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TO MY TWO FRIENDS (E DUOBUS UNUM): HUGH M’DIARMID AND ¢.M.-GRIEVE LIKEWISE ‘TO THE EVERLASTING GLORY OF THOSE FEW MEN BLESSED AND SANCTIFIED IN THE CURSES AND EXECRATIONS OF THOSE MANY WHOSE PRAISE IS ETERNAL DAMNATION CONTENTS Introduction A Zoroastrian Musician in Dorset Around Kaikhosru Sorabji Opus Clavicembalisticum — a Brief History Shortform-Analysis of Opus Clavicembalisticum Opus Clavicembalisticum ~ a Critical Analysis Kaikhosru Sorabji and Herman Melville Notes on the Life and Career of Sorabji Chronological List of Works 21 28 37 72 80 84 On the 4th of May, 1985, I received a hastily typewritten letter: “Dear Mr. Rice, Go straight ahead with the proposed recording of my Opus Clavicembalisticum. No objections at all. Yours sincerely, KS. Sorabji.” Sorabj’s so-called ‘ban’ on the performance of his music stemmed from his belief that the music is “for serious performers and serious listeners onl.” The fact that he consented co performances and recordings since 1976 indicates that towards the end of his life he came to believe that the time might be right for the music ro be made public, and, indeed, that he wanted it to be heard. I do not believe that any composer writes music intending it not to be heard, least of all the creator of such vital, compelling music as Sorabjis. For all its overpublicised complexity, it is the opposite of obscure. It has the power to grip an audience, arouse extraordinary tensions, and precipitate their release in tumultuous ovation, Mere cerebral note-complex weaving cannot achieve this. If there is still resistance to Sorabj’s music in the minds of the public and their guiding crities and commentators, it must be duc to misconceptions. Firstly, there is danger in being too different, and not admitting of ready comparisons with well-understood musical trends. Most of the argument in human thought is by comparison and analogy, and comprehension is almost always achieved by argument, in the broadest sense of the word. To encounter a musical vocabulary which does not fit snugly into a discussion of the evolving musical styles of the Twentieth century must be very galling to certain orderly-minded individuals who do not like to have to evaluate things on their own terms without the benefit of the prompting of received opinion. “Why do I write as I do? Why did (and do) the artist-craftsmen of Irdn, India, China, Byzantine-Arabic Sicily ... produce the sort of elaborate highly wrought work they did? That was their way. Iris also mine. If you dont like it ... that is just too bad, but not for me, who couldnt care less.” Such ferocious independence of spirit has earned Sorabji not a few enemies in a world of fashionable conformity. Secondly, there is the problem of Sorabji’s absolute refusal to disclose in verbal derail what his music is ‘abour’. It has become fashionable for modern composers to tell us — in words — exactly what they want us to hear in their music. If, as Carl Nielsen said, “music is the sound of life”, then this is a fundamentally unhelpful