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I made a track that sparked a debate about Neo-Classical music

ism

Senior Member
Yeah, but what does Neo-Classical mean

I’m assuming that’s a joke, and that you you’re not actually inviting me to write another essay on the subject ... because otherwise we really could be all day :)
 
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OP
sIR dORT

sIR dORT

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I’m assuming that’s a joke, and that you you’re not actually inviting me to write another essay on the subject ... because otherwise we really could be all day :)
Yes, I'm just joking ;) I just say that because although I would like to think that I've learned a good deal about music over the last couple of years, I don't think I could externalize as well as something like that.
 

BlackDorito

Active Member
I've got to smile because the piece by the OP is stylistically remote from the neoclassicism of the early 20th century. I don't see any similarities to the neoclassical pieces I admire by Stravinsky (e.g. Dumbarton Oaks) or composers as late as Walter Piston. Overall, these piece would be considered 'dry' today in that they used Classical/Baroque forms with modern harmonic practice that wasn't geared toward evoking emotions. The result was often dry and intellectual music. It's intriguing to imagine that Arvo Part would be considered part of a neo-neoclassical movement - his pieces are very evocative for me. Just shows that the term 'neoclassical' can encompass a lot of music.
 

ism

Senior Member
It's intriguing to imagine that Arvo Part would be considered part of a neo-neoclassical movement

I don't think this term 'neo-classical' in the recent sense is meant to reference the earlier neo-classical movement.

Except perhaps that as the Stravinsky era neo-classicism reference an earlier classical form (perhaps pre-romantic), so the present coining of the 'neo-classical' references a return to an earlier for. Pre-modernist, or pre-12-tone or even pre-eary-20th-century-neo-classicism.

So 'neo' in a sense of a return to something, but in a different way.


There's a sense that this 'returning' is inherent in Part c. late 70s. He's explicitly declaring modernism and serialism a dead end, and looking backwards to recover something that has been too hastily abandoned by the orthodoxy of the 'contemporary classical' of the day. In some sense the 'neo-' in Part, that in rejecting serialism, seeks a return to music with crazy notions like 'harmony' and 'melody' and 'music that actually sound nice to listen to' that the serialist movement (in more extreme forms) rejects as a gaucherie of the bourgeois.

(Which was why Schoenberg is said to have been so enthusiastic about WWI when it started - finally a chance to eradicate all that bourgeois French art. I can't really ever hearing if he still it was such a great idea once the costs of the war were finally counted).
 
OP
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sIR dORT

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I've got to smile because the piece by the OP is stylistically remote from the neoclassicism of the early 20th century.
Since I am extremely knowledgeable regarding this topic, I'll contribute my essay regarding the definition of neo-classicalism shortly...:grin:
 

givemenoughrope

Senior Member
I think the reference to 'neo-classical' here isn't the early 20th century 'neo-classical' movement, but the more recent 'neo-classical' movement of the like of Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Johann Johannson, Jane Antonia Cornish et al.

There's a sense it which it's just a marketing term, almost single handedly created by the London based Erased Tapes label.

And in this sense it's an entirely dubious terms. But then, most new terms that try to take a huge body of expressive ideas and crush them into a single thing usually are.


Historically though, I'd argue that this particular flourish of the 'neo-classical' takes an outsized influence of Arvo Part and certain other forms of minimalism, but also arises from a younger generation of composers that who find themselves not so much rebelling against the intellectual strictures of modernism and the academy (as Part was, quite explicitly) but who find themselves both

a) not being particularly bothered by the anxiety of this influence , and

b) able suddenly to find markets for their 'neo-classical' work. Olafur is particularly eloquent on this where he talks about going from playing tiny venues to playing the Royal Albert Hall almost overnight, just because someone (presumably the good folks at his Erased Tapes Labe) coins the term 'neo-classical', which makes it suddenly a thing.


This simplifies the story considerably of course. And I came across a thesis at one point written by an American grad student that documents how American musicians not only worked to innovate some of the features of this new 'neo-classical' movement (I think its often branded 'indy-classical' in American circles, but it strikes as a variant on much the same thing) but also to create the market space where musicians and composers could find audiences and actually make a living.


Musically, though, I've been puzzling over what exactly this new 'neo-classical' flourishing is for a while.


And I don't think there's a simple answer. But I do think that while it takes influences from film and ambient music, reducing it to merely film or ambient music misses something.

I do think that it does involve classical elements of, for instance contrapuntal texture. Which is why the above piece - which is very lovely incidentally - strikes me as perhaps a touch more ambient or filmic that what I think of as 'neo-classical'. Which is not a bad thing at all, just a quibble over (ultimately unimportant) marketing terminology.


Along with these conventional elements I think its also fair to say that at the heart of this new 'neo-classical' moment we also have a particular intensity in attention to texture.


Perhaps there's a parallel with late Beatles records. Which for instance, musically, tends to feature much more defined bass lines that the early recordrdings. I suppose that you could argue that Paul is getting better at writing bass lines. But it's also that by c. 1967, recoding technology is much better able to capture the kinds of frequencies at the low end. So in the same way that 50s film score feature lots of trumpets, just because that's what the recording technology of the era is capable of reproducing well, early Beatles records are writing towards what the technology is best suited to record, and the bass lines of period Beatles reflect this.


Similar, if you check out the immense detail of every nuance of a cello or even a piano on, for instance, an Olafur Arnalds track, there are entire musical dimensions of texture and nuance that aren't easily notated or reproduced in the technologies of early eras. And while nuance cello performances are obviously nothing new, there's a number of things about this present moment that make composing in such dimensions a 'thing' - enough for marketers to coin the term 'neo-classical.

In this sense, it's surely no accident that Olafur starts out as a recording engineer. No one knows how to close mic a piano like Olafur.



Spitfire's Tundra library, at least arguably, exists in the space also. The Marketing explicit referenced Part and the "Holy Minimalists" (another entirely dodgy marketing term). And I think that the ability to make a sample library entirely around ppp dynamics is not just something that no one had thought to do before, but also relies on advances in noise reduction technology to make it viable.

But suddenly, with Tundra, having an entire palette of these 'edge of silence' textures I feel that it's not simply nice simply couple new ppp articulations, it rather that it opens up entirely new dimensions of expression in which to write. And this spaces is entirely new, at least, to those of us who were previously suffering with, for instance, with VSL SE.

(Or, you can just play a couple of chords, call it a song, and share it on soundcloud. Which can make for breathtakingly beautiful ambient mush. But not quite what I would understand as neo-classical.)


Here's an earlier attempt to express some of what I feel around this via Tundra.


Of course there are many other influences running through moment. Jane Antonia Cornish is one of my absolute favourite 'neo-classical' composers (whether or not she things of herself this way). But while she certainly has filmic influences, she's also very grounded in a certain tradition of British Chamber music.

Similar, the likes of John Luthor Adams comes out of the experimental perhaps even avant guarde America scene, but at the very least, his work significantly shares the intensity of "Erased Tapes" neo-classical composers concern with texture, which is what I was trying to get at here:




In any event, a very lovely piece. It certainly has neo-classical textures.

To really distinguish it as 'neo-classical' as opposed to ambient or filmic, I think I'd like to see, perhaps some more contrapuntal elements. Or something (no idea really). But this isn't to say that would make it better music, just that it would make it more easier to confidently slobbering a different marketing term over it. :)

So it’s like Acid Jazz? Not psychedelic and not at all Jazz.
 
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