Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Listening to Roger Sessions


I used to think I had no use for 12 tone music. Back in college, I bought an LP of piano music that had Stravinsky on one side and Schoenberg on the other. (I've always loved Stravinsky). I dutifully made several attempts to listen to the "B" side, but could never make sense of it. Other attempts to "get" other famous 12 tone pieces were not successful.

On this point (as on others) I was "schooled" by my favorite music blogger, Boom. He called my attention to Sessions' seventh symphony, which I liked right away. If you want to try 12 tone music that excites and pleases, this might be a place to start. (There's a recording on Spotify with the Louisville Orchestra. Unfortunately, the information on the app is so bad, you can't even tell who the conductor is, but I looked it up; it's Peter Leonard.) The album is also available on Freegal, the music service at many public libraries that offers free downloads of MP3s.

While I think the 7th is a good gateway drug, there's plenty to explore. I like the piano concerto. The 8th Symphony is a little harder to get into than the 7th, but if  you're looking for a 12 tone piece that uses maracas, your search is over.

I can't tell how much of a following Sessions has. There's something called the Roger Sessions Society, run by a college professor,  but it doesn't seem to be a very dynamic group. It's had the same disclaimer for months, if not years: "Please note that for the time being the membership structure is on hold, as we evaluate possibilities for web-based newsletter publication." But apparently I'm not the only one who still listens to his music.

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