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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: snyprrr on February 20, 2010, 12:19:03 AM

Title: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on February 20, 2010, 12:19:03 AM
Apparently Finnissy is known for blizzard-of-piano-notes takes on Gershwin, and such like, that I haven't heard yet (though, I'm usually all for blizzards of notes!).

A certain reviewer on Amazon gave the Kreutzer Quartet's reading of Finnissy's music for SQ such a review that I was convinced that we had another Ferneyhough on our hands. Ah, yes, "some guy", we were all about the expectations here, haha! I had expected some of that old Ferneyhough Complexity, but ...

And boy did they let us down. What I got was one of those semi-improv sounding SQ recording that one might expect from a Downtown Scene Composer (NY), perhaps. I'm not a big fan of the improv sounding SQ, as it tends towards a very Cage-like environment of purposeful looseness that alays strikes me as lazy (yes yes, but,... no, no).

Michael Finnissy: Works for String Quartet

Plain Harmony I (1993)                 5'52
Plain Harmony II (1995)                1'22
Plain Harmony III (1993)              2'20

Nobody's Jig (1981)                        19'27

Sehnsucht (1997)                           2'54
Multiple Forms of Constraint (1997) 10'46

String Quartet (1984)                      21'54



Plain Harmony sound like Cowell's Quartet Euphemtric (?), mixed with Ives. Plain and simple. I don't like it much. There is no score. Sehnsucht is a short, quietly dissonant lullaby. Again,... eh.

The three large pieces all convey various aspects of what a performance tweaking composer does. Even the 1984 SQ, which is the only piece really with a conventional score, still sounds like an improv, superficially speaking. It has sections, and things, but, ultimately there is a battle against an anonimity that rages within me when I hear this kind of music. Oh, yes, this is "that" kind of music, haha. An uptight, British Terry Riley, haha ::)!

I'm hoping "some guy" will come to my rescue here and set me straight as to what's really going on here that I know I'm supposed to be impressed about! haha ;D Seriously, I can't place him that well.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 20, 2010, 12:42:06 PM
Not sure about the music on this particular disc, but yes, in general, Finnissy can very fairly be bracketed with Ferneyhough et al, at least in terms of complexity and difficulty. Comparing like with like, his piano works, at their most complex, way exceed in difficulty Ferneyhough's piano music - Ferneyhough's own analysis of Finnissy's outrageously, obscenely complex early Song 9 is a classic; but there are plenty of other pieces, small and large, in the Finnissy canon, that challenge it - it's not a surprise, as Finnissy was one of the first and one of the best specialist pianists in this repertoire, and still is. That ought not to be important, I suppose, but it is fair to get the measure of the man.

I've seen dozens and dozens of Finnissy scores, from his juvenilia up to some of his most recent stuff, and I've never come across anything resembling improv - it is always fantastically detailed, richly illuminated and hugely expressive stuff; there are pieces which involve complete dislocation between the written parts, but the parts themselves are always written out in full.

Cards on the table, Finnissy is, for my money, the most subtle, communicative and individual of the complexity bunch, if they can be grouped together at all any more. Whether they can or not, Finnissy is, IMO, perhaps the composer who transcends any suggestion of a complexity clique more than any other. He is, quite apart from any issues of complexity, a really, really fine, impressive composer, one who I count amongst the most important and overlooked of contemporary music, and one whose music may well last a long time (like other piano-specialist composers in this, I guess - an unglamourous niche but one whose potency tends to be revealed slowly - stand up Alkan, stand up Busoni).  He has a personal tone, a kind of aesthetic, such as I associate much more readily with the great romantic pianist-composers - think of the diary-like intimacy and individuality of Chopin compared to Liszt compared to Alkan compared to Busoni compared to Sorabji - Finissy fits right smack in the middle of that line. The heart of his music is for piano - his Verdi studies, his ravishing Gershwin studies, Folklore, English Country Tunes - but also smaller piece of rare poetry, particularly his paraphrases on other musics, Irish folksongs, barrelhouse blues, Australian sea shanties, aboriginal music, Dunstable, Bach, Debussy, Mozart, Rossini, Johan Strauss, Bizet, Sullivan (oh my word, his traversal of 'The Sun Whose Rays' sends shivers through me...) and, my favourite piece of his, Berlioz - his paraphrase of the scene d'amour from Romeo et Juliette, Romeo and Juliet are Drowning, in which the original is sumberged beneath gentle suffocating waves of counterpoint.

Outside this, though, his intrumental music is often of great beauty - I'd recommend Red Earth, a kind of Tapiola for the outback, or Traum des Sangers, a delicate tracery of sound inspired by Caspar David Friedrich - both on NMC, though not necessarily easily....
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 20, 2010, 12:44:06 PM
(the comparison with Terry Riley really made me chuckle, thanks!!! I adore Riley, too, at least at his best, but the two are so far apart.....!)

EDIT - btw, Nobody's Jig does have a score - I thought as much. In fact, I have it, somewhere. You used to be able to download it free from the BMIC collection, but it isn't available anymore. As I suspected, the parts are fully notated, but are independent.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 22, 2010, 03:08:59 AM
thanks for the thread though - it's set off my annual Finnissy-binge. Playing through my favourites amonst his piano pieces right now, in a free lesson, as the snow falls outside - perfect! And listened to Traum des Sangers and Enek last night. All good stuff...
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 22, 2010, 03:30:22 AM
The score to Song 9....  :o :o :o  (http://www.bmic.co.uk/collection/viewscore.asp?id=6803) (bear in mind this is early, iconoclastic Finnissy, not the more reflective, poetic figure of today, IMO)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 22, 2010, 03:33:45 AM
for that, you could try some of his arrangements, such as this one:  Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (http://www.bmic.co.uk/collection/viewscore.asp)

Edit - these links don't seem to work every time you click on them! The first time I checked, it worked, but subsequently not  ??? Instead I was taken to a default BMIC page, but in that case, just click on 'search', enter Finnissy in 'composer name' box and then search away in the 200+ results. Pieces with a treble clef beside them have scores available for view or download.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Brewski on February 22, 2010, 08:43:53 AM
One of my favorite Finnissy CDs is Etched Bright with Sunlight with Nicolas Hodges.  And another vote for the fantastic Gershwin and Verdi arrangements, too. 

