Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, December 14, 2007

And There Was Licht

Many years ago, when my wife Hilary still taught clarinet to secondary school kids, she had a particulary apt pupil who decided to enter for the BBC's Young Musician of the Year contest. (In the event, like most entrants, she was eliminated before the bits that get shown on TV.) The BBC provided various stipulations regarding the pieces she was required to play for the elimination round. They didn't specify individual pieces, but required at least one piece from each of various historical periods. The one that interested us was the apparently arbitrary "At least one piece composed after 1962". It was a while before we twigged that this was to prevent people using the Poulenc Clarinet Sonata as their "modern" work. (The Poulenc, while not easy, is hugely popular as well as being fairly conservative in style. It's still a lovely piece, and of course entrants could still play it: they just had to come up with something newer as well.) We scrathched our heads, as Hilary isn't a modern music specialist and disn't have very many things that filled the bill. Then I remembered that I had bought her (as a "thank you for having me" present on behalf of our newborn daughter) a CD of music for solo clarinet (also for solo basset horn) by Karlheinz Stockhausen. There was a splendidly approachable little piece on it called "Sei wieder froh!" ("Cheer up!") , under a minute long. Better still, the CD booklet reproduced the entire manuscript. Yippee! A quick burst of neat longhand copying, and Hilary's pupil was set up. I believe she enjoyed playing the piece.

On our way to the Music Club gig on Tuesday, Hilary and I were talking about what we might do if we were prevailed on to organise an evening's programme. I suggested she might do "Sei wieder froh!", and she sounded quite enthusiastic. Who knows?

Then on my way back from Glasgow last night (I'd been to hear the BBCSSO doing Bartok's The Miraculous Mandarin, which was excellent) I passed this lorry, and whipped out my cellphone for a picture:

So it was strange, with the man having been on my mind this week, to discover that I had missed the notices of his death last week. Here is the Guardian, and here is the Times.

Here, in considerable detail, is Wikipedia on the man and his work.

By way of a tribute, I have been accompanying my blogging tonight with a Stockhausen soundtrack. First, Kontakte played very loudly through headphones, which is pretty shattering but stopped interference from my son's band who were rehearsing at the other end of the house. Then (and as I type) Hymnen, which contains my favourite example of Stockhausen humour, to wit a section entitled Sumpf-Enten quaken die Marseillaise (marsh ducks quack the Marseillaise). It does what it says on the tin.

Finally, when I saw this picture:

I was reminded of this:

Humour and space. I think Karlheinz would have enjoyed the comparison.


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