29 January 2011

Never Noticed

. . . when watching The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, in one of the “Jet Fuel Formula” episodes, when Rocky & Bullwinkle are aboard the moon men’s ship, Rocky is reading from a Rocket Cook Book, and one of the moon men . . . it might be Gidney, or then, too, it might be Cloyd . . . no, it turns out it was Gidney . . . pulls the book Earth from a shelf (to ascertain where on the planet mooseberries may be found).

Another volume on that shelf bears the title Sex on Planet “X” on its spine.

Now, I don’t think I could have noticed that when I was a wee lad. But I might have, and it wouldn’t have signified aught to me, I suppose . . . .

New Paths

A lady to whom I owe large credit for encouraging me to explore new musical angles, my clarinet instructor Nancy Garlick, is here branching out herself (teaching by example, as ’twere). The Shenandoah Recorder Society:

Nancy is center, with her music stand characteristically placed between herself and the limelight . . . .

22 January 2011

Mistaking likeable for bad

At npr.org, so . . . .

I understand that criticism of anything remotely accessible, plus a system that largely ignored music outside the academy, and a rotten and unfair funding structure made many composers feel that they had to write music in a style that was not truly theirs.

Missy understands “that criticism of anything remotely accessible”? I wish she’d explain it, then. It hasn’t struck me as at all more intelligent than equating accessible with bad.

18 January 2011

Just a peep

Fell practically off the map, which if not strictly The Plan, was comfortably within range. Los coquís are delightful.

On every radio station there are brass arrangements which require exhilarating agility.

I’ve been on therapeutic shut-down. And returning thither, directly.

We just may bring the Viola Sonata to Boston.

15 January 2011

Both kinds: opera, and opera-oratorio

Stravinsky & Bartók in Boston, and two characters who, if they had to do it all over again, probably would insist on asking . . . .

[ link → review ]

Őrs Kisfaludy reprises his commanding Prologue (which it delights me that Levine retains even in concert performance).

From time to time, you heard someone leave the Hall, a little noisily. So tickled was I, though, at the thought of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle punctuated by a series of shutting doors, I didn’t have it in me to be annoyed at the squeamish patrons . . . .

14 January 2011


Pre-Vacation Shuffle:

1. The Beatles, “I’m Down” from Mono Masters [445/1507]
2. Bartók, Táncszvit, Sz.77 Allegro (LSO, Doráti) [269/1507]
3. Shostakovich, “The Ass & the Nightingale” from Two Fables After Krylov, Opus 4 (Tamara Sinyavskaya, mezzo; Cologne West German Radio Symphony; Misha Yurovsky) [1341/1507]
4. Hindemith, Ludus tonalis № 22, Fuga undecima in B (Jn McCabe) [680/1507]
5. Jethro Tull, “A New Day Yesterday” from Stand Up [27/1507]
6. Elgar, Cello Concerto in e minor, Opus 85, iv. Allegro ma non troppo (André Navarra, vc; Hallé Orchestra; Barbirolli) [228/1507]
7. Hindemith, Part II of the Konzertmusik, Opus 50 for brass & strings (members of the NY Phil, Bernstein) [598/1507]
8. Prokofiev, Romeo & Juliet, Opus 64, Act III Scene vi, № 38 Romeo & Juliet (Juliet’s bedroom) (BSO, Ozawa) [77/1507]
9. Prokofiev, Piano Concerto № 1 in D-flat Major, Opus 10, iii. Allegro scherzando (Béroff, Gewandhausorchester, Masur) [312/1507]
10. Beethoven, Symphony № 1 in C, Opus 21, i. Adagio moltoAllegro con brio (Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Masur) [1184/1507]
11. Shostakovich, Polka after The Age of Gold, (Emerson String Quartet) [154/1507]
12. Shostakovich, Symphony № 9, Opus 70, ii. Moderato (Prague Symphony, Maksim Dmitriyevich) [974/1507]
13. Vaughan Williams, Symphony № 6, i. Allegro (London Phil, Haitink) [1209/1507]
14. Yagmurla Gelen, “Goksel Baktagir” from Istanbul Lounge [1494/1507]
15. Sibelius, Symphony № 4 in a minor, Opus 63, iv. Allegro (Helsinki Phil, Berglund) [1003/1507]
16. Genesis, “Counting Out Time” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway [255/1507]

Cold fact

The wealth of blank space says it all, really:

Ths is the statement, not a template.

