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Thread: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

  1. #26

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    In my earlier post I referred to a post by Eugene. That was a mistake - I was referring to this post by JeffD:

    "I think the prejudice comes from those not very conversant with classical music who don't see the mandolin in the orchestral videos they watch."
    Glad it was resolved. Credit where due . . .

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  3. #27

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    To take this just a bit further - why do you thing groups like The Dutch Chamber Orchestra and people like Alex Timmerman and Caterina Lichtenburg have had such huge success (not to mention so MANY phenomenal European and Middle Eastern artists) in Europe but, as far as I know, there is not an equivalent group as popular in the US and fewer Americans known for their expertise strictly on classical mandolin family. We seem to take the honors though for incredible multi-genre artists like Chris Thile and Mike Marshall. I could be wrong or vastly ignorant though LOL!
    I wish I knew. And here, North Americans seem less informed regarding dedicated repertoire and often only seem to know "classical" mandolin as transcriptions of popular classics originally composed for thingies that have nothing to do with mandolins. That makes me a little sad. As good as J. S. Bach's music is, it doesn't necessarily need additional promotion. But who knows Calace's worthy music . . . ?

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  5. #28
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Tomorrow will be different from today. Programs like this are opening eyes.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  7. #29

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    "Exciting." "Awesome." "Magical." "Amazing." "Beautiful." "Unbelievable." "Inspiring."

    I like.

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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    "BTW, I think that the European orchestra missed out on not having plucked strings to go with each section of bowed string. Along with the violins, violas, cellos and basses, there should be the mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and mandobasses."

    Agreed, and I talked about that after the Bruchsal Zupffest, but I was told that there were different traditions and ensembles from different cultures. Nearly all the orchestras I saw used classical guitar and bowed bass, and in the sheet music bins I could find no music for my mandocello. That got me studying the mandolin history--the "Romantic quartet" versus the "classical quartet," one using guitar, the other using mandocello. I guess we have to say vive la difference.

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  10. #31

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    The catechism of tradition is very slow to permit change. I think your last remark, Jim, is instructive. With all of the variety about, we're likely to see prolific use of mandolin instruments in 'formal' settings, but the symphony tradition being so ensconced in formalism will undoubtedly resist permeability. Perhaps until such time that the repertoire is created for the instrument.

    I recently posted about a group playing free 'jazz' (Astroturf Noise) using mandolin, and 'grass for some basis of departure. This rarity signifies an evolutionary step in the instrument's lexicon, as well. All told, mandolins are making inroads in music where they'd previously been underrepresented.

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  12. #32
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Walls are falling. Maybe in slow motion, but more musicians are crossing boundaries. Most here have probably seen this video:


    Now try this one:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySDbQa4FfaE

    Which do like better? Is one more jarring than the other? Does either seem inappropriate? Is either pandering to the audience by trying to make classical performance relevant, or by trying to trick the unwitting into listening to Bach or a contemporary song? Does your reaction to the insertion of "American Tune" into the Bach Brandenburg concerto change if you know where Paul Simon got the melody?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M4uUJibpvw

    Yup, lifted straight from Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.

    Institutions, whether symphony orchestras or bluegrass festivals, are large, slow-moving, and too often dedicated to preserving the status quo. Individuals, not so much. Professional bassists often play in symphonies and jazz groups to put together a living. Thile learns Bach, Paul McCartney wrote a cantata, and the Modern Mandolin Quartet recorded Dvorák, Bernstein, and Piazzola.

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  14. #33
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    From a slightly different perspective, "legitimate" classical instrument is an interesting inquiry.
    Almost all of the instruments being played today for "Classical" and "classical" music may not be "legitimate".
    Each has gone through numerous evolutions over the past centuries.
    Modifications were most often to increase volume as ensembles became larger to fill much more spacious performance venues.
    (Think chamber to symphony orchestras.)
    Many wind instruments saw significant updates to enhance range, chromatic playability, and general ergonomics.
    Drawing from museum collections, Early Music groups seek a return to historical specifications for recreating the sound Classical composers might've heard from the podium.
    A personal favorite is Beethoven Symphony No 5 in C Minor by John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique.

