I wasn't aware of any substance to the topic.
Audio Editor, Gramophone
While acknowledging that Astor Piazzolla was a gifted composer who created a unique sound world I am at a loss to comprehend the constant theme of greatness which seems to permeate this forum these days. Why does eveything have to be categorised as great to have some validity? I read the discussion on Beethoven with often perplexed bewilderment and frustration but did not contribute as I would no doubt have been pilloried for my indifference and antipathy to much of Beethoven's output. It's unlikely after over 40 years exposure to his music that I am going to change now. I wonder sometimes what is the point of evaluating a composers work when there are people waiting in the wings to discredit any opinion one has the temerity to express. Parla has already labelled Piazzolla as a great composer so any discension from that view will likely be met with derision, condescension or worse. Some forum this is turning out to be. No wonder so many forum members have left or have given up contributing.
Eventually, after 17 posts, we have two on the matter of this topic. Thanks a lot P and Caballe.
P, Piazzolla's music is not cafe (or much more cabaret), even in his (what you may find lighter) side, even if he wanted to depict the life in the cafes of his country in the past (see and listen to his Histoire de Tango, a suite for Flute or Violin and Guitar). He didn't write a Symphony, but he composed symphonic orchestral works, like the symphonic poem Tangazo, the fine and progressive Symphonietta, the three orchestral pieces, his Concerto of Bandoneon, the Concerto for Guitar, Bandoneon and String Orchestra as well as his masterpiece, the Four Seasons (of Buenos Aires) for String Orchestra.
He did compose an Opera as well, the unique Maria de Buenos Aires. A rather short but very substantive musically work, based, almost entirely, on the tango tradition!
His music is inspired not generally by the "dance", but his beloved argentinian tango tradition, which, like any great and true to his roots composer, he wanted to elevated to the art form. So, his music, though lighter or "dance inspired", is a serious nationalist one. Of course, he never imagined to become an atonal austrian composer as Schoenberg (despite in his compositions he resorts to polytonality and atonality) or a complex Polish one or even a Hungarian master of their own nationalistic roots. However, he was very happy to see his music, even in his whatever we may call lighter stuff, to be embraced all over the world (people got crazy in Africa with Libertango, others went nuts with Addios Nonino in Asia, audience felt extremely moved with Oblivion in extreme and irrrelevant parts of Europe or even in US). So, that's why I called him a great composer for all times. You don't have to be specially prepared to listen to his music (I have to admit, after so much exposure to music, I need a very "strong stomach" to get to the listening experience of a Penderecki or even Schoenberg and, in some cases, Bartok).
Caballe, I didn't labelled Piazzolla as a great composer. There is already a question mark there, inviting views about the opposite, provided that they are developed and they are not mere opinions of an inexplicable taste. Greatness is not needed to give any validity to just any composer of anytime; it is needed to reward those who contributed more than others to the development of the Classical Music. So, it's your prerogative to dislike or even detest Beethoven, but you have to recognise his role and significance in the field. Otherwise, we create, in a field of utmost excellence and brilliance, a flat platform where any composer can go, as long as some people like him/her, regardless of any other feature or qualification. Exchange of views (and not necessarily of mere opinions) are useful, if they can lead to a common ground, where the holders of the opinions/views may communicate in a way to comprehend each other, on a common basis of understanding.
Music is a specific Art and Classical Music has very specific texture and rules to be ignored or overlooked.
The shorter pieces by Piazzolla are splendid, for example on Barenboim's CD but his "4 Seasons" I find terribly tedious even at only about 30': Piazzolla can't orchestrate and he can't develop, just repeat the same few melodies again and again. It's worse than Glass because there's no invention and no surprises at all.
Surprising! Somebody who finds "superb" what others claim light or dance inspired or even cafe/cabaret type of music.
Greater surprise, all the rest : The Four Seasons are terribly tredious, while any musician I know (in any possible way) adores and considers it as a masterpiece, with its greater exponent Gidon Kremer!
Piazzolla can't orchestrate, but his Tangazo, Sinfonietta, Maria de Buenos Aires, his Concertos are not orchestrated by others, but by himself.
