Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Best Music 2

Harrison Birtwistle has written some pieces which make my best list. His music comes from the "school of whispy music", as I like to call it - very quiet, instruments making quiet rattles and scrapes or quick bursts of sound, voices going ooooh or aaaaah or singing phonetics. Birtwistle is part of the English trio which dominated the music scene in the 50s and 60s - Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr and Peter Maxwell-Davies.

Not all of Birtwitles music is whispy. Punch and Judy is one of my favorite pieces by Birwistle. Very pungent, aggresive and, well, a wonderful work! Also violent - he kills Judy several times over, tosses the baby into the fireplace. The story is held together using the Greek tragedy - chorus, search, ritual.

Of course there is the real Greek opera of Birtwistle, the
Mask of Orpheus.

This is a very nice piece as well - whispy, but very nice.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Moderately New

I bought You Are (Variations) by Steve Reich. The album has received many good reviews; John Kelman states that it is "...a rewarding and profoundly musical experience." He certainly has extended his style into a more chromatic field, no doubt with his work using vocal inflection as musical melody, especially in Different Trains and The Cave. I, however, do not find the vocal writing impressive here. I feel the text could have pretty much been about anything - advertising slogans, newspaper clippings, random words. And the vocal parts do not come out of the textures being created (which adds to my feeling that they could be about anything), they simply add a new layer to the musical effect, and there is no interpretation. This is totally different than Different Trains, where the texts are beautifully interpreted, or even Proverb. Steve Reich, in his early writings, of course said that he wanted just to set up a musical idea and then let it go on its own, but I think words need extra care.

I give this piece a 6 0f 10.