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Berg's Lulu

November 12 2009 at 3:03 PM

2ra  (Login Colora2ra)
NFCS Member

 
Ok peeps, let's talk tone rows and how to learn tonally difficult music. I've been told quite a few times that I should really learn Lulu. I HATE it, I think it's the ugliest thing ever written, but I've been told so many times that I would get hired in a second over in Germany to sing it and that its "perfect" for my voice, that I think I finally need to at least try to learn some of it. I haven't bothered to learn it yet a) because of the hatred for it tonally and b) because I am admittedly lazy about learning arias that are hard pitch-wise. I love challenging myself to learn stuff that is technically difficult, but the general lack of "melody" freaks me out and I have a hard time figuring out where to even begin with something like Lulu.

Do any of you have suggestions on how to tackle something that is tonally difficult? Any of you learned Lulu before and have some good pointers?

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

Have you REALLY listened to it?

November 12 2009, 3:15 PM 

Because Berg is mostly very melodic and pretty tonal in spite of the whole 12-tone thing.

Also, the film based on the same stories (Pandora's Box) starring Louise Brooks (an American even though it's a German film) basically created the whole flapper craze in the 1920s.

Anyway, you have to find the melody and don't worry about the tone row unless you keep having to sing the same form of the row over and over.

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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2ra
(Login Colora2ra)
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Not the whole thing

November 12 2009, 3:33 PM 

I don't have a recording and honestly haven't saught one out either. I have listened to many clips on YouTube, but I really should get a copy either from a friend or the library so that I can hear the whole thing. In general this kind of music makes my soul hurt and to my ears, what I have heard has not sounded melodic at all. But I guess the more you are acquainted with a piece, the more you hear, so maybe it's just a case of familiarizing myself with it.

And no, I have not seen the film but intend to look it up.

 
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Willisbe30
(Login Willisbe30)
NFCS Regular

Get yourself a DVD.

November 12 2009, 3:41 PM 

If Lulu is anything near as theatrical as Wozzeck, you will be mesmerized.

_______________________________________________
"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso

 
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PDW
(Login holyfire)
NFCS Member

this is absurd

November 12 2009, 3:45 PM 

And people wonder why singers are so known for being stupid.

"Ouch, Berg's music makes my ears hurt!"

"I can't sing this, there's no 'melody'!!"

I mean give me a freaking break. Lulu is one of the masterpieces of the entire 20th century, and HT is spot on when he says there are some exquisitely lyrical sections of the score. You clearly haven't even listened to it.

You don't deserve to sing Lulu. Stick to your Bellini and Mozart.

 
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DVS
(Login DivaVonStupp)
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Thank goodness singers aren't known for being snobby... nt

November 12 2009, 3:57 PM 

nt

 
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HT
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NFCS "Time Out" Corner

Dude

November 12 2009, 8:11 PM 


You're not helping.

I'm trying to spread the good news that is Alban Berg. I think he's one of the great composers of the last century. One good listen to the Violin Concerto or the Lyric Suite or the B minor interlude in Wozzeck or the Sieben Fruhe Lieder or well lots of other pieces show a composer not only of great skill but one with a lot to say about what it means to be human. Not all of it is pretty. World War I was a horrible time for Europe and the aftermath of it reverberates through the arts up to the present day (listen to Ravel's music from before WW1 and after. It's almost like a different person wrote the post war music).

Anyway, just jumping all over someone (not that I am unsympathetic because that was my original reaction) is not going to help. Not all music can be comprehended in one listening. Plenty of people in Mozart's time didn't get his music in one listening either.

But then I'm also a huge Bartok fan so perhaps my idea of great music is different than people who can only hear the top line and can't hear harmony and inner voices and details of orchestration.

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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2ra
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Um, I love Bartok!

November 13 2009, 11:43 AM 

I may be a coloratura, but I spent most of my adult education singing second soprano and sometimes alto in choirs. So I know what hearing the inner lines is all about and I listen for details of orchestration in everything I sing becuase generally in opera the voice and the orchestration parts can't exist without each other. They need each other to finish the story, musically and textually.

