Two Quotes; Two Questions

These are quotes from Arnold Whittall’s Serialism in the Cambridge Introductions to Music series.

“The distinctiveness of American thinking about serialism is difficult to assess when opportunities to hear the compositional results are so limited.”

Have the Babbitt Solo Requiem, the Martino Triple Concerto or Wuorinen’s New York Notes ever been heard in London? My guess would be no, but maybe I am wrong.

“Le Marteau’s serial background projects surface interactions between fixity and freedom, its proliferating materials demanding choices of the composer at every stage of the creative process.”

Forgive me, but how does that make Le Marteau different from any other piece by any other composer? I’m not aware of any pieces where choices were not demanded of the composer at every stage of the creative process. (I suppose some Cage pieces would be the exceptions that prove the rule.)

It’s worth spending some time with Whittall’s book, from which I’ve learned a fair bit. It attempts something rather difficult in that it offers insights both into technical nuts and bolts matters and into the critical writing around serial music, all in a compact volume. Being a composer, my own interest is primarily in the nuts and bolts, and from that point of view, I would recommend another Cambridge volume more highly than the Whittall, Joseph Straus’s Twelve-Tone Music in America.

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