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.


Complete MITTWOCH on YouTube

2012 was, for small, cherubic, mewling reasons, not a year in which I saw very much live music at all. A top ten list would be a bit of a joke, since it would have to include the odd school concert just to make up the numbers.

However, I was fortunate that among the few productions of live music for which I did manage to scrub the baby porridge off myself and get out of the house was a genuine game changer: the first complete production of Stockhausen’s MITTWOCH.

Since I wrote my rather effusive review back in August, I have discovered that audio of the entire opera (four scenes, plus a greeting and a farewell) is available on YouTube. Some of that audio even comes with video: scene 4, Michaelion, can be watched complete in its premier performance (1998) by the Sudfunk Chor, Stuttgart. A 20-minute clip of the same scene – the one that bothered most critics (including me) – from the Birmingham Opera production can also be found.

Here, then, are all six parts in order, interspersed with a few of those video extracts recorded by members of the audience in Birmingham, included for comparison and/or context.

(With thanks to Alex Ross, who first drew my attention to the video of Andrew Connington’s aquatic tromboning.)

Wandelweiser’s Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder in interview

Remember those excellent little video interviews Tim Parkinson made of Richard Emsley, Chris Newman and John White? Well, Tim has produced two more, this time on the Wandelweiser composers Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder. It’s worth taking the time to watch them all, but the film on Werder, in which he talks about his use of textual quotations as scores, is particularly intriguing.

Jürg Frey
Part 1

Part 2

Manfred Werder
Part 1

Part 2


Contemporary Music on YouTube: collection updated

I’ve made a number of new admissions to the Rambler’s collection of YouTube videos of contemporary music. These include the following:

BerberianStripsody, performed by Diana Gamet.

CzernowinSeed 1 and Seed 2, performed by Either/Or ensemble.

Kurtág – ‘Quarrel’, from Játékok. Played by the composer and his wife Martá.

LachenmannGuero. Played by Nick Tolle of the Ludovico Ensemble.

LachenmannMouvement, part 1, part 2, part 3.

I’ve also deleted or replaced some links that had gone dead. To enjoy the full collection, including more new videos than are shown here, please go here.

(Photo of film canisters by atomicjeep on Flickr.)

British experimental composers on video

As a footnote to the first of the Music We’d Like to Hear roundtables, I must draw your attention to Tim Parkinson’s series of composer interviews on Youtube. These are all really valuable documents of composers who don’t get much of the light, but if you watch only one make it the one on Chris Newman.

Richard Emsley

Chris Newman

Michael Parsons

John White

New videos from ELISION

Freshly uploaded to YouTube and added to my YouTube mega-post.

All these pieces were performed by ELISION at Kings Place in February (and the videos are live recordings from that concert). When I reviewed that concert, I was absolutely taken with Liza Lim’s cello solo, Invisibility, and I’ve not changed that view.

Invisibility draws inspiration from Aboriginal art, particularly the the use of ‘shimmer’ effects to reveal the simultaneity of past, present and future spiritual reality.The piece demands two bows, one standard, the other a ‘guiro’ bow of Lim’s devising, in which the bow hairs are twisted round the wood of the bow, like a damper spring. This gives the sound across the string an irregular, serrated effect, rather like the cross-hatchings of Aboriginal art. The bow stunted the cello’s dynamic range, but as well as obscuring it also revealed new drifts of sound beneath the notes. Unlike many of the other composers represented, Lim deals not in the sparks and abrasions of conflicting musical forces, but in a stretching and dissolution of those forces to find new realms beyond: discovery, not destruction. The result was breathtakingly beautiful. Séverine Ballon’s superb performance may be a hard one to follow, but this is a piece that deserves a long life in the repertoire.

Liza Lim – Invisibility

Timothy McCormack‘s Disfix is already familiar to regular readers; this video complements the live recording made in Huddersfield last autumn:

Timothy McCormack – Disfix

When I first heard it in February, I found Richard Barrett’s brass duo, Aurora, tricky to get my head around. Listening again, I’m still thrown by that opening section of disintegrating harmonics, but the piece’s overall shape benefits from a couple more listens:

Richard Barrett – Aurora

Wow – Xenakis, Pleiades on YouTube

Loving these videos of Xenakis’s percussion masterpiece Pleiades by the Yale Percussion group. (Thanks to Jim Casella, whose Twitter feed pointed me towards finding these.)

XenakisPleïades: Melanges; Claviers parts 1 and 2; Metaux parts 1 and 2; Peaux parts 1 and 2.

Also, Kagel’s Dressur, in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

Big update to The Rambler’s collection of new music on YouTube

I’ve added a whole load of videos to my legendary collection of YouTube new music videos. Check out these tasty additions:

Ablingerweiss/weisslich, played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. I think this is weiss/weisslich 4, but that’s supposed to be for piano and a minimum of 5 other instruments and there are only four here.

AblingerOhne Titel for flute and piano, payed by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien.

CassidyI, purples, spat blood, laugh of beautiful lips. Performed by Carl Rosman.

CassidyWhat then renders these forces visible is a strange smile (or, First Study for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion). Performed by Tristram Williams.

CassidyBecause they mark the zone where the force is in the process of striking (or, Second Study for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion). Performed by Benjamin Marks.

CorbettValentine no.11, played by Gustavo Balanesco.

DenchSum over histories. Played by Richard Haynes and Carl Rosman. Part 1, part 2.

GriseyTalea, performed by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. Part 1, part 2.

Lang, BernhardMonadologie IV, performed by Timetable Percussion. Part 1, part 2, part 3.

Lang, BernhardDifferenz/Wiederholung 14. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8.

Lang, BernhardDer Alte vom Berge. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.

Lang, KlausZwillingsgipfel. Played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien.

MittererIdée Fixe. Played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. Part 1, part 2. (There are two other performance of this piece by PLEW online, but this is the best sound quality I think.)

Take a look at the main post for many more like that.