--Bruce
Title: Re: Finnissy: Music for String Quartet
Post by: snyprrr on February 22, 2010, 09:16:48 AM
I feel like I didn't express myself very well with my OP. I've got the liner notes here to help me.

Plain Harmony consists of four part books. The notes don't say, but I believe Nobody's Jig is also made up of four part books.The notes state that "Nobody's Jig depends on non-synchronisation between the parts and a score would be useless".

Also, "Of the five pieces here, only two have complete scores", Sehnsucht and String Quartet.

I'm not trying to be difficult, but please bear with me. The piece, String Quartet (1984), though totally notated (I presume "conventionally"), still "sounds" to my ears like a Riley-type/Kronos/semi-improv piece. The piece doesn't "sound" overtly complex (there are looong stretches of fairly shuffling Feldman-in-motion music), but it appears that the complexity comes from the "micro" points of entry (as if rubato was written into the score), to the point where we technically have the rhythmic complexity of Xenakis, but with the surface greyness of much simpler music.

"By way of contrast, it would be impossible to conceive of performing the 1984 SQ without a multitude of graphic and rhythmic signposts. And there's the rub. The result of the extraordinary mathematical rigour and metric transformations is the creation of the floating quartet, four lines that apparently dance and sing in blissful freedom, whilst in truth, terribly bound. What sounds like complete rhythmic freedom is notated with a mind numbing exactitude. For one large section... the metric relationships between the players are in the ratio 9-7-5-3, which means that every note in an adjacent part is not what it seems, the whole set in greater limbo because, apart from two 'expositions' that make turning points in the work, Finnissy eschews any sense of 'downbeat.' This is circular rhythm, notated architectutally"

Whew, you won't see me do that often, haha! But, you see what I mean now? I'm saying that the finished product, regardless of "mind numbing" complexity, when it hits your ears, "sounds" like improv, because "rubato" (for lack of better word) is written in.

This music sounds nothing like, say, Elliott Sharp (E#), who, appears to "write" the same way, but the results are more ear bleedingly exhausting.



The only piece on this album that appears to have anything to do with his piano style, is Multiple Forms of Constraint, which pits a fairly Middle Eastern sounding lead violin against a tapestry of trio music that resolutely is not playing the same music as the violin. Still, from what I've gathered so far, I would be more than just a fan of his piano music. Love that term "blizzard of notes"!! No blizzards in the SQ music, though :'(.

This thread is going a whole lot better than I though. Great! :D

Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on February 23, 2010, 06:43:17 AM
The key to Finnissy, as I see it, is Melody. Almost everything in his music is melodic, contrapuntal. That's why he can write music of just one fragile line (as in some of his simpler piano pieces, his pieces for children etc) and pieces in which lines collide in the most complex tangle, without seeming to be two different composers. The basic unit is the same - a line of notes, wandering about. He is ultra-sensitive to what notes 'mean', what melodies 'mean', and when one performs and listens to his music, I suppose trying to follow his thought in this aspect of the music is very helpful. It sounds as if it would be helfpul with Nobody's Jig - in which the melodic lines are split apart from each other as you describe. It is helpful in Traum des Sangers - in which three of the instruments describe music of one 'type' (derived from Byzantine chant) whilst the strings operate in a different, more complex and allusive melodic world. The interaction and development of these two types of melody is the vector along which the piece unfolds. And even in a little, seemingly simple piece like the Mozart paraphrase Civabit Eos, Finnissy is playing with melodic types. There are three layers of notation in this piece, sometimes separate, sometimes coexistent - a simple, rhythmically undifferentiated neumatic notation; 'standard' four-part transcription of the Mozart, and typical vagrant, forlorn, arabesque-ridden Finnissy monody. The performer's main task in this piece is to differentiate between these melodic types, particularly the first and last. It makes for a unique experience (and a beautiful one, too, this is a sensuously beautiful piece), but one which is typically Finnissy.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on February 23, 2010, 08:20:56 AM
So, let me get this straight.

Finnissy is the man who is known for juxtaposing incongruous events, say, a single singing line vs. a totally unrelated backdrop (like listening to a singer singing in the middle of a fair grounds)? It sounds as if he's really trying to notate the way we actually hear things. It also sounds like the way Ives would mash things together, as if a parade were passing by.

Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: UB on February 25, 2010, 11:43:07 AM
I have been listening to his The Transgressive Gospel that premiered in 2009. This is a major work at almost 2 hours and I was surprised at how mellow it is - the vocal parts, the ensemble and the featured violin and viola. There are times when the music makes it hard to understand what the baritone is saying but for the most part things work well together.

The other work I have listened to lately is his chamber work L'Herbe  that is written for clarinet, guitar, nude and quartertone-vibraphone. It is another rather mellow work that, at least to me, has little in common with his earlier music. I would put it somewhere between Feldman and soft jazz.

I found this when looking for more info on what is a nude vibraphone:

Michael Finnissy: L'Herbe: 2004. Clarinet, guitar, nude and quartertone-vibraphone.

