Saturday, April 17, 2021

Nikita Koshkin: Piece with Clocks

It dawned on me this weekend I've never linked to this piece!  Koshkin's got a video up with a performance he recorded himself.  

Gregory Budds Cain discussed this ambitious work for solo guitar in a dissertation back in 2005 that I got.

If you want to hear Koshkin's work on disc ... 

Back when I started this blog I used to have a header that said the plan was to explore and discuss classical guitar music that didn't default to the usual Spanish/Spanish-language defaults.  If in symphonic music the hegemonic influence is German then in guitar music in the West the hegemonic influence is Spanish, and to a lesser extent probably Italian. There's a rich tradition of Russian guitar music for both the six-string and seven string guitars.  This particular piece was recorded using an eleven-string guitar but if you buy the score (I have) you can see that everything you need to pull off the piece can be done with a six-string guitar (plus a cork, a foam mute, a pencil and maybe another thing or two to get all the timbrel changes the work calls for). 

Atanas Ourkouzonov: WarmUp (10 studies) score/video

William Robin's book on Bang on a Can is out and The Music Salon links to a piece by W.R. on the marginality of music (classical music post-1945) to the Helms Amendment, a potential failure to anchor culture war in terms of a post-Cold War crisis of U.S. arts policy absent a Soviet foil

The music that became subject to Culture Wars controversy––such as the rock and hip-hop targeted by the PMRC and Christian fundamentalist organizations––seemed far from the world of contemporary composition. Indeed, in an October 1989 article, the young composer David Lang expounded on the apparent lack of significance of the so-called “Helms amendment”––an attempt by the right-wing senator Jesse Helms to restrict federal funding to art that was deemed obscene or indecent––for the world of new music. “Artists like to feel that their work is challenging enough to be controversial,” he wrote. “Photographers, painters, filmmakers and the like can imagine victimization at the hands of Congress as a badge of honor. They are Art-martyrs to the First Amendment.”

“With all of the excitement,” Lang fretted, “it is disturbing that so little of this controversy is aimed at composers. Are we not controversial? Why isn’t Congress rushing to censor the subversive power of modern music? It is possible that we are doing something wrong.”

That is just a brief excerpt and it is worth looking at the whole essay. There are all sorts of interesting questions that surround government subsidy of the arts. Some subsidies are likely to be challenged by conservative politicians on behalf of their constituents who might not be comfortable with art that could be seen as obscene or sacrilegious. But this is just one facet of a larger problem that is most keen in non-European western nations: Canada and the US simply do not have the deep cultural traditions that would support heavy subsidies of art by government, while in Europe this is fairly uncontroversial, at the present, at least. The very notion that art, in order to be taken seriously, has to be subversive pretty much excludes it from government subsidy, does it not? In Canada the problem is addressed by making arts subsidies through an organization, the Canada Council, that is at arm's length from government. In that case what has happened is that arts funding is determined by an insider group that essentially funds one another and their friends. Funding of the arts is always pretty problematic and I frequently long for the days when eccentric, but educated members of the nobility funded whatever art they liked...

Having read some of William Robin's work in the past thanks to Ethan Iverson's blog I'm looking forward to reading Industry: Bang on a Can and New Music in the Marketplace, Robin's new book on Bang on a Can. 

However, having read up a little on Cold War era policies foreign and domestic I am not so sure the explanation for the comparative lack of arts culture in the highbrow sense is a lack of tradition. Douglas Shadle has chronicled symphonic works in the U.S. that were well-received at one point and dismissed soon after for alternately being too much like Beethoven and Wagner or not enough like Beethoven and Wagner. I'm currently working through Shadle's new book on Dvorak's 9th. I'll recapitulate some comments I made at The Music Salon here.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

German Dzhaparidze: Prelude and Fugue in E major for solo guitar played by Esteban Colucci

Prelude starts at the top, fugue starts at 2:19

This is another set of guitar works I want to write about eventually but this part of a cycle of 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar.  So I plead mere mortality as to when I get around to writing about all of them!

But this cycle has been recorded by Colucci and is well worth your time. 

Angelo Gilardino: Sonata No. 2: 1. Allegretto Semplice

For a considerably longer sonata form from contemporary literature this is the first movement from Angelo Gilardino's second guitar sonata. This is another cycle of sonatas (five in all) I hope to write about but for now I'll link to the first movement of Gilardino's second guitar sonata. 

Dusan Bogdanovic Guitar Sonata No. 2

I'm going to write in more detail about this sonata later but this is one of Dusan Bogdanovic's solo guitar sonatas.  It's a particularly fun sonata as it is in my opinion but it's also a good example of how you can compose a sonata form in a contemporary musical language for guitar that isn't beholden to 18th or later 19th century harmonic and melodic conventions. Further, it is a case study of how a sonata form can retain a perceivable structure by way of the sequential presentation of thematic ideas (i.e. Theme 1, transition, Theme 2) as a kind of "rotation" before Hepokoski and Darcy developed the concept of "rotation" in Elements of Sonata Theory.  Similar things can be said about the solo guitar sonatas of Angelo Gilardino that I want to write about later.

