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On the music of Valentin Silvestrov (Валентин Васильович Сильвестров)

I have a rule with this blog. I shall never cooment on the music within a musical post which links to a piece. I have taken the rare opportunity to cooment about music.

In this case I would like to make some mentions of what I am hearing of Valentin Silvestrov’s (Валентин Васильович Сильвестров) music. Silvestrov is clearly Russian. The music speaks loudly of the composer’s origins whether we listen to his piano music or his symphonic work.

Those who follow this blog or visit frequently will know that I am always on the look out for new music, meaning music that is new to me, or newly composed music. I dispair sometimes in my search. Blind alleys and just auful music can lead to this. Fold music is a particular offender in this regard. Those who treasure their country’s native musci often play it without any authenticity or, to my taste, the music is too tired and  tied to its past and does not speak to the present. Or it is commercialized and its ethnic roots are lost. Many times such music is best avoided. In a few countries whose music I am familiar with, there are players and idviduals who have championed their native music and have made it real and plearuable to listen to. Those who make the effort are few and far between.

I live with a ghetto of my own world of rock music. I have my tastes as has anyone else and bands and singers I once listened to I can no longer.

Few people, even professionals have listened to as much music as I have. I have listened to it day in and day out since I was around three years old. Problably before that but I don’t remember.

The rock I love survives but the mainstream Baroque and Romantic composers have not. I have a vast CD collection and a large LP collection before that. Clasical music is by far and away the largest component. LP’s were always expensive but, where classical music is concerned budget labels arrived early on the market and access to a vast realm of music from every period became avaialbe. For modest cost you could own motets and plain chant from the earliest periods of written music to the whole output of, let’s say, Chopin’s piano work, or all of Beethoven’s orchestral work. You could purchase whole operas. Mozart, Donizetti, Bizet and into the early twentieth century.

However, you can only listen to Beethoven or Hayden, or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, a certain number of times. I mention only two but you get the idea. After a hundred listenings, concert goings and home and driving listening alike, the works lose their charm. All classical music works at an elevated plane. This is what makes it classical, usually written and performed by trained composers and performers. But what it lacks is the visceral. At least form me. No classical piece could match, any rock music piece would be invidous to chose as an example but let’s choose Paint it Black. whether by the Rolling Stones or Chris Farlowe.

Among the various pieces of music I tend to load onto the blog are three disciict forms: minimalism, new classical, meaning written since the middle of the twentieth century and the present, and post rock. The latter is hard to identify since so many bands and individuals perform as a crossover point between what is called ambient, a term I hate, and music with a heavy drum beat accompaniment. When I first started listening to this form of music I found it not so likeable and extremely hard to tell one band or individual’s music from another. Gradually, I found that there were bands and solo artists whom I liked and others I did not. But there is a sameness in the music that limits its appeal.

Minimalism sitll has a life which is quite extraordinary. Forms of music last a long time, this is true. The Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic all lasted for decades and sometimes slightly over a century. I could never have said when I first started listening to it that it would last so long and at time it had only a limited appela and a small audience. The music refreed to in the previous paragraph could almost not exist without minimalism have emerged as a musical form. I am not shure about ambient. I don’t really know how that musical form came into being. One thinks of Steven Hill and Hearts of Space, a radio show still running. I listened for a number of years and no music from those programmes survives in my memory other than that that I do not like. Let me mention just one name. George Winston. Whole record labels existed and probably still do to support these artists and that form of music.

Whatever can be said of the post rock music, much of We Lost the Sea and Endless Melancholy is memorable and bears repeated listening to. The form itself is restrictive but, none the less, and this is part what has driven to have me write these words, is a sheer paucity of musical ideas. Moving over to Rock for a moment, let us take two examples of sheer exuberance and abundance of musical ideas, Pink Floyd and Yes. Both British bands, that’s true, but the freedom and creativity that they exhibited shows what young band members are capable of. Hard acts to follow, very likely.

The more mainstream post Romantic forms of music have been relentless in their pursuit of new ideas, new musical forms and new musical sounds. Computer music first started, by and large, in unviersity departements. But you can only produce so many forms of sine waves. After a while one composer’s sine waves sound exactly like another, because, for example, the note A just above the G on the G clef is standardized these days at 440 Herz, though I notice some music being made availabe with A at 432 Hertz or slight variations on that, so A always sounds like A, putting aside the instrument playing the note for a moment.

Besides computer music, in the post atonal world of Webern and Berg, much non Romantic music being written from the mid twentieth century on has been what is often referred to as difficult music. Certainly it is demanding. This is not usually the kind of music to run under your pillow to try to help you go to sleep at night.

