Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Romantic Generation Charles Rosen - 1996


“Here , in the last pages of the “Abegg” Variations, Schumann plays the motto theme A-B-E-G-G (B in German notation is the English B) not by sounding the last four notes but by taking them away, one by one, from the chord of B-E-G. This is the first time in history that a melody is signified not by the attack but by the release of a series of notes.” (Rosen, 1996, p.11).



“For Beethoven, music was still shape, realized and inflected by instrumental sonority. (…) For Schumann, however, as for Chopin and Liszt, the conception was worked out directly in clay or marble. The instrumental sound is shaped into music.” (Rosen, 1996, p.30).

“Not until Schumann’s generation was it possible to end with a dissonance.” (Rosen, 1996, p.41). “The form is circular: the opening of each section in turn resolves the previous one and ends, itself unresolved – only a dissonant close is possible.” (Rosen, 1996, p.44). “A unique tonal center is replaced by a controlled movement of tonal change.” (Rosen, 1996, p.212). “The melody of many of the songs, however, appears to derive from the previous sing, without rising (or descending, if one likes) to the level of actual quotation.” (Rosen, 1996, p.213).“When the voice enters, it is almost perfectly doubled by the piano – almost, as tge voice begins by repeating one note that the piano ties, and anticipates the next note (B) a sixteenth before the piano.” (Rosen, 1996, p.46).

“Schumann treats the relative minor here and elsewhere as a variant form of the tonic, using it rather for a change of mode, not tonality.” (Rosen, 1996, p.47). “The A major that enters with Heine’s poetry is, in fact a surprise. (…) Schumann has elaborated a form in which the tonic is itself unstable. (…) Without for a moment challenging the system of tonality, Schumann here stands basic tonal structure on its head.” (Rosen, 1996, p.47).

“Schumann’s technique of songwriting, in which the general musical line is individualized only intermittently into words: the full line is either in the piano or passed from piano to voice. This technique would become the basis of the Wagnerian music drama, in which the general musical line is alos intermittently individualized into words, but transcends both orchestra and voice; the technique of the complete phrase only incompletely realized by either voice or accompaniment is, however, largely developed by Schumann.” (Rosen, 1996, p.61).

“Music does not communicate emotions or even, properly speaking, express them. What it does is inspire and stimulate emotion.” (Rosen, 1996, p.132).

 “The relation of tonic to dominant is the foundation of Western triadic tonality. The attempt of the early nineteenth century to substitute third or median relationships for the classical dominant amounted to a frontal attack on the principles of tonality, and it eventually contributed to the ruin of triadic tonality.”  (Rosen, 1996, p.237).“attacked was the coherence of the tonal hierarchy, which in the eighteenth century gave opposing functions ti the chords of the dominant and the subdominant. Movement to the dominant raised the tension of the music; an allusion to the subdominant decreased it.” (Rosen, 1996, p.237).

“The mediants for Beethoven were not primarily coloristic episodes, as they were for Mozart, but a harmony of greater tension than the more ordinary dominant,. Beethoven replaced the polar opposition of the dominant with a median, and established it with equivalent weight. This is one of the essential characteristics of eighteenth century harmony that is weakened in the new style: a classical form of opposition is retained but it has become slightly blurred. The new key are not formally established: the music slides from tonic to median.” (Rosen, 1996, p.244).

 “In all these examples from the first half of the nineteenth century, musical style is moving from the dissonant passing notes of classical tonality towards the dissonant “passing phrases” (to use Bernard Shaw’s excellent term about Strauss’s music) of the early twentieth century. Renouncing the force of tonal  opposition may eventually have weakened the tonal language, but it did not weaken the music, which in fact had gained a new source of power.” (Rosen, 1996, p.257).

“In fact one might say that the test of a great contrapuntist is the ability to compose a single unaccompanied line that makes harmonic sense.” (Rosen, 1996, p.290). “The replacement of harmony by melody, therefore, is conservative, although the sonority is unexpected. The replacement of some of the functions of melody by rhythm is considerably more startling.” (Rosen, 1996, p.292).

“Chopin exemplifies in this passage one of the great lessons of Bach’s counterpoint: not only can many voices be produced out of one, but one can be produced out of many.” (Rosen, 1996, p.302).

