NWR The "What are we listening to?" Thread

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Rod Smith, Jan 6, 2016.

  1. Ferneyhough was one of my two main composition teachers (Michael Finnissy was the other - so I'm used to very black pages, although both as people and composers in most other ways they really have very little in common). I never took the various devices of that world as far as him, but I drifted away from both his approach to notation and the philosophy behind it as I moved out of his orbit. Ultimately I decided what I was interested in was the sound the music made, not how I got to that sound (some of Ferneyhough's music sounds amazing, don't get me wrong).

    If anyone else is wondering what we are talking about, this bar might give you an idea:

    Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 22.35.38.png
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  2. Complexity for complexity's sake?
  3. I fear that's a misleadingly simple example, Alex, at least as regards his 'middle period'!
    The world is an incomparably better place for his music, whatever its meaning or function.

    How do you multiply that question by the square root of 34498.475? Alex is in a much better place than I to give an answer.
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  4. I stared at it for a while but can't figure it out. Is there a recording of what it sounds like?
  5. I think my charitable (to him) answer would be that the music couldn't have come about or exist any other way than it does, and if you like what it is - without worrying about how it got there - that's enough. He's also enormously interested in Renaissance music, actually, and some of the rhythmic procedures of the Ars Subtilior are very important to him.

    That bar is from a piece called Quirl, I think it has been recorded. I no longer have a brain that can work these things out, and looking at it closely I think there might be some mistakes in how the brackets are lined up. It kind of goes bang bang d-donk d-donk: if the way it is written is correct it would do that with the two hands out of time with each other, but I think it is probably supposed to be the same rhythm in both hands.

    A better introduction to his music, and a piece I still think is amazing, might be this:

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  6. Oh, goodness, there's a hint of John Stump's Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz, just looking at these score excerpts!
  7. Strangely I was just watching Boulez conducting Tristan und Isolde in Osaka, sung by Nilsson, Windgassen, Hotter (!).... I had VHS in my early twenties as a rare record, but now everything is on Youtube...
    Quite amazing how Japanese afford to support European classical music to a level that they moved the whole W. Wagner staging and cast to Osaka.

    People say his Wagner is too fast, while he is not much faster than Bohm if you compare the Ring cycle. But his conducting does squeeze out water on the places traditionally taking slower pace.
    The main issue of this performance is that the orchestra is clearly not up there. Was it NHK orchestra?

    I quite like Boulez conducting Bruckner eighth with Wiener Phil in his late age.
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  8. I still can't wrap my head around the example of his notation but the piece sounds pretty good. I like it. :D

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  9. I'm glad you like it. If you like Cecil Taylor I can see why you would. Try English Country Tunes by Michael Finnissy too. His own performance is a really quite extraordinary thing.

    The problem with the way he writes rhythm for me is this (sorry to geek out like this, I hadn't thought about this for ages and listening to it was a useful exercise): The first bar of that piece is a 3/8 bar. In that performance, which is remarkable and by an outstanding pianist, it takes 3.3 seconds (I timed it). Bar 12 is supposed to be in the same tempo and is a 4/8 bar. Therefore it should take 4.4 seconds. It takes 11. So while the music is 'about' the notation of infinitesimally precise rhythmic details, they simply don't exist in performance, even in the hands of one of the best and most experienced interpreters the music has. I feel a bit bad, as Ferneyhough has many arguments about why we shouldn't think about it this way, and he would say I'm misrepresenting him, but this does trouble me!

    Returning to the original topic, Boulez conducted his music once or twice, but struggled with it as there was no way to get it 'right', which for him was of course everything. What is remarkable to me about Boulez's conducting, whether of his own music or of Wagner is the absolute transparency of every texture in terms of balance and tuning - it is like giving the music an x-ray. It was always very fresh, and it could be revelatory even in music it didn't superficially suit. I didn't find it always worked where the character of the music was too far outside his comfort zone: he started doing Janacek late in life and that really missed the point to me.

