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Review: [untitled] Author(s): Ian Pace Source: Tempo, New Series, No. 203 (Jan., 1998), pp.

45-48+50-52 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/946283 . Accessed: 21/03/2011 19:02
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Book Reviews 45

Tobe fairto the author, he doessay(p.6)that Coltrane, the Beates, John Mclaughlinand more the book came out of his research into 'Indian recent manifestationssuch as Indipop and The book is worth havingfor these music musicof the 1960s'. But bhangra. injazzandpopular even here there is no investigation alone.But we still awaita comprehenof Indian chapters music'sback-door influenceson popularmusic sive andauthoritative account of the vastsubject. of Indian the ideas and works influence on of Western music. Cowell, through John andPhilip Head Cage,Lamonte Young,LouHarrison Raymond Glass.For most of this book what we have is muchmorelocal;Indian influence on Brian something - Collected editedby Femeyhough Writings, British popularmusicfrom the 18th centuryto Boros and Richard Toop. Harwood James thepresent. Giventhebook'stitle,it wouldhave AcademicPublishers, hardback ?82.00, paperbeen interesting to havehada sectionon Indian back?23.00. influenceon Hungarian as music, particularly theories wererife in the 1880sand90saboutthe FERNEYHOUGH: String Quartet No.4; Kurze Indianoriginsof the Hungarians and gypsies. Schatten Arditti II; Tritticoper G.S.;Terrain. String The historical sections deal with British Quartetwith BrendaMitchell (sop); Magnus of Indianmusic from the 18th Andersson Stefano Scodanibbio understanding (gtr); (db);Irvine a.good sectionon the stateof Arditti(vln)with ASKOEnsemble c. Jonathan centuryonwards; Indian musicin Indiain the 19thcentury; India Nott. DisquesMontaigne MO 782029. andpopular in the 19th a songs century; thorough FERNEYHOUGH: Prometheus; La ChuteD'Icare;On of the gramophone in India withan investigation Stellar Careen d'Invezione Magnitudes; Superscriptio; on performance Butgiventhe emphasis practice. III. LuisaCastellani Felix (voice); Renggli (fl); there should have been a discussubject,surely ErnestoMolinari(cl); Ensemble Contrechamps sion of the dissemination of earlyrecordings in c. Giorgio Bernasconi,Zsolt Nagy, Emilio Britain or Europe?So the Frenchcomposer Pomarico. ACCORD205772. MauriceDelage, friendof Raveland Debussy, who collectedrecordings in Indiabefore 1914 The releasein Englishof BrianFereyhough's which were listenedto by Stravinsky, gets no collected event within writingsis an important mention here.Itwouldhavebeenuseful to underabout music. This publishing contemporary stand how his rare (?) collection popularized volume is a tome of lofty not, however, lengthy Indianmusicin Parisduringthis period. and aesthetic less manifestos; pronouncements Thereis little serious discussion of the nature than half of the book's 533 are actually pages of exoticismfor the westernmind, surelythe takenup with Fereyhough'sessays.These are main carrierand raison d'etre of many of the dividedinto three sections:the first containsa suchascontinue in filmsandfilm popularizations rather miscellaneous collection of highlyabtruse musicup to the presenttime. Earlyon Farrell on such as notation, essays general topics, states'It appears as if the West has a cultural or the nature of teaching 'complexity'. in nevermeetingthe Eastmusically, rhythm, investment to particular as if the Eastand all its workshave to remain Overallthese seem like responses circumstances rather than to set any attempt in orderto retainartistic mysterious validity'.It down credos. The second section contains is a greatpity he has not developedthis idea. Otherpopularizers havebeenmissedout too, Fereyhough's writings on some of his own suchelaborations on vocalworks mostnotablyMaudMcCarthy who hadstudied works(further are found at the end of an interview with Paul singingin Indiain 1908 and who lecturedand These are not at all like the Driver). analyses by in andFrance. It performed widely this country wouldhave been interesting to learnabouther RichardToop that have appearedin several as Fereyhough is less concerned influence. Alsomissing is mention ofKedarNath publications', with elaboration of the compositional processes Das Gupta and his Union of East and West than elucidation of what he calls the 'experiin active London around the timeof organization, mentalgrammar' and some of the conceptual the FirstWorldWar. of the works. The third section It is only when we come to the last two underpinning contains on the musicof Weber, Finnissy essays chapters,concernedwith Indianinfluence on 1 SeeRichard music and that the Lemma-Icon-Epigram' contemporary popular Toop,'Brian Fereyhough's jazz, authorseems totally happy with his material. in Perspectives of New Music Vol.28 No.2 (Summer 1990), 'On Superscriptio' in Contemporary Music Review, Farrell pp.52-100, Here, with many musicalillustrations, Etudes Vol.13, Part 1. pp.3-17, or 'Brian Ferneyhough's with the nature of Indian expounds easyfluency A Composer's Diary (Part 1)' in EONTA Transcendntales; influenceon such figuresas Miles Davis,John Vol.1 No.1 (1991), pp.55-89.

