Hurray For Beethoven

Awful atonal music?
Apparently, we have Beethoven to blame for it:

Beethoven managed to put an end to a noble tradition by inaugurating a barbaric U-turn away from an other-directed music to an inward-directed, narcissistic focus on the composer himself and his own tortured soul.
This was a ghastly inversion that led slowly but inevitably to the awful atonal music of Schönberg and Webern.

Via The Funk Files.

6 Responses to “Hurray For Beethoven”

  1. xorg says:

    Music is a social construct arising from the interaction between composer, performer and listener and the world around them. It exists in the context in which it is created and listened to. Any concept of music is subjective and the listener will inevitably approach music with conditioned preconceptions. At the same time, social norms tend to impose a dominant view of what is or is not pleasant or unpleasant, acceptable or unacceptable. And social norms vary from time to time and from place to place and can become very entrenched. For example, Varese complained that composers had become obsessed by traditions that were merely the limitations of their predecessors, using instruments that were two hundred years old.

    Jacques Attal, author of Noise (1977 revised 2002) sees music as noise with order, noise with sense, and a metaphor for civilisation. The issue is not the noise. It is your reaction to the noise. You have to deal with yourself first before you deal with the noise.

  2. jonnybutter says:

    This is such a crock of shit. I’m no fan of it, but to say that romanticism ’caused’ atonal music, particularly Webern, is ridiculous. Serialism came AFTER the exploded tonality of, say Mahler. So what? Serial music is about as un-romantic as can be, if you define romanticism as ‘narcissism’.

    And as xorg implies above, tonal music is an invention. For example, it wasn’t all that long before JS Bach that the major third was thought to be a dissonance!. That’s right, you read right, a major third.

    I actually liked Zappa’s approach: write some ‘dance’ music (so to speak) and also write rigorous serial or semi-serial music.

    BTW, this is a stock neocon-type conservative argument here in America. The ‘decadence and spiritual corruption’ of old European culture lead to ‘awful’ atonal music. People who know absolutely NOTHING about music spout this line all the time. I think it was in a very influential (and shitty) book by Allan Bloom called The Closing of the American Mind. Cow pucky.

  3. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    Well technically, I’d say the guy is more or less correct.

    ‘Course Bach came first when it comes to “inward-directed” compositions though (Bach: born 1685, Beethoven: born 1770). That’s just an objective assessment – doesn’t mean I agree at all with what he asserts further down the article. I mean: I *heart* atonality! :)

  4. jonnybutter says:

    Bach came first when it comes to “inward-directed” compositions though

    I guess I don’t understand what ‘inward-directed’ means. As opposed to what? Church music? Bach wrote a lot of that, and actually dedicated everything he wrote to

    What is correct is that Beethoven prefigured romanticism, which came before Schoenberg. The latin phrase for this fallacy is: POST HOC, ERGO PROPTER HOC. Because one thing followed another doesn’t mean – in any meaningful way – that it was ’caused’ by it.

    I’d say that Bach’s great keyboard music and the music of 12 tone/serialist composers like Webern are much closer to what could be called ‘pure music’ – or ‘outer-directed’ music – than the elaborate, morbid ‘self-expression’ you find with the romantics (Webern was fascinated with fugue and with Bach generally). Sorry, but I think this guy is full of you-know-what.

  5. bertanya says:

    A bit bizarre i think. Music seems to me to be a step by step thing. Build on the bits you like, add the bits you can think of. Maybe the step where you could look inwardly was only available at the bach/beethoven era. I was gonna say it’s a pity this guy doesn’t say what classical music he does like, but it seems it is baroque , with mozart and bach at the vanguard. This essay has been widely blogged btw. Maybe there will be some similar footnotes to May.

  6. jonnybutter says:

    Mozart isn’t ‘baroque’. BTW, who the hell IS this guy, and why do we care? He doesn’t understand music – doesn’t understand that the whole idea behind having musical ‘rules’ is to break them in a purposefull way. Bach did it all the time, as did Mozart (in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT genre).

    The equally tempered scale is a human invention, a kludge. If he’s really such a fan of the ‘Pythagorian’ model, he should eschew tonality altogether, and just stick to music with perfect 4ths, 5ths and octaves. Zappa had a phrase for people like this: people who WISH they were statues. This guy may know about some things, but music isn’t one of them.

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