8 years ago

Volume 12 - Issue 9 - June 2007

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Book Shelfby Pamela

Book Shelfby Pamela Marg/esCageTalk: Dialogues with & about John Cageedited by Peter DickinsonUniversity of Rochester Press286 pages; .95 USJohn Cage remains one ofthe most discussed composersof the twentieth century.But these interviewswith Cage, as well as colleagueslike Merce Cunninghamand KarlheinzStockhausen, manage to offerfresh perspectives on hislife and work. It's good tohave them collected here.Cage comes off as wily, funny and thoroughlyendearing. Editor Peter Dickinson, who has donemost of the interviews here, calls Cage 'a consummateperformer' in an affectionate introduction.Cage is witty, smart, uncommonly aware ofhis musical heritage, and surprisingly passionate,even as he proclaims that the music in itself hasno meaning and communicates nothing.About the work, Bonnie Bird tells how he inventedthe prepared piano while working as a pianoaccompanist in her dance classes. David Tudorrecalls giving the first perfonnance of 4 '33".Regarding Cage's personality, Virgil Thomsontells how 'Cage always gets what he wants'. LaMonte Young says that 'he has such charisma,such a radiant personality'.Dickinson's outstanding footnotes take up asmuch as half a page. Anecdotal and wide-ranging,they offer valuable details and cross-references.A bibliography, a list of Cage's works anda thorough index enhance the reference value ofthis book, which is essential reading for anyoneinterested in the music of our time.The Spiritual Basis of Musical Hannonyby Graham JacksonThe Battered Silicon Dispatch Box196 pages; .00For Gordon Jackson,music today is in need ofhealing. He takes a spiritualapproach to theproblem. But his remediesare pragmatic, andlie in the basis of hannoniclanguage, the naturalovertone series and whathe presents as its moreneglected counterpart,the undertone series.Jackson has been researching this book for overforty years, applying the ideas of anthroposophistRudolf Steiner to music. A Toronto teacher andpianist, Jackson starts with an interesting historicalsurvey of the development of tonality, and itsdeconstruction in the twentieth century. For Jackson,renewal lies in a return to a tonally basedhannonic system where all dissonances are eventuallyresolved. This would lead away from the54atonal music of our post-Schoenberg era, wherethe tension between major and minor tonalitieshas been lost. He even proposes a new tuning system.Even if you don't agree with Jackson's viewson the current situation, you can appreciate hisideas about how composers expand tonality to producemeaningful music. But he doesn't deal withthe works of today's composers like Part,Gorecki, Kancheli, and Silvestrov, who are usingtonal systems to address spiritual issues in theirmusic. While he discusses Hindemith's theoreticalwritings at length, it would be interesting tolook at Hindemith's compositions, like the opera,The Hannony of the World, which is based onmathematical principles of extended tonality.Footnotes and an index, but no bibliography:this book has been well produced in a broad formatto accommodate charts, musical examples,and reproductions from historical manuscripts.Classical Destinations: An Annchair Guide toClassical Musicby Matt Wills and Paul Burrowsphotography by Wendy McDougallAmadeus Press240 pages; . 00 USFor music lovers, one ofthe best reasons to travelis to visit places with connectionsto favourite composersand works, like theapartment where Mozartwrote The Marriage of Figaro,or the museum thatholds his piano. Thislarge-fonnat book covers a selection of these specialplaces. Wendy McDougall's gorgeous photographscapture the details of the sites, as wellas the atmosphere of their surroundings. The textgives interesting background, but little about thesites themselves. The breezy, repetitious, meanderingstyle reflects the fact that Classical Destinationsstarted 1 ife as a tv series.This book emphasizes the 'annchair' of the titleover the 'guide', geared to the reader ratherthan the traveller, even though a limited selectionof hotels is included at the end. Just six countriesare covered; no mention is made of essential musicaldestinations like Britain, Hungary, or