CD re-review: Lars Petter Hagen: Orchestral Music

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Lars Petter Hagen: Orchestral Music | Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Rolf Gupta. Gjermund Larsen, Hardanger fiddle | Aurora

I reviewed this disc not that long ago for Nutida Musik, but I feel like it deserves a second pass here. Mostly that is because of its first piece, Norwegian Archives, which I’ve listened to several times now since submitting my review and which, although I don’t think I scored it badly, I certainly hadn’t fully worked out at the time.

As well as a composer Lars Petter Hagen is also a festival director (of Ultima, and others before that), and therefore a prominent and influential voice in contemporary Norwegian music. Much of his recent music is concerned with memory, nostalgia, and the troubling nature of cultural nationalism. Several pieces on this disc make allusions to Grieg in particular, but there are also less concrete elements like airy harmonies that live towards the top end of the harmonic spectrum, and allusions to nature and rural innocence. All three come together in the quintessentially Norwegian sound of the Hardanger fiddle, a folk instrument with sympathetic resonating strings, for which Hagen’s To Zeitblom is a concerto.

All of this comes out of the sounds of Norwegian Archives; icy chords, ringing harmonics, calm waters. But they are nudged out of shape by buzzing, tinnitus-like irritations, echoes and reverberations, and sliding glissandi. These are almost the physiology of recollection made sound. The notes generally come only one at a time. The continuity, the narrative, on which ideology feeds, is completely broken. Hagen uses the tactic to some extent on all the pieces on this recording – The Artist’s Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins, Tveitt-Fragments, Funeral March Over Edvard Grieg, To Zeitblom – but it appears to the greatest extent in this piece. Any story-making must take place internally, in the critical intellect of the listener. Neither is the orchestra used as a machine for creating continuity, but instead is a repository for timbres, wispy allusions. Its forces are hardly employed en masse, and even then only for a second or so at a time. For the rest, we get a sort of desiccated Mahler of duets and chamber groupings, fleeting and remote.

I’m not saying it isn’t a problematic piece; Hagen’s music has been the site of a certain amount of controversy in Norway. But that’s the nature of nostalgia and nostalgia critique: it can be hard to tell the two apart, particularly within music, in which the same object can stand in equally for both. But I have grown increasingly to admire it – admittedly as an outsider to Norwegian music – and I have a lot of time for the narrow path Hagen is trying to tread.

Secret Music: April

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Again, some horrible clashes here. Also, if anyone knows of anything happening in the second half of the month, feel free to add to the comments.

Until Saturday 5 April, and Monday 2 – Sunday 8 June: Frontiers Festival, Birmingham | venues, prices, times vary

Birmingham Conservatoire’s annual contemporary music festival this year celebrates the music of Downtown New York. This was originally planned to coincide with the presence of Robert Ashley to receive an honorary doctorate, an event that will sadly not now take place. Ashley’s music is well represented, however, including the complete world premiere of String Quartet Describing the Motion of Real Bodies on 2 April. Other highlights (of many – see the full calendar) include Apartment House playing Songs for Drella (30 March); Pauline Oliveros in conversation (31 March) and a Deep Listening meditation (2 April); early Philip Glass (1 April); Carl Stone (2 April); as well as music by David Lang, Michael Gordon, William Basinski, Elliot Sharp …

Thursday 3 April: Silk Street Music Hall | Guildhall New Music Ensemble | 6:00pm | FREE

James Weeks conducts the Guildhall New Music Ensemble in a programme that includes premieres of works by Edmund Finnis and Thomas Fournil, and music by Aldo Clementi and Salvatore Sciarrino.

“The Guildhall New Music Ensemble is dedicated to the performance of music from the last 30 years, with each project curated by a different member of staff or by a guest curator. For the launch of the ensemble’s regular performance series at the School, Associate Head of Composition James Weeks has curated a programme of local and global compositional activity that will form the foundation of the ensemble’s future concerts.”

Thursday 3 April: Cafe OTO | Dumitrescu and Avram | 8pm | £8 adv/£10 on the door

Iancu Dumitrescu brings his Hyperion Ensemble, and his unorthodox performance practice, back to Cafe OTO for more spectral excursions and seat-of-the-pants musical phenomenology.

