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Thread: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

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    Default Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    In this 'mini-lecture' excerpt from the Unanswered Question series, Leonard Bernstein highlights the importance of the fifth interval, anticipating the Circle of Fifths, which anticipates the twelve chromatic notes of Western music - and he credits Bach for pulling it all together? He credits Bach for finding balance between the diatonic and the chromatic, at any rate.

    Naturally, there has to be a lot of oversimplification in such a lecture, but I'm interested in thoughts on the general premise of his version of the history of music theory - and musical - development in the West.

    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Feb-28-2018 at 4:38am. Reason: misspelled bernstein
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ... I'm interested in thoughts on the general premise of his version of the history of music theory - and musical - development in the West. ...
    Too advanced. Didn't understand. Must've been intended for music-theory students who already know what all that stuff means, for instance "modulate" - I thought modulate was an electronics term.

    Not that anyone asked, but my own under-educated half-baked personal guessing hypothesis of Western music development, is that it all came about because of keyboard instruments (clavichords, harpsichords, whatever else they had that eventually led up to pianos). Especially that business with the black keys and white keys (we take it for granted, but at some point in time it must not have existed), so whoever invented that, IMO really made it a lot easier for everyone ever since then, to visualize note relationships. Once you can visualize note relationships, then anyone even without special music training can really go to town on fancying things up and making complex arrangements etc. Just my opinion! Probably wrong!

    Note that a music-major guy I know once told me about the church's influence on music harmony prior to idk 1400's or whenever (guess that would've been the Catholic Church then), but I can't remember how the story went, it's probably important though! Something about thirds, the church forbid thirds as being dissonant? or something like that? monks singing first all in unison, then 5ths and 4ths, can't remember the details.

    The Bernstein guy in Mark's video did say something about 4ths and 5ths, with 3rds coming later, but he neglected to tell us *why* it changed, why the 3rd suddenly (or gradually?) became acceptable. Without even some quick reference to the "why's", it's hard to follow what he's talking about.

    So... now that the ignorant rabble (me!) has spoken, let's hear what the people who actually know stuff have to say.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    The Bernstein guy in Mark's video did say something about 4ths and 5ths, with 3rds coming later, but he neglected to tell us *why* it changed, why the 3rd suddenly (or gradually?) became acceptable. Without even some quick reference to the "why's", it's hard to follow what he's talking about.
    I don't know much either JL, about all the "why's", but from listening to the entire lecture this was excerpted from (here if anyone's interested) I think it had to do with the discovery of harmonics and pitch intervals; what Bernstein calls "the harmonic series." When you play a note on a string, G for example, you get harmonics: What may sound like a single pitch is actual multiple pitches. The strongest harmonic (other than the octaves) would be the fifth interval, followed by the fourth and then the third, etc. I'm sure someone will correct me if I get off track here. Bernstein's lecture postulates that we have chosen these sounds, or recognize these sounds as a species because of these harmonic relationships, which are mathematical. In the full lecture video (see my link this post) he expounds on "Where do these notes come from?" beginning at about 27:00

    As an aside, the "Devil's interval" or "Devil's tritone" refers to the flatted fifth rather than the third.

    Must've been intended for music-theory students who already know what all that stuff means, for instance "modulate" - I thought modulate was an electronics term.
    About "modulation" - I think the term "to modulate" has been in use for music with a much longer history than the history of electronics. We're talking about sine waves, whether we discuss electronic theory (very recent stuff) or sonic theory (quite a long history). I remember once on the Johnny Cash show one of his guests suggested they do a song in a certain key, and Johnny acted dubious, "What key?" followed by, "And what does that modulate to?", the answer being "F#" - and reluctantly they began picking and grinning.

    Modulation - (disambiguation)
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Feb-28-2018 at 1:35pm. Reason: added "about modulation"
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    From Mark Gunter - "....I think the term "to modulate" has been in use for music with a much longer history ...". Quite so Mark. The term 'modulate / modulation' has been borrowed for use in electronics. It's musical meaning is ''to move from one key to another''.
    Here :- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_(music) All that was going on decades before electricity even,was discovered,
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Thanks Mark, for the additional clarification about harmonics and such, it's starting to make sense now.

    Also thanks to Ivan and Mark, for the info about modulation. I hadn't known, I'd only heard the tech/electronics usage - to be specific, when my dad was trying to explain to me how radio signals worked, that's where I remember the word from.

