Written in 1911, but not premiered until 1918, Bartok wrote only this one opera during his life. This work is a good example of expressionism, a movement generally associated with the free atonal works of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. Like many expressionistic works, Bluebeard's Castle can be seen symbolically as an abstract psychoanalytic exploration. Lasting approximately one hour, there are only two singing roles: Judith (mezzo-soprano) and Bluebeard (Baritone). Since it's presented in one act, Bluebeard's Castle is usually paired with another short opera by another composer or often times with Bartók's pantomime ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin.
Krisztian Cser and Andrea Melath performing Bluebeard's Castle at the Tianjin Grand Theatre (China) in 2013
Judith and Bluebeard have recently married, and Judith arrives to live with Bluebeard in his castle. She knows of many rumors about the demise of Bluebeard’s former wives and fears she may become his next victim, yet she is intrigued by his secrets and truly loves Bluebeard. She decides to enter his home.
She confesses her love to Bluebeard and believes that through her love she will be able to change him. To begin, she demands that the doors be opened to bring light into the hall and make the house less gloomy. As she continues to profess her love for him, Bluebeard finally acquiesces and opens the first room.
The first room is a torture chamber which she finds both repulsive and intriguing. She pushes Bluebeard to continue opening doors. The second door is opened to reveal an armory of weapons. Behind the third door is an immeasurable treasure, and the fourth door discloses a beautiful garden. The fifth door is a room with a window overlooking Bluebeard’s vast kingdom. Items in each room are stained with blood. At the sixth door, Bluebeard begs her to stop and claims that the castle is as bright as it can be. Judith persists.
Bluebeard opens the sixth door and reveals sea of tears. This is the only room that is not bathed with blood. Bluebeard begs Judith to love him for who he is and not ask him to open the seventh door. Convinced that the corpses of Bluebeard’s former wives reside behind the seventh door, she accuses him of murder and insists that the final door be opened.
Upon opening the door Bleubeard’s three former wives silently emerged. They are alive and are wearing flowing gowns, crowns, and jewelry. Bluebeard lies before them and begins praising each one. Bluebeard turns to Judith and begins praising her as his fourth wife. She begs him to stop, but he begins placing jewelry on her. Soon, the weight is too much for her to bear and she submissively follows the first three wives along a beam of moonlight into the seventh room where she will exist in space between life and death.
Music Animation: The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemp (the Rite of Spring) premiered in 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Written for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, The Rite of Spring presents various Russian pagan rituals and ceremonies prompted by the arrival of spring. The work comes to a climax with the sacrifice of a young maiden.
The video below is the result of the collaboration between Stephen Malinowski and Jay Bacal to celebrate the centennial premiere of Stravinsky's masterwork. "See inside" this music with Stephen Malinowski's brilliant animation that places rhythm, orchestration, dynamics, pitch, and texture in this stunning video. To learn more about Stephen Malinowski's "Music Animation Machine", visit http://www.musanim.com.
Composer Synopsis: Ken Ueno
Ken Ueno (born 1970)
Winner of the 2006-2007 Rome Prize and the 2010-2011 Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno, is a composer, vocalist, improviser, and sound artist. His music coalesces diverse influences into a democratic sonic landscape. In addition to Heavy Metal sub-tone singing and throat singing, he is also informed by European avant-garde instrumental techniques, American experimentalism, and sawari or beautiful noise, an aesthetic in traditional Japanese music. His artistic mission is to champion sounds that have been overlooked or denied so that audiences reevaluate their musical potential. Ken’s music pushes the boundaries of perception and challenges traditional paradigms of beauty, and champions the talents of specific performers.