46

BookReviews and Ruggles. In these andin commentson various other composers and works elsewhere in the book, it is clear how Ferneyhough's understanding of much music is every bit as intricate and detailed as that of his own (he says at one point 'You think Beethoven is simple? I spent manyhours, once, working out what happenedin the first four or five measuresof the Eroica,and I still wasn't at the end of it.'). Hence it beomes clear that 'complexity' for Ferneyhoughis somenotational thing very much more thana particular style or overall level of density; it is subsequently easier to understand the extent to which he relates to various 'traditions' but also how 'difficult'other seemingly more 'simple'music is. The book is difficult reading, however: one's eyes begin to hurt after reading and re-reading the tortuous sentences. Fereyhough's thinking can be seen to evolve even within a paragraph, for ever qualifying and aiming towards greater specificity. Talkingabout music is frowned upon in Britain, but as Femeyhough says 'I can't see (verbal)silenceperse as being of any utility at all, except in notably restricted aesthetic circumstances'.It becomes clearwhen one contrastshow carefully Fereyhough has thought about the act of composing with the naive and dilletantish approachof so many (not least in Britain), why their work is so shallow and disposable in comparison with his. The bulk of the book, and its more interesting and varied reading, is taken up with interviews spanning a period from 1978 and 1992. These have all appeared elsewhere, but this collection enables one to follow the evolutionary nature of Fereyhough's thinking. With over 30 years' work behind him, and the availability of a sizeable amount of this on disc, it is indeed becoming possible to divide his career into periods where different attributesassume prominence. Such a delineation inevitably risks being over-simplistic, but Fereyhough himself does say in one interview 'Several swings. . . can be distinguishedwithout difficulty in my progress', and some paradigmis necessary for any discussion of the work. So I suggest that there are four 'periods' to date. The first I would call the 'hyperin which Fereyhough built upon expressionistic', a hypertrophied post-Second Viennese School intervallicandgesturalvocabulary with innovative concerns:beginingwith the first typesof structural truly maturework, the ThreePieces(1966-67) for piano, progressingthrough the SonatasforString Quartet (1967), Epicycle (1968) andothers, towards Beta(1969-71) the magnificentorchestralFirecycle (a piece calling out to be revived and recorded).