“This is the point of greatest difference between Chopin’s forms and those of his classical predecessors, for whom the exposition of material required not merely contrast but a clear heightening of tension. Chopin delays this large scale increase of tension until all thematic material has been heard.” (Rosen, 1996, p.316).

“The structure and harmony of this opening melody could not appear to be less sophisticated. (…) The sophistication lies in the smallest details: the artful and accomplished voice leading, the coda, the placing of the few indications of dynamics, and, above all, the way the phrases open either on the bar line or on an upbeat.” (Rosen, 1996, p.330).

“There is a parody at the heart of Chopin’s style, in its unlikely combination of a rich chromatic web of polyphony, based on a profound experience of J.S. Bach, with a sense of melody and a way of sustaining the melodic line derived directly from Italian opera.” (Rosen, 1996, p.344). “Chopin’s heterophonic counterpoint, two voices playing the same melody together in different rhythms.” (Rosen, 1996, p.349). “It also allows the accompaniment to become melody at any moment.” (Rosen, 1996, p.350). “Another is the melody achieved through a complex interplay of two or more voices, but without any sense of contrapuntal opposition.” (Rosen, 1996, p.353). “The importance of this technique may be understood if we reflect that in this passage the individual voices in the original notation are not very interesting by themselves.” (Rosen, 1996, p.354). “What Chopin reproduces of Bach, therefore, is not the theoretical structure on paper, but the aural experience.” (Rosen, 1996, p.355).

 “”In his concentration on tone color Liszt may be seen as the most radical musician of his generation. His example attacked some of the basic assumption of Western music, in which pithc and rhythm wre the essential determinants of form, and spacing and tone color were subordinate, only a means to the realization of sound.” (Rosen, 1996, p.507).

“In tonal music each form of the triad has a different function and a different sonority that endow it with a special expressive color: the root position is used for cadences, and has the most stable effect; the first inversion, or sixth chord, is consonant but not final, and can be used for intermediate resolution . without being dissonant it is nevertheless indecisive. (…) the second inversion is a dissonance, a 6/4 chord, and the harsh sonority of the fourth requires resolution, and consequently gives the greates sense of tension.” (Rosen, 1996, p.550). “Berlioz’s toncis can be more unorthodox than other composers’ most complex chromatic chords. They work by first sounding wrong; then what follows half or fully convinces us of their necessity.” (Rosen, 1996, p.552).

“The rules of species counterpoint are exceedingly simple: the countermelody must not make parallel octaves or fifths with the cantus, since that would be too much like a simple doubling o f the original line: the countermelody must not often leap into a dissonance and never out of it, but the dissonance must be approached and, above all, resolved in stepwise motion, directly and simply, to the nearest consonance – this last is a recipe for maing dissonant movement seem graceful and beautiful, and is central to all tonal music.” (Rosen, 1996, p.553).
“The rules of counterpoint apply not only to several voices but also, paradoxically, to simple unaccompanied melodies: the successive notes of a melody are conceived as dissonant or consonant to one another. A tune in C major defined the C major triad.” (Rosen, 1996, p.553).

“In classical terms – but not always for Berlioz – counterpoint has priority over harmony because the relations of consonance and dissonance that govern harmony and melody are derived, as we have seen, from counterpoint.” (Rosen, 1996, p.553).

“Every chord, every note of the harmony, therefore, is the result of conflicting forces: the demands of the melody (the harmony it implies when it is playd by itself) and the similar demandsof the individual subordinate voices which make up the harmony, all subject to the same constraints.” (Rosen, 1996, p.554).

“Meyerbeer’s approach to opera may seem cynical. His music is not, like Donizetti’s, an immediate expression of the sentiments of his characters but a calculated manipulation of the audience.” (Rosen, 1996, p.645).


 “When is a key not a key? When it is nothing more than a simple chord; whenthe relation of tonic and dominant does not function within it; when the tonic note is not the center or the basis of resolution.” (Rosen, 1996, p.652).

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment – Townsend 1899

This book is purely about stories. It is not written in extraordinary language or fancy sentences – just bare stories. (this might be due to the translation though).



