Friday, 14 November 2014

People who only love melody have no passion for music.

This is an interesting debate that I had with someone on the internet...

I hate melody. Whenever I hear a melody, I want to chop it up into little pieces and disembody it over huge leaps so that it is unrecognisably distorted. There is nothing worse than humming along to a 'little tune' completely oblivious of the depth of emotion contained in the rest of the music. Give me orchestration/instrumentation any day. A combination of careful tuning and an expert choice of instruments can convey a world of understanding that a bumbling tune would disguise as 'cheerful contentment.

Sounds like an incredibly reductive and primitive view of what can constitute a "melody". Not to diminish the value of expertly done orchestration, but both can co-exist, and the melody certainly doesn't have to be a "little tune", bumbling or cheerful. See: Ravel, Stravinsky.

I wouldn't regard that much of Ravel's or Stravinsky's music contains what I would call a melody.  I would call it melodic writing which I admire.  Ravel's only sustained melody is that awful piece Bolero which ironically is saved by its consummate orchestration. Stravinsky did exactly what I said I would do to melody; chop it up and distort it.(except for his ill-fated neo-classical period; the saving grace there was that the melodies weren't his own.) I am thinking of Tchaikovsky as a writer of 'bumbling little tunes'. As skilful as he was, he was over reliant on reducing music to its primitive element - the tune and its subservient accompaniment. If you ignore the futility of this aspect of his music, you may find the darkness that lurks inside some of his most cheerful apparel. I am not saying that tune writing is superficial; I am saying that it hides the REAL passion inside the music.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

La Mort Des Artistes

This is the second piece in a group entitled "Etude de Couleur et Lumière" (Study in Colour and Light). Inspired by the French symbolist poet, Charles Baudelaire, it is an attempt to recreate a poem in musical form. Even the intonation of the poem - the exact rise and fall of the vowel sounds - is reflected in the music. In fact, every element of the poetry is represented musically. Also, this work signifies an important evolutionary step in my musical output; it unifies the two opposing elements of timbralism and colourism.

La Mort des Artistes.

Combien faut-il de fois secouer mes grelots
Et baiser ton front bas, morne caricature?
Pour piquer dans le but, de mystique nature,
Combien, ô mon carquois, perdre de javelots?

Nous userons notre âme en de subtils complots,
Et nous démolirons mainte lourde armature,
Avant de contempler la grande Créature
Dont l'infernal désir nous remplit de sanglots!

Il en est qui jamais n'ont connu leur Idole,
Et ces sculpteurs damnés et marqués d'un affront,
Qui vont se martelant la poitrine et le front,

N'ont qu'un espoir, étrange et sombre Capitole!
C'est que la Mort, planant comme un soleil nouveau,
Fera s'épanouir les fleurs de leur cerveau!

How many times must I shake my bells 
And kiss your brow, sad mockery? 
To strike at the heart of mystic nature, 
How many darts, O my quiver, must I lose?

We will wear away our souls with subtle schemes
And we will demolish many a stricture
Before we gaze on the glorious Creature
Which makes us grieve with tormented desire!

There are some who never knew their Idol
And there are sculptors damned and branded by insult,
Who hammer their brows and their own breasts,

In only one hope, bizarre and somber Capitol! 
It is that Death, rising like a new sun, 
Will bring to blossom the flowers of their thoughts!

Romina Basso, who translated the poem, provides us with this insight:

'A purpose of art if not the singular purpose of art, he suggests, is to struggle towards the one "hope" that dying brings blossoms to the "flowers of their thoughts". ' 

It is a live performance which is sung beautifully by the alto singer, Rachel Fisher.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

This may interest some of you...

I published two videos of my piano music, "Les Codomas", to Youtube; one of them has a picture of Jazz musicians in black and white and other one has a picture of my original score. In just 48 hours, the video with the image of the my score has double the number of views than the other one which has been up for over a month.  Why is that?

Reflets Dans L'eau - Claude Debussy (arr. Thomas Goss)

TOOTSinfonia - an online orchestra.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Les Codomas (score)

This is my latest version with a score instead of images.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

How 'English' are English Composers?

One of the most startling questions that is faced by the English people is exactly how "English" are our composers?

Purcell - Italian and French influences.

Handel - German born and bred; until he became naturalised English citizen.

Elgar -  Our most German of English composers. (Listen to his early music.)

Delius - Wrote in the impressionist, French style.

Vaughan-Williams - Murky French, impressionist style (e.g. London Symphony)

Britten - French influences.

Birtwistle - Continental 'avant garde'

Ferneyhough/Finnissy - International 'avant garde'

Oskar Adolf Hermann Schmitz once said that for a [musically] civilised country Britain was"Das Land ohne Musik".  He would have been better off saying it was "Das Land ohne Englisch Komponist"!

A lesson for all... "War Requiem" and "Symphony of Psalms"

When I was a child, a teacher told me that Stravinsky wrote a 'Symphony of Psalms' because he was jealous of Benjamin Britten's 'War Requiem'.  It wasn't until I became an adult that I found out the whole truth... Stravinsky did genuinely dislike Britten's "War Requiem'. He
mocked the “Battle of Britten” sentiment which surrounded the premiere of the composer’s most public and popular work
I think he was not keen on a return to an emphasis 'on subjectivism'. He hated the sentimental aspect of the work.

"Kleenex at the ready… one goes from the critics to the music, knowing that if one should dare to disagree with ‘practically everyone’, one will be made to feel as if one had failed to stand up for ‘God Save the Queen’.” 
He did write a 'Symphony of Psalms' in response to Britten's work but not out of jealousy but to show how the creative process could be both respectful but still retain a degree of 'objectivity' appropriate for the subject matter.

The teacher in question and anybody who would describe themselves as a follower of Britten's music should not have felt offended by Stravinsky's comments; his vision of music was unique.

There is a certain degree of irony.  While Britten's 'War Requiem' , in my opinion, is an exercise in sentimental tedium, Stravinsky's 'Symphony of Psalms' isn't a great visionary masterpiece either.  The only crumb of comfort for Stravinsky is that his work falls well below par; but Britten's work as it was stated before is his

most public and popular work.

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