Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Litany for G20


With the dawn of the seventies, John Cage was increasingly interested in - and vociferous about - social and environmental issues. He no longer confined his enthusiasm for technology to its practical application in music, but talked at length of his belief in the positive impact it could make on all areas of life. Cage spoke, too, of his engagement with political philosophy, particularly his own interpretation of anarchism ...

By the mid-seventies the progessively more qualified way Cage thought about social issues turned towards ecological matters. He gathered information about wildlife refuges, subscribed to the East-West Journal, and contacted the Franco-American anti-whaling organization, Project Jonah, copying from them a lengthy list of environmental organizations. In interviews he expressed concern about toxins in vegetables, and presently began to distill water at home and add seawater essence to restore its mineral balance. On tour he anticipated with pleasure visits to countries such as Scotland and Iceland, where the air was clean and the water fit to drink. Cage continued, however, to abjure active politics, feeling that the Green parties "have some very good ideas, but I'm very suspicous about power" ...

Litany for the Whale was completed in New York in July 1980, for two unaccompanied voices, singing as usual without vibrato. The piece consists of a recitation of the word "whale" sung with each letter pronounced separately (to D,C,B,G,A), alternating with responses made from different combinations of the letters. It suggests Cage's concerns with ecology ... the Litany comes unusually close to being a statement.
~ from The Roaring Silence, John Cage - A Life by David Revill.

Gee! - 20 links

1 - The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
2 - Fossil Fools Day
3 - Stop the War Coalition
4 - Climate Camp
5 - Rising Tide
6 - Put People First
7 - G20 Meltdown
8 - CND
9 - International Tibet Support Network
10 - Financial Fools Day
11 - Oxfam
12 - Earth Hour
13 - Alternative G20 Summit
14 - New Internationalist
15 - Progressio
16 - Concern
17 - Fairtrade Foundation
18 - Church Times
19 - White Band Action
20 - Bretton Woods Project


Image above is The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination's first experiment which took place during the European Social Forum (ESF), held in London in October 2004. On An Overgrown Path does not condone violence and has no connection with any organisation mentioned on this page. The sole purpose of this article is to remind readers that there is something happening in London this week that affects us all. If you are not familiar with John Cage's Litany for the Whale I do recommend it. It is not at all scary, and proves, again, that classical music can help change the world. But why aren't more people marching in the streets?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

When styles collide


Architectural style - the Zen-like discipline of Japanese design collides with the flamboyance of Art Nouveau in this magnificent organ screen by the Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was photographed by me in The Parish Church (formerly Holy Trinity) in Bridge of Allan, Scotland where we lived in the 1980s. The organ screen was designed by Mackintosh in 1904 to complement the 1884 instrument built by Lewis and Company, and the architect also created a matching pulpit, communion table and chair, and chancel rail. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one of the key figures in early twentieth century architecture. His unique contribution was to seamlessly blend the decadence of European Jugendstil with the minimalism of the Oriental visual arts to produce a visual style that was enthusiastically embraced by his native Puritan Scotland.


Period style - forty miles south of Bridge of Allan is Edinburgh. In September 2007 the Dunedin Consort and Players and a team of outstanding soloists under the direction of John Butt gathered in the 17th century Greyfriars Kirk in the city centre to record J. S. Bach's Matthew Passion for the Scottish Linn Records label. The Matthew Passion takes its stylistic cues from Wittenberg rather than Rome. It is one of the final flourishes of the baroque style; just five years after it was composed Joseph Haydn, father of the classical style, was born. For his recording John Butt broke from conventional performance style by using just eight voices with one to a part, to perform Bach's rarely-heard last performing version of the Passion dating from 1742. For reasons which escape me this March 2008 release slipped under everyone's radar, including mine. I was alerted to it by Francisco de Paula Sánchez at Alia Vox when I was arranging my just-in-time interview with Jordi Savall back in the Spring. As the folks at Alia Vox know a thing or two about early vocal music I bought a copy when, quite appropriately I was in Edinburgh last summer.


