36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 291: Opera, electronic music, computer music


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 291 — Opera, electronic music, computer music
19-May-1972 (Freitag–Fri.)


Did a little of everything. Learned a little about what computer music is from Ing. Gottwald. Doesn’t seem quite as glamorous as I expected, at least not yet.

Daphne (Strauss). It seems that when opera has less melody-like lines, the words have much more importance. It also seems that opera is harder to bring about a tremendous climax (but it does), than an orchestra does. For example, in Daphne, the orchestral passage at the end was quite a contrast in effect to the rest of the opera. It was much more stirring, perhaps because there is more continuity.


Electronic and computer music. Engineer Gottwald teaches me a little bit about computer music, a field that in the 1970s was emerging. In the 70s and 80s, electronic music and computer music began to explode. I continued my interest in electronic music by studying at Indiana University and with Dr. Tom Wells at The Ohio State University. I managed to take electronic music classes at the famous Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center at Columbia University with Bulent Arel and Vladimir Ussachevsky. At Ohio State, I did take an interesting computer music course where you actually program the mainframe computer itself to produce sounds. It ain’t easy folks. At OSU, I also managed to get involved in the computer analysis of Bach chorales by one of the music theory professors. Here I met a mastermind computer programmer, Tom Whitney. I wish I had his mainframe “music printing” experiment that attempted to print music notation. Very funny. Many years before notation programs came to bear.

It was all a great learning experience and influenced my student composition, all resulting from this first year’s exposure to musique concrète under Dieter Kaufmann. Again, thanks to all my teachers.

Climaxing with Daphne. I see Richard Strauss’ Daphne at night. I mention that when the melodic lines are less “melodic”—perhaps those of recitative-like passages compared to the long, flowing melodies of Puccini—it may be more difficult to bring about an operatic climax as compared to the orchestral climax at the end of the opera. While there may be a little truth to that of recitative passages compared to arias, opera has the power (with the backing of the orchestra) to be truly emotional and climactic. (See Paul Pott.) Still, in opera, the voices and orchestra are intertwined. When I hear Puccini melodies, I probably concentrate more on the melody than the lyrics. That’s true even in pop music, I tend to gravitate towards the music first, then the lyrics.

Climaxing with Paul Pott. Talk about operatic climaxes. Talk about Puccini. Talk about arias. Don’t go to the opera? Are you a “Britain’s Got Talent” fan? Do you remember Paul Pott’s performance of Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turnadot? (So many questions.) There are many millions of YouTube hits on all of these videos. You can’t helped but be moved by this former mobile phone salesman’s performance.


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