Ottevanger's Omphaloskeptic Outpost

Started by lukeottevanger, April 06, 2007, 02:24:08 PM

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Florestan

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 02:10:52 AMThank you very much - that's very kind.  I'm really glad that they have appeal for other listeners. The first sonata was written a couple of days after the death of my much beloved grandmother. Although there's no way to tell from the music, she loved Schubert, and for me at least, this piece connects with him too, believe it or not! The other two sonatas came out of a dark time for me personally, a time when I was feeling very lost and alone, and like I myself was missing somewhere, hence their subtitles - sonatas in absentia.

Well, I sensed some melancholy in the music, though rather gentle than gloomy --- so I guess that's the connection with Schubert.

Will certainly listen to all other pieces.
I love Italian opera – it's so reckless. Damn Wagner, and his bellowings at Fate and Death. Damn Debussy, and his averted face. I like the Italians who run all on impulse, and don't care about their immortal souls, and don't worry about the ultimate — D. H. Lawrence

Luke

#2401
Quote from: Florestan on February 02, 2024, 02:31:38 AMWell, I sensed some melancholy in the music, though rather gentle than gloomy --- so I guess that's the connection with Schubert.


Well, she was a very gentle, sweet person and my overriding feeling was not gloom - she was very old and so it was all sadly expected - but a soft kind of sorrow. To me (and probably only to me) there's a certain childish freshness to this piece, a simplicity under the surface complexity. Also a G majorish-ness which for some reason (I don't really understand it myself) feels quite Schubertian in this context! It doesn't really make any sense, but that doesn't matter!

Florestan

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 02:36:58 AMWell, she was a very gentle, sweet person and my overriding feeling was not gloom - she was very old and so it was all sadly expected - but a soft kind of sorrow.

Precisely what I mean: the Schubertian kind.

QuoteTo me (and probably only to me) there's a certain childish freshness to this piece, a simplicity under the surface complexity. Also a G majorish-ness which for some reason (I don't really understand it myself) feels quite Schubertian in this context! It doesn't really make any sense, but that doesn't matter!

The mysterious power of music, then: it works in ways that not even the composer fully understands.  :D
I love Italian opera – it's so reckless. Damn Wagner, and his bellowings at Fate and Death. Damn Debussy, and his averted face. I like the Italians who run all on impulse, and don't care about their immortal souls, and don't worry about the ultimate — D. H. Lawrence

Luke

#2403
Quote from: Florestan on February 02, 2024, 03:06:12 AMPrecisely what I mean: the Schubertian kind.

Yes, exactly right.

Quote from: Florestan on February 02, 2024, 03:06:12 AMThe mysterious power of music, then: it works in ways that not even the composer fully understands.  :D

Absolutely! All the time! The best of these pieces do things to me that are powerful but at times quite unexpected. Like the slow music in the middle of the third sonata, which is very simple but which hit me with a wallop when I first wrote it and in which I still catch myself holding my breath. I don't quite know how they do it, but I think this quality is actually part of why they seem the best to me.

(Part of it, though, is clearly that often the pieces come out of a personal experience, and so I wouldn't expect the reaction to be replicated in anyone else.)

Florestan

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 03:10:55 AMoften the pieces come out of a personal experience, and so I wouldn't expect the reaction to be replicated in anyone else

Sure, but a general, non-specific communicability of mood and feeling do exist, though, as witnessed by my own reaction to the music. Speaking of Schubert, I don't think anyone listening to the Molto moderato from D960 could perceive in it joy instead of sorrow or gaiety instead of melancholy. Otoh, one may experience a state of intense pleasure while listening to it (at least I do) but that's related to the mysterious power of music, of which Schubert was acutely aware, to turn sorrow into joy or viceversa.
I love Italian opera – it's so reckless. Damn Wagner, and his bellowings at Fate and Death. Damn Debussy, and his averted face. I like the Italians who run all on impulse, and don't care about their immortal souls, and don't worry about the ultimate — D. H. Lawrence

Cato

Luke!

Excellent comments!

Florestan's invocation of Scriabin, after hearing your selected works, is on target!

Do you have the analysis I wrote of one of your works, was it perhaps Around Fern Hill ?

It might interest our readers here at GMG!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Luke

Yes, in fact I think it's further back on this thread too. You also did one of a voice/violin work, Down by the Salley Gardens. Both highly appreciated! I'll bring them up to the top...

