There is so much great music out there, but where to begin? My Listening Recommendations articles, collected at this page, attempt to provide interested listeners with specific suggestions while also constructing a broad historical context around this music. My suggestions are not always the best-known or most obvious choices, but they are ones which I find historically significant as well as engaging. This is music which I think everyone will enjoy, not only those with trained ears. As you delve into my articles be sure to also visit my Spotify for corresponding playlists.
The Fifth Rotation
I began my Fifth Rotation in June 2019. By that I mean this will be the fifth time I am charting music history through my CD purchases; see an outline of my previous CD purchases here. My goal is to fill perceived gaps in my collection and my knowledge. So far I have been content to take my time with earlier music, especially the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries where my collection has been considerably lacking. Also, as encouraged by the intercultural approach of Grawemeyer-recipient Joël Bons, I intend to expand my collection into non-Western music for the first time. These cultures have not only influenced the course of Western music at some time or another but, moreover, have contributed to our contemporary, worldview of music. As I complete my listening for each unit of CD purchases, I will be sharing my thoughts here. Check out my current three posts below.
More to Come!
Italy at the Turn of Eighteenth Century
Around Johann Sebastian Bach
Music of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
The six articles gathered here were written from February 2016 to December 2017. They outline much of the story of Western art music from c.1875 to c.1975. A Survey of Nineteenth-Century Nationalism looks at the emergence of national idioms in Russia, Bohemia, the United States, and elsewhere during the nineteenth century. This is followed by The Last of the Romantics which addresses the final generation of Romantic-era composers as they came to terms with the harmonic and formal innovations of Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, and Johannes Brahms. Then The Break with Traditional Tonality examines the first Modernists as they challenged and effectively defeated the tonal order in the years leading up to World War I. Two projected series continue this story. The first is called Toward New Principles and explores art music in the interwar years, a time when composers were actively searching for new principles of organization to replace outmoded tonality. A second series, The Modernist Adventure, addresses the aesthetic shift away from the neo-tonalities by avant-garde and experimental composers after World War II. I intend to add new articles over time to round-out these two series.
Contemporary music, as I define it, is any music which is no more than twenty-five years old; it is also best that its composer be alive and actively writing. The year 1975 also stands as a major dividing line as it represents the apparent collapse of the Modernist adventure and the onset of Post-Modernism. Indeed, it was in the 1970s that Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Benjamin Britten all died and Aaron Copland retired. These four have been called the last universally-known composers, and since that time rock and American popular music have usurped the once unchallenged prestige of classical music. In effect many composers have either retreated into academia, survived on state funding, or chosen to integrate aspects of popular music into their own idioms. And, while the mainstream of popular music has since the 1970s become utterly commercialized, other musicians working in the popular genres have attained an artistry of their own. My series Contemporary Voices, written in four parts from December 2015 to July 2016, explores all of these developments. Since that time, I have added a fifth article in the same spirit and plan to add further articles over time.