Ensembles and performers who have played Ken’s music include Kim Kashkashian and Robyn Schulkowsky, Frances-Marie Uitti, Mayumi Miyata, Teodoro Anzellotti, Aki Takahashi, Alarm Will Sound, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Steve Schick and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Lithuanian National Symphony, the Paul Dresher Ensemble (with Amy X Neuburg), the Nieuw Ensemble, Wendy Richman, Greg Oakes, Gabby Diaz, the Del Sol String Quartet, Vincent Royer, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the American Composers Orchestra (Whitaker Reading Session), the Cassatt Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the Atlas Ensemble, Relâche, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Dogs of Desire, the Orkest de Ereprijs, and the So Percussion Ensemble.
Ken’s music has been performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MusikTriennale Köln Festival, Ars Musica, Warsaw Autumn, the GAIDA festival, Darmstädter Ferienkurse, the Muziekgebouw, the Hopkins Center, Spoleto USA, and Steim. He has been the featured guest composer at the Takefu International Music Festival, Norfolk Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, the Pacific Rim Festival, the Intégrales New Music Festival, and the MANCA Festival. Ken’s piece for the Hilliard Ensemble, Shiroi Ishi, was featured in their repertoire for over ten years, with performances at such venues as Queen Elizabeth Hall in England, the Vienna Konzerthaus, and was aired on Italian national radio, RAI 3. Another work, Pharmakon, was performed dozens of times nationally by Eighth Blackbird during their 2001-2003 seasons. A portrait concert of Ken’s was featured on MaerzMusik in Berlin in 2011. In 2012, he was a featured artist on Other Minds 17. In 2014, Frances-Mairie Uitti and the Boston Modern Orchestra premiered his concerto for two-bow cello and orchestra this past January, and Guerilla Opera premiered a run of his chamber opera, Gallo, to critical acclaim. He has performed as soloist in his vocal concerto with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in New York and Boston, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Lithuanian National Symphony, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, and with orchestras in North Carolina and California.
Awards, grants, and fellowships that Ken has received include those from the American Academy in Rome, the American Academy in Berlin, Civitella Rainieri, the Townsend Center, the Fromm Music Foundation (2), New Music USA, the Aaron Copland House, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording, Meet the Composer (6), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Belgian-American Education Foundation, and Harvard University. He has twice received support from the Fromm Foundation to support orchestral commissions. He has also received support from the MAP Fund twice – for an evening-long work for Community MusicWorks and himself as vocalist, and for a work for the combined forces of the Prism Saxophone Quartet and the Partch Ensemble. A monograph CD of three of his concertos was released on the Bmop/sound label.
As a vocalist, Ken specializes in extended techniques (overtones, throat-singing, multiphonics, extreme registers, circular singing), and has collaborated in improvisations with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joey Baron, Ikue Mori, Robyn Schulkowsky, Joan Jeanrenaud, Pascal Contet, Gene Coleman, Tyshawn Sorey, David Wessel, Robin Hayward, John Kelly, Jorrit Dykstra, Kevork Mourad, Gilberto Bernardes, Hans Tutschku, James Coleman, and Vic Rawlings amongst others. Ken’s ongoing performance projects include collaborations with Tim Feeney, Matt Ingalls, Du Yun, and Lou Bunk.
In recent years, Ken has been collaborating with visual artists, architects, and video artists to create unique cross-disciplinary art works. With the artist, Angela Bulloch, he has created several audio installations (driven with custom software), which provide audio input that affect the way her mechanical drawing machine sculptures draw. These works have been exhibited at Art Basel as well as at Angela’s solo exhibition at the Wolfsburg Castle. In collaborating with the architect, Patrick Tighe, Ken created a custom software-driven 8-channel sound installation that provided the sonic environment for Tighe’s robotically carved foam construction. Working with the landscape architect, Jose Parral, he collaborated on videos, interactive video installations, and a multi-room intervention at the art space Rialto, in Rome, Italy. In 2013, Ken created a 24-channel audio installation, Liquid Lucretius, which was installed at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City for two months. Breath Cloud, a sound installation with 90-speakers was commissioned and installed at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in May, 2014. 2014 also saw the opening of his collaboration with the architect, Thomas Tsang, at the Inside-Out Museum in Beijing. The software-driven work sonically activates a stairwell as a resonant chamber, which leads to a sonic aperture with an opening outside the building, effectively turning the building into a large wind instrument.
