In Which I Am Clearly Being Baited

It is, really, unthinkable that this could be anything other than a blatant attempt to lure the ol' Detritus Review out of the garage and out for a spin.

Poorly conceived and, however implausibly, perhaps even more badly executed; fact-free and full of ignorant, knee-jerk platitudes about music; written without recourse to copy, style, or content editors?  Clearly a ploy.  There is no way the good people at the San Francisco Examiner; no...wait, who?

Examiner.com launched in April 2008, to provide freelancers across the United States with a platform to share their knowledge and expertise through informative and entertaining content.

Huh.  Well, there's no way that could go wrong.

We have an in-house editorial team that provides guidance and mentorship to the contributors.

Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence.

Our network has grown to over 100,000 contributors, captivating our audience with interesting, entertaining, relevant content on a variety of topics

Sounds like a low-paid freelance crap mill.  I should know; I used to be an editor for one.  Who, one wonders, is behind this paragon of prose generation?

Examiner.com is wholly owned by The Anschutz Corporation, one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in the world

Gosh, I sure hope someone there has opinions about music.

Turns out I'm...no, no.  We're all in luck,

One last plea for classical music
Peter Adams, examiner.com, August 13, 2012

Composers of atonal music haven’t harmed classical music. They have killed it.

Yawn.  I don't like apples, but I don't go around saying "apples have killed fruit."  I suspect that this is because I am not an idiot.

They insisted that the audience was not important, couldn't understand it, or just did not matter.

They did? I mean, this could be referring to the famous article by Babbitt, but it seems more likely that it's just a broad, sweeping generalization.

This was the height of arrogance.

Not like writing freelance articles addressing topics about which you are woefully ignorant!

Even Schoenberg who basically invented atonal music did not much care for it and publicly wondered more than a few times why anyone would want to listen to it.

This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen, and I saw Battleship.

Figure 1: Possibly worse than Transformers.

Also, your prose literally makes me sad.  Also, I am one of the arrogant assholes that likes Schoenberg, and I think I've read just about everything he wrote that's available in English, and I challenge you to back up your assertion with, you know, facts.

Today, has any set of recordings sold as poorly as the complete collection of Schoenberg’s atonal piano music?

This is just raw speculation. It might even be libel. And it's certainly fucking stupid; why would you equate sales with quality?

Figure 2: Far better than that fucktard Schoenberg.

This article is Sarah Palin showing up to a speaking engagement with a Big Gulp, except it's not clear to whom this red meat is being proffered.  Ha ha stupid libtards with your atonal music!

As a teacher in Southern California, he told students in his composition classes that the best way to make a living as a composer was to write jingles and music for advertisements.

This, of course, is no longer true, as movies and television are now much more lucrative avenues.  But that was never the point, was it?

He taught students to write atonal music, but then said don’t do it.

Most of his students, actually, studied traditional counterpoint, harmony, form, and so forth.  And, again, there's not even an ancillary quote to back up this nonsense.  And, yet again, this "mentored" prose is about the same quality as a third-rate quarterback's out routes.

Figure 3: I hate your writing this much.
Too few listened, and audiences are now stuck listening to the same old hash of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and occasionally, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and perhaps when a conductor is feeling adventurous will drag out music by Mendelsohn, Vivaldi, Saint Saens, Schumann, or J. S. Bach or unlistenable collections of atonal sound passed of as music.

Wow.  My apologies to Tim Tebow.  He may be passed of as [sic] a quarterback, but this is fucking dreadful. This sentence might go in The Canon of Fucking Dreadful Sentences. I will henceforth refer to this sentence as "The Shitstain."

Keep an eye open if you go to Classical music concerts. Did the conductor program atonal music? Not if he/she wishes to keep conducting. Audiences will not listen to this music and people will and do walk out if it is programmed. If the conductor wishes to drive the ensemble into bankruptcy he/she will schedule atonal music.

This, meanwhile, is just utter crap. One wonders if the writer has made a survey of recent programs, or, really, ever been to a concert.  For instance, this failing and bankrupt ensemble is directed by this idiot who is completely fired never ever programs atonal music of any kind.

Most concertgoers despise atonal music, and tragically by extension any piece of music composed since about 1950, if not much earlier.

One notes with interest that the writer is himself a composer.

Even Stravinsky is still too strange for some audiences. Atonal music is too intellectual.

Eh, I think I'm just going to go with a big "fuck you" at this point. Why don't you go listen to some nice comfortable drivel and leave the rest of us alone?

