21 September 2010

Blast from the Past

Last night, for the first time in decades, I listened to Louis Andriessen's De staat. I am planning to listen to this once a day for three days, and yesterday was the inaugural.

The piece has nice sentimental value for me; it was probably the first piece to which I listened (score in hand) in the Music Library of the University at Buffalo. I had just enrolled in the doctoral program in composition, basically not knowing with whom I might actually be studying; the head of the Graduate Composition program informed me that there would be two visiting composers teaching, Charles Wuorinen and Louis, that I should be taking individual lessons with Charles, and that there would be a weekly composers seminar led by Louis.

Since at the time, Louis' name was completely new to me, I wanted to listen to some of his music for orientation. I found De staat immediately likeable . . . though perhaps I was predisposed to like it . . . one piece which was then a recent obsession for me was Steve Reich's The Desert Music. The prospect of working with Louis thus struck me as eminently agreeable.

So, how do I hear it now, after so large a buffer of time? I still like it, find it largely well done. Some of the hocket technique of the two groups (sort of the same game that the composer plays in Hoketus, only with more musicians) comes across as a little clunky. The low brass "answer" to the opening oboe invention, a little clunky and blatty, too. The final note had me thinking, that's the end? The repetition strikes me as well paced and proportioned, I like the balance between the largely (or quasi-) unison passages and the block chords.

Part of my exercise in listening these three days in a row will be to observe unfiltered reactions on my own part. So, from last night: Overall - I like it; Compositional endorsement rating - 85%

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