13 January 2011

Four Years Ago Today

From the first page of the liner notes to the reissued 1st and 3rd editions of Exposure:

... When the Muse descends, we know directly (one aspect of) the Creative Impulse and its inexpressible benevolence. This is the life-giving force that maintains all audients and performers who continue, despite all evidence to the contrary, to return to the place where Music opens itself to us. When we find how many participants in our musical enterprise, even good people with the best of intentions, act to close the door on the Benevolence that seeks to walk in and embrace us, in that moment we know pain, grief, loss. When good people further declare their consumer rights in the event, then we know despair ...

So, what happened in 1977 that returned me to the life of a working player? At the beginning of July, David Bowie and Brian Eno telephoned me from Berlin and asked if I could play some hairy rock guitar on a record David was making with Brian. From this, everything changed: a beginning again, again.

Exposure was an autobiography of sorts, a statement of interests and concerns. My life changed direction in July 1974 following a terrifying vision of the future. Now, three decades later, I find that I underestimated the extent of radical change that is presently under way. In 1974 my response was terror. In 2006, I trust the unfolding process.

May we know, and trust, the inexpressible Benevolence of the Creative Impulse.

Robert Fripp
January 13th, 2006
DGM HQ, Wiltshire

I knew from the liner notes on the original LP that Fripp had intended Exposure as “the third part of an MOR trilogy with Daryl Hall’s Sacred Songs and Peter Gabriel II”; only this year, though, have I heard the Sacred Songs album.

Impulse on, Mr Fripp!

12 January 2011

Red Box

I had fetched in the two other Genesis boxes some little time ago. At the time, I was fairly sure I shouldn’t trouble with the 1983-1998 box.

Unusually for me, I was actually following the band in ‘real time’ when they issued the Duke and Abacab LPs (and attended a concert of each of those tours). I was crazy about Duke, and really liked a couple of tracks on Abacab (no really good reason why I didn’t get to know the full album back at that time, unless it’s that I was at Wooster, and I took my studies fairly seriously . . . so that my pop listening was mostly a matter of cherry-picking the tried-&-true, and it was a time when I hardly absorbed any new pop albums).

Checking the calendar, the album Genesis must have come out while I was Wooster . . . and my junior and senior years were if anything a little more concentrated (I was a double-major in composition and clarinet performance). Anyway, the singles that got radio play from the album didn't ‘click’ with me (though heaven knows why I should have no trouble with, say, “Every Step You Take” by the Police, and yet somehow hold “That’s All” against Genesis). I think that I was even negatively affected by the cover of the new album . . . that was a kid’s toy back at home, and I took the homey minimalism of the cover for a disappointment . . . pretty silly, really; I mean, why not, right?

At some point (while I was at UVa? Probably) I did pick up Invisible Touch on CD. As while at Wooster, my studies meant that I really did not pay attention to it as a full album. I did like all the singles (the first half of the disc is all hits, isn’t it? And “Throwing It All Away” is the next to last track), but I was already half-dismissive of ‘this “block-buster” Genesis,’ so I was not being fair to the band or their work in my thinking.

That’s pretty much where my head was with post-Duke Genesis for a long time. The change began (I think) with my watching the When in Rome DVD. Of course the newer material (notably “Home by the Sea” and “Domino” — to which apparently I never listened when I first owned the Invisible Touch disc) I was a complete stranger to. But it was an obvious case where, unless I was prepared to be a blockhead and think that the early stuff was good, and the later stuff bad, just because of a watershed date — it was just plain a good show, and they’re obiously a fine band, and really impressive songwriters — if anything, even more impressive because they evolved with such assurance.

Well, somewhere in the middle of that was a New York friend’s advocacy for the 1983 album. I thought, I really at last listen to it. (Oh! Another video reinforcement was the Genesis Songbook DVD, which spans their entire career . . . again, underscoring the point of their astonishing versatility as both a performing band, and a songwriting collective.) So with an eye to longer-term economizing, I was rather thinking I should probably want the box.