Thursday 3 April: Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham | Automatic Writing | 7pm | £12(£8)

Fresh from giving the UK premiere of Robert Ashley’s masterful Automatic Writing at Cafe Oto, Object Collection (Kara Feely, Travis Just, Aaron Meicht, Daniel Nelson, Tim Parkinson, Fulya Peker) bring the work to Birmingham’s Frontiers Festival. Concert also includes New York Girls by Kara Feely and Travis Just.
Sunday 6 April: Charlie Wright’s International Bar & Jazz Lounge, 45 Pitfield St, London | John White Birthday Concert | 4pm | FREE but pre-booking essential
Performances by Gavin Bryars, Dr. Margaret Coldiron, Carole Finer, Julian Haxby, Chris Hobbs, John Lely, Kaffe Matthews, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, Andrea Rocca, Hugh Shrapnel, Dave Smith, John Tilbury, John White; and by various ensembles, namely: Bad Dog, LelyWhite, Live Batts; and by the official orchestra of the Institute: The London Snorkelling Team.

There will be participatory performances of The Drinking and Hooting Machine and the Newspaper-reading Machine – a more detailed programme will be emailed before the event.

Thai food available from the kitchens. Tickets are free (a hat will be passed around) and open to all, but they are also limited; people must be on the guest-list to attend, and specify if bringing a guest. To get on the list write to: editor@atlaspress.co.uk without delay.

Tuesday 8 April: St George’s RC Cathedral, Westminster Bridge Road | Ian Wilson’s Stations | 7:30pm | email enquiries@matthewschellhorn.com to join guest list

Matthew Schellhorn performs Ian Wilson’s monumental solo piano masterpiece, Stations. Inspired by the Catholic devotion of the Stations of the Cross, Stations is a fourteen-movement work divided into four ‘Books’. Matthew Schellhorn has premiered the work in stages over two years, giving a performance of its final part at Wigmore Hall in 2008. His recording of the piece will be released on Diatribe Records this month, and this concert is the first in a tour that also takes in Glasgow (10 April), Dublin (13 April), Blackheath Halls (14 April), Edinburgh (15 April), Cambridge (16 May), Thorpe Bay (18 May), Wymondham Abbey (29 June) and Ripon (10 July).

Tuesday 8 April: City University, Performance Space | James Saunders portrait | 7pm | FREE, booking essential

Programme: Everybody doing what everybody else is doing; With paper; So many territories (first performance); Things whole and not whole; Everybody do this

Performed by Plus-Minus.

Friday 11 April: Schott Recital Room, 48 Great Marlborough St, W1f 7BB | 7pm | £10

Tim Parkinson plays premieres of new works by Laurence Crane, Matteo Fargion, Joseph Kudirka and himself, plus recent pieces by Jürg Frey and Chiyoko Szlavnics.

Saturday 26 April: Cello Factory, Cornwall Road, London SE1 | 7pm | £8

Swiss percussion trio DeciBells are joined by flautist Jenni Hogan in a programme of Lou Harrison, Scelsi, Pierre Favre, Benjamin Graves, Gwyn Pritchard and Siegfried Kutterer.

Does Spotify pay? Another look at the numbers

Despite this blog’s basic remit to cover contemporary classical music, one of its most popular posts has been ‘How much do musicians make on online?‘, a quick analysis of a graph published by Information is Beautiful about the relative remunerations of different ways of selling music.

That graph is widely-known, but it’s also four years old now. And since it was produced, Spotify have opened up a lot about how much they pay artists. It turns out that the Information is Beautiful graph was wrong on how much Spotify streams pay by around a factor of 30.

As Spotify themselves now point out, thinking of their royalty rates on a per-stream basis is a bit misleading anyway, since they make their calculations based on a percentage of the total revenue pie. So the more subscribers there are, the larger the effective royalty rate. But back in July 2013, when they started to release this information, they suggested that a figure of between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream was not a bad basis for calculations. As their subscriber base grows, so that figure will go up.

Anyway, apropos of not much, I thought I would use these numbers to do a quick tot-up of how much money two famous Spotify objectors – Radiohead and Metallica – might have made from the service. I took the figures for number of plays given for the top ten songs on the artist’s Spotify page, and multiplied them by both the low and high estimations of what Spotify says it pays out on average per stream.

Bear in mind that these numbers are not externally verified – they’re what Spotify tell us is going on – but they are worth considering in the context of some recent debates over the long-term viability of paid-for streaming.

