Friday, April 24, 2020

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


1.     Ragtime as Musical Ice Cream

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

page 190

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

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

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


8.     Philosophy of New Music and norms of musical cognition

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

THE AESTHETICS OF SURVIVAL: A COMPOSER'S VIEW OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSIC
GEORGE ROCHBERG
Copyright (c) by The University of Michigan 1984
ISBN 0-472-10037-8

The Concepts of Musical Time and Space  (1963)

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

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

page 100

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

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

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

13.     Rochberg on pluralism and questions of style

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC, THE ARTS, AND IDEAS
Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright (c) 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago
ISBN 0-226-52143-5

pages 171-172

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

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

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

Meyer made the following prediction:

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ragtime and Sonata Forms: Appendix 1: recapitulation rag--on the return of B strains as closing themes in the literature

I opted to glide over the question of whether there was a precedent for recapitulation of an A strain or a B strain in ragtime literature in the body of the full argument.  This is not because the question is unimportant, it's very relevant.  However, it seemed that for those unfamiliar with ragtime the concepts of time-space and proportional correspondence between a generic sonata form and a Joplin rag could be done without digressing into the question of whether Scott Joplin ever brought back an A or a B strain at the end of his rags.  He didn't.

I learned this because I made a point of studying all of Joplin's rags, but one of the beauties of scholarship is other people have done work you don't have to replicate.  Toward the end of finding out how many rags ended with B strains I consulted the standard work that gets into the nuts and bolts of the modular construction of many a classic rag.  Ragtime fans probably already know that it is ...

Ragtime and Sonata Forms: Appendix 2: Ragtime and cumulative setting or cumulative form


Appendix 2: Ragtime and cumulative setting or cumulative form

All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing
J. Peter Bukholder
Yale University Press
Copyright © 1995 by J. Peter Burkholder
ISBN 0-300-05642-7 (hc)

In chapter 5 of his monograph on Charles Ives and musical borrowing, J. Peter Burkholder described Ives’ use of cumulative setting, a variation of cumulative form.  This approach to form can be thought of as a kind of reverse variations/development form in which Ives took a well-known and popular tune; created a variant of that theme with a polyphonic complement and proceeded to reverse-engineer a development that culminated in a presentation of these themes.  In Burkholder’s description cumulative setting can be thought of as a development that leads to a kind of recapitulation without any preliminary exposition (Burkholder, page 146). Burkholder emphasized on page 138 of All Made of Tunes that once you understand this is how Ives often composed many of the mysteries about what on earth he’s doing musically and why he’s doing it disappears. Burkholder also stressed that Ives developed the themes he derived from the borrowed tune rather than the borrowed tune itself (page 215).

Ragtime and Sonata Forms: Bibliographic references [updated 4-27-2020]



[new references added 4-27-2020]

Ragtime and Sonata Forms is done, initial note about publishing schedule

There's going to be a tag for the post.  The chapters are going to be mostly "read after the break" but have a little teaser of ideas to come from the first paragraph or two.  The posts are also getting published in reverse order, starting with the bibliographic references going from part 18 back to part 1 so it can be read in sequence when it's finally published.

It will eventually get indexed with a tag on the page that indexes posts by topic on the music page.

This project has been incubating for months as a writing project and years as a compositional project.  It is not, I should hasten to add, the work of an academic in music, music history, musicology or music theory.  This is the kind of thing I do for the sheer fun of it as a hobbyist composer, musician and writer.  I have, nevertheless, tried to be careful to mention the writers whose work I deal with and who have influenced my thinking on this topic.

Not named or quoted in Ragtime and Sonata Forms,  but who I most certainly need to thank for all his years of blogging, is Kyle Gann.  It's thanks to Gann that I learned about Rochberg's theoretical writings and found out about the music and writings of Ben Johnston (whose string quartets I now adore).  If you haven't read Gann's new book on the history of tunings and you're a musician I think you'll want to read it.  Shameless plug for a book I got last year and loved reading.  I'm not a music academic but just as at one point I was considering seminary at another point in my life I was considering grad school in music, either in music history or guitar performance.  I ended up going the "neither" route, but I do love reading academic monographs on music, music history, and even formal analysis.