Which brings us to the present. I owe it to Abacab to go back and listen to it closely (and in its entirety) again, but offhand, I think Genesis is a yet better album. And I couldn’t help thinking, while listening to We Can't Dance last night and this morning, that in all fairness, this sounded like the album they wish they could have made of ...And Then There Were Three...

With all the twists and turns of fortune through the course of the band’s career, I hardly thought I should ever find myself owning their entire studio output, let alone pleased with it. But, in fact, I am pleased, because I am musically impressed.

Pithy Wisdom

For the professional, the industry is a large part of how you get to where you’re going.
For the aspirant artist, the industry is a large part of what stops you getting there.

— Robt Fripp
Thursday, 1.ix.2005

Roll, Oceana, Roll

11 January 2011

And a third

. . . because it’s so interesting. Also per Laurel Fay, Shostakovich: A Life

Another theme raised repeatedly during their American visit [22 Oct - 21 Nov 1959], according to an account attributed jointly to Shostakovich and Khrennikov, was the Soviet attitude toward dodecaphony, with the (preposterous, so they claimed) allegations that not only was it not performed in the Soviet Union but Soviet composers were officially forbidden to compose dodecaphonic music and, therefore, were denied artistic freedom. The opening of channels for cultural exchange had ushered in a new era of cultural competition. On his return from Italy and France the previous year, Shostakovich had reported that “the leading French masters are deeply troubled about the future of music in the West. They are troubled by the dissemination of false ‘avant-garde’ trends — like the notorious dodecaphony or ‘concrete music’ — among their youth. This still-born art gains no recognition from the broad public, it attests to the ideological impasse, the crisis of bourgeois culture.” Such phrases, coupled with tributes to the adherents of genuinely “progressive” music responsive to the needs of the broad listening public, figured increasingly in Shostakovich's lexicon, as mouthpiece of official Soviet aesthetic policy.

In an interview given to a Polish journalist during the Warsaw Autumn Festival but published subsequently in Sovetskaya muzyka, Shostakovich preached at length of the perils of dodecaphony, which he felt had unreasonably monopolized the programs of the festival:

I am firmly convinced that in music, as in every other human endeavor, it is always necessary to seek new paths. But it seems to me that those who see these new paths in dodecaphony are seriously deluding themselves. The narrow dogmatism of this artificially invented system rigidly fetters the creative imagination of composers and deprives them of individuality. It is no accident that in the entire legacy of Schoenberg’s dodecaphonic system there is not a single work that has gained wide acceptance.... Dodecaphony not only has no future, it doesn’t even have a present. It is just a “fad” that is already passing.

Soviet music, he asserted by contrast, was evaluated not by its degree of experimentation or by its deviation from tonality but by whether it was good, that is, whether it was rich in substance and artistically consummate.

This is not the place to debate the Soviet failure to acknowledge the aesthetic “inevitability” of the Second Viennese School and Serialism. In hindsight, the stance, though dogmatic, seems considerably less wrong-headed and regressive than it was thought to be in the West. At least in Shostakovich’s case, it should not be assumed that he was ignorant of the musical styles he was condemning. Nor can it be taken for granted that the official line he was obliged to toe was completely alien to his real preferences and convictions. Shostakovich was an exceptionally sensitive and literate musician. In Warsaw, in America, and on his frequent foreign jaunts, he was provided with ample opportunity to meet composers, listen to their music, and assess the international picture. He stocked up on recordings whenever he traveled.

His son Maxim has recalled that scores sent by composers or musical organizations could always be found in their home and that Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître, the late works of Stravinsky, and a couple of pieces by Xenakis were among the works he admired. In March 1959, as it happens, Shostakovich presented his old friend Shebalin with a score of Le marteau for his birthday. Denisov recorded in a diary entry for 1957 Shostakovich’s private comments about his dislike of the music of Schoenberg and his feeling that Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies were rather saccharine. After having been singled out in one of Shostakovich’s speeches as the “arch-representative of ‘decadent capitalist culture,’” Karlheinz Stockhausen subsequently received a private letter from the composer professing admiration for his music and encouraging him to visit. Still, if his tastes in music were more catholic than his sometimes strident rhetoric might suggest, Shostakovich nonetheless favored more conservative contemporary idioms, the music of Benjamin Britten, for instance. His distaste for dry, inepressive music and his opposition to composition by rational system of mathematical formula were genuine. Direct engagement with his listener, the need to connect through his music with ordinary people remained a central concern for Shostakovich.

