Author Topic: New music at the Proms this year  (Read 442 times)

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Offline Maestro267

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2017, 02:48:45 AM »
I didn't listen to many Proms this year, but I found the Coult work (on the First Night) rather underwhelming for its subject matter. If I recall, it was supposed to be someone dancing themselves insane or whatever, but it didn't sound like insane music.

Offline starrynight

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2017, 04:36:59 AM »
I didn't listen to many Proms this year, but I found the Coult work (on the First Night) rather underwhelming for its subject matter. If I recall, it was supposed to be someone dancing themselves insane or whatever, but it didn't sound like insane music.

I listened to all these without even knowing the subject matter beyond the titles.  You could argue all of them to an extent are descriptive but even as abstract music I think they work. 

Looking later at the words on the works it sounds like The Spark Catchers and Liguria are the most programmatic, the other two are more a general idea.  Coult said St John's Dance was about a medieval mob hysteria where people went into some wild dance together.  But I'm not really that concerned whether it fulfills that idea or not.


A real turkey of a piece was this one for me, maybe it's more 'insane' but at the same time I think it sounds awful.  Maybe it's best not to make music too insane.

http://5against4.com/audio/_Gordon,Michael/2017-08-17_(Proms)_Michael_Gordon_-_Big_Space_(WP).flac 
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 04:41:10 AM by starrynight »

Offline Maestro267

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2017, 06:32:58 AM »
Coult said St John's Dance was about a medieval mob hysteria where people went into some wild dance together.

That was it. I felt like the music wasn't wild or hysteric enough. The final dance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or the Danse generale is the bar against which all other wild and hysteric dances in music are set, and Coult's didn't even come close.

Offline starrynight

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2017, 08:53:01 AM »
That was it. I felt like the music wasn't wild or hysteric enough. The final dance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or the Danse generale is the bar against which all other wild and hysteric dances in music are set, and Coult's didn't even come close.

But you don't have to look at it as being wild then, or just take it as an abstract piece.  I wouldn't want to be tied to a description given to enjoy music.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 08:54:38 AM by starrynight »

Offline starrynight

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2017, 11:23:39 AM »
Also, apart from what the program notes said, he described another influence of a sense of ' enforced merriment and energy' which you might get from a concert opener.  That could be contradictory to an idea of something out of control.  So I think they are more vague ideas than anything. 

I wonder if a composer may also feel that to get more people into their work it helps if some descriptive idea is attached to get those who might be wary more open to a piece.  But the descriptions themselves might not be that important.

Offline 5against4

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2017, 10:33:31 AM »
Descriptive programme notes need to be taken with an extremely generous pinch of salt. It's all fine and good for a composer to put forward insights as to the inspirational and aspirational aspects of the piece, and while there's nothing wrong with that, compositions do not, should not, and indeed can not be judged on the basis of whether or not they live up to these remarks. From a listening perspective, using a programme note as a yardstick for whether or not a piece 'succeeds' is a failure to engage with the music on its own terms. In my experience, i find it's pretty much always illuminating to read a composer's notes about a piece, but usually after having listened to it, in order to 'flesh out' and inform the experience.

The worst kind of programme notes, though, are those ludicrous tracts that seek to provide a blow-by-blow account of what the music does. What an absolute waste of everyone's time: at best it's ruinously spoiler-tastic, and at worst it's an entire irrelevance as we're going to hear all this happening anyway.

Programme notes: less is always much, much, much more.

Offline some guy

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2017, 11:31:23 AM »
So much for program notes. Beautifully put by 5:4. (I basically stopped reading them when I was a little kid, finding that nothing matched, on any level.)

I wonder now if it's time to mention that going to the Proms (or listening to the recordings of Proms concerts) is probably not the most prudent or efficient way to hear new music.

Really, if the offerings of recently composed music at the Proms is your idea of "new music," you've getting a very strange, very skewed vision of "new music."

Here are some people whose music will never appear on Proms programs:

Natasha Barrett
Beatriz Ferreyra
Jerôme Noetinger
Francisco Meirino
Gregory Büttner
Emmanuelle Gibello

To anticipate--I see your argument coming from a mile off, and it doesn't frighten me. :laugh:

Offline starrynight

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2017, 01:21:59 PM »
Descriptive programme notes need to be taken with an extremely generous pinch of salt. It's all fine and good for a composer to put forward insights as to the inspirational and aspirational aspects of the piece, and while there's nothing wrong with that, compositions do not, should not, and indeed can not be judged on the basis of whether or not they live up to these remarks. From a listening perspective, using a programme note as a yardstick for whether or not a piece 'succeeds' is a failure to engage with the music on its own terms. In my experience, i find it's pretty much always illuminating to read a composer's notes about a piece, but usually after having listened to it, in order to 'flesh out' and inform the experience.

The worst kind of programme notes, though, are those ludicrous tracts that seek to provide a blow-by-blow account of what the music does. What an absolute waste of everyone's time: at best it's ruinously spoiler-tastic, and at worst it's an entire irrelevance as we're going to hear all this happening anyway.

Programme notes: less is always much, much, much more.

Hi, you did the site then?  Very well done, I think I've heard nearly all the Prom pieces going back on there now.

Offline 5against4

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2017, 01:31:59 PM »
I wonder now if it's time to mention that going to the Proms (or listening to the recordings of Proms concerts) is probably not the most prudent or efficient way to hear new music.