Ken is currently an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and an M.M.A. from the Yale School of Music.
His bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. www.kenueno.com
The four major composers of the first half of the 20th century were Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartok, and Hindemith. They were all Europeans who came to the United States as adults, Europe being in a state of political turmoil during most of the period. The first two ended up on the West Coast and the second pair on the East Coast. Schoenberg and Hindemith became important composition teachers, the former at UCLA and the latter at Yale.
Many consider Stravinsky to be the greatest composer of the century. His ballet, The Rite of Spring, would probably win first prize for the greatest score of the century. Thousands of persons who have no interest in ballet or symphonic music came to know it through Disney's Fantasia, which supplied an animated plot based on the creation of the world and dinosaur warfare. While very amusing, it had nothing to do with the plot of the original ballet, a story of primitive rites, including human sacrifice, that might have given old Walt pause.
The ballet created a scandal and a riot when it opened in Paris in 1913. The music depicts the primitive rites of an ancient society. When you listen to it you may understand why it spawned the term "primitivism." Stravinsky sustained a high level of creativity during his long lifetime, going through several style changes, but nothing ever exceeded Rite of Spring in impact. This is a truly monumental work.
Bela Bartok was a Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist who collected folk material and used it in much of his composition. He composed fluently in every genre. His string quartets rival those of Beethoven in their importance to the repertoire. His Mikrokosmos is a six-volume graded piano series that explores in small pedagogical pieces the same techniques he used for his larger works. His most popular work is the Concerto for Orchestra, a work that might easily be mistaken for a symphony. The unusual title indicates his desire to link it with the concerto grosso of the Baroque, a precursor of the symphony.
Arnold Schoenberg is one of the most influential musicians in history. His method of composing with 12 tones created a paradigm that is studied by every composition student, just as he predicted. The technique assures that the composer avoids any combination of notes that would suggest tonality. A series of 12 chromatic notes is offered as prime material and then manipulated by inversion (upside down), retrogression (backwards), retrograde inversion (both), and transposition. As you listen to 12-tone music, often called serial music, the most important thing to remember is that it is a method of pitch selection, nothing more. It's a fairly simple paradigm to teach that provides almost endless possibility for thematic development.
Schoenberg is worshiped by musicologists and vilified by the public. Understanding what he was trying to do doesn't always help one to like the sound, but repeated listening and maturity does! Composers of film and TV scores have taken advantage of this musical language to communicate stress or fear to audiences. For that reason, young people much more accepting of this music than older people who haven't studied a lot of music. At any rate, Schoenberg had a great influence on younger composers, both as a professor at UCLA and through his music, which they imitated.
When he first started writing this music in Vienna, Schoenberg was ridiculed by critics and the public, but championed by no less than Gustav Mahler. His two most famous disciples also became major composers: Anton von Webern and Alban Berg. Because both studied with him in Vienna, where the movement began, it is sometimes called the Second Viennese School. [The first was Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.]
Paul Hindemith represents the aesthetic antipode to Schoenberg. He believed that tonality was as integral to music as gravity to our world—he considered it a force of nature. Indeed, tonality is based on the overtone series, which is a fact of acoustics, a branch of physics. While Hindemith was capable of writing some pretty dissonant music in his youth (the 1920s), his later works are much more accessible. His output is truly staggering in quantity and quality. His Symphonic Metamorphoses is an excellent introduction to his late style. The finale is a rousing march that sounds as if it might be the model for all the star wars music of the 70s.
As professor of composition at Yale, Hindemith trained a whole generation of fine young composers and established the Collegium Musicum for the performance of early music. Despite all his success as a composer, he continued to teach, conduct and perform all his life. He often appeared as a viola soloist with major symphony orchestras.
