Mark Knoop: Disintegrate, Degenerate, Decompose

Mark Knoop

Mark Knoop plays Kings Place this Monday evening. The motto for the concert is:

Disintegrate – As an object falls apart, we are given an opportunity to examine its constituents and to newly appreciate the forces that held it together. Degenerate – Rather than introducing new elements, fully investigate the possibilities of current material. Decompose – Upon continued, repeated listening, the original becomes less apparent, fading into the background of the experience itself.

Although this is a complicated set of ideas to bring to a recital, Mark has picked just two works – Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus and three movements from Richard Beaudoin‘s Études d’un prélude – to convey all this. For Bunita Marcus, like so much late Feldman, captures the processes of creation and recreation that occur in the transition between sound and memory, and is a fitting accompaniment to Beaudoin’s Études. These take as their material Chopin’s E minor prelude, op. 28 no. 4; in fact, more than that, the material is specifically a 1975 recording by Martha Argerich, analysed using the LARA ‘acoustic microscope’. From the data thus collected – precise attack points, decibel levels, etc – Beaudoin derives compositional strategies that build upon the specific energies of Argerich’s recording, an approach he compares to photorealism in painting.

Having seen (but not yet heard) the scores the results are not as esoteric as that sounds; in fact they often recall Ligeti, as well as their Chopin origins.

In any case, it should be a fascinating concert. More details and booking here.

3 thoughts on “Mark Knoop: Disintegrate, Degenerate, Decompose

  1. Interesting ideas, of course. …

    “Degenerate” used to mean something rather different in the context of music, as an adjective rather than a verb (Entartete Musik). I am not even sure that the verb means what Knoop (or the promoters) thinks it means – it isn’t really the opposite of “generate” is it? One online dictionary offers “to sink into a low intellectual or moral state”. I hope that doesn’t happen to the audience…

    The word always reminds of Lindsay Anderson’s “If” – as an insult for one of the junior boys in the school – e.g. “you’re a degenerate”, which I found very amusing.

  2. Well, ‘degenerate’ has lots of applications in English – which in German, eg, are served by several distinct words, which is a trap when trying to translate texts referring to ‘degenerate music’. I take it here that ‘degenerate’ refers, eg, to the sort of thing that happens to milk over time – unity dissolving into constituent elements, which then become entities in their own right (curds and whey).

    That’s a pretty crude image, but it’s sort of what I think is happening in these Beaudoin pieces, and I find it an interesting way to think about the Feldman too.

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