Really, if the offerings of recently composed music at the Proms is your idea of "new music," you've getting a very strange, very skewed vision of "new music."

Here are some people whose music will never appear on Proms programs:

Natasha Barrett
Beatriz Ferreyra
Jerôme Noetinger
Francisco Meirino
Gregory Büttner
Emmanuelle Gibello

Very true, for the most part due to the fact that the Proms is determined to feign ignorance about the existence of electronics. It's something i've by turns lamented, whinged and raged about over the years, but it's a situation that shows absolutely no signs at all of changing.

Having said that, the extent to which any festival paints (or could paint) an accurate or even vaguely authentic picture of the current state of new music is debatable. The Proms, Huddersfield, Cheltenham, Witten, Donaueschingen, Ultimo, Tectonics, Nordic Music Days, Warsaw Autumn, etc. etc. - they all present their own particular take on new music based on their own cultural legacy and predilections. So in this respect, it's unreasonable to expect the Proms to do it, yet they could be doing so, so, so, so, so much better.

Offline some guy

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2017, 04:44:55 AM »
I was more on about the perception that "new music" is the kind of thing you can actually find at the Proms. You can find a very narrow, defined section of recent music at the Proms.

Yes, even the inclusive festivals exclude things, it's true. You are right about that. Indeed, everything you say is true.

And I hope you keep up the good work, even though we both know it's hopeless. I had several conversations with the ISCM folks a few years ago. Expressed my concerns, which I shared with many of the people featured those years. Turns out, another person had already had those same concerns back in the fifties, John Cage. Well, we all do what we can....


Offline 5against4

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2017, 05:21:40 AM »
I was more on about the perception that "new music" is the kind of thing you can actually find at the Proms. You can find a very narrow, defined section of recent music at the Proms.

i don't know what is the perception of the general public, but i would guess that the majority of people keen on the Proms are drawn to it most for its exploration of conventional repertoire rather than for its new music offerings. In other words, i doubt they regard it as a meaningful place to find new music. At least, i hope not. That's not to excuse the Proms for failing to put on more of it – and as i pointed out in my essay for Sounds Like Now, one of Henry Wood's central aims was that new music should be presented alongside established repertoire, in order to nurture an audience for both old and new – but simply to state the obvious, that the majority of its audiences probably don't see it as a faithful barometer of the avant-garde.

Besides, it's as much to do with audiences seeking stuff out as it is with festivals putting stuff on - those interested in new music have always had to seek and dig, root around for it amidst the ocean of standard stuff - and of course that's easier than ever to do these days. Really good new music is out there, but we sometimes need to be prepared to become pilgrims in order to track it down.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2017, 02:08:06 PM by 5against4 »

Offline some guy

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2017, 10:41:53 AM »
we sometimes need to be prepared to become pilgrims in order to track it down.
Hahaha, it's true. And I did. For ten years. It was delightful. Barry Truax introduced me to some people in Belfast once as "new music's biggest fan." What a lovely thing to have said about one!!

Offline aesthetic

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2017, 12:21:50 AM »
All things considered, I think the Proms does a decent job of promoting newer works. While it's easy to point out that they don't do enough of it compared to the 'standard rep', there could be much less ...

It might be worth noting that in Rattle's first week of becoming chief conductor of the LSO, a load of newer works have been programmed in the first week alone:

Sep 14th

Helen Grime - Fanfare (world premiere)
Thomas Adès - Asyla
Harrison Birtwistle - Violin Concerto
Oliver Knussen - Symphony No 3
Elgar - Enigma Variations

Sep 18th

Per Nørgård - Hut Ab!
Nicholas Maw - The Head of Orpheus
Judith Weir - The Alps
Sir Harrison Birtwistle - Célan settings
Niccoló Castiglioni - Vallis Clausa
György Kurtág - Életút
Osvaldo Golijov - Sarajevo
John Woolrich - A Farewell
Madness arr Adès - Cardiac Arrest

Sep 20th

Purcell - Fantasia Upon One Note
Oliver Knussen, George Benjamin and Colin Matthews - A Purcell Garland
Helen Grime - Into the Faded Air
Oliver Knussen - Cantata
Britten - Sinfonietta
Helen Grime - A Cold Spring
Thomas Adès - Court Studies from The Tempest
Stravinsky - Dumbarton Oaks
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 12:23:37 AM by aesthetic »

Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: New music at the Proms this year
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2017, 12:35:30 AM »
Descriptive programme notes need to be taken with an extremely generous pinch of salt. It's all fine and good for a composer to put forward insights as to the inspirational and aspirational aspects of the piece, and while there's nothing wrong with that, compositions do not, should not, and indeed can not be judged on the basis of whether or not they live up to these remarks. From a listening perspective, using a programme note as a yardstick for whether or not a piece 'succeeds' is a failure to engage with the music on its own terms. In my experience, i find it's pretty much always illuminating to read a composer's notes about a piece, but usually after having listened to it, in order to 'flesh out' and inform the experience.

The worst kind of programme notes, though, are those ludicrous tracts that seek to provide a blow-by-blow account of what the music does. What an absolute waste of everyone's time: at best it's ruinously spoiler-tastic, and at worst it's an entire irrelevance as we're going to hear all this happening anyway.

Programme notes: less is always much, much, much more.

Bravissimo!
~ I'm all for personal expression; it just has to express something to me. ~

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