The Late 20th Century and American Music
The American musical scene since the Second World War has been dominated by popular styles. The introduction of radio, television, inexpensive recording and playback equipment, and new forms of electronic technology has changed the world of music in almost every way. You can now listen to music twenty-four hours a day without ever going to a concert.
The composition of art music has become largely an academic concern. Hundreds of aspiring composers of "serious" music enroll in conservatories as composition majors and then go on to earn doctorates in composition in university schools of music. Their goal is usually to obtain a position teaching music theory and composition in a college or university that will encourage them in their creative work. Academic composers write thousands of compositions every year and then work very hard to get them performed. If they are fortunate, they will have students and colleagues who will perform their music at the schools where they teach. The most fortunate ones—very few in number—will succeed in getting a professional symphony orchestra to program one of their works.
Even this rarified atmosphere has been radically changed in the last decade by the introduction of electronics. Composition students are now expected to master music technology: for music notation; for generating and synthesizing sound; and for computer-assisted instruction. Graduates of theory/composition programs now bring to the classroom the ability to oversee an electronic music studio and to maximize its potential for instruction of students.
Popular styles have been invading the world of academic music for a while now. [We have already observed how popular and folk music influenced art music in every period of music from the Medieval Period to the 20th century.] Music that was once regarded as degenerate at worst and unworthy of scholarly recognition at best is now taught in major schools of music.
This is Crossover Music, and it is one of the most important phenomena in late 20th century music. Crossover is not just happening in academic settings. Distinguished music venues like the Ravinia Festival have been featuring pop music for a long time. Even the most traditional symphony orchestras now have a pops series. Of course, these programming changes have come about as much from economic pressures as from societal changes.
But, Crossover Music is not restricted only to combinations of pop and art music. An increasing number of composers incorporate music of non-western cultures into their western art compositions. For example, three well known composers from the second half of the Century – Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, Lou Harrison and John Cage – all incorporated elements of far Eastern music and philosophy into their compositions. Significant composers today also utilize sounds from African music and Andean music (to cite just two musical cultures) into their music.
Jazz and art music also are used together in composition. In the first half of the Century George Gershwin wrote several beloved compositions in this style: the Opera, Porgy and Bess; the Rhapsody in Blue, the overture, An American In Paris. Darius Milhaud and Stravinsky also wrote significant compositions that blended the sound of jazz with art composition. In addition, some of the most successful composers of serious music have deep roots in popular styles. Leonard Bernstein is the best known example. Everyone knows his music for West Side Story though few are familiar with his symphonies. More recently, William Bolcom, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Music, has become a highly successful composer of symphonic and operatic music. His operas have been performed in recent seasons at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and his symphonic works are regularly featured on the programs of major symphony orchestra. One has only to hear a few bars of his music to be aware of the influence of American popular styles.
There are still many successful composers who operate outside this sphere and work in widely divergent styles. Pierre Boulez, a Frenchman who has held major conducting posts all over the world, is highly regarded both as an interpreter and a composer of serious music. Much of his music is written in a serial style in which all of the primary elements of the composition that are variable (melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tone color) are created in a row or matrix, similar to Schoenberg's 12-tone melodic row. This enables the composer to exert maximum control over the performance. A logical extension of this conception is that the music is taped or written and performed on a computer or synthesizer. This allows the composer to exert total control over the performance of his/her work. Electronics, indeed, play an important role in Boulez's creative work, as they do in the work of another serialist, the American Milton Babbitt, but not all of their compositions are electronic.
At the other extreme stand the composers who favor chance music. The American composer John Cage is the best-known representative of this style. Composers such as Cage believe that all sounds should be part of the musical spectrum and, thus, a composition should allow for free expression not only by the performers, but by the audience as well. Performers in some compositions by Cage are given instructions simply to make any sounds they wish within a defined spectrum for a given period of time. That, then, is the piece.
