have a new healthier and more liberated alternative. 

But the second level of the illusion of freedom had to do with the social element of jazz.  It gave an illusion of freedom on the part of musicians who were no less part of the proverbial servant class than they were before.  This is a more thorny element to deal with because I do think Adorno's initial appraisal of jazz was wrong.  But since I've been slogging through Introduction to the Sociology of Music and Current of Music (to a much smaller degree, you can't binge-read or blitz-read Adorno! Nor should you try) I know that in later work Adorno granted there were some truly brilliant musicians in American jazz, who had more inspiration and better playing that any number of musicians he'd heard trying to keep the classical music thing going. 

The trouble is that people who have arrayed themselves against Adorno don't have any incentive to mention this stuff.  Roger Scruton doesn't mention this side of Adorno's work in his polemics against Adorno's work (there are things to be said for and against this later on because I think Scruton is right to say we can and should take jazz seriously and American popular song seriously as art forms but that's for later).  On the other hand Scruton does take seriously Adorno's warning that musical art should not devolve entirely into kitsch and that whether we agree with Adorno's Marxism we can grant Adorno had every reason to raise this concern about popular music.

But Borstlap has a considerably less-nuanced polemic against Adorno and Adorno's influence on Western musical culture in general and his perceived influence on patronage systems in European nations.  But to the extent that Borstlap thinks jazz can't invigorate European classical music Borstlap is merely agreeing with what Adorno more or less said in 1936.  That Adorno point blank doubted the extent to which jazz could in any way be meaningfully linked to the black experience or black musicians seems patently absurd here in 2018 and it was arguably just as absurd back then, though even here someone could throw a bone generally thrown Adorno's way by pointing out that what "jazz" was available was a European form of popular music and that Adorno's polemic was against popular music.

Which gets us back to the anti-capitalist nature of Adorno's polemic.  He was trying to make a case that even the best jazz musicians were still ultimately recycling musical moments they heard in Debussy and Delius. Adorno regarded tonality as in some key way "used up" and so attempts to take up the tonal language were doomed to fail and bee subordinated to the culture industry. 

Borstlap's polemical position against Adorno has to split the difference between agreeing with Adorno's axiom that jazz could not revitalize the Western European classical traditions on the one hand while, on the other hand, doing two things that seem hard to do: 1) to assert that tonality isn't "exhausted" on the one hand while also 2) somehow insisting that jazz, a musical tradition with a debt to the French Impressionist composers and even to Russian music that is telegraphed by works like "Blue Serge" from Mercer Ellington to explicit name-dropping from jazz masters over the last century to having appreciation of composers ranging from Ravel and Delius back to Bach or to Stravinsky, has nothing to add to a range of musical traditions to which composers on both sides of the jazz/classical divide have more or less continuously said they regard as anywhere from a permeable to an ultimately non-existent boundary. 

When 18th and 19th century composers wrote anything "a la Turk" did that not count as "world music"?  What about Chopin's mazurkas?  Do they get cast aside because "world music" can't revitalize or recontextualize the Western art music tradition?  What about Debussy's interest in gamelan?  Stravinsky's interest in Russian and Ukrainian and Lithuanian folk tunes?  Alois Haba's interest in regional folk song that had microtonal elements?  Even Xenakis had works that he wrote for chorus that make more sense in musical terms if you understand which elements if Greek folk music he was drawing upon.  The idea that "world music" in the here and now can't revitalize Western art music theory and practice runs pretty hard against the historical realities that that's precisely what nationalism in music ran with over the last ... two centuries, or even the last three centuries. 

So it would seem that even among fans of the modernist music Borstlap doesn't like there could bee a quick and ready concession that popular level music that was as accomplished as work by Offenbach or Gershwin was worth celebrating even if by the criteria of the highest academic ideals the music might seem a bit wanting.  Borstlap's position might seem, at first blush, less generous toward popular music and "world music" than Rosen's position. 

About jazz there doesn't seem to be too much to add beyond the previously mentioned similarity between Borstlap's disbelief in the possibility that jazz could reinvigorate the classical traditions and Adorno's disbelief.  On that point Borstlap and Adorno may turn out to be on the same side, not opposing sides.

Let's look at what Adorno had to say in Aesthetic Theory, for instance, about jazz and rock in contrast to Beethoven.