"The three instrumental parts of L'Herbe are to be played non-synch.The guitar plays continously whereas vibes and clarinet comments with individual material every 30 or 60 seconds.The sustained, lyrical dialog between the tonal material in the guitar and the microtonal clouds in the vibes alongside sustained notes in the clarinet is maintained ppp throughout the whole piece. I first performed this piece with extremely soft mallets, only indicating a microtonal shadow behind the guitar. After having worked with the composer for the London premiere, he requested a set of hard and rather bright mallets to match the plucked strings in a sort of balanced dialogue.L'Herbe was performed at Ultima, Oslo (2004), Cutting Edge in London(2004) and GAS Festival in Gothenburg (2005)." Haakon Stene...
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: bwv 1080 on May 07, 2014, 06:18:46 AM
I bought Ian Pace's complete History of Photography in Sound last fall and have about given up on it.  There are some great moments, but the whole thing just does not come together for me.  Wondering if you have to be English to get the significance all the pastiche.  Its like one of these 1000 page post-modern novels like Infinite Jest that could have used an editor
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on May 07, 2014, 08:54:58 AM
I bought Ian Pace's complete History of Photography in Sound last fall and have about given up on it.  There are some great moments, but the whole thing just does not come together for me.  Wondering if you have to be English to get the significance all the pastiche.  Its like one of these 1000 page post-modern novels like Infitie Jest that could have used an editor

Hey, you gave it your best. Some things were meant to be given up on. (has nothing to do with my ex)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 09, 2014, 08:48:48 AM
For those who are unaware of it, here's a performance of Yob Cultcha

http://www.youtube.com/v/zZ8fPmJnSz8

There are two other things I'd like to hear: Casual Nudity and Post Christian Survival Kit. Can anyone help me out?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 09, 2014, 08:52:33 AM
New album of Finnissy SQs ..


DESCRIPTION
Michael Finnissy's Second Quartet is 'based on a compact Haydn model' - originally intended to be the 'Lark', Op.64, No.5 - and traces of its antecedent can be discerned within it. By contrast, the Third Quartet incorporates actual birdsong, both transcribed and recorded, in the composer's response to the natural world and man's place in it: the instruments gradually fade out, to leave only the sound of birds.

http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/recording/second-and-third-string-quartets

The third is interesting  - what do you think he's trying to say/do? Something about nature or what?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on December 11, 2014, 08:51:35 AM
The third is interesting  - what do you think he's trying to say/do? Something about nature or what?

I can't get any samples. :( sounds huuuge
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 11, 2014, 09:18:10 AM
I can't get any samples. :( sounds huuuge

You won't like it because it includes singing. Not human singing though.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Sergeant Rock on December 11, 2014, 09:30:41 AM
For those who are unaware of it, here's a performance of Yob Cultcha

Last night there were two cats in heat outside my bedroom window that sounded just like this piece. If that's what Finnissy was going for, he succeeded.

Sarge
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 11, 2014, 10:08:16 AM
The scale of the third quartet may be a weakness, I'm not sure. There's a pastoral, lyrical quality to some of the quartet writing which I feel uncomfortable about.

Another work I've been exploring is Mars + Venus. I like it very much, it is  negative and dark and bleak and unconsoling, and that suits me. I also like the CD called "Can't Remember how it Starts". It's my desert island Finnissy CD.

He certainly wrote in a lot of different ways, and I wonder if the changes in style are connected to changes in ideas. "See our lake" even sounds a bit like Feldman. Did he become a Christian? Lose his faith? Or what?

And what the fuck is Yob Cultcha about?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on December 12, 2014, 08:00:56 AM
The scale of the third quartet may be a weakness, I'm not sure. There's a pastoral, lyrical quality to some of the quartet writing which I feel uncomfortable about.

Another work I've been exploring is Mars + Venus. I like it very much, it is  negative and dark and bleak and unconsoling, and that suits me. I also like the CD called "Can't Remember how it Starts". It's my desert island Finnissy CD.

He certainly wrote in a lot of different ways, and I wonder if the changes in style are connected to changes in ideas. "See our lake" even sounds a bit like Feldman. Did he become a Christian? Lose his faith? Or what?

And what the fuck is Yob Cultcha about?

Finnissy strikes me as your typical 60s era atheist? Aren't the titles of some of his pieces somewhat anti-religion in general?

aside- why is it that so many of the most technical Composers claim a non-God position? It's as if they really believe that Religion in and of itself is some baby-coo fairy tale with no Complexity at all, as if the Creator didn't create an irreducible Complexity--- as if God Himself couldn't write Music more Complex than them all combined. I mean, reeeally, Mr. Composer-Atheist-- art thou really so filled with numbers that you didn't even create? Who Created your Formulas? Who KNEW where they were before you did?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 12, 2014, 08:29:20 AM
Finnissy strikes me as your typical 60s era atheist? Aren't the titles of some of his pieces somewhat anti-religion in general?

aside- why is it that so many of the most technical Composers claim a non-God position? It's as if they really believe that Religion in and of itself is some baby-coo fairy tale with no Complexity at all, as if the Creator didn't create an irreducible Complexity--- as if God Himself couldn't write Music more Complex than them all combined. I mean, reeeally, Mr. Composer-Atheist-- art thou really so filled with numbers that you didn't even create? Who Created your Formulas? Who KNEW where they were before you did?

Well there is This Church, and quite a lot of Christian choral music, I think I read somewhere that he caught christianity quite recently.

I do recommend that you get hold of the third quartet. I've been listening to it a lot and it repays attention. Masterpiece.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 19, 2014, 10:41:43 AM
I've always had a hard time with his piano music, apart from English Country Tunes. And maybe the Verdi Arrangements. I just don't get the Gershwin Arrangements at all, and I maybe need to give more time to History of Photography.

I wonder how much is due to the pianists. The composer plays English Country Tunes while the rest are Ian Pace.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: lescamil on December 19, 2014, 04:25:52 PM
I wonder how much is due to the pianists. The composer plays English Country Tunes while the rest are Ian Pace.

Ian Pace is one of the best pianists for new music around, and Finnissy himself is respectable, so I doubt you will be able to do much better than that, especially with the degree of difficulty of these works. I personally am a fan of the hyper-complexity shown in his piano music, but that's just me.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 19, 2014, 10:43:21 PM
Ian Pace is one of the best pianists for new music around, and Finnissy himself is respectable, so I doubt you will be able to do much better than that, especially with the degree of difficulty of these works. I personally am a fan of the hyper-complexity shown in his piano music, but that's just me.

