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g_pepper comments on Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline - Less Wrong

88 Post author: lukeprog 28 March 2011 07:31PM

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Comment author: gjm 13 April 2017 10:31:38PM 3 points [-]

mid-20th century art music [...] tone poems and dissonant musics [...] were just garbage


Here are a few pieces of mid-20th century art music. I'm taking "mid-20th-century" to mean 1930 to 1970. Some of them are quite dissonant. None of them is actually a tone poem, as it happens. They are all pieces that (1) I like, (2) are well regarded by the classical music "establishment", (3) are pretty accessible even to (serious) listeners of fairly conservative taste, (4) are still being performed, recorded, etc., (5) are clearly part of the mainstream of mid-20th-century art music, and (6) seem to me to show no lack of awareness of what music is for.

  • 1930: Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms
  • 1936: Barber, Adagio for strings
  • 1941: Tippett, A child of our time
  • 1942: Prokofiev, Piano sonata #7
  • 1945: Britten, Peter Grimes
  • 1948: Strauss, Four last songs
  • 1960: Shostakovich: String quartets #7,8
  • 1965: Bernstein, Chichester Psalms

(I make no claim that these are the best or most important works by their composers. I wanted things reasonably well spread out over the period in question, and subject to that picked fairly randomly.)

Are these all garbage? Perhaps you had in mind only music "weirder" than those: Second Viennese School twelve-tone music (though I'd call that early rather than mid 20th century), Cage-style experimentalism, and so forth. I'm not at all convinced that that stuff had no value or influence, but in any case it's far from all that was happening in western art music in the middle of the 20th century.

Comment author: g_pepper 14 April 2017 02:07:39AM 1 point [-]

Great list of 20th century compositions! 20th century art music gets an undeservedly bad rap, IMO. I would add a few more composers:

  • 1930: Kurt Weill: Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny
  • 1935: George Gershwin: Porgy and Bess
  • 1940-1941: Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps
  • 1944: Aaron Copeland: Appalachian Spring

Kurt Weill's work might be considered theater music rather than art music, but I would argue that it is both of those things. Messiaen is admittedly avant garde and a bit outside of the mainstream, but is approachable by a wide range of audiences, including many who would not care for the composers of the Second Viennese School. Many of Messiaen's compositions could have been added to the list, so I picked one of the best known.

Comment author: gjm 14 April 2017 02:46:57PM 0 points [-]

For what it's worth, I omitted Weill and Gershwin because I thought ohwilleke might not consider them arty enough, Messiaen becase I wasn't confident enough ohwilleke would concede that his music sounds good, and Copeland because Appalachian Spring was the obvious work to use and I already had enough from around that time :-). Of course I agree that otherwise those works are all worthy of inclusion in any list like mine.