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"I soon learned that if I was asked to play something over again, it meant that they didn't understand it, not that they liked it."
August 8, 2010 8:15 PM   Subscribe

"But this wasn't quite enough and so then I got the idea of having all thirteen of the lowest tones of the piano played together... In other words, I was inventing a new musical sound later to be called 'tone clusters'... Anyway, this was my professional debut as a composer." Henry Cowell's musical autobiography. Cowell was one of the most important figures in 20th-century American music, described by John Cage as "the open sesame for new music in America." In this hour-long program recorded four years before his death in 1965, compositions from every stage in Cowell's career are contextualized and discussed by the man himself.
posted by No-sword (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now that's aleatory.
posted by No-sword at 8:33 PM on August 8, 2010


I think timsteil posted to the wrong thread.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on August 8, 2010


This is fascinating.

Oh, and when Cowell talks, he sounds like Benjamin Linus from Lost.
posted by hanoixan at 8:38 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cowell is one of my favorite composers and someone who I really enjoyed listening to during my undergrad days. The Banshee is one of those pieces that everyone listens to when doing their tour of 20th century music, but his compositions so greatly influenced everyone else after him that his place in the musical canon is greatly deserved.

The Tides of Manaunaun is another beautiful piece, especially with the tonal clusters. It really got me to listen to music a new way (this speaking from someone who had never really listened to truly atonal music before). Same for The Hero Sun.

Many composers of this era (including his friend Carl Ruggles and Charles Ives) were well ahead of their time musically, but inspired generations of composers after them. I'm glad that these visionaries are finally getting their due.
posted by SNWidget at 9:03 PM on August 8, 2010


I think timsteil posted to the wrong thread.

Yeah howboutit. I hit post, and it ended up one further, Hipped a Mod, they will either fix or zap. Fine either way, Just weird though.
posted by timsteil at 9:33 PM on August 8, 2010


Now my comment is the surreal one. How ironic.

Incidentally, not to thread-herd or anything, but I am posting this in part as a response to some of the discussion in this thread. I think that this sort of talk-and-squawk format is ideal for people who are interested in 20th-C. art music but have so far been frustrated by its unapproachability. Cowell's discussion before abstract stuff like Advertisement and The Banshee makes it clearer what he was trying to do, and helps you absorb what is in the piece, rather than what it lacks (traditional harmony/rhythmic structure/whatever).
posted by No-sword at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2010


hanoixan: Oh, and when Cowell talks, he sounds like Benjamin Linus from Lost.

Awesome observation. I love that manner of speaking. It's so creepy and excellent.

(The actor who played Linus was teh awesomest.)

/Derail

posted by Skygazer at 10:15 PM on August 8, 2010


Could someone who knows this sort of thing check emusic and let me know which albums featuring his compositions I should download? There seem to be quite a few, but hardly any reviews from users to provide perspective.
posted by jsturgill at 10:25 PM on August 8, 2010


The Banshee is one of those pieces that everyone listens to when doing their tour of 20th century music

And thus find out that one of the goals of 20th century music is to freak you right out.
posted by weston at 11:14 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jsturgill, if you liked the first part of the program, you will probably dig the album on Smithsonian Folkways called "Henry Cowell: Piano Music."
posted by No-sword at 2:17 AM on August 10, 2010


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