Saturday, April 3, 2010

some notes on moderism

Just listened to some Leo Orenstein. Violin Sonata op. 31, Loved it and noticed some similarities with my own work not mention background (Russian Jewish).   (rapid changes of tempo etc.)

One thing I also noticed was His similarities with George Antheil -short careers as major concert pianists, short vogue as major composers, wide stylistic and harmonic difference explored in their work - though perhaps more integration in Orenstein's work.   

Both backed off their most extreme works yet there seemed no particular reason to do so.   Yet there are a number of anecdotal statements (by many artists) about the stress and metal force that it took to compose and perform those extreme works at that time that might offer us some clues.

Both did not study composition very long?  Both in different ways past from our view. 


I was looking at the tone cluster compositions Wild Men's Dance.  I found the combination of indistinct pitch and mainstream rhythms -2 bar phrase repetition - unconvincing.  Same as I find modern rhyming verse. Indistinct pitch just makes the simple rhythms more prominent in a way that neutralizes the pitch effect.  I find this "neutralization" a lot in many so called "experimental" works.  I used to think that this was just a dislike of Schoenberg and/or a need to find some other way to accomplish the same thing.  On the other hand the first person to use a technique does not always create the most convincing compositions.  Anyway the use here does delineate the connection of  more Stravinsky less of Scriabin. 
If this is the beginning of gesture composition experimentation is a discrete occurrence. 

Yet the "pianist" remains.   Perhaps the shadow of Rachmaninoff and virtuosity was too strong. For example in op. 31the piano part has considerably more difficulty than the violin part (like the Mendelssohn cello sonata).  Yet and unlike the Mendelssohn the piano part does not seem to hold its own.  It seems obvious that a compositional lack of reflection leads to works that seem more of an improvisation. 

Clusters?  Why does this only happen in the piano parts?  Could he have adapted it to the "single note" instruments?
NB I wonder if politics had a hand, as I remember "futurists" became associated (as did Esza Pound supporter of Mr. Antheil) with fashism. A number of texts point out that Mr. Pound was tone deaf.  

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