10 January 2011

Two passages re: Shostakovich

March of 1949 (source: Nikolai Nabokov, cited in Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, Second Edition

When, after several trying and ludicrous speeches, his turn came to speak he began to read his prepared talk in a nervous and shaky voice. After a few sentences he broke off, and the speech was continued in English by a suave baritone. In all the equivocation of that conference, Shostakovich’s speech was the least direct. Written in the style of the Agitprop speeches, it was quite obviously prepared by the ‘party organs’ in charge of the Waldorf-Astoria conference, on the Soviet side of the picture. In it these ‘organs,’ through their mouthpiece Shostakovich, condemned most Western music as decadent and bourgeois, painted the glories of the rising Soviet music culture, attacked the demon Stravinsky as the corrupter of Western art (with a dig at Prokofiev) and urged upon the ‘progressive Americans’ of the conference the necessity of fighting against the reactionaries and warmongers of America and . . . and admitted that the ‘mouthpiece’ (Mr Shostakovich) had itself often erred and sinned against the decrees of the Party.

I sat in my seat petrified by this spectacle of human misery and degradation. It was crystal clear to me that what I had suspected from the day that I heard that Shostakovich was going to be among the delegates representing the Soviet government was true: this speech of his, this whole peace-making mission was part of a punishment, part of a ritual redemption he had to go through before he could be pardoned again. He was to tell, in person, to all the dupes in the Waldorf conference and to the whole decadent bourgeois world that loved him so much that he, Shostakovich, the famous Russian composer, is not a free man, but an obedient tool of his government. He told in effect that every time the Party found flaws in his art, the Party was right, and every time the Party put him on ice, he was grateful to the Party, because it helped him to recognize the flaws and mistakes.

After his speech I felt I had to ask him publicly a few questions. I had to do it, not in order to embarrass a wretched human being who had just given me the most flagrant example of what it is to be a composer in the Soviet Union, but because of the several thousand people that sat in the hall, because of those that perhaps still could not or did not wish to understand the sinister game that was being played before their eyes. I asked him simple factual questions concerning modern music, questions that should be of interest to all musicians. I asked him whether he, personally, the composer Shostakovich, not the delegate of Stalin’s government, subscribed to the wholesale condemnation of Western music as it had been expounded daily by the Soviet press and as it appeared in the official pronouncements of the Soviet Government. I asked him whether he, personally, agreed with the condemnation of the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Hindemith. To these questions he acquiesced: ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I completely subscribe to the views as expressed by . . . etc. . . .’ When he finished answering my questions the dupes in the audience gave him a new and prolonged ovation.

And 1968, per Laurel Fay, Shostakovich: A Life

Critics remarked on the novelty in form, language, and technical means in the new quartet [the Twelfth], on the composer’s unique ability to remain himself while exploring new horizons. There was, indeed, a great deal here that was new and unexpected for Shostakovich’s music, not least of which was the considerable dependence on twelve-tone rows for its thematic material, within a broadly tonal context. This was not the cutting edge in Soviet music. Though revered as its elder statesman, a living legend, by now Shostakovich was no longer seen as a pioneer. From the late 1950s through the years of official bluster by the leadership of the Union of Composers—including Shostakovich himself—proclaiming the dangers of dodecaphony and alien avant-garde styles, genuine interest among Soviet musicians in the contemporary trends filtering in from the West had increased steadily, especially among young composers and performers. So had the volume of homegrown “experimental” scores. Shostakovich was not oblivious to these developments. Composer Nikolai Karetnikov even credited him with lending his support and authority to overcome the resistance of the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre, one of the most conservative bastions of musical tradition, to the staging of Karetnikov’s twelve-tone ballet score, Vanina Vanini in 1962.

