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C D C O M P A N I O N : I N T R O D U C T I O N Cocks Crow, Dogs Bark: New Compositional Intentions Larry Polansky Cocks crow Dogs bark This all men know. Even the wisest cannot tell, Whencethese voices come Or explain why cocks crow Dogs bark Wen thy do. -Thomas Merton, The Way of Cliuang Tzu NEWINTENTIONS Composers and musicians everywhereand always have sought to move music out of themselves. Across history and geography , musical creativity has been transduced by compositional and performance procedures-formal, spiritual, inspirational, philosophical and mathematical. “Composers”have always made art that is collaborative; communal; channeled from above; derived from nature, speech, or scientific principles; or spontaneously received from some unknowable source: in short, music they understood as coming from some other, higher place than our own. From the isorhythmic hermeticism of late Medieval music to the Baroque’s saturated fugal and contrapuntal complexity-and even to the use of the triad as a found melodic object in the symphonic work of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart-things outside the inspired, intuitive next choice have been proven useful in musical expression. Much of twentieth-century music can be generally characterized as a multifaceted evolution toward the integration of emotion, spirituality and intellect. Many of the ideas embodied by the music on this CD are in fact synergistic and reconciliatory steps towards the disintegration of perceived distinctions between these domains. Some recent trends in the creation of new intentional compositional ideas have involved the use of mathematical techniques ; computer-aided composition; chance (or indeterminacy ); strategic and improvisational structures; open musical forms and notations; formal procedures derived from acoustical and/or cognitive precepts; macrostructures derived from sonic microstructure; process-oriented music; environmental and participatory musical structures; quotation and recontextualization; and even the rigorous application of serial and atonal set theory techniques. Some of the (great many) composers who have pioneered these ideas include Ames, Barlo, Braxton, Brtin, Brown, Cage, Coleman, Hiller, Koenig, Lucier, Oliveros, Oswald, Schoenberg and the second Viennese school (and its international descendants), Tenney, the American “minimalists” (Reich, Corner, Goode, Riley, Maxfield, Glass and others), Wolff, Xenakis and Zorn. The list, of course, is nearly endless, as is the list of varieties of compositional and performance intentions represented by even this small group of composers. Cage’s Music OfChanges (1951) is often identified as a convenient beginning for the radical reinterpretation of compositional intent. In this primary and early work, Cage began to explore chance operations to reorient his relationship with the score. Similar procedures, such as Schwitters’s mmkunst (garbage art), had been around for some time. But Cage’s musical and personal eloquence, as well as the strength and vision of his ideas, established his music as a cornerstone for this century’s exploration of compositional intent. Not so coincidentally , around the same time, American jazz musicians such as Lennie Tristano were working with “free improvisation ” in a kind of parallel attempt at liberation ‘fromprevailing creative paradigms. Many musicians and artists from diverse genres sought liberation from standard dramatic, narrative, creative and intentional techniques. Twentieth-century composers have often dealt with their immense and exponentially growing historical legacy by recognizing its existence while shunning its burden. Concentrating compositional intentions, ideas and craft on specific musical ideas, they happily ignore others. According to this way of thinking, if one is interested in melody, then perhaps melody is all that should be in the piece. Nancarrow’s music, for example (oreven Chopin’s) could be said to intentionally avoid sound in its adherence to an explicitly limited timbral vocabulary, even as it exhaustively explores that vocabulary. By omitting the possibility of certain choices-or seeking new ways of making them-composers have found ways to isolate and develop extraordinary new musical worlds. Not writing for an orchestra is as significant a decision as writing for one; not allowing oneself the luxury of finding the “perfectchord is often more difficult than searchingfor it. Conventional composing techniques have become, to different degrees and in different ways, unsatisfactory to many composers to such a degree that composers who use more neo-intentional methods have been known tojokingly refer to conventional composition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4812
Print ISSN
0961-1215
Pages
pp. 61-71
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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