    Kinda ironic that I was unaware of the other usage though, because I strongly support early & contemporary non-tech-jargon usage of words. A year or so ago there was a different thread about a different word, where the electronics-type scientists were pitted against the rest of us, they thought their highly-specialized modern jargon was somehow more important and more 'right' than hundreds of years of common everyday usage by probably millions of people all around the world.

    So anyway, I learned a new word here today, or more accurately a new (to me) meaning for a word. Cool!

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Kinda ironic that I was unaware of the other usage though, because I strongly support early & contemporary non-tech-jargon usage of words. A year or so ago there was a different thread about a different word, where the electronics-type scientists were pitted against the rest of us, they thought their highly-specialized modern jargon was somehow more important and more 'right' than hundreds of years of common everyday usage by probably millions of people all around the world.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    The only thing that he didn't mention was that equal-temperament didn't enter the picture until around Bach's time, so all of his early example don't really show the overtone series very well. All of the fifths and fourths he played were equal-tempered, which makes them "out of tune" with the harmonic series. Not that his history was wrong, just that he couldn't give accurate examples.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    The only thing that he didn't mention was that equal-temperament didn't enter the picture until around Bach's time, so all of his early example don't really show the overtone series very well. All of the fifths and fourths he played were equal-tempered, which makes them "out of tune" with the harmonic series. Not that his history was wrong, just that he couldn't give accurate examples.
    That's a good point, David, but the fault is not with the lecturer ... it's rather with the video editor's excerpt. Some YouTuber excerpted this from a larger lecture. Actually, what you saw in the 5 minute clip is the culmination of lecture number one of a series on The Unanswered Question (the unanswered question being, "Whither music?").

    After finding this 5 minute clip, I watched the first lecture and part of the second before it became too boring for now. At any rate, in Mr. Bernstein's first lecture he does cover tempered ("tampered" with) tuning, which makes the use of the Circle of Fifths and the 12 note chromatic scale - a scale the degrees of which can be used as tonics to make so many diatonic scales - possible. As I wrote in the OP regarding particularly the five minute clip, "Naturally, there has to be a lot of oversimplification in such a lecture ..."

    This was an inter-disciplinary lecture at Harvard, where Bernstein is applying current thought about language studies to music studies. He's especially interested in aspects of the concept of universal language and the quest for a proto-language and the application of those to the field of music studies ... There is a high risk of boredom I suppose, but I have at least a cursory interest in both fields, linguistics and music, so it drew me in for awhile.

    For anyone interested, I put a link to the full video of the first lecture in post #3 - I figured there would be little interest in the academia, so I didn't bother to embed that video, but why not? Here it is. Approximately one hour.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    I just saw this thread for the first time. Thanks for starting it, Mark.

    Bernstein could sound rather pompous, but I remember (early 1960's ? ) seeing him on TV and enjoying his mini lectures about whatever pieces the NY Phil was about to play. I think it was the NY Philharmonic. He could speak in terms more familiar to unsophisticated listeners like me when he wanted to. I didn't feel like I was being talked down to, anyway.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    I love Lenny.

    We no longer live in a world where Bernstein's casual elitism and pomposity has any place on the popular airwaves. Like this video, wherein he compares folk songs and rock songs to baby talk:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN62uVbpBJE

    The withering away of the respect for authority... a good thing, all told, but sometimes I get nostalgic for really knowledgeable people just putting all the unwashed plebs in their place. While smoking a cigarette.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    The Bernstein guy in Mark's video .....
    That is pretty humorous to those of us growing up in the 1960s when he was the most prominent and influential orchestra conductor and composer in the world. He was probably broadcast nationally at least once a month for ten or fifteen years. His music to the West Side Story became international hits even on pop charts. It is hard to think of anyone today with his influence in the classical music world. Forty years later he becomes "that Bernstein guy in the video"

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Me & my band used to pay medlies of Bluegrass instrumentals at times. Not all were in the same key, & we had to practice how to 'modulate' from one song / tune to another - tricky if you're not using a capo.,but it's a term i've used for decades,
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Miltown View Post
    I love Lenny.

    We no longer live in a world where Bernstein's casual elitism and pomposity has any place on the popular airwaves. Like this video, wherein he compares folk songs and rock songs to baby talk:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN62uVbpBJE

    The withering away of the respect for authority... a good thing, all told, but sometimes I get nostalgic for really knowledgeable people just putting all the unwashed plebs in their place. While smoking a cigarette.

    I'm also a huge Bernstein fan, for his music, for his educational efforts, for his willingness to take a stand on ethical and political issues of his day, and to do it all with classical music.

