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Is musical nationalism dead?

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Initial post: 27 Jun 2013 00:24:11 BDT
mancheeros says:
Is musical nationalism still relevant in the 21st century, or has it had its day?

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 03:28:04 BDT
Anonymouse says:
Hopefully, it's had its day.

Hopefully, nationalism--musical or not--has had its day.

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 09:23:37 BDT
'Hopefully, nationalism--musical or not--has had its day'

Wishful thinking.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 12:25:59 BDT
I don't buy albums by fellow Danes because they are fellow Danes.
I only buy them if they are better than anyone else.
I have three recordings of my favorite Carl Nielsen symphony (the 3rd "Espansiva") and none of them are performed by Danes.
Danes performing Danish music should make one suspicious...
Having said that I have to admit that it warms my heart when I hear a good recording/work by a Dane... so I guess I'm more of a nationalist than I'd like to admit...

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 13:18:55 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jun 2013 13:24:53 BDT
JayJayDee says:
I agree with anonymouse that nationalism should have had its day; if that is confined to jingoistic celebration of victories and arrogant proclamation of superiority.
But there's nothing wrong with celebrating or exhibiting our differences of origin.
I would hate it if the whole world became autonomously McDonalds and KFCy-fied. And the same goes for the music to which we listen.

Vive la difference.

And if that sounds like a plea for a 'now-suspect' multi-culturalism then I can honestly say that I lived substantial periods of my life in two other radically different cultures, made a significant effort to integrate and was richly benefitted by the interaction..... as I believe were those with whom I interacted.
So, since I am, *right now*, listening to Fela Ransome-Kuti The Complete Recordings (and I'm glad he didn't write like Delius or Bartok) I can only hope that musical nationalism, like sporting nationalism, is where we invest our differences and our rivalries!

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 13:35:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jun 2013 13:37:54 BDT
mancheeros says:
In Britain we still have the post of Master of the Queen's Music, who is responsible for writing music for royal occasions which I guess is 'nationalist music'. The current holder of that lofty post is Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who was appointed for a ten-year period, the first not to be appointed for life. He is due to leave the post in 2014, but not before he has rustled up some music fit for a royal baby... As to his successor, my money would be on George Benjamin, not the ailing John Tavener.

If Scots vote YES to independence in the forthcoming referendum perhaps Alex Salmond will create the post of Master of the SNP's Music. James MacMillan would be the likely recipient of that 'honour'.

So, yes, in Britain nationalist music is alive and kicking - kicking like a newborn babe.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 13:37:54 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jun 2013 13:38:05 BDT
JayJayDee says:
PMD is already so far into Scortland he's almost at the Faeroes! He can just carry on.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 13:59:54 BDT
But mancheeros - does it have any significance outside the mainstream media - I mean for the poeple who really love music?

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 14:07:08 BDT
Lez Lee says:
It always seemed crazy that the previous holder of the post was Malcolm Williamson who was not only Australian but no-one had heard of him. To this day I couldn't name anything by him. Not sure how 'nationalistic' this makes the appointment!

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 14:28:51 BDT
Nick says:
Lez, Williamson was commissioned to write the piece for the 1977 jubilee in Liverpool featuring all the local youth orchestras and groups playing along the length of Hope street - starting in the RC Cathedral and ending in the Anglican. It was called the Valley and the Hill. Unfortunately he (Williamson) was fighting some personal demons at the time and couldn't complete the work on time. It was never made clear but my understanding was that quite a bit ended up being composed by the Deputy head of Music for Liverpool at the time who conducted the recordings we did which were then piped out along the route of the procession. For young players it was a very exciting thing to be involved in.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 14:32:33 BDT
Lez: Presumably someone had heard of Malcolm Williamson for him to get the job. He was indeed Australian (I'd forgotten that) but the as ever invaluable Wikipedia tells us he spent 50+ of his 72 years in London.

I had a friend (now sadly deceased) who knew Williamson personally and was a great enthusiast for his music. It wasn't an enthusiasm I shared. And, yes, I had heard of Williamson before the one-step removed connection.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 14:58:01 BDT
...well, isn't Australia still part of the common-wealth?

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 15:09:52 BDT
mancheeros says:
Rasmus, that's a difficult question to answer with any certainty. However, Maxwell Davies dedicated his 8th Naxos (String) Quartet to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her eightieth birthday; the 18-minute work is inspired by John Dowland's Queen Elizabeth's Galliard. I've listened to the work a few times on CD and I've enjoyed it very much. It's not celebratory in mood; rather, mistily introspective and delicate. The galliard breaks through towards the end like a benign ghost from the past. Well worth checking out.

As for Malcolm Williamson, this short article paints an interesting portrait...