Performance style - there is no right and no wrong way to perform Bach. Like a great painting his works can be viewed from many different angles and perspectives, and from every viewpoint it is the glorious music that shines through. In this outstanding new Matthew Passion the small forces give an intimacy to the performance that is quite special. Instead of being part of the audience the listener becomes part of the performance. Quite remarkable music making coupled with, as you would expect from Linn, quite superlative sound engineered by Philip Hobbs. And in a parallel collision of technical styles the Dunedin Consort's Matthew Passion is recorded in Red Book CD, SACD, and HDCD (which my Arcam 9 CD player decodes) formats on one 3 CD disc set. And if that is not enough, it is also available as downloads in no less than five different resolutions ranging from MP3 through CD equivalent to studio master quality (FLAC 24bit 88.2kHz 2,758.5MB). It could only come from an independent record label.


Beyond style - serial music as architecture here. While an architect turned composer leads us to Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid here. But what really fascinates me are the stylistic similarities between Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs sampled above and the Sufi ornamentation seen in the 14th century Quaranic school in Marrakech.

Header photo taken August 2008 and (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh motifs were sampled by me from the history booklet produced by The Parish Church, Bridge of Allan. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Maurice Jarre - part of my music education


Composer Maurice Jarre has died in Los Angeles aged 84. His scores included Lawrence of Arabia, Passage to India and Doctor Zhivago. My parent's 1962 LP of the Oscar-winning soundtrack for Lawrence of Arabia was an integral part of my music education. The superbly crafted scores of Maurice Jarre, Malcolm Arnold and many others introduced classical music to generations of cinema goers. What is the 21st century version of this truly inclusive form of music education?

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Ring composes opera of changes

Email received - I thought this would amuse/horrify you. It did me. From the New York Post:

'The opera ain't over until the audience texts. In a move purists will pray never comes to the Met, producers of the updated version of Mozart's fiancée-swapping classic "Cosi fan Tutte," to be staged April 29-30 at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, will ask patrons to use their cellphones to vote on who marries whom in the climactic wedding scene. "The cast will implement the favored ending," said a show rep, adding, "It's a rare opera when you are actually asked to turn your cellphones on."'

Keep up blogging the good blog. Kind regards, TMcC
But it's not the first time the audience composes the music.
Header image sampled from theichingguy.com Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Poem reported missing in action 2009


To mark Remembrance Sunday last year I published a post which juxtaposed Thomas Merton's poem For My Brother - Reported Missing In Action, 1943 with photographs taken by me of the USAAF 389th Bomb Group base at Hethel, one of which can be seen above. This article, which was linked to by several USAAF veteran's websites, has now been removed following receipt of an email, extract below, from the composer Francis Pott.
... I don't see any acknowledgment ... for the Thomas Merton poem. I have set other text by Merton in the past and went through an arduous process to clear permission and pay for the privilege. Can you assure me that you have done the same thing? If not, you will presumably be in breach of intellectual property law and Merton's executors should be aware.

Regards, Francis Pott
Yes Francis, technically I was wrong to use the text of the 1943 poem. But, in this instance, don't you think Thomas Merton himself might have granted forgiveness in lieu of permission?

Settings of Merton's poetry, but no poems, here.
Photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2009. Any other copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

British Summer Time


I'm gonna take my problem to the United Nations
Well I called my congressman and he said Quote:
"I'd like to help you son but you're too young to vote"
Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues
British Summer Time started today, the G20 Summit starts in London on Thursday. Photo was taken in our garden at 10.00am this morning. Spring Symphony here.

