Author Topic: Avant garde songs  (Read 434 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Avant garde songs
« on: November 20, 2020, 05:32:39 AM »
I’m becoming more and more aware that song cycles have been really thriving over the past half century. So I thought I’d create a thread to make a note of what there is out there, starting with this baby



Review from The Guardian here, I don’t think the reviewer is right to find anything severe or self effacing in the piano part, on the contrary.


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After taking leading roles in the premieres of Pascal Dusapin's two most recent operas, Faustus, the Last Night in 2006 and Passion two years later, the Austrian baritone Georg Nigl asked Dusapin if he would compose some songs that he might include in lieder recitals. Instead of something modest, however, Dusapin produced this enormous cycle of settings of Nietzsche's early poems – 23 of them altogether, with four piano interludes, which last over 70 minutes in performance. Nigl gave the premiere with pianist Vanessa Wagner in 2011 as a staged concert devised and directed by the composer. Dusapin has likened it to a stripped-down piece of music theatre, which he subtitles "A miniature, unsystematic inventory of a few Nietzschean passions". Whatever its genre, it's an impressively wrought achievement, a gallery of Nietzsche's obsessions and preoccupations, with vocal lines that always seem to be on the brink of something momentously expressive, and piano writing that is economical and severely self-effacing.

This is the first time I can remember hearing Georg Nigl, he’s bloody good.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2020, 05:34:39 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2020, 05:36:34 AM »
Dusapin, by the way, has written other non operatic pieces for voice which I think are a bit interesting. I was lead to that O Mensch CD because I was most impressed by the music for female voice(s) here

« Last Edit: November 20, 2020, 05:46:29 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2020, 10:53:41 AM »
While the Dusapin songs are, I think, clearly part of an old fashioned expressionist tradition - anyone listening to them cannot fail to think of Eisler or even Wolf -- Holliger's extraordinary song cycle Indluuchlen for countertenor and natural horn is much more bold, and I love it. I have no idea what it's about -- does anyone have the text?

Two performances, an electric intense one from a recent concert by Ensemble Contrechamps here

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/8VoD3CpnTVw" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/8VoD3CpnTVw</a>

and a much more relaxed one here



This is impressive music -- recommended. Especially the Contrechamps!
« Last Edit: November 20, 2020, 10:55:34 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline amw

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2020, 02:48:53 PM »
Holliger, Kurtág & Sciarrino are probably the big names here. Kurtág in particular has always made song cycles the centrepieces of his career. I’ve never been that impressed with any of the Rihm songs I’ve heard, or with Lachenmann’s Got Lost, etc. (more impressed with the various vocal-instrumental pieces by Barrett, Saunders, Ratkje, Czernowin, but not entirely sure if they qualify as songs)

Offline T. D.

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2020, 06:09:13 PM »
Agreed on Holliger, Kurtag and Sciarrino. The Holliger songs I've heard aren't really to my taste for whatever reason, but they're clearly "significant".

In the realm of the more offbeat (weird?  ;)), I've enjoyed Scelsi's Canti del capricorno and Georges Aperghis's Recitations.
Also George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2020, 08:42:40 PM by T. D. »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2020, 09:26:53 PM »

In the realm of the more offbeat (weird?  ;)), I've enjoyed Scelsi's Canti del capricorno

Too demanding! I prefer the Hô cycle (I think it has a circumflex, not sure.)
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Offline steve ridgway

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2020, 10:53:19 PM »
Too demanding! I prefer the Hô cycle (I think it has a circumflex, not sure.)

Khoom is my favourite but I can listen to the Canti del Capricorno now, like the songs with a bit of instrumental accompaniment the most.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2020, 01:07:46 AM »
Kurtag

Kurtág



Let me take the opportunity to mention my favourite Kafka Fragments. The one with the horsy on the front.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2020, 01:09:43 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2020, 12:19:50 PM »
Sciarrino

Sciarrino.

Is there anything that resembles a song cycle apart from Quaderno di Strada?  is Vanitas? Wiki lists it as a stage work. And the madrigals are madrigals - not quite the same as songs, but maybe I’m nitpicking.

What we don’t have is a sequence for voice and instrument as far as I know, apart from Quaderno.
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Offline T. D.

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2020, 12:35:25 PM »
No, I don't think you're nitpicking. It's my laxity. I believe you are correct.

