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Volume 7 Issue 8 - May 2002

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'~· · Satie · erasing

'~· · Satie · erasing the bass line. Cage, who daimed Satie's influence generally, gets the singers in Europeras 3 and 4 to ·· similarly perform their arias ' without accompaniment: releas­ J ing, but effectively isolating and · also alienating, them ib bleakly undefined space. Gwendoline takes place in ancient Britain, Satie was an anglophile. He also uses the term Wagnerie to · 1 describe Le Fils des.Etoiles - although Mario Praz, in writing . about Peladan, gives an indication that this term might be less purely , ·musical than euphemistic for a sexually orgiastic ceremonial, a sort of Black Mass. You see how my imagination dementedly links things together! The beginning of the second part of the piece has a two-step, a ragtime, the sort of popular music Satie used to write for the cafe-concert. There are also distorted allusions to · BeethoveI)., much more extended than those you find in Satie. STEENHUJSEN: Would you agree that yours is a musicological approach to the composer? ' FINNISSY: Perhaps in its detective work there are some cross-overs into musicology or something similar. The piece maybe toys with notions of analysis and commentary. But its ' sense of history is not linear. Jt' s ' not a re-constiuctiOn 'of a piece by . Sa tie. It's not composed as Sa tie ,,.would compose, even if he was starting with the same material. · · I thirik that all moments, of ' 22 . '~: NEw Music /Cmll'osrn TO Cm1l'OSER history only exist at · FINNISSY: I think it began to with the old adage 'It's not the the present time. We happen in the 19th Century, a material but what you do with it can't experience · facet of bourgeois culture, that fue that matters'~ well how do 'you history chronologi- good old days are better than the characterise that doing? cally, because at here and now. The past is more each moment in time, secure, more comfortable, arid ·sTEENHUISEN: Given your ,,our memory of the you know less about it that's transcultural approach to musicprevious moment is alarming or contradictory. I doubt making and art, how is it that you remain, free of accusations of already highly that many authenticists mounting a coloured and perfomiance of Messiah would, cultur~l imperialism? distorted. There's an however, welcome the presence FINNISSY: 'I haven't entirely. I . essay by Walter of Handel- it would undermine had an unpleasant backlash to ' Benjamin, about their authority! One has to invent Newcassel Sangs - a work I'd · exploding the the present as well, and I suppose written setting rhymes from continuum of history. we have to take something from Newcastle-on-Tyne, and there He's against this the past, because our memories were those at the University the~e Hegelian idea of are necessarily ,of the past. The who thought I should not have history, where questic:lrfthen is what.do we take? · .'appropriated sources frpni an everything is · What principles do we adhere to? . area in which I had not been born, . \. orgaruzed linearly If we're going to become and where l had 'never.lived.!!! >/.from primitive.times iconoclastic; what do we become ; · The criticisms are inevitably ;, to a sophisticated iconoclastic about, or do we get .. lev~lled by th0se who,have never present. · on our knees in front of the past been to buy tea, spaghetti, or and just worship it? pineapples at·the supermarket, who wouldn't eat Chinese or STEENHUISEN: When you Indian takeout, and are free of all approach music ofbygone days, forms of ethnic bias or prejudice. there's a certain type of artist In the main, however, I'm simply you're attracted to: Percy offering alternatives as source­ Grainger, Ives, Varese, Obrecht, .materials. A piece like Folklore Gershwin, Satie, etc. What uses its material to try to.·evoke a characteristics do they share? pre-industrialized. world, a world FINNISSY: They're mavericks. outside the contaminations of They represent alternatives to the capitalism. I'm not trying to orthodoxies and canonically exploit anythingfolkloristic, I just approved hierarchies. Outsiders, like to try things and listen to what guests who weren't welcome at happens. Exploring my other the party (read their reviews!). selves, the selves that are . elsewhere and unshackled. It's a STEENHUISEN: Despite the part of a larger critique of the seemingly incongruous source . evolution of music. I make some materials, your music remains very odd connections, but most coherent. How are you able to people do that at one time or maintain stylistic consistency? other. I find it shocking and What remains constant? · disgraceful that Western European art-music.could be held to be STEENHUISEN: Your music confronts so many other artists' work, and your list of compositions reads like a massive cultura.J inventory. FINNISSY: I try to acknowledge influences openly. Why try and hide them? We live in a sort of mausoleum-culture, so much music from the past taking preced~nce over what we write, so few people giving us any credit. I am making an inventory - or I'm cannibalizing the past, eating and shitting. Tiying to make some sense of it as composition, 'not standing back atld admiring passively. By devouring Satie, I acquire some of Satie's power, his magic. Isn't this what people who write symphonies think, "I'll have the residual power of the symphony rub off on me"! It'_s just a choice. It helps me relate to the larger frame of past musics. STEENHUISEN: And usurp .. some of its momentum. FINNISSY: I hope so. The reality · that we, as living composers, are , forced to accept - as natural - that the musicofthe past is unquestionably so much better than anything we might write, and even if not it's going to be played so mqch more· than we are, is just ·bizarre;. " T· .. '1:.·

eautifully, but tliming·them·into parlour piano pieces. I'm , . referring to fragments, as a way · of.saying that I think the idea of · .cultural purity is not one I'm very fondof. · · STEENHUISEN: We're abie to · sense the sin~e~ity (if th(: ap~ •: '•. proach, but it's sP,ak_)'. groimd. ' ', .FINNISSY: I°'mmost at home on shaky groiindJ The kind of composition! do'is essentially 'improvisatory', so it has that in · coqurion with most folk-musics. NEw Mtisw /Co~1PSER TO COMPOSER But It .is also indebted to ideas taken from standard western European modernism - the tr.aditibn of Brahms, Mahler" Schoenberg. I might try to establish a diaiectic between the two, but it all happens in a very · interior way; very sµojective, not . 'didactic in purpose. The permutational techniques, fragmentation, collage - that's not part of the folk-traditions I'm quoting, .it's the world I'm living in, · or niy shared experience of that worlq, :· STEENHUISEN: As both a composer and pianist, liow do these two facets of yourself meet' when it comes time to write for ·the piano? How does kho.\iingly writing for another piarust' inform this internal balance? Or does it? . . . . FINNISSY: It does up to a point,. particularly if I like what the other piamst does, and I do like what Eve does. I.think it goes beyond questions of "Can I write 150 notes a second Wilen this person is endowed with unusually speedy 'fmgers?" For.me it's more a question of whether I like what they find in music once they get 'beyond' the notes. I had suggested to Eve that I warited to write a piece about (or a 'portrait of) Satie ~ She told me that she ha:d wanted to progi-amme his musiC too. Some people would have gone "Satie? YUK." I'd hel\fd and seen Eve play, I'd listened and observed. You make . \ " . . . . the garment, hopefull)'. it fits. torontohearandnow .com - WholeNote magazine, in cooperation with the Toronto Coalition of New Music and Music Theatre Presenters is pleased to announce the extension of our website-based coverage of new music in the Greater Toronto area. · .. torontohear~ndnow . com offers: Bl Comprehensive new music listings separated from WholeNote's general concert listings, allowing followers of new music to see at a glance what's. happening in the world of new music. ' Other _fe~tures already available: Presenter profiles, links to Presenter websites; extended new music links and resources; CD reviews; . fe.ature articles; interviews; archives with previous articles that relate to new musi~. · Test drive torontohearandnow.com and help us grow it to serve your .music needs! :/

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