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Is it more difficult to get the deceptively simple things perfectly right...

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Showing 1-25 of 56 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Dec 2013, 10:08:07 GMT
than to produce a work of great complexity? I ask this as I was listening to Gymnopedies last night to chill out. Everything is right and in its place. Seems in writing a minimalist works every note has to count and any unnecessary extra notes could ruin the whole vibe. With a complex work I guess unnecessary notes can be ignored.

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 10:18:20 GMT
I think it is equally difficult to produce 'deceptively simple' works and complex works. No doubt there are complex works that have too many notes but I don't think it is a rule. Great composers such as Mozart and Bach were able to produce works in both categories.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2013, 10:21:47 GMT
Mondoro says:
Nugent Dirt: a very interesting thought. I can see where you are coming from, the notion of a composer literally skating on the edge, with the dangers of seeming banal or simply boring the listener to death if he goes over the edge. It requires a very fine judgement. Satie certainly succeeds with the Gymnopedies - though the second is less interesting than the other two - and in the Gnossiennes.

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 11:59:25 GMT
Bruce says:
I think it's possibly the opposite - there are not many people who could have written a Mahler symphony. But there are many, simple but perfect melodies in hymns, folk music and even in pop music you hear tunes which seem perfect in their simplicity. The world is awash with thousands and thousands of great, simple tunes - but there are very few great symphonists!

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 12:31:40 GMT
Slightly off topic:

Is it more difficult to PLAY the deceptively simple things perfectly right... :

On the radio I heard a discussion of Mozart's 20th Piano Concerto. Danish pianist Marie Rørbech pointed out which part was the most difficult to get right and one of the other panel members said:
- "But you can play that part with just one finger!?"
and she answered:
- "Yes, exactly!"

It's the old story of Mozart being "too easy for children, and too difficult for pianists".

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 13:01:18 GMT
Anonymouse says:
Is there such a thing as "perfectly right"?

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 13:39:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Dec 2013, 13:51:49 GMT
scarecrow says:
No-- there is not a perfectly right, but in great music, the "errors" remain hidden, imperceptible, and or are redeemed by the former or latter, subsequent moments eradicate it. . .
I've often felt something falling in our Beloved Mozart, and I said "don't worry the grace will return, and it always does; and we need recognize where Wolfgang was" at play", as in the Quintets. .the Trios. .
Debussy is a good study on what he learned from Satie, the First Book of preludes are an example of simplicity, though developed, fractured, you cannot altercate your own creative DNA,So that's why there is a Second Book of preludes, more austere, more abstract,less weight,Where is simplicity in principle in this Book?;
So Debussy had to be complex even though he embraced simplicity,
his" Pelleus et Melisande" is self-defeating in many moments for embracing simplicity,overdetermined. . He didn't know how to control simplicity,manipulate its complexity; it has its own dangers. . .Messiaen in his famous Paris classes gave a yearly Lecture just on this aspect of this Opera. . .When left alone, what is simplicity in its own right, what does it Transmit?,and When tampered with, what happens?

Bartok in his own subjectivity embraced simplicity,loved the mysteries of the nocturne, crikets, as the first 2 Piano Concerti, but also knew something had to happen in great music, something was missing with simplicity alone.

The late Cornelius Cardew, also embraced simplicity;knew the avant-garde was on a wrong path with complexity for its own sake, too self-indulgent, too Faustian,too transparent, and then where is the discourse of being human left. .
Howard Skempton (Cardew's student for a time) is a more focused study on simplicity, here He has created an entire existence based on this single principle.. .with a rich elegant oeuvre. . .Skempton has been writing choral pieces.

John Cage also learned these lessons from Satie, He considered him his undisclosed mentor. .. Cage wrote incredibly beautiful music, as the "Four" read as a string quartet, or the early Forties, String Quartet, many prepared piano compositions as well, one "To Marcel Duchamp" written in Alto Clef. . .

Ravel also embraced simplicity differently, but thought it could be Grandiose,"La Valse" being the extreme example, a leftover residue from Romanticism. . . .actually the "bones" of Romanticism. .

Look at the regimes of minimal music, it quickly got corrupted for composers loss on--- What To Do? with simplicity for its own sake,Not enough homework Boys!Too much late night partying!. . . Well it is a long tale, corruption begins when you introduce the cash-Box$, the eternal purse, and wanting to be loved by the masses. . "simplicity" is left like a penniless child staring into a candy-shop. . .

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2013, 13:52:21 GMT
>>Is there such a thing as "perfectly right"?<<

Probably not... that's why we keep listening to new recordings and try to explore new (to us) music...

