Daniel Waitzman & Friends, assisted by Circum-Arts Foundation, Inc., present

THE CONTRARIAN COMPOSER.

New Music by Daniel Waitzman.

© 2000 by Daniel Waitzman. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, December 3rd, 2000, at 2:00 P.M. Sharp. All tickets $10.00. St. Peter's Lutheran Church at CitiCorp Center, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, New York City.

DANIEL WAITZMAN, FLUTIST
ERIKO SATO* AND MITSURU TSUBOTA,* VIOLINISTS
LOUISE SCHULMAN,* VIOLIST
DAIRE FITZGERALD,* CELLIST
GERALD RANCK, FORTEPIANIST

PROGRAM:

Sonata in G Major in One Movement for Flute and Fortepiano (2000).** (In loving memory of Alex and Irene Waitzman.)
Quartet in D Minor for 2 Violins, Viola, and Violoncello (1996).** (In memoriam Otto Luening.)
Sonata in A Major for Flute and Fortepiano (1998). (In memoriam Samuel Baron.)
Trio in E Major—"The Zingesser Trio"—for Flute, Viola, and Fortepiano** (1998).

*Members of the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble.
**First Performance

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Note: We had originally planned on using a fortepiano for this concert. Indeed, the mailing piece announcing this concert stated that a fortepiano would be used; and my program notes were written with such use in mind. However, circumstances beyond anyone's control have made it impractical for us to secure a suitable instrument. Accordingly, Mr. Ranck will be performing on a modern pianoforte. In view of the nature of the keyboard writing in the two Sonatas, there is something to be said for the use of a modern piano (or so I have been told); the issues are far from clear-cut. In order to draw attention to the utility of the fortepiano as a solution to the problems of balance and tone color associated with the use of the modern piano in chamber music, and particularly in accompanying the modern flute, I have retained the paragraph devoted to a discussion of pianos in my Program Notes below.

PROGRAM NOTES:

I don't think of myself as a contrarian. Rather, I regard myself as an exponent of Western mainstream musical culture. Nevertheless I observe that my musical choices differ substantively from those of others. I realize that this can be said about any good musician; but I must admit that the musical road I have chosen is a rather contrarian one, when viewed by contemporary standards. I admit to believing that it is my contemporaries, not I, who are the musical contrarians; but that is a futilous argument if there ever was one—and in any case, anyone who uses the word "futilous" in the closing month of the twentieth century must admit to contrarian tendencies. Personally I would rather run with the crowd—it is less aggravating—but musical matters are properly adjudicated by one's individual conscience, not by majority opinion. I cannot, in good conscience, do otherwise than I have done.

The musical works on this afternoon's program represent a few of my attempts at musical composition, undertaken over the past several years. As such, they challenge certain axioms of twentieth-century modernist culture. So deeply embedded have these axioms become that they are seldom even articulated, much less challenged. In view of the fact that the twentieth century will expire in less than twenty-nine days from now, perhaps I may be forgiven for doing so here.

I re-espouse the spiritual intent, as it is given to me to perceive it, and the allegiance to tonality and the consonance-dissonance gradient, that characterized the music of the West for over a thousand years. I challenge the view that the musical languages of the past must be rejected for modern "serious" musical composition. It is unphilosophical to prohibit those styles that remain viable to listeners and performers from being used in the composing studio on account of their age. Music is not like science or technology; its principles are not subject to obsolescence every ten years or so. Music deals with the virtual inner world of the soul, not with the real external world of the cosmos. Its proper methodology is subjective, affective, and intuitive, not scientific. (This is not to deny the fact that Music ultimately constitutes a part of the natural order of things, subject, ultimately, to the laws of nature: more on this later.)

