Re: Academic or Not?

Subject: Re: Academic or Not?
From: Linda A. Seltzer (lseltzer@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Date: Wed Jul 14 1999 - 17:37:02 EDT

>What would be interesting to me is where are the boundaries, when the
>getting folk does start : already with -- considering music history -- making
>use of folk-arisen forms like waltz, polka, fandango, bolero, ragtime, etc.,
>appealing to the ordinary listener's basic motoric instincts...? Does it hold
>for the manifold use of folk tunes, forms, rhythms in traditional music,
>gotten, e.g., from turkish, hungarian, or gipsy, spanish tunes/dances, too ?
>Or allow for the fact that earlier it has been danced to what we feel to be
>more sophisticated -- serious -- today ?

The inclusion of folk melodies or motifs in more theoretical types of
music achieves the effect of a piece within a piece, or a piece dramatizing
another piece.

>Or the vast influence of asian and african musics to 20 century compositions ?

Clearly some of the influences are carried out in an intellectual way.
Some of the influences are so oversimplified and superficial that they
cannot be considered academic. In fact they can be considered insulting
to the traditions they claim to influenced by. Some of the influences
are carried out with no knowledge or scholarship in the musics the
composers claim as influences. In such cases the result is either poor
quality academic music or music that really isn't academic but, rather,
just music based on a general impression or reception of Asian or African

>Is it a low-level and a higher level folk between which you distinguish ?

I have not used the terms "low" and "high." Those are not very specific
terms. I do not place a negative value judgment on either academic
music or folk music.

>so the (academically) getting inspired should be something still tolerable
>to you,

Both academic and folk music are admirable to me. I didn't bring up
issues of tolerability.

>or is it rather be a potential contamination in either direction

Again contamination isn't a concept I would think about. It sounds like
something that needs "ethnic cleansing" or something. Sometimes acrossovers
between one style and another are done in interesting ways, sometimes not.

>so, going folk, the EA composer weakens his intellect (eclecticism being
>the low of contemporary education),

I don't see this statement as a logical outgrowth of my statements.
There are many possible results of a composer mixing her or his aims.
Bartok and Aaron Copeland both used folk elements in their music.
Bartok's result seems more academic to me.

>or in the reverse case, in using sophisticated techniques the folk
>composer upgrades getting a faint idea, if not (yet) consciousness,
>of what he is actually doing and to what more (even if not yet) elaborated
>aim ?

At some point music which started out as "folk" could become "academic."
I.e. more theoretical elements could be worked into folk music, and
then the result is either academic music or a hybrid.

>Intermediate forms in composers imaginable ? tolerable ? Crossover
>inspiration, even though being abdominal rather than intellectual,
>in (e.g.) already successful composers something (still) excusable ?

I don't understand the questions about tolerability. I am not
interested in setting myself up as a "judge" of which music is
to be "tolerated," like a right wing parent dictating to a child
what is to be "tolerated."

>Well, I did neglect that you were referring to electroacoustic
>music only,

I wasn't referring to electroacoustic music only.

>the today easy availability of powerful technologies giving rise for a
>devaluation of pure intellectual items -- to end up with disgusting culinaric

In a previous post I think I offered an opposite opinion. Sometimes
non-intellectual technological music can still be interesting. I
am distinguishing between different approaches, but one should
not construct a value judgment system and project it onto my statements,
when, in fact, I did not imply any value judgments.

I am however, saying that there is a positive place for academic
music, that it is not an esoteric and wasteful exercise.

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