Thursday, February 01, 2007

A short ride in an alternative machine

A spontaneous moment! As we leave the office, L tells me she's off to the Barbican, where ahead of the LSO concert of John Adams works there's a free performance of an arrangement of Mr Adams' "A Short Ride in a Fast Machine" for Gamelan, of all things. Well, I'm a sucker for free stuff, and there's bugger all on telly, so I tag along.

It's great, and when you hear it, it all makes perfect sense, of course - the pulsing rhythms and post-minimalist repetitions of Adams' style transfer very well indeed to the Gamelan. They play it twice, and it's better second time around - people have drifted away and it's easier to get a good view of the players. That ringing, metallic sound is captivating, a sound I know well from second hand imitations by numerous 20th century composers, and (somewhat to my shame) rather less so from hearing the genuine article. It's nice to hear the distinctive tonality, too - when you're surrounded by the western scale, as we all are, it's good to be reminded every now and again that there's always a different way to do things.

At work today, in the middle of researching something else entirely, I came across a review that I didn't realise existed of a piece of mine that was performed in 2001 (I already knew about the one in the Guardian). According to David Harrison of the Manchester Evening News, "The world premiere of Peter Nagle's Infinite Breathing proved a spectral sort of affair with attenuated chords in the violins and violas."

I suspect this is the sort of thing a reviewer writes when he doesn't like the music, but doesn't want to say so.


Anonymous said...

Depends-I would be intrigued by anything described as ghostly, faded.. in other words haunting and subtle.

Not sure what I like the sound of 'sort of affair' though..

petemaskreplica said...

If he'd said something like "ghostly" it might have sounded more positive, that would suggest some sort of emotional reaction to me. The wording looks studiedly neutral to me. Whereas if you read the Grauniad one, the reviewer takes a more positive tone, I think. She's saying a bit more than "this was played and it was quiet." The phrase "sort of affair" sounds rather dismissive, doesn't it?

Cheerful One said...

I suspect that if the reviewer didn't like the music, he'd say so - it is after all his job. It does sound neutral, and if it were about my work I suspect I'd read that as negative too, but actually I think it's perfectly possible to be neutral about something without that implying dislike.

My brother plays the Gamelan, by the way. It's a gorgeous sound.

cdircks said...

There is 24 hours of solid gamelan action promised when the Royal Festival Hall reopens, so you can get more of your fix then!

Erin said...

There is 24 hours of solid gamelan action promised when the Royal Festival Hall reopens, so you can get more of your fix then!

Anonymous said...

The reviewer would have said so if he had not liked the piece but is a tepid, neutral review a consolation?
Isn't the purpose of UNcommercial art to engage, challenge, provoke, cause confusion and to arouse emotion, be it negative or positive? Isn't the point of art to express oneself regardless of what anyone else thinks?
The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

Anonymous said...

Actually no, wouldn't deliberately aiming to provoke fly in the face of 'not caring what other people think?'
The artist has no control over the listeners/reviewers perception, cultural background or tastes.