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 15:10:29 BDT
Yes it is indeed but the post of Master of the Queen's Music is a British not a Commonwealth post.

MW was more prolific than I thought and wrote a good deal of music for his native Australia. He was commissioned to write a work for the 1977 Jubilee by the Three Choirs Festival and I think he intended his 'Mass for Christ the King' to be his magnum opus. Unfortunately it wasn't ready in time for the Jubilee but it has been performed. I have heard at least some of it, as far as I can recall, but wasn't enthused - no reflection on MW.

Posted on 27 Jun 2013 17:28:31 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jun 2013 17:53:41 BDT
scarecrow says:
Yes I'd say a permanent strain exists of music composers, those with indefatigable national energies intensities within their lot whether overly demonstrative or subtle focused round some cognizant national icon, and some remainder national spirit. .

.Across the Pond we certainly have this as well, even more demonstrative with our upcoming Day of Independence, the Fourth of July, we are bombarded with national militant overtures, rousing Sousa Marches,forgotten or not historical exploits consistent with the Monroe Doctrine, and or the Truman Doctrine or arrogant imperial designs. It is all there on display with full fusillades of fireworks, the skies opening to graphic multi-coloured nocturnal configurations proclaiming freedom for the common man, those burdened now with excessive domestic debt. . .where employment and education and health are all held at a premium. . .a very stiff price, to participate in democratic freedom, more wealth is demanded I'm afraid to say. . Thomas Jefferson did say the Tree of Freedom must be soiled,spattered with blood from time to time. . . .well music can help create a culture round where this tree is "nourished". . .

I'd suspect the Royals, love to honor themselves, contemplate their Vast Greatnesses with a music that adheres more to an aristocratic melos,as Elgar,Arnold Bax, as Vaughn Williams, as Britten,and newly Knighted post-war generations as exhibited by the likes of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and George Benjamin although for Mr.Benjamin his study in France with Messiaen made him all the more a discoverer, a search-monger of his true infallible modernist voice.
Or as the lapidarian creator Mr. Brian Ferneyhough (never Knighted as yet), also breeds a Euro intellectualism to cross borders yet proclaiming a provincial nature that does betray his boots, his roots there at the Birmingham School. . .

The Germans and the French burdened now in differing degrees of debt persuasions with the austerity of Europe hanging over them; it seems they overextended their capital generosity,Alas! made the Greeks, the Irish, the Spaniards, the Portuguese too dependent on credit default swaps and mega- hedge funds that turned the debt rot around back toward them, ,
Now they want to squeeze them dry, turn them to sawdust, anti-up now all the national Greek Treasures, and whole islands if need be. . in mortgage payment for whatever is outstanding in the red. . . well in the mire of these capital $$ darknesses proclaiming the national ethos helps drown out the sorrows of permanent unemployment, of permanent debt. The Spirit rises while the unemployment lines are accreted every hour. .

We find the Germans at a pecker-pace sponsoring their own clones of Stockhausens,of Lachenmanns the Rihms that inhabit the MotherLand. .No price is small, Lachenmann had countless rehearsals for his opera "The Little Match Seller", not a pleasant subject for these times. . .But we do depend upon the composer as Lachenmann for his radical sensibility to inform us, No one else does;
but yes Middle Europa have been quite the mecca for intensive modernity.. . . harboring the lot of artists from over the globe. . .
I'd say now that there is centered musical product,simply modernity as we have known it. . . Habermas did tell us long ago, that modernity never died,it was in exile, shoveled out the door with a broom. . . and is now back with a vengeance, safe and secure un-virused. . .well idle hands becomes the devils work, better to write high complexity than nothing at all. . .
Berlin alone can upturn countless artistic spirits, musical venues, aesthetic persuasions,with the ''gods'' of modernity still hovering like a spectre. . . . any form,genre,design or aesthetic diagonal. .it's all there, along with the debt, beside it. . .

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 19:15:28 BDT
enthusiast says:
An excellent post, JJ. Nationalism in music was (/is) about difference, rather than about jingoism or fascism. There was a time when serious music had to be Austro-German and that time is gone. Now a composer can be taken seriously while exploring her national heritage or while ignoring it. Nationalism is an option and it helps to ensure that the sense of there being a single tradition is well and truly dead.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2013 19:15:59 BDT
enthusiast says:
That made me laugh, Rasmus.

Posted on 28 Jun 2013 01:16:24 BDT
Anonymouse says:
I agree wholeheartedly about difference, by the way.

But I put my money on individual composers, not on nations. That's where you get real differences, differences with teeth. (And perhaps claws as well, rrrRRRAAWWwwrrr.)

Put a couple of Germans on the table, for instance, say Lachenmann and Neumann and Bruemmer. What do these three have in common? A bit. They're very different from each other, though. More different from each other than "German" would lead you to believe. So if difference is what you genuinely value, then individuals are the best thing for that.