Luke

Quote from: Florestan on February 02, 2024, 03:33:54 AMSure, but a general, non-specific communicability of mood and feeling do exist, though, as witnessed by my own reaction to the music. Speaking of Schubert, I don't think anyone listening to the Molto moderato from D960 could perceive in it joy instead of sorrow or gaiety instead of melancholy. Otoh, one may experience a state of intense pleasure while listening to it (at least I do) but that's related to the mysterious power of music, of which Schubert was acutely aware, to turn sorrow into joy or viceversa.

Completely agree. I'm certainly not saying 'there's something in this music which no one can understand except me,' and I know it's quite communicative stuff - I remember Sean's response to that sonata was very strong, in fact. But it interests me that I (or anyone else) can so strongly sense Schubert in the music even though there's little Schubert to point at in it except, perhaps, the species of its melancholy tone. Music is a wonderful thing!

Cato

#2408
Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 03:50:24 AMYes, in fact I think it's further back on this thread too. You also did one of a voice/violin work, Down by the Salley Gardens. Both highly appreciated! I'll bring them up to the top...



The second one I had almost forgotten!


Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 03:53:33 AMCompletely agree. I'm certainly not saying 'there's something in this music which no one can understand except me,' and I know it's quite communicative stuff - I remember Sean's response to that sonata was very strong, in fact. But it interests me that I (or anyone else) can so strongly sense Schubert in the music even though there's little Schubert to point at in it except, perhaps, the species of its melancholy tone. Music is a wonderful thing!



When I am writing my stories, I never make an outline of what will happen*, and never analyze anything, while I am in the process of discovering what my characters want to do.

The same is true of my compositions: "Where does the Music want to go?" was always the primary question.  And if one listens carefully, the Music, like characters in a story, will decide what happens next.

Thomas Mann once read an analysis of his great novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), an analysis written by a young professor of German at Harvard.

The author wrote to the young professor in appreciation and made what might seem a strange comment:

"You have revealed to me many things which I did not realize were in the book."

i.e. The writer's unconscious ** mind was at work during the creation, and so a good number of things were being connected which the author himself did not consciously realize.






*Certainly there is a vague, foggy framework: e.g. with my most recent novel, I knew that the main character would be roaming through Ethiopia in the 1920's.

To my amazement, as I intended to start page 1, it struck me that a strange young man up in Sweden talking to a Lutheran minister would be the beginning.  :o    8)


**I agree with some translators that Freud's Unterbewusstsein is mistranslated with "subconscious" and that "unconscious" in fact gets his ideas across better.  Of course, these days "unconscious" is separated from "subconscious."
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Florestan

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 02:36:58 AMAlso a G majorish-ness which for some reason (I don't really understand it myself) feels quite Schubertian in this context!

If the sonata is in G major then yet another connection to Schubert becomes apparent: he was a specialist in making major keys sound minor-ish.  ;)
I love Italian opera – it's so reckless. Damn Wagner, and his bellowings at Fate and Death. Damn Debussy, and his averted face. I like the Italians who run all on impulse, and don't care about their immortal souls, and don't worry about the ultimate — D. H. Lawrence

Luke

And G in particular - see: the great last quartet. There is actually something in that. G is a tonal centre I get drawn back to over and over. Indeed, one of my past iterations here was sul G...

Luke

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 03:50:24 AMYes, in fact I think it's further back on this thread too. You also did one of a voice/violin work, Down by the Salley Gardens. Both highly appreciated! I'll bring them up to the top...

Link to Leo's wonderfully perceptive analytical essay on Around Fern Hill

https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php?msg=637641

Karl Henning

Quote from: Luke on February 01, 2024, 05:52:26 PMhttps://www.mediafire.com/folder/z853mpz2e3oce/Luke+Ottevanger+selected+compositions

I hope this link works. I'm not a great uploader and I'm not sure how permanent the link will be!

I've made a small selection of my pieces - those that have decent* enough recordings to be able to hear what's going on throughout. Though some of the orchestral pieces have been played, the recordings are not good enough all the way through, in my opinion, to put here again, even though parts of them are OK. So most of what is here is for solo piano, with me at the keyboard. Though the language varies from children's pieces to more experimental stuff, I hope they're all of a piece, too - different places on the same sliding scale.

Then there are a few for the girls at one of my schools, plus me at the piano again. They're not highly tutored singers, but they do their best! These ones can be found in the Christmas Music folder.

You'll see that the oldest piece, a tiny fragile thing, is from 1990, when I was 14, but mostly they're from the first decade of the century. Nothing since 2011 - and therein lies a tale of compositional block which I partly tell in the book.