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  16. #34
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Interesting discussion. People just seem to love categorizing things and hate-ahs are always gonna hate.

    And in the interest of self awareness, I continue to be surprised of how guilty I am of being unable to always practice what I preach. I'm currently taking an on-line Blues mandolin class with Matt Flinner and someone asked how the blues of Yank Rachell should be categorized. I said that I just thought of it as Country Blues while others pointed out that it should be called Pre-war Blues. Maybe they're right but, however you categorize it, it's just awesome music. And, like the music discussed in this thread, it needs to be learned by more mandolin players and played/promoted so that others can continue to enjoy it.
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

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  18. #35

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    And you should have heard the reasons why I was not allowed to compose for electric guitar. I guess this was not around yet:

    Gratuitous wankery courtesy of Yngwie Malmsteen
    That said, I've been a fan of James "Jim" Bonney's concerto for electric guitar and winds "Chaos Theory" ever since hearing a live performance by Otterbein University's concert band with my friend Karl as soloist in the early 2000s. The work has gone on to pretty substantial popularity to the point of attracting flamboyant soloists with funny hats. I wouldn't complain about having more of such stuff available.

    [Looks like Vimeo links don't post correctly as embedded video; thus . . .]
    Chaos Theory feat. Christof Brill-Concerto for Electric Guitar and Wind Orchestra by James Bonney / HMD Gala 2019

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  20. #36
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    I knew this topic would generate a lot of discussion. Since my doctoral dissertation and much of my research is about the way people categorize music--and why--I am enjoying the exchange immensely. Apart from music, it is more or less wired into our brains to categorize things--sometimes as fundamental as the familiar fight or flight, sometimes as esoteric as "is it country blues or pre-war blues?" What seems unimportant to one listener is absolutely essential to another, and people spend hours arguing over the point. Plato and Aristotle disagreed on all this, so it's nothing new, but modern studies into neuroscience and linguistics have provided some new insights. Do categories, musical or otherwise, really exist, or do we impose them on "just plain things." Well.....

    Clearly some things are more alike than others. Bach and Vivaldi are different in some ways, but they are more similar to each other than to Bill Monroe. So anybody who says "You can't categorize music--it's just music" is wrong. There IS jazz, bluegrass, symphonic, hip-hop: they are not all the same. At the same time, the person who insists they know the exact line between this and that is, in most cases, wrong. Even and odd numbers, pretty clear distinction, pretty well defined (not sure about the square root of negative 1). Country blues versus pre-war blues? Not so clear. That's because the individuals doing the categorizing are a very big factor, their experience, their education, their culture and their language. For every person who says "that [bluegrass] music all sounds the same" there is someone saying "that [classical] music all sounds the same."

    If you hear a mixed set of music--jazz, classical, hip-hop, Broadway--you would probably use those broad labels. On the other hand, if you hear Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker, you would probably break down the "Jazz" category into different sub-styles (not a jazz scholar, but...). A university-trained music scholar like myself might use the word "classical" broadly when just chatting with people. But talking with fellow scholars I would be more specific--baroque, Romantic, polyphonic, minimalist, Second Viennese School 12-tone. It comes down to context, experience, and fuzzy, non-rigid lines between things, some more or less alike, some more or less different.
    Back to the original question, the mandolin is a legitimate classical instrument. Why? Because I said so. And Calace.

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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Was it on the back of the first Modern Mandolin Quartet album where Mike Marshall talks about the mandolin being considered "plebian" or just a folk instrument like the pan pipes or tine whistle. There was the issue of volume as well, hard for a Neapolitan mandolin to compete with a any bowed instrument, horn or percussion.
    At best the mandolin in the 18th and 19th centuries made it to "parlor" instrument, where some established composers did compos for "parlor music". I do think the 20th century mandolin orchestras are considered fringe to classical, they fall more in line with Hindemith's "Kammermusic", music written for smaller metropolitan orchestras. I think the 20th century was really the mandolins best century so far.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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  23. #38