And who's the spiritual heir of Lachemann? Mark Andre, who's French.

And who does Andrea hang out with? Poles and Japanese.

And Ludwig? Well the whole electroacoustic world, once the brief flurry of competition between the French and the Germans was over, which was almost immediately, pace Stockhausen's "Gesang," has been very much international all along.

Those are the two main things I see in the shows I go to and in the CDs and sound files I buy, internationalism and individuality.

Posted on 28 Jun 2013 02:00:01 BDT
Larkinfield says:
I rarely think of music in nationalities. I think in terms of qualities and attributes. Chopin and Debussy are infinity refined. There's the purity of heart and literary intelligence of Schumann. Beethoven is the grand mover and shaker of the universe, standing up to the gods and demanding his right to explore, expand and express himself. The substantiality of Brahms. But I rarely if ever choose to listen to music simply because it's labeled German, French or Swahili. Perhaps this is because there's something universal in the music of the great composers that transcends their country of origins and has the ability to speak to the hearts of people everywhere. ♬

Posted on 28 Jun 2013 09:41:25 BDT
Bruce says:
I think it's too simplistic to dismiss certain composers as "nationalistic" - so for example, Vaughan Williams' symphonies explore his experiences of world war and are in many ways "international" in their inspiration.

Turnage is one of the most successful modern composers identified as British - but his music is very much infused with American Jazz and many other elements.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2013 10:12:37 BDT
Thanks for saying so, enthusiast!

Posted on 28 Jun 2013 13:14:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Jun 2013 14:36:43 BDT
scarecrow says:
there is still a hard barrier, a border for the new for the composer clones I had mentioned,
Yes there seems to be an international modernist language at play today,this is what post-or after modernity was suppose to liberate. . . the center emanates from who you study with, this determines your lot and destiny. . So if you had studied the annals of spectral composition with the late Grisey, or "noise assemblage" with Lachenmann or the "universe spirits" of Stockhausen, or Eotvos, or Ferneyhough or the late indefatigable Franco Donatoni you'd be well off, anyone else? (!) I';m afraid would equal the wards in Jarndyce and Jarndyce. . .

but Euro-composers and their Asian counterparts find it a hard lot to penetrate the Grand USA, only in designated venues as New York City, and academia are such composers as Turnage,Hosokawa, Takamitsu, Radulescu, Marc Andre, Lachenmann, Georg Haas even known to the'' Mighty 200'', where they flourish as the black roosters. . .

(Pierre Boulez once quipped that you find at least 200 enthusiast in any Metro-Metropolis that follow as ''wretched dogs'' do, the new in music, showing up at venues with hidden recording apparati, then selling (or not) bootlegged reproductions)
Look to academia and their agents(Euro-Consulates)these revered citadels provides the safe-ground, the'' zone of comfort'' for these composers to flourish as they need be. . .there is no free market$ for them. . . . they are as babes in the woods . .
the'' mother's milk'' comes from the center. . and the center is nourished$ populated with national capital. . . .$$. . .

Curious when Pierre Boulez was granted his lauded appointment, at the New York Philharmonic (circa early Seventies), he called a meeting of all New York City resident composers. . and reproached---
"What shall I do for the new in music gentlemen",
Frederic Rzewski chimed,
"Simply do more of it Pierre. . ."
well yes he did but negotiated to a ''hand-select'',
However Mr.Rzewski got a piece played as I recall, "struggle" was the piece. . . .sort of a paradigm to future brethren. .

Posted on 28 Jun 2013 13:57:33 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Jun 2013 13:59:37 BDT
mancheeros says:
Musical nationalism is still alive in France. In 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution the authorities commissioned some original music from that well known French composer (wait for it) Michael Nyman. Nyman's music (which I have on cassette, the CD was difficult to find) is tremendous fun - full of good tunes, driving rhythms, and triumphal gestures; the latter laced with postmodern irony perhaps. Amusingly, Nyman recycled some of this 'French music' for Peter Greenaway's very English Shakespearean film Prospero's Books. I would be very happy to see Nyman become the new Master of the Queen's Music. His music is steeped in English Early/Baroque Music - Purcell, in particular. Nyman is never stuffy. He writes memorable melodies (as well as borrowing tunes from others) and arranges them in ways that are accessible yet intriguing. He's an idiosyncratic popular composer.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2013 16:39:35 BDT
mancheeros says:
btw, here's the anthem of the European Union...

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2013 16:59:31 BDT
JayJayDee says:
...."the as ever invaluable Wikipedia tells us he spent 50+ of his 72 years in London.".....

Most of 'em do.
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Initial post:  27 Jun 2013
Latest post:  30 Jun 2013

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