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BookReviews 47 Then followed an 'experimental' period, testing the limits of performance situations, as well as exploration of the theatricsof performance, and live electronics: this incorporates the Time and MotionStudies (1975-76), (1971-77), UnityCapsule Transit(1972-75) and the work that forced a rethink of many things, the orchestral La terre est un homme(1976-79). After the transitional Funerailles(1979-80), the third period, which includes most of the works for which Ferneyhough is best known, involves a greater focus on individualgesturesand their modes of transformation. It begins with the Second String Quartet (1981), moving (1980) and Lemma-Icon-Epigram d'Invenzione cycle (1981-86) through the Carceri and the Third String Quartet (1987), towards such works as Kurze SchattenII (1985-88) for guitar, La chute d'lcare(1988) for clarinet and ensemble,andallminatingin the very problematic Trittico Stein (1989) for double bass. per Gertrude The most recent period, beginning with the Fourth String Quartet (1989-90), has featured much considerationof the relationshipsbetween instruments (and/or voices), in such works as Terrain (1991-92) for violin and ensemble, (1991-95) for oboe and ensemble and Allgebrah On StellarMagnitudes (1994) for voice and five players. Most recently the String Trio (1994-95) and Incipits (1996-97) appear to be revisiting aspects of the earliest music. Of course several works, such as SiebenSterne (1970) for organ, would seem to fall outside of these neat time-periods, and the considerations of some periods are often implied by works in the preceding one. With hindsight, it is Ferneyhough's second period (though perhapsthe most interestingof all) that now seems most tangential to his overall line of development. The two new CDs enable one to become more familiar with works of the latter half of the third and fourth periods of his work. The Montaigne disc is in part a complement to the Ardittis' earlier disc (Montaigne 789002) of the first three String Quartets and Adagissimo (1983).The FourthStringQuartetis Fereyhough's response to Schoenberg's Second Quartet, and similarly involves a voice in two of the four movements. The text is taken from Jackson MacLow'sreworkingsof EzraPound'sCantos.In the first movement the instrumentalists continue to explore the dichotomy between short gestural units on one hand, and sustained pitches and chords on the other, which was a feature of the Third Quartet, but with the additionof repeatednote patterns.They circle aroundbinding threads such as pitch unison that make them act as a unit. The second movement is divided into fragments of different lengths, separated by silences, in which multiple trajectories of voice-instrument integration operate within different parameters. The third movement includes solos for all players,and enables the different playersto bring their individual personalities very much to the fore. The last movement is intended to present 'the incompatibility of voice and instrumentsin emblematic form', and begins with a long instrumentalpassage in which the players have practicallyno rests, so that the effect is like that of experiencing a complex line-drawing being constructedwithout taking the pen off the paper. The singerenters nearthe end of this section, and continues into a long, unaccompanied solo notated as if alternating between two or three different voices. As she descends into distorted, unpitched utterings, the quartet reappearsin the last bar with an ultra-refined final gesture in rhythmic and (almost) contoural unison. Like so much of the piece, this moment seems to be pushing at the boundaries of the expressible. The work is tailor-madefor the Ardittis;their and experiencedjudgement in hyper-articulation prioritizingthe concurrentlevels of information in the score (not to mention the admirablequality of the recorded sound) prevent the denser moments in the piece from ever seeming grey. Notwithstanding the overall autocracyof Irvine Arditti's style, the charged, highly emotional playing of the viola player, Garth Knox (who could recently be heard in a fine performancein London of Incipits), is especially noteworthy. However, the way in which the Ardittiscurrently have the field to themselves in this repertoire could potentially lead to an excessive orthodoxy in performancepractice. I would very much like to hear another quartet (for example the Kreutzers)take up Ferneyhough'spieces for the medium; multiple interpretationscan only add to one's appreciationof the music, and help to dispel the all-too-prevalent myth that the detail of Ferneyhough'snotation precludes any individuality of approachon the part of the performer. In the two solo pieces, however, the closeness of the recorded sound verges on the oppressive. Kurze SchattenII (1985-88) is in seven short movements; on one level it can be heard as an encyclopaedia of guitar techniques, including harmonics, tremolo glissandi, percussive effects on the body of the instrument,and so on. Microtones are made possible throughscordatura; one of the strings is retuned to its ordinarypitch every alternatemovement, with the intended effect of progressive clarification of the harmonic field. This is certainly partly audible, but tempered by many other layers of large-scale process.