Do you really enjoy the Gershwin? It seemed tired and tame to me, in comparison to English Country Tunes.

Pace certainly has chops, and stamina. And he is clearly committed to Finnissy's music. Nicholas Hodges plays Etched in Bright Sunlight, and I think it's a more interesting performance than Pace's. Vice versa in Snowdrift.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: lescamil on December 19, 2014, 10:53:25 PM
Do you really enjoy the Gershwin? It seemed tired and tame to me, in comparison to English Country Tunes.

I think there are gems in the Gershwin, but I would agree that it is a bit too tame on the whole. I'll take English Country Tunes over it.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 19, 2014, 11:15:16 PM
Did you enjoy History of Photography?

It reminds me of Finnegan's Wake or Pound's Cantos. The title of this thread was chosen by a genius. You know, you can't just read Finnegan's  Wake, you have to decode it. With History of Photography, to get at the meaning,  you have to identify each intertextual reference and see what Finnissy's done with it. A lot of work, and I'm not sure how rewarding it would be. Naive listening - without knowing the sources being photographed in the music, and their cultutal meanings, isn't a good way to approach the music.

This is a very distinctive aspect to Finnissy's music, the prominence of transforming existing music. Of course Joyce did the same with language.

Do you think that's right? I really should spend more time with it.

Sometimes Finnissy's not like that at all. Snowdrift sounds like a straightforward piece of impressionist music like Night Fantasies.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 19, 2014, 11:43:35 PM
(Posted for quick reference)

Programme note by Finnissy on the Verdi Trasncriptions

"These pieces are, and quite obviously from the start, not simply about Verdi. They form a critique of a musical culture which is over-saturated in its past. About a world which is cushioning itself in mythology as an alternative to addressing the present. How? By dissection, analysis, parody and by self-dramatised intent.

"Verdi is an emotional and political artist, perhaps not always as sophisticated as some, but always and sometimes abrasively honest, and – in case there is any doubt about it – I have loved his music deeply since I first encountered it in my late teens. This cycle employs material from all of Verdi’s operas (some more than once), from his String Quartet and from the opening section of his Requiem.

"The work is divided into four sequences, each containing nine ‘transcriptions’. The second of these sequences is dedicated to Stephen Pruslin, the third to Marilyn Nonken and the fourth to Jonathan Powell.

"They are called ‘transcription’ not only in deference to the nineteenth century ‘tradition’ of virtuosic pianism (amply elucidated by Busoni), but also because each one is written ‘through’ rather than mapped out, the nine sub-sections of each sequence are designedly continuous, rather than self-contained entities.

"The operas are arranged in chronological order, and each of the four sequences has roughly the same shape. The opening transcription of each sequence occurs in ever higher registers of the piano keyboard, the fifth of each sequence turns Verdi’s original into a cantus firmus (located alternately in the left and right hands). A rapid and staccato ‘scherzando’ section is placed near the beginning of each, and an extended ‘fantasia’ occupies a fairly central position in all four sequences.

"The material is treated with the same flexibility and subjectivity as the folk-music in Folklore, and as in that work the conventions and attitudes which have shaped our current (maybe ‘my current’) notions of music (either ethnic or Verdian) are part of the dialectic and stucture (as Pasolini remarked of his Saint Matthew, that is drew from the original gospel PLUS the intervening two thousand years of Christianity).

"This work was started in 1972 and completed in 2005."

Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 19, 2014, 11:47:02 PM
So looking at the above, it sounds as though Ian Pace has only recorded the first half of the Verdi.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: edward on December 20, 2014, 12:07:56 PM
I've always had a hard time with his piano music, apart from English Country Tunes. And maybe the Verdi Arrangements. I just don't get the Gershwin Arrangements at all, and I maybe need to give more time to History of Photography.

I wonder how much is due to the pianists. The composer plays English Country Tunes while the rest are Ian Pace.
I think the choice of performer may be significant. Pace, though a phenomenal pianist, seems to prefer recording in an acoustic that I find too dry for my taste. Have you tried any of Nic Hodges' Finnissy recordings as an alternative? There's quite a bit of overlap with Ian Pace in them.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: edward on August 20, 2015, 05:37:27 PM
Our friend at 5against4 has posted a recording of the Proms premiere of Finnissy's new orchestral homage to Sibelius. After a couple of listens, I'm really rather impressed, even if I'm not sure how much the music has to do with Sibelius. However, those expecting hyper-complex non-tonal music may be in for a bit of a surprise.

Link: http://5against4.com/2015/08/18/proms-2015-michael-finnissy-janne-world-premiere/
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on August 20, 2015, 09:12:32 PM
I was going to post precisely this link somewhere too, for the same reason - I think this is a rather wonderful piece and impressive enough to warrant me plugging it here, but obviously you felt the impetus even more, Edward! The only thing I'd differ with you on slightly is that personally I did hear the ineffable essence of Sibelius floating through much of this music, but without any superficial quotations, just a likeness of thought, of texture, of character. I'm not sure how Finnissy did it, but it impressed me a great deal

BTW, to emphasize, 5:4's blog is very well worth exploring, it is packed with goodies and extremely well put together, though there is a rare and tiny error in his write-up of this particular piece in that he implies Finnissy has added a glock to the orchestra Sibelius uses in Symphonies 3+4 - whereas it is in 4 already, quite strikingly (prominent and significant solos in the last movement) and I'd assume that this is exactly why Finnissy made sure to use it too.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 20, 2015, 10:39:42 PM
I think the choice of performer may be significant. Pace, though a phenomenal pianist, seems to prefer recording in an acoustic that I find too dry for my taste. Have you tried any of Nic Hodges' Finnissy recordings as an alternative? There's quite a bit of overlap with Ian Pace in them.

