Brief Update (old European dudes edition)

Tuesday 3 December 2013

First of all, Antisonata now has its own web page.

I spent a weekend in Brighton and heard Dieter Schnebel talk about his music, and the premiere of his Liebe–Leid. I went to Huddersfield for a few days. The highlight there was hearing the first (uninterrupted) performance of Jakob Ullmann’s Son Imaginaire III, preceded by a brief talk by Ullmann himself. On Sunday I was fortunate enough to see György and Márta Kurtág performing selections from Játékok. (This review pretty much sums up my experience of the concert.)

It feels like I’m turning into a sort of collector, grabbing on to whatever remains of the living tradition of postwar European modernism. Maybe that categorisation doesn’t apply to Ullmann so much, but at this point it’s really too early to be certain. Ullmann’s music may be the end of one era or the beginning of another. Right now I’m going to see these guys for no real reason other than simply because I can, like an indecisive heathen making as many pilgrimages as possible, just in case.

Seeing them all in person is a useful reminder that the mythology of a monolithic “movement” of 1950s European avant-garde is more a hindrance than a help in understanding what’s been happening in music since, well, forever.

Thinking back on everything I heard at Huddersfield, three things in particular stand out. Besides the Ullmann, there was the performance of Antoine Beuger’s en una noche oscura and Apartment House’s chamber music arrangement of Henning Christiansen’s Fluxorum Organum. All three were very different, but shared a quality of blankness, or emptiness, that’s intrigued me for some time. Both John Cage and Morton Feldman shared an interest in this type of music (not just their own, but predecessors like Satie’s Socrate) but I don’t recall them ever articulating an exact understanding of what this quality might be.