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piece edges towardsacademicism,the situationis much more pronouncedin Tritticoper G.S. (1989). This piece, apartfrom representingwhat is surely the limit in double basstechnique, is consistentin its absolutely extreme discontinuity and brevity of gesture, to such a degree that distinctions become blurred and one is left with a numbing sense of sonic overkill or ultra-intellectualism verging on solipsism (though some find similar qualitiesandpalpablegapsbetween intention and resultin the work of GertrudeStein, to whom the title refers). It is hardto see what a non-musician in particularwould 'get out of this piece other thana general sense of samenessand tedium. The problem is not unlike that with La terre,and the piece seems to occupy a similar role of turningpoint within Ferneyhough'soutput. The works that immediately followed, such as the Fourth Quartet, Mortsubite(1990) for four players and BoneAlphabet (1991) for solo percussion, are by contrast notably measured and disciplined. I would contend that Ferneyhough's most successful scores are those which cearly amount to more than the sum of their parts, and seem somehow to point beyond 'the notes themselves'. There is of course a world of difference between this and the notion that music is best suited to a representative function, aiming for maximum transparency,and consequently redundancy, by denial of its own materiality.2 But the other extreme, where music becomes an entirely selfreferential system, incomprehensible except in terms of other music or abstractideas that exist only within discourse about music, is equally dubious. None of this blights Terrain (1991-92), however, the crowningachievementof Fereyhough's fourth period. This work has to do with 'natural forces as a metaphorfor the creative process', in those drawnfrom geology. The crazed, particular manaical but free-flying violin writing is at a marked contrast to the solidity and impermeability of the instrumentation,(the same as that for Varese'sOctandre), which Ferneyhough uses to create differentsub-combinations.The work is in two sections, each containinga violin cadenza, then a passagewhere the ensemble enters. In the first section the violin plays almost continuously, without rests, whereas the second contains long silences; indeed the violin is silent for the first partof the ensemble entry. Also prominentin the second section is the coalescing of the ensemble onto sustained pitches.

This tremendouslypowerful, captivatingwork creates a truly audible sense of multi-layering, resulting in sensational textures. The poetic dimension of the piece is ever-present: colours transform into each other, or are glimpsed through gaps and fissures within other fields of colouration, with a seemingly infinite depth. When one compares this work with La terreest un homme, Fereyhough's previous musical essay concerning 'the earth', as a man rather than as geology, it seems he feels more musicallyattuned towards natural rather than human metaphors! The highly judicious and subtle instrumental writing is complimented by the sensitive playing of the ASKO Ensemble; it is clear that they have of and respect marvellousrapport,understanding for each others' individualities- such a contrast to the sound of a collection of soloistic, arrogant, prima donna-like musicians lumped together when the occasion demands it (unfortunatelya feature of many performancesover here). The performers of Ensemble Contrechamps show similar levels of co-operation and mutual sympathy on their disc, which includes two (1981) for piccolo andLachute pieces, Superscriptio andensemble, which are clarinet d'Icare for (1988) also found on the early Ferneyhoughdisc by the Nieuw Ensemble (EtceteraKTC 1070). The early Prometheus(1967) for wind sextet, in which Femeyhough utilizes differing degrees of predetermination in the compositional process, is also featured. While the work uses the hyperexpressionistic language I mentioned earlier, other structuraland instrumentalfactors, such as the use and natureof extended instrumentalsolos and the employment of the ensemble as a block, enable it to diverge from conventional musical parlancein this respect; consequentlyPrometheus is more striking than, say, Stockhausen's Zeitmasse. is a The presence of the soundof Lachute d'lcare little better on the new disc, but otherwise the performancesare complementary.Froma beginning which seems 'business as usual' within Femeyhough's third period, one perceives glimpses of something quite different through crevices in the texture. A moment where the clarinet and piano break off from the other players, and the clarinet heads towards a high, close-chromatic wailing, most resembles a conventional climax; after this the ensemble writing is more still, preparingthe ground for a clarinet cadenza. The fine performance manages to articulatevery clearly such features as the use of rhythmic periodicity. 2 Fora discussion After avowing at the time of the Etudes of this approach see Ian of the problems in Tempo 200 (April Musicof theAbsurd?' Pace,'Kagel: 1997). Transcendantales (1982-85) that he wished to get

