6 August 2004


Listened to Vaughan Williams' 2nd String Quartet (1942-43) today. Also relistened to The Lark Ascending. The quartet had a touch of Bartok via Sibelius: folk rhythms in the primitive vein; long, irregular, impassioned phrases. Oddly, his Wikipedia entry mentions that from 1924 a new phase in his music began, characterised by lively cross-rhythms and clashing harmonies. They suggest that the time of the 2nd quartet came after that period, and in a period where he entered a mature lyrical phase. So much for the relevance of online reference material.

I just really don't like British composers. All the way back to Purcell they were mundane. British music is like British food. It took an imported German to make their music interesting.

Well, that's not exactly fair. I'll listen to more Vaughan Williams to get a better sense of his history. Even though he is very British at his apex. And I guess Tony Banks is continuing off of that tradition. Genesis was a very British band: Selling England by the Pound oozes with British folklore and sensibility. "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" borrows lines from socialist tracts published in England at the time. "Firth of Fifth" is a mythical tale referencing the coastal estuary at Forth in Scotland (the Firth of Forth). And "The Battle of Epping Forest" is a retelling of the Robin Hood story which was [t]aken from a news story concerning two rival gangs fighting over East-End Protection rights.

For Vaughan Williams fans: you may want to listen to Henryk Gorecki. He's had many notable releases in the past 10 years, but the most acclaimed was his Symphony Number 3 with Dawn Upshaw singing. Gorecki, from Poland, and Arvo Part, from Estonia, have really defined a form of ascetic minimalism (my term) for the late 20th century that mixes Messiaen's devout faith with Glass's clarity. Gorecki and Part are where my criticism of tonality breaks down: I'm astounded by their creative revitalization of tonal music.

A nice comment at the end of Williams' Wikipedia entry points out his oft-repeated call for everyone to make their own music, however simple, as long as it is truly their own. That's a nice sentiment.
[ posted by sstrader on 6 August 2004 at 9:44:47 PM in Music ]