Electronic Irony (I)

… the truly revolutionary aspect of electronic music was the new relationship it made possible between composers and works. The composer of an electronic composition can produce a “score” exactly the way a painter produces a picture or a sculptor produces a statue: what is produced is a unique original “art object” rather than aContinue reading “Electronic Irony (I)”


The Final Volume Begins

We knew it couldn’t go on forever and the end is in sight. 11 weeks. 528 pages. That’s what’s left of a Challenge that we started many many weeks ago. Tomorrow Zach and I (anyone else out there?) will launch into Volume V of the OHWM, “Music in the Late Twentieth Century,” a final shove offContinue reading “The Final Volume Begins”

Primary Sources of Music History—A Call for Suggestions

As a part of our interregnum between volumes, we are going to update our musicology must-reads feature. Please feel free to add suggestions of your newest or rediscovered favorites in the comments section of that page. I especially would like suggestions for a new section of the must-reads list: Primary Sources of Music History. ThisContinue reading “Primary Sources of Music History—A Call for Suggestions”

Discussion Thread #2: Adorno and Ortega y Gasset

RT pulls no punches when it comes to the work of T.W. Adorno. Indeed, he makes his opinion clear in the introduction that the Frankfurter is “preposterously overrated.” With his strong views in mind, the lead-up to the 20th century these last three volumes has been filled with taut anticipation. How is Prof. Taruskin goingContinue reading “Discussion Thread #2: Adorno and Ortega y Gasset”

Discussion Thread #1: Irony

The thread of irony that snakes its way through the volume strikes me as hugely significant and generally under-discussed in most histories of modern music. RT’s century, which begins in the twenties, is marked by this unstable relationship to the Romantic “Truth,” not by specific musical techniques per se. By placing aesthetic distance and coolContinue reading “Discussion Thread #1: Irony”

Vol. IV Discussion—What Say You?

With very little fanfare save for the light breeze made by page turning, Vol. IV came to a close a week ago. That’s four down and one to go—though if you’re like me, you’ve peeked more than once at the final volume. As is our custom, we’ll take a week or two of wrap-up timeContinue reading “Vol. IV Discussion—What Say You?”

Technics and the Contours of Music History

At the beginning of the 16th century, Josquin des Prez was one of the first composers to gain widespread renown through the printing press. Gottschalk accomplished his national success by riding the cross-country American railroad system in the 19th century. Enrico Caruso was the first international recording star, beginning in the first decade of theContinue reading “Technics and the Contours of Music History”

Listening to Webern

12-tone music (and atonality more generally) has a reception problem. On the one hand, the mathematical rigor of the compositional process (poiesis) lends it the elite prestige that all things “scientific” garner in the modern world. RT identifies this extreme focus on musical ends rather than means – high academic modernism’s “cult of difficulty” –Continue reading “Listening to Webern”

The Jesting Dodecaphonist

The persistent contrast between Schoenberg’s heavy content and its feather-light containers was perhaps the most vivid example of postwar irony to be found in all of modernist music. It gave his early twelve-tone music a crooked side that is not only useless to deny, but makes the music all the more genuinely a reflection ofContinue reading “The Jesting Dodecaphonist”