Part of the Rest Is Noise Audio Guide
Osvaldo Golijov. Carolina Irby © 2004.
Note: The first page number is for the hardback edition, the second number is for the paperback.
A quick parade of end-of-century sounds....
"Pues mi Dios ha nacido a penar," or "Because My Lord Was Born to Suffer," from El Niño, the music that John Adams was writing when I visited him in his composing shed in the summer of the year 2000 (see p. 513 / pp. 559-60 of The Rest is Noise):
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano, with Kent Nagano conducting the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and London Voices; Nonesuch 79634.
And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind by the Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu (pp. 516-17 / p. 563):
Robert Aitken, flute, with the Toronto New Music Ensemble, Naxos 8.555859.
The ballet Red Detachment of Women exemplifies the musical kitsch of the Cultural Revolution in China (pp. 518-19 / p. 565), the last great epoch of totalitarian control of the arts. Composers who came of age during the Revolution, such as Tan Dun, Guo Wenjing, Chen Qigang, Chen Yi, and Zhou Long, later discovered the Western avant-garde and rediscovered the traditional music of China. Here is a passage from Guo Wenjing's Chou Kong Shan, a concerto for bamboo flutes and traditional Chinese orchestra:
Dai Ya, flutes, with Peng Jiapeng conducting the China Broadcast Chinese Orchestra.
Osvaldo Golijov (p. 520 / pp. 566-67) has drawn on the voluptuous musical traditions of Latin America. The song "Tancas serradas a muru," from Golijov's Ayre, is a multicultural tour-de-force that weaves together the sounds of Moorish Spain:
A few notable postminimalist composers (p. 521 / p. 568) are Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe (collectively Bang on a Can), Eve Beglarian, Janice Giteck, Kyle Gann, Ingram Marshall, William Duckworth, and John Luther Adams. There's a website devoted to Michael Gordon's spellbinding film symphony Decasia. Here, trombone glissandos mimic the eerie melting of stock film footage in Bill Morrison's accompanying film creation:
So-called "midtown" composers include John Corigliano, Mark Adamo, Christopher Rouse, Joan Tower, Stephen Hartke, and John Harbison. Peter Lieberson has followed a trajectory from serialism to neo-tonal writing, never wavering from extreme refinement.
Representatives of "New Complexity" include Brian Ferneyhough, James Dillon, and Michael Finnissy, whose music branches out in many unexpected directions. Ned Rorem is a link to an older mid-century Franco-American style; some of his most recent works, notably the opera Our Town, are his strongest. Elliott Carter, the godfather of American modernism, celebrates his hundredth birthday in 2008, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Neither does Milton Babbitt, well past his ninetieth birthday. Four young New York composers worthy of note are Anna Clyne, Nico Muhly, Judd Greenstein, and the unclassifiable Corey Dargel.
The rippling high-tech live-and-electronic effects of Section 1 of Pierre Boulez's Répons (p. 524 / p. 571).
Here is video footage of Stockhausen's Helicopter String Quartet, from the seven-part opera cycle Licht (pp. 524-25 / pp. 571-72):
"Transitoires" from Gérard Grisey's Les Espaces acoustiques, an outstanding example of Spectralist techniques (p. 526 / pp. 573-74):
Sylvain Cambreling conducting the Frankfurter Museumsorchester, Accord 465 386-2.
Kaija Saariaho, a Finn long resident in Paris, has also been affected by Spectralist ideas. This is the opening of her 1990 orchestral piece ...à la fumée, with electronically modified alto flute and cello:
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ondine 804.
Schoenberg's "wind from another planet" blows through the music of the German modernist Helmut Lachenmann (p. 527 / p. 573). This is from his Schwankungen am Rand:
Peter Eötvös conducting the Ensemble Modern Orchestra, ECM New Series 1789.
Some other notable German and Austrian contemporary composers are Wolfgang Rihm, Georg Friedrich Haas, Olga Neuwirth, Wilhelm Killmayer, Jörg Widmann, HK Gruber, Heiner Goebbels, Beat Furrer, Matthias Pintscher, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Gerhard Stäbler, and Helmut Oehring.
A few notable contemporary Western Europeans: Salvatore Sciarrino, Luca Francesconi, Stefano Gervasoni, Filippo Del Corno, Tomás Marco, Benet Casablancas, Maria de Alvear,Tristan Murail, Henri Dutilleux, Pascal Dusapin, Philippe Hersant, Marc-André Dalbavie, Eric Tanguy, Heinz Holliger, Daniel Schnyder.
The influence of Cage, Feldman, and Christian Wolff can be felt in the Wandelweiser group of composers, which extols collaboration and transcends national borders. Here is an overview by Michael Pisaro.
AFTER THE SOVIETS
From the twilight of the Soviet Union, Sofia Gubaidulina's religiously tinged Offertorium (p. 530 / p. 577):
Gidon Kremer, violin, with Charles Dutoit conducting the Boston Symphony, DG 471 625.
Faust goes down to hell in Alfred Schnittke's Faust Cantata (see track 10).
The beginning of "Silentium," the second part of Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa, Estonian meditations from 1977 (pp. 530-31 / p. 578):
Gidon Kremer and Tatyana Grindenko, violins, Alfred Schnittke, prepared piano, Saulus Sondeckis conducting the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, ECM New Series 1275.
Two extracts from Witold Lutosławski's Third Symphony, with its rugged Beethovenian opening (p. 532 / pp. 579-80):
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sony 66280.
The beginning of the Lamento of Ligeti's Horn Trio, with a reminiscence of Beethoven's "Les Adieux" Sonata at the beginning (p. 532 / p. 580):
Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, has described György Kurtág's Stele (pp. 532-33 / p. 580-81) as "a gravestone on which the entire history of European music is written":
Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, DG 447 761-2 (available as a download through DG Web Shop)
Mahlerian rumblings in the second movement of Thomas Adès's Asyla:
Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, EMI 56818.
More about Adès at Faber Music. Other notables on the modern British scene: Harrison Birtwistle, Oliver Knussen, the late Jonathan Harvey, Peter Maxwell Davies, Judith Weir, George Benjamin, Colin Matthews, David Matthews, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Julian Anderson, Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, Richard Ayres, Tansy Davies, Rebecca Saunders.
NIXON IN CHINA
Earbox is the online home of the post-minimalist, quasi-Romantic, blazingly American composer John Adams. The BBC supplies an analysis and performance of Adams's The Wound Dresser. Here are the opening minutes of Adams's breakthrough symphonic work Harmonielehre (p. 536 /p. 584):
Edo de Waart conducting the San Francisco Symphony, Nonesuch 79115.
The beginning of the aria "News has a kind of mystery" from Nixon in China (pp. 536-39 / pp. 584-88):
The totalitarian joy of Madame Mao:
Chou En-lai asks "How much of what we did was good?" at the end of the opera:
James Maddalena as Nixon, Trudy Ellen Craney as Madame Mao, and Sanford Sylvan as Chou En-lai, with Edo de Waart conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's; Nonesuch 79177. By kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes and Nonesuch Records.