Radiohead

Thom Yorke has called Spotify ‘the last desperate fart of a dying corpse‘, and in October last year pulled his Atoms for Peace album, made with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, from the site. Yet here’s an idea of how Radiohead are actually doing out of Spotify:

radiohead-top10

That makes 107,302,714 plays (as of Friday 28 March). Based on Spotify’s estimated per-stream pay out, that’s somewhere between $643,816 and $901,342. OK, computer.

Metallica

Despite dragging himself through the mud for a decade over Napster, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich made peace with online music in December 2012 and Metallica’s back catalogue came on stream. In fact, in the same month that Yorke and Godrich made their comments about Spotify, Ulrich claimed that ‘Spotify is working right now‘. The delay in joining probably accounts for Metallica’s fewer plays, but the numbers seem to bear him out:

metallica-top10

That makes 67,151,066 plays (as of Friday 28 March). Based on Spotify’s estimated per-stream pay out, that’s somewhere between $402,906 and $564,068. Sad but true.

None of this is a definitive answer to the ongoing future of music debate, but I think it’s useful to see figures like this while that debate is being had.

CD review: Christopher Redgate: New Music for a New Oboe, Volume 1 (Métier)

British oboist Christopher Redgate has had a busy release schedule of late. I recently received another new release, Electrifying Oboe (Métier), which I hope to write about soon. This isn’t far behind last year’s New Music for a New Oboe (volume 1), also on Métier, and for which I offer a belated review here.

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Redgate is one of the great instrumental innovators of our day – on any instrument – and both recordings may be seen as part of a lifelong project to develop the oboe’s repertory and capabilities that has previously been traced on recordings like Oboe+ and Greatest Hits of All Time.

The oboe is a peculiarly inflexible instrument, compared to the flute or clarinet, for example, and it is no surprise that over the years Redgate has run into any number of limitations, including with range, multiphonics, microtones, glissandi and various timbral effects. In response to these problems – both already extant in the repertory, and anticipated in the future – between 2009 and 2012 Redgate partnered with Howarth’s of London (the Steinway & Sons of oboes) to design an oboe for the 21st century. The new instrument, the Howarth-Redgate oboe, tackles many of these issues and opens new doors for exploration in the future – the number of multiphonics available, for example, is reported to have increased four-fold.

In some ways Edwin Roxburgh is an ideal introduction to Redgate’s series of commissions for the new instrument. An oboist himself, as well as a composer and conductor, he knows the instrument better than most. Redgate has already recorded a CD of Roxburgh’s oboe music, and there is clearly a strong rapport between the two. Roxburgh’s four-part suite, The Well-Tempered Oboe was written to exploit the new high register and multiphonics of the Howarth-Redgate oboe; the latter are heard to best effect in the slow third movement, ‘Chromatic Fantasia’.

Yet despite having admired Redgate’s last Roxburgh recording, I confess I’ve not been blown away by The Well-Tempered Oboe. Nothing wrong with the playing: Redgate’s multiphonics in the fourth movement are sensational, for example. The music is just a little too polite for my tastes; for all that the composer had an exciting new instrument to play with, his pieces didn’t find a particularly new kind of music for it.

Michael Finnissy’s Âwâz-e Niyâz is something else altogether. For a start, it introduces the sound of the lupophon, a type of bass oboe whose range begins at the F at the bottom of the bass clef and extends some indeterminate distance (and in Redgate’s hands, who can really say …) above the treble clef. Quite an instrument. Its timbre is very oboe-like (quite different from a bassoon, eg), so in the couple of octaves where the two instruments’ ranges overlap it’s not always easy to be sure which one is playing.

Christopher Redgate and lupophon

The second striking thing about Finnissy’s piece is its length: an unbroken 55 minutes, a quite epic scale for a duo for oboe and piano. This is not a trivial observation. Finnissy is no stranger to constructing immense formal structures, even for solo instruments – see only his cycles for piano, for example – but unlike, say, Folklore or The History of Photography in Sound, Âwâz-e Niyâz is not as indebted to such a complex an intermeshing of stylistic and genre types. Or at least not as far as I am aware; I may be wrong. Âwâz-e Niyâz is rather a gigantic melodic unspooling.

The vast expansion beyond the norm is made possible first by the lupophone itself, whose weight and depth of sound extend, from the first bars, a giant bed for the music, extending its horizons far beyond the usual and expected. It is as though the music were stood on its end, its duration a function of its tessitura and vice versa. Range is not the only dimension that has been expanded, however – the new sounds, microtones and multiphonics at Finnissy’s disposal represent a similar increase in material whose exploration adds further possibilities for extension.