Lyrics by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart from Summertime Blues. Photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2009. Any other copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little boxes


And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same
More Pete Seeger here.
Extract from lyrics of Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds. Photo of Paris Plage, Le Tourquet, France (c) On An Overgrown Path 2009. Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Friday, March 20, 2009

After common sense has been removed


An artist is a person who lives in the triangle which remains after the angle which we may call common sense has been removed from this four-cornered world.
Natsume Sōseki explains, or perhaps doesn't explain, the title of his novel The Three Cornered World. Header image is a detail of Edo to Mejii, silkscreen on ceramic tile, by Tadanori Yokoo. I will be back soon.

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Naxos rattles Berlin Philharmonic


I wonder if John Adams reads the Guardian? In today's edition Andrew Clements reviews two new recordings of Ravel's sublime L'Enfant et les sortilèges. One is from the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle on EMI, the other from the Nashville Symphony under Alastair Willis on Naxos. The preferred version is the one from Naxos. How frustrating.

Header image is sampled from the Previn/LSO L'Enfant et les sortilèges, on Deutsche Grammophon,
which is also very good. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

A classical modernist


My recent post On the road with Lutoslawski prompted me to listen again to the EMI double CD of the Polish composer's music, and it really is a gem. All the orchestral works were recorded with Lutoslawski himself conducting the Polish Chamber and Radio National Symphony Orchestras in 1976 and 1977 by a team from EMI's International Classical Division. The venue for these sessions was the Polish Radio studio in Kraków, and the analogue sound captured by EMI producer David Mottley and balance engineer Neville Boyling is extraordinarily vivid. The outstanding work on the discs is the abrasive 1970 Cello Concerto. It was written for Rostropovich, who recorded it, but is given a superb performance on this double CD by Roman Jablonski. Lutoslawski's two movement String Quartet, which is played by the Alban Berg Quartet, was recorded digitally in 1995 in Evalelische Kirche, Honrath by a team from EMI Electrola. Again a superb performance coupled with demonstration quality sound. EMI's double CD of Lutoslawski's middle-period works is available at bargain prices. Given the state of the classical market and of EMI in particular, I would not hang around if you are tempted. Witold Lutoslawski photographed in interesting company here.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nice Berg


'I am absolutely delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales has agreed to become our Patron. He has been the most tremendous supporter of us all and it is wonderful that he has agreed to deepen his relationship with us even further' ~ chief executive of the Royal Opera House Tony Hall announcing HRH's appointment as Patron.

'I have always found the Prince's lack of interest in anything to do with the arts in our time depressing, since all his opinions get so widely reported. It seems to me that he has had unrivalled opportunities to get to understand the twentieth century, but he has rejected it without hesitation. Both Denys Lasdun and Colin St John Wilson of the British Library, found work hard to get in the UK in the aftermath of the Prince's criticisms'~ former BBC controller of music and Proms & Edinburgh Festival director John Drummond.
I await the next Covent Garden Lulu with interest.
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Haydn seek


My life has been enhanced considerably over the last few months by working my way through recordings of the complete Haydn Symphonies. What energy, what inventiveness, what humanity, and what sheer joy. And what a laudable absence of the histrionics that were soon to become an integral part of symphonic writing. I have been listening to Adam Fischer and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra's cycle of the symphonies originally recorded for Nimbus and now relicensed to Brilliant Classics. My 33 CD set cost £66 delivered in the UK. The Austro-Hungarian Orchestra's performances are really quite excellent, and so is the sound. But the gold standard is Antal Dorati's cycle recorded with the Philharmonia Hungarica for Decca in the 1970s. When I was in Cambridge last week to see The Class I noticed the Dorati set (also 33 CDs) selling in Heffer's for £60. This is a limited period offer. The amazon.co.uk price is £66.98, and some Amazon resellers are down below £60. It is not hyperbole to say that at these prices the Fischer and Dorati sets offer two of the great cultural bargains of the decade - so don't hesitate.

