E. Schwartz, D. Godfrey, Music Since 1945

📜 Schwartz, Elliott and Daniel Godfrey. 1993. Music Since 1945: Issues, Materials, and Literature. New York: Schirmer Books.

Music since 1945: Issues, Materials and Literature by Elliott Schwartz and Daniel Godfrey is a textbook written for American students. This shows in the accessibility of the text on one hand and in a bias towards some names and developments on the other. The book's strategy is to present the topics within a recurring frame of nine reference points: pitch logic, time, sound color, texture, process, performance ritual, parody/historicism, notation and technology.

The book is about the post-war 'art music' (so-called, usually it means music circulated by established academic centers and concert halls). Fortunately, some stylistic diversity and balance within this set is maintained. Authors keep a respectable distance to the matter when presenting works in all available approaches: electronic music, traditionally tonal works, serialism and avant-garde, post-Cageian experimentation, or minimalism.

Hundreds of musical works are described in the book. It's frequent (and intentional, p. iiv1) that different composers whose work is presented appear repeatedly in many parts of the book far apart from one occurrence to another. Remarks interesting from music gaming point of view are also dispersed throughout the whole book with "electronic" chapters maybe the least rich in that aspect.

Before referring to parts of special interest, let's examine how the basic themes of the book relate to game pieces. Even if every idea may be used in a specific music game, in general, technology and parody or historicism have a relatively minor influence over the field (see: genre). Comparing games' sound result to the music of previous periods, the approach to pitch logic and time is mostly loosened up, which in turn gives more opportunities to operate with sound color and texture as main parameters. Changes in approach to process and performance ritual are key developments for music gaming and the changes in notation are strongly connected as to facilitate new forms of these two aspects.

Relevant changes in performance ritual are covered on a few occasions in the book. So we do have analysis for all the "additions to sound" like theatrical or technical elements; and also for the role of the audience which might either be strongly included or totally omitted from the process. The process itself is for our purposes treated as a bit too fuzzy and broad notion as the authors use this point to talk about: compositional process (inspiration, problem solving), and some specific compositional approaches (akin to process music), and also to audible process (i.e. the development of the piece of music, esp. if it's slow, gradual). This is obviously all a valid usage of the term, even if it's unfortunate from our perspective where the importance of the process calls for more precision in terminology.

As for the treatment of notation on the other hand, we may call for a more "objective" fault of omission on the part of authors in the area relevant for us. Despite having a dedicated chapter, where you may find many interesting remarks on the role of notation and on recent changes to it, the book turns a bit of a blind eye towards our dominant mode of communication, the one based on prose. It's not that authors do not consider that to be a musical notation at all, it is mentioned as such, but in the passing paragraph about "music of India or China" (p. 395). There are mentions of Fluxus works in the context of multimedia and theatre. From more elaborate instructional scores the biggest presence are maybe pieces of Tom Johnson (known for unnecessary struggles) but earlier works of this type, e.g. from Christian Wolff (Stones from Prose Collection) or Karlheinz Stockhausen (Aus den sieben Tagen) are not analyzed.


In Chapter 7, a subchapter "Chaos" (p. 90) has the sections "John Cage" and "Other composers concerned with chance" that present all the early developments that made music games possible. We meet the New York school (Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, and David Tudor) and the inspirations from visual arts are analyzed.

In Chapter 9, "Audience Participation" subchapter (p. 158) calls for our special attention. It starts on the side of conceptual/theatrical/installations but introduces the reader also to "jams" (so to say) of Frederic Rzewski's Musica Elettronica Viva and also to the works of Pauline Oliveros where audience participation was important.

Chapter 15 has a loud "Play: Music as Game" subchapter (p. 309) which presents the following pieces:

While starting from a very specific topic of "music for the classroom" (without naming, but along the line of Music for Young Players series) the section de-trivializes the game piece composition during general remarks and delivers interesting comparisons about the presence of the audience in different musical traditions.

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