Stories are also the currency within this book: “The Sultan of Casgar fell into a passion against the Christian merchant. “Thou art a presumptuous fellow,” said he, “to tell me a story so little worth hearing and then to compare it to that of my jester. I will have you all four impaled, to revenge his death.
Hearing this, the purveyor (one of the four) prostrated himself at the sultan’s feet. “Sire,” said he, “I humble beseech your majesty to suspend your wrath and hear my story; and if it appears to be more extraordinary than that of your jester, to pardon us.” (Townsend, 1899, p.576).

Interestingly, despite stories being of such high value in this book, curiosity (and hence our desire to hear stories) is also described as dangerous: “But we entreat you to forbear opening the golden door; for if you do, we shall never see you again.” (Townsend, 1899, p.80).


The motor of a story only starts, when we try to shape our own destiny and don’t accept that this is in God’s hand. “”I see, Sir,” said I, addressing myself to Saadi, “that it has pleased God, whose ways are secret and impenetrable, that I should not be enriched by your liberality, but that I must remain poor; however, the obligation is the same as if it had wrought the desired effect.” (Townsend, 1899, p.254). “I upbraided myself a hundred times for not being content with the produce of my first voyage, that might have sufficed me all my life. But all this was in vain, and my repentance came too late. At last I resigned myself to the will of God.” (Townsend, 1899, p.407).

The Art of Writing Advertising – Denis Higgins 1965.

The most famous admen – from Bernbach, to Ogilvy and Reeves - do have similar ideas about how to produce advertising. It is interesting to see how the same ideas led to completely different advertising.



“My discipline – all I want is for the idea to convey memorably (and because it’s memorable, it must be fresh and original) the advantage of our product. Now if breaking every rule in the world is going to achieve that, I want those rules to be broken.” (Higgins quoting Bernbach, 1965, p. 20).

“So we never kid ourselves about the magic of advertising. The magic is in the product.” (Higgins quoting Bernbach, 1965, p. 24).

“stress this so-called inherent drama of things because there’s usually something there, almost always something there, if you can find the thing about the product that keeps it in the marketplace. There must be something about it that made the manufacturer make it in the first place, something about it that makes people continue to buy it … capturing that, and then taking that thing – whatever it is – and making the thing itself arresting rather through relying on tricks to do it. “(Higgins quoting Burnett, 1965, p. 44).

“Actually. As I found out after ten minutes’ conversation, the advertising idea was inherent in the product. It was the only candy in America that had chocolate surrounded by a sugar shell. At this point the idea lies on the table in front of you.” (Higgins quoting Reeves, 1965, p. 73).

“All the big companies – realized that the copywriter is almost helpless unless they build the idea into the product.” (Higgins quoting Reeves, 1965, p. 104).

“One, the advertising, not the product, must compete with a tremendous number of other advertising messages. Two, therefore the advertisement, not the product, must get the attention. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Three, therefore a given advertisement, and not the product, must be different.
Such reasoning, bypasses the product, and when it does, it bypasses the advertising function. It is a classical example of confusing the means with the end. For if the product is worth paying money for, it is worth paying attention to.” (Higgins quoting Reeves, 1965, p. 125).

“Then you’ve got to close the door and write something – that is the moment of truth which we all try to postpone as long as possible.” (Higgins quoting Ogilvy, 1965, p. 73). “Sometimes I do write quite a good ad, but whenever I’m face with having to do one, I have absolutely no confidence in myself at all.” (Higgins quoting Ogilvy, 1965, p. 73).



Sunday, 29 March 2015

Saul Bellow – Mosby’s Memoir’s and Other Stories. 1968

Most stories seem to be about ‘intelligence vs. the world’. And how the world wins.

“”If you don’t do as he therapist tells you, Hattie, you’ll need another operation. Do you know what adhesions are?”
She knew, but Hattie thought, How long must I go on taking care of myself?” (Bellow, Leaving the Yellow House, 1968, p.16).

“I can see bright, but I feel dim.” (Bellow, Leaving the Yellow House, 1968, p.27).




