Lecture in Istanbul
Lecture at Vildiz Technical University
Alper Maral, composer and musicologist, collaborator, and friend, asked me to give a talk at his University. We agreed that I would talk about 21st C. Music and the Guitar. We also agreed that I am a Babbitt guy, and that I might explain what he was all about.
I am quickly trying to record what I learned as I was thinking on my feet there at the Technical University a few hours ago. I also jot down these thoughts as a way to subject my thinking to harsh scrutiny from myself and others.
--Phillip Glass and Steve Reich & Lamont Young and others were pioneers in that they were among the first to take pride in feeling sick and tired of 20th C. bad habits -- a habitual density, habitually aphysical rhythms, habitually pointillistic textures, etc. Nevertheless, they choose to refrain from doing certain things that music can do--things that are to dear to me to abandon.
--music does not evolve along technical lines. It follows the heart. The heart of individuals, and also, there are collective moments of capitulation. At this moment, there is an overwhealming consensus that we want to put the bad habits of the 20th C. behind us. This is not a technical issue, it is a swing of the pendulum as the collective will moves. I do not mind calling this fashion, and I no longer hold the contempt for fashtion that was taught to me by the likes of Roland Barthes.
--This makes the world safe again for modernist hold-outs as well as for others who wish to take a middle path. A modernist holdout is one extreme, and being a reactionary is the other. The minimalists are reactionaries in that they abandon so much of what music can do. The group that I find most interesting is neither of these, but the growing number of composers who love simple, limpid musical surface, taking a cue from the minumalists, luring the listener in with sweet diatonic harmonies, but then taking us on a journey where the great profusion of 20th C. musical modalities can emerge in new ways.
--Compositional techniques *do* evolve, wth some important and time consuming caveats-- it does not have a goal, necessarily, other than to fill is human need. Composition techniques evolve, but music can side-step, a music can be unique for what it chooses *not* to do. As one who has a great love for the old modernists like Babbitt & Carter, I like to see 20th C. issues arise in new and surprising ways.
I then tried to discuss how this works in music by Harold Meltzer, Damon Ferrante, and Alper Maral. I was given a very rough beater guitar because the trip to the university would have been difficult if I had to carry my guitar-- many crowded buses and taxis on the way to the university. On a very primitive instrument I played Meltzer's *Doria Phamphili*, Damon Ferrante's *Following the River*, Alper Maral's *sonra sular çekildi ve biz kaldik öyce*, and my own *Grüne Heinrich*.
Doria Pamphili-- I tried to explain how the middle section frames itself, and how moments in the middle offer harmonic tastes of the *bigger moments* we hear in the frame. (I need to supply musical examples.)
Regarding Damon Ferrante's piece, I tried to get people excited by the Mystic chord that I discuss at lenghth here:
Here, Ferrante's use of the Mystic Chord is brave and new becasue he did it in a new century. (Cf. that Borges article where the guy writes the same passage from Don Quixote, but in a different century).
Overall, because there were plenty of guitarists in the audience, I began to feel that the guitarists do not care about how pieces are put together, but they do care about impressive stuff to do with their fingers. I am now convinced that *Doria Pamphili* and *Following the River* should be played at scary fast tempi.
What I did not get around to saying is that 90% guitar music jams on the descending bass line. i -- V6 -- v6 -- IV -- VI7 -- V
And that can, of course, be wonderful, especiallly if there are some dazzling textures.
More on this, if possible, later.