Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wiki brings collabarative music full circle

Full marks to the ever innovative Sequenza21 for bringing Wiki technology into blogging. Wiki software allows mutiple authors to create and modify documents online. And the smart guys at Sequenza21 are using it to build a reader created community encyclopeadia of new music. This is exactly what Tim Berners-Lee created the world wide web for - sharing information between multiple users. The online Wiki encyclopaedia has very successfully pioneered the development of free-content resources on the internet. It is fantastic to see Sequenza21 right in there using this innovative platform. Collabarative working is not without its hazards though. Last weeks a pioneering 'Wikitorial' about Iraq, and written by readers, was pulled at the LA Times due to online vandalism. But the music bloggers are a much better behaved bunch than the political activists, and I fully expect Sequenza21's Wiki project to be hugely successful, and followed by many others.

It is worth reflecting that collabarative working is not a new phenomena in music. Four days after Rossini died in 1868 Verdi proposed a requiem mass for the deceased composer, with each individual movement to be composed by a different leading Italian composer of the time. Twelve of the composers who contributed to the ultimate cut and paste job are in the category of forgotten masters (Buzzolla, Bazzini, Pedrotti, Cagnoni, F. Ricci, Nini, Boucheron, Coccia, Gaspari, Platania, L. Rossi and Mabellini), but the thirteenth was Verdi himself. His Libera me was later recycled and incorporated into his own famous Requiem for novelist and poet Alessandro Manzoni.

In typically Italian version the planned performance of the 'Wiki' Messa per Rossini never happened. The extraordinary patchwork lay forgotten until a belated first performance 120 years later, in Parma, in 1988. It was then taken up by choral specialist Helmut Rilling who performed it at his Oregon Bach Festival. He then went on to record it with the Radio-Sinfonierorchester Stuttgart, and that two CD set, which is still in the catalogue, plays as I type this post. (Musically it probably falls into the category of a justly neglected masterpiece).

Of course the Messa per Rossini wasn't a true Wiki work as the composers of the individual movements were identified. Much closer to the Wiki model was the equally fascinating Mont Juic Suite for orchestra. In the 1930's, Benjamin Britten attended a music festival in Barcelona with Lennox Berkeley. He was fascinated by the themes played by the musicians and jotted them down on a scrap of paper. Later Berkeley and Brittem took these scraps, and in true Wiki fashion composed the Mont Juic Suite (Berkeley's Op. 9 and Britten's Op. 12) without identifying the authorship of each of the four movements. But on the liner note of my vinyl Lyrita recording Peter Dickinson says that Berkeley told him Britten wrote the last two movements. So today even the Mont Juic Suite can't claim to be a true Wiki composition.

Let's stay with the collabarative thread. Can anyone add to this post other truly Wiki musical works written by more than one composer, where the authorship of individual movements (or sections) has never been revealed? (Only works by two or more living composers qualify as a Wiki. Cerha's orchestration of the last Act of Berg's Lulu, Sussmayr's completion of Mozart's Requiem, Deryk Cooke's realisation of Mahler 10, or, heavens forbid, Anthony Payne's reconstruction - deconstruction? - of the sketches of Elgar's 3rd Symphony don't count as Wiki works I'm afraid).

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7 comments:

bobregular said...

Ciao from Florence! I think that the sonata "F.A.E." , jointly composed in 1853 by Albert Dietrich, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms for Joseph Joachim (whose motto was the acronym Frei Abert Einsam, free but lonely) could be an example of the collaborative composing you're pointing your attention at. The most famous movement is Brahms' scherzo in C minor, but the whole sonata has some recordings as well. I leave to you a deeper introduction to the piece, given my non competitive english. Bye and congratulations for your exquisite blog which I regularly follow by xml

bob said...

obviously the above is a case of known single contribution, like Messa per Rossini... pardon me the semi OT

Richard Friedman said...

I believe DOUBLE MUSIC composed jointly by John Cage and Lou Harrison may be unique. Some of the parts were written by Cage, others by Harrison. It's probably written somewhere which parts were written by whom.

1941 April Double Music (with John Cage) for 4 percussionists playing buffalo bells, brake drums, 2 sistra, sleigh bells, thundersheet, temple gongs, tam-tam, cowbells, water gong; Publisher: Peters; Recording: Mainstream Stereo MS-5011 (LP) Manhattan Percussion Ens. cond. Paul Price; Time 58000; New World Records NW 330

Richard Friedman said...

Regarding the Wikipedia reference (why do you link to the French version?), there is an equally fascinating parody of it at http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

But caution here. You may wind up wasting many hours at this site! You have been warned.

Galen H. Brown said...

The Bang On A Can 3 -- David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe -- have an album called "lost objects" which was collaboratively composed. I'm not familiar with it, so I can't really offer a review; and I don't recall what their method of colaboration was, either.

bobregular said...

I was recently thinking (and blogging) about the Heroes and Low Symphonies by Philip Glass, on Bowie / Eno material.
Is that Wiki cooperation as you mean it?
They surely are all living; are they "composers" in our classical-oriented sense?
Moreover, is each single contribution recognizable? I dont'know, since obviously they were working at different times, but Glass (according to some brief information I had a glance at) had to say he imagined to write the score in the seventies, thus intending his composing work to be fictionally joint to the other composers's one, at least Brian Eno's.
Maybe you and your guests will find this matter worth some considerations, maybe not...

Garth Trinkl said...

Galen, librettist Deborah Artman (and sound artist DJ Spooky) were fourth and fifth artist-collaborators on the "Lost Objects" oratorio, along with Lang, Gordon, and Wolfe. It was premiered in Dresden (in early 2001, I think) but involved an early music ensemble from Cologne (and chamber chorus from Berlin and Dresden?) and recording in Berlin. (Dresden has a very exciting new and experimental music scene.)

Ms Artman's text has Old Testament, Holocaust, and modern Middle East conflict overtones (with stylist shades of Gertrude Stein, at times). I believe that the three prime composers alternated composing the multiple movements. In the Berlin (or New York) studio, DJ Spooky then reprocessed parts of some of the
movments into brief interludes and postludes, which, to my mind, are some of the strongest parts of the project. (It is available on Teldec New Line.)


Since you wrote on oratorio, Galen, why don't you listen to the "Lost Objects" oratorio and give the new music community your review of it?