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    Was it on the back of the first Modern Mandolin Quartet album where Mike Marshall talks about the mandolin being considered "plebian" or just a folk instrument like the pan pipes or tine whistle. There was the issue of volume as well, hard for a Neapolitan mandolin to compete with a any bowed instrument, horn or percussion.
    At best the mandolin in the 18th and 19th centuries made it to "parlor" instrument, where some established composers did compos for "parlor music". I do think the 20th century mandolin orchestras are considered fringe to classical, they fall more in line with Hindemith's "Kammermusic", music written for smaller metropolitan orchestras. I think the 20th century was really the mandolins best century so far.
    Right, same with guitar - Jacob mentioned this. Ya it's an interesting study - evolution. I like to consider the psycho-social dimensions here - the instrument (its status) is just a victim of all the vagaries of neurotic humans and our convoluted relationships


    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Imhoff View Post
    Do categories, musical or otherwise, really exist, or do we impose them on "just plain things." Well.....
    Now you're talking. Does a "thing" really exist?

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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Now you're talking. Does a "thing" really exist?
    Plato: no.
    Aristotle: yes.

    There, that settles it!
    By the way, a very reliable source tells me Plato and Aristotle were great classical mandolin players.

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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Catmandu I agree the latter half of the 20th century clearly belongs to the guitar, and is is strangely one of the main instruments to emerge from the establishment of industrial electricity, the electronic keyboard and synthesizer being the other main child of the electric grid ( I count electric bass with guitar), Segovia, Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and so on made that happen, not to mention Rickenbacker, Les Paul and Leo Fender. The mandolin remained for the most part in the acoustic realm. Why did luthiers in the 14th century Mediterranean region build mandolins and guitars, cause they sound cool. Once a thing is cool, it persists.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  27. #41
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    My impression is that Jim's definition of "legitimate" is more focussed on the instrument than the context of "legitimate classical instrument" as meant by the kind of people who would think like that. We know that it's a legitimate instrument on which to play classical music, however that assertion by us as mandolinist doesn't confer it's status as "legitimate" within the group who would define legitimate classical instrument. It's why I used the word irrelevant in my earlier post. A group who would define the structure of acceptable orchestral instrument for a Classical orchestra, also defines itself by those it excludes. Similarly they define "proper classical music aficionados" to delineate between themselves and the lesser listeners. It's there in the categorisation of radio stations over here too, only recently have people begun to admit to listening to Classic FM rather than Radio3. You could even see the shudder as they enter the concert hall & see the sponsorship banners with the logo. It's through this repeated exposure and the realisation that this sponsorship was the reason they could still attend a live performance that has begun to break down the barriers to legitimacy as defined by this set. Without their also being exposed to our instrument in a similar way within the context of a more modern and complete orchestral structure, enabling a richer palette of sound & dynamics, it will continue to be an outside instrument. Circumventing this will take the composition of engaging pieces of art music that attract the audiences, not because of their novelty value, rather because they could not be done with any other orchestral formation. When there has to be a mandolin/mandola/mandoloncello section embedded in the orchestra for the duration of an evenings performance, then we will be on the way to overcoming the plectrum blind-spot that informs the concept of legitimacy for the Classical set.

    Hanging a gifted soloist bauble on the tree for part of an evening helps inform the audience, but it is unlikely to be more than just a novelty experience until the instrument is also sitting in the ranks due to musical necessity.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Just want to say thank you to everyone who responded to this thread. Lot's of good thoughtful replies which are most helpful. Thank you.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

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  30. #43
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    This is, to an extent, relevant.

    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  32. #44
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Thanks to this thread I am hearing the Modern Mandolin Quartet's Americana album for the first time. Dvorak is one of my absolute favorite composers - particularly his quartet and piano works. This album is a thrill to hear!!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