In one way, it is like the New York Crossword puzzle.

Yes, the...New York Crossword puzzle. You know what else "it is like?" Proofreading.

It looks interesting on paper once you figure it all out. But both are basically amusing mind games. To carry this analogy to an absurd extreme, consider this...

Yeah, you know what?  Nah.  This is getting long and I'm out of practice.  I'm just going to have to go ahead and cherry pick some of the dumbest things from the remainder of this article.*

*None of them nears the majesty of The Shitstain, but we make do with what we have.

Now, having harangued modern music, let’s put the whole discussion in perspective.

Oh, let's do.  Can we [sic] change to the plural while we're [sic] at it?

Every few hundred years or so, aesthetics change.

This is the single dumbest thing I've read since the last dumbest thing (above), and I read The Fountainhead.

Figure 4: A pile of crap.

How often does someone who has, very clearly, not given any serious thought to style, aesthetics, art, teleology, or philosophy get to generalize like this?  Welcome to examiner.com!
Sometimes this change is subtle. Other times it is more abrupt. The technique of painting of the stultified French academy of the mid-1800s was completely turned on its head with the new painting techniques of the French Impressionist artists. Why did this style evolve? The best guess is that Europe was being introduced to influences from outside of modern Europe. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art vied with contemporary art from Europe’s colonies, and from Asia. Modern recipes for paint allowed artists to paint directly from the tube and not spend hours grinding pigments, and/or mixing chemicals to produce that desired color.

A smattering of actual information is like the sprinkles dressing up the faecal-flavored cupcake that is this worst-informed summary about change in the arts ever.

For music, these same influences combined with a growing awareness of styles from earlier times, and non-European cultures. This produced some of the finest works of the 19th century. Then, the angst caused by the Franco-Prussian war, WWI, and WWII turned Europe inward and made its populous became morose. The majority of Europe was being seriously bombarded with too much highly negative information, and too little time to take it all in or expel it.

Holy crap! Europe was being bombarded with time?

For this reason, historians will describe our time as the Expressionist movement, where beauty was cast out and replaced by negative emotions.

Leaving aside speculation about what historians will call "our" time, I think that one's taken.

To heck with the social graces and common courtesy while we are at it.

 Atonal music is rude, and furthermore worse than Hitler.

Today, a few adventurous composers of classical music are striving to break away from atonal music techniques and rekindle people’s willingness to hear new classical music.

Here one idly speculates that the author is one such composer.  Further, this is hardly a new idea.

Figure 5: Benjamin Britten clutches his pipe at Peter Pears.

However, for many of them, this technique of writing atonal music is a ball and chain that they inherited in college.

Mixed metaphors are a stage in a china shop.

They cannot or will not break free and change their writing style. One of the most difficult things for a composer to do is to write a beautiful melody.

Let alone a coherent screed.

This has always been true, and is why a great melody can make a composer rich.

Asserting that your assertion is universal seems like a great rhetorical strategy...and then you get to junior high school.

With atonal music, beauty is to be shunned as if it were a skunk.

Figure 6: "Dear Mr. President, there are too many states nowadays.
Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot."
However, audiences have been bludgeoned enough with bad music and will no longer accept the possibility that a composer today can write something worth listening to.

Which is why there are so few composers nowadays, as opposed to, say, more fucking composers than there have ever been in all previous times combined.

Any composer who writes beautiful music is dismissed with some very spicy invectives by snarky music critics.

Have you ever read any music criticism? Somewhere I heard there's an entire blog snarkily dismissing knee-jerk atonality-hating music critics.  (Who are, by the way, legion, if you hadn't noticed.)

Sorry, music critics, but trying to breathe life into a dead skunk is a waste of time, and does not improve its smell. Music critics are as much to blame for the death of new Classical music as the composer, if not more so.

Man, if you replaced "composers" with "progressives" and "atonal music" with "the liberal agenda" you could publish this in Reason.

Figure 7: Propaganda meets drivel; they have a few drinks
and decide to murder intellectual honesty while it sleeps.

Art styles do not change because of a new artist or composer as quickly as styles are created because of new technology. The French Impressionists learned this and changed the art field. The jazz era saw the introduction of new musical instruments like the trumpet, saxophone, and banjo. Popular music quickly devoured these new musical instruments and fully digested them. Classical music composers tried to integrate these instruments but basically failed.

I think I can say without fear of hyperbole that this is the best encapsulation of an argument, ever.

