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alexhills

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Everything posted by alexhills

  1. I think the solution for the big orchestras is to not try and be so monolithic. Use the younger, more open-minded, performers to go play Steve Reich in a jazz club, and there is a chance some of the people who hear that will give the more standard stuff a go, and in the very very long term, substantial new connections will be made. Tacking on the odd new work here and there - the LSO have tried to that in the last couple of years and it is a disaster - just feels like telling people they have to take their medicine now, and will get back to the proper stuff in a minute....
  2. I couldn't possibly agree with you more. The qualifier is, of course, that what I think sounds good is I can only imagine very different to what most other people here would think sounds good. Not to mention that of course the notion of 'sounding good' is a highly culturally conditioned one. However, the point that really worries me about the insane philosophy quoted above is that I really suspect this composer hates the way his own music sounds, but seems to think he has to write that way because of some dialectical obligation...
  3. I've never been entirely anti-Adorno, it's just completely rammed down one's throat by a lot of the composers I've associated with and that makes me uncomfortable with it. The idea that one is somehow writing music in order to allow one's audience to better appreciate Frankfurt dialectic negation seems rather absurd to me. This, for example, by a truly truly awful and not very well known composer I will not identify, surely has to be the least enticing sounding aesthetic project of all time: I believe music has a genuine philosophical dimension, but more important is that on
  4. Nope. Now that I've checked, I take back this point. I was thinking of an earlier piece. (My other points remain.) You are probably thinking of Canto Sospeso. One of the interesting things to me about a lot of post WW-II 12 tone music is actually how spectacularly little it has become more accepted. Boulez's Structures or Stockhausen's Kreuzspiel are still amongst the very toughest nuts to crack I think. If Die Soldaten is only a one off, but does the same, that's still an exciting thing. It is well worth going to by the way. As for Wilfrid's point about the visual arts
  5. We have done a remarkable job of resisting commodification, us lot.... I think only avant-garde poetry has remained as resolutely un-graspable. I'm past having a view on whether this is a good or bad thing. I just want to write my notes and hope a few people here and there listen to them. That said, we say the music is obscure, and it is, but Luigi Nono's Prometeo, one of the very most difficult pieces of the last 30 years, has just sold out 2 nights at the Royal Festival Hall next month. OK, this is the UK premiere 20 years after the piece was written, which is a disgrace, but that
  6. alexhills

    The Bruni Thread

    I think those two would have got on very well though. Many substances would have been consumed and much revelry ensued. I actually have a student trying to do a project comparing late Scriabin (The Poem of Ecstasy) with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd at the moment. Sorry, random interjection there, but sometimes comparison across genres - artistic or culinary - is interesting, sometimes it isn't... But evaluation is something else.
  7. They were still in situ in November/December-ish - definitely the same most venerable chef - but I do have a very vague memory of them telling some regulars about an upcoming move.
  8. The smell of chip fat in Mill Lane from the 'kitchen' in The Mill is one of the great Cambridge Constants (particularly memorable when parking in what was the Dept. of Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics carpark on Sundays prior to lunch at the equally constant GradPad during the early 80s).... Unchanged and disgusting as far back as I can remember. I haven't been to the Free Press in a few years, but it was always about as good as Cambridge had to offer I think. Dr.J, do I remember you being a fan of the Peking in Burleigh St.? It is is still there, and really quite good, had dinner t
  9. alexhills

    Radu Lupu

    I haven't heard him live for years - he has a reputation for being a bit erratic interpretatively recently, but I really love some of his playing. There is a Schumann disk with 2 of my favorite pieces, Kreisleriana and the Humoresque which is simply quite unbelivably good. I don't think anyone has done them better. That, his Schubert B flat sonata and later Brahms intermezzi are all absolutely outstanding. Definitely one of the reference pianists for the high German repertoire.
  10. I don't know this recording yet either. Repin is very good though - Argerich has a really nice thing of wanting to work with younger players and is a great advertisment for doing interesting things having given up solo playing. My favorite recording of the Kreutzer is, by far, Joseph Szigeti with Bartok playing the piano, from the library of congress in the 40s. Amazing. Oh, and if people will forgive the self-promotion, I've jst started a little website where you can hear some of my music properly: www.alexhills.com
  11. As we do high art and decline and fall, the good marxist who wrote my signature line - which I adopted a couple of years ago - does seem pretty spot on. I wish I believed the world would be a better place if more people listened to classical music. I guess I don't if I'm honest with myself. I believe in art as a vehicle for personal change rather than social change, but if we are lucky and get enough personal change maybe we get some social change too. But Stalin died listening to the slow movement of the Mozart A major piano concerto (interesting, played by Maria Yudina, one of the f
  12. The class/gender/race issues in classical music are something I'm seriously seriously not proud of. For what its worth, a higher percentage of the students at my institution come from private schools (admittedly mostly the 3 or 4 major UK specialist music ones) than at any other university in the UK, Oxbridge included. We have, unsuprisingly, a very high percentage of east-asian students, but very few from other ethnicities. That said, we tend to have more female students than male, and if this balance isn't quite reflected in orchestras yet it is certainly getting there. Sadly, it does s
  13. alexhills