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  34. #45
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Thanks to this thread I am hearing the Modern Mandolin Quartet's Americana album for the first time. Dvorak is one of my absolute favorite composers - particularly his quartet and piano works. This album is a thrill to hear!!!
    I find myself listening to this over and over again, thinking "They sound like a string quartet!" Then I laugh at myself; of course they do. The pluck verses bow and tremolo issues just disappear into the music. I agree with Beanzy that there is still the "novelty" problem with this, as in "Oh look, they're playing Dworak on mandolins!" But the artistry and beauty overwhelm that. I think this mission of recognizing and accepting the mandolin as a (excuse the air quotes) "legitimate classical" instrument has to be three-pronged: Masterful performances of great string music like this, quartet and orchestral; local mandolin orchestras and artists working with public school and university string programs; and the inclusion of fine literature, e.g. Calace and Munier, as well as the Golden Age material in music appreciation and history courses. Oh, maybe four: as Beanzy suggests, new compositions that embrace mandolin within a "legitimate" chamber and orchestral ensemble.

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  36. #46
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Not a musicologist; not a trained musician; just a guy who is crazy about classical
    mandolin. I was looking at Beethoven piano and mandolin duets hoping there was something in there that just possibly I could struggle through as my spouse Nancy plays the piano (she's the expert LOL). That's when I started wondering about why sometimes people say the mandolin isn't a "legitimate" classical instrument. Why is that? Thanks.
    They're the same kind of people who concern themselves with whether someone was born "on the wrong side of the sheets."

    Pretentious prigs, stuck-up snobs, judgemental jerks; not enough coffee in me to continue with the alliteration, alas.

  37. #47

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    I enjoy (as a spectator) these kinds of classification debate because they reveal each proponent's assumptions and prejudices. Some of which match Bob A's categorisation.

    A cladistic response is a good way of turning up the heat. This is the biologist's method of classification by reference to closest common ancestor. So the hyrax looks like a marmot, but is really much more an elephant or sea cow!

    I'm mainly a ukulele player, whose ancestors are the machete and further back the baroque guitar. By ancestry, a legitimate orchestral instrument.

    The mandolin's ancestry leads back to the lute, and previously the oud. Oops, fine for chamber music but not for orchestras (unless we count the baroque orchestra, which of course was an ancestor of the classical orchestra, romantic orchestra, etc, and thus cladistically is in the same classification).

    I can probably only step aside from all this rubbish by taking up the serpent - boogie woogie style, I think (though the serpent spawned the tuba so I might still be lost).

    Click image for larger version. 

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  39. #48
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    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    There are some parallels or at least similarities in biological cladistics and the evolution of instruments, finding ancestral origins and such. And instruments "evolved" as builders made adjustments for sonic or technical reasons. Gibson's carved tops were designed to put out more sound like the violin, and people tell me modern mandocellos are easier to play than my classic 1912 K4. But Bob A's point about "judgemental jerks" is also relevant because in general people categorize based on their experience and context--not cladistics. Maybe a little harsh ("jerks"?) but most people, including most of my higher ed music colleagues, have not seen a mandolin orchestra or heard of Calace or Munier.
    But I like this thread because of my own research into music categorization and because it supports the need to promote the mandolin as a respected serious instrument, like the fiddle... Oh-- I meant "violin."
    jim

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  41. #49

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    I suspect ProfChris may be a biologist, no? I'm a biologist on the day job as well. It's sometimes an interesting exercise to think of music and musical instruments in terms of cladistics/biological systematics, but we have to be careful not to venture too deeply into that rabbit hole, not to expect/project the kind of rigid rules that apply to biological inheritance of/on music or organology. Inspiration in fields of human creativity isn't perfectly analogous to lineage. All biological progeny are products of their progenitors, and hybridization among distantly related things don't/can't result in viable interspecific chimera's (fruit bats and crocodiles don't parent winged-dragon hybrids). However, chimeras in music and musical instruments are commonplace via inspiration.

  42. #50

    Default Re: The "legitimate classical instrument" thing..

    I'm actually a lawyer, not a biologist, but I read about evolutionary biology for fun. I enjoy the cladist/non-cladist taxonomical debates because those at the extremes put their positions forward as some kind of objective truth, not realising that they are merely devising a classification rule which is no more objective than anyone else's. Lawyers know that they are making their rules up!

    I think the music is the most important thing. Here's my friend Sam Muir on an even more 'illegitimate' instrument than the mandolin, but it still sounds like Bach to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoKXWD6C3iY

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