France.Although Vienna and Prague are featured, theirunmissable musical instrument museums are noton the agenda. Along with omissions, there areerrors. Verdi's birthplace in Busseto and nearbyestate at Sant' Agata are discussed in a chaptertitled Tuscany, even though they are located inEmilia-Romagna. Nor are they south of Tuscany,as stated, but north towards Milan, which wasVerdi's urban base. Ponchielli, not Pochielli, ashe is referred to in this book, wrote an opera calledLa Gioconda - not La Giaconda - and that opera isby no means his 'only surviving work'.For delving further, Classical Destinationsdoesn't replace Julie Anne and Stanley Sadie'sinvaluable Calling on the Composer (Yale UniversityPress). But with its splendid photos,channing foreword by Simon Callow, colourfuldescriptions, and friendly layout it provides muchenjoyable reading. Just don't use it as a guidebook!WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMEDITOR'S CORNERcontinuedfrompage 14birthday he began to embrace instrumentalmusic and that now well past his 60th he findshimself a "young" composer again. The pieceson this collection include works for instrumentswhich he himself played with someaccomplishment as a young man, Frenchhorn and guitar, and all are perfonned by themusicians for whom they were written: hornplayer William Purvis (with Curtis Macomber,violin and Mihae Lee, piano); guitaristDavid Starobin (founder ofBridge Records)and the Brentano String Quartet (a residentensemble at Princeton). Etudes and Parodiesshow Lansky's depth ofunderstanding of thehorn and are, in effect, seven movementswhich exemplify what, in the words of thecomposer, "a horn does well" . Semi-Suite forguitar is in six movements like the baroquesuite that it uses as a model and makes referenceto in its light-hearted titles, including"Shameless Sarabande" and "AwkwardAllemande" . Also built on a baroque model isthe lush and meditative Ricercare Plus forstring quartet which actually harkens back toRenaissance part writing. Originally conceivedin one movement in 2000, four yearslater Lansky added a haunting prelude andpostlude framing the work. Although somewhatmore conservative than I might haveexpected from someone known as a pioneerin the development of computer music languagesfor algorithmic composition andwhose teachers included Milton Babbitt, thismusic is well-crafted and satisfying to theear."Music of Justin Dello Joio" (Bridge 9220)presents us with solo piano works and a recentpiano trio by this "seventh generation"composer, descended from Italian churchorganists, whose Pulitzer Prize-winningfather Norman was one of the leading Americancomposers of the mid-twentieth century.The Concert Etudes and Piano Sonata performedby Garrick Ohlsson, a frequent contributorto the Bridge catalogue, are dramaticand lyrical works, at times contemplative andat other moments flamboyant and explosive.JUNE 1 - J ULY 7 2007

But the centrepiece of the collection is Musicfor Piano Trio "The March of F oily" performedby Ani Kavafian, Carter Brey andJeremy Denk. It is inspired by BarbaraTuchman's book of the same name whichexamines the destructive tendency of governmentsin "pursuing policies contrary to theirown interests" . Delio Joio says "I did havean image in my mind as I wrote this work:great crowds marching with flying flag~,waving banners, and twirling ba~ons, ~mdlesslydestroying whatever was m their path[ ... ] from an unshakeable belief that God andreligion is exclusively on one's own side."This moving and timely work is in four .movements, concluding with a hopeful epilogue,Prayer for Chiara, in which the c?mposerentertains the wi~h tha~ his ?wn c~1ldmay have the opportunity to 1magme a differentworld.In the "Complete Crumb Edition - VolumeTen" (Bridge 9218) we are presented withGeorge Crumb's very personal re~interpretationsof some well-known Americanhymns in The River of Life and Appalachianfolk songs in Unto the Hills, both sung by thecomposer's daughter. Best known for herwork on the stages of Broadway and London'sWest End, Ann Crumb's voice is particularlywell suited to these works whichcomprise her father's "American S~ngbookNos. 1 & 3". As is often the case withAn n CrumbJ.un.h •

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