Monday, September 08, 2008

Recent listening, watching, reading

At random:

A new recording of keyboard music by Gordon Mumma played by Daan Vandewalle.

A new recording by the VENI ensemble of Bratislava, featuring music by Christian Wolff and the Richard Ayres, the composer of my generation with the most astonishing technique.

The World's Oldest Busker? The age given of 112 may well have been calculated on a Javanese calendar, so she is probably in her late 90's by western reckoning, but it is nevertheless amazing how well she carries her instrument. Too bad there is not more footage of her playing, but typical for television reporting.

Paul Auster, Man in the Dark. This novel is, like its immediate predecessor Travels in the Scriptorium, one of Auster's novels in which the topic is American but the literary background is strongly Francophone. It made me nostalgic for youthful enthusiasms for Beckett and Robbe-Grillet, but it's a much stronger book than Travels.

Carl Dahlhaus, Seconda pratica und musikalische Figurenlehre, an essay in the Musik-Konzepte volume on Claudio Monteverdi and the Birth of the Opera. Really fascinating stuff from the last major German musicologist with a generalist portfolio. It locates the theory of musical figures in relationship to the second practice's use of dissonances (initially associated by Monteverdi with the text) that fall well out of the systematic/"mathematical" contrapuntal doctrine. The theory of figures became an important issue in European new music in the 1980s, concerning composers ranging from Ferneyhough to Walter Zimmermann. While American popular and mainstream art music may well be considered to have a similar, if informal, investment in emotion-drawn figures, both the academic and experimental new music scenes productively avoided the issue, although one can now recognize in, on the one hand, Babbitt's surface techniques and, on the other, La Monte Young's engagement with Hindustani music, the outlines of a reconciliation between systematic elements and expressive license.

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