He can't develop, while he uses most of the classic forms of composition, mostly sonata (with or without development), fantasia (the two themes blended in using different ways of composition leading to polytonality or even atonality), variations etc.
He repeat the same few (how many can one expect in each piece of music, particularly in 20th century compositions, where melody is in scarcity) melodies... If the sonata form or fantasia require the repetion (or recapitulation) of the two themes involved, then, so be it. Audiences all over the world never complained about repetitive music of glorious themes and melodies that many composers would envy.
"No invention, no surprise". I have to dare to ask you, Adrian3, how much of Piazzolla's outrput you have listened to and which works in particular?
I seem to remember posting 'on the matter of this subject'! .....O stupid me I said something you didn't want to hear so that clearly doesn't count.
On a few occasions I have raised the topic of composers on the periphery of standard repertoire and you, Parla, have chosen to instantly dismiss them as unimportant or structurally lacking. An attempt by you, I'm sure, to be the all-knowing oracle of the Forum.
I have reached the point of no longer having any interest in your myopic viewpoint and for one will no longer respond to or follow any of your future posts. That should save me hours of reading.
Pause for thought.
Sincerely sorry, Atonal, if I didn't consider your posts as...to the point, but, if I have to remember, in your three posts, you mention: "Errrr, no" (in the question whether you know Piazzolla's music), "cafe-style music" (showing your instant, occasional hearing of his music), "I'm not familiar with his music", "after hearing (not even listening) his instrument, the Bandoneon, I shan't be listening further".
So, maybe, we got each other wrong, but, anyway, you admit you don't know (at least well) Piazzolla and, therefore, your contribution, though always welcome, didn't add a developing view on his music rather than it is a "cafe-style" one (which is not, it is played anywhere, predominantly in concert halls).
As for my way of approaching different responses by forum members, of course, it's your prerogative to take them as you wish, but I never plan to impose any position but rather to see how far a debate can go in exchanging developing views (not mere opinions, thrown at random and at will). A vibrant forum is the one who can lead to some kind of conclusion and not an exchange of "that's good, oh no, that was not? I enjoyed that, no I didn't and so on).
Finally, this adjective of "Great" I use (of course not exclusively) is to show that, regardless which composer or work we might like or even adore, we have always to bear in mind what is the musical impact of them on the rest of the world or, at least, outside our own microcosmos.
Again, my apologies for any misunderstanding or, even worse, for unintentionally hurting your feelings (you may imagine how I should feel, as I am almost constantly "attacked"...).
Au revoir, cher ami,
I suspect that the difficulty you have had in getting this discussion going reflects people’s growing irritation at your self-serving attempts to monopolise all discussions with your pretentious and egotistical ramblings.
You start off with a obscure and minor composer (what little I’ve heard of his music sounds to me like the sort of musak they play in hotel lobbies) and suggest he’s a ‘great’ composer. And the only question that this begs of course is what is meant by the term ‘great’ in this context. Since this is a question for which we will never reach an agreed position, the entire discussion will quickly become entirely circular and pointless.
At some point someone will point this out – that greatness is largely a matter of opinion – at which point you will get on your favourite hobby horse and state that it’s an objective fact, albeit one which can only be perceived by someone of your sensitivity and expertise.
It won’t be long before you start with your portentous but meaningless attempts to provide a logical basis for such a position – eg: ‘Piazzolla's greatness lies in his musical truth’, as if the phrase ‘musical truth’ meant anything. You’ll never – not once – concede that your arguments lack validity or logical substance, because your only interest is in demonstrating your pretention rather than listening to what other people might have to say.
As to your purported expertise, we have hard evidence that you are not adverse to simply cutting and pasting information from Wikipedia and passing it off as your own knowledge and you might well have done the same for Piazzolla (I can’t be bothered to check). Again why should anyone wish to enter into a serious debate with someone who is so manifestly – and shamefacedly – dishonest?
And one other thing, you also refuse to acknowledge that music other than classical can be its equal in quality and achievement (you must recall your absurd statements about Paul Simon). You decline in other words to listen to non-classical music with an open mind but instead stick to your narrow and blinkered view of music. There is a word for people like that and it’s a word that fits you perfectly: you are a philistine.