And like I said, I'm just purely not that familiar with Berg, which is likely the cause of my distaste. I am the kind of person that typically takes several times to listen to something before making up my mind about liking it or not. Lots and lots of music I've heard or performed have been things I have not enjoyed in the beginning, but through rehearsing and listening to and living that music, they've become things that I love. I'm just usually not a love-at-first-sight kind of musician, it happens, but not a lot for me. Other people are different and may have a more immediate love for something they first hear. Good for them, but I don't think that means that if you don't like something at one point, you'll never like it, or that you're a bad musician or that you're stupid for not liking a particular composer or composition. Taste is subjective and everyone likes different things.

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

There's hope for you yet ;-)

November 13 2009, 1:57 PM 


I'm kidding.

First of all good for you for not making snap judgments about what music you like and don't like. I think I'd have been better off in undergrad if I'd spent more time just figuring out what was going on with various kinds of music instead of trying to form an opinion about whether or not I liked it. I will say that some things I love right away. Some things have to grow on me. And most of all some things I just had to hear done well to get. I never liked any medieval music until I heard Anonymous 4. (See, I do sometimes like straight tone singing!) If the recordings they had played for us in my undergrad had sounded more like that and less like dying chickens squawking their last breaths, maybe I wouldn't have thought that music was such crap. Sometimes it just takes hearing the right committed performance to sell you one a piece or a style. I think the same is true with a lot of contemporary music. Often these pieces didn't attract the best performers and the results were not good and no music of any composer would have sounded very good played that badly. Thankfully some first rate performers are now attracted to early music and contemporary works which I think is one of the reasons audiences are more open to music from before Mozart and after Puccini. It doesn't help Britten or Berg to give them any less commitment than we give Mozart, Verdi and Puccini.

And I'm very happy to hear you have had to sing inner voices in choir. A lot of sopranos never did and I think it hinders their musical development. I have actually worked with sops who get lost if their part is not the top line. Good luck with those Figaro ensembles when they have to sing Susanna.

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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2ra
(Login Colora2ra)
NFCS Member

School made me almost hate classical and baroque music

November 13 2009, 2:27 PM 

When I was in undergrad, we had to do so much study on form and analysis in theory that I seriously couldn't handle another Bach fugue or Haydn symphony. It took all the joy out of actually listening to music for pleasure. Instead my mind was like "oh, was that a German Augmented Sixth Chord?" instead thinking, "ooh, that oboe solo was so gorgeous!". Basically anything that I was forced to analyze made the enjoyment side of my musical brain shut down, which was a total bummer until I was far enough removed from school that I could start appreciating listening to music just for the sake of listening to it again.

And I would agree with you on the soprano thing in general. I have known girls that haven't got a clue how to sing anything that isn't the melody and I do believe it's a huge handicap. I admit to that having been the case when I was 14 and in a choir and didn't know how to read music. But once I started having to read other parts and vocal lines, I really started to listen to what was going on in the rest of the score and how wonderfully complex (or simple) it all was. The biggest challenge for me was learning the second soprano part for the Poulenc Messe, which we affectionately called the Poulenc Hot Mess, since its so harmonically difficult for the inner parts. But boy did I learn how to be a better musician from that experience and consequently LOVE Poulenc now, and Pärt for the same reasons.

 
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HT
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NFCS "Time Out" Corner

Hmmmm

November 13 2009, 5:53 PM 


My appreciation for Bach stems from my pathetic attempts in 18th Century Counterpoint class to write inventions and fugues in that style. Bach is just way past anyone else in that regard.



Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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Drama-Rama
(Login Carmen02)
NFCS Member

Spreading the Good News

November 13 2009, 2:23 PM 

Dude, you crack me up.

Here's the thing...I think that many student musicians create a 'belief' in their heads about 12 tone because we learn it as undergrads and it's hard and it's often demonstrated with the most atonal examples. I think this creates haters from the get go. Then later in life you just think to yourself, I hate that. It's like Lima Beans.

Now being a big ole math geek, I found 12 tone fascinating and loved the puzzle element of analyzing tone row. So for me I had an appreciation from the beginning. I love Lima Beans too.

So listen, give it a chance. I know I fought singing Wagner for awhile, I thought it was going to be a certain way. It was brussel sprouts for me. And you know, it was exactly opposite what I thought it would be.



