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

Monday, December 03, 2007

A smile that could light up a horn section

From the popular to the downright obscure. I was chatting with Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra's conductor Gerry Doherty last week about programme suggestions for 2008-9, and mentioned that I'd been listening on the radio to James McMillan's Stomp (with Fate and Elvira). I reckoned it sounded fun and maybe we should try it some time (we did his Confession of Isobel Gowdie a couple of years back). Gerry said he'd done a piece called Underground Music with the RSNO, written by "some Russian-born Canadian guy". Like the McMillan, it was full of clever references to other pieces and was great fun. A bit of Googling led me to Nikolai Korndorf, whose 1996 fourth symphony is Underground Music and whose music has been championed by the RSNO's former conductor Alexander Lazarev. Wondering what the guy's music was actually like, I came upon this site where you can stream his 1998 The Smile Of Maud Lewis (about 14 minutes). I commend it to you: it may be obscure, but it's rather good. It took me a couple of minutes to get into it: it starts with a Michael Nyman-like irritatingly repetitive motif (though actually if you check out the extracts from the score on the same site the "repetitions" keep changing in both the sequence of notes and the articulation - one of those "drop your concentration and die" pieces) but before long it reveals itself as actually rather tuneful. It would be fun to do, despite its challenges, if I could persuade the rest of the committee. And, of course, if it doesn't cost our entire music hire budget to obtain (modern pieces can be obscenely expensive, but then composers have to eat). Anyway, have a listen: if you like minimalism at all, you'll enjoy it. And if you don't, maybe this piece will change your mind. Who knows? I'll tell you something, though: I shall be keeping an eye (and two ears) out for (the sadly now deceased) Mr Korndorf''s work.


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