If the predominantly gesturalnatureof this

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Book Reviews

whichgovernthe rest soft-focusof the fromthe socialconstraints away from the predominant of his contemporaries'. Yet,as he hascontinued to pointout, the determined nature of the 'self doesnotmeanone should it to reduce completely a passive entityentirelyat the mercyof external forces (that would be a rathercrass form of These considerations affect post-modernism). views on teaching, which he Ferneyhough's discusses at manypointsin the volume.Whilst thatin reality'Youcan'tteach actually declaring composition', Ferneyhough saysthathis type of consists of attempting to get students to teaching whatit is thatthey expresscearly andverbally aretryingto achieve,thenattempt to helpthem realizetheir aims.Those of an empirical bent (usually British) would no doubt balk at insistence on this type of verbal Ferneyhough's but it necessary thinks explanation, Ferneyhough to teaseoutthe manyimplicit assumptions young often passively he composers accept.Essentially wishes to make all his studentsthink actively aboutwhatthey are doing, 'not to be naive'(if thereis to be a Ferneyhough thisis credo,perhaps thanforcethemto attempt of it), rather mastery second-hand devices- let alone compositional handover to them his own 'toolbox'. WithToop,Ferneyhough the'ethical', discusses as opposedto the 'moral'dimension of music. He says'I've often thoughthatI'm sittingon a desertisland,in termsof whatI thinkis quality in music',but also that 'I'm not one of those composers who is engaged in the banally or evenfascist notionof a workof art's social(ist) in the in general'. world Put this "doinggood" claimsdo seem superway, such exaggerated it is a bit too easy for fluous,but nonetheless those in a privileged,secure environment to eschew questionsabout the relevanceof their art.Theconditions and thatmaketheproduction dissemination of Ferneyhough's or anyoneelse's musicpossibleare highly interdependent with political culture and the implicit ideologies the extentto whichthe thereof,not to mention artist's consciousnessis impinged upon by dominant ideologies,so surelytheseissuesneed to be comprehensively examined.Thus when asked in 1990byJames Boros'whatroledoes(or art play in our society?', should)contemporary 3 Theserecordings are soon to be followedby an NMC reanswer suggests that he has Ferneyhough's release of the London Sinfoniettarecordingof Transit, addressedthis only in a relatively general witha newrecording of MissaBrevis, together myownNMC All thisisjustto suggest thelimitation of recital discincluding anda discfeaturing manner. Lemma-Icon-Epigram for all its seemingubiquity. members of ELISION Time andMotion the discourse, Ensemble, including Studies I & II, Unity Capsule, Bone Alphabetand a further of the complex understanding Ferneyhough's of Kurze Schaten II. The major recording gapsthatwill then nature of the self is taken further in his in the catalogue remain will be ofEpicycle,Firecycle Time Beta, of dreamswhere he sees scores and III andFunerailles Motion (whicharebothavailable, descriptions Study in his mind, constructed but only as partof costlyboxedsets),andespecially Carceri whichhe hasobviously I & II. d'Invenzione butarepalably notby the mindthatis dreaming:
Pierrot Lunaire instrumentation, Ferneyhough wrote On StellarMagnitudes (1994) for precisely that combination. For the first time, the text is entirely his own: he devises a seriesof 17 acrostics from names of stars, an essentially arbitary limitation like his compostional 'grids' for shaping the flow of his creative imagination. Thus the work is shaped by formalistic rather than narrative concerns. Ferneyhough attempts to form 'characters' from specific vocal and instrumental combinations, within an overall sense of continual transformation. The delineation of the charactersbecomes more and more blurred as the piece progresses. Both this piece and Carcerid'Invenzione III (1986) for wind, brass and percussion were recordedlive, which I generallyfind problematic, though Ferneyhoughexpresses a preference for the spontaneityand immediacy of live performance over a potentially clinical studio recording. The situation seems to work better in Carceri, which has enormous elemental power through the wonderful sound of the instrumentalcombination. Various 'triggers' between events, in particular those initiated by the percussion, boundaries provide a clear backboneof structural that are easy to latch onto on first hearing. The relative imperviousnessof the brass, in contrast to the more dynamically changing wind, has but the brass also seem to parallelswith Terrain, have an almost 'American' sound - could the fact that part of the piece was written in Chicago have anything to do with this?3 To my mind, the most fascinatinginterviewsin the new book are those with Joel Bons (1982), with Richard Toop (1983), the longest of all, which previously appeared in CONTACT, and the first interview with James Boros (1990), entitled 'Shattering the Vessels of Received Wisdom'. With Bons, Ferneyhough talks about the problem of the 'Nineteenth Century myth of the individual creative personality ... after the structuralistrevolution of the sixties' and how one can 'write romantic music without the basic underlyingconcept of the genial individual,freed