It is true that the old masters did not generally employ ancient musical dialects. Thus, musicians of Dunstable's time did not compose organum; nor did Purcell compose in the language of Dunstable. However, for centuries, musicians did recognize new and old practices, each associated with specific musical venues; and the greatest of them all, J.S. Bach, explicitly espoused a partial return to seventeenth-century and older practices in his last works—as if to take a stand against musical tendencies with which he could not agree. Moreover, Western music has attained the status of a mature art, in which a great many musical techniques and usages have long been discovered, assimilated, and codified. We may no longer discover the triad as a new musical technology (if indeed it was ever truly unknown to persons other than theorists and academicians); yet the triad has lost none of its musical power—or so I believe. More than this, the most positive musical accomplishment of our age has been the rediscovery and revivification of formerly obsolete musical languages on an unprecedented scale. I feel that it behooves us to consider whether these languages may be of use to us in the formulation of new and truly viable contemporary idioms. They are part of our musical heritage: why not use them as and when they enable us to express our musical selves? How ridiculous to pretend that a musical language that moves us in the concert hall is forbidden to us as composers! Musical languages are in a sense programming languages; they are part of our musical heritage. They belong in the composer's software library, to be used out of the box as vehicles for the attainment of personal, musical expression; or to be employed as springboards towards new musical dialects; or to be ignored as the individual composer sees fit. Such choices ought to be regarded as practical matters, not as targets for ideological taboos. Personally, I have no ideological objection to composing passages or even entire pieces that might be mistaken for having been written hundreds of years ago. That is not plagiarism or "derivative art" (in the pejorative sense of the term), any more than it is plagiarism or derivative to employ centuries-old words in verbal expression. I do believe that it is desirable and important to express one's own musical personality through performance and composition; in point of fact, one can hardly do otherwise. Historical authenticity is an unattainable, and ultimately destructive, myth. Personal authenticity is something else: it constitutes musical honesty, and as such, represents a necessary prerequisite to musical virtue. To try to "compose like Mozart" or anyone else, living or dead, is an exercise in artistic futility, unless undertaken as a pedagogical exercise; however, to employ elements of older musical languages—or even, on occasion, the musical languages themselves in their entirety—with a view towards expressing oneself in a musical and personal manner is quite a different thing. This distinction must elude those who persist in confusing artistic and quasi-scientific modalities of thought.

There are limits to the scope of innovation in musical composition. One cannot innovate endlessly without redefining the fundamental nature of musical expression. Many have chosen to accept such redefinition; I personally cannot. One can invent many intellectually-persuasive and intriguing ways of organizing pitches and come up with a vast number of diverse combinations of pitches; but few of these will work musically. Art, like life itself, is by its very nature, restrictive and exclusionary. Both can exist only under a relatively narrow range of conditions. Disorder and entropy are non-restrictive and non-exclusionary. A vat of chemicals is not necessarily alive; neither is an agglomeration of pitches or noises necessarily a musical work because its creator proclaims it as such. The overtone series is an immutable entity, mandated by natural law, or by God, if you will; it therefore governs the human perception of tone combinations; and no amount of ideological willfulness can stop a tritone from jangling or a major third from ringing. The laws of the Universe are not subject to repeal by ideological fiat. A system of composition that strives to ignore, disorganize, and defeat the innate human musical perception of consonance, dissonance, tonality, harmony, and melody does not for me constitute a means of musical expression. (It may indeed constitute an allied art form, with its own criteria of excellence and its own sphere of relevance, and certainly my ears can accept the use of virtually all twentieth-century idioms as movie music, in which they fulfill to the ultimate degree, the Wagnerian ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk [and, ultimately, they all trace their origins to Wagnerism]; but this is not an art form to which I personally choose to devote my life.) I do not say that all viable musical technologies have been discovered, or that we should refrain from trying to devise new ones. I have no way of knowing how much remains to be discovered—though, obviously, there must be far less now than there was in Perotin's time. I would certainly not reject a totally new musical language, if it proved to be more powerful musically than those that we already know; but I have not yet found such a language, nor have I been able to invent one. ("If it ain't broke. . . .") In like manner, most of us persist in expressing ourselves in English, more or less, rather than trying to devise a new language, even though most of the words we use go back many hundreds of years.

