Author Topic: Finnissy's Wake  (Read 13757 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

snyprrr

  • Guest
Finnissy's Wake
« 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.

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #1 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....

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #2 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.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2010, 01:06:26 PM by Luke »

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #3 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...

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2010, 03:30:22 AM »
The score to Song 9....  :o :o :o (bear in mind this is early, iconoclastic Finnissy, not the more reflective, poetic figure of today, IMO)
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 03:32:10 AM by Luke »

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #5 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

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.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 04:26:50 AM by Luke »

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 12472
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #6 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
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy: Music for String Quartet
« Reply #7 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


Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #8 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.

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #9 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.


Offline UB

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 263
  • In South Africa we have really big cats!
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #10 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...
I am not in the entertainment business. Harrison Birtwistle 2010

bwv 1080

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #11 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
« Last Edit: May 07, 2014, 08:56:37 AM by bwv 1080 »

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #12 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)

Offline Mandryka

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15172
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2014, 08:48:48 AM »
For those who are unaware of it, here's a performance of Yob Cultcha

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/zZ8fPmJnSz8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/zZ8fPmJnSz8</a>

There are two other things I'd like to hear: Casual Nudity and Post Christian Survival Kit. Can anyone help me out?
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline Mandryka

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15172
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #14 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?
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #15 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

Offline Mandryka

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15172
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #16 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.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Online Sergeant Rock

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 22472
  • Location: Wine Country Germany
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #17 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
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Mandryka

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 15172
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #18 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?
« Last Edit: December 11, 2014, 10:40:41 AM by Mandryka »
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Finnissy's Wake
« Reply #19 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?