Why the lack of love for Bartok?


Well-Known Member
May 23, 2010
I thank God I had a 6th grade music teacher that played in the San Francisco Symphony. It is exposure and the more the better. It’s like fine wine, you drink Thundrerbird and then your life improves and you drink Romanee Conti...you have to have a taste to know if you like it. It’s called experience.


Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
E. England
I think all musicians are. They go to places mere mortals can only imagine.

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
My reaction to music is different. For me music is not about healing, it is about *excitement* of the mind.

Whenever I hear Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, what I follow is not so much the emotional narrative "from darkness to light" (if this often ascribed simplistic narrative is even correct), but I am just excited about the incredible quality and power of the musical proceedings, the uncanny forging of compelling musical flow across stark, constant contrasts of forms of motion (the last movement is sheer unbelievable when it comes to that).

Likewise, great modern classical music *excites* me with its musical proceedings, which become the more exciting the more I understand them.

And it is not even necessarily about emotion vs. intellect. For example, the last movement of Mahler's 7th Symphony could be superficially heard as just another triumphant ending. The casual listener might sense at the end that there is something wrong, but might move on nonetheless. But that is entirely misreading the emotion of the music. It is a false triumphalism, which has clear inflection points as to where the superficially perceived triumphant emotion goes horribly wrong, and intentionally so. Yet only when you follow the musical proceedings closely and follow these inflection points will you *understand* the *emotion*. By the way, in this respect Shostakovich has learned a lot from Mahler; the proceedings in the finales of his Fifth and Eigth, for example, can be in part directly traced back to what Mahler did in that finale of his Seventh and elsewhere.

Again, I don't hear it that way. I just love the *musical* tension that keeps me in its grip and excites me, and don't ascribe a lot of emotional meaning to unresolved tensions. In fact, many modern composers view their music as "absolute", that is, just as music in itself, and don't identify with a listening ethos that tries to fit their music into older concepts of tension and resolution.
That’s very cool Al, so the sonic tension of the music creates an emotional high. I get that. The explanations you and Tim make are eye opening for me. I do tend to get to a point where I go well, that isn’t working for me, so I look away to other music instead without pulling everything into its bits but this is really a fascinating riddle to un-ravel (ceaseless apologies).

The modernists (especially) architects, artists, and classical and jazz musicians very much got off on process and definitely as said earlier in the thread didn’t usually transpose a narrative onto their creations.

Typically with the art and architecture it was a pure exploration of form through some conceptual function. Interesting that in architecture they tended to utterly turn their back on any sentimentality and so used the function of things to create and direct all form so here the design of the perfected built environment was very much purely a machine for living.

Bartok clearly seems very caught up by the folk narrative or do you consider that he is not just transposing it but is also deconstructing it to then create his even more abstracted music. In the sketches of the Hungarian and the Romanian dances he just really seems to me caught in the sentiment and the narrative. It seems completely more a creation of the old world.

Also being a quite marginal opera dude I also bought Bartok’s Bluebeards castle and that may well have been the one meal too many for me for Bartok that made me turn away from investing into listening to more.

The architecture of the music is clearly less easy to visualise for me than the architecture of the built environment in the corresponding eras.

The moderns as artists didn’t do conventional landscapes or portraits or storytelling narratives of the experiences of others but it was all about the abstraction of the form and a celebration of the process that gave birth to the form. But still in an abstract work like Mondrian’s cubes or Henry Moore’s organic cubist sculptures there was still a centre weighted point of leading where the eye was directed and could rest. Maybe in the piston of the motion of Bartok I just couldn’t find that eventual point of rest.

But it’s great to get my head around it a bit more. I also get pulled into the unfolding invention in music but a continuous landscape without pause and a place to rest at the end and a corresponding point of reflection is so perfectly machine like. Fascinating but then clearly I was also exhausted by it.

I was watching a documentary the other day on the amazing engine that is the Flying Scotsman. That train was so modern! Perfect engineering and fast and powerful and unstoppable. Some could well just look at the engine and the movement of the wheels tirelessly and get completely lost in it. If I was on it I’d likely be drawn to first look at the mesmerising action of the wheels and the motion of undercarriage as straight line turns to cycle and then likely trace up the steam so eventually my eye would always then be directed up ultimately to the great quiet on the horizon and the distant landscape instead. Perhaps I am a victim of the need to resolve everything as a reflection of the great slow cycle of the natural world rather than the speeding infinite linearity of the industrially developed world.

Especially fascinating for me how different perceptual focus creates such a different experience of a trip and also perceptions of music. For me then maybe the classical of the moderns became more like a relentless engine rather than a journey. It just kept going and going and then it just stopped without me realising not just where it has been but also why it has been. Maybe in truth those questions aren’t always important.

But I absolutely do love Shosty, Stravinsky, and Scriabin (more so the former) and admittedly haven’t Bartoked, Berged or Weberned in quite a while. So I definitely cherry picked my way through the Moderns then picked up again with the post moderns like Taverner and Part and later also moved very comfortably into the contemporary classical music and still explore current classical reasonably often... but mostly have swung full cycle back to the alpha of classicism (where it started for me) with papa Bach and the big guns... Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, etc through to Shostakovich Stravinsky and Scriabin as a lovely bridge to the new age or the now age.
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