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2013, 14:16:01 GMT
Mondoro says:
Scarecrow, Your last paragraph points to the dangers in writing 'simply' - that it is too easy to become formulaic, and to produce essentially the same thing over and over again. I'm sure other posters could nominate suitable candidates/works.

Posted on 11 Dec 2013, 18:22:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2013, 15:31:54 GMT
Edgar Self says:
This recalls theman who made a thing fool-proof, but not bloody fool-proof.

There's just such a one-note piano passage near the end of the siciliano second movement of Mozart's 23rd concerto, over pizzicati string agyrt-beats; and the famous one-note tune in the finale of Saint-Saens's fourth concerto, both of them dangerously simple -- so much so that such an elegant craftsman as Robert Casadesus pulled down two notes in his first record of the Saint-Saens. It was shocking, like hearing Michelangeli make a mistake.

Posted on 12 Dec 2013, 20:05:55 GMT
JayJayDee says:
It's pretty hard to get the beginning of Brahms Second Piano Concerto perfectly right.
Similarly Rach 3PC

Posted on 13 Dec 2013, 09:10:35 GMT
Mondoro says:
-and the beginning of the Beethoven 5th symphony - the first three notes are emphatically not triplets.

Posted on 13 Dec 2013, 13:40:27 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2013, 13:50:45 GMT
scarecrow says:

Well this is an example of where the market force feeds serious music, as in minimal music, Glass, Reich,Riley, Adams, they have discovered what Work within their music,what the Fans(and commissioning entities) love, so this is merely repeated, ad nauseum ad infinitum. . . They can't take risks, there in no insurance for dismal failures in new music anymore, there's no AIG behemoths and sovereigns there to bail out vulture capital--- as they did banks and brokerage houses. .

The sea anemone you know, I forgot what species, when a nice safe, plentiful food venue occurs in their existence, they proceed to eat their brain, this is short is the paradigm for new music creators today. . .

Jay Jay Dee, go to Sviatoslav Richter, he's got the Second Brahms internalized. . . .wondrous power from Slava. .

Rachmaninov you always have eternal Horowitz . . .or Sokolov. . .Murray Perhia, Krystian Zimerman..

Posted on 13 Dec 2013, 15:35:23 GMT
Edgar Self says:
That's a good example, Mondoro, one of the most common mistakes, playing the first three notes of Beethoven's fifth as a triplet, immediately contradicted by the following passage, and four and one. Even Furtwaengler struggles to get it right and make it clear.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2013, 15:55:42 GMT
Mondoro says:

I suspect that the fan base controls much of what Philip Glass publishes in what has become a very large output, though there are signs from time to time that he is trying to break out and do something different. His shorter works have tended to be more satisfactory - from that point of view- than his longer ones - the 3rd Symphony doesn't outstay its welcome, while the Second does. My ear cannot stand too many arpeggios.

Posted on 13 Dec 2013, 16:00:21 GMT
Mondoro says:

I remember a television lecture some years ago by (?) making this very point - and noting the difficulty that faced conductors in bringing in he orchestra after the initial quaver (eighth note to you??) rest.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2013, 16:30:47 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2013, 16:31:45 GMT
Bruce says:
I like a lot of Glass's music and I think when you get into it, you don't notice the arpeggios - they are like waves, rolling and shifting - simple patterns that like fractals in nature, reveal the broken symmetry of life , when played by humans rather than machines! ;-)

Some of his solo piano pieces belong in the category of very simple, but perfect!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2013, 17:01:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Dec 2013, 17:03:48 GMT
Edgar Self says:
Yes, exactly, Mondoro. It might have been a Bernstein lecture, although I recall only other things he said about the Fifth, and playing the first wrong sketches. It's a tough entry, thus so many conductors either don't read music or else settle for the incorrect triplet. This rhythm also pervades the finale ofEtienne Mehul's G-minor symphony, which Beethoven knew. Of course it's a common device, used almost to excess in the primo of Mozart's Concerto 25, but never as a triplet!

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2013, 23:14:39 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Richter (with Leinsdorf in Chicago ?) got it perfectly right, I agree.
Gilels comes close with both Jochum and (was it) Reiner?

Posted on 15 Dec 2013, 09:38:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2013, 10:15:04 GMT
As far as the Brahms B flat is concerned, Watts does so with Bernstein in New York, IMHO of course. I'm not a fan of his Rach 3, which struck me as slick and somewhat superficial when I bought it as a student, so I passed it on almost immediately (one of the music shops in town did part-ex on LPs).