    I don't agree, though, that he ever tried to "put the unwashed plebs in their place." His series of Young People's Concerts, broadcast on national television, were hugely popular, and went a long ways towards bringing people to symphonic music. "Colonel Bogey March," the tune he starts with in this video, is simple and repetitive—at least until his jazz guys have a go at it. The variations from Eroica, not so straightforward.

    Pop and folk music is structurally pretty simple, at least most of the time. Nothing wrong with that—a lot of it is good stuff. But, if all you are used to is "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the Sgt. Pepper album comes as a huge shock, and Beethoven, much less Mahler or Stravinsky, is thornier still. Bernstein was a genius at showing what goes into more complex forms of music.

    One thing to remember about early music is that most of it was written for the church. Intervals such as the fifth were considered holy, the third was pretty trashy, and the tritone? You could go to jail for that. My guess is that folk songs of the time used the third liberally.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    I'm also a huge Bernstein fan, for his music, for his educational efforts, for his willingness to take a stand on ethical and political issues of his day, and to do it all with classical music.

    I don't agree, though, that he ever tried to "put the unwashed plebs in their place." His series of Young People's Concerts, broadcast on national television, were hugely popular, and went a long ways towards bringing people to symphonic music. "Colonel Bogey March," the tune he starts with in this video, is simple and repetitive—at least until his jazz guys have a go at it. The variations from Eroica, not so straightforward.

    Pop and folk music is structurally pretty simple, at least most of the time. Nothing wrong with that—a lot of it is good stuff. But, if all you are used to is "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the Sgt. Pepper album comes as a huge shock, and Beethoven, much less Mahler or Stravinsky, is thornier still. Bernstein was a genius at showing what goes into more complex forms of music.

    One thing to remember about early music is that most of it was written for the church. Intervals such as the fifth were considered holy, the third was pretty trashy, and the tritone? You could go to jail for that. My guess is that folk songs of the time used the third liberally.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    The Bernstein guy in Mark's video .....
    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    That is pretty humorous to those of us growing up in the 1960s when he was the most prominent and influential orchestra conductor and composer in the world. He was probably broadcast nationally at least once a month for ten or fifteen years. His music to the West Side Story became international hits even on pop charts. It is hard to think of anyone today with his influence in the classical music world. Forty years later he becomes "that Bernstein guy in the video"
    Never heard of Bernstein until reading this thread.

    In the 1950s and most of the 1960s, my only musical exposure was the stuff we played at our local dances. We certainly wouldn't have had any desire to play any slick commercialized stuff even if we'd known about it.

    After leaving that scene, I was too busy working 15-hour shifts at a modern job to have much time for TV or indeed seldom even much time to play music except for once in a while hitting a festival on my yearly week vacation.

    So clearly I am still playing catch-up on a lot of the stuff I missed out on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Miltown View Post
    ... he compares folk songs and rock songs to baby talk:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN62uVbpBJE
    Oh dear. Seems I didn't miss out on as much as I thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    ... his willingness to take a stand on ethical and political issues of his day, and to do it all with classical music. ...
    Hmm. Interesting. I might look that up later. (I know we're not supposed to talk politics here, so I will refrain from inquiring further.)

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    In the 1950s and most of the 1960s, my only musical exposure was the stuff we played at our local dances. We certainly wouldn't have had any desire to play any slick commercialized stuff even if we'd known about it.

    After leaving that scene, I was too busy working 15-hour shifts at a modern job to have much time for TV or indeed seldom even much time to play music except for once in a while hitting a festival on my yearly week vacation.

    So clearly I am still playing catch-up on a lot of the stuff I missed out on.
    It is a at least a misunderstanding or perhaps a misrepresentation to refer to Leonard Bernstein as "slick" or "commercialized". He was highly prominent, at the top of the classical music world. He worked very hard to make it accessible to everyday people but not by dumbing it down. His primary role was as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also known as a composer and arranger. He was contemporary with with people like Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin and Vladimir Horowitz, all top flight musicians in their field but certainly not what could be characterized as slick or commercial. I sympathize with 15 hour shifts for the 20 plus years that he was active on the scene. That is a long time to work those hours. I have never been heavy into classical music but he was one of those superstars of that world who was broadly known.

