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Thread: Why do people get Rothko but not Stockhausen?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    and Miles answered "Stockhousen" when asked what he listens to during the electric 70s. which i always thought was the coolest thing ever...
    On a side note, did anyone read (or indeed, write...) the Kode9 article in the Wire this month? He referenced On the Corner a lot...

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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon2004 View Post
    What about children who are exposed to comparatively radical (to UK or American ears) schema?
    I would imagine that they become particularly receptive to whatever style might be presented to them at an early age.

    That said, I suppose that there are natural limits to the type of organised sound that could be found pleasant or interesting. Short-term/'working' memory probably restricts the length of a memorable melodic movement to <5 secs or so; the human auditory system limits the frequency range or fineness of melodic movement possible to that which is readily perceptible; and there are probably aesthetic universals (minor chords are sad etc).

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by mixed_biscuits View Post
    there are probably aesthetic universals (minor chords are sad etc).
    This is a very interesting area I've been thinking about a lot. So many 'sad' songs are written in predominantly major chords - very surprising really. I'm not sure if it's the lyrical content that tips them that way, or whether it's an ambivalence about harmonies that goes deeper than the major=happy, minor=sad dichotomy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon2004 View Post
    This is a very interesting area I've been thinking about a lot. So many 'sad' songs are written in predominantly major chords - very surprising really. I'm not sure if it's the lyrical content that tips them that way, or whether it's an ambivalence about harmonies that goes deeper than the major=happy, minor=sad dichotomy.
    I suppose the simple dichotomy may be mediated by melodic or harmonic progressions, which themselves may be subject to our innate proclivities.

    Another musical universal dichotomy may be discordant/concordant sound.

    The Perception of Emotional Expression in Music: Evidence from Infants, Children and Adults
    Elizabeth S. Nawrot

    Two studies investigated the development of the perception of emotion in music. In Study 1, preschool children and adults matched nine pieces of music to five photographed facial expressions (happy, sad, anger, fear and neutral). While children did not agree with the adult majority interpretation for most pieces, their pattern of responding to the music, both with photograph choices and spontaneous verbal labels, was similar to the adults. Important methodological differences between this and previous research could explain the inconsistencies. Study 2 used happy and sad music along with a dynamic visual display in an intermodal matching experiment with 5- to 9-month-old infants. Infants preferred the affectively concordant happy display but did not look longer to the affectively concordant sad display as predicted. Taken together, these results begin to explore how emotional perception from music may be due to innate perceptual predispositions together with learned associations that develop in childhood
    As far as comparing discordant avant-garde music with its supposed analogue in the visual arts, it would be useful to have some kind of means of comparison, by which one could decide whether a Chapman brothers gorescape is more or less unpleasant to experience than a Merzbow noisefest. It might be the case that the visual arts cannot be as negatively affecting as music, giving avant-garde music an unfair advantage in pissing people off.
    Last edited by mixed_biscuits; 06-05-2009 at 12:35 PM.

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    In November 1995, The Wire published an article titled "Advice to Clever Children." In the process of producing the interview, a package of tapes containing music from several artists, including Aphex Twin, was sent to Karlheinz Stockhausen.

    Stockhausen commented:

    I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work "Song of the Youth," which is electronic music, and a young boy's voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would look for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeat any rhythm if it [was] varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations.

    Aphex Twin responded: "I thought he should listen to a track of mine: 'Didgeridoo,' then he'd stop making abstract, random patterns you can't dance to"
    Sorry, I always thought that was really funny.

  6. #36
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    It's a stupid premis for a book. People 'get' Rothko cos he's really easy. People don't get Stockhausen because he's really difficult.

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    Quote Originally Posted by craner View Post
    in November 1995, The Wire published an article titled Advice to Clever Children.
    yeah and Stockhausen said about Plastikman: "I know that he wants to have a special effect in dancing bars, or wherever it is". ! Stubbs puts that in the 'Fear of Music' book.
    Quote Originally Posted by craner View Post
    "Stockhausen: 'he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would look for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeat any rhythm if it [was] varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations'."
    I've had composition teachers tell me exactly the same thing about drumloops. Both quotes are reminders that as exportable as Stockhausen's experiments and ideas are, as a composer he was still stuck considerably far up the arse of the Western classical tradition.

    biscuits, you have some amazing points about identity formation in early years, but
    Quote Originally Posted by mixed_biscuits View Post
    there are probably aesthetic universals (minor chords are sad etc)
    I would strongly dispute that the emotional aesthetic of major and minor scale are universal. It wasn't until the eighteenth century that the dichotomy of happy and sad really took hold. Some Renaissance theorists (eg Zarlino) had it the opposite way around. French Baroque music is often in the minor key simply as a convention and it still expresses positive emotions, and some very joyful Yiddish music uses scales that sound to our ears like minor scales. Musical cultures all over the world that don't use major or minor scales at all still manage to produce music expressive of or suited to particular emotional atmospheres.