Shostakovich’s adaptation of aspects of twelve-tone writing was not an aesthetic volte-face. Isolated examples of twelve-tone rows had already appeared in Seven Verses of A. Blok and in the Second Violin Concerto. His propensity for chromatic melody writing was longstanding. Queried by Tsyganov about the serial elements in his Twelfth Quartet, the composer is said to have commented: “They can also be found in Mozart.” In an interview concerning young composers that appeared just before the Twelfth Quartet received its initial screening, Shostakovich’s comments highlighted the consistency of his present practice with his lifelong principles:

As far as the use of strictly technical devices from such musical “systems” as dodecaphony or aleatory is concerned ... everything in good measure. If, let’s say, a composer sets himself the obligatory task of writing dodecaphonic music, then he artificially limits his possibilities, his ideas. The use of elements from these complex systems is fully justified if it is dictated by the concept of the composition.... You know, to a certain extent I think the formula “the end justifies the means” is valid in music. All means? All of them, if they contribute to the end objective.

09 January 2011

Dance, Dance, Dance

The ring shout was a holy dance whose roots can be traced directly to West Africe. Although the ring shout occurs spontaneously at first, it emerges into a kind of choreographed dance of men and women moving in a circle counterclockwise, shuffling their feet and gesticulating with their arms. Historian Sterling Stuckey suggested that in his mature career, when Monk left the piano bench to dance while his sidemen soloed, he was echoing the ring shout. His “dance” consisted of a peculiar spinning move, elbow pumping up and down on each turn, with an occasional stutter step allowing him to glide left and right. It was a deliberate embodiment of the rhythm of each tune: Every drummer interviewed who played with Monk said that he liked to get up to dance in order to set the rhythm; it was a form of conducting that required complete attention from the drummer. Was it also a sacred expression? Perhaps.

(The above from p. 46 of the paper edition of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D.G. Kelley.)

The bit of concert footage which appears at (or near) the beginning of the biopic Straight, No Chaser shows Monk engaged in just such a dance.

On a personal note:

Chart Position:

#370,153 -998 — Globally across all genres

08 January 2011

Viola in Space

Portions of the première of the Viola Sonata here accompany stunning photography:

07 January 2011

Passion, Revisiting the

Deep in the mailbag, I find this message from one kindly and thoughtful chorister about the experience of preparing and performing the Passion. It is a long piece; and it is a long piece for a choir to sing unaccompanied; and stretches of the seven-part writing are of a rhythmic independence which must keep a singer on his toes in ways that are a stretch.

In short, like much of my music (really), it is a piece with its musical challanges, challenges which may surprise even a seasoned musician. But the composer is grateful beyond words when the performers fall for the piece, its technical and musical challengese notwithstanding.

I’ll get out of the way, now.

Hello Karl,

First, nice recording! I’m so glad we could give that to you. While at the very beginning, the chant sounds a little rigid, I don’t think it took us long to relax into it. And I am so proud of our soprano section in particular, with their handling of the crucifixion segments.

In fact, the whole piece is so sublime to my ears that the Bach that follows it sounds like jackhammers. Of course, it’s no secret that I am partial to chant and
medieval polyphony, so I may be biased.

I really loved the piece, and only ever found myself wishing that the rest of the choir would have surrendered to it sooner. The preparation was frustrating because a different part spoke to each member of the choir. So as we each developed our favorite segments early on, preparation was lopsided because while three or four of us may have mastered any given part, there was little overlap. As I’m sure you know, the real work can’t begin until all have a good grasp on all sections. So as a group, the real time we were able to spend with the piece was much too short.

I am not a Christian, but despite that, I do have a great appreciation for sacred texts, icons and ideas. There was so much about this piece that delivered a powerful spiritual message. You should also know, I have only ever heard the Passion recited by speakers or occasionally actors, never as chant. This alone was a great improvement for me. Still, what your piece does by interspersing chant with polyphony is quite literally enchanting. The listener is lulled into a hypnotic state by the chant and I bet they think they are going to get away with an easy, gentle reading of the Passion. But the polyphony uses musical language to emphasize and punctuate certain texts which pulls them back into hearing the message — straight through the following segment of chant. The meditative approach actually eightens the consciousness of the person hearing it. But it creates a soul consciousness in addition to keeping the brain engaged.