Whom to leave the yellow house after her death: “”It is too soon! Too soon! Because I do not find it inmy heart to care for anyone as I would wish. Being cast off and lonely, and doing no harm where I am. Why should it be? This breaks my heart. In addition to everything else, why must I worry about this, which I must leave? I am tormented out of my mind. Even thoughby my own fault I have put myself into this position. And I am not ready to give up on this. No, not yet. And so I’ll tell you what, I leave the property, land, house, garden, and water rights to Hattie Simmons Waggoner. Me! I realize this is bad and wrong. Not possible. Yet it is the only thing I really wish to do. So may God have mercy on my soul.” (Bellow, Leaving the Yellow House, 1968, p.42).

“Only tonight I can’t give the house away. I’m drunk and so I need it. And tomorrow, she promised herself, I’ll think again. I’ll work it out for sure.” (Bellow, Leaving the Yellow House, 1968, p.42).

“Respectable elms about his house sighed with him for the past.” (Bellow, The Old System, 1968, p.64).

“But once humankind had grasped its own idea, that it was human and human through such passions, it began to exploit, to play, to disturb for the sake of exciting disturbance, to make an uproar, a crude circus of feelings.” (Bellow, The Old System, 1968, p.82).

“Again, nothing! It was only an imitation of understanding. A promise that mankind might – might, mind you – eventually, though its gift which might – might again! – be a divine gift, comprehend why it lived. Why life, why death.
And again, why these particular forms – these Issacs and these Tinas?” (Bellow, The Old System, 1968, p.83).

“”I’ll report it and see what can be done.”
“Nothing can be done, I expect. You know and I know. There ain’t so little ways to make things better, and the only big thing is money. That’s the only sunbeams, money. Nothing is black where it shines, and the only place you see black, is where it ain’t shining. What we colored have to have is our own riches. There ain’t no other way.”” (Bellow, Looking for Mr. Green, 1968, p.102).

“Rebuild after the Great Fire, this part of the city was, not fifty years later, in ruins again, factories boarded up, buildings deserted or fallen, gaps of prairie between. But it wasn’t desolation that this made you feel, but rather a faltering of organization that set free huge energy, an escaped, unattached, unregulated power from the giant raw place. Not only must people feel it but, it seemed to Grebe, they were compelled to match it.” (Bellow, Looking for Mr. Green, 1968, p.104). “To be compelled to feel this energy and yet have no task to do – that was horrible; that was suffering.” (Bellow, Looking for Mr. Green, 1968, p.104).

“Objects once so new, so concrete that it could never have occurred to anyone they stood for other things, had crumbled. Therefore, reflected Grebe, the secret of them was out.” (Bellow, Looking for Mr. Green, 1968, p.104).

“I’m not much on modern poetry in English. Some of it is very fine, of course, but it doesn’t express much wish to live. To live as a creature, that is.” (Bellow, The Gonzaga Manuscrips, 1968, p.113).

“His Belly was like a drum, and he seemed also to have a drumlike soul. If you struck, you wouldn’t injure him. You’d hear a sound.” (Bellow, The Gonzaga Manuscrips, 1968, p.137).

“Money surrounds you in life as the earth does in death. Superimposition is the universal law.” (Bellow, A Father-to-Be, 1968, p.145).

“Seated, one of the passngers, Rogin recovered his calm, happy, even clairvoyant state of mind. To think of money was to think as the world wanted you to think; then you’d never be your own master.” (Bellow, A Father-to-Be, 1968, p.148).

“”You have the healthiest looking scalp,” she said. “It’s all pink.”
He answered, “Well, it should be white. There must be something wrong with me.”
“But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you,” she said, and pressed against him from behind, surrounding him, pouring the water gently over him, until it seeled to him that the water came from within him, it was the warm fluid of his own secret loving spirit overflowing into the sink, green and foaming, and the words he had rehearsed he forgot, and his anger at his son-to-be disappeared altogether.” (Bellow, A Father-to-Be, 1968, p.155).

“But the French cannot identify originality in foreigners. That is the curse of an old civilization. It is a heavier planet. Its best minds must double their horsepower to overcome the gravitational field of tradition. Only a few will ever fly. To fly away from Descartes.” (Bellow, A Father-to-Be, 1968, p.159).

“He was quite ugly with his information. The Water Table, the Caverns, the Triassic Period. Inform me no further! Vex not my sould with more detail. I cannot use what I have.” (Bellow, A Father-to-Be, 1968, p.181).