How Talented Composers Become Useless

Richard Taruskin

in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942790 | DOI:
How Talented Composers Become Useless

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This chapter focuses on Donald Martino's music, who is presently the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music Emeritus at Harvard and who came out recently with a pair of new Albany CDs, one consisting entirely of piano music performed by David Holtzman and the other containing reissues of Notturno, recorded in 1974, and Triple Concerto for three clarinets and chamber ensemble, recorded in 1978. Mr. Martino's piano music, strives for conventional expressivity while trying to maintain all the privileged and prestigious truth claims of academic modernism and since there is no structural connection between the expressive gestures and the twelve-tone harmonic language, the gestures are not supported by the musical content. Many academicians perceive Martino's music as too complex and advanced for lay listeners to comprehend and is expressive only in essentially inarticulate ways in which one might communicate one's grossest needs and moods through grunts and body language.

Keywords: Donald Martino; Harvard; David Holtzman; Notturno; piano music; academic modernism; harmonic language

Chapter.  3591 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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