I do not wish to imply, however, that stylistic exploration and change must cease. Using existing styles and technologies and extensions thereof, there exist vast permutations of musical possibilities that open to us unimaginable opportunities for the development of personal, innovative, yet musically cogent idioms. I have made some modest efforts in this direction, as an incidental consequence of my attempts to express myself musically in a way both personal and meaningful.

The four pieces on this program are, broadly speaking, written in a contemporary dialect of a galant-based mixed style. (I define the term galant in a far broader sense than that which is usually meant by the term.) The galant musical language, in its broadest definition, constitutes a salient stylistic underpinning of the music of composers ranging from J.S. Bach and his circle through Brahms; it is even perceptible in Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht; it was the last major stylistic movement before the Wagnerian revolution and the assault on tonality. I use as my point of departure a number of galant dialects, as well as elements of the older learned styles and of the old second practice. To me the galant style addresses aspects of the human condition in an age in which the secular realm has regained its ancient pre-eminence. However, like many of our predecessors, I am cognizant of the gap between my own world view and personal temperament, and those of some of the original exponents of galant musical expression (which originated as the quintessential musical manifestation of the Enlightenment); and like them, I take certain steps to shape my musical language in accordance with my personal feelings and the fact that I do not share the world views of many of the Enlightenment's apologists. Too much has happened since the eighteenth century for me to do so. I cannot accept wholeheartedly the urbane, optimistic ebullience of certain (though by no means all) of the older galant dialects, some of which I find deficient in emotional intensity, for all their beauty, when compared to certain earlier, contemporaneous, and later musical languages. I lack the eighteenth century's faith in salvation through Virtue and Reason alone. (Along with others of my century, I find myself questioning the very concept of salvation, though always with regret and bitterness, along with a heartfelt wish that we moderns may be proven wrong.) I espouse the freedom of expressive dissonance treatment characteristic of certain seventeenth-century styles and of the much older Ars Nova and Ars Antiqua. I attempt some slight extensions of the dissonance practices of these and other styles: in particular, I use cross-relations much more freely for expressive purposes—both the diminished octave and the even more dissonant augmented octave. The cross-relation is a most interesting phenomenon: it can be at the same time consonant horizontally and dissonant vertically. The tension between this duality has within it great expressive potential. Cross-relations were cultivated by a number of seventeenth-century masters; by the eighteenth century, however, and particularly, with the approach of the galant revolution, composers drastically cutailed their use in the interests of euphony, smoothness, and a general (though by no means universal) quest for an optimistic conviviality. By the time the emotional tide had turned once again, composers seemed far more interested in achieving expressivity through juicy vertical harmonic progressions, rather than through the sort of horizontal, linear motion from which the cross-relation ultimately traces its origins. (Again, exceptions abound.) I also make free use of transferred and prolonged dissonance resolutions in order to achieve my expressive goals. At the same time, I reaffirm the power of the old consonance-dissonance gradient; and in fact, looking back on what I have done, I seem to have been a little bit reluctant to end a piece with a sonority containing imperfect intervals. I attempt to reverse the so-called "expansion of the harmonic vocabulary," which I regard as a kind of inflation of musical means: in my compositions, I attempt to make consonances more consonant and dissonances more dissonant than they have been generally perceived to be within living memory, or at least by many composers. Above all, I re-embrace one of the goals of composers through the ages, even including some of our contemporaries: that is to say, I strive to compose affective music. I do not believe that the naughtiness of "Camp" can replace the serious, the direct, and the affective; the nature of the human condition and the scope of the human psyche will not permit it; nor will the audiences for "classical" music embrace it, however polite they may be. As Otto Luening once put it, "Humanly, I feel that music should in some way and for someone other than the composer animate or quiet the intelligence and awake or soothe the emotions, so helping man toward a greater realization of his nature and being and perhaps even toward a semblance of balance within himself."