In his sleevenote, Finnissy explains that the music is inspired by traditional Persian music, particularly the Iranian vocal improvisations collected by Mohammad Taghi Massoudieh. It is therefore shaped by the long melodic arcs of improvised song, of ornaments upon ornaments, of recurring fragments and whispy filigree. There is a dream-like quality to much of it; sometimes the texture thins to only the faintest hint of something (an extraordinary passage of hushed mutliphonic trills about half an hour, for example), sometimes (although less frequently) the tendrils thicken into great tangled knots. It is a peculiar, surprising one-off that perhaps only Finnissy could have made.

Michael Finnissy talks about bas & koen & nora, and more

One of the highlights of the London Ear next weekend will be the presence of the Dutch trio 7090 – Bas Wiegers, violin, Koen Kaptijn, trombone and Nora Mulder, piano. As well as music by Xenakis, Helmut Zapf, Toshio Hosokawa and others, their concert on Friday evening features two pieces by Michael Finnissy, Playera 1 and The Croppy Boy. These come from a larger collection Finnissy has written for 7090, under the title bas & koen & nora. (Listen to an excerpt from Playera 1 here.) Many of the pieces are written to give an insight into the personalities and enthusiasms of the three players. So Koen Kaptijn mentioned that he had always wanted to play a Haydn string quartet (something that as a trombonist he had never been able to do), so Finnissy wrote two movements of pastiche Haydn, with the violin, trombone and two hands of the piano making up the quartet. ‘It’s a kind of Kammerspiel when you do the performance, it’s like a kind of play in which you are looking in to the lives of the three people,’ says Finnissy.

Here’s an extended and quite lovely interview with Finnissy, made by 7090, in which he talks about the piece and its ideas, as well as other topics besides. His thoughts on Aldo Clementi’s music (one of the many presences in bas & koen & nora) are worth hearing, and his remarks on complexity towards the end of the video are well worth sticking around for.

P.S. I will be hosting a show on Resonance FM this evening from 8pm on the subject of the London Ear. I will be joined by the festival’s directors Andrea Cavallari and Gwyn Pritchard, as well as flautist Jenni Hogan, who will also be appearing in the festival’s opening concert on Thursday. Tune in to 104.4FM if you’re in London, or listen online if you’re anywhere else in the world.

The Return of the London Ear

Following its successful first incarnation, it’s great news that the London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music will be returning at the end of this month. When the Ear launched last year in close proximity to the more widely publicised London Contemporary Music Festival, I feared that they might end up crowding each other out. But in the end, they’re quite different styles of festival, with quite different musical remits. Not bad going, if you’ve got the impression that contemporary music is blinkered and narrow-minded.

Of the two, the London Ear is the more apparently traditional, in that it all takes place in a concert venue, rather than a car park, and there are seats and central heating and that sort of thing. (Plus on-site food and interval wine.) But at the same time, it’s more adventurous in terms of repertoire. Certainly its directors, Gwyn Pritchard and Andrea Cavallari, are following through on last year’s promise to focus on (mostly European) composers who are rarely or never heard in the UK – this year’s programme includes music by Georg Katzer, Anne LaBerge, Helmut Zapf and Helmut Oehring. More than half the programmed works are world or UK premieres.

The programme features nine concerts in all, with performances from, among others, the London Sinfonietta, Trio 7090, We Spoke and Uroboros. If had to pick favourites on paper, I’d say the two evening concerts on Saturday look most tempting: plenty of potential for weirdness in the 6pm concert by 3 from Berlin, 7090 and Serge Vuille, featuring music by Kagel and Oehring, and a new piece by Zapf; followed music for instruments, video and electronics by Simon Steen-Andersen, Jürg Frey and others at 9.30. Like last year, there are also various fringe events, including instrumental masterclasses and educational workshops for children and teenagers. I will be probably be chairing some pre-concert conversations with composers.

The London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music runs from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 March. Events take place at the Warehouse and Cello Factory, Waterloo, London. Full details available from the festival website. Tickets start from a fiver.