BookReviews 51 dismissal. A more asin Lacan, the 'I'seeingandthe 'I'seenarenon- of blinddevotionor simplistic critical and a readiness identical.He arguesthatthe creationof 'open- constructively approach, at oddswith the use of to enter into broaderartisticand other conended'worksis actually When discussing indeterminate the textualization (includingbiographicalfactors) techniques. use of pre-existent formsin the work of other would add muchto the extantdebate. But Ferneyhough does not see himselfas the composers, Fereyhough statesthat such comof an centre valid musical universe. 'are forced to an extexclusively posers impose arbitrary, to pointoutthathisparticular focus raneous,and very academicformal structure He is atpains stemfromthattowards which instances of whatmayor may andconcentrations upontheseisolated But arbitrariness he feels a personal not be authenticexpression'. affinity,andin no sensedoes or in the he wishto prescribe canbe a positivething:the tensioncreated (orproscribe) techniques differentmusicsof Christopher Fox or Chris aestheticsin the mannerof Boulez. As with Newman is partlya result of the relationship Michael Finnissyor RichardBarrett,Fereyof the limitsandparticularity between materialand seeminglyindependent hough'sawareness of what he does serves to strengthen, notweaken, processes. his work. It him a sense of enables to have With Boros,Ferneyhough discusses performidea that ance of his work, and the advantagesof perspective.As for the nonsensical is the last of a with hard-line, Ferneyhough refuge truly performers gaining long-termfamilarity - the non-capitulationary modernism,I would aver pieces,as opposedto 'the "gig"musician betweenhisworkandthatof is justly thattherelationship playerwho, in a couple of rehearsals let alone other a "professional" realization either Boulez or Stockhausen, proudof producing is of less consequence thanoften of just about anything';the way in which Darmstadters, rather I think of different levels of notated supposed; part Fereyhough's interpreters prioritize derives fromconstructing his own new and the relationship between the approach information; act of playingand the resultant sound, post-SecondViennese School tradition.It is physical to note how his students,or those is acutelycons- interesting which Ferneyhough something cious of, to the extentthathe triesout most of influenced by him, try to reconcilehis achievewith other whathe writeson the instrument(s) concerned. mentswith a moreobvioussympathy traditions. As analyses of his working methods have post-war This is not to say thatFerneyhough demonstrated, espouses pointsout that his Ferneyhough He is keento makeothers pluralism. pieces could not be createdby some super- open-ended formula.Ratherthere is a great deal of non- consider the questions inherent in different as in his commentthat 'most new formulable his techniques are approaches, decision-making; ... music seems toolsforthe creation unableto escapebeingcrushed of particular of result, types whichbearthetraceof theirmeans of derivation. between the extremes of material-immanent The use of gesture or rhetoricis to provide manipulation and an anaesthetically anecdotal audibledifferentiation Whathe argues of lines or textures. mostpersuasively "poeticism"'. In the interview with Antoniode Lisa(1991), againstis the unexamined mind, compositional the inevitable question arises of the 'New thatwhichblithelyor cynically exploitsthe preI forone havemanyproblems withouteithercritique or understanding. with existent Complexity'. the espousal The final interviewin the book, 'Leapsand of a schoolof 'complex' music,and the subsequent andghettoizing to Trail',withJeffreyStadelman of Circuits factionalizing (1992) thisapproach asthe onlypossible validone. This concerns Fereyhough'srecenttextsandpoetry, applies more to Ferneyhough's disciples and with generousexamples.In termsof levels of himself. The detail and simultaneousprocess the poetry epigones than to Ferneyhough intellectualism asa refuge resembles the music,thoughwherethe gestural holding upof excessive fromanyemotivepowerthatmusicmighthave vocabulary of the musicdrawson late expresthe that the in these Englishtexts the style relates implication sionism, (or only permissible emotionsare those of violence, rage or other to para-absurdist American idioms. experimental manifestations of negativity, with a concomitant But I thinkthereareconnexions withthesesorts ruthless of consonance, or those that of traditions in the musicas well. censuring can be expressed in archetypal to accept theresults terms,thus exFereyhough's willingness hasa Cageian feel cluding the personalor the particular) surely of his compositional processes a rather shallow macho The aboutit, in contrast to the omnipresent controlrepresents posturing. factremains thatdiscourse around thatone findsin manyEuropean Fereyhough's lingpersonality work is almostexclusivelyconducted the book,Ferneyhough's by white composers. Throughout malemusicians andis too oftenon theleveleither writingdisplays an innocence, wonderment and