A word about my specification of the fortepiano: I do not call for its use in my compositions as a historical artifact. Rather, I do so because I find the modern piano far too overbearing for use with the flute. I wanted an instrument with something of the clarity of the harpsichord, but with a tone quality that would approach the timbre of the flute more closely than the harpsichord can. The fortepiano's capacity to achieve a smooth range of dynamic gradations through touch also figured in my choice of instrument. And finally, since my writing featured a great deal of figuration that would make finger-pedaling relatively ineffective, I needed an instrument that would be able to sustain tones after their release by the fingers (In the pieces on this program, I specify the use of a harpsichord or a conventional pianoforte as alternatives.) I much prefer the pungent clarity of the old German-style, Viennese fortepiano to the overripe, relatively muddy sonority of the modern piano. (Generally speaking, I have not been as much impressed with the sonority and balance of the English-style fortepianos; although I have seen one that seemed to have the sensitivity of the Viennese models.) If the old Viennese fortepiano did not already exist, someone would have to invent it. Like most old instruments, the fortepiano is not a monolithic type. The instrument underwent many permutations. Some of the modern replicas (and some of the antiques as well) are tinkle-toys; others are magnificent. Some of the examples from the first quarter of the nineteenth century are every bit as wonderful as their eighteenth-century predecessors, and perhaps better.

The Sonata in G Major for Flute and Fortepiano is built largely around a thema that occurs in its entirety only towards the end of the exposition, development, and recapitulation sections. The development section is discursive and extended. Generally speaking, I love sonata-allegro schemes, and development sections in particular, because they offer a field for the dramatic interplay and conflict of musical and affective elements, while generally facilitating the playing out to their logical ends of the character development of one's musical materials and of the piece as a whole. The material in measures 8-9 has its roots in the thema of a Trio in D Major by W. F. Bach, which I have performed many times.

The Quartet in D Minor begins with a five-note thema which recurs in various guises in all three movements of the piece. The second-movement Pavan actually adheres rather closely to the traditional pavan scheme, except for the presence of a fourth, concluding section. The last movement was inspired by the final movements of C.P.E. Bach's well-known D Minor Concerto for Flute and Strings and J.G. Müthel's D Minor Concerto for Harpsichord, 2 Bassoons, and Strings of 1771. This piece is also performable as a Symphony for Strings.

As to the Sonata in A Major: I have long been fascinated and moved by the extravagant, melismatic expressivity of the works of Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728-1788), and especially, by Müthel's wonderfully affective and imaginative use of two-against-three in his magnificent Duo for 2 Claviers of 1771. (In this he anticipates that heroic last of the Mohicans, Brahms.) This attempt of mine to compose a lengthy sonata for flute and keyboard reflects my familiarity with some of the music of these two composers. Likewise, the opening thema of J.S. Bach's Sonata IV in C Minor for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1017 (which I arranged for flute and harpsichord years ago), and its echo in a "Lamento" from a G Major Sonata for Clavier by W.F. Bach (F 7), represent points of departure for my own opening thema in the second movement of my piece, which also begins with an ascending minor sixth. For those who obsess about such things, the opening thema of the first movement recurs midway through the last movement of the piece.

The Zingesser Trio came about as a result of Dr. Lawrence Zingesser's having remarked upon the habit of certain of the old masters—Rameau and C.P.E. Bach, to name just two—of naming some of their pieces after their friends. I decided to do likewise. Fortunately for me, Dr. Zingesser boasts a keen sense of humor as well as a profound appreciation of music. I have taken unfair advantage of the former in inventing a title for the last movement. The viola part may also be played on an oboe d'amore.

(Click here to return to Daniel Waitzman's main Web page.) (Click here to read an essay by Daniel Waitzman, entitled, "Up from Authenticity, or How I Learned to Love the Metal Flute—A Personal Memoir.")