Update:  Just confirmed: I’m going to be hosting a 1-hour radio show on Resonance FM tomorrow evening (Friday 21 March), 8–9pm, on the subject of the London Ear. I’ll be chatting with festival directors Gwyn Pritchard and Andrea Cavallari, playing some music, and we’ll have flautist Jenni Hogan playing live too. Resonance is on 104.4FM if you’re in London, or streaming online if you’re anywhere else in the world.

Dear UK, here’s that Czernowin you’ve been missing out on

At the end of an article about the Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse, the Guardian recently published a short list of ‘Four more artists the world has heard of – but the UK hasn’t’. Among them I was surprised to see the great Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin. So, in the interests of helping my homeland out a bit, here are a few pointers. I’ve complained before that the Barbican’s Total Immersion series  has lost its sense of adventure and purpose; a TI day devoted to Czernowin would be high on my fantasy list, and would really set things back on course.  (Declaration: Czernowin’s website includes a line by me on its front page, taken from this review.)

Here is Sahaf (2008), from that Shifting Gravity CD, performed by Ensemble Nikel and synched with the score:

Here is Ensemble Nikel and the Berner Symphonieorchester performing Zohar Iver (2011):

If you really want to get your teeth into something big though, this is what you need – this is MAIM, Czernowin’s major orchestral work (plus five soloists and electronics) of 2001–6. Pair it with last year’s sort-of guitar concerto White wind waiting and you’ve got a perfect ending to a Total Immersion day, I reckon. Recording available on Mode records (along with several other Czernowin discs).

Failing that, there are two operas – Adama and Pnima … ins Innere – that both deserve staging here. (The latter is also available through Mode.)

Daniel Vezza recently posted a long interview (in two parts) with Czernowin to his Composer Conversations podcast.

Here is another interview, for NewMusicBox:

Finally, you should also read this short article by the composer, The Other Tiger, a brilliant, concise encapsulation of biography and artistic credo, originally published in Search, now hosted on the website of Ensemble Nikel.

Secret Music: March

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Better late than never, and with apologies to performers whose concerts this month I’ve already missed. A couple of horrible clashes in this month’s line-up :-(

Saturday 15 March: Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s | Music in the Space Time Continuum II | 6.30pm | £12, students £5

Salzburg’s Ensemble OENM play the following programme:

Josquin (trans R. D. Rusconi): Le miroir de musique (An educational outreach performance)
Haas: Tria ex uno
R. D. Rusconi: Anankè
Grisey: Vortex temporum

Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 March: Britannia House, London E1 | LCMF presents The Music of Bernard Parmegiani | times/prices vary

Four events: a screening of short films and documentaries around Parmegiani’s work (Thursday); performances of two of his greatest works, Violostries (1964) and La Création du monde (1984) (Friday); works from the early 1970s (Saturday); and Dedans dehors (1977) and Espèces d’éspace (2002) (Sunday). There are other live sets and screenings woven in there too. Full details here.

Saturday 22 March – Saturday 5 April, and Monday 2 – Sunday 8 June: Frontiers Festival, Birmingham | venues, prices, times vary

Birmingham Conservatoire’s annual contemporary music festival this year celebrates the music of Downtown New York. This was originally planned to coincide with the presence of Robert Ashley to receive an honorary doctorate, an event that will sadly not now take place. Ashley’s music is well represented, however, including the complete world premiere of String Quartet Describing the Motion of Real Bodies on 2 April. Other highlights (of many – see the full calendar) include Apartment House playing Songs for Drella (30 March); Pauline Oliveros in conversation (31 March) and a Deep Listening meditation (2 April); early Philip Glass (1 April); Carl Stone (2 April); as well as music by David Lang, Michael Gordon, William Basinski, Elliot Sharp …

Thursday 27 – Sunday 30 March: The Warehouse, Waterloo, London | 2nd London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music | times/prices vary

More details on this to follow in a separate post, but in essence: nine concerts over four days, plus masterclasses, pre-concert talks and other fun. Composers featured include Rebecca Saunders, Helmuth Oehring, Simon Steen-Andersen and Georg Katzer. Performers include London Sinfonietta, We Spoke, Uroboros and Eva Zöllner. Full programme (pdf) here.