Also, the fact that what I call “the details” went on for 20 minutes was especially effective. While as a musician, I can appreciate all the little variations in the repeated themes, I’m sure an ordinary listener — or more importantly a member of the congregation — might find it a bit tedious.

It reminds me of when I went to see the catacombs of Paris. Being Europe, there was not a lot of effort on the part of the museum staff to “guide” patrons through. Basically, we paid our admission, and they pointed us to the stairs. There was a sign at the top of the stairs that read “Catacombs” with an arrow pointing diagonally down in the direction of a spiral staircase. That was all. My husband and I began our descent, and it wasn’t long before all we could see in any direction was stairs. We slowly began to realize that we had no idea how far down we were going. There was no one to ask, we just had to keep walking down step-by-step. There were moments of fatigue, thirst, muscle cramping and even fleeting sensations of claustrophobic panic. When we finally reached the cold, damp floor... Well I never expected to feel so much comfort at the sight of corridors of stacked skeletons.

Much like the catharsis that happens at the onset of the first crucifixion section. Powerful. I found myself profoundly grateful and at-last ready to listen to what would otherwise be the hardest part to hear.

And it is so beautiful, Karl. Not to be overly flattering, but the words float like a falling leaf. Or snowflakes even; each cluster of notes or phrase decadent and beautiful by itself, but against a backdrop of lush, echoing vocal harmonies that sound as if they preceded time itself. Maybe the snowflakes are the faithful tears of generations.

And you offer just enough reprieve with a short moment of chant to catch one’s breath emotionally before hearing the rest of the story. Amid the timing of the women telling the story, the phrase
Woman, here is your son sounds as if in slow motion and would surely burn a permanent impression of the great and tragic loss in the fabric of any conscious soul.

And to me, the setting of the
Since it was the day of preparation... section is mercifully harmonic. It was sweet and comforting to sing and I’m sure to hear as well.

In closing, the story ends with women sweetly chanting above a seamless harmonic tapestry. This is a musical reminder (to me anyway) of the construction of the entire piece. And I mentioned it to you before, but I will say again, that my favorite moment in the entire piece is the chord change on the word garden ...
and in the garden there was a new tomb. It wakes me up one last time to hear the very end of the story. No wonder all were moved to tears.

As an artist myself, I have always said to people, “The world I live in doesn’t look, sound and feel like this.” All art is a spiritual endeavor for me. It’s probably truer to say “There is another world right here that we can only see if we close our eyes” or something like that. Reaching into the ether and drawing out from it this music is to me, well that’s what I live for. I’m so glad I got to sing it, and I am ecstatic that the recording for you is so close to what you heard and wrote. May it prove to you that what you heard was really there.

Keep listening and transcribing.

05 January 2011


A friend who is finishing a degree in animation at Mass Art is thinking of employing passages of (I think) Lunar Glare for the soundtrack of a current project.

03 January 2011

Both ... and ... (Part III)

. . . and this will be it. No, really.

Speaking of Varèse here . . . in surfing around today, I found that there is now available the very recording of Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Vol. 1 which was such an inspiration to the young Frank Zappa.

And, FWIW, it seems to include, not the complete Déserts, but some of the electonic interludes.

At least, I think there was an interlude more than those three. Time to listen again . . . .

Both ... and ... (Part II)

An exercise in on-line dialogue.

One neighbor having remarked, I really enjoy Varèse. Not all of his music, mind you, but I do simply adore Tuning Up, Amériques, Arcana, and both versions of Un grand sommeil noir ...

To which I replied obliquely:

FWIW, I do enjoy every note of Varèse.

Another neighbor queried:

—Even the tape interludes in Déserts? :-\

Which deserved an honest answer, though I offered it next day:

I wanted to revisit this before answering.

And now I have.

Yes, even those : )

And the inquirer followed up:

—Thanks for the reply — and I admire your due diligence. For some reason I just can’t take those interludes — they’re so murky and ponderous and “noisy” in contrast to the angular/sculpted instrumental writing. Which may have been exactly the contrast Varèse was going for, but it just doesn’t work for me. (I quite like the piece played sans interludes, however.)

