Monday, November 18, 2013

Sounds, Words, and Surfaces

Last night I went to hear a program of the sort that I may be said to have pioneered starting in the 1980's: programs in which recent compositions opened the ear to music of earlier periods.  Needless to say I am committed to the notion.

This evening began with poetry, ostensibly on the subject of now/then, day/night.  The words conveyed little to me except the poet's narcissism.  I could not wait for the reading to end.  (Quite a contrast to a reading I heard just a few days earlier by poets published by Pressed Wafer, an evening that left me knowing myself better than I had when I went in.)

Then came the new music.  Scratchings, pre-tuning sounds, knocks--I have nothing against any of them but coming after those particularly vapid words the silence they evoked seemed phony to me.

The period music that followed was in every way expert: clean, articulate, subtly voiced.  But I fell asleep, only to realize later that I had missed completely the one movement that I might have been interested in, a slow movement marked, along with the word designating slow, "spiritoso," which means with wit.

I would have loved to hear it.  Had it been witty surely it would have awakened me.

So I come away with an awareness of surface, not enough to keep me awake, however well-executed.