*They're not decent. None of them are. I've never had access to good enough equipment or recording venues - these are all done in echoey classrooms or churches and on pianos of varying dubiousness! Sorry!
@Luke you have a PM.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Luke

Quote from: Karl Henning on February 02, 2024, 04:07:21 PM@Luke you have a PM.

Yes, use the link from yesterday, a page or two back from here. 

Cato

Quote from: Luke on February 02, 2024, 03:50:21 PMLink to Leo's wonderfully perceptive analytical essay on Around Fern Hill

https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php?msg=637641



You found it!  Excellent!

And has it been TWELVE years?!  Oy!   :o    ;D


Allow me again to recommend your work to our members here!  Luke Ottevanger remains, even in his silence, one of our best contemporary composers!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Karl Henning

Quote from: Cato on February 02, 2024, 04:23:37 PMLuke Ottevanger remains, even in his silence, one of our best contemporary composers!
Warmly agreed.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Cato

Quote from: Cato on June 17, 2012, 01:24:47 PMWith Luke Ottevanger's approval: you will need to have a copy of the music and the performance for the full effect:

http://www.mediafire.com/?no6zykq6464c2z2 - Score


http://www.mediafire.com/?hycr77dymz2665f - Performance



A Walk Around the Music of Around Fern Hill


If you ever had any doubts about the major-minor system's ability to retain its emotional power, then you must listen to Luke Ottevanger's Around Fern Hill.  While the work is not written with a specific key, its opening bars dance in a major-key field toying with the ear in various major scales.  One hears the note G ascending over 4 octaves at the start of the work, which begins with a triplet, a rhythmical figure of great importance throughout the composition.  With the exception of a constant C# in the opening bars, we are in white-key land, with whiffs of G major and, thanks to that C#, A and E major.  In bar 3 the triplet descends (G6 – A5 – A4 (the numbers refer to the octaves)) to give us one of those fleeting hints of a major scale (A-E-C#-A).  But these are only whiffs, as the composer has no intention of allowing us to linger for long in such a deluding land.

I should mention at this point that I first "listened" mentally to the work from the score alone, and had no idea that the title came from a poem.  Deducing that the markings ("Stanza I") meant that the composer obviously had a poem in mind as the background for a particular section, I simply concentrated on the story which the music told by itself, and discovered the composer's source of inspiration only at the end, where the poem appears in full at the bottom of the last page.  Certainly the music alone provides a powerful experience of emotional mystery.

And that mystery begins to arrive in various ways: with our ears accustomed to a tentative brightness in the ambiguity of these major keys, the composer also grants us music of a slow contemplative nature with the chiming, ticking rhythms of bells and clocks (which will persist, with increasing difficulty and dissonance, as the piece tells its tale).  Yet our contemplation is disturbed by the nature of the meter (7/8) and by the music insisting on assorted arrhythmic arpeggios (bars 3-5).  Finally in bars 6-19 we hear in 3/8 the tolling of bells in the distance (the chord E-B-E followed by an A and D-G) in the left hand, while the right hand "dances" merrily in the churchyard with triplets of various kinds.

But in bar 20 things become ominous: the rhythmic complexity in the dance increases, with dissonant major 2nds appearing.  The leaping G's from the opening 2 bars reappear, as does that descending triplet (G6 – A5 – A4) in bar 22, which ends with another ascending triplet (G3 – A4 – B5).  Bar 23 gives us a quick B-minor hint of a severe change in mood, as an F# appears for the first time with the C#: and then the shock of bar 24!  That single F#, a simple semitone lower than G, heard alone at first, becomes the root of a minor-ninth chord (F#-D-B-F), whose sudden emotional impact is Gesualdoan, similar to the famous chord used by Arnold Schoenberg in Pelleas und Melisande (at Cue 8, p. 16 of the study score) where an F natural underlies a first inversion D minor triad with a G# spread over several octaves.

The appearance of the F# has added a melancholy, if not ominous, atmosphere to the music (bars 25-30), which attempts to keep dancing up and down a quasi-G scale (with that augmented 4th C# ).  But the F# is now in the bass, at times with the C#, and prevents a major mood from taking over.  As proof that dissonance can be very poignant, listen to the tolling continue (bars 30-38) with a syncopated and divided G major 7th chord against a C#-E# in the bass: and is that dance on the quasi G-scale now more of a C# minor experience?  A 3-note motif (F#-D-F) provides more tonal and emotional ambiguity, and leads back to the dueling dance of scales (G vs. C#).