I also want to thank John Borstlap because, whatever we've disagreed about (and that's been plenty) he's been respectful and courteous in his disagreement and it was thanks to his disagreement with the ideas and legacy of Adorno I managed to get curious enough to read Adorno's work for myself to find out what I happen to think many of his ideas were pernicious and terrible.

Also, though I'm not exactly a hip hop fan I do want to thank Ethan Hein for being willing to engage with me on a few things.  What I've attempted to do in Ragtime and Sonata Forms is articulate an approach to sonata form that can, I hope, give people a way to create ragtime sonatas that will have potential application toward the integration of theoretical approaches to sonata form to basically any other kind of popular song or dance tradition.  There's hardly a style of American popular music that isn't in some way indebted to ragtime, so if it's possible to write ragtime sonatas then it should be as possible to write blues sonatas, country sonatas, jazz sonatas (or sonatas drawing on jazz that aren't jazz as Nikolai Kapustin insists his work be understood), and probably even EDM and hip hop sonatas.  After all, with more than a little help from George Rochberg's time-space concept and Ben Johnston's idea of proportionality I would think that the time-spaces in which sonata forms develop could be applied to all sorts of popular styles.  Not that anyone  "has" to write a hip hope style sonata but if someone wanted to I'd find that exciting even if hip hop is, as I mentioned at the start of this paragraph, not my preferred style.

Because, cards on the table, I've spent twenty years of my musical life thinking about the ways that musicians can melt down and obliterate various classist and ethnocentric or racist or other boundaries set up by purists on all sides of the divides between "high" and "low", whether on the blues side, the classical side, the jazz side, the rock side, the pop side, whatever the divide.  I am sympathetic to Richard Taruskin's statement that loving classical music is just fine as long as you don't insist upon saying that your love of classical music makes you a nobler, better, deeper, more spiritual or whatever other form of superior being you want to say you are because of the music you love.  I love the string quartets of Haydn and the contrapuntal works of Bach but I'll turn around and be okay watching Princess Unikitty and reading the old Lee/Ditko era Spider-man comic books.

I snuck this idea into the series but I find it troubling that so many in the liberal arts have treated all populist sympathies as the domain of demagogues.  My sense of Haydn's life and work was that, however much he worked for aristocrats, he knew how to write music for regular people and was happy to do so. One of many reasons classical music can be held in contempt or regarded with indifference can surely be the contempt that some lovers of classical music can show toward whoever it is they think is beneath their social station in educational terms.   Haydn, the son of a wheelwright, strikes me as someone from the eighteenth century whose work can be a prototype for us in our era.  I love classical music but I love American popular styles and I don't see that if I write music that my friends who are electricians and carpenters and working class types shouldn't be able to enjoy the music and do so without having to have gone through the American education-industrial machinery that classical music lovers and performers so often seem to be expected to pass through. 

Haydn is, as I say a few times in my series, one of my musical heroes and I make no secret that Ragtime and Sonata Forms plays with the idea of what kinds of sonata forms Scott Joplin could have written if someone like Haydn had been able to teach him.  It is Haydn's music and musically lived example that I believe to be what "we" need in the twenty-first century more so than the imputed perfection and sublimity of Mozart or Beethoven, because that imputed sublime was in many ways a Romantic post hoc attribution, one we no longer have to abide by.  I still love Beethoven's Op. 111 but when it comes to how to write music now, I think Haydn's work is closer to the shifts in twenty-first century attention spans. 

Which is why so very much of Ragtime and Sonata Forms takes aim at the work of Theodor Adorno.  Even though I think he was capable of brilliant insight he was equally capable of viciously small-minded ideas as any flesh and blood person will be.  The trouble is, as many writers and thinkers more famous and/or better than I have been noting, is that Adorno's most viciously small-minded ideas seem to have survived and been magically transformed by his admirers into his continued legacy.  We do not need to confine ourselves to what I regard as Adorno's terrible failures of imagination.

