Thursday, November 02, 2006

á la Rihm

More compositional culinaria. Sign and Sight, which summarizes and translates current items from German Feuilleton pages, has this item from Die Zeit:
Wolfgang Rihm, one of Germany's leading contemporary composers, talks to Claus Spahn and Thomas Assheuer about how lived experience corresponds to musical expression. "The two don't correlate on a one-to-one basis. But for example I always have a notebook with me where I can jot things down. Here for example (Rihm shows a page of his notebook with a list in point form), that was a talk with one of the best cooks in Strasbourg, Monsieur Emile Jung from Au Crocodile. He explained to me the principle behind spicing. One strong element is complemented by three medium-strength and six weak ones. That's a fantastic doctrine for composition, because it avoids a bland mishmash and gives you a dominant theme orchestrated from different sides. If you arrange the dynamics similarly in music - with one powerful, three intermediate and six weak elements - you get a balanced result, even if the form is asymmetrical. But don't worry, that's not how I cook up my compositions.
I can't help but contrast Rihm's recipe Cage's advocacy of macrobiotic cooking, with its simple balance between yin and yang elements, or even better, with this classic item from La Monte Youngs Lecture 1960:
I used to talk about the new eating. One time Terry Riley said, "Yeah, even the cooks'll get rebellious. We'll walk into a hamburger stand and order something to eat. In a few minutes, the cook'll give us some salt. Just salt. Then one of us will say, 'What? Is this all?' And the cook'll answer, 'whatsamatter, don't cha like static eating?'"


Trevor Murphy said...

I always wanted to try cooking a meal according to completely serial principles, with different matrices for texture, quantity, flavor, and temperature. It would basically be a long row of differently-sized bites to be eaten in strict sequence. Probably be disgusting, though.

Daniel Wolf said...

Serial eating strikes me as a close cousin to serial killing. Once problem with most serial schemes is an insistance on using up every aggregate in every parameter, so that in the end, any random bit is going to have approximately the same content as any other random bit. (Is there any wonder that serialism came around at the same time as mass production of foodstuffs and fast food came 'round?) In general, I think that we don't want every bite of food to taste like the last one, so we will generally prefer some built-in imbalance; the same goes for music, methinks. On the other hand, we may sometimes choose a static environment in which it is possible to focus on the most subtle details.

Anonymous said...

Rihm seems relatively popular here in Germany. After hearing a few of his dishes, er pieces, I can't yet tell why.