Thursday, March 16, 2006


[As] far as any geologist has yet gone down into the world, it is found to consist of nothing but surface stratified on surface. To its axis, the world being nothing but superinduced superficies. By vast pains we mine into the pyramid; by horrible gropings we come to the central room; with joy we espy the sarcophagus; but we lift the lid—and no body is there!—appallingly vacant as vast is the soul of a man!

—Herman Melville, Pierre

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More on Inherent Meaning

I recently read Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. At the end of the book the following passages sum up the problems with textual interpretation:

For the more I studied, the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text "speak for itself," to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says. But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean...The only way to make sense of a text is to read it, and the only way to read it is by putting it in other words, and the only way to put it in other words is by having other words to put it into, and the only way you have other words to put it into is that you have a life, and the only way to have a life is by being filled with desires, longings, needs, wants, beliefs, perspectives, worldviews, opinions, likes, dislikes—and all the other things that make human beings human. And so to read a text is, necessarily, to change a text.

This may not appear to have much to do with music, but considering our on-again, off-again discussions of inherent meaning, there is a definite correlation at work.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why are we celebrating Mozart, but not Schumann?

Norman Lebrecht comments the lack of interest in a Schumann anniversary:
Let's not be naive about this. Jowly Robert Schumann with his hangdog eyes is never going to sell as many marzipan boxes as the Wolf Gang, nor does any of his music fall as easily on the ear as the Amadeus soundtrack or the special-offer i-Tunes site. Where Mozart mints money, Schumann hints at suicide.
I wonder if this is a correct analysis. Maybe the market strategy for selling music to a mass audience can't count on success if the ads are centred on unpleasant facts in a composer's life - or his death. But, aren't celebrity scandals and unhappiness the very things that the public is interested in hearing more about? Are we admiring WAM today at the anniversary celebrating of his short life for the pleasantness of it - a short but happy and successful life in music - or are we secretly or openly admiring his dark sides, and are relieved that we are not sick and unhappy creative geniuses like WAM? Or, if I may introduce a little blasphemy: is he (and other "great artists", like Robert Schumann) worshipped as our musical saviour, who sacrificed himself?

Jessica Duchen has written an article in The Independent with some interesting new facts and opinions about Robert and Clara Schumann.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Composer news, March 2006

RAM is expecting a cd issue some time in the Summer with Danza: El que bailó con el Diablo (Dance: He who danced with the Devil) in its string orchestra arrangement.

MaLj's piece Di Mini Shed is programmed (but not confirmed, it depends on rehearsal time available) for a lunch recital on Wednesday 15 March at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, to be played (and recorded) by the saxophonist Ben Donnelly and his friends.

MWM has finally, after working on it for 12 months, (almost) finished a polished and well engraved version of his piano sonata sonate rouge. He is looking for a suitable pianist to perform it. It has to be a musician with experience of both classical and jazz piano techniques.

Cedric's setting of Into My Heart An Air That Kills (A.E. Housman) was performed by the tenor Nicholas Watts and the pianist James Longford at a concert on 25th February 2006 in Portsmouth, UK. As has been reported earlier, his Fugal Fantasia for Clarinet Septet will be performed on March 18th 2006 by Southwark Consorts of Winds .

Pat is working on and studying transcriptions of organ works by Froberger and other old masters, which has inspired him to start on a fantasia exploring the same ideas as a Froberger piece.

Jordi's arrangement for descant recorder and piano of Himno de Riego (José María de Reart y Copons) is planned to be performed in April, in Barcelona, by Paul Koutnik and Sabine F.

JJ has written a piano piece with the title snowflake realms.

Andrew is expecting a cd issue with his songs from German music theatre compositions. One of the songs is Silbermond.

Tim - ?

Bernard is still working on his children's opera (for December) and The Death of Balder for the BBC Singers (11 June in London). Missa Sancti Michaelis is getting its second outing on Saturday 25 March at the Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, Middlesex, UK.