Originally Posted by mediocrefunkybeat
But Cage wasn't necessarily talking about Beethoven. He was talking about three centuries of tradition, of which only a (fairly significant) part was Beethoven. Do you not think that modern composers that use environmental sounds like Barry Truax add something to the musical mix? Or are you really of the opinion that music has to somehow be artificially synthesised? In which case, I'd like to see your opinions on Messiaen's interpretation of birdsong.
You're coming at this from the opposite approach to me. I believe music is/should be influenced by the extramusical. The Classical (ergh, horrible word) tradition up until about 1900 disagrees with me, but I find it ironic that the proponents of the most academic of 19th Century music (eg. Schoenberg) started thinking extramusically.
Sorry for the typos . .my typing sucks at times and I was getting ready to go out for lessons so I didn't proofread. The interesting thing about this discussion is that there are two sides that really don't disagree with each other. I think there is a mis-reading between the two sides of the discussion.
The way I see Cage is that he is trying to subvert hundreds of years of entrenched musical aesthetics but also bourgeois notions of musical thought. I think he was very successful, and now we are moving towards the other side, a move back to traditionalism, which is replete with its own problems. They are finally educating undergrads about jazz fifty years after it is no longer a leading commercial art form. And of course they still look down on rock, which is slowly becoming the same. So they are training kids for jobs again that don't exist.
(Here's a wonderful lecture on education if you are interested. Do Schools Kill Creativity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY
But I digress.)
At points, Cage's notion do become more aligned with the notion of the absurd than a sincere look at the history of aesthetics. I think one of his concerns was the democratization of music, ie. if all you have to do pick up a tape recorder and make a piece, everyone is a composer. He was very aware of that subversion context of that realization. Now we have the possibility for everyone to make music from their bedroom. The onus is on the individual to create his or her own musical satisfaction and not rely on the nickelodeon, the radio or youtube. That is a significant historical change. One need not play an instrument to be a musician, one need not learn how to compose to be a composer. As Ian stated, deejays in today's world are seen as musicians, at more so they are seen as composers. There are some that argue that they are the great composers of their time. It is often musicians, traditional musicians?, who find this notion most troubling and think it is no surprise that they are most alienated by it. Musicians in the modern world will need to subvert that idea to be successful. The way the modern drummers meld the distinction between programmed and acoustic drums is a good example of that. In the 1990s bands started to have deejays. I always loved The Beastie Boys, "Fight for Your Right to Party" video where the guy holds out an lp when asked what his instrument is.
As you can see, my concern is basically looking realistically about how the modern world fosters the culture of making music. But the idea of what can and should be used in the creation of music is easily answered, anything. Who would have thought that Stockhausen would have the affect on The Beatles and Pink Floyd that he had? Electronic music has affected everything. Most of the music we listen to is electronic. Therefore, your neighbor should be happy that you pound away at your drums for five hours and give them the raw and unique experience of hearing acoustic music at no charge.
Your readings of musical history may be creating problems that are not there. There is an objectivity in 20th century music that the romantics tried to steer clear of, maybe to their own detriment. Romantics were not clear of objective notions. They wrote a lot of referential music. Beethoven invented the notion of the programmatic symphony. I like your Barry Traux example. The use of objective representation in music, of course, goes back even further than Beethoven. Mozart and Vivaldi used it and you hear it in Renaissance song as well. Messiaen's fascination with bird songs may be a different matter all together though. :) As absolute as baroque music may seem, it was influenced by Rococo ideas of architecture with its ornamental design.
I think an interesting question is can Barry Truax be popular? Can non vocal or instrumental music be popular? I can think of a few tunes off the top of my head, Take Five, the perennial favorite Taste of Honey, Popcorn, Theme from A Summer Place, Rock It, Classical Gas, and Song Bird. Most of those songs don't have drums, so don't be surprised on a drum forum when drummers get a little cantankerous about the growing trend in the business not to use live musicians, esp drummers.:)