At bar 39, the music attempts to "play" in 5/8 time, but with ever more pain or bewilderment, and leads into a variation of bars 30-38.  The divided and syncopated G-major 7th chord now rings against an F-B-D in the bass, and that 3-note motif now descends directly (Gb-F-E, bar 45) rather relentlessly.  The opening octave leaping triplet returns at the end of bar 50, but now descends down 3 C naturals to announce a transition to a new tension between C and the C#. 

For above the triplet-dominated, wandering-the-hill music on modes of E and C#, a melismatic theme on C arises in the treble, a theme masked and hinted at in the previous sections (e.g. the theme in bars 25-26, in the middle voice in bars 32-38, and then in the treble in bars 39-43).  Now unadorned, the theme emphasizes C, with Bb at first the only point of interference, and with the time expanding by a single 16th note over bars 51-54, the theme rises to G, only to be joined unexpectedly in a cluster with E#/F#.   It is as if the tolling sounds in the background have now chosen to speak directly: at times a ding-dong-ding pattern of three is heard, as in those earlier 3-note motifs of F#-D-F and Gb-F-E.  Grace notes echoing the opening triplet are heard throughout the bass in this section (bars 50-62).  Diminished 5th sounds in the bass (C-F#, E-Bb) prevent any rest, and provide a point of comparison, as the opening G modality is now changing to octaves of C# in bars 55-56.   Conflicting with the C# is the melismatic C/Bb theme in the middle voice, ending on D in bars 59-60, despite the tremolos on C# echoing around, and a punctuating E/F high in the treble. 

And then a pause, and again the leaping triplet appears, now on C natural, and the time has changed from 7/16 to 7/8.  But by bars 64-65, the triplet now intones the C/C# (now spelled Db because of an Ab tonality in the left hand) tension, and the melismatic theme attempts a return in a variation in the treble.  A flourish on Eb minor ambles by, and then the tolling of diminished fifths with the Ab-Eb accompanies a long melisma on a C scale, a sort of double minor with a Db and Gb.  The melisma often uses triplets in keeping with the rhythmic motif established in the first bar, and hearkens backward to the "dancing" heard in bars 9-22: and so bars 63-77 can be heard as a shorter, more dissonant version of the opening 24 bars, where the shock of the single F# in bar 24 is now replaced by an Ab pentad (Ab-Bb-Db-Eb-G) with a high C echoing away.   

In bar 78 the triplet figure descends to announce a sort of B mode, and we now hear a variation of the earlier part of the work (bars 25 ff.), but with more stumbling around the hill (compare bar 26 with bar 80), and more anguish: compare that earlier, insistent 3-note motif of F#-D-F with its variation in bars 86-87 as F#-D-Eb/F, and listen to the tolling transform into clusters, with minor seconds sprinkled about (e.g. bars 81, 93-95).  The 5/8 section (bars 93-97) is very similar to its earlier appearance (bars 39-43) In bar 99 ff., the 3-note motif, now changed to Gb-F-E in the middle voice, struggles against an Eb ninth in the bass and a painfully chiming G major 7th chord with an added C above it.

The 3-note motif is also emphasized in subtle, almost unconscious ways in the middle voice: listen e.g. to bars 104-105, where the middle voice begins its triplets with E-Gb-F, while bars 106-107 begin with Gb-F-E and E-F-Gb respectively.

And as clusters of notes reach upward in the treble (bar 109), perhaps as symbols of desperate, useless clutching at the surface of the water of memory, the gravity in the bass reveals a swallowing sea, using that diminished 5th  of G-C# from the opening as a tremolo leading to a deep G/A finale, while the last manifestation of our poor 3-note motif is heard in the middle voice.  Seven notes ring out in the final bars, from that G/A in the bass to an E/F in the treble, not unlike the finale of Schoenberg's Erwartung,  where the music both descends and rises to "swallow" the character at the end.

I mentioned to the composer that the use of the "scratchy" recording of the poem reminded me of the unusual novels of W.G. Sebald, who often included fuzzy, "faraway" photos to accompany his themes of lost memories.  The result is that the work is successful on various levels: the music could stand alone without the poem, in the same way that the poem has stood alone.  Yet together one experiences a quite different third dimension of meaning, as if the music were the poem's deepest unconscious. 

Finally, the title of the music is Around Fern Hill, and may explain many of the circling figurations in the music, as if these and the other motifs and themes are the sounds when one walks around Fern Hill.



I thought it was high time to quote this again and offer access to Luke Ottevanger's Around Fern Hill
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)