Aesthetic Theory
Theodore Adorno
Copyright (c) 1997 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota

ISBN 0-8264-6757-1
pages 319-320
The demise of art, which is today being proclaimed with as much glibness as resentment, would be false, a gesture of conformism. The desublimation, the immediate and momentary gain of pleasure that is demanded of art, is inner-aesthetically beneath art; in real terms, however, that momentary pleasure is unable to grant what is expected of it. The recently adopted insistence on culturing uncultivation, the enthusiasm for the beauty of street battles, is a reprise of futurist and dadaist actions. The cheap aestheticism of short-winded politics is reciprocal with the faltering of aesthetic power. Recommending jazz and rock-and-roll instead of Beethoven does not demolish the affirmative lie of culture but rather furnishes barbarism and the profit interest of the culture industry with a subterfuge. The allegedly vital and uncorrupted nature of such products is synthetically processed by precisely those powers that are supposedly the target of the Great Refusal: These products are the truly corrupt. [emphasis added]

what did Adorno have to say about jazz in an earlier work?

Introduction to the Sociology of Music
Theodore W Adorno
Seabury Press
ISBN 0-8164-92662-2

page 13
On the other hand, in crucial points such as expanded-impressionistic harmonics and the simple standardization of form, jazz remains imprisoned within narrow bounds. The undisputed predominance of the beat, from which all syncopic arts must take orders; the inability to conceive music dynamically in the proper sense of the word, as something freely evolving-these endow even this listening type with the character of bondage to authority.

page 14

The jazz realm is tied to commercial music by its predominant basic material, the hit songs, if by nothing else. Part of its physiognomies is the amateurish incapacity to account for things musical in exact musical terms-an incapacity which it is futile to rationalize with the difficulty of nailing down the secret of the irregularities of jazz, long after the notators of serious music have learned to fix fluctuations of incomparably greater difficulty. In this type the estrangement from sanctioned musical culture recoils into a preartistic barbarism vainly advertised as a burst of primal feelings. Numerically, even if we count all those whom the leaders take for fellow travelers, this type too is modest for the time being. But in Germany it is apt to grow and probably merge with the resentment audience in the not-too-distant future.

If Borstlap would like us to regard Adorno's cumulative influence as wrong because he advocated for twelve-tone music and rejected tonality that's one kind of case to make, but Borstlap couldn't be bothered to quote even a single paragraph of any book written by Adorno in The Classical Revolution, not even in its second edition that came out recently. Roger Scruton has, at least, summarized Adorno's ideas and claims in a way that shows that he has actually read the primary source materials.  I have some issues with even Scruton's take on Adorno but that would require another post.  Let's turn to some other comments from Adorno on jazz:

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.

page 33
The social function of jazz coincides with its history, the history of a heresy that has been received into the mass culture. Certainly, jazz has the potential of a musical breakout from this culture on the part of those who were either refused admittance to it or annoyed by its mendacity. Time and again, however, jazz became a captive of the culture industry and thus of musical and social conformism; famed devices of its phases, such as "swing," "bebop," "cool jazz," are both advertising slogans and marks of that process of absorption. Popular music can no more be exploded from within, on its own premises and with its own habituated means, than its own sphere points beyond it.

Popular music could be characterized as a completely undialectical product in Adorno's understanding, whereas in the Western art music traditions there was a dialectical relationship between form and content that made Beethoven's work vibrant.  Adorno was not necessarily saying that classical music was "good" in sociological terms, he had a few things to say about the ownership class since he was, after all, a Marxist.  But Adorno was willing to write this:

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 . [emphasis added] Its esthetic decay is as one with the irrevocable and irrelative dissociation of the two realms.

This is something that has been stated by a variety of authors on what's conventionally understood to be the left, there was  along stretch in the West in which it was perfectly possible for art to simultaneously be at the highest level of "high" art accomplishment while appealing to a popular, mass or "low" interest.  There was, because the term is obviously relevant, a dialectical relationship between "high" and "low" that spanned pre-industrial Europe that informed its art.  This is what we can consider Charles Rosen's comments to have observed about Haydn and Mozart.  It looks like even Adorno could grant that up until the Industrial Revolution this kind of dialectic happened.

