NOTE: Footnotes do not appear on blog. Only in document form.
Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) was a theorist and philosopher, who was the founder of the philosophy that evolved into communism in the twentieth century.
Based on Marx’s theories, Marxism was focused around opposing the forces of capitalism. With the increasingly commercial use of music, and the improved means of distribution, Marxist thought has interpreted music in a very different way to other schools of thought.
Theodor W. Adorno was a member of the Frankfurt School of social theory, a neo-Marxist form of Marxist social theory. He published many music criticisms, opposing the traditional nature of classical music, seeing it as conforming to the rules of capitalism. Adorno was a great fan of Schoenberg and his atonal music. This inspired Adorno’s own compositions. One of Marx’s main points is that the production line and specialisation has taken away from our abilities to be individually creative, that is, we can only do one small job, with no ability to see beyond it. Adorno’s theory was that music (its regular beat, its controlled timing) assisted us in becoming production line machines. We can’t think beyond the controlled timing. He addressed this through his compositions, the process and final result. A survivor from Warsaw (1947), used a tone downed twelve tone methodology
that Schoenberg had developed. One of the eventual goals of communism is that people will be able to create outside of structure or dogma. A free artist is one of the most important members of a utopian commune. Hence, Adorno’s encouragement of atonal music as a pure form of art. In his mind, atonal music represented part of the success of communism.
Adorno’s theories can be applied to Jazz; there are structures in jazz music but they are subverted and transcended. It’s the structure (and a musician’s ability to overcome them) that gives meaning to a piece of jazz. The 4/4 rhythm is often there but the emphasis is on the off beat, the structure itself a contradiction to conventional classical music. While jazz is by no means a result of Marxism, Marxism supports music that confronts capitalism and mainstream productivity. Music is seen as a part of society, a form of communication and entertainment. Mass production and the production method of main stream music only supports capitalism. Therefore a focus on performance was a large part of Adorno’s writings on music.
The Scratch Orchestra, which held its first meeting in 1969, is a good example of Marxists or socialists attempting to battle the parameters of modern popular music. Cornelius Cardew was the man behind the concept, where people of musical and non musical backgrounds came together to compose music. Everyone’s contribution was equally important and everyone would build of everyone else's melodies and rhythms. In a way the scratch orchestra was a parody of ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, where ultimately communism fails, because the system is always eventually abused or controlled because of human nature. Cardew himself was criticized for not being able to establish a fair foundation for the orchestra to operate on.
Marxism critiques the function of music. Has music been used to control people? What about marching music, or the use of music in war times? While this is a fair point, the role of music as a medium for revolution is undeniable; Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Karl Marx
First published Tue Aug 26, 2003; substantive revision Mon Jan 28, 2008
Found at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Theodor W. Adorno
First published Mon May 5, 2003; substantive revision Fri Aug 3, 2007
Theodor Adorno's Theory of Music and its Social Implications
by Moya K. Mason
Marxists.org - Music
Music and Marx - Ideas, Practice, Politics
Edited by Regula Burckhardt Qureshi
Published 2002 by Routledge, New York
Surrealism is a cultural movement that expressed itself through many mediums particularly the arts. Surrealism has a strong focus on manipulating reality, providing a juxtaposition to rational thought. In the 1920’s, particularly in France, surrealist music became more prominent. Andre Brenton, a French poet and theorist, is often associated with being the founder of surrealism. Surrealist music can be seen as a response to the rules and science that the Enlightenment or ‘Age of Reason’ brought to music compositions
. From this a focus developed for ‘surrealists’ to break away from rules and parameters of conventional music.
For musicians and artists, automatism was essential in their attempts to compose pieces that didn’t depend on ‘supervised thought’.
A key technique for surrealist musicians was to use ‘collage’ in their compositions, ‘cutting’ and ‘pasting’ different ideas and in terms of music melodies or rhythms, together to create a original composition. Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) was a composer who was fascinated by surrealism, and who wanted to move away from ‘academic romanticism’
. His most famous composition, composed in 1888, were were three Gymnopedies, orchestrated by Claude Debussy, with whom Satie later fll out due to Debussy’s success. However Satie’s ‘second career’
, that is, interest in surrealism, peaked when he composed music for the ballet ‘Parade’, in 1917, during the ‘Great War’. The score that included morse code tickers, propellers and a broken structure was accompanied by costume designs by the artist, Picasso. Most commonly referred to as a cubist, Picasso’s art exploits surrealist concepts, where ‘surrealism was an influence from the outside.’
Satie moved away from the norm, for example by not including bar lines in the Waltzes ‘Precieux Degoute’.
Again in France, George Antheil identified strongly with the surrealist movement. In Faust III, , Antheili used distortions of time, mechanical repetition and a focus on noise, or unorganised sound. His work Baller Mechanique, which used eight or more pianos and many abstracts sounds, caused riots in Paris in 1925. Anne Lebaron, the author of Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Musics, points out that the riots were ‘a surefire sign of a successful surrealist work.’
