This Modern Music

One of the key issues facing new music seems to be whether the use of orchestral sonorities or other manifestations of timbre provide the same expressive, structural or other possibilities as melody, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, etc.

When all is said and done, I’m not entirely convinced that, on their own, they do.

Debussy could make startling use of timbre as a structural device, but this was allied to many other melodic, harmonic and other processes. Whilst having a good deal of time for various musique concrète and other works in which timbre is central (though it’s worth pointing out how important rhythm often is to this type of music as well), I’ve not heard much music essentially based almost exclusively upon timbre and texture that has the potential to go beyond certain types of rather “archetypal” experience – powerful in their own way, but which don’t suggest much potential for further development unless other techniques are also incorporated.

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