Hodges is particularly good in Snowdrift. I can't say that History of Photography has opened up for me either in Pace's hands or in Hodges's. Maybe I'll give it some time again soon, but my feeling is that you need to immerse yourself in the intertextual references more than I'm prepared to do at the moment.

Sibelius floating through much of this music


Indeed I caught a clear whiff of Sibelius too. More clearly than a whiff of Haydn in the quartet or a whiff of Verdi in the transcriptions.

Maybe it's just my mood but this Sibelius thing came across as a bit tame on first listening through my computer, I'll play it again through the hifi later on.

The last thing I really enjoyed by Finnissy was A propos de Nice.


BTW, to emphasize, 5:4's blog is very well worth exploring

Yes I'm enjoying exploring Richard Barrett's Nacht und Traume
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: 5against4 on August 21, 2015, 11:39:39 AM
BTW, to emphasize, 5:4's blog is very well worth exploring, it is packed with goodies and extremely well put together, though there is a rare and tiny error in his write-up of this particular piece in that he implies Finnissy has added a glock to the orchestra Sibelius uses in Symphonies 3+4 - whereas it is in 4 already, quite strikingly (prominent and significant solos in the last movement) and I'd assume that this is exactly why Finnissy made sure to use it too.

Luke - can i express a doubleglut of thanks for your kind remarks? i'm particularly grateful that you pointed out my error re. the glock. i don't mind confessing that, despite being something of a symphonyphile, i've never got round to immersing myself in Sibelius' symphonies. Until, that is, about a month ago, when i began the journey - but as i haven't got to No. 4 yet, i wasn't aware of the presence of the glock. In mitigation, your honour, i did consult the scores of both symphonies, and assumed that what was present on page 1 was the entirety of the forces used throughout (as it often is); i've just taken a gander at the fourth movement and - behold! - there's the glock. So thanks very much for this; i've amended the text to remove my erroneous reference, and thereby keep up the pretence that i'm an all-round musical cleverclogs who totally knows his stuff. (Which sometimes i do.) But you get the kudos. *doffs cap*

(PS. Thanks to Edward too - nice to be described as a 'friend'!)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Luke on August 21, 2015, 12:46:14 PM
...and thereby keep up the pretence that i'm an all-round musical cleverclogs who totally knows his stuff...

If it is a pretence, it is paying off - I must say I find your blog simply the best of its type anywhere out there, and I greatly appreciate the music you make available, the detailed, insightful and often witty critiques you give along side it (I've often been found chortling over your bon mots, and then had to try to explain to my wife...), the 'extras' you put up when you can (programme notes, scores etc) and above all the efforts you make to do such an impressive job of it. Actually I feel somewhat embarrassed that I pointed out that solitary erratum now, because my only feelings towards your blog are of genuine, knee-bending gratitude.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on August 21, 2015, 02:57:20 PM
Luke - can i express a doubleglut of thanks for your kind remarks? i'm particularly grateful that you pointed out my error re. the glock. i don't mind confessing that, despite being something of a symphonyphile, i've never got round to immersing myself in Sibelius' symphonies. Until, that is, about a month ago, when i began the journey - but as i haven't got to No. 4 yet, i wasn't aware of the presence of the glock. In mitigation, your honour, i did consult the scores of both symphonies, and assumed that what was present on page 1 was the entirety of the forces used throughout (as it often is); i've just taken a gander at the fourth movement and - behold! - there's the glock. So thanks very much for this; i've amended the text to remove my erroneous reference, and thereby keep up the pretence that i'm an all-round musical cleverclogs who totally knows his stuff. (Which sometimes i do.) But you get the kudos. *doffs cap*

(PS. Thanks to Edward too - nice to be described as a 'friend'!)

hey! stop by anytime ;)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 21, 2015, 10:40:02 PM
Does anyone have a recording of the string trio they can let me have? I think it appeared on an old Etcetera CD of chamber music, which I would like to buy but it's rare and hence quite expensive.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: 5against4 on August 21, 2015, 11:30:44 PM
Actually I feel somewhat embarrassed that I pointed out that solitary erratum now, because my only feelings towards your blog are of genuine, knee-bending gratitude.

No, i think the minutiae are all-important, so it is good you mentioned it - it's changed how i perceive Michael's piece slightly (as i now know he's replicated Sibelius' instrumentation exactly), and when i get to Sibelius No. 4, that final movement will no doubt now make me smile.

Incidentally, as i don't really frequent internet fora that often, i'm glad there's a Finnissy topic happening here; he's a really fascinating composer (and, as it happens, one of my composition PhD supervisors) so it's encouraging that there's some appreciation for his work going on here. For those interested, i'm intending to feature his 50-minute piano work 'Beat Generation Ballads' (which was premièred at last year's HCMF) on the blog sometime in the autumn.

Does anyone have a recording of the string trio they can let me have? I think it appeared on an old Etcetera CD of chamber music, which I would like to buy but it's rare and hence quite expensive.

i've checked, and not only do i not have the CD but it's not among my radio recordings archive either; i'm surprised there hasn't been a more recent recording of this piece, as it's really rather good.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on April 09, 2016, 07:47:49 PM
Did you enjoy History of Photography?

It reminds me of Finnegan's Wake or Pound's Cantos. The title of this thread was chosen by a genius. You know, you can't just read Finnegan's  Wake, you have to decode it. With History of Photography, to get at the meaning,  you have to identify each intertextual reference and see what Finnissy's done with it. A lot of work, and I'm not sure how rewarding it would be. Naive listening - without knowing the sources being photographed in the music, and their cultutal meanings, isn't a good way to approach the music.

This is a very distinctive aspect to Finnissy's music, the prominence of transforming existing music. Of course Joyce did the same with language.

Do you think that's right? I really should spend more time with it.

