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The idea of “taking a line for a walk” comes from one of Birtwistle’s favourite artists, Paul Klee. A preoccupation with Klee and his theories was an inspiration for one of the definitive Birtwistle pieces of the late 1970s, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum. Using Klee’s idea of the difference between “dividual” and “individual” phenomena – the difference between, say, the endlessly divisible nature of water, as opposed to the singularity, the indivisibility, of a bottle of water – Birtwistle conjured a series of different musical materials. The question was then how to repeat these blocks of material, and how to transform them. On their own, each block is like a little machine of processes and patterns, but nothing ever repeats in quite the way you expect. That’s because Birtwistle used a series of random numbers to help generate how the blocks would recur, how long they would last, and even what notes they would use.
And here’s the paradox. “I didn’t make any decisions in writing Carmen,” Birtwistle says, since so much of the structure was generated through random procedures, “and yet it sounds like me – and no one else could have written it.”
(The New York Times, 24 January 1962)
Campbell’s Soup is drawing rave reviews from the world’s art critics, who hail the soup maker’s new “Tomato” soup “a brilliant post-modern commentary on the pervasiveness of consumerism in modern life”.
Art dealers from New York to Paris are bidding astronomical sums for the 12-ounce cans, normally priced at 33 cents. This week, a can at a Manhattan grocery store fetched $100,000.
According to New York art collector Bruno Waldstein, who paid $76,000 for a can at Sal’s Corner Grocery in Queens Friday: “This soup savagely lampoons the unwelcome, insidious intrusion of crass commercialism into our lives and modern popular culture. This is Campbell’s greatest work since Cream of Mushroom.”
The art originates from a small collective of artists calling themselves “The Campbell’s Canning Factory” in Gary, Indiana.
Campbell’s Soup CEO Herbert Leonard, 53, said he is mystified by the success of the can. “It’s just fucking soup,” he said.
Walton certainly was a far better composer than he was a man. His personal behaviour could be quite poisonous, as I understand it, and he was exceedingly jealous of other people’s success.
Although I admire most British composers active throughout the twentieth century I am often disappointed by Walton. Clearly he was a composer of great talent and the list of his compositions whilst in his twenties and thirties contains a number of masterpieces. Belshazzar’s Feast is an exciting and dramatic oratorio, the First Symphony is a work of very considerable power and at times snarling menace. These are certainly personal favourites. After the war however there just seems to have been a long period of much more modest achievement with few works which resonate long in the memory. I try to like the Cello Concerto (1956) and the Second Symphony (1960) but there just seems to be something lacking. Walton’s move to take up residence on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples supposedly added a Mediterranean warmth to his music but to my ears it is more a Mediterranean languor, a sort of sleepy laziness. The enormous promise of the young composer seems to have dissipated. The great works which might have been expected from the older composer just don’t seem to have been written.
I remember as a young man reacting violently against what my friends and I thought was a national obsession with the music of Benjamin Britten and the neglect of composers like Walton. Now however I do have to admit that Britten was a greater composer and a composer of much more depth.
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’s life together inspired some of the most brilliant poetry of the last century. But Sylvia was also an accomplished artist. Frieda Hughes reveals the stories behind her mother’s exquisite drawings.
On 2 November, an exhibition of Sylvia Plath’s pen-and-ink drawings opens at the Mayor Gallery in Cork Street, London.
Kontra-punkte, one of Stockhausen’s less crazy compositions, dates from 1953, the golden age of total serialism.
The abstract painting is by Eva Ryn Johannissen.
Speed dating would appear to have found an unlikely new disciple in Tracey Emin.
The artist, who broke up with Scott Douglas, a photographer, after a seven-year relationship, says she feels the method offers her the best chance of finding someone suitable. “I meet men every day of my life, but I really want to go speed dating,” says Miss Emin, 47. “Speed dating’s about what you say. I think it would be good fun. I want to meet some new men.”
At speed dating events, men and women are rotated to meet each other in a series of brief encounters. At the close of play, participants submit to the organisers a list of whom they would like to provide their contact information to. If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties.
I’d speed date her …
When I wept bitter tears over the cold bitch who dumped me in Fournier Street, London E1, 25 years ago, how could I have known that one day there would be living and breathing in that very same street the woman of my dreams?
Perhaps one day (but it had better be soon) Tracey and I will have beautiful babies together …
OK, OK, I’ve had a couple of drinks.
Camille Saint-Saëns, someone said, was “The greatest composer who was not a genius.”
I’m not sure who said it, but I know that (from an early age) Saint-Saëns could do amazing things like play any of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas from memory. That became his party trick. He was a child prodigy, and the great white hope of French music. I am not a huge fan of Saint-Saëns, I saw his Organ Symphony as a teenager and thought it was awesome, but now I think it’s boring. Tastes change (this says more about me than the composer). I think he wrote some pretty enjoyable music (like the fine piano concertos), and even some light and witty (very French) stuff like Carnival of the Animals. Early on, he was associated with progressive tendencies and was a good friend of Liszt, but later he became very conservative, booing at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. Edgard Varèse was a student of his, and they had a pretty uneasy relationship.
I’ve also heard that he simply walked out once he heard the opening bassoon line of Le Sacre du Printemps. Who knows what is apocryphal and what isn’t?
Its clear to me that genius is always applied to a particular creative quality (even a counterfeit one, such as the case of Andy Warhol, the charlatan who conned others into believing he was a genius) or personal force rather than a mere superior form of intellect, the latter being the contemporary definition.
Some people are polymaths, or Renaissance people, and do a number of things well. This does not make them geniuses. A genius in art: creates exceptionally beautiful and/or deeply meaningful works; and often changes the history of their art by the sheer power of their work and its making plain ideas which are floating unarticulated in the collective culture of the time. (Some other geniuses like Bach and Rembrandt bring up the rear, summing up the art of their time better than anyone else and may be completely out of fashion by their middle or old age.) Their ability to do arithmetic or trigonometry, negotiate a contract, fly a glider, make love, cook, garden, lead a political movement or whatever else, has nothing whatsoever to with their artistic genius. If a physicist were good at all the things I mentioned but only mildly important in his original work in the field of physics, would that rank him with Einstein as a genius in physics? Would all the other physicists and scientifically aware people who are looking or waiting for ways out of the conundrums that physics now finds itself in, care in the least about this guy’s ability to fly a glider or cook fucking pasta? If Beethoven could have done multiplication, would more orchestras play his symphonies than do now?
Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, but is considered a genius not because he was a polymath but because he painted great paintings, on the level of genius, and changed art history. Without that quality he might be considered a very prescient inventor and a pioneering anatomist and geologist, but would probably not be considered a genius. The fact that he only completed less than a dozen or so paintings underlines the fact of his genius because it is unmistakable even from these few examples. It may also show that his polymathism – he could never keep his wandering mind on one thing for long, even a paid commission – actually possibly undermined his genius.
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