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Bernstein’s Harvard Lectures

Kyle Preston

I accidentally do things on purpose
It was another thread a long time ago, don’t remember which one. But @Rodney Money posted Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question.


I’ve been obsessed with this piece ever since which led me back to the Bernstein lectures of the same title. I watched them years ago, at a time when I was a little too into drugs and had a less than stellar memory. So I watched them again recently on dvd.

And have to say it’s been one of the best things I’ve done with my time as a composer. I cannot recommend the insights he offers enough. What Bernstein taught me is that we all, every single one of us here, stand on the shoulders of giants; monumental geniuses of empathy and musical understanding.

I have no idea what tangible impact his lectures will have on my work (or outlook) but I don’t think I’ve ever felt this empowered to keep writing, keep creating and keep working.

Wanted to share this because it’s too easy to feel cynical about our industry (film, music, licensing, pick your poison). Bernstein offers a view far richer and more impactful than any modern compositional/songwriting advice I’ve seen on YouTube, Google, etc… It’s something missing from the internet these days, that feeling we call wonder.

Bernstein was a musician that helped musicians. To me, he feels like the incarnation of my favorite Mark Twain quote:

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Bernstein is one of the really great. I hope his ideas are as inspiring to you as they have been to me.

[steps down from soapbox]
 

Bill the Lesser

Active Member
Thanks for that insightful post. I had tons of wonder at age 10, then the world set about grinding it away. Maybe we should teach children to build some kind of firewall around Wonder while they still can access it.

Coincidentally, Youtube immediately flipped over to this after that incredible Ives piece...
.

A really fabulous Ligeti performance. The "top comment" from the King of Penguins is quite remarkable as well, in a bizarre kind of way.

Must look at those Bernstein lectures. I saw a vid of him conducting a teen orchestra "Rite of Spring" performance. He absolutely singled-out and destroyed the hapless percussion guy for being a fractional beat late! I hope that kid recovered, what a devastating experience that must have been!
 

douggibson

Active Member
It was another thread a long time ago, don’t remember which one. But @Rodney Money posted Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question.


I’ve been obsessed with this piece ever since which led me back to the Bernstein lectures of the same title.
And have to say it’s been one of the best things I’ve done with my time as a composer. I cannot recommend the insights he offers enough. What Bernstein taught me is that we all, every single one of us here, stand on the shoulders of giants; monumental geniuses of empathy and musical understanding.
If you don't know of it, the book below is designed to be an outgrowth of these lectures.
Just read the author's preface and they will explain how/why they picked the same lecture to base their "new" theory on. Basically it's all about the syntax (in their view.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_theory_of_tonal_music

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/generative-theory-tonal-music
 

douggibson

Active Member
oh trust me...this is the result of much thought. But i guess you disagree . No need to be rude

best

ed
Wasn't trying to be rude. Perhaps insightful would have been a better word choice on my side.
To say it another way: Often I learn from reading your posts, and glean depth of thought to your posts. That is all I meant.

There is nothing for me to either agree or disagree with here.
 

joebaggan

Member
a land in which every note is equal. Where they all get to be heard...one after the other in order . There is no dissonance...there is no consonance. There is just the notes.

best

e
Nonsense, a trivialization of dodecaphony. Composers have used it in different ways, and yes consonance and dissonance come into play just like any other music.
 

ed buller

Senior Member
Nonsense, a trivialization of dodecaphony. Composers have used it in different ways, and yes consonance and dissonance come into play just like any other music.
It isn't Nonsense. It's literally what 12 tone is !.....Berg broke the rules constantly....which is why I like his music a lot . But it's basically unmusical. I dreadful concept and I abhor it. As did Bernstein and many others

best

ed
 

Ashermusic

Senior Member
It isn't Nonsense. It's literally what 12 tone is !.....Berg broke the rules constantly....which is why I like his music a lot . But it's basically unmusical. I dreadful concept and I abhor it. As did Bernstein and many others

best

ed
Could not disagree more. Berg, Webern, and Schoenberg, even Stravinsky, wrote some marvelous 12 tone music.
 

ed buller

Senior Member
we will just have to settle at disagreeing . Berg is the only one. Webern's music is execrable. And I adore Stravinsky. But hate his twelve tone music. It's just one of those things. You either get it or don't and I don't.

best

ed
 

Ashermusic

Senior Member
we will just have to settle at disagreeing . Berg is the only one. Webern's music is execrable. And I adore Stravinsky. But hate his twelve tone music. It's just one of those things. You either get it or don't and I don't.

best

ed
And you are welcome to feel that way.
However, enough time has passed that history has made its judgement and their places as very important and influential figures in music history are now assured, Bernstein not withstanding.
 

ed buller

Senior Member
And you are welcome to feel that way.
However, enough time has passed that history has made its judgement and their places as very important and influential figures in music history are now assured, Bernstein not withstanding.
Serialism was an important part of 20 Century music and it has it's devotees as well as it's detractors that much is true. But I suspect that it's influence and popularity is well overstated ( as friends who write the stuff are finding out ) . Yes in academia ( whom I suspect it was designed for ) it still gets a good look in but I feel in the outside world of concert goers and the like, it's popularity is fleeting. The last Century had so many better musical movements than twelve tone. Minimalism for one for instance, who's influence can be heard in POP music, and many others . Music is something that resonates in a unique way I grant you, and i'm not saying that being popular or not is a defining test of it's quality but Schoenberg failed to grasp the fact that by being so dictatorial in his hunt for establishing a new way of writing music he was stifling a fundamental aspect of the enjoyment of it. I freely admit my dislike started at an early age but many of my friends adored it. At Reading University I helped set up performances of Weben on a few occasions and stayed to try and "get it"....but it just doesn't work. My father was a composer and his dislike of the system almost certainly influenced me too. I have no problem with a lot of atonal ( for want of a better word ) music. I really like Jerry Goldsmiths and John Williams use of it as a pallet in some of thier scores. But again the rules are broken constantly. Satan Bug for instance like Planet of the Apes has rows, But they are used musically. And quite often they are more like pitch set's so that patterns can be established. They Both studied with Ernst Krenek and picked up some wonderful tips. But that's NOT Serialism.
best

ed
 
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Ashermusic

Senior Member
Well, you can't judge by concert gooers, most of them think music died with Debussy

And I may well have been prejudiced in it's favor by my composition teacher, Avram David, who referred to Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern as "the father, son, and the Holy Ghost."
 

ed buller

Senior Member
And I may well have been prejudiced in it's favor by my composition teacher, Avram David, who referred to Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern as "the father, son, and the Holy Ghost."
Hmmmm...he DOES sound like a fan !. I was lucky enough to go see Music for 18 Musicans at the Barbican In London 12 years ago..Sold out very quickly.

best

ed
 

douggibson

Active Member
I really like Jerry Goldsmiths and John Williams use of it as a pallet in some of thier scores. But again the rules are broken constantly.
Sounds like your qualm is with the restrictions on note repetitions, and the structural(-ism) rules.

Certainly understandable.

Musical Communism as a term is cringe worthy at best.

Do you feel the same way about say the "Equal Interval System" ?
..... just a big commie gathering here at VI-C ?

 
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