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Articulate Silences
September 20, 2012 1:02 PM   Subscribe

"Articulate Silences is a blog which focuses on the introduction of 20th and 21st century classical music to listeners wanting to investigate beyond popular music. Through a series of posts focussing on major pieces, as well as the occasional more obscure work, this blog attempts to act as a gentle entry point for further exploration and discovery of similar sounds."
posted by vacapinta (18 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh this is great. Some pieces that I love (the Pärt at the top of the page, my favorite Shostakovich quartet, Ligeti) and plenty more that I'm entirely unfamiliar with. This will be my weekend, now.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:16 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on the excellent choices of compositions I'm already familiar with -- Shostakovich, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and Debussy -- I very much look forward to reading the blog's analyses of those pieces while listening along, and to listening to some of the others for the first time.

(Previously, sort of.)
posted by John Cohen at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2012


Some nice deep cuts in there!
posted by idiopath at 1:25 PM on September 20, 2012


Fantastic - can't wait to listen when I get home.

Added to Google Reader.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:30 PM on September 20, 2012


Oh, this is great. A friend of mine ran a branch (last week or so when branch was the new internet hotness) about 20th century avant-garde composers and this looks like it'll be very useful along with that in exploring modern classical.
posted by immlass at 1:51 PM on September 20, 2012


Yes. Thank you so much. This is just up my alley.
posted by stonepharisee at 1:52 PM on September 20, 2012


Well this one is CLEARLY the best.

Well, I really like this blog, but I don't know how successful it is in its ostensible goal of being an intro site for people wanting to get into 20 and 21st century music from popular music. And, admittedly, I can be dubious about all such projects, because sometimes I think the whole, "here's a bunch of info about this music because it's difficult music and I want you to understand" is sometimes anathema to making this type of music accessible, and only serves to sort alienate the listener from the get go. Then again, I'm also a firm believer that context usually makes music more interesting. So, mixed feelings I guess.

And while the write-ups are actually well-researched and pretty well-written, I think they are a bit overwrought and will be off-putting for most people who are actually looking for an intro. I realize there is a fine balance between being interesting and inviting and not seeming condescending, but things like: The sparse scalic and triadic figuration treads a fine line between modernist critique and banality. Its retrogressive aspects are buried under its “timeless” religiosity. Or: Despite betraying a distinct Futurist influence throughout many of his works, and particularly on Ionisation, Varèse’s music eschews the unrefined cacophony and overt machismo of Luigi Russolo’s “noise intoners” and Art of Noises manifesto just seem like, whoa horsey.

I guess what I mean is - I think this is a nice overview of (mostly) the iconic works of the past century. But I don't think it really does what it says it's trying to do.

The guiding philosophy behind Articulate Silences is that no piece of music is inherently superior to any other and with this blog we hope to contribute to the dissolution of perceived barriers surrounding so called “intellectual” music. In providing a listening guide and strictly non-academic, qualitative discussion of the piece in question, we hope to take some of the trepidation out of approaching a piece of classical music for the first time as well as affording some insight into the techniques employed by the composer.

I mean, non-intellectual and non-academic? I don't know. Everything about this site feels pretty heady to me. Maybe I only feel this way because I'm always trying to play Penderecki and Crumb for my friends and explaining things in terms of hip hop production and Radiohead and drugs.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Crumb is easy, just toss on Black Angels and say 'this quartet is about the Vietnam War' and everyone goes 'Yup, sounds right.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:00 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read the first sentence of the Arvo Pärt piece and thought "Sounds like Scelsi," and then bingo, Scelsi! Very nice.
posted by rodii at 2:19 PM on September 20, 2012


The sparse scalic and triadic figuration treads a fine line between modernist critique and banality. Its retrogressive aspects are buried under its “timeless” religiosity. Or: Despite betraying a distinct Futurist influence throughout many of his works, and particularly on Ionisation, Varèse’s music eschews the unrefined cacophony and overt machismo of Luigi Russolo’s “noise intoners” and Art of Noises manifesto just seem like, whoa horsey.
I agree. The same ideas could be expressed much more concisely. For instance:

"The notes and chords are sparse, almost to the point of banality." (Or at least use the straightforward formal terms "scales and triads," instead of the utterly unnecessary "scalic and triadic figuration.")

"Varese's music is Futurist without being wildly noisy or macho."
posted by John Cohen at 2:19 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I just noticed that the recording of the Pärt piece features Schnittke as soloist holy shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:45 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa! Missed that! Badass. I actually thought the recording selection for these was great.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:50 PM on September 20, 2012


Yeah, the Shostakovich is by the Emerson Quartet who are ace as well.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:51 PM on September 20, 2012


John Cohen: "at least use the straightforward formal terms "scales and triads," instead of the utterly unnecessary "scalic and triadic figuration.""

there is a big difference between a scale and a scalic figuration - one is a set of notes that is worked with, the other is a style of ornamentation

similarly a triadic figuration is not the same as a triad
posted by idiopath at 5:17 PM on September 20, 2012


Just my cup-o-tea, all my favs are here.
nice post, thanks
posted by quazichimp at 5:52 PM on September 20, 2012


there is a big difference between a scale and a scalic figuration - one is a set of notes that is worked with, the other is a style of ornamentation

similarly a triadic figuration is not the same as a triad


That further proves Lutoslawski's point: how many casual readers who need to be gently coaxed into giving Debussy, Ravel, and Shostakovich a chance are going to understand such an esoteric technical term? If the purpose is to reach out to those kinds of people, why say "scalic figuration" when you could say "repeated melody"?
posted by John Cohen at 6:56 PM on September 20, 2012


Great link. Thanks for posting this.
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on September 20, 2012


This post made my afternoon. Thanks so much.

A friend was just asking me to recommend "some classical music" to him and after the initial "dude, we're going to need to focus that request a little..." We hit on the fact that he actually really likes 20th century stuff. Music for 18 Musicians was one option I gave him and he really enjoyed it. I ended up sending him the blog as a follow-up.

I hadn't ever heard Tabula Rasa, in spite of the fact that if heard and liked Pärt. What a great piece!

I just had the pleasure of performing (like, as in, this evening) Nänie by Brahms. It is so freaking fantastic I can't more highly recommend it. So gorgeous.
posted by jph at 9:44 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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