Figure 8: "Well, let's see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes. And Prince Charles started wearing all of Lady Di's clothes. I couldn't believe it."
Today, the trumpet has successfully replaced the cornet.

Seriously?  This is like a fake high school science film in The Simpsons.

But to see a classical music concert featuring a saxophone, banjo, or even marimba is just too strange.

Holy fucking hell.  Have you ever been to a new music concert?  The marimba is de rigeur for new composers (right up there with setting "Seven Ways of Looking at a Blackbird").

Other classical music composers have gone underground. To make art that requires all an artist’s emotions and often much of their savings only to have the work panned or ignored by critics is too much for some.

 Yikes. Bitter much?

Others composers simply have sidestepped the critics and have released music in electronic forms only and will not waste their time submitting works to conductors.

Others composers alsos sometimes haves editors, I reckon.

Is there a chance that modern tonal music will give birth to a new form of Classical music? Oh, let us hope that it will.

I don't think, given the available evidence, there is any danger of that, because: context.

Let it be joyous, heartfelt, and meaningful, but not be vapid.

Heh, yeah. What he said. Also: a unicorn that shits rainbows.  Because, you see: it's 2013, and we're most of us not 19th century [white, male] European post-Cartesian Hegelians in emergent Nationalistic and rapidly industrializing nation-states.  But, you know, whatever.

Let it be more than any of the previous styles, but aware of all that have come before, if only to know what to avoid.

Which, ironically, is how we got to atonality, in a manner of speaking.  But do carry on:

By contrast, how many times have you heard someone sing a tone row (atonal equivalent to a melody)?

Um. Many? You don't have YouTube, I guess.

And to hell with that; I've taught people to sing tone rows.  It's fucking easy.  And the pandering at the end there makes me think that your target audience is Idiots Who Already Agree with You.  (I'll see if I can find submission information for Reason.)

You won’t because that was not the goal of the atonal composer.

[Please please please tell me what the "goal of the atonal composer" is!]

The goal of the atonal composer was to alienate, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. 

I swear to the Invisible Pink Unicorn, that is the best answer of all time.


Hey, did I leave a big "fuck you" up there somewhere?


I'm here for Microwave Cookery

On a “musical thrill-ride” of a concert where “fistfuls of piano notes” were “pitted against [a] full-throttle orchestra” in front of “1,941 concertgoers” and…well, no less than the “interaction of such electrifying sonic events with our senses invigorate(d) and inspire(d), providing sustenance for both body and soul,” the Springfield Symphony Orchestra performed Gershwin (yeah!) and Rachmaninoff (double yeah!!). 

Concert review: Springfield Symphony Orchestra shines with Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto

Clinton Noble Jr., April 14, 2013, The Republican (MassLive.com)

But wait, there's more!

The meat in the expatriate sandwich (as it were)…

I’m not sure Gershwin could be called an expatriate because of, you know, the definition of the word.



...Walter Piston's...

Whoa? Who the fuck is Walter Piston? 

figure Walter Piston:  "I'll give you a TKO from Tokyo!"

...was Walter Piston's Fourth Symphony, penned in 1950 for the centenary of the University of Minnesota, and as American as apple pie.

If it weren't for the pure Rachmaninoffian awesomeness on the second half, I know I'd be long gone.  I've got a connection to the interwebs...let's see what I can find out.  

Well, first, Walter Piston actually lived in France for over 2 years.  I don't know why I care about this expatriate meme, but I just do.

And (b), his symphony is “American as apple pie”?  Because he’s an American?  Does this mean I'm going to like his symphony?  Because, you know, Harry Partch was born in America too.  In fact, his music began a complete rejection of European concert tradition (or so Wikipedia tells me).  What could be more apple pie-ish than that?

I really don't know what to think.  My gut is telling me that this Piston piece is music I've never heard, and therefore awful.  But my brain is confused by your American comment.  America is the greatest country god ever gave man, but on the other hand there's Eric Whitacre.  

 figure gift:  The greatest music god ever gave America.  

Unfamiliar American composer…it just doesn't add up.

Rhodes gave a brief spoken introduction to the piece and played its opening theme, marked “Piacevole,”…

I don't know...'piacevole' doesn't sound very Merican to me.

…or “pleasing” by the composer, before giving a scrupulously rehearsed and deeply expressive reading of the entire work.

Sounds quite punctilious.  But I guess I’m still hung up on this "I've never heard of him" thing.  

“I know when audiences see a composer they don’t recognize on the program, they think ‘Oh, no! what’s this going to be like?’” Rhodes admitted.