Sometimes Finnissy's not like that at all. Snowdrift sounds like a straightforward piece of impressionist music like Night Fantasies.

Again I have looked into MF's Piano Music, and, mm, there's just something too "dirty"- I don't know how to describe the pseudo-improv style that HAS all the notes, written, but sounds like Busoni improvising on LSD. Busoni is another one who sounds to me in this "filthy" way. Is it all the notes, the sense that there are notes "to be cleaned up"? There is certainly a superfluous amount of notes, which does have a "hazy" effect-

anyhow-

I like what I consider his "Original" Compositions, like 'Snowdrift', which comes off like any cool slice of High Modernism, and I liked the twinkling 'Etched Bright With Sunlight'. But, so many of his pieces clock in right around 26 minutes, and, sorry,you can't write THAT many half hour pieces and there not be longeurs(?). But then, on the flip side, he writes a bunch of "minute trifles",- and- maybe here's where I protest,- there's so much of this American Nostalgia, and maudlin - hooow many times have I heard jazzy lounge avant nutz?-

It's like I want to say, "OK, I GET it. But can you play something I WANT to here?"

And what is it we want to hear? Probably 'Snowdrift'...


Like the Liszt vs. Paganini (I forget the title) 'History of Photography'- aye- haven't I heard this before?- maybe we haven't, but, for me, the stench of "old timey" is what I have a problem with this sentimentalizing  that's going on with cheeky-meets-avant. Maybe I have the same problem with Rzewski(?)?



I've only had one piece, the 'Photography- Grieg' piece, quite long, and I listened to it sternly recently, and, oy, yes, it  makes it's point, but, arf, whyWhyWHY? does it have to SOUND SO BORING? Minutes go by in the pattern, and then a blizzard of notes suggests what we have just heard flick by in 1/1000 speed. But then it's back to this slow "click, click, click", like tediously putting the act of stop-motion-animation to music. That's literally what it sounds like, and, after 25 minutes of this I feel like someone very talented has wasted my time.

However, others like all this, and maybe its different 'live'? At this point I don't think it matters who plays Finnissy. Everyone involved knows to 'swing' it, so, they all come off as the "perfect" jazz pianist- maybe that's Finnissy's legacy- being the first "good" Jazz Pianist? So that Pianists of High Modernism can play the jazz game and beat it?

Sounds great on paper...

I just don't care for how it sounds.

To me, there's that element of pretense. I don't particularly care for Gershwin, or Opera, Broadway, Negro Spirituals, so I don't really care for them all "souped up". I mean, there's a way to do a Spiritual, and then not.


So then I just got the 'North American Spirituals' (for the Babbitt) by Nonkin, and, I haven't made it far in, but I'm having the "oh noes, is it going to happen again?" feeling.

Maybe the single best CD is 'Etched Bright With Sunlight'? Pure and simple?

And then maybe the String Quartets 2-3?
(cause I wasn't to keen on the othe SQ disc)


I feel a little the same way about Jonathan Harvey, though I've enjoyed him more.

RANT: off
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on January 16, 2017, 02:17:52 PM
You won't like it because it includes singing. Not human singing though.

Finally listened to the NMC recordings of SQs 2-3. Well, mm... I was so self misinformed about what I might hear that I was completely... left flat as to both works. I felt like I was hearing that 'ole "fragmented Romantic muisc mixed with microtonal mushes" thing that I heard in the other recital.

I was totally expecting "blizzards" and instead got a sunny afternoon in the park as one is dozing off and things mush together...

And I had listened to String Quartet (No.1) and realized this was the piece that's ultra quiet and quite static for seven minutes and then erupts into a maelstrom, and then goes back at the end.


So, I have been trying, and mucho failing at Finnissy. Again, the two random 'History-Photo' works I have and the N.American Ballads don't do anything for me. I think he rises and falls according to the 'Etched Bright' disc, and that's all.


So, I'm putting Finnissy to sleep in my world. I feel sad, but it's not like I'm going to existential over his music... I know puts an existential element in his music, but for all I've tried I can't overcome the "feeling" of pretentiousness. Whether it's there or not doesn't matter; it's what I'm hearing.

Maybe with the pianists it's one thing, but hearing the Kreutzer SQ so lovingly present his string music in perfect renditions, I'm sure of the effect Finnissy is putting forth, but I just CAN'T buy it- it's just not "real" or something- lol, it's an "unvalid" approach. I know I know, but I'm hearing it that way (same problem with the likes of Zorn)...


And, forgive me, but, forget what I just said- I just find it all boring, everything I've heard other than the collected pieces on the 'Etched' disc. Yea, I was really disappointed in the last two quartets :( :( :(

Why is so much British Avant Garde so dreary to me???????grey and rainy skies in all this music is what I hear...
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on January 17, 2017, 11:08:09 PM

, I'm sure of the effect Finnissy is putting forth [in the quartets]


It's the bird song in the third quartet which interests me. What's he trying to do?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: snyprrr on January 18, 2017, 07:39:23 AM
It's the bird song in the third quartet which interests me. What's he trying to do?

As i was listening to the music, and it sounding like a Sunday afternoon in the park- and then, lo and behold, here are the birds too!- I have to guess it's not what he was putting forward, but it simply sounds to me like the birds heighten the pastoral sense of the music... which, of course, make no real intellectual sense at this time in history...

so... yea... I guess I have no clue, lol...

BUT- is it really bird "song"??... The birds that were taped simply didn't seem to have anything to say... to me, at least...


I guess, from the cover of the CD, I was- again- expecting "blizzards" of bird sounds edited together in some outrageously cool manner- but, all I hear is generic bird taping...



I was reading the notes for the first CD of SQs (Metier), and,... I dunno,- I was getting a sense of pretentiousness concerning the discussion of the works, like Finnissy was doing something sooooo radical, so unthinkable, so PostModern... but then, when I hear the results of all that hard work, all I hear is what sounds like improvised stasis...

there is a moment in the notes where they're discussing his freakishly detailed notation, and how there is NO "downbeat" in Finnissy...

sorry, getting tired of typing...

unlike Finnissy, who seems to never tire of writing writing writing...