In the last twenty years the art music establishment has seen the erosion in interest in art music among general listeners due in part to its formal nature and elitist tendencies. Composers of art music have reacted to this trend by establishing new styles such as Minimalism that features small musical motives that are continuously repeated. Important composers working in this style are John Adams, Phillip Glass and Steve Reich.
Women composers are finally recognized for their compositional skills in the second half of the twentieth century. Ellen Taafe Zwillich, who is featured in your textbook, has won a Pulitzer Prize for her work as has Shulamit Ran, a Chicago composer who has taught at the University of Chicago and had residencies at the CSO and the Lyric Opera. Joan Tower, Pauline Oliveros, Chen Yi, and Augusta Read Thomas have also enjoyed a lot of success; their works are regularly included in the programming of major symphony orchestras.
Of course, the future of symphony orchestras and opera companies has been the subject of a lot of discussion. Critics charge that these venerable institutions of art music are obsolescent, calling them museums of ancient history. But critics don't buy tickets, and performances by the best orchestras and opera companies are usually sold out. It's hard to get a ticket to the most popular concerts, and not just pops concerts. The economic boom of the last two decades has provided the middle class with more money for entertainment and a taste for the finer things; and art music is still regarded as one of the finer things in life.
The experience of attending concerts of art music is not for everyone. Yet, there is a sufficient number of passionate admirers of it to fill concert halls and opera theatres, both here and in Europe. The Lyric Opera in Chicago has sold out its performances for many years, even those of contemporary operas. The Salzburg Festival in Austria routinely sells out all its performances at ticket prices that stagger the imagination.
People love music. They love theatre and literature and dance and painting and sculpture. Good times mean available money for the enjoyment of entertainment, and serious music is above all entertainment that stimulates the mind as well as the heart. More people attend professional wrestling than the opera, and more people watch MTV than listen to WFMT; the important thing to remember is that there are all types of music and art that can be enjoyed as long as a person is open to learning about and experiencing a diverse range of genres.
The same cultural needs that drive people to attend church or synagogue or go to the university also impel people to attend the symphony and the opera, and also keep books of fine literature and poetry in print and put new paintings on gallery walls. Fine art is part of the life of an educated person, and that's why music appreciation is part of your education at Lewis University.
The 21st Century
The musical eras assigned by musicologists are too often seen incorrectly as sudden and immediate shifts in musical practice and aesthetic--the result of artists suddenly rejecting conservative ideals of their age. There are examples of this, of course. The development of opera at the beginning of the 17th century greatly contributed to a new approach to music composition and performance. Later, the Viennese Secession movement, led by the artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), in the late 19th century was dedicated to overthrowing conservative Viennese taste. Additionally, the development of Schoenberg’s dodecaphonic technique in the early part of the 20th century is often viewed by many students as a sudden and complete rejection of traditional European musical aesthetics that came before it, or that this new technique represents a completely new direction in personal expression. In all of these examples, however, musical changes came through the continuation of established practices and development of ideas that preceded it. Schoenberg’s development was an extension of the work of Brahms and Wagner. Beethoven launched the European world into the Romantic era by continuing and developing the tradition of Viennese Classicism while combining it with a new level of personal expression. In all of these cases, as in the 21st century, a continuation of tradition consistently exceeds a sense of the iconoclastic.
The 20th century, a century of "isms", firmly placed composers into camps of practice and thought. Artists identified themselves, or were identified by others, as minimalist composers, serialist composers, neo-classical composers, spectral composers, electronic composers, cross-over composers, etc… These labels were attached to the composer and for the most part, composers infrequently diverted from their assigned “camp” except for significant points in their life. For example, Stravinsky came to fame during his primitivism period (“Rite of Spring”) but shifted to neo-classicism and finally to serialism toward the end of his life. Compositional technique was very much viewed synonymously with style.