Thank you.  That's what I've been trying to say.  Let's just put some Beethoven on this concert and be done with it.

Piston offered nothing scary to the concertgoer, Rhodes further quipped,…

Scary? As in American, or not-American?

figure book: Chapter 1: Don't Write Scary Music

…adding that he doesn't play “scary” pieces because he doesn't like them, either.

Yeah.  Who the fuck likes “scary” pieces?

Light-hearted as that sentiment might seem on the surface, it is a very telling commentary on the excesses of the previous century.

Or the biases of narrow-minded musical midgets.  Wait…was that uncalled for?

Nope, you’re probably right.  Those asshat 20th century composers totally ruined music.  If I don’t recognize the name of the composer (gasp!) then who knows sort of unclean sounds could enter my virginal ears.

Indeed, as Rhodes asserted, works by Piston and other Americans like him, Hanson, Schuman, Thomson, et al., became eclipsed by the music of the intelligentsia and the academic avant garde, and never achieved the recognition that their content and construction merited, because they were perceived as appealing, therefore populist, and second-rate.

Their awesome music was eclipsed by the awful music that no one likes?  How on earth did that happen?

Rhodes and the SSO are shedding long overdue daylight on some terrific music that is as exciting to listen to as it is to play, and their 21st-audience is grateful.

I know there's a lesson here about not judging the music of composers you're unfamiliar with, but...


It's very easy to criticize...And it's fun, too!

Everyone knows that classical music attained perfection in 1873.  It's a scientific fact.  Why people persist in expressing independent thoughts about music after then is beyond me.  

Ken Keaton, Palm Beach Daily News, Feb. 20, 2013

That's too bad.  Unispired programming, less than perfect performances...I wonder who or what might be to blame?

In 1918, Arnold Schoenberg...

Wait.  That Arnold Schoenberg?

...(yes, that Arnold Schoenberg)…


…founded the Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna.

This is true. 

His purpose was to present modern music to small audiences in a chamber setting, and often he or his students would arrange larger orchestral works for a chamber ensemble.

I can see now why you mention Schoenberg's society. Chamber ensembles in chamber settings?  Bor-ing.

He believed that hearing the notes in a more transparent setting would make the music easier to understand.

Okay, that sounds like an interesting premise. So...?

Though Schoenberg is best known for breaking the tonal system…

Well, crap.  I can't afford a new tonal system. 

…by creating a new musical language, his efforts were not limited to the most avant-garde works.

Oh, inherent bias, where would we be without you?


Article loads more fun to read than it must have been to write

Chamber Series puffs up to symphony strength

Naples Daily News, March 5, 2013

In a small, but musical, community a pick up orchestra performed Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.  It's a difficult work for even the most esteemed orchestras, what with its lack of clean, clear solos, spice-less phrasing, and the preponderance of multimeasure notes.
The work is forged from four movements actually praised for their dance attributes,...
I know, pssh...
figure 1:  Beethoven composing a symphony.  And saving the universe from, oh, let's say Juggernaut?
But what does it mean?
...meaning it’s nearly impossible not to shake your head or sway at some point.
That actually sounds true.
The grandly dark second movement even lends itself to headbanging, if you’re channeling ‘80 rock culture.
figure 2: The perfect analogy.
The woodwinds gifted the piece with clean, clear solos, and the flutes shot deliciously peppery phrases into the third movement. Its ubiquitous timpani sounded like loads more fun to play than it must have been.

What's not to like about that description about the otherwise bland, yet arduous 7th symphony.
A dozen violins and about nine of the lower-registers were making lush music, throwing phrases from upper to lower and holding a marathon multimeasure note behind the other sections in the final movement.

In case that was unclear, the lush throwing music is right after the end of the beginning of the middle.

The secondary theme of the Second Movement seemed to pose a few challenges in tone for the violins. Still, this section sailed through the treacherous finale so nimbly and happily the uninitiated would never know this isn’t a standing orchestra with a full schedule.

figure 3: Happily the uninitiated would never know that he's not fingering a real chord.
Sounds like a pretty incredible performance.  And for a pick-up orchestra!  Is there some sort of outrageous claim you can make that will perfectly sum it all up?

We have heard this symphony live three times in the last four seasons — once from the Los Angeles Philharmonic — and this stands with the best of them.

Of course it does.


Do yourself a favor and read the entire article which includes gems like "...and each of its parts deserves to be savored, if only for 10 seconds, in our mental echo chambers."