I can't stand when i hear "normal" sounding Modern music, but then the notes tell me there is SOOOO much more going on, when, sorry, all that "meaning" is just not hitting my ears... you could have just done a Cage on it instead of writing out every single little hiccup...


They go on about the piece 'Nobody's Jig' in this fashion, but what your ears actually hear is some sotto voce noodling--- NOODLING!!!!!!!!- yea, that's what my Mark Twain ears hear... the emperor has no clothes... I mean, you can't just exactly notate "fluctuations" (like a high tension wire, Lucier, Young) and really expect anyone passed 1971 to think it's revolutionary or exciting or anything other than "composed randomness"...

Just cause you put so much work into it doesn't mean it's ear candy...



OK, nuff Finnissy ranting... I'm sorry Mr. Finnissy, I just don't get it... at all :(

You make me miss Segerstam, and that's not a good thing right now :( :(
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on January 27, 2019, 12:01:56 AM
(https://www.moviemars.com/GetProductImage.ashx?i=18397649.jpg&w=500&/18397649_500.jpg)

I think this recording of piano music is fabulous, every bit the equal of English Country Tunes and the Verdi Transcriptions, and very much in the same style - the same unsettled anger. Interesting booklet essay by Philip Thomas where he talks about Finnissy’s post modernism.

There are two pieces First Political Agenda and Beat Generation Ballades. The latter ends with something really unexpected from contemporary composers - a huge set of variations!

Is anyone interested in exploring History of Photography with me? I find it a bit daunting and I want someone to hold my hand.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on December 16, 2019, 11:27:34 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61zIs6U5EzL._AC_SL1200_.jpg)

Very good, just discovered by me.

The Choral Preludes are solo piano pieces. The Andersen Liederkreis is a song cycle. Juliet Fraser knows how to sing this sort of thing, impressive.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on January 27, 2020, 01:57:49 AM
(https://crosseyedpianist.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/4260330917126-cover-zoom.jpg?w=305&h=305)


Released last year, it has Schubert’s D840 with Finnissy’s completion. The minuetto is like a palimpsest, some of the Gershwin Arrangements have that feel for me. I think that quite a lot of the music in the minuetto is by Schubert, Finnissy just fills the gaps. The finale is more like a piece in Finnissy the Verdi transcriptions, and IMO is very good indeed. The other two movements, which are 100% Schubert, middle of the road interpretations, and clearly not where the main value of this recording rests for me. Not a particularly attractive sound.

Anyway, hats off to Yehuda Inbar for such a bold debut release.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: amw on January 27, 2020, 10:26:58 AM
Finnissy uses Schubert's fragment for the minuet but ignores his fragment of the finale. (both fragments, as Schubert left them, can be heard in any Richter recording—or as completed "in the style of Schubert": Stanislav Khristenko, Ray Lev & Friedrich Wührer playing Ernst Krenek's completion—the best-known attempt, in 1921; Paul Badura-Skoda playing his own completion 3x—probably the most pianistically satisfying; Todd Crow playing Brian Newbould's completion; Anthony Goldstone playing his own completion; Malcolm Bilson playing his completion of the minuet only. Probably many others that have failed to survive to the present day.)

I think it's an interesting, and potentially stylistically suitable continuation for the sonata despite the very significant differences—but to judge properly I'd have to hear a better performance, by someone with a better feel for Schubert's music. (maybe Finnissy himself will do it.) No disrespect to Inbar but there's still a bit too much of the conservatory in this release.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on January 27, 2020, 10:35:25 PM
Has anyone explored A History of Photography in Sound?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on March 26, 2020, 04:37:46 AM
Worthy paper by Ian Pace on Finnissy here

https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/6569/1/Ian%20Pace%20-%20Panorama%20Finnissy%201.pdf
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: vers la flamme on March 26, 2020, 04:24:52 PM
I listened to a bit of Finnissy earlier. The English Country Tunes and the Verdi Transcriptions, as mentioned by Mandryka earlier in the thread. So that really surprised me, not what I was expecting at all! With names like that I was expecting something innocent enough, and I suppose it didn't help that I may have been mixing him up with Finzi :laugh: What I got instead were massive, extremely intricate, complex, marathon virtuoso pieces for the piano, like Sorabji on steroids, vaguely Ferneyhough-ish, too, I suppose.

Perhaps not for me at this point in my life, but my interest has been piqued. Are the aforementioned among Finnissy's more "accessible" works? Or is there some other place that may make for an easier starting point?
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on March 27, 2020, 12:56:14 AM
I listened to a bit of Finnissy earlier. The English Country Tunes and the Verdi Transcriptions, as mentioned by Mandryka earlier in the thread. So that really surprised me, not what I was expecting at all! With names like that I was expecting something innocent enough, and I suppose it didn't help that I may have been mixing him up with Finzi :laugh: What I got instead were massive, extremely intricate, complex, marathon virtuoso pieces for the piano, like Sorabji on steroids, vaguely Ferneyhough-ish, too, I suppose.

Perhaps not for me at this point in my life, but my interest has been piqued. Are the aforementioned among Finnissy's more "accessible" works? Or is there some other place that may make for an easier starting point?

Before you give up try “I’ll give my love a garland” from English Country Tunes   and “Snowdrift” which is on Nicolas Hodges’ CD Edged Bright with Sunlight and elsewhere.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: vers la flamme on March 27, 2020, 04:12:53 AM
Before you give up try “I’ll give my love a garland” from English Country Tunes   and “Snowdrift” which is on Nicolas Hodges’ CD Edged Bright with Sunlight and elsewhere.

