Hear and Now - 26th November 2011 - British Composer Awards, Skempton's Lento
Poor Ivan Hewitt's rather desperate suggestion that the BCA prize day somehow publicised the existence of composers to people who might otherwise have thought all composers were dead!
But even if the puff is half-hearted, it's good to hear contemporary music that isn't making cosmic statements and doesn't need instructions.
Miss Ubiquity herself, Gillian Moore got on my tits with a sublime piece of inverted snobbery. " ... working with the homeless people is a real proper piece work ... " whereas " ... the Proms thing appeals to a certain kind of middle class audience who know what the Proms is and know where the Albert Hall is." Really woman? Working class Londoners don't know where the Albert Hall is? Patronising cow.
Music is more real because it involves " ... people who've had homelessness issues recently"?! Good Christ! And here she comes again, babbling away on the Skempton.
Last edited by hackneyvi; 27-11-11 at 23:30.
From its title I thought this might be a thread worth bothering with.
Ah well, how sad, never mind.
I'm afraid it's not a classic show and very much Hear and Now's equivalent of the MOBOs but there's some attractive music to be heard amongst the sunken commentaries. Don't write it off till you've tried it, Bryn.
The programme was fine by me. It's the opening message that was addressed. I'm no particular fan of Ms. Moore, but ... .
Oh, and I too am very much in favour of free improvisation, but music which comes with instructions (and maybe even a score) is also fine by me.
Good to hear Mr. Brabbins conducting the BBCSSO in Lento, though I think Mr. Volkov made a somewhat better fist of it a couple of time last year with the same orchestra.
For once, oooh, just for once, I've got to say it - Phil, whatever the merits of your opinions you could at least express them without such blatant misogyny. I mean, please darling, pur-lease...
Originally Posted by hackneyvi
Am I alone in feeling Skempton's "Lento" to be one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated by a composer on his or her naive and unsuspecting public?
The first time I heard this piece (the broadcast of its premiere), recalled a comment by David Drew, in his chapter on modern French music from "European Music in the Twentieth Century" (Ed H. Hartog) Pelican, rev 1961 p. 288), to Jean Wiener's "Concerto Franco-Americaine": "... He turned to the opposite extreme; the *bourgeois* was now to be *epate* by a *right-note* style. Instead of adding meaningless harmonies to the injury of common melodic jargon, he presented that jargon in its crudest form".
I normally quite like Skempton's pieces, or rather the few of them I have heard, reminding me as they do of those rather dusty unaltered Victorian-furnished middle class interiors in places like St Johns Wood, usually with a quietly ticking mantelpiece clock and palm in the corner and lace antimacassars, where one sought bedsit accommodation back in the 1960s - or film music wistfully appropriate to such a scene, more likely. This piece was by contrast either some sort of ****take or something wallowing pretentiously in its own unctuousness, and I took it to be the latter. I'm glad I didn't listen to this programme.
Re. you first point, no, others have been just as pretentious in their expression of dislike for the work.
Originally Posted by Serial_Apologist
Re. the second, heaven forfend that you might learn from doing so.
I suspect that the real reason for you ire is frustration at the fact that you just don't 'get it', and that you resent the fact that so many others do.
What is there "to get"? No, I don't "get" whatever it is I am supposed to - and that now includes your reply. But, if there is something for me to learn, please feel free to elaborate.
Originally Posted by Bryn
Barber's Adagio is another piece I do not particularly like; I acknowledge it in the same way I would acknowledge an early work by any composer who is destined for greater things: Debussy's "Clair de lune" for example. Samuel Barber was working his way through various influences, including that of Sibelius, at the time he wrote the Adagio in 1936 (as part of a string quartet originally). The piece was much used as an emblem of America's grief in the wake of 9/11; a Canadian friend of mine, who does not appreciate Barber's later music at all, told me that she found it the most moving piece of music ever written.
The difference I see between that work and "Lento" is one of two composers moving in opposite directions: Barber in the direction of a modernism that, as in the case of Elliott Carter though obviously less radically so, was more authentically reflective of its time than the late romantic aesthetic he had shared with one or two other American composers, eg Paul Creston, Howard Hanson.
I take on the chin Bryn's admonishment of my "ire" with regards to the Skempton piece; some few weeks ago we shared wistful reminiscences on the Scratch Orchestra and "alternative" London in the late 60s on this board; I'm sure we share similar views on many aspects of politics today, but in matters where I suspect aesthetics loyalties outlive their political sources in the case of the "Cardew School", and what became of it, it's like we're speaking in different languages. All this will puzzle those without the backgrounds; but what I want to say boils down to: whenever I hear what apparently purports to be a serious contemporary piece of music in an idiom more appropriate to 1750 than 1990, what is the point of adopting wholesale (sic) the musical language of pop music (with or without beats), when pop music is just everywhere and signifies the reduction of everything to what some people making huge profits deem the masses capable of absorbing? It's the mirror image thing of what happened to composers in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s and in Nazi Germany - the extinguishment that starts in the creative imagination and ends in artistic exile.