Classical music recommendations for a listener of free jazz?
July 14, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I listen to a very wide variety of music, but one giant gap in my knowledge is classical music. I'm looking for recommendations for classical music to check out (either specific albums, works, or composers). To narrow it down a bit, how about something from any era that would be of interest to someone with an appreciation for avant-garde/free jazz from the 60s (think Coleman, later Coltrane, Shepp, Taylor... heck, even Brotzmann)? And preferably music that's available on streaming services.
posted by laze to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's a pretty strong correlation between the group-improvisatory structures (or lack thereof) in free jazz and some of the ways that mid-century composers like John Cage use indeterminacy. Atlas Eclipticalis would be an interesting place to start, particularly if you can listen alongside a score to have a sense of how the music is actually put together -- it's based on a star chart.

I think that some of the ways that late Coltrane is really about exploring timbre are simpatico with composers like Scelsi (who works in miniature) or, taking the same approach but using large ensembles, people like Penderecki (his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is a classic) or Ligeti (Lux aeterna, Atmospheres).
posted by dr. boludo at 9:27 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe the (later) works of the second Viennese school? Schoenberg's 4th string quartet and piano concerto come to mind. As well as Berg's piano sonata.

I may be way off base with what you're looking for here.
posted by dilaudid at 9:33 AM on July 14, 2014

Xenakis and Stockhausen are both directly related to free jazz as well. Elliot Carter's music has a similar complexity although it's more formally structured. I'm not sure much of this music will make sense without understanding the more traditional classical music that came before, though.
posted by Nelson at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2014

Came in to suggest Xenakis and Stockhausen, too. Adding Terry Riley, Olivier Messiaen. Maybe some Harry Partch?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2014

I would add Luciano Berio.
posted by OrangeGloves at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all. You've given me some good suggestions to queue up! Will report back with what struck me the most.
posted by laze at 10:24 AM on July 14, 2014

So yeah, I've been studying improvisatory music outside of the 'jazz community,' particulalry Stockhausen, for the last year. I think a lot of giants in the free jazz world sometimes straddle the 'experimental' end of the contemporary classical world. My first reaction was some early Zorn, but duh. A few other names that jump out would be Cornelius Cardew, David Tudor and Earle Brown.

I think you're looking for the really unplanned end of contemporary classical as opposed to the meticulously planned. Cage and Carter totally fit into that second category (though Cage meticulously wrote out music, he did so by letting random chance guide his decisions, so ymmv on how you feel about the music)
posted by lownote at 11:22 AM on July 14, 2014

Check out Discord by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
posted by Candleman at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2014

I like free jazz, and I also like a lot of 'holy minimalist' stuff (though I'm not crazy about that label) like Arvo Part, Henryk Gorecki, Sofia Gubaidulina, etc., and a lot of regular minimalist stuff like Steve Reich, Terry Riley, John Adams, Phill Nyblock, Pauline Oliveros, etc.

(This is outside the scope of your question, but if you like '60s free jazz and are also interested in classical music, there's a lot of larger-ensemble jazz from later than the '60s that I suspect you might also dig. William Parker's various large-scale groups might be a good place to start.)
posted by box at 3:58 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Or, since you like Brotzmann, check out the Tentet (3 Nights in Oslo is a weighty but good starting point, with lots of Tentet and lots of combinations of smaller groups of players. And you might also check out the Italian Instabile Orchestra.)
posted by box at 5:20 PM on July 14, 2014

Seconding Nelson's, Rube R Nekkar's thoughts; also mentionable in not dissimilar vein are Pierre Boulez, Bryan Ferneyhough, and Allan Pettersson. Pettersson has a series of violin duos very worth seeking, and everyone (everyone) interested in actual music should hear Boulez' Le Marteau sans Maître.

(If you are at ease with Coleman, these should pose no intrinsic difficulty; even if they are thorough-composed.)

An Adés label (pretty sure...) recording with Boulez directing Le Marteau is super and very lightly done. An older recording with Robert Kraft directing is more plainly connected to the rhetorical tradition in european music -- also to be sought out.

Best wishes for a real experience with this branching out of yours, and looking to read your feedback with some curiosity.

(Also, imo John Cage is to be treated with great circumspection if your interest is having a grasp of the 'classical' tradition as a cluster of artistic regions. All due respect, but Cage was truly after something quite else.)
posted by bertran at 2:29 AM on July 15, 2014

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