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Sally Beamish

Now everyone can be a composer … or at least sound like one. And write programme notes … for money! It’s never been so easy!

By using the Contemporary Classical Composer’s Bullshit Generator you will be able to hold your own in conversations at (say) the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival where everyone talks like this:

By engaging in critical incorporating, I seek to overcome the existing radical models, and establish a more diametric and rhythmic paradigm. My latest piece begins with a rather serialist ‘space-melody’, before post-serially transforming the existing passive material into a more post-Schoenbergly-structured state, a process I term ‘subtractively-multimedia-influencing’. When planning my predominant motifs, I often find that creating a somewhat psycho-theoretical array of musical octaves helps a great deal. Recently, I have started to embrace time-signatures as a strongly-diverse alternative to established forms of post-War sound-fundamentals, which has made my work iconically theoretical. In short, the recording must never compose the notation.
In short, the timbre must never perceive the player. To write is a natural desire, but my current compositional activity seeks to undermine all continuities. It also incorporates and opposes generatively-diverse material-parts. The pursuit of binary sculpture-noises to juxtapose the mostly-post-War paradigm is a key focus of my synthetic study. It must be remembered that challenging approaches, especially if they are complex (or even microtonal), should be avoided. As a primarily stylistic artist, I aim to integrate the unity within triadic-possibilities, and bring forth a single polyphony that really interprets the most tense issues.
To mix is a natural desire, but my current compositional activity seeks to inform all aesthetics. It also superimposes and examines neo-Romantically-literal riff-instrumentations. It is of paramount importance that contemporary, intellectual continuity-non-linearities must never be allowed to become discontinuous, or symbolically complex. My work has been seminal in the development of ‘iconically-gestural theoretical-music’, a highly intellectual, and rather non-linear genre. My style is the only one of its kind, due in part to the inclusion of highly-orchestral semitone-linearities, with a hint of so-called ‘module-melodies’. It must be remembered that dominating pitches, especially if they are melodic (or even melodic), should be avoided.

What exactly does the term mean and what does it mean when applied to music? Which composers would be considered postmodern?

Where does the distinction lie between modernism and postmodernism? Is this in any way related to modern and contemporary? Where does modern end and contemporary begin? What does contemporary mean anyway? Is contemporary the same as postmodern?

And finally, is postmodern/contemporary related more to the style the composer is working in or to the time period the composer comes from? Would a composer of today still be classified as modern/contemporary even if they write in a very conservative style?

I have no intention of answering any of these questions. Now that is postmodernism.

Amy Winehouse has never heard of Claude Vivier

Bored by Barber, Bernstein, Britten, Tippett and Tchaikovsky? Try Claude Vivier! Never heard of him? Neither had I, but when I saw the announcement of a DVD from De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam my curiosity was aroused and I ordered it. Those Dutch are producing the most astonishing array of new opera productions. And I always saw them as a dull and unimaginative tribe. Pierre Audi, the artistic director of De Nederlandse Opera, has become one of my favourite directors since I saw his Ring, now my favourite Ring video, shoving the Harry Kupfer/Daniel Barenboim off its pedestal, at least in the video category.

I can’t possible give you a blow-by-blow report of the opera Kopernikus I watched yesterday. It is not called an opera, but a “ritual opera of death”. I never heard any of the singers, nor the conductor, who, surprisingly, took his applause in a protestant minister’s outfit, his real occupational garb. The performance took place in a cavernous old building, former warehouse or factory or something with a stage-like rectangle covered by a deep layer of sand, matching the general lighting throughout! Same with the costumes; very thick sheets of heavy felt. It might be moulded foam, I couldn’t tell, which the singers use skilfully to wrap themselves in, or their fellow actors. The “furniture” sets are wooden crates.

All this is mostly the background, my eyes were busy following the action. No orchestra, but musicians, in costume and make-up, are on stage, acting while playing their instruments. One brilliant slide trombonist doing a duo with the bass actor-singer, even while flat on his back. The female violinist moved all over the sand, wearing a billowy grey outfit with a very long train, and of course no stand for her notes. It is almost an hour of music she has to memorise. A few woodwind players, percussionists and a solo piano complete the “orchestra”. The music is not as strange as I had expected from a student of Ligeti and Stockhausen; of course I won’t walk around humming it.

Watching the singers gave my eyes more to do. Singing with the open hand occasionally tapping the lips to vibrate the sound created something new, not unpleasant to hear. A soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, plus the narrator completed the cast. I have to include the musicians in the cast, because they were just as skilful actors as the singers. The language is “invented” but a running translation in English helps tremendously to let me know what is going on.

I think I shall watch Götterdämmerung tomorrow, give myself a day of respite from Claude Vivier, and then maybe his Marco Polo during the weekend.

Anybody seriously interested in new music, new composers, new ways to be a spectator and listener of an exciting experience, do try this DVD. Also it would be great to see a gay composer getting more recognition for a change.

All I need to add is that even Stockhausen thought this guy was weird.

There aren’t many ways you can be sure to make yourself feel happy, but there’s one that always seem to work for me. I listen to a piece of music, only a minute and a half long, that was originally written for a music box and then orchestrated. Its unwinding tune is immediately memorable. It is so shimmeringly coloured, so precisely made, so assured in the delivery of its climax that it always leaves my mood effervescent. It is called Two Organa: 1 (a misleadingly academic title), and Oliver Knussen, who wrote it, is one of Britain’s greatest living artists. If you have not heard of him, that is probably due to the fact that he works in the occluded, occasionally airlocked world of contemporary classical music. This is a great shame. His music is instantly likeable, elegant, melancholy and exhilarating.

Knussen conducted his own first symphony at the Proms at the age of 15. As the son of the principal bassist of the LSO, he grew up listening to the inordinate variety of noises an orchestra can make. This education gave him an expertise in combining instruments to produce exactly the right colour and temperature of sound. He writes his jewel-like scores carefully, with great technical rigour, but there remains at the heart of his music an unanxious playfulness. His works are often set in the childhood worlds of toys and storybooks and in that familiar, phantasmal place between waking and sleeping. He is a conductor famed for his perfectionism and generosity, a rare combination, and he is a significant teacher of other composers. His opera Where the Wild Things Are, written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak, is an adaptation of the book and far superior to the recent film.

He is a very recognisable figure, tall and fat with a Victorian thicket of beard. I’ve never tried to tell him how much I love his music when I see him at concerts. I admire him too much. He has added beauty to the world.

(Source: Guardian)

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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