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The historical reasons for the rise of Masscult are well known. There could obviously be no mass culture until, there were masses, in our modern sense. The industrial revolution produced the masses. It uprooted people from their agrarian communities and packed them into factory cities. It produced goods in such unprecedented abundance that the population of the Western world has increased more in the last two centuries than in the preceding two millennia-poor Malthus, never has a brilliantly original theorist been so speedily refuted by history! And it subjected them to a uniform discipline whose only precedent was the "slave socialism" of Egypt. But the Egypt of the Pharaohs produced no Masscult any more than did the great Oriental empires or the late Rome of the proletarian
rabble, because the masses were passive, inert, submerged far below the level of political or cultural power. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century in Europe that the majority of people began to play an active part in either history or culture.

Up to then, there was only High Culture and Folk Art. To some extent, Masscult is a continuation of Folk Art, but the differences are more striking than the similarities. Folk Art grew mainly from below, an autochthonous product shaped by the people to fit their own needs, even though it often took its cue from High Culture. Masscult comes from above. It is fabricated by technicians hired by businessmen. They try this and try that and if something clicks at the box office, they try to cash in with similar products, like consumer-researchers with a new cereal, or like a Pavlovian biologist who has hit on a reflex he thinks can be conditioned. It is one thing to satisfy popular tastes, as Robert Burns's poetry did, and quite another to exploit them, as Hollywood does. Folk Art was the people's own institution, their private little kitchen-garden walled off from the great formal park of their masters. But Masscult breaks down the wall, integrating the masses into a debased form of High Culture and thus becoming an instrument of domination. If one had no other data to go on, Masscult would expose capitalism as a class society rather than the harmonious commonwealth that, in election years, both parties tell us it is.

Now obviously there are any number of ways to contest Macdonald's narrative and point but I'm mentioning him to point out that whether we're looking at a Charles Rosen or an Adorno or a Dwight Macdonald the observation has held in the last century that a successful fusion of "high" and "low" was possible in the past. If there is a case to be made that it stopped being possible that case tends to focus on one or both of two theories. The first theory is that the Industrial Revolution created masses of people whose mass made them a class and of a sort that would and did stop having local folkloric traditions as they began to live in congested urban centers. The second theory is pretty organically connected to the first and proposes that as mass production led to mass consumption the emergence of "masscult" culture began to take root, what Adorno identified as the culture industry.  "Masscult" was another name for it and this was held to be distinct from either traditional high art or traditional folk art.  Macdonald could cheerfully endorse jazz while damning rock and pop music because he believed jazz was thoroughly steeped in folk idioms while pop music was a top-down industry.  But even he granted that it was still possible for something to be popular and well-made, thus has fondness for Chaplin films. 

Adorno couldn't endorse jazz as art, though, and as we've been looking at his polemical claims about jazz it looks as though Borstlap and Adorno are more or less in agreement that whatever is going to revitalize classical music in Western Europe it sure won't be and can't be jazz because jazz is entertainment rather than art.  If that's the case then, could Borstlap's engagement (such as it is) with Adorno show a tiny bit more nuance.  It's more than possible to argue that Adorno's understanding of jazz and master narrative regarding history can be wrong on the one hand, and proposing that Borstlap's insistence that jazz could not be used to inform or inspire classical music is also historically dubious.  If it's not possible for African American popular idioms to in some way be part of the Western musical canon why does the second edition of The Classical Revolution include a Dover edition of piano rags? Or are we supposed to imagine that ragtime only made the cut because of the work of Joseph Lamb rather than Scott Joplin or James Scott?  I doubt that was Borstlap's intent, by the way, I'm just making a dry joke.


Now, on to film music.  Whether we're talking about Adorno in Introduction to the Sociology of Music or an anti-Adornian like Richard Taruskin in his Oxford History of Western Music, there's a remarkable consensus--opera became antiquated once cinema emerged.   Whatever role opera or theater played up until the early 20th century has been displaced, in sociological terms, by film and television.  Yet if film music is precluded because it is incidental music to some dramatic work what about musicals?  Do they not count because of the popular song element?  Is something that is too popular more or less excluded from being art?

The claim that film music can't revitalize classical music seems like a category mistake.  If the idea is to revitalize appreciation of symphonic music then treating soundtracks for films as artistic works would seem easy enough to do.  We're living in an era in which John Williams' Star Wars soundtracks so saturate popular culture that there's a decent chance you might have seen a VW commercial with that theme in it

You know ...

