Modernism as Parlour Game

Here’s a review of the new Elision Kairos CD of concertante Brian Ferneyhough works, written by my friend Liam. Liam always provides at least a gem or two in his pieces, and this takes the biscuit here: ‘In considering Ferneyhough it might be said that in his work music is made to occur despite the act of composition as well as because of it’. And the framing of Ferneyhough’s music as somehow light (‘And the music, though at first sight forbidding, contains a certain perverse lightness that all the theoretical baggage that accompanies it – a considerable amount – can never completely weigh down’) chimes with my own experience; far from the high seriousness in which we’re supposed to take the music (though, really, I wonder how fair – and how limiting – such an assumption actually is), I often find my reaction to be one of dazed amusement. Ferneyhough and other’ logorrhea of sound and gesture produces something akin to the pseudo, kitsch-sublime so many accuse tabloid culture of providing. Stunned by the density of the conception, bemused by its goals, we stutter to some sort of joyous understanding.

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One Response to “Modernism as Parlour Game”

  1. Tim Rutherford-Johnson Says:

    Yes, I like that first line of Liam’s as well.

    An interesting idea that you bring forward: that Ferneyhough’s density is actually inviting rather than forbidding. It requires a step or two from the listener’s side to get that invitation I think, but I know something of the experience you’re getting at that comes beyond that.

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