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posted July 6, 2010



Bouncing cheques

Some composers seem like a better idea than they turn out to be. Like bouncing cheques they make promises they can’t live up to. They may sound like interesting characters, the ideas behind the music may intrigue – and yet the pieces themselves itself fails to live up to expectation.


Take Xenakis. Fascinating character with an extraordinary biography. One of the most startling innovative compositional ideas of the century, that of basing musical forms on fractal mathematics. And yet the musical sounds are so unappealing, ugly even, as to send me away to seek other avenues of pleasure.

The Earwig

Or there is Frank Zappa. Counter-cultural icon. Expert negotiator of the streams of avant-garde rock and avant-garde ‘classical’. Fearless, utterly self-assured and an original, individual voice. But also a bit of a humourless bore whose music doesn’t hesitate to outstay its welcome. I wish I liked it. I was ready to like it. I gave it a chance – but the chance is gone.

Or take Gerald Barry, Terry Riley, Wolfgang Rihm. Please. There are many good reasons to like them all, except that their music fails the one test: I don’t like the noise it makes.

This article first appeared at soundandmusic.org. See all postings by The Earwig.

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