SoundNotion 15: The Other Whitesnake

Topics include Q2’s list of 100 composers under 40, Zhou Long’s Pulitzer, grooving robots, the future of the avant-garde, and more.


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This week’s panel:


This week’s topics include:

  • Q2 (from WQXR) has put together a list of 100 composers under 40.
  • The Pulitzer committee announced that Zhou Long would be receiving this year’s award for his opera Madame White Snake.
  • We’re going to be in Chicago this Friday (Apr. 29) for the New Music USA Town Hall Meeting, 5pm, Roosevelt University. See you there!
  • Help us find a summer music festival to cover.
  • Do you have what it takes to be the next Iron Composer?
  • CalArts robot orchestra is ready to jam.
  • Is “avant-garde” still a relevant idea?


Pick of the week:

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  • I will oblige your request, Dave, and discuss my thoughts on next week’s Pick of the Week, Itoh’s “Echolocation.” It’s exactly the kind of piece that works really well for a technically- and musically-proficient chamber group like H2. The delay effects are well-written, quite idiomatic, and effective. However, I do have a mild concern with concept pieces like this. Once the concept is presented, it strikes me that the music has already blown its raison d’ȇtre (if that makes sense). Itoh does as good a job as can be expected in developing the material beyond the initial concept. But, for me personally, I just feel that I don’t necessarily need to hear the whole piece to appreciate it for what it is.

    Also, if glock. vibrato is a real thing, it’s such an entirely subtle effect that I would consider it almost unusable. The pitches are so high that, to my ear, at least, one would not hear a subtle effect like that with clear definition, unless it was featured prominently or unaccompanied in any way.

  • john pippen

    I just wanted to say that I completely agreed with Patrick. There is no such thing as a truly objective standard. The notion is bound up in specific cultural perceptions and beliefs. I’ve heard a lot of similar comments from composers about the Higdon, and I feel that what is at stake is some sort of mixture of originality and professionalism (hence the comparison to a high school honor band).

    Keep fighting the good fight, Patrick.

    Also, isn’t avant-garde more an attitude than anything else?

  • sam

    It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to put forth some sort of objective standard then. Let’s be clear. Patrick and I were arguing about my style of rhetoric and the fact that I can come across as arrogant – “showing an offensive attitude of superiority” Sure, I sound that way sometimes. That does not mean I think I speak objective truth. And I wouldn’t talk about such an issue in front of a class full of undergraduates as an example. However, Patrick obviously doesn’t have an issue when someone puts forth an idea that speaks positively of a work, even when (as with the negative opinion) no qualifications are given. Isn’t doing so just as arrogant and according to Patrick’s critique of my behavior, just as strongly espousing the idea of objective truth? If you’re going to be the objectivity police, you need to be on the job all the time, not just when someone says something that might hurt someone’s feelings. Here you go Patrick – Radiohead is awesome. Disc golf is awesome. Haggis is scary. I am an asshole. I expect to be chastised for these statements on Sunday.

  • john pippen

    First off, Sam, I feel like this conversation got a bit intense in a way I didn’t intend. I’m not trying to attack your opinion, or put words in your mouth. The specific comments I and I think Patrick were reacting to were (transcribed and very slightly paraphrased from minute 50:10 of the audio):

    Roger: So do you guys believe that there’s objectively bad music?
    Dave: I think there has to be. I think if there’s not then … what the hell are we doing?
    Patrick: I don’t think it’s possible for someone to say something like that.

    Dave’s comments, I think, illustrate objectivity as a central concept in understanding music. Reflecting on my earlier comments, I’m not sure I’m even trying to disagree with Dave (though I did in my first comment), I’m just trying to point out that the entire notion of objectivity is a cultural construct that basically espouses a particularly popular form of subjectivity. We have accepted certain perspectives as necessary indicators of value. This perspective represents a sort of meta-subjectivity that we call objective because it seems unconnected to our personal desires. Finally, by calling objectivity a cultural construct, I in no way mean to undermine the significance of the idea of objective, just to point out that it remains the practical outcome of human desires and sociability. It is very powerful.