    I am glad Mark posted this. Hopefully I can find time to see the full 15 hours. What I watched so far was interesting but pretty deep and academic. He did give a walk through Mozart's G minor symphony which gave me some new appreciation for it.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Those of us of a certain age will remember the huge Broadway hit that was West Side Story, for which he wrote the music. The classical world will remember how he revived the New York Philharmonic. I well remember how his recording of Aaron Copland's ballets "Rodeo" and Billy the Kid" rocked. I haven't heard them played that well since, speaking as someone who did that for a living. I had the pleasure of playing under him for a couple of weeks int the 80s when he came to Chicago. One of the rare ones, an incredible genius.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Hopefully I can find time to see the full 15 hours. What I watched so far was interesting but pretty deep and academic. He did give a walk through Mozart's G minor symphony which gave me some new appreciation for it.
    I returned and watched lecture two all the way through. Yes it is deep and academic, and best suited for folk interested both in music and philology or linguistics. I found the first lecture to be very interesting, but had trouble with the one on syntax. It seemed to me an impossible task of taking a classical piece and trying to determine what elements to equate to words, sentences, paragraphs or compositions. I can comprehend the likening of notes to phonemes for the most part, but the rest is like struggling through a jungle with a pocketknife for clearing the obstacles and a canopy obscuring the light. Maybe the four lectures on semantics would be of more value to me ... or maybe I need to watch the one on syntax a couple more times ... or probably, not. But I'm glad someone else finds this interdisciplinary stuff of interest.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    I watched lectures one and two. I am not sure I would agree with some of the detail of his analysis and believe he may be stretching a metaphor a bit too far with some of it. But the core ideas, that music is a language for the communication of certain emotional ideas that cannot necessarily be expressed in words, that there is an underlying structure to it are important. The questions at the bottom of it all is why do we create music, what does it express, is there a universal basis to it built into the structure of our brains or genetic code or is it all just noise that we arbitrarily assign meaning to and all rather silly. These are important questions and the answers are not easy. I hope to hear more of what he has to say.

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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    For those unfamiliar with Bernstein, you will be hearing his name a lot, as this year is the centennial of his birth.

    By 1943, he was an assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic. He made his conducting debut when a guest conductor fell ill, and Bernstein had to fill in with just a few hours' notice. (According to some sources, after little sleep and with a mighty hangover.) Difficult music on the program, no opportunity to rehearse with the orchestra beforehand. Concert in Carnegie Hall. Oh, and it was to be broadcast live over CBS radio. It was the mother of all high-wire acts, and the rookie pulled it off, without a net.

    At the time, the other prominent conductors were old, European, formal, and intimidating. The young, handsome American kid was a blast of welcome fresh air. He wrote music for ballet, stage, and screen, including On the Waterfront and West Side Story. For those not familiar with West Side Story, make some popcorn, fire up Netflix, and spend an evening with Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and Bernstein's incomparable score. You'll recognize parts.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    ... is there a universal basis to it built into the structure of our brains or genetic code ... These are important questions and the answers are not easy.
    I agree wholeheartedly with that; the implications of Chomsky's work for understanding or at least recognizing mind which Bernstein applies to music - with more handy solid data regarding music universalities than the linguists have regarding language - is interesting and important work.

    I could also probably make an addendum to my last post: Bernstein is using classical music examples in his lecture, as might be expected. Maybe looking at other musical forms or languages would be easier. For example, the call & response of blues music could be analyzed as musical dialog. That's how many musicians already think of it, and for good reason, IMO. It's fairly intuitive to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    For those not familiar with West Side Story, make some popcorn, fire up Netflix, and spend an evening with Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and Bernstein's incomparable score.
    + 1 again.
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Oh dear. Seems I didn't miss out on as much as I thought.
    Well, JL, you can take Miltown's word for it - or you can watch that video he referenced and judge for yourself. In fairness, Bernstein did make that comparison, but not necessarily in a disparaging way in my opinion. There is legitimacy in simple speech, there is a legitimacy in baby talk, etc. He says that repetition is characteristic of baby talk. Repetition is not exclusive to baby talk. My opinion is that Leonard Bernstein could appreciate many kinds of music, but could make a distinction between more simple vs. more complex musical ideas.

    Another point to consider, the lecturer is painting with a broad brush: He's speaking in generalities. Not all popular, folk, rock, etc. songs are as simple as the marching tune from the film, Bridge Over River Kwai. Have a listen to Cattle in the Cane (aka Cattle in the Corn). Though repetitive, it modulates between A Major and A Minor and is more complicated in its development than a tune like, for instance, Loch Lomand.