Lebaron also discusses why surrealist music was so undervalued by surrealist artists of the time. The main argument was that surrealist paintings created music in themselves while music with surrealist qualities only created a surrealist image or picture in the listener’s mind, therefore it was superficial as a surrealist medium.
A major argument in thinking on surrealist music is the contribution of technological advancements and the invention of electronic music. It is ironic that reason and mathematics lead to the medium that would inspire many surrealist compositions. Lebaron argues that surrealist music’s greatest advances were in the post modern world of the 1950’s. The shunning of conventional musical methods -such as melody, rhythm, tone- was explored much more deeply by composers such as John Cage and Ligeti but the argument remains that maths with its rules removed the abstract from a composition. However the new atonal ‘mash ups’ that composers explore today suggest an element of surrealism.
The modern disk jockey or electro genre composers base their compositions largely on the concept of ‘mash up’ or ‘sampling’ different sounds, songs and foley to make a remix or original composition. In this sense the ‘collage’ technique of surrealist musicians, mentioned above, is more prominent than ever in contemporary music.
Serdar-Hizili-Art.com - Picasso and Surrealism
French website. Translated Using Google.
The Free Library - ‘Pop Surrealism’
Reflections of Surrealism in Postmodern Music
By Anne LeBaron, Posted 18/2/2008
Parade (Ballet Rèaliste)
Composed by Erik Satie
Score - http://imslp.org/wiki/Parade_%28Ballet_Rèaliste%29_%28Satie,_Erik%29
Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought
By Juddith Irene Lochhead, Joseph Henery Auner
Rationalism is an ideology that is based upon reason and scientific understanding. As opposed to empiricism, where experience is the primary source of of knowledge and concepts
. Rationalism holds the notion that ideas and knowledge can be gained without relying on experience. The notion of Rationalism has been around since Socrates, an ancient greek philosopher (ca 470 - 299 B.C.E), who saw rational thought as the only way for people to understand themselves. Other prominent philosophers who dealt with rationalism include; Rene Descartes (1569 - 1650), Gottfried Leibniz (1646) and Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804).
When applied to music, rationalists understood music as a science
with its own rules and logic. Music, since Pythagoras, has always been seen as twofold concept: as a result of rational thought and mathematical thinking; or viewed more as sound - the result of humans interacting with instruments and each other and through experience creating music. With the Enlightenment in Europe in the mid eighteenth century, rationalism in music was deeply explored. During the Classical period, a focus was to contrast music to the previous Baroque period which was characterised by very elaborate pieces.
Philosopher and composer Jean-Philippe Rameau argued that anyone, even without knowledge of music theory, can understand harmony through instinct and rational thought. He believed that ‘music is the science of sounds’
The Rationalist understanding of music also gave birth to the concept of aleatory or ‘chance verses order’ in domains. Mathematics in music could both provide an exact sequence where the outcome is always determined or where mathematics allows for a random result. From my own experience, using the program MAX/MSP, I can appreciate this theory, as a completely mathematical and numeric based program based on theory can generate random numbers or be confined to parameters that determine the outcome of a tone, a harmony, a rhythm. Stochasticism is the ideology that focuses on a ‘random’ process which is non-deterministic. While sounds are randomly generated it is confined to a mathematical process. Iannis Xenakis (1922 - 2001), a Greek composer, was a pioneer in this area of music. His work ST/10-1,080262 (1962) was made using very complex probability calculations from a computer to create the piece.
John Cage (1912 - 1992) was another prominent composer who used mathematics in his compositions, using tone rows which transposed notes according to a set of rules. Similar methods were used in his compositions, such as Metamorphous (1938). Another famous composition of Cage’s, Music of Changes (1951), used of the I Ching, a famous Chinese writing to determine the music. Using a technique like this for music composition is known as serialism, a repeating pattern in music.
Arnold Schoenberg was the creator of this compositional method.
The Enlightenment saw a radical change from societies in the Western world that held God at the centre of music and the arts. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a famous composer who reflects this change. Much of the numeric systems reflected in his music is a result of his membership of the Freemasons; for example, significant numbers, such as 7 and 13 are utilised in his works.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Principally Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Last content change on August 19th 2004
Think Quest Library - Allegory of Music
By Francois Boucher
International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) - Petrucci Music Library
Last modified on 20th March 2010
Found at: http://imslp.org/wiki/Main_Page
The Encyclopedia Britannica - Serialism
Music & Culture in eighteenth-century Europe: a source book.
By Enrico Fybini, Bonnie J. Blackburn
Chapter 3 - European Rationalism and Theories of Harmony
Published By The University of Chicago Press
New Direction in Music - Edition: 7
By David Cope (University of Michigan)
Published by Waveland Press, 2001