I hope that Shirley Walker's scores for the soundtrack work she did on Batman: the Animated series eventually gets published because I love the work she did for "Heart of Ice"

Now maybe Korngold still has more corn than gold but the history of composers writing music for film in the classical tradition seems like it needs little mention.  Copland wrote film music. Stravinsky took a stab at film music, though he might want people to forget "The Flood" happened.  Shostakovich got his start accompanying silent films, if memory serves.  Castelnuovo-Tedesco ghostwrote film scores and was a mentor to John Williams.   That much of this music lacks a musical "argument" in terms of gestural development at a macro-structural or cyclic level on par with the 19th century symphonic canon is almost a given but does that make it bad music?  If dance music for aristocratic enclaves precluded music from simultaneously being art then music from the Baroque era might have some troubled reception history now. 


So whether it's pop music, world music, jazz or film music we might grant Borstlap has plenty of reasons to believe that the symphonic tradition will not be revitalized by being influenced by these kinds of musical movements.  Borstlap's prescribed prohibitions can't be squared with even a rudimentary history of Western art music and that means that the prohibitions become self-defeating strictures simply on the basis of Borstlap's own attempted appeal to continuity of historical traditions.

He's got a right to his convictions there.  I think that, if anything, the last century has shown that orchestras are as likely to be known for soundtrack work as for the conventional art music concert canon.

Let's put it this way, the orchestra was really a small part of a millennium of Western art music history.  For the first half of that thousand-year history a lot of the music that has been preserved has been vocal music and choral music.  We have instrumental music, to be sure, but autonomous instrumental music of the later 18th century to the present day was not necessarily at the top of the pyramid.  It may have taken a slide off the top of the pyramid in the last century thanks in part to cultural shifts about aesthetics but also, perhaps more crucially, because of seismic changes in technology and music production.

I think the literate art music tradition is absolutely worth continuing and preserving but I also think we may be getting a chance to see how largely peripheral and elite it has been.  This isn't to say it's bad because of that, not even Adorno said it was bad because of that and he actually was a Marxist.  I think I've made at least some case that Adorno and Borstlap could be shown to be on the same page about denigrating rock and jazz and pop music as some kind of alternative art to the Western art music tradition.  Where Adorno and Borstlap differ, obviously, is on the question of whether tonalilty is "used up". Borstlap says "no" and Adorno said "yes" but in neither case have I found myself able to take the reasons all that seriously.  I am trying, however, to take both authors seriously as well as their concerns. 

So, here's a question, if old lefties like Adorno (a Marxist no less) and a Dwight Macdonald could easily grant that the boundaries between high and low were permeable the question we should ask about their polemics is why they believed the boundaries between high and low and become so impermeable?  Why was jazz incapable of being anything other than a product shilled by the culture industry in Adorno's understanding?  Did his conception of the global influence of capitalism preclude the possibility that African Americans could make some great music?  I am not interested in proposing that Adorno was a racist (he may well have been), I'm more interested in the antagonism assumed between high and low that has developed in the last two centuries in Western scholastic discourse that it would seem was an antagonism that predated the Industrial Revolution.  Parody masses could cause consternation when they were being composed. 

Rather than try to get into the possible sumptuary codes entailed in that kind of historical survey I'm trying to keep things relatively clear-cut--Borstlap seems set on the claim that classical music can't be revitalized by jazz or pop or film or world music when it would seem that even a relatively cursory survey of actual Western art music history could show that all of these idioms have interacted with "classical music", very often by way of being influenced by the art music traditions, and also by informing and supplementing the art music traditions.

As I've written about plenty of times, I'm a guitarist.  We guitarists were summarily dismissed as not even part of the literate musical tradition in the West by Richard Taruskin.  He's wrong and it would be the easiest thing in the world to prove he's wrong but I don't see a reason to take his glib dismissal personally.  Kyle Gann suggested that we make way for the guitar era in a post years ago at his ArtsJournal blog.  To go by its role in popular music of just about any style in the West, the 20th century was at least in part the guitar era.  Yet as Matanya Ophee noted in his lecture "Repertoire Issues" guitarists are not taken seriously by the classical music mainstream.

