Neo-mythologism in Music: From Scriabin and Schoenberg to Schnittke and Crumb

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Pendragon Press, 2007 - Music - 299 pages
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This investigation aims to demonstrate how it is much more rewarding to view quintessential Western composers in a culturally non-purist and non-exclusive context, rather than insist on incongruity of independent cultural experiences. It has customarily been hard to overcome the divisions between the mind of a highly sophisticated art-musician and the mind of an aboriginal maker of music, myth, and ritual. Both neo-mythologism and neo-ritualism of the twentieth century clearly provide foundations for transcending the cultural borders. The role of mythification in compositional processes has remained outside the main focus of musicology. This book examines the different aspects of composers' thoughts from philosophical views and theoretical systems to operatic librettos and the musical fabric itself, including form, pitch organization, and instrumentation. (From the Introduction)
 

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I read this book while working on a master's degree in music composition. Most of my studies had been oriented towards practice and technical (music) theory, rather than cultural theory, so this book served as a great introduction for me to structuralist anthropological thought, particularly that of Claude Levi-Strauss. I think the most salient revelation in this book was that all composers integrate their world model, essentially their personal mythology, into their music, to varying extremes. This personal mythology need not be some kind of religious, spiritual orientation; indeed, a love of science and the rational is just as much a world model as religion, and can be (un)consciously incorporated into works of art. It seems completely obvious now, but at the time it helped to make sense of some of the numerological games that composers liked to play, and indeed it helped make sense of my own compositional predilections.  

Contents

a Hermeneutic Construct and a Historic Trend
1
The Synchronic Perspective
18
The Prime Structuring Moldsof Myth and Music
27
Mythic Repetitiveness and Musical Ostinato
51
Variability and Combinatoriality
64
Towards the Universality of Myth
77
The Composer as Archaeologist of Culture
83
Stravinskys
90
Return of Number Symbolism
185
Numerology in Musical Fabric and in Piece Grouping
187
The Mythologem of a Circle
201
The Circle in Archaic Myths and Jungs Theory
207
The Circle in the Poetic Text ofAncient Voices of Children
213
Historical Precedents?
221
Stockhausens Curvilinear Thought
230
The Cyclic Time of David Demnitz
236

The Tower of Babel
108
Assonance and Alliteration
117
Mythic Power of Names in Stockhausens Licht
125
Denisovs Requiem
132
Cosmogony and Eschatology
152
the Initiation Rite of Modernism
168
The Musical Mythification of Technology and Science
178
The Reception of Crumbs Music
243
Schnittkes Mythological Outlook
249
The Devil and the Perception of Schnittkes Early Style
256
Postlude
262
The English translation of the texts by Garcia Lorca
273
List of Illustrations
287
Copyright

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