    This has terrible sound, but just shows a complete sympathy between players, music and conductor, along with the fantastically semaphore like gestures:

  10. I'll definitely listen to the Finnissy if it's available on YT or similar. What about your own music? Has it been recorded? What kind of a direction did you go since you mentioned that it changed once you left Fernyhough's circle?
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  11. I remember Boulez conducting Scriabin's 'The Poem Of Ecstasy' and Szymanowski's first violin concerto with blazing clarity, music which on the face of it is rather far from his aesthetic but with gripping results. He really wasn't much good at Haydn, it must be admitted.

    Beautifully expressed. Some musicians are thrilled by the challenge but I know many more who are ultimately infuriated by it, and it's certainly possible to argue that the second group often do at least as good a job as the first; nearly all performances of his music are inaccurate, by necessity, in a way that subverts the traditional relationship of text and performer, so that in the end there are only questions. Which is as uncomfortable as it should be.
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  12. Thanks for your interest! I've got 2 commercial recordings which you can hear (for free!) via the label:

    Carrier Records

    This is a live performance (with a somewhat unruly audience) of the biggest piece on my more recent disc. I think, like most composers , I find it easier to characterise other people's music than my own, but I guess I would say I'm interested in complex ways to approach repetition and single instrumental sounds: how much variety can I get out of one chord or note.

  13. I'm listening to that OutsideIn just now. I quite like it. I know many find it a dirty word, I hope you don't, but it seems kinda minimalist in a sort of not so still Morton Feldman-y way! I love Feldman so I hope you don't think that a negative thing. (Why is it that so many people hate minimalism?). Have you written anything for flute or recorder by any chance? :D
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  14. Thank you very much for listening. No minimal not a bad word for me at all, although it certainly doesn't have much to do with the Americans who people usually think of. I usually describe the language as 'reduced'... I love Feldman's music too, although I certainly think about form in a very much more narrative way.

    Haven't written anything for flute for years I'm afraid: I've tended to work a lot with string players recently but that's by accident as much as design.
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  15. I like the uncomfortableness and the questions, but not the antagonism it can generate... I think sound production has become the domain I invite instability in, although violinists like the one above not only can play everything the same every time, but are choosing between an amazing number of options within some of the nonstandard sounds.
  16. If still on the topic of contemporary British, how do you pros feel about Birtwistle? I just dug up my copy of Boulez conducting Birtwistle (Tragoedia, Secret Theatre) and I must say I like this sort of Messiaen-esque Webernism. That's of course an unfair comparison but for some reason my mind did go to those two in comparison.
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  17. I love Morton Feldman. I met him once when I was in my teens and he was like his music, just there. The opposite of music is silence, and I like that too, in the same way that water is often the best drink, not wine.
    Does he intend the antagonism? I would guess not.

    I'm not sure how I feel about Birtwistle at the moment but he is beyond question a figure of the greatest consequence.
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  18. A few in my week off:

    First a recent version of a favourite:

    Second two from a film kindly recommended by forumites in the film thread from Three Billboards, the best film I have seen in a while: the Four Tops

    And Joan Baez (original version from The Band)

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  19. At the risk of helping turn this thread into the equivalent of "Understanding minerality across the lieu-dits of the Cotes de Nuits" I've been watching some YouTube vids by Rick Beato, who dissects all sorts of tracks to tell us "What makes this song great". The first one I watched was on Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was great, but then I watched others where he gets carried away with naming all the obscure chords and note progressions in songs like "Let's Dance". It's somethign to while away the confinement hours though.

    As an antidote to that, my teenage daughter introduced me to "Men We Trust". Who are a bit like Massive Attack.
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  20. Just watched his top 20 electric guitar intros. Surprised he omitted this.....

  21. I think I might have been too fixated on JS Bach. I love the lute yet I have badly neglected another German composer who was a contemporary of Bach's and also wrote very engaging music for the lute (and who was the greatest lute virtuoso of that period), Sylvius Leopold Weiss. I bought the first four CDs of Robert Barto playing Weiss. They're lovely. I'll get around to buying 5-11 at some point but here's the 11th volume that some kind soul posted on YT:
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  22. I'd say not. I played his Funérailles (7 string players + harp, about 23mins) in the early 90s. Impossible at first sight, but the more you worked at it the more sense, intellectual and emotional, it made - and, notwithstanding the extreme difficulty, it was so well written and well laid-out as to make the task almost feasible.
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