Posts Tagged ‘Olivier Messiaen’
Posted by Matt Mendez » Add Comment »
One should know about all the structures of fantasy and the fantasies of structures, and mix surprise and enigma, magic and shock, intelligence and abandon, form and antiform.
Thus spake Stefan Wolpe in a masterful, Dada-inflected 1959 lecture entitled “Thinking Twice.” Lee Hyla would have been seven when it was delivered: probably a tad too young to appreciate its gnomic wisdom. Nor, for that matter, did Hyla get the chance to study with Wolpe, who died in 1972 having never fully received his due. Yet of all the composers to have come along on the American scene in Wolpe’s wake, Hyla has arguably done the most to carry the Wolpean torch, to further the German émigré’s project of marrying openminded eclecticism with total artistic integrity, of fusing the untrammeled freedom of improvisation with the resilient objectivity of aesthetic reason. Hyla, who was formerly active as a free jazz pianist, made this debt plain early on by quoting Wolpe’s Chamber Piece No. 1 in his breakthrough work, 1984’s Pre-Pulse Suspended, and if his music has never drawn directly on Wolpe’s idiosyncratic twelve-tone technique (as is the case with, say, Charles Wuorinen), its spirit has always informed Hyla’s output. From their garrulous, aggressive gesturality to their interest in transmuting opposites into simultaneities (Trans: the title of one of Hyla’s chamber orchestra pieces) and their intuitive sense of le ton juste, the affinities between the two are many and striking. And while none of this is to say that Hyla isn’t very much his own man — the rockist edge and resolute avoidance of intellectual ostentation are among the music’s more endearing traits — the analogy with a Wolpe is particularly apt since Hyla tallies with no school, bows before no trends, and has no real followers. A true American original, he’s difficult to contextualize other than by reference to another one-of-a-kind figure: like Wolpe, Hyla treads a lonely path, always following the courage of his artistic convictions, even if it means some will mistakenly label him a “composer’s composer.”
Composer Lee Hyla (photo credit: Jane Lackey)
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Posted by Andrew Tham » 1 Comment »
On August 5, ICE began their residency at New York’s annual Mostly Mozart Festival with an explosion of bold, colorful works. The excitement seemed apt as the Lincoln Center concert also marked the beginning of their tenth year as an ensemble. ICE’s program showcased a variety of adventurous contemporary music while imprinting their own take on the theme of this year’s festival: birds. Rather than adhering strictly to the subject, the ensemble interspersed pieces influenced by natural settings with pieces using birdsong, creating a context (à la Catalogue d’oiseaux) in which the latter inhabited the former.
ICE – Photo by Chad Batka
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Posted by Thomas Deneuville » 2 Comments »
As this season was drawing to an end, the Metropolitan Museum was announcing the next, a couple of weeks ago, in the beautiful Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Curated by Limor Tomer, this new season will feature some edgy shows, some new music performed on historical instruments from the Sau Wing Lam Collection, and a year-long partnership with Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.
DJ Spooky – Photo by Mike Figgis
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Posted by Evan Burke » 1 Comment »
More than seventy years since its composition, Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” swells with relevancy in the modern era. Those of us alive today have a more fractured and complex sense of the passage of time than any previous generation of humanity, living simultaneously in lightspeed cyberspace and glacial reality, keeping in touch with friends, family and associates across all possible timezones and sleep schedules. Messiaen’s most famous piece is a kaleidoscope of time-perception and apocalyptic paranoia, chronicling his fear for humanity in the throes of World War II, and also his daily struggle to maintain sanity as a prisoner of war. But is a simple reading of the piece enough to capture the same spirit, decades after its birth? It’s doubtful that Messiaen would’ve wanted musicians to take a museum-mentality approach to his work. Enter clarinetist David Krakauer and his like-minded cohorts: cellist Matt Haimovitz, pianist Geoffrey Burleson, violinist Maria Bachmann, and DJ/MC Socalled. The evening was billed as “Akoka: The End of Time”, and featured three separate-but-connected works: “Akoka”, a structured improvisation organized by Krakauer, an unaltered presentation of Messiaen’s Quartet, and finally “Meanwhile” a composition by Socalled.
Krakauer is a world-renowned classical musician whose work in the last twenty years has increasingly tilted towards klezmer and the avant-garde. He’s worked with musicians as diverse as John Zorn (on the viscerally powerful Kristallnacht) and ex-James Brown trombonist Fred Wesley (in the klezmer-funk project Abraham Inc.). Burleson, Haimovitz and Bachmann share his passion for boundary-stretching music, blurring the lines between interpretation and improvisation, while Socalled is a musical chameleon, equally at home crafting dense musique concrete soundscapes and spitting rhymes about the merits of big booty.
David Krakauer – Photograph by Jean-Marc Lubrano
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Posted by Thomas Deneuville » 1 Comment »
A kind reader recently asked me in a comment to cover some titles of Olivier Messiaen pieces. Of course, I had to start with the Quatuor pour la fin du temps…
Premiered in Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany (currently Zgorzelec, Poland) on January 15, 1941, in front of an audience of 400 other prisoners, the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) is one of the most iconic pieces of the 20th century repertoire.
A few tricky spots here:
- pronounce the two Us in Quatuor: the first will give a [kwa] sound (an exception in French—Quatre, 4, is pronounced [katr]), while the second is a regular [ü] with protruding lips,
- fin is a [i] nasal, as in vin or pain, resonating in one’s nose,
- temps is a [a] nasal, as in blanc, or chant, resonating lower in one’s throat.
Link to MP3: ICIYL – Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps (Messiaen, 1941)
Over the years lots of myths have been spread about the writing and the premiere of this piece (apparently even by the composer?). I strongly recommend For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet by Rebecca Rischin that features interviews of some of the creators of the piece, Messiaen’s wife, etc.
Finally, my favorite recording out there is the one by the Holy Cross Chamber Players (Centaur/ CRC 2915) that I reviewed a couple of years ago here.
Was this helpful? Is there any other name (composer, piece, instrument, etc.) that you would like to see on these pages? Just post a comment or find me on Twitter:@tonalfreak.
Posted by Thomas Deneuville » 16 Comments »
Since I hear a lot of people (professors, performers, composers, etc.) having a hard time pronouncing some complicated French composers’ names, I decided to modestly record myself and post the sound clips on my blog.
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
The one that suffers most, I think, is Olivier Messiaen. The combination of three vowels and an -n is actually quite unusual in French, so don’t feel bad if you’re not 100% sure of the pronunciation.
Link to MP3 – Olivier Messiaen
And now, two minutes of Turangalîla in HD:
Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor · Berliner Philharmoniker
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano · Tristan Murail, ondes Martenot
Recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie, 11 September 2008.
Was this helpful? I am planning on posting more, but can you think of a French name that you find challenging? Or maybe the name of a piece (Le Marteau sans Maître, etc.)? Please, leave a comment and I’d be glad to post it!