    And yet another point: Bernstein, particularly at that point in his career, had a vested interest in steering the public toward appreciation of Classical music. He's far from unbiased.
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Mar-05-2018 at 2:23am. Reason: Cleaning up errors
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  38. #23

    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Well, JL, you can take Miltown's word for it - or you can watch that video he referenced and judge for yourself. ...
    I did. The condescension and (IMO) outright wrong hypotheses presented as fact, made me feel quite literally physically ill. Sorry. I do not mean to seem disrespectful. I'm just saying how I felt when I watched it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ... Another point to consider, the lecturer is painting with a broad brush: He's speaking in generalities. Not all popular, folk, rock, etc. songs are as simple ...
    Good point. Maybe he was just ignorant and talking out of his [oops guess I can't use that word here]. If he was forming his opinion of folk, rock, etc, by written notes on a page (he did say something about their written notes), then yeah such tunes are going to seem simple. But no one but a fool would play the notes exactly as written time after time, after learning the tune. In most cases, the written notes are merely a bare-bones skeleton outline that the player is supposed to embellish and bring to life, based on the player's experience and familiarity with the genre.

    So - rather than playing a bunch of dead dry notes exactly as written, competent players will add their own subtle variations, ornaments, subtle rhythmic and phrasing variations, a ton of different things that experienced trad players do which don't show up in the written notes.

    But, a classically trained person might not know any better, would play the notes exactly as on the page (I have friends like that - drives me nuts), and then they'd think "wow this folk music is dull & simplistic, there's nothing to it," but they don't realize that *they* are screwing up by failing to interpret the music in the manner in which it's supposed to be played. That can't be put on paper.

    Bernstein thinks folk music is simplistic perhaps because he isn't qualified (doesn't have the necessary background) to actually *play* such music, rather perhaps he just reads it off a page and thinks "done, next." Well duh, yeah it's going to sound bad/simple.

    The way that good 'folk'/trad players actually play a piece probably could be put into writing - one could laboriously transcribe a particular recording of a master player's version note-for-note (I've done that to some extent, when trying to learn a particular player's style), where maybe they play the tune for a solid 4 minutes but they never repeat the same exact thing twice... it would turn out to be everything *except* the "simple" music that Bernstein disdains - but the notation would be so cluttered and complex that it would needlessly hard to read.

    It doesn't have to be a jazz player, either, to bring a tune to life (although they can do good too, albeit different). Anyone can do it if they have the background and enough 'soul' and 'feeling' to put into the music to transform lifeless notes into vibrant living music. My point again is to dispute Bernstein's notion that 'folk' and "simple" rock tunes are somehow inferior and simplistic; I would speculate that perhaps he simply hadn't heard any actual competent players (could he even learn strictly by ear??? ok so yeah he was a composer, I get that, but 'hearing' classical music in your head, vs 'hearing' a properly played folk/trad tune, are two different things) and was maybe relying too much on written notation as his reference point for 'folk' music, or - equally useless - relying on hearing uninspired bad players who were reading from said written notation.

    Example (has mandolin!) of a folk song that IMO defies simplicity, even though "on paper" it wouldn't look like much, but it's all in the performance and the artist's interpretation. Don't be put off by the lyrics, just listen to the overall music itself and the interplay of the mandolin and the voice-as-an-instrument, a "simple" folk song that's anything but simple, it has wonderful subtle variations of dynamics, rhythm, melody, and harmony - IMO a masterful interpretation:


    (or direct link)

    Incidentally, that's a Kentucky KM-272 he's playing; I'm thinking of getting one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ... And yet another point: Bernstein, particularly at that point in his career, had a vested interest in steering the public toward appreciation of Classical music. He's far from unbiased.
    Ah. Interesting! That puts a new angle on things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    For those unfamiliar with Bernstein, you will be hearing his name a lot, as this year is the centennial of his birth.

    By 1943, he was an assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic. He made his conducting debut when a guest conductor fell ill, and Bernstein had to fill in with just a few hours' notice. (According to some sources, after little sleep and with a mighty hangover.) Difficult music on the program, no opportunity to rehearse with the orchestra beforehand. Concert in Carnegie Hall. Oh, and it was to be broadcast live over CBS radio. It was the mother of all high-wire acts, and the rookie pulled it off, without a net.

