Posted by Andrew Lee » 9 Comments »
I am not a governess who treats the composer like a child and tells him what he should compose. I try to understand what he has written down. I look at the composer like a father, and I look at his music with loving but critical eyes.
- Alfred Brendel, 13 September 2005, Interview with NPR
As an undergraduate, I had a great deal of admiration for Mr. Brendel. In his writings and recordings he seemed to uphold the ideal that the performer is in service to the score and composer, and must do his or her best to faithfully transmit the music to the audience. The opposite of this approach is the selfish performer, who believes that he or she knows better than the composer how to best bring the music to life. Such performers upstage the composer and do so without any compunction.
Of course, it doesn’t take long to realize that it would take sort of some sort of spiritual possession for a performer to be a a perfect conduit of the composer’s intentions (and I don’t quite think that’s Brendel’s ideal). But what really brought me away from Brendel’s line of thinking was a discussion on creativity in grad school.
Alfred Brendel - Photo by Betty Freeman
[Read more →]
Posted by Paul Kilbey » 3 Comments »
I really want to like Jonny Greenwood’s compositional career. Radiohead were the first band I loved, and I think that they helped shape my musical tastes and aesthetics more than most composers. I recall excitedly pre-ordering Greenwood’s first classical foray, the soundtrack to the film Bodysong, as soon as I found out about it back in 2003. And I was thrilled the following year by the announcement that he had been recruited to the position of Composer in Residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. This was evidence, to my excitable teenage brain, that pop music was real, that it could achieve things, that my school music teacher was wrong. Pop music mattered. There was a composer in Radiohead.
[Read more →]
Posted by Thomas Deneuville » 1 Comment »
Contemporaneous’ bio states that the ensemble is “dedicated to performing the most exciting music that […] captures the spirit of the present moment.” Do you mean it in an Epicurean way, or just the Zeitgeist? What’s going on in the world—musical or not—that echoes with you these days?
One thing that resonates with me and all of us at Contemporaneous is the dizzying variety of what’s going on in today’s world and the unprecedented interconnectedness of it all. Different composers see and portray the world in different ways, which is yet another exciting element of the diversity in the world we all share. Because of this, every composer, and every piece of music, has a different answer to your question. Whereas some works choose to represent a small slice of their current experience, others strive to find universals in human experience. The important thread is that the music we perform is directly linked to today even though — and in fact all the more so because — the links themselves are all so different.
[Read more →]
Posted by Steven Berryman » Add Comment »
“A younger generation of New Zealand composers … have abandoned the country’s Romantic search for musical representations of landscape, and instead are reflecting upon increasingly personal engagements with concepts of space, memory and body” writes the curator of “The Body Electric”, Michael Norris. Kings Place is currently hosting a week of events exploring New Zealand music, poetry and ideas and “The Body Electric” was a programme of musical works that placed the body at the core of their conception.
The opening work placed an actual body as the focus – a solo performer with two microphones attached to his body that were amplifying his internal sounds and those created by the movement of the body as the performer did some Kendo-like moves. Chris Black’s persona elemental for solo performer and electronics made an engaging opening to the programme: sensitive lighting, words that seemed to make the performance feel like a meditative act rather than a musical one, the amplification of the performer’s heartbeat giving the work its pulse. ”By employing simple analogue technology, the performance is designed to preserve to a large extent the raw sounds of the body, in order to expose and communicate in a very direct way the organic complexity and expressive materiality of the body itself” (Chris Black). Michael Norris’ De Corporis Fabbrica for solo/amplified clarinet and visuals followed well – a piece based on the seven chapters of an anatomy book and this was also structured in seven movements to match the book. The images were extreme close ups of skin, an eye ball, and were not too dramatic to compete with the playing of Richard Haynes which was always expressive, with a broad spectrum of tonal control and vibrant articulation. Norris’ writing has a strong sense of line, and the overall structure of the work was compelling, with the features of the previous movements seemingly interacting with each in the seventh and final movement.
[Read more →]
Posted by Rob Wendt » 2 Comments »
Bassoon, trombone, tuba, double bass, cello – in many musical textures, low voices are employed as a harmonic foundation, while a violin or soprano steals the spotlight and carries a melody. On April 1st at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, Yale students, alumni and faculty demonstrated what instruments with low registers can do on their own. From the Baroque era to our own new century, composers have employed bass and tenor voices to create music ranging from jocose to somber, crafting melodies which test the limits of these instruments’ ranges, and even dispensing with melodies altogether in a profusion of experimental timbres. It must be a great privilege for students and recent alumni to perform with such accomplished faculty as bassoonist Frank Morelli, but also the ultimate incentive for musical discipline and maturity, which were on full display, though without detracting from the festive, sometimes tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of this exclusive club of musical characters.
De Profundis: Gubaidulina’s Bassoon Concerto – Photo by Dana Astmann
[Read more →]
Posted by Elias Blumm » 1 Comment »
Ask a fan of The Mountain Goats what they listen for in the music of John Darnielle and there’s a very good chance their first answer will be words – inventive, potent words that bud to life and stamp their impression on the mind in tune after each brief tune. Ask a fan of Anonymous 4 what they listen for and words might come in 3rd, 4th, maybe 17th on a list of countless wonderful things about them. It has nothing to do with diction or delivery, but rather that the texts performed by Anonymous 4 are part of the cipher that makes their sound so eternal and mysteriously gorgeous; a sonic glimpse into the medieval past that, apart from those of us who happen to be Latin scholars or Capuchin monks, is satisfyingly inscrutable.
It’s no wonder they’re called Anonymous 4, Anonymous IV being the eponymous mystery man whose 13th century treatise on some of the earliest known European composers gives scholars and other folks who nerd out on musical antiquity, the clearest vision of polyphony as it was performed three quarters of a millennium ago. So, words, from the mouth of Darnielle: a comfortingly relatable substance, poetry that articulates the familiar in ways listeners may never have otherwise considered. Words from the mouths of Anonymous 4: a vehicle for some of the most celestial, tightly knit harmony this side of the cosmos. On Saturday, March 24, those words and those voices shared the stage at the Kaufman Center for the penultimate performance of the Ecstatic Music Festival.
John Darnielle, Anonymous 4, Owen Pallett – Photo by David Andrako
[Read more →]