But, like the sine wave tone generator, there is only so much you can do before, after a decade or so, new composers sound pretty much idistinguishable from previous composers in the same genre and form. After Xanakkis and Stockhausen, for example, you cannot out-Xanakkis Xanakkis and out-Stockhausen Stockhausen any more than you can out-Beethoven Beethoven or out-Mozart Mozart. I leave it to the reader to determine whether there is any parrallel between the two sets of two composers, so many years apart.

Still, this search for a new and usual in music is part of who we are. Folk music existed and still exists as a startic form and some of the tunes which survive are of great antiquity. In fact, little in the oral tradition of the spoken form persists in the way that non written music has survived in surprising places upon this globe. Given this relentless search I have You Tube to thank. It would not otherwise be possible to discover so much and from so many unlikely places. One might look at a Wergo catalogue, for example, but how would one know to choose to buy a CD by a Turkish composer who is writing well within the mode being written by a counterpart out of the music school of a California univeristy or some other place in the United States. That Turkish composer is as up to date in his or her musical ideas as anyone anywhere else where there is an interest in what I would still call classical music.

And here exactly is a problem. The music smacks of the academic. Music written by professors whose job is to train music students and write music. And this itself is an internacine, self perpertuting activity. One wonders about being taought to teach. One then teaches others to teach. You see the point.

To break free of this, you either have to chose to expose yourself to music far outside the Western realm, as did Steve Reich and many other American musicians and composers, before him, in Far Eastern music which still far away from the accepted tonality in the West. Or you have to have talent that allows you to rise above the average output from an academic music school. Yet it works both ways. Those English bands mentioned above and others like them at the time were the last products of schools which still taught music. And training makes a difference, selftaught or more formally schooled. Music produced by those who eshew any kind of training at all will be consighed forever to the margins.

I am sneering to a certain extent at those composers who shelter within the arms of a university but that likely is unfair. In a post Beethoven world, indiviuals in the art world with whatever form is adopted, tends to be one of making a living from it and not relying on someone supporting you. Baroque composers and players, for example, were all supported by kings and princes. Every self respecting court in Europe and beyond, had court muscians. But Montiverdi, Correli, Scarlatti and Vivalidi set themselves apart from the hundreds of composers who wrote at the time. The vast majority of those composers’ music is totally indistinquishable one from another. But it didn’t need to be. Vivaldi did not travel to your court to play. So you only knew of his music from his reputation and, maybe from some hand written scores.

That changed in the Romantic era with music from one composer being played by orchestras all over Europe. This came about through the rise of the Bourgoesie and the spread of literacy. And here we are, you and I, a product of that, and able to listen to a form of music which is not what is called to popular taste. Though some formal composer’s piece caught in celluloid or digital visuals might change that where a single piece of his is concerned.





Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Валентин Васильович Сильвестров (Valentin Silvestrov) – Symphony No.5

Валентин Васильович Сильвестров (Valentin Silvestrov) – Symphony No.5

Valentin Silvestrov, Symphony No.5 (1980-82)
Kiev Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Roman Kofman  Conductor

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Валентин Васильович Сильвестров (Valentin Silvestrov) – Requiem for Larissa

Валентин Васильович Сильвестров (Valentin Silvestrov) – Requiem for Larissa

Dedicated to Larissa Bondarenko 1997-1999
“Dumka”, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine

Conductor – V. Sirenko
Chorus – E. Savchuk
Kiev Philharmonic
27/11/2000 (premiere)

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

валентин васильович сильвестров (Valentin Silvestrov) – The Quiet Music for the String Orchestra

Valentin Silvestrov – The Quiet Music for the String Orchestra

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Culture, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Valentin Silvestrov – Silent Songs

Valentin Silvestrov – Silent Songs

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Kyle Bobby Dunn – Innisfal (Rivers of My Fathers)

Kyle Bobby Dunn – Innisfal (Rivers of My Fathers)
from the Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn (2012)

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Kyle Bobby Dunn – An Excrement Suite (For Voices Lost Again)

Kyle Bobby Dunn – An Excrement Suite (For Voices Lost Again)

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Nico Muhly = Doublespeak, Latitude 49

Nico Muhly = Doublespeak, Latitude 49

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 25 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Nico Muhly – Mothertongue- I. Archive, Abigail Fischer

Nico Muhly – Mothertongue- I. Archive, Abigail Fischer

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 25 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Nico Muhly – Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion, Lark Quartet

Nico Muhly – Big Time for String Quartet and Percussion, Lark Quartet

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 25 September, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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