    At the time, the other prominent conductors were old, European, formal, and intimidating. The young, handsome American kid was a blast of welcome fresh air. He wrote music for ballet, stage, and screen, including On the Waterfront and West Side Story. For those not familiar with West Side Story, make some popcorn, fire up Netflix, and spend an evening with Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and Bernstein's incomparable score. You'll recognize parts.
    Thanks, Louise, for filling in some of the details. I did spend some time today listening to the soundtracks of both those things you mentioned, and I guess I'm just a hopelessly incorrigible old geezerette but it... um... how do I say this diplomatically... well there's no diplomatic way, so I'll just say it - it all sounded the same to me. Each tune sounded like all the others. To me, *that* seems like "simple" music because it seems so formulaic, just straight western harmony stuff, and not much in the way of rhythm either. I didn't hear anything that I felt like tapping my foot to. It didn't 'move' me or make me feel anything other than mild irritation. It seems that I'm not cut out to be an orchestra-type person, (speculation follows) any more than Bernstein was cut out to be a 'folk' or rock type person.

    Music is most certainly *not* a universal language.

    Anyway, I meant no disrespect towards Mr. Bernstein's music, it's just that it doesn't reach me. I apparently do not have the required point of reference from which to appreciate it. But, not everyone is going to like all types of music. Different strokes an' all that.

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  40. #24
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    I'll just say it - it all sounded the same to me. Each tune sounded like all the others. To me, *that* seems like "simple" music because it seems so formulaic, just straight western harmony stuff, and not much in the way of rhythm either. I didn't hear anything that I felt like tapping my foot to. It didn't 'move' me or make me feel anything other than mild irritation. It seems that I'm not cut out to be an orchestra-type person, (speculation follows) any more than Bernstein was cut out to be a 'folk' or rock type person.


    Not sure which parts of WSS you listened to. Having played the Symphonic Dances From West Side Story a couple of times in orchestra, I can attest to the rhythmic complexity, especially in some of the dance and fight scenes. Lots of Latin rhythms used too. This was a Broadway show, then a Hollywood film. Much of it is pretty mainstream—it needed to be—and it was indeed popular. If you went to more than a couple of weddings in the 1960s, you heard "One Hand, One Heart" played.

    In any case, don't write Bernstein off as a snob based on comments in one five-minute clip a speech to a very specific audience. The "baby-talk" comment does fit the "Colonel Bogey March" example he was using. Simple tune, simple harmonies, repeated. I can't imagine it was an indictment of all folk traditions! As the father of three baby-boomer kids, he was familiar with popular music of the era, and said in other places he liked a lot of it.

    Music is most certainly *not* a universal language.

    Absolutely true! There are a couple of genres I don't see much in. Some that I love, you may hate, and vice versa. Maybe we can show each other what we like and find agreement, maybe not. Within genres I do like, there are bands or songs that send me up the wall, and I think everyone else around here is the same. Different strokes, exactly.
    1988 Reno mandolin, Trinity College mandola, Kentucky KM 272 oval hole mandolin, a few bowed string instruments and some stray woodwinds

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  42. #25
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bernstein's 5 minute music history lecture (NMC)

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    I did. The condescension and (IMO) outright wrong hypotheses presented as fact, made me feel quite literally physically ill. Sorry. I do not mean to seem disrespectful. I'm just saying how I felt when I watched it.
    Whoa. I'm really sorry it had that effect on you, JL.

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Good point. Maybe he was just ignorant and talking out of his [oops guess I can't use that word here].
    Really, I think it's more of the case that he was speaking in generalities regarding the musical skeletons (represented by notes of melody and harmony and rhythm) as might be written. I don't think it was out of ignorance though. And the man could certainly be arrogant. I had some great professors who were just as arrogant, but good, thought provoking teachers in spite of it. Personalities are as diverse as musical performances. And his bias from the standpoint that he had an interest in steering the public toward classical works cannot be discounted.

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Incidentally, that's a Kentucky KM-272 he's playing; I'm thinking of getting one.
    I've been thinking about those too! I don't have a decent oval hole, only an old bowl back that I truly hate.

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    Music is most certainly *not* a universal language.
    The "Music is the universal language" cliche is one 'factoid' that Bernstein deals with in lecture one of the series I first mentioned. I've found those lectures pretty interesting so far, as they explore the universality of certain aspects of music, while attempting to account for the divergent "tongues" that have resulted from usage, and asking the question about "What is for the future of music?"

    Nobody will appreciate or understand all forms of music. Some music will be irksome to you. In a way, this is similar to the way an English speaker will be unable to fully comprehend a speaker of Portugese, although both languages have derived from a past common tongue of the Indo-Germanic family of languages. All music may derive from common roots, but there is infinite variation.

    Likewise, a speaker of English may detest the dialect of another speaker of English even though he can well comprehend the words.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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