It’s a rather strange feeling having finished a new work and immediately feel that the result, albeit not bad in itself, is not exactly what one has envisioned. at the onset of composition.
It’s the first work composed in what inevitably is the last part of my (creative) life: my educational activities will cease once all the resits are processed in the Art College Ghent, where I’ve been teaching for many years.
The new piece called ‘Out on a limb’ for marimba and piano, is mainly a piece for use at home. Twelve minutes of new notes to train myself somewhat on the marimba. And to play one day the piece with my wife and pianist Iris De Blaere.
The piece came into being in two bouts. The material was generated rather randomly, for the only concept was a couple of restrictions: no ‘traditional’ accompaniment motives in the piano, as much as possible avoiding slow tempi, a simple dialectic play between easily definable more or less chromatic and diatonic motives. This time there are no real ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ governing the decisions.
I hope somehow that the outcome of this very intuitive handling of the material might lead me to some faint glimpses of ‘this other kind of music’ which haunt my waking life.
In the end, it’s nothing more (and nothing less) than a very gentle piece, which might come handy for percussionists looking for pieces for this rather unwieldy combination. The piano might ‘eat’ easily the resonance of the marimba, robbing the latter from one of its most endearing characteristics.
‘Out on a limb’ suggests risk though the only ‘danger’ might be the fast tempo. The word limb itself suggest a ‘branch’ on which the percussionist of course is hammering away.
To end this rather light blog post, please let me quote some sentences I wrote this week to Rosa Montero, the world famous Spanish writer with whom I collaborated for the finished though torpedoed chamber opera ‘Cambio madre por moto’. They reflect very much my current state of mind. I hope the truth in them will help me to shape the music I want to be part of my own future.
For this is what I Iike so much in your work, dear Rosa: behind every word I can feel the (your) sense of humor peeking with its grinning head from behind the plot driven meaning of the words. In ‘la loca de la casa’ you tell us, and I presume that this is for once mostly the truth :-), you immediately imagine stories and histories behind every half open window, gate or front door see.
By saying so, in a way, this statement becomes the perfect metaphor for the whole of your novelistic oeuvre.
I hope I’m not too presumptuous to say that I myself have always tried to do so too, albeit with notes, not words. Notes don’t ‘tell’ us anything of course, there is no semantics behind them . A ‘C dièze’ might well be as well ‘une carotte’ (red) or ‘un crapaud’ (green) 🙂 The only ‘connection’ music can make with the ‘real’ world is the association one can make between what one hears in the very now and what one once has heard in the past, linked to one’s personal history.
Early on, I felt that often classical music is ‘too’ often a kind of commemorative activity. (I have to confess: I’m not a very contemplative person) It is as if much of classical music only is allowed to exist in order to ‘remember’. To steer the minds of the audience back to things past. A past robbed of its realities (not to say dire circumstances). Even when commemorating war or alluding to other disasters having ravaged our planet and its occupants, one always can detect a slight nostalgic tinge in the music. I cannot prevent my mind to object…
I never can forget the less agreeable aspects of the past.
Maybe this is the reason in the end why so many youngsters don’t feel readily attracted to classical music. Too much past – wallowing in the past. No real connections with the JOYS of being young and alive in a world brimming with opportunities. Even in the current state of affairs, heavily clouded with all kind of threats and dooms, young people certainly don’t look less onward and forward. And right they are!
Yesterday evening I had a talk with a young musician who plays in Hardscore. He’s very very very gifted. Composes too. He told me that most of my music is (for his taste) layered too much. (I know that people going to Huddersfield Festival might object :-). There’s always (too) much going on at the same time. AND: there are no processes one can immediately discern, this algorhythmic ‘one thing and then another’ which makes Steve Reich’s music so readily agreeable for the ‘next generation’. I told him, that he lives in a world where quite a lot of things are not in the act of being steadily processed, but in fact are emergent. And this might be the ‘message’ that consciously or unconsciously I try to communicate. I like simplicity of course. Though maybe not too long. For there is MUCH going on all the time. Even way beyond Facebook.
And then he told me that he, and many of his friends, are indeed living in a world incessantly bombarded with info, so music, or other arts, must necessarily become a more contemplative activity. A haven. Roaming in the same chord for 10 minutes gives him, her or them enough pleasure…
I felt, when coming back home, rather obsolete.
I fear a bit the bubbling activity of a city. Too many lights. Too much traffic indeed. A civilization exceeding by the umpteenth degree the sustaining possibilities of the planet. So I can readily acknowledge this need of the young musician(s). But I truly won’t hide myself behind simplicity for the sake of simplicity. If it helps them, fine. But I need ‘activity’ to shelter myself from the never ending onslaught of history in the making.
Maybe I have to go back to your books dear Rosa. They ARE very much plot driven and still are a haven. You might have found the perfect balance between giving and allowing people to digest. That’s what friendship is about. It shows ways to proceed, without imposing rules or restrictions.