I've just answered that: the Barenboim CD and, live in Budapest, 'The Four Seasons', played by the MAV (Magyar Railways orchestra) at the Liszt Academy. If any musician claims that the latter is 'great music' then he is a bum!
I'm not aware at all which is this recording of "the Four Seasons" with this MAV (on which label by the way), but I will urge you to listen to some more authoritative ones (either by Kremer or Accardo or some Argentinian orchestra). By the way, in your beloved Barenboim CD (with the shorter superb pieces), there are two (short) arrangements of the two of the Four Seasons (Invierno Porteno and one more)! So among the "bums", count Barenboim too along with Kremer, Accardo, YoYo Ma, Gallois, Artemis Quartet, quite a few renown Chamber Ensembles and String Orchestras.
@ Parla: why don't you READ what people say before answering? I said that I heard 'The 4 Seasons' live in Budapest. I also said that I enjoyed the Barenboim CD, which contains short pieces without the eternal repetitions of the other work. And please don't put into my mouth judgements which I neither made or implied about Danny B.!
Oh! Craig, you are one of a kind! You are so good in resorting to personal abuse as a rational way of communication and argumentation. Anyway, I cannot follow you in returning a series of "fine" adjectives to you (so far I have managed to avoid any attack against any member of the forum, despite any kind of blows I have received, even under the belt), but I will respond to wherever there is any sort of actual argumentation (even out of the topic) lies in your text:
You called, without any evidence, Piazzolla as an obscure and minor composer. Of course, in UK, he might be and, possibly, in some other countries in Europe (I have not visited all). However, if you dare to mention the same statement to any Argentinian or even any Latin American, you will see the difference...In my posts, I explained quite clearly the growing infuence and appeal of his music almost all over the world as well as in the recording industry. The point is that he is in a difficult crossover field of an actual "classical" and a true tango composer too.
As for the key issue of greatness, you claim, this time, that is "largely a matter of opinion (without bothering to prove it with any "logical" or "rational" explanation). However, this largely gives the impression that, even for a fraction, greatness is not only a matter of opinion. Which might lead us back to the point of the actual definition of the notion. And as I was taught by all my professors (at any stage of my education), definitions are not a matter of opinions!
The " his musical truth" means that the actual composer was true in what he defended, promoted and developed in his artistic production throughout his life, which, exactly, was the case of Piazzolla. That's why even people, living far away of his native land, feel his music as their own: because they see the genuine artistic development of a true nationalistic composer, as the vast majority of the classical composers.
You always claim victory over the issue that my arguments "lack validity or logical substance", as your negativity and negation of any position, statement or argument of mine has any basis of reasonal validation and logical resolution. You rely your whatever you may call as victory on the sole basis that you simply deny, dismiss, refuse to accept any argumentation on qualifying music, based on the actual musical features of the work or composer in question. However, even if you dismiss any objective way to qualify music, it doesn't mean that all music is "equal". Still, you have to prove, with valid and logical arguments, what you claim. I remember, in another thread, whenever I asked you to prove what you claim, you replied "I don't claim anything". If still that is the case, you cannot dismiss anything either!
You accuse me of not listening with "open mind" other music, so that I can find that there is music which is equal in quality and achievement as classical music, while I have, in quite a few occasions, mentioned I have listened for years extensively all the possible forms of pop, jazz, folk and many other sort of non classical music. Even now, I listen to quite a few other kind of music. So, am I "blind" or deaf to the equal quality and achievement? Besides, if we have this "open mind", why we have to find out that here is music which is equal in...; it can easily be even greater both in quality and achievement than classical music. So, we go back to the situation of the definition of greatness. It's not a matter of "open mind"; it's a matter of definition!