 
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HT
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To be fair

November 13 2009, 6:01 PM 

most 12 tone music is crap. Not because it's 12 tone, but because it's crap. Most tonal music is crap too. Thankfully people a lot smarter than me sorted through all that classical and romantic music long ago and fulled out the wheat from the chaff. That's not to say there aren't some undiscovered gems but that's more likely going to happen either by going earlier (there's still a lot of Baroque music to sort through) or cultures outside central Europe. For the most part when we find a piece that's obscure, we quickly discover the reason for that obscurity.

A big booooooooo to the profs who insist on making students listen to Milton Babbitt. That's not music. It's math. I will admit that there's some Boulez that's fun (mostly because he knew how to create cool orchestral effects like in Le marteau sans maitre) and Webern can sometimes be cool because the pieces are short and so pointillistic. But a lot of what students are made to listen to from the 20th century is not imho the best music and that's a shame. There's some fantastic music from the last century. Symphony of Psalms. The Mathis der Maler Symphony (I know the opera and the best music from the opera wound up in the symphony). Berg's Violin Concerto. Pretty much all of the Britten operas. I could go on. We don't make students listen to the second and third rate bel canto era operas or the less inspired symphonies of Haydn and Mozart's contemporaries. So why do we insist on keeping music from the more recent past in the curriculum when it's pretty much already been tried and rejected by the audiences?

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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Drama-Rama
(Login Carmen02)
NFCS Member

I don't disagree

November 13 2009, 6:51 PM 

It would be wonderful if we all were taught 12 tone with only the best examples. Sadly, it rarely seems to happen that way.

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

Part of the problem is...

November 13 2009, 7:04 PM 

that the best music aren't the easiest pieces to figure out the rows.

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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PDW
(Login holyfire)
NFCS Member

"That's not music."

November 14 2009, 2:06 PM 

Hmmm... where have I heard that before...

You know, I had a feeling you were a Stalinist. Now I have proof. happy.gif

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

LOL

November 14 2009, 2:45 PM 


Unlike Stalin I love Lady Macbeth of Mtzensk. He was a prude, among many other faults.

Babbitt is famous for his article "Who Cares if they listen?" Composers shutting themselves off in the ivory towers of academia inevitably led to men like Babbitt with no connection to an audience and the act of art is only completed with a viewer or listener to complete the process of communication via sound or image or language or gesture (or whatever material is being used).

Not that finding an audience is easy. The Met could hardly give away tickets to Peter Grimes in the 1970s even with Vickers performing the title role. Today you would have pay scalper prices to get to see that opera with even a star significantly inferior to Vickers. Sometimes it takes time for the audience to catch up but I maintain that if you have something to say and say it well, the audience will eventually find you. And the great advantage of our current technology is that it's easier than ever for audiences to share their favorite artists and for audiences to find things they like and for artists to share their art with that audience. But I'm digressing. I still think this is a great untapped resource that the classical arts are squandering at our own peril.

Houndentenor

"Unleash your ferocity on an unsuspecting world." -- Bette Midler


 
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LaBonita
(Login LaBonita)
NFCS Member

Glendower sells the Aria as an excerpt.

November 12 2009, 3:47 PM 

it's quite lovely - but be sure to bring your own pianist! lots of retrograde inversions...

-lab



"There are no stupid questions, just stupid people." - Mr. Garrison

 
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2ra
(Login Colora2ra)
NFCS Member

Ooh, thanks for the tip...

November 12 2009, 4:43 PM 

I will definitely check with him for the exerpts. And yeah, I can't see taking something like that in to an audition without someone that really knows it well. They're not similar at all musically, but it's kind of like taking in Ann Trulove's aria and expecting that everyone can play it. I've seen that turn into a hot mess on more than one occassion for people.

 
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Marschallin
(Login Marschallin)
NFCS Member

If you're just not that into it,

November 12 2009, 5:12 PM 

then don't bother. Seriously -- I've learned it, and it takes FOREVER, no matter how good you are at modern music (I don't have perfect pitch, so I can't speak to how much that would speed the process). If you're hating every moment of the work on it, you'd never get the thing learned.

Personally, I think it's FANTASTIC (one of my favorite pieces, pure genius, best diva role ever!!), but if it doesn't float your boat, I don't think you'll be able to muster enough willpower to get through the thing.

Sing what you like; chances are the audience will enjoy it more that way, too.

Marschallin

"Jedes Ding hat seine Zeit."

 
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