I am in favor of continuing the Western art music tradition but as a guitarist, perhaps, I have a pragmatic streak.  What are we trying to preserve?  Are we trying to preserve a canon of symphonic music?  The canon seems pretty well established.  Douglas Shadle and others have written about how the explicitly Germanic nature of that symphonic canon seems stifling.  Well, sure, but for those of us who are guitarists the symphonic canon or the chamber music canon has been established without reference to the guitar at all.  Borstlap seems to be aware that the cumulative influence of a Herder or a Hegel or 19th century pedagogy had negative influences but he paradoxically wants to continue the canon as conceived in 19th century terms.  There's a paradox at play that I'm not sure American progressives who would regard him as an old white guy reactionary have taken any time to notice. 

Borstlap's general aim is to preserve the symphonic tradition and open things up for new works to be written.  I can respect that goal but disentangling the orchestral canon rom the ideological polemics of the 19th century might be difficult.  His attempt to defend Wagner as a self-educated man with an anti-Semitism that was terrible but possibly explicable as what a Marxist might interpret as a beef against the ruling class attempts to make sense of Wagner's polemics within the political and economic climate of his time.  I can grant that ... but Borstlap may have a double standard at play that he'll need to address.  If it's possible to disentangle the artistic legacy of Wagner from what National Socialists decided to draw from Wagner's legacy on the one hand, isn't it just as possible to disentangle Marx and Engels from the legacy of the butchery of the Soviet regime?  To be blunt about it, why should we insist on disentangling one legacy of one literary or artistic figure from a subsequent century of brutality and not the other?  Wouldn't a considered scholarly, literary or artistic approach entail finding what is best in a work or tradition and carefully setting aside those things that seem dangerous or harmful?  If that could be done with Wagner's operas why can't the same be done for Marxist or socialist thought? 

It would seem that even a cursory survey of the 19th and 20th centuries for classical music would show that making use of local folk music (i.e. "world music" by another name for those who have had the benefit of living in Western nation-states with a history of colonial empires) has been inextricable from vital movements within the Western art music tradition, even in and especially in areas that were regarded as having "nationalist" moments like the Czech republic or Bulgaria or Hungary or Russia.  Colonial empires didn't seem to have "nationalist" streaks in musical-canonical terms. 

As sympathetic as I am to the prospect of continuing the musical traditions broadly known as classical music, Borstlap seems unable to put together a coherent or competent history of Western music that can withstand his own generic prohibitions for the present in light of what any music scholar (whether a formal professional or an amateur who loves the art music traditions) can look up in the age of the internet. 

Another matter regarding popular music and jazz, if Borstlap is set against the idea that the art music tradition has anything to learn from or benefit from interacting with popular music this would ironically put him on the same side as John Cage, whom Borstlap seems to regard as an amusical fraud and crackpot.  That may well be ... but if that's the case then wouldn't a person want to embrace jazz with open arms if the kinds of people who were dead set against its legitimacy as an art form were people with literary and musical legacies like Adorno and Cage, for whom Borstlap seems to have some understandable if overzealous distrust or dislike? 

I am all for continuing and revitalizing what people generically call classical music.  I just don't think that the range of prohibitions Borstlap keeps insisting upon are historically defensible or plausible.  It paradoxically plays into a dogmatic separation of high and low that Adorno and Cage upheld when it would seem that what we want to cultivate is a revived capacity for a "dialectic" of high and low musical cultures that even Adorno could grant was vibrantly taking place up through the later works of Haydn and Mozart.  What I will agree with Borstlap about is that the legacy of 19th century music pedagogy in Europe is not going to help us here.  Unlike Borstlap I think that there's every reason to believe that enough study of the syntactic developmental parameters of sonatas and fugues on the one hand and the music of regional folk and even popular music (i.e. styles like ragtime, blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, Native American folk music) can, in principle, work.  The fact that academic partisans for high and low culture have had such a vested interest in turf wars at the expense of reintroducing a profitable synergistic dynamic of high and low musical cultural traditions interacting says more about the gridlock in academies than about what practical musicians would like to see and hear happening.

It's possible to appreciate Borstlap's desire that the art music traditions continue without subscribing to his proposed prohibitions about what music to note use in continuing those traditions along the way.  The question we might want to pose and repose is whether we're trying to uphold and sustain a form of thinking in music or a set of canons.  These are not mutually exclusive aims in practice but Borstlap's attempt to do battle against sonic art and pop music at the same time may hamstring him into making them mutually exclusive when they don't need to be.