Since I don't think you will bother to come with any definition to this end, I will inform you that, what I learned in my years of education and experience in being exposed to Music and Art, greatness is defined by the impact of the actual work or composer's output on the specific Art, civilisation, the world and the people. So, just copntemplate what is the legacy of all these numerous songs of all forms of Pop or which specific improvisations of Jazz are going to mark our lives or, most importantly, the lives and civilisation of other countries and people in the planet. Since I was fortunate enough to travel almost constantly in quite a few parts of the globe, I can inform you that, outside the very occidental parts of what is known as Western countries, nobody (literally speaking) cares what is A day in the Life or A kind of Blue, but they still perform, in almost full houses, Mozart's Jupiter or Beethoven's Seventh or Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and many more, including Piazzolla's music! Besides, even in the most occidental parts of the Western world, who has the slightest idea or cares to even hear Velvet Underground, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, Grand Funk, Captain Beefheart, even Frank Zappa? And if we still sing "Yesterday", "Imagine" or the "Bridge" or "Mamma mia" does it make any difference or is the exception to the rule?
Anyhow, your "philistine" greats you, Ceasar.
I’ll rephrase that: greatness, like any other matter of judgement in music (or any culture) is entirely a matter of taste and opinion. (There is a more complex argument based around Foucault’s theory of discourse, but I don’t imagine you’d be interested.) Of course definitions are not a matter of opinion, but the application of those definitions in specific cases is always a matter of opinion.
As far as I can understand your characteristically badly expressed point, lots of people all over the world like composer A, therefore composer A shows musical truth. This is meaningless gibberish even by your standards. Lost of people living equally far away ‘feel as their own’ the music of Elvis Presley or the Beatles – do they show the same musical truth as your friend the musak tango king?
Here we go again. The only thing I am claiming is that judgments of the quality of different pieces of music or different genres of music are purely value judgments - purely opinions. I have never once said or suggested that all music is of equal quality. And why on earth should that prevent me from dismissing anything? When I read the sort of unadulterated guff that you pedal so much, I have as valid a right as anyone else to dismiss it as such.
A typically meaningless remark. If we assume for the sake of argument that Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata is a great piece of music, what impact has it had on ‘civilisiation’? Ok so a lot of people have bought the record or heard it in concert, but I hardly see how civilisation has been affected beyond that. On the other hand the music produced by X Factor in all its manifestations throughout the western world really has affected civilisation if we consider the increased blurring between information, entertainment and advertising. (And it’s no surprise to see that Simon Cowell publicly endorsed the Tory party at the last election with all that that entails for increasing economic inequality in UK society.) Is that great music in your book?
An exception to what rule? I am beginning to think that your apparent inability to make any sense whatsoever is a deliberate ploy to disguise the fact that you know you are talking rubbish.
As you once said Craig, I wrote this before reading your latest post, so I am echoing some of your concerns Craig:
On the other hand, I just mention that Piazzolla's greatness lies in his musical truth. If anybody has a different view is welcome to develop it,
Right Parla. Any composer's skill lies in his adherence to his musical truth.
(I hesitate to use your word greatness since it takes us into the realms of subjective opinion and superlative language again, and I am with other members of this forum with doubts on those. In fact, the phrase 'musical truth' might belong in there as well, but if we allow that one as meaning a composer sticking to what he/she feels really movitates and inspires them, then ok...)
But Parla, Arvo Part has found his musical truth after early experiments in, for example, serialism, by going back to the medieval church modes (Summa for example as you know is entirely in the Dorian mode, and a moving piece it is too).You tell me that Piazolla has used extensively the tango form in his music. The principle in both cases is exactly the same: a composer taking a past form and developing it in a more contemporary context.
Yet you dismiss Part (as Atonal has reminded us) because you don't consider he has anything new to say, while you extol Piazolla as a possibly great composer. This is a clear example of how you elevate your own selective and subjective views to a higher realm of truth.
Yet we are welcome to develop different opinions?
On the Holy Minimalism thread, the answer to the new sanctity in this type of music was Beethoven, the whole Beethoven and nothing but Beethoven, and other past classical masters. Forget the present, re-visit the past, nobody can surpass the classicists. Nobody has written anything new since Shostakovitch.
Yes they have by the way, since Messiaens' use of his seven modes was distinctive and personal, as another example.
I am not too bothered about whether someone's musical language is wholly original. A difficult if not impossible feat, as there are only twelve notes of the chromatic scale. What matters about using the past (as in the medieval church modes) is to give it a fresher, more modern or contemporary feel, which is what the holy minimalists have done, in my opinion.