Will do. Thanks.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: North Star on March 27, 2020, 01:33:13 PM
Ever since our Luke brought up Finnissy's Berlioz transcript Romeo & Juliet are Drowning years ago, I've wanted to hear it. Well I finally managed to find now a recital video on YT now that includes it, with Alkan, Cowell & Debussy. Haven't heard of the pianist Ivo Delaere before.
https://www.youtube.com/v/OGBpBdi_d78
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on April 02, 2020, 01:23:12 AM
(https://img.discogs.com/5KcwJS43poNHwVqL3q3Z9ar3kXk=/fit-in/600x608/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-10888923-1506002469-5200.jpeg.jpg)

This is a great favourite of mine, it's available widely on itunes and spotify etc. Anyway, I haven't heard it in a while and just played it, and I think that the relation between this music and the sound world of the New York Anti Avant garde, Christian Wolff especially, is clear. Unfortunately I don't have the booklet.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on April 02, 2020, 01:26:59 AM
Ever since our Luke brought up Finnissy's Berlioz transcript Romeo & Juliet are Drowning years ago, I've wanted to hear it. Well I finally managed to find now a recital video on YT now that includes it, with Alkan, Cowell & Debussy. Haven't heard of the pianist Ivo Delaere before.
https://www.youtube.com/v/OGBpBdi_d78

It seems to start at 9,14. From an old programme note

Quote
Romeo and Juliet are Drowning is the first work from Finnissy’s adult output which
can be called a ‘transcription’, in the sense of explicitly alluding to named preexisting musical material. It is based upon the ‘Scène d’amour’ from Berlioz’s Roméo
et Juliette, which would later occupy a pivotal role in The History of Photography in
Sound - though there Finnissy predominantly references the music customarily taken
to represent Juliette; here he focuses primarily on that for Roméo. Whilst this music is
presented in a relatively recognisable form, albeit with chromatic elaboration, around
half-way through he begins to ‘submerge’ this within a series of descending notes and
chords derived from an inverted form of the drowning music from Berg’s Wozzeck,
until ultimately all trace of the Berlioz has disappeared.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on April 02, 2020, 11:55:53 PM
(https://img.discogs.com/KHB77xYgzFTzN_0H1DGFaFLtBdo=/300x300/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(40)/discogs-images/R-1011966-1183979577.jpeg.jpg)

Listening to this music for the first time, I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a connection between Aldo Clementi and Michael Finnissy, though a half hearted googling has come up with nothing.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on July 16, 2020, 07:18:19 AM
https://vimeo.com/250951577

Nice to see the composer and Christopher Redgate in the first performance of Âwâz-e Niyâz. 50 minutes playing oboe must be hard.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 07, 2020, 09:05:21 AM
Sea and Sky (1977)

https://www.youtube.com/v/kIT6BlSgXWE
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 07, 2020, 09:11:44 AM
https://dokumen.pub/qdownload/critical-perspectives-on-michael-finnissy-bright-futures-dark-pasts-1138491977-9781138491977.html

Ian Pace and Nigel MacBride, Critical Perspectives on Michael Finnissy (Routledge 2019)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 17, 2020, 07:10:41 AM
Richard Barrett on Michael Finnissy

https://fdocuments.in/document/michael-finnissy-an-overview.html

And by the way, very much enjoying Nobody’s Jig - four unsynchronized parts for string quartet
 
https://www.youtube.com/v/S5c1pUjrI2E

Some notes on it

Quote
Nobody's Jig (1981) has a specific seating instruction, that the second violin should be placed opposite to the first, effectively swapping with the 'cello seat. There is also an implication that the players should not be placed too close to each other on the stage. These might seem like small matters. In fact, the second instruction has almost seismic implications for the strata of a string quartet. Traditionally, quartets can be recognised by their extremely personalised proximities to each other in the magic circle of the stage. Each player is used to a very particular degree of intimacy that results from a strictly organised aural relativity in space to each other. When a composer steps into this intimacy and requests a change, it is akin to surgery. The group is not what it was before; the semi-feudal relationship between instruments totters. This is made more complex by placing violins opposite each other, because therein lies an indicator pointing clearly to the classical tradition. Immediately, the players will start looking for the antiphonal relationship present in the eighteenth century works using this configuration. Whether it is there or not, acknowledged or denied, a curve has been thrown into the interdependence of the musicians. It is a degree of interference, bordering on a violation, but implicit in it is "listen up, this is not a quartet'. 
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 20, 2020, 01:29:50 AM
https://www.youtube.com/v/Bch-2hKH1gc

Finnissy's Chi Mei Ricercari
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 23, 2020, 10:26:24 AM
(https://static.qobuz.com/images/covers/ac/9f/abof174hv9fac_600.jpg)


Booklet to the above new recording is here

https://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/booklets/SIG/booklet-SIGCD624.pdf
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: edward on August 24, 2020, 07:08:17 AM
(https://static.qobuz.com/images/covers/ac/9f/abof174hv9fac_600.jpg)


Booklet to the above new recording is here

https://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/booklets/SIG/booklet-SIGCD624.pdf
This is an interesting recording, I think; Finnissy effortlessly switching between Renaissance-era-but-with-something-not-quite-right and dissonant modern styles.

Not sure I'd listen to the whole of it in one session again, but there's plenty to enjoy here.
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on August 24, 2020, 07:45:00 AM
This is an interesting recording, I think; Finnissy effortlessly switching between Renaissance-era-but-with-something-not-quite-right and dissonant modern styles.

Not sure I'd listen to the whole of it in one session again, but there's plenty to enjoy here.

This is also in that style and I think rather good -- I need more time to concentrate on the new recording before commenting.

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71WhZXu8D9L._AC_SL1416_.jpg)
Title: Re: Finnissy's Wake
Post by: Mandryka on October 16, 2020, 12:08:51 PM
https://www.youtube.com/v/PKRQ7MFvVg0

Fifth political Agenda, a piano piece, very nice IMO. Preceded by an interview.