Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

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Sargon
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Sargon »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Sargon wrote: Charlie's suggestion of confining 20th century music to 1/5-1/6 of the tournament seems hard to justify. A very sizeable portion, probably at least half, of the orchestral canon in most concert halls is Late Romantic or later.
Sargon wrote: There may be about as many top tier composers in each era, but when you drop to second tier composers (like Nielsen or Vaughan Williams) there are way more well known and frequently performed 20th century composers than ones from earlier periods. Earlier music should not be completely neglected, but I think one would be hard pressed to find a dozen baroque composers more well known than Nielsen, or for that matter Ginastera. Even in my hobby horse of Renaissance music, I would think more than maybe a dozen composers from the period being tossuped regularly would be excessive at even the highest level.
This reasoning seems to suppose that most of the tossups should ask about composers rather than pieces. It's possible that if we picked a chunk of time in the 20th century like 1950-1960 there might be more tossupable composers active during that period than in the period 1850-1860 (though I'm not sure that this is true), but there are definitely not more composers and pieces combined that we can tossup from 1950-1960 than from 1850-1860. Yeah we can't ask about the Nielsen of the Baroque era, because he's been forgotten. But I could write a tossup about a different work of Mozart for every tournament in the year, while Contemporary Classical music has no equivalent that can provide such a wealth of possible answers. You might find more Elliot Carter pieces than Mendelssohn pieces on some orchestra's program for the year, but how many of those can I tossup? Only a few 20th century composers like Stravinsky, Sibelius, Mahler, and Prokofiev really provide a large range of tossupable pieces, and they skew towards the first half of the century, and are vastly outnumbered by the composers in the 19th century alone who provide ranges of answers equally large, if not larger.
I've made the case elsewhere that composer questions tend be easier to write well and more accessible than individual work tossups, particularly common practice works, which very hard to tell apart with a great deal of training. It is true that a smaller portion of modern composers would have several tossupable works, if one were inclined to write such tossups, but I am still inclined to believe even restricting oneself to such big composers you would have as many or more late 19 and 20th century composers and works than in the common practice period. For every Mozart you have a Richard Strauss or Bartok or Copland. Part of this is simply a reflection of the fact that a lot more people alive and writing music in the late 19th and 20th centuries than previous ones, and part because less stuff has had time to fall by the wayside. Certainly a ratio of 1/5 or 1/6 of the music distribution would do it the period a great disservice.
Paul Gauthier, Quizbowl crackpot
Vanderbilt 2004-8
U Chicago 2008-

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Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

To be fair, part of my ideal distribution has to do with the fact that I think the titans of music are so overwhelmingly important that they probably deserve to come up multiple times per set, as long as clues don't overlap. Having tossups on a work by Beethoven, and then having clues about his piano concertos in some kind of common link question, for instance, would not be something that offends my aesthetics of quizbowl, because Beethoven is so overwhelming in the field. If this, along with similar standards being applied to people like Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Haydn, or the like, were put into practice regularly at most levels of the game, we would see greater restriction on just how many questions could be used for modern music.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
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ThisIsMyUsername
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Sargon wrote: I've made the case elsewhere that composer questions tend be easier to write well and more accessible than individual work tossups, particularly common practice works, which very hard to tell apart with a great deal of training.
Yeah, it is a lot easier to write composer questions and they are more accessible. The same is true about writing about authors or artists rather than works, since you need less in-depth knowledge of specific works both to write them and to answer them. I don't think music should be held to a very different standard. I think we should encourage people who know how to write good tossups on works to do so, to stop the music category from being composer bowl. A lot of the blown-out-of-proportion nitpicks on this forum aside, a lot of the tossups on works that come up are very good and not all of them seem to have been written by hardcore music nerds.

I also could not disagree more with your assertion that this is more difficult for common practice works. First of all, common practice works are generally more well known, more performed, more listened to, and more studied. Any theory or technical details in them are bound to be easier to understand and describe, compared to the kinds of things that go on in contemporary works. There are more copious recordings of them, more liner notes and criticism and articles about them, describing them and analyzing. And a "canon" has been established of works that definitely do have notable, easy-to-describe features. Would you say that an atonal piece of music is easier to describe? Surely not. I honestly cannot think of a single way in which common practice works are not much easier to tossup than contemporary classical works. Maybe you could clarify why you think modern works are easier rather than much, much harder to describe.
Sargon wrote: It is true that a smaller portion of modern composers would have several tossupable works, if one were inclined to write such tossups, but I am still inclined to believe even restricting oneself to such big composers you would have as many or more late 19 and 20th century composers and works than in the common practice period. For every Mozart you have a Richard Strauss or Bartok or Copland.
Are you claiming that Bartok or Copland has anywhere near the amount of tossupable pieces as a Mozart or Beethoven or even someone like Mendelssohn? I have a very, very hard time believing this. There are easily fifteen or more different Mozart tossup answers you could ask at tournaments throughout the year. Best of luck coming with up even five for Copland or Bartok that won't go dead. But I think what's even more important is Charlie's point. The reason that there are so many more works for these composers is not to do with how prolific they were as much as how famous they are and how important they are. Find a list of the 100 most notable symphonies of all time, or 100 most notable operas of all time, or 100 most essential classical CD's for your library, they are not going to be dominated by contemporary stuff, but they will be filled to the brim with Common Practice works. That's why we're able to have a different Beethoven question practically every tournament without people complaining.
Sargon wrote: Part of this is simply a reflection of the fact that a lot more people alive and writing music in the late 19th and 20th centuries than previous ones, and part because less stuff has had time to fall by the wayside.
I would contest there were a lot more well-known composers alive and writing classical music in the 20th century, since what we classify as classical music ceased to have a monopoly on musical style in that era, and faded in popularity. And while less stuff has had time to fall by the wayside, it also has had a lot less time to become widely performed, widely studied, easily recognizable, and generally imbedded in our culture. I honestly think that increasing the presence of 20th century music can only get us into more obscure composers and works that are harder to write about and answers questions on.

By the way, to the people that are getting sick of all the music debates, I'm sorry that we keep inadvertently hijacking these threads. I'm perfectly happy with discussing this on a different thread if the admins want to move this elsewhere, if this is becoming problem. But I do think these things are genuinely worth discussing.
John Lawrence
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King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

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Susan
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Susan »

Since the geography discussion has very little to do with Chicago Open, I've given it its own thread here. Have at it.
Susan
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