He has, of course, passed, and I've never interacted with him but the late Roger Scruton's passing and some of his thoughts on embracing the American song book, kitsch and all, as the musically healthier and more plausible alternative to Adorno's ideological stances is what probably catalyzed my finally setting all of my thoughts about ragtime and sonata forms in order.  I've said at the blog a few times I count myself a moderate actual conservative (as in not a neoconservative because I think Gulf War 2 and the War on Terror have been policy disasters, and not a reactionary because I think there's too much wrong with the Buchanan wing to get into).  So while I'm not exactly progressive and my political/theological ideas are an uneasy mixture of Edmund Burke, Roger Williams, and Jacques Ellul, I do try to read across the political, ideological and theological spectrums.  I admit to having written what I've written thinking about things in Christian confessional terms but, having said, that, what I've written I hope will be useful to anyone who loves ragtime and eighteenth century music regardless of beliefs or disbeliefs.

Now for anyone who might be interested in the lay theological side of things that have informed my thought process, it was about ten years ago that I wrote a guest piece for Internet Monk that dealt briefly with the theological rationale for what has since become a compositional and musicological project.

https://internetmonk.com/archive/guest-post-wth-on-there-is-neither-art-nor-pop-neither-indie-or-mainstream

So, with all that rambling done, the plan is to publish the 18-part series Ragtime and Sonata Forms throughout April 24, 2020.  I hope you can enjoy it and find it useful in some way.

I have to warn you though, it is 50,661 words, literally the longest continuous blogging project I've ever done in my life.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas have been having a series of podcast interviews ... first three episodes as links for now

https://amicalled.com/pastoral-lessons-from-mars-hill-church-e1-lessons-on-repentance/

https://amicalled.com/pastoral-lessons-from-mars-hill-church-e2-lessons-on-accountability/

https://amicalled.com/pastoral-lessons-from-mars-hill-church-e3-lessons-on-church-growth/

No comments on the material yet as there's other things going on in the offline world but ... for those who haven't heard about these, they're up online and from what I've heard there's plans to have six or seven episodes.  As longtime readers may recall, Sutton Turner has left clarifying comments here at Wenatchee The Hatchet from time to time (as has Justin Dean). We have, of course, not always agreed on things but that's no reason to not let people comment, even if comments are all moderated.

That's all for the moment.  The links, at this point, are fyi.  Will eventually give them a listen but there's other projects incubating, per an earlier post.



Fred Kaplan "The end of American leadership". Well, what if the pandemic has merely revealed what has already been the case for twenty years, that the world at large has stopped seeing the U.S. as leading "the free world" over the last 20 years?

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/04/american-leadership-coronavirus-china.html
...
American influence had already been waning for a host of reasons—the collapse of power blocs (which gave us leverage in the Cold War competition), the rise of terrorist groups and sectarian militias (which can’t be quelled by conventional military means), the surge of Chinese investment and pressure in Asia and beyond. All of these trends have been accelerated, sometimes willfully, by President Donald Trump, who has dissed or deserted traditional allies, embraced authoritarian regimes, and wavered in his response to China’s rise from obsequious kowtowing to self-destructive trade wars.
Even so, until recently, Trump’s retreat from the ways of previous presidents only highlighted America’s esteem and power. His behavior alarmed so many allies because they desperately wanted the return of U.S. leadership—and delighted so many adversaries because they could carve new inroads of influence in the absence of this leadership.
Now, however, Trump has taken us to the brink of irrelevance—not quite to the abyss, but teetering on its edge. To lead or to inspire, a country has to offer a model—an “example,” as Kennan put it, of what its leadership or values or system of politics can produce. And facing the coronavirus, we are showing that, at least for the moment, we’re offering little or nothing.

...

Kaplan concludes that if Trump is in power much longer American leadership will be irrevocably lost.  The brief thought is, we lost that over the last twenty years and the pandemic has merely revealed what was already the case.  The longer version ...