I shall check out Piazolla at some point!
Yes, here we are again. Despite this time you tried to answer point by point my arguments, you cannot refrain from resorting to personal abusive language and attack as the spearhead of your argumentation or the final stroke. Anyway, I will overcome it once more. As for your response:
So, now you "rephrase" your initial statement, you refer to the "theory of discourse" and we add the notion of taste along with opinion. Much to my surprise, while definitions are not a matter of opinions, their application (on specific cases), is again a matter of opinion. Fair enough as statements. On which objective grounds, however?
Music has not been bulit, developed and thrived on opinions or taste, but on very specific rules and definitions. This is what we have been taught for years in the conservatories, in any performing venue and in any collaboration with fellow musicians. We have learned to pursue excellence beyond our or anybody else's opinion, but on the basis of the definitions of what is the perfect pitch, the best posssible tone, the observance of Harmony, Counterpoint, etc. So, the application of the definition of Harmony didn't come as a matter of our opinion, as whether we like it to implement it or not, but as a "must" each time we have to perform (much more to compose) properly a piece of music. The same for the tone, etc. What we learned is that definitions in Classical Music at least, exist and are observed. We don't apply definitions. Even in any aspect of our life, whenever we refer to a notion or a word, their definitions exist and either we are aware of them (so we can observe and properly use them) or we are not (and we ignore them and have difficulty in communication).
As for the "musical truth", Elvis and Beatles didn't defend, promote and develop any national form of music. They made an extended temporary fame with pleasant songs that, in some cases, can be used even today as a little more than background music (music hall, restaurants with some second rate singers, etc.). Piazzolla's music has the effect of those musicians who are accepted as great national composers. For the Argentinians, he is their pride and national treasure. That's why musicians of the calibre of Barenboim, Kremer, Accardo and the rest I have already mentioned, plus a lot of unsung heroes almost all over the world perform his music (which, despite you have very little knowledge of it, you called it muzak so easily...anyhow).
So, as for the "equal quality", we resolve the issue. There is music which is greater than other, but it is purely a value judgement, an opinion (and taste) to say which is what. So, tomorrow, if somebody wish to say that his taste (whatever it might mean) and, therefore, his opinion (whatever might be implied) make him claim that Madona's songs are a greater music than Mozart's Symphonies is as valid as anybody's view. Very convenient indeed! Fortunately, I can assure you it doesn't apply but only in some forums like this one.
I am at this moment in Beijing, which I visit frequently due to the fact that my wife is Chinese. The people of China are very proud of their traditions, including their national music. However, the way they observe Classical Music is beyond any expectation. Amazing Concert Halls, plenty of performers of any kind, hundreds of conductors, everyday programs on national television, etc. There is an utmost respect, dedication and observance of any rule, tradition and definition of this music. At the same time, they admit that their traditional music, though great for them, has a limited scope compared to Classical and they performed it in special places for those who are interested (like Beijing Opera, which many younger people cannot comprehend and, subsequently, stand). The same I have noticed in every major country in Asia as well as in Africa, where, to my utmost surprise, they show an extreme eagerness to establish Classical Music over their own traditional music forms.
Regarding X Factor's music, I simply have to ignore its ephemeral impact that might have probably in UK and in some parts of the States, since, anywhere else (including here in China) is considered as bad entertainment only, but it is tolerated since it gives some additional jobs and big bucks to some people in the business.
It's not the Moonlight Sonata that marked our civilisation but the output of Beethoven's music as well as the other classic composers. Anywhere, either here in Asia or in Africa, there is an unbelievably great demand of the scores of Bach, Haydn, Mozart etc. Their music is heard in national television, in concert halls, performers go abroad in order to come back and teach their own people this music. Particularly, in Africa those who get a scholarship and succeed in their studies in Europe or in US, when they return, they are treated as "national heroes". That's the impact of Great music and of Great composers accross the Globe and in a considerable time framework.
Anyway, it's quite late here. At the end of the day people might show some more understanding...Who knows?