[Note: This post has been updated (2) as of 4:53 PM Eastern on 16 Feb. See below.]
As regular readers of Sounds & Fury are aware, we’ve little good to say about most so-called New Music, and have roundly condemned much of it as being malignantly obsessed with matters of process and sound in which means become ends rather than being put in the service of the spinning out of musical ideas to form a seamlessly coherent musical narrative.
Today, we read this post on composing by that fine writer and blogger Matthew Guerrieri of Soho the Dog who’s also a pianist, conductor, and composer, and by the end of our reading he’d set our teeth to grinding, for what he described with some affection is a virtual definition of precisely what's wrong with most so-called New Music; a veritable instruction manual of how NOT to go about the making of the thing. Wrote Mr. Guerrieri:
[E]very True Inspiration moment I've ever had has invariably happened in the middle of a work session, after I've already been plugging away at the material for a couple of hours. I have no clue if an idea is an inspired one until I've tinkered with it for a while, and then it opens up and I can see where it's leading, what it can become, how it can shape a musical paragraph or movement. Or that it can't, in which case it goes in the trash, and I start from scratch the next time.
As such, I have a natural sympathy for compositional systems — it's how I investigate the possibilities of an idea. Mash it into a chord or stretch it into a melody and see how it sounds. Run an interval vector on the set and start transposing it around. Collect up the remaining pitches to form this or that aggregate and tinker with the juxtaposition. Or a particular rhythm: how's it work in augmentation? Diminution? Canon? Layer it over various phrase lengths — does the pattern shake out regularly? There's the old stand-bys: inversion, retrograde, combinatoriality (be the context tonal or atonal).
As we’ve said, a virtual definition of precisely what's wrong with most so-called New Music; a veritable instruction manual of how NOT to go about the making of the thing.
Update (9:49 PM Eastern on 13 Feb): Matthew Guerrieri responds in an update to his above linked post.
Update 2 (4:53 PM Eastern on 16 Feb): See Instruction Manual Addendum for more on this.