On a different but related tack, I've just added to my collection the CD version of Karajan's Mendelssohn "Scottish" and "Italian" symphs.and "The Hebrides" overture. I have a treasured LP of the "Scottish" and the "Hebrides" which has gathered one or two scratches over the decades, and wanted to listen to those two positively stellar performances without waiting for said scratches to come and go. The relevance to this thread is that I don't anticipate playing the "Italian" much. The first and last movements are so quick that in places even the Berlin Phil's discipline loosens a bit (though they still contrive to sound wonderful), while the lovely third movement is so sleepy it almost grinds to a halt at one point, and I wouldn't have thought it was *that* difficult to avoid such misjudgements - or so they seem to me - in this lovely but uncomplicated piece.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2013, 19:40:29 GMT
JayJayDee says:
I prefer the Scottish but find that parts of the Italian haunt me.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Dec 2013, 21:16:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 15 Dec 2013, 22:22:10 GMT
Mandryka says:
Most of the music mentioned here I really don't like. Those Satie piano pieces, Cage's Four. There is one piece of music which I think is simple and which I love though - The Well Tuned Piano, the piece that lasts about four hours by LaMonte Young. I like The Harp of New Albion too, but that doesn't seem as simple. Maybe I'm wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013, 07:41:10 GMT
JayJayDee says:
I don't know LaMonte's work, but I can't help feeling that anything that is 4 hours long must either be terribly repetitive or fairly complex?

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013, 12:36:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Dec 2013, 12:45:00 GMT
scarecrow says:
the point of the "Well-Tuned Piano" was the "tuning" in Just Intonation" of the piano, the music is heavenly, and improvised most of the time,the music is very lyrical, very listener-friendly like metal wind chimes flowing in the breeze. . . .
the agenda here is to Hear the new intervals and overtones of the piano. Young simply "chisles " away at intervals of new ratios and overtone complexities. . But he has other works with more discreet focus again on overtones. . .
So follow the String Quartets of Ben Johnston, Kepler Quartet has recorded all of them now. . . they have a simplicity to them; the Sixth Quartet is my favorite of the Lot . . .an unending melody tossed between the four parts. . .
What disturbs me in much Just Intonation is the musical form is still old,moribund neo-classic,or worse as in Harry Partch using "blues". . . . What's the point of all this care and sensitivity to timbre of overtone structure, of newly discovered intervals when you have "dead" or misplaced forms you put them in. .
seems like you are simply using a used worn bandage to heal the same wound. . .bad metaphor. . . Form needs to move, to develop simultaneously with the work on intervals. . .

Many composers who have this affinity for nature, for ecology, for acoustic history still are stuck with Old forms to transmit, to project what they do,
This Sunday New York Times,Art Section had a year-end survey of new works which expand in dimensions,written by Corinna Da Fonseca-Wollheim (so they think).. . . Composers mentioned who were exceptional for Year End 2013;
are Janet Cardiff,(she did a reconstructed installations after Thomas Tallis) quite boring,Sorry, It eradicates the beauty of the Tallis, and transforms it into simply a void, and abyss of vocal sounds now without context of meaning. . it's on youtube. . Rand Steiger, Jonathan Berger, and Kevin James. . . (not the TV comedic actor)

What I found interesting was that composers today, of this persuasion, now seek to study ancient acoustic spaces, as the Chavin de Huantar in Peru. It seems the substance of these places still has not been "internalized" by these creators. . there seems to be the "accessible factor" at work, not allowing the materials to be what they are, this affinity for object-making, fetishized.
We will wait and see. I think some affinity for the physical universe, quantum thinking,math is also necessary. . .to give your musical subject some clarity and form without opening up your Bach chorales on your writing desk.

Posted on 16 Dec 2013, 13:50:37 GMT
Bruce says:
"the musical form is still old,moribund neo-classic,or worse..."

But can there really be anything new in terms of musical form - Schonberg went as far as you can go in terms of the musical notes we know and these are based on things that are pleasant to human ears. (Although you can still make an awful noise with just these!)

All you do if you try to go beyond that into the realms of micro tonality etc. , is create something that is "by definition" unpleasant to the human ear. It is now well-known that our brains are designed to look for patterns in everything and also that our ears have a certain range where harmonics in sound waves resonate with us.

I know a lot of composers believe there is nothing new to be written; only re-combinations of things that have gone before - but that's what we like - we enjoy familiarity, something we can latch on to, but which tells us a story that we haven't heard yet.

How many books tell the same story, how many films? We consume art all the time that is re-hashed and actively seek out things that resonate with the past - whether it's nostalgia or "retro-chic" - we love things that have their roots firmly in something we know and love! :-)
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