The 21st century may very well become known as the century of pluralism. That is, all musical directions, styles, and techniques are embraced and allowed, or even expected, to coexist. Toward the end of the 20th century, composers by and large began to adopt a de-categorization in their approach to writing music. That is, works began to appear that weren’t simply minimalistic or serial, but instead they had a combination of many different techniques. The rules of the 20th century techniques began to be used more liberally. One could write a work with twelve-tone elements without being considered a serialist composer, for example. This de-categorization continues today and has dramatically expanded the composer’s vocabulary.
To be successful, the composer in the 21st century is expected to have a broad musical knowledge base. Composers today might work within a number of genres from writing acoustic chamber music to creating sound sculptures to composing music for film to programming interactive computer performance software. Today, composers today also tend to be very technically proficient and have at least rudimentary skills in audio engineering and production, graphic design, and marketing. These skills are vital since most composers are responsible for publishing, marketing, and distributing their music. To that end, composers spend a great deal of time, effort, and resources promoting and producing concerts. For their work to be heard, they must also help facilitate performances of their music as well as the music of others, which builds symbiotic relationships and contributes to the health of the new music world. Composers are expected to be active participants in the promotion of new music in general. This redefinition of “composer” as somewhat a “jack of all trades” has become necessary in our economic environment of dwindling resources for the arts.
Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you
Microphones and other equipment used in the government's research of changing soundscapes in the wild.
The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology defines acoustic ecology as: "the study of the relationship between living organisms and their sound environment."
An examination of acoustic ecology could take place with many goals, and not all of them may be obvious. The obvious example is an unwanted or even harmful noise, "Those jet engines set my teeth on edge" or "The neighbors' music makes it impossible to sleep" But ecology of sound goes hand-in-hand with many other types of ecology. To make a recording of an overgrown plot of land on Veteran's Parkway today will result in a much different (and observable) result six months from now when the plot has been built on as an industrial complex. The acoustic change in this location is just as apparent as the visual, olfactory, and pollutant change, and no less valid.
Humans can be very good listeners. It was an important skill that allowed our species to survive dangerous environments. But in an urban world that is choked with noise of all kinds, the constant din raises the noise floor to the point where our ability to listen goes unused and suffers from the neglect. Why is this such a bad thing? Because in its place, out of necessity, rises the ability to deafen. I would use the term 'ignore', but often the brain does not even register a sound when the ability to deafen is in place. It has often been surmised that if we could bring a good listener such as J.S. Bach to our present time, what would they think of the music, wouldn't they be amazed by cars, and so on, but one suspects that the most likely reaction would be an overwhelmed panic at the sheer influx of sensory data. In my own personal experience, I find a bustling urban city to be exciting and enjoyable, but there have been times traveling abroad when the newness of the sights, sounds, smells, and people create fatigue. Perhaps you have experienced an information overload like this before, or will in the future. The remedy is silence, and reconnecting with the ability to listen. The band Phish once sang,
. . .and I awoke,
faintly bouncing 'round the room
the echo of whomever spoke.
Are you having trouble connecting with the pieces of music in Music For The Listener? Eliminate those distractions. Confront your tendency to push the music into the background. And you might want to get ecological about your acoustics.
Read Scape 9, page 23-25 Milena Droumeva "The Music Must Always Play". Then, choose a location and journal the sounds in it with active listening. Don't pretend that a composer has written this soundscape, or that the voice of a composer is speaking to you with it. Instead as you move through, let the sounds be themselves, and observe their interactions and audibility. If you could see the sounds, what would their visualization look like? Are there any sounds that disappear as you move away? As you listen, were there any sounds present for a long time before you noticed them? What characteristics made them 'sneak up' on your perception like that? As you move around obstacles, how do the sounds change? Can you hear the difference between inside and outside soundscapes? Listen with intention. You can walk, but remain silent as possible for the entire journal. You might want to record the walk or take notes so that you can type it up later. If you want to group up to go on a soundwalk together, that would add another dimension as you learned how your perception differed from one another.