Friday 28 March: Schott Recital Room, 48 Great Marlborough St, W1f 7BB | 7pm | £10

Tim Parkinson plays premieres of new works by Laurence Crane, Matteo Fargion, Joseph Kudirka and himself, plus recent pieces by Jürg Frey and Chiyoko Szlavnics. Now taking place on 11 April

Saturday 29 March: St Giles’ Cripplegate, London | 7.30pm | £15, £7 (students), £1 (under 16)

EXAUDI  performs works by Chase, Cardew, Cage, Feldman, Skempton, Fox, and joins forces with Finchley Choral Society as the soloists in A. Scarlatti’s Dixit Dominus.

Sunday 30 March: Cafe OTO | 8pm | £8 adv. £10 on the door

In what will now presumably be something of a tribute concert, Object Collection (Kara Feely, Travis Just, Aaron Meicht, Daniel Nelson, Tim Parkinson, Fulya Peker) play Robert Ashley’s masterful Automatic Writing, plus New York Girls by Kara Feely and Travis Just.

Radio Rambler Celebrates International Women’s Day 2014

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Today is International Women’s Day, and as in previous years the Rambler is marking the occasion with a celebration of contemporary music by women. The Radio Rambler playlist has been updated with two and half hours of music by female composers, all of it rather fantastic. Enjoy!

Maryanne Amacher – Stain (live version) (excerpt) (Nonesuch)
Laurie Spiegel – Appalachian Grove I (Anthology of Recorded Music)
Edith Canat de Chizy – Vivere (Aeon)
Pamela Z – Declaratives in First Person (Bridge)
Ellen Fullman – Body Music (Experimental Intermedia)
Elodie Lauten – Flow (Studio 21)
Laetitia deCompeigne Sonami – What Happened (Nonesuch)
Sachiko M – Detect (Antifrost)
Shelley Hirsch – In the Basement (Bridge)
Lisa Bielawa – Kafka Songs (Tzadik) in media res (Boston Modern Orchestra Project)
Wendy Mae Chambers – Snake Dancer (Anthology of Recorded Music)
Carola Bauckholt – nein allein (Coviello)
Mary Jane Leach – Bruckstuck (Experimental Intermedia)
Meredith Monk – Phantom Waltz (Brilliant Classics)

Update: Bielawa tracks substituted for another piece, since I’d inadvertently included something that was only a local file to my machine, not on Spotify itself.

This is my fourth playlist for International Women’s Day. Previous ones can be found here:

Literate music revisited

I’ve just been reading Robert Fink’s January blogpost for Musicology Now, the latest in a chain of erudite posts spinning out from this Mark Oppenheimer article from last September’s New Republic. The stepping stone between the two is John Halle’s article for Jacobin.

To be honest, I’m struggling a little with Fink here. He takes issue with Halle’s defence of Western art music, which he summarizes roughly as that it is not only “a different style of music, but [also] a completely different medium than popular music, characterized by its literate infrastructure and a unique extensional concept of form”. This kind of thinking, Fink argues, leads us towards a teleological essentialism that “reproduces the logic of the ‘one-drop’ rule” and is thus useless as a defence.

Fink writes: “if classical music is equated, as in Halle’s argument, with the entire literate musical tradition of the West, then, after some decades of looking, I can find no special musicological correlation between classical music and some essential quality of having goal-direction.” But I’m not sure why literate composition should be equated with goal-directedness, and goal-directedness alone. Certainly that’s one thing you can do as a composer once you start writing things down, but it’s not the only one. Fink’s complaint seems to stem from Halle’s comment that

These are works of “pure” music which cohere, not by a text with its own self-contained expressive content and narrative logic, but by a logic entirely based on the abstract relationships inherent in the pitches and rhythms. They are composed within abstract forms, large-scale plans dictating their unfolding in time of which at least an intuitive awareness is required for them to be fully appreciated by audiences.

… but I don’t read that as necessarily a description of musical teleology. Ferneyhough’s Les froissements d’ailes de Gabriel unfolds in time, and an awareness of that happening is necessary to its full appreciation, but it certainly isn’t a goal-directed sort of time. Neither is that of Messiaen, or Cage, or Feldman. Yet all of these composers, I would argue, needed to write things down in order to achieve what they wanted to do. (Which in each case was actually to undermine our natural propensity to think in terms of goals etc.)

It seems to me that there is an array of things that you can do within a literate musical tradition that are hard to accomplish outside of it (and vice versa of course). And these contribute to its continuing cultural value. While we should be wary of teleological essentialism, isn’t there a risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater here? Or are we obliged to talk about music in its global totality, even when we actually want to talk about a relatively well-defined (if fuzzy) subset of it?