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BookReviews

in shaping excitement andmanipulating language, labyrinthinebut highly specific attempts at demarcation of semanticspace,which contrast and stronglywith the pomposity,sanctimony that characterize so much self-righteousness writingon music.There is a gamingaspectto what Fereyhough does, a fascinationwith abstract of anypurpose thingsoutside theymight serve.Thisis a deeplyAnglo-Saxon trait(albeit a non-conformist one), and one shouldquestion whether is 'dead in the centre really Ferneyhough tradition'. European

This volume should be made compulsory readingfor all young studentsof composition (andquitea few olderonesaswell).Evenif they finally found a cause to reject most of what has to say, it would bring intelFerneyhough lectual upheavalin composers'understanding andvision,farmoreimportant thananyamount of rote-like studies of prescribedforms of or orchestration. counterpoint harmony, lan Pace

Obituary
of the majorworks will stimulate Robert recordings Simpson(1921-1997) - a Tribute With the death of Robert Simpson on 21 greatinterestin Simpson's music,both in this and abroad. November 1997, Britain has lost one of its country His finestworkshave a timelessqualityand leading composers and most forceful personalities. Central to his output are the cycles of 11 monumental stature,placinghim in a unique, position in terms of late 20thsymphoniesand 15 stringquartetswhose mastery unchallenged of organic growth and grandeur of design are century music. The Ninth Symphony, for easily worthy of comparisonwith Shostakovich. instance, radicallyreassessesthe concept of Ina singletripartite moveSimpson was blessed with the rare ability to re- moder symphonism. it hasone basic define symphonic thinking from a completely ment,lasting nearly50 minutes, modem perspective, proving that the form is pulse which remains consistent throughout. the demonstrates just as durable, vital and crucial to our culture Withinthisvastspan,Simpson of his mature froman language, (such as it is) as it was in the era of Haydn or sheerversatility austere Brucknerian Beethoven. nobilityin the firstsection, a centralscherzoof titanicenergyto a His piano music, though less wide-ranging in through The of epic proportions. expression, reveals a craggy, uncompromisingly final set of variations the lastfourminutes individual keyboard style stemming ultimately calmcodawhichconstitutes hasperhaps Bach (Bach-Busoni of thesymphony from the greatcontrapuntists: onlybeensurpassed in terms the the the Beethoven of Hammerklavier, by closing pages of symphonic even), SixthSymphony. later Nielsen and Reger. The works for brass Sibelius's formfascinated Variation band comprise such an impressive corpus that throughout Simpson his is a setof 32 variations life. The Ninth all his Simpson easily surpasses Quartet contemporaries minuetby Haydn. in this field. His three concerti, for Piano (1966), plus fugueon a palindromic human andprofoundly Flute (1989) and Cello (1991) reveal a vivid Themajesty, spaciousness in thisworknaturally indentification with the human qualities of the qualities bringthreeother Bach's to mindas parallels: solo instrument concerned, combined with an greatvariation-sets andBrahms's 'Diabelli' Beethoven's advanced degree of structuralinnovation. 'Goldberg', There are still lamentably few opportunities 'Handel'. the geniusofJ.S.Bach to experience live performances of Simpson's Once,whendiscussing music. The physical excitement engendered by over a bottleof fine Irishwhisky,Bob Simpson such moments as the fiercelyjoyous closing pages maintainedto me that it was the 'magical of energyand serenity'thatmade of the FourthSymphonyor the drivingmomentum combination These are also the in the finale of the Sixth make a shatteringimpact Bach'swork so compelling. in the music thatI mostgreatlycherish in the concert hall. The Kensington Symphony qualities Orchestra conducted by Russell Keable proved of RobertSimpson. Matthew this in the QEH performancesin recentyears. Let Taylor us hope that the impressive array of Hyperion