Musical Canon Analysis

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The emergence of the musical canon in the 19th century created a Gordian Knot for composers at the time. Composers were expected to proclaim a distinctive personal style while also creating music that was like that of the traditional masters (Lecture, 2/1). This expectation conservatism while simultaneously being distinctive can about as a result of the "musical museum" or the musical canon, a list of works that are considered to be permanently established as being the highest quality (Lecture, 1/30). The emergence of the musical cannon was supported by the rise concert culture which led to a priority shift in concerts and the creation of music. Furthermore, the canon created a set of rigid boundaries to be followed by aspiring composers resulting…show more content…
John Cage's reaction to the existence of the traditional canon of musical masterworks was the creation of a musical score that made people question what it means to make music and what music is. In Cage's piece "4:33" he created a musical score that was three movements of tacets which illustrated the blurred line between art and life (Lecture 2/1). Besides going against all of the boundaries that the traditional canon has, this piece also shows how audience members coughing, shifting in their seats, and breathing are the sounds of life, and that in itself, is music (Cage 46). Cage believed that "masterpieces [were] the opposite of life" and that the musical museum was doing the same thing that a refrigerator does to milk, preserving its liveliness so much, that it is no longer alive (Cage 44-46). Similarly, Copeland also critiqued the traditional canon but through making his music relevant to the time. Copeland's symphony "Fanfare for the Common Man" (1942) reflected the europhic spirit of the country at the time as the US entered World War II (Lecture, 2/1). Through this symphony, Copeland changed the sound of the traditional symphony, a genre that at the time was largely dominated by German musicians and made it sound American (Lecture, 2/1). The point that Copeland wanted to make was that music should have a message and should reflect what is going on at the time. Overall, both of these composers were making the point that music needs to be relevant to the time in which it is being produced instead of sticking with what is traditional and repeating the same message over and over
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