Another thing, contemporary solo guitar sonata forms can be as short as 3:30!  :)  If you want guitarists to have an easier time learning how sonata forms work you can pick solo guitar sonata forms, but I mention the brevity of Bogdanovic's sonata forms in his solo guitar sonatas (1 & 2) because it's part of a drum I've beaten over the years about how there are ways composers on the classical side of things can take cues from popular styles.  Bogdanovic has scaled down his approach to sonata forms to both suit the guitar and to recognize that an opening sonata form doesn't have to be a 23-minute long Mahler movement. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

via Jim West, Handel composed The Messiah on a commission to fundraise money to get men out of debtors' prison

Jim West has a post about how Handel's Messiah came about because of the composer's willingness to help a prison charity (specifically a charitable project to help men in debtor's prison)

According to Caro Howell the Hallelujah Chorus was something Handel repurposed from his earlier Foundling Hospital Anthem.  Howell proposes that had Handel not been connected to the hospital that took in orphans the most famous part of Messiah might not have been composed.  Handel, like many composers from what we now call the Baroque era, recycled not only his own ideas but musical ideas from others.  

Over at The Imaginative Conservative Terez Rose stated that 143 men in debtors' prison were helped by the proceeds from the fundraising done at the Messiah premiere.  Given the time and place, too, the libretto could also be read (at least some did read it) as a polemic against Deism. 

So there were two different levels of charitable association connected to Handel's most famous oratorio, helping people in debtor's prison and helping orphans.  

Monday, April 12, 2021

a brief note on the Igor Rekhin 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar

 I've looked for years to see if anyone has recorded the entire cycle and so far the answer has been "no" but there is a lately posted Youtube video that "may" have the entire cycle but I'm going to have to sit through it with scores in hand to know for sure.  If the whole cycle is up then I'll provide a link and maybe even see if I can have notes on each prelude and fugue at some point since, of course, I have the scores for the cycle. I'll just have to see and it might take a bit. If it's the case it will be of note because Rekhin's cycle was the first prelude and fugue cycle composed for solo guitar I know about (or that, for that matter, anybody knows about at this point unless it turns out that Ferdinand Rebay wrote one and scholars of Rebay just haven't gotten through all 700+ works yet). 

Update 5:15pm 4.13.2021

So the mic got a pretty hot signal and the sound gets peaky in a few spots but I'm almost halfway through and it's sounding and looking like the entire cycle is at the link, which I probably will get to providing in a later post after I've listened through the whole thing with scores in hand.

Dušan Bogdanović: Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for The Golden Flower

Eventually I mean to blog through the solo guitar sonatas of Dusan Bogdanovic (and others) but that's a long-incubating project that isn't ready.  On the other hand, sharing Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for the Golden Flower is something I can do now.

Gerard Drozd: Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor from his Op. 86 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar

I've known about the Drozd cycle of preludes and fugues for solo guitar for a few years now and have been hoping there would be some more exposure for them in the West and it's happening, bit by bit.

I've been wanting to hear music from this cycle for a while.

As I have attempted to demonstrate over the years at this blog there is a lot of contemporary contrapuntal music for solo guitar being composed in our lifetimes.  Drozd also has a cycle of preludes and fugues for guitar duet.  I am hoping the scores become available in the West and that some commercially available recordings can happen.  

Sunday, April 11, 2021

James Wood at Theopolis Institute on Wokeness as Protestant Neopaganism, the claim that wokeness has no institutional or sacramental element seems more assertion than provable claim

There are times when clergy attempt to tackle ideas like wokeness but do so in ways that suggest that the pursuit of theological education did not bring with it much engagement with the history of the arts outside liturgical concerns (if that) and, further, much art history at all.  Why mention that?  Because ever since the Romantic era gave us Wagnerian/Matthew Arnold style art-religion clergy who haven't paid any attention to that by now roughly two-centuries old impulse in the West might get the idea that, well ... 

4. Wokeness, like Protestantism, is more creedal and confessional than institutional and sacramental. It centers on key beliefs to which one must assent.  ...

Ken Burns' documentary on Hemingway has come along. Laura Miller muses on how America moved on from him in 2021 at Slate, while in 2017 Terry Teachout shared how Ernest inspired an entire generation of hack writer men

Over at Slate Ken Burns’ documentary on Ernest Hemingway inspires a riff on how we don’t much need Hemingway’s dubious notions of masculinity now. Laura Miller’s article on Burns-on-Hemingway was summed up by the text below the title before the article proper even starts, “He changed American fiction, and then American moved on.” 

Well, maybe for all the people who ever actually liked Hemingway but I wasn’t one of those people.

Still, let’s look at a bit of the article anyway.