Similarly, while Eric Tamm, author of the on-line book on Fripp linked to here, objects to the sharp turns on Exposure from the dulcet soft “Frippertronic” soundscapes to the unprepared fortissimo assaults . . . they don’t bother me, never did bother me.

Nor could I really say why . . . .

Both ... and ...

Henry [VIII] loved both music and noise…
— Will Cuppy, from The Decline and Fall of Practically Everyody

A fascinating period in the life of a fascinating musician:

“There it was, a way for one person to make an awful lot of noise. Wonderful!”

It was, so the inscription on the vinyl said, the Year of the Fripp.

02 January 2011

Without comment as yet

01 January 2011

State of De staat

Late last September, I began revisiting Louis Andriessen’s De staat, a 35-minute piece, primarily instrumental really, but with some choral writing, using texts taken from Plato, whence its title. My idea was to listen to it once a day for three days and blog my thoughts.

Managed to do this all right on 21 September and again on 22 September.

That was about the time when I would be traveling to hear the première of my Viola Sonata. I wanted for the third instalment of the visit to the Republic of Louis to draw up an outline of the piece, the better to focus on specific passages. Here I am three months later only reviewing that outline now, so I leave it unaltered:

De staat, schema

I 0:01 - 2:05 Double-reed invention
II 2:06 - 3:07 Low brass answer to (I)
III 3:08 - 4:56 First Chorus
IV 4:57 - 6:21 Pf ostinato, keening oboes
V 6:22 - 8:27 Add brass; extension of (IV)
VI 8:28 - 8:50 ‘Shaky unison’, quasi trill
VII 8:51 - 10:27 Running unison / hocket
VIII 10:28 - 10:49 Appoggiatura, two chords
IX 10:50 - 11:09 Quasi-Le sacre trumpets in low register
X 11:10 - 11:32 Repeated notes vs. growls / hocket
XI 11:33 - 13:00 Echo of (IV)
XII 13:01 - 15:48 Repeated notes; 2 sharp chords; sustained tone > extension of XI
XIII 15:49 - 16:34 Break-up of XII > echo of (VII)
XIV 16:35 - 16:44 Echo of (VIII)
XV 16:45 - 16:55 Slower pace, distant echo of (IX)
XVI 16:56 - 17:16 Running unison, bass/pf/strings
XVII 17:17 - 17:33 Brass answer to (XVI)
XVIII 17:34 - 17:51 Antiphonal brass
XIX 17:52 - 18:04 Plus pf, extension of (XVIII)
XX 18:05 - 19:45 Five-note brass ostinato
XXI 19:46 - 22:14 Second Chorus - I
XXII 22:15 - 23:05 Second Chorus - II
XXIII 23:06 - 24:21 Second Chorus - III
XXIV 24:22 - 27:45 Series of crescendi from nothing
XXV 27:46 - 28:59 Warming up to echo of (VI)
XXVI 29:00 - 29:34 Fading brass chords, repeated pf notes
XXVII 29:35 - 30:06 Freely syncopated unison
XXVIII 30:07 - 30:19 Return to regular pulse
XXIX 30:20 - 30:42 Echo of (VIII)
XXX 30:43 - 30:52 Big chords
XXXI 30:53 - 31:56 Sostenuto brass-&-guitar hocket
XXXII 31:57 - 33:24 Third Chorus
XXXIII 33:25 - 35:24 Brass & pf, ‘ragged antiphony’; close on unison

In the interim, I’ve at last made the acquaintance of at least two other pieces by Louis, De stijl and De tijd.

De tijd I found fabulous; indeed on first hearing it, my impression was that it is the best thing of Louis’s that I’ve heard yet. Bits of it (favorably) reminded me of Svadebka and Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, but the piece is all Louis’s own, and a thoroughly enjoyable listen throughout its arc.

I’m not sure about the spoken bit in De stijl. Yes, the text is interesting enough, and it’s only two and a half minutes (call it 10% of the piece’s duration). My gut feels that it is something which will get tiresome with repeat visitations to the piece . . . and thus something of an albatross around the neck of an otherwise splendid piece.

Returning to De staat after these ‘new’ pieces, I do find myself liking it better than ever.