Re: Serial music and transhumanist art forms

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sat May 07 2005 - 18:36:28 MDT

--- primeradiant <>

> Schoenberg's 'A Survivor from Warsaw'
> (op.44) is a 12-tone work that
> makes one of the most powerful moral statements
> of all time.

I don't know this piece but will seek it out.

> Two atonal works I find profoundly moving
> are Ligeti's 'Requiem' and
> 'Lux Aeterna' (parts of which are heard in
> Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddysey).
> You should see the score for the 'Requiem' -
> it's about three feet long and
> six inches wide! IMHO this work expresses a
> powerful posthuman vision. The
> surface texture of the work seems chaotic or
> aleatoric. It isn't. It's very
> precisely notated using various devices such as
> inverse and retrograde
> canons, carefully orchestrated tonal clusters
> etc. Who is the requiem for? I
> think it's for the humanity that the
> 'transformed' have left behind. Do the
> transformed weep or exult? Both, I think. Every
> time I hear it it gives me
> the heebie-jeebies...

Lux Aeterna, Requiem, and Atospheres from the
2001 soundtrack are indelible. I have a copy of
this soundtrack, and one of Kubrick's great
strengths as a filmmaker was his radar for
finding the right music. There is a piece of
soundtrack music at the climax of Full Metal
Jacket which deserves mention in this context, a
savage-sounding march of sorts with what sounds
like a hinge in bad need of oiling. Unfortunately
I can't seem to find info on this piece without
hunting up a DVD of the film.

I have to say, though, that I never really
thought of this music as 'atonal'. The chorus,
being a collection of individual singers, had to
sing individual notes, did they not? What does
the score tell them to do? To sing "inverse and
retrograde canons, carefully orchestrated tonal
clusters etc." Ligeti simply is not relying on
the old, predictable rules about what tones
'belong' while employing some venerable
strategies for the creation of structure, to
create something genuinely new.
Many listeners assume atonal music is 'tennis
without a net,' or simply noise, as noted in one
of the articles previously mentioned in this
thread (the other was a dead link). I found Brian
Eno's observation interesting: he said that
people who complained that 'popular' music had
hit a dead end were simply looking in the wrong
place for the innovation, and that many artists
were content to use old structures and forms as a
frame for experimentation in textures.
As I have noted elsewhere, it's getting harder
all the time to create something that someone
hasn't beaten you to; in a musical context, this
tends to necessitate longer, more complex
phrases, since the simple ones have been done to
death. Permutation City, you know. I can't tell
you how many people I hear banging on guitars in
4/4 time and wondering why they have trouble
coming up with a new sound.
To end on an amusing note: I read an article
about Lou Reed's infamously unlistenable 'Metal
Machine Music' album, in which the article's
author called up the record company to ask if
they were going to reissue it. They laughed and
hung up.

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