    River Café

    High praise. We've never been and must go on our next trip. I don't get out much, though.... I'm more or less in revolt over London haute cuisine. Best English meals (sushi and the infamous turkish bbq aside) last year were all in people's homes. Nonetheless, highly recommended, no question.
  14. I have to admit I don't think I heard anything written last year that I would be willing to stick that label on either (although I heard some fantastic music from the last 25 years or so), and given that it's my job that's either alarming or embarassing. Best piece of the millenium so far, though, Concertini by Helmut Lachenmann (from 2005). I was at one of the early performances and said to a friend afterwards, 'this is like being at the first performance of Beethoven 9'. I do genuinely believe the best music being written at the moment will pass into the canon as it has always done, ass
  15. alexhills

    River Café

    Was here, for the first time slightly unbelivably, for dinner last night. Really very nice. Antipasti were Langoustine - 5 lovely specimens, salt roasted and completely unadorned, Crab - white and brown meat, some spinach, some toast, and I had a salad of punaterella with anchovy. Mains were the veal stinco, bollito misto and I had grilled lobster with wonderful roasted endive hearts. In terms of flavor combination I think the bollito was the most interesting of these, wonderful combination of sweet fruitta di mostarda and sharp horseradish, but everything was absolutely first rate in bot
  16. Oh God, I've been scooped. I'm much bitchier, though... This, incidentally, is hardly rare or clever in pop music...: 'What's so clever is it starts with an absolute deluge of F sharp minor. Then finally when Alex Turner comes in it's actually on a C sharp major chord, which is what's known as the dominant chord in music theory.' I also totally disagree, as I suspect I've made obvious already, with this assertion: "He is, though, a big fan of Deep Purple, the Who, Radiohead and Kylie whose songs, like all great pop work, in a similar way to classical music."
  17. I'm suprised Shostacovich said he couldn't play the P&Fs, I tohught his piano playing was supposed to have been excellent - not quite Prokofiev, who could have been a tru great if he had wanted to be, but very strong still. Another point about the nature of classical composing and performance - the compositional act for classical music is rarely strongly collaberative - except for a few instances where composers who shall remain nameless have missed deadlines and had friends/colleagues finish pieces, we pretty much just write the stuff, occasionally maybe talking to the intended perfo
  18. What I suggested upthread was that what grabs you is an Ali Farka Toure performance rather than the music per se (meaning what one would see on the sheet music*). Whereas with classical music, it is the music qua** music which is of primary interest. (Which is not to say that AFT singing a good song isn't better than AFT singing a bad one, or that there are no distinctions between classical performances.) *Something akin to what Sneakeater is calling "pure" music, I think. **I am paid by the Latin tag. This is also, obviously, partly a factor of the varying roles improvisation
  19. What I suggested upthread was that what grabs you is an Ali Farka Toure performance rather than the music per se (meaning what one would see on the sheet music*). Whereas with classical music, it is the music qua** music which is of primary interest. (Which is not to say that AFT singing a good song isn't better than AFT singing a bad one, or that there are no distinctions between classical performances.) *Something akin to what Sneakeater is calling "pure" music, I think. **I am paid by the Latin tag. This is also, obviously, partly a factor of the varying roles improvisation
  20. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK. Much worse. He also does remarkably little of it himself -basically he plays the tune and some chords into a computer notation program and then pays other people to pick up the pieces... Unlike Greenwood etc., who I think are actually curious, McCartney seems to have pretty much decided that he now 'is' writing classical music, although he apparently doesn't really know any (having talked to one of his ghostwriters). Too bad, as the man could clearly write a tune. Although I've not heard much of the Radiohead etc. efforts, my impression is that although I wouldn't cal
  21. Yes and no. The symphony/concerto/whatever as genre, yes I agree entirely, that was tied up with historical and technical means which can no longer be used uncritically. To write in those forms themselves now is either anachronistic (willfully or not) or ironic... But can good extended pieces be written for orchestra? Certainly, and although they don't have a vast audience, they certainly still have one. The assumption that to be a living art form classical music has to be the dominant music genre seems very odd to me, something can be thriving and marginal at the same time - surely that has a
  22. This is interesting, I certainly meet a lot of people, largely but not entirely outside classical music, who are only engaged with contemporary arts of all kinds. Somehow anything 'not now' isn't quite relevant. From a personal standpoint I don't find this at all - the continual interplay between art and the time it was written - is one of the most things I find most fascinating about it. If regular exposure to asymmetric rhythms and quartertones made people want to listen to classical music which has them in (not to mention at least a vague idea of what Godel's incompleteness theorem and quan
  23. Yes - the simultaneous arrival of 78s and and the 1-side pop song go together for sure. One thing that is interesting is that this had a big impact on classical performers (not so much composers), who started playing a lot of minatures, which likewise fit on one side. I vaguly even remember that performers would adjust their tempi so structural divisions in pieces would fit with the change of side.... All good commodification. Feldman's long forms are very compelling for me, and certainly don't derive from much of a classical sensibility. He proposes a very interesting way forward - and o
  24. Long vs. short forms in music in general is a very interesting topic, and something I think about quite a lot. As Balex suggests, the main means to make a long form in classical music has been harmonic contrast. However, in order to really get this to work, the language needs to be hierarchic - ie one pitch/key center needs to be more important than the others, and there are areas of secondary and tertiary significance. The second thing about this is that hey tend to be established by modulation, which is smooth and gradual, not be an abrupt key change. Key changes in popular music tend to bot
  25. I don't think it is online. A friend told me there was a photograph of me in an issue of Clash a while back, and I couldn't track it down online or in New York magazine stores. Funny - Clash provided the only time I'm likely to share a picture page with Pete Docherty.... I think they are expanding (why I have the column) so they may go online/get US circulation. Do you know what month your picture was, I may have a copy!!
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