Offline amw

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2020, 07:54:58 PM »
Is there anything that resembles a song cycle apart from Quaderno di Strada?  is Vanitas? Wiki lists it as a stage work. And the madrigals are madrigals - not quite the same as songs, but maybe I’m nitpicking.

What we don’t have is a sequence for voice and instrument as far as I know, apart from Quaderno.
There are a few other individual vocal-instrumental pieces: Il Giardino de Sara, La perfezione di un spirito sottile, & some early songs. I guess other pieces I was thinking of like the madrigals, L'alibi della parola, Cantare con silenzio, etc, are really choral works, so I guess you're right that there's not much that actually qualifies as a song. (And yes Vanitas does belong with Macbeth, Lohengrin and Luci mie traditrici among the operas.)

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2020, 11:16:01 AM »
I’ve never been that impressed with any of the Rihm songs I’ve heard,

The problem I have is that they all seem to be part of a romantic expressionist tradition, possibly extending that tradition but as far as I can hear they’re not experimental. Even Dusapin is more cutting edge vanguard avant garde sounding (slightly) that Rihm, when it comes to songs. There’s something about the piano and voice combo which leads to composers getting their wings clipped maybe.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 11:19:23 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2020, 09:01:02 PM »


Too confident to be called experimental, this has a distinctive modern sound. Birtwistle’s 9 settings of Nerine Niedecker for voice and string quartet is an outstanding discovery. Alice Rossi has a voice I can listen to.

This is also a good place to recall a fabulous Feldman inspired song sequence that Birtwistle wrote, not on the above CD and as far as I know never commercially recorded, La Plage: Eight Arias of Remembrance, for soprano and little ensemble.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Bh5kPnZcPT8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Bh5kPnZcPT8</a>
« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 09:06:40 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2020, 08:44:36 AM »
Well this certainly has the word “songs” in the title, and it is IMHO a bit special, Jennifer Walshe, Ukeoirn O’Conner: Three songs

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/UnPdy4szsHQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/UnPdy4szsHQ</a>
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Offline T. D.

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2020, 01:24:16 PM »
I've always been fond of Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King*. Much better seen live, as there's a big theatrical element. Some Eastman discussion reminded me.

*I know it's off-thread topic, but "Songs" is included in the title.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 07:30:36 PM by T. D. »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2020, 01:49:01 AM »
Well if we’re going to push the boundaries of song, I’m going to put this here, there are so many uses of vocalisations in Stockhausen’s Luzifers Traum piano piece, and they’re so effective, if it’s not an avant garde song I’m a Dutchman. Someone once said to me that I’m reluctant to say what I think of the music I listen to, which is true, but I’ll make an exception here. I like it very much

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/5bW9M8PlotI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/5bW9M8PlotI</a>
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2020, 11:05:28 AM »


Well, we’ve all heard of songs without words, many of these are songs without melodies. They are certainly boundary pushing and I’m not sure how to listen to them. I believe the booklet explains in some length what Christopher Fox was trying to achieve, what tradition he felt part of. If anyone can find said booklet online, please let me know.

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The ‘catalogue’ is about ideas, remembrance and the possibility of improbable connections. In itself as a sound work it is absolutely and positively unique.

The singers from Exaudi are excellent and their commitment to the project is palpable. I can assure you that when you’re in the right frame of mind this is very satisfying music.

https://divineartrecords.com/recording/fox-catalogue-irraisone/

An example

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/uLBCLsr44xk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/uLBCLsr44xk</a>


« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 11:21:51 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2020, 01:56:08 AM »

Elizabeth Hilliard first attracted my attention through her recording of Christopher Fox’s Sea to the West for voice and tape


<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/x6iiULz7ZLg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/x6iiULz7ZLg</a>


The CD it’s taken from has some pieces by Gráinne Mulvey, and that led to me her song The Gift of Freedom, which I think is rather impressive

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/37sty56b2V8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/37sty56b2V8</a>
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Avant garde songs
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2020, 01:40:13 AM »
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/KzitgQrp8J8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/KzitgQrp8J8</a>

John Croft wrote a pair of songs for soprano and flute called méditions d’une furie. Cora Schmeiser has a most distinctive voice, it has a fragility which I think is attractive. These are worth hearing, they’re a bit special.
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