29 December 2006

New American Music

I spent what for me is a traditional Boxing Day evening listening to experimental music with my friend Robin Hobbes in his conservatory and musical studio in Bowden, Cheshire. Well, I say listening, but we only enjoyed snatches before our significant others complained that it should be turned off. First we sampled Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) the Communist sympathiser who after fighting in the Spanish Civil War spent most of his adult life writing for player-piano in a garage, holed up in Mexican exile to avoid the CIA. Wonderful up-tempo boogie-woogie almost made the household dogs howl. This is music which is too dense and complex for human beings to perform. Following the first complaints we switched to Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and enjoyed the opposite experience - music which is both quiet, slow, and lasts a long, long time. We didn't get very far into the five hour long String Quartet II before the hints came in thick and fast that we'd better jack it in , or there would be no dinner served. So I resolve to go back to these intriguing artists in the safety of my own office.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We should have gone on to listen to John Cage's audio collage masterpiece "Roaratorio - An Irish Circus on Finnegan's Wake". He incorporates "live" recordings from all of the places mentioned in Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. He recruited people living in the various places and sent instructions to them about how to randomly record the ambient sound of the place.Once he received the recordings he then combined them with a number of other sounds including an Irish folk ensemble and his own chanting of parts of the Wake. I quote Cage on his selection from the Wake " I opened FW at random and began writing mesotics on Joyce's name to the end of the chapter ..... I was caught in the Wake.Everything about it is endless and attractive".
Roaratoria lasts about an hour. Very few listerners stay the course when exposed to this work but I think we must make it a priority next BoxingDay.