    Quote Originally Posted by baboon2004 View Post
    This is a very interesting area I've been thinking about a lot. So many 'sad' songs are written in predominantly major chords - very surprising really.
    I think it's something to do with a melancholy irony, and lyrics can help to create the contradiction irony needs. One of the most amazing pieces I know that is sad and written in the major key is this: which Beethoven practically wrote on his deathbed.

    Quote Originally Posted by baboon2004 View Post
    when it comes to visual art - people feel stupid if they don't 'get it', and so if they're told Rothko is good, they'll study it until it makes sense in some way to them.
    very, very true.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by rouge's foam View Post
    I would strongly dispute that the emotional aesthetic of major and minor scale are universal.
    The major minor thing was a speculative statement on my part, but I'm happy to play devil's advocate.

    Quote Originally Posted by rouge's foam View Post
    French Baroque music is often in the minor key simply as a convention and it still expresses positive emotions
    It might express positive emotions but not convey them, ie. not make the listener feel how he may think he should be feeling.

    Or, if the minor key is a convention, there might be countervailing gladdening formulae that play off other innate predelictions.

    Or, if the key is conventional to the extent of being ever-present, emotional content might be emptied out through familiarity - the listener may come to ignore hard-wired emotional responses and direct their attention towards the features of the music that are in the foreground.

    Quote Originally Posted by rouge's foam View Post
    Musical cultures all over the world that don't use major or minor scales at all still manage to produce music expressive of or suited to particular emotional atmospheres.
    Reactions to major and minor scales can be innate without the form monopolising human expression. One would have to show that cultures bereft of major/minor do not make an instinctive distinction between them.

    Even isolated cultures understand emotions conveyed by Western music
    Last edited by mixed_biscuits; 06-05-2009 at 04:46 PM.

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    That psychology study is fascinating - thanks!

    So hearing dissonance as unpleasant is somewhat hard-wired. Hence why people find it relevant / fitting in horror movies, and why Stubbs is swimming against the tide by protesting that people hate dissonance without solving the questions of psychology.
    Quote Originally Posted by mixed_biscuits View Post
    Or, if the minor key is a convention, there might be countervailing gladdening formulae that play off other innate predelictions.
    Absolutely - tempo, accompanying texts, occasion etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by mixed_biscuits View Post
    Or, if the key is conventional [Rouge: and by extension amount of dissonance?] to the extent of being ever-present, emotional content might be emptied out through familiarity - the listener may come to ignore hard-wired emotional responses and direct their attention towards the features of the music that are in the foreground.
    bingo, this is why Stockhausen fans are Stockhausen fans without flying into a panic with every dissonance, and what Stubbs could have spent a lot more time talking about in his book.
    Last edited by rouge's foam; 06-05-2009 at 10:04 PM.

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    Default kpunk and Stubbs on youtube


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    no kidding.

    stubbs seems like a proper lovely guy. i can see dan hancox in the audience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mistersloane View Post
    It's a stupid premis for a book. People 'get' Rothko cos he's really easy. People don't get Stockhausen because he's really difficult.
    I spent the first two pages of this thread completely bemused 'cos I thought people were talking about Rothko _the band_
    ** pandemonium ad asbo **

  13. #43
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    It might be more fair to compare Stockhausen to another time-based art. Film?
    ** pandemonium ad asbo **

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    Quote Originally Posted by CHAOTROPIC View Post
    It might be more fair to compare Stockhausen to another time-based art. Film?
    Maya Darren?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mistersloane View Post
    It's a stupid premis for a book. People 'get' Rothko cos he's really easy. People don't get Stockhausen because he's really difficult.
    Good point...modernist visual arts have very obvious eye appeal, especially the paintings. Modernist architecture is even more mass-appealing in its function-over-form utopian efficiency. There's the aura of luxury about it, now, too, thanks to its commodification.

    But modernist composers were not so symbolically efficient. And so they're not conceptually quite as easy for just anybody to appreciate, even though tons and tons of down to earth people did "get" it at the time...

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