Antal Dorati was one of those very rare musicians who was also a great human being. Born in Hungary into a Jewish family, he left Germany in 1933 when pressured to remove Jewish musicians from his chamber orchestra, and became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 1947. His posthumously published, and now sadly out-of-print, book For Inner and Outer Peace is a cry from the heart by a great creative artist and humanitarian. The book was completed in 1988, and is truly visionary in its coverage of subjects such as environmentalism, the power of the mass media, and the perils of weapons of mass destruction.

But the need to achieve inner peace was Antal Dorat's greatest pre-occupation. He turned to Christianiy, and the music he wrote towards the end of his life reflects his deep commitment to that faith. The BIS CD seen below includes his beautiful setting of the Pater Noster, and his melodrama which deals with the power of the mob through the Biblical story Jesus or Barabbas? But Antal Dorati also understood the contribution that Eastern thinking could make in the search for peace. This tantalising passage from For Inner and Outer Peace shows Dorati looking down the path that Benjamin Britten, Jonathan Harvey, John Cage, Thomas Merton, Lou Harrison, Philip Glass, Edmund Rubbra, Jordi Savall, Colin McPhee and others have followed in varying degrees:
It is a remarkable fact that - so far - perhaps every real champion of human peace (and there have been few of them compared to the innumerable false ones) began with the quest for that same "inner peace" which they themselves were never able to achieve.

The one exception I can think of might be Buddha, whose faraway image emits the rays of complete inner peace. Sometimes, when looking at a pebble, an insect, a plant or a blade of grass, that dream of inner peace - so different to that for which we in our western corner of the earth strive, and yet so complete - I am transported to such high and subtle regions that, upon "awakening", I regret (for a while) being a son of the West. In these moments I resolve to learn more about the East. And I do, a little: but never much, because I am too strongly and obsessively fascinated by the mysteries of the culture that has raised me.

More Antal Dorati resources here.
Header image is Antal Dorati's, you guessed it, out-of-print autobiography Notes of Seven Decades. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beneath the Matala moon


My recent post about Leonard Cohen vacationing in Greece under the fascist Colonels in the years 1967 to 1974 attracted a large readership. So it is worth recalling that Cohen was not the only musician to visit Greece under military rule. In 1970 Joni Mitchell took a career break and spent time in Greece, Spain (which was still under Franco) and France. Many of the songs on her, arguably, greatest album Blue were written on this trip. The lyrics of the track Carey contain specific references, including the one used in my headline, to the Cretan seaside village of Matala where Joni lived in an alternative community in caves in the summer of 1970. The Greek military regime was notoriously intolerant of alternative lifestyles; but the settlement on Crete's inaccessible southern coast semed to be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. By coincidence I visited Matala a few years later in 1975. It was my first visit to Greece, and the country had just returned to being a democracy. It all changed because they were demanding jazz and rock and roll.

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What an artist - what a human being


radiomovies has left a new comment on your post "Jordi Savall and the just-in-time interview":
What an artist, what a human being. His recordings of Tobias Hume pieces (say it quietly) make the Bach solo Suites sound pale. Any composer who can write a piece called 'Whoopee do me no Harme', at the beginning of the 17th century, has to be a good thing...

best PDS
Philip, thanks for giving me the opportunity to feature Jordi Savall's CD of the overlooked and underrated Tobias Hume (1569?-1645). It also allows me to showcase another disc that has been giving me a lot of pleasure, this time by the Italian viola da gamba player Paolo Pandolfo, who was an early member of Jordi Savall's Hesperion XX. Carl Friedrich Abel's music is even more neglected than that of Tobias Hume. Which is quite surprising as Abel (1723-1787) was a close associate of J.S. Bach and composed a symphony in E flat (Op. 7 No. 6) which was erroneously attributed to Mozart (KV 18). Carl Friedrich Abel's music is a rich vein waiting to be mined. His output included 46 symphonies, six flute concertos, six piano concertos, 21 quartets and a lot more. Paolo Pandolfo has started the exploration with an outstanding new recording of four of Abel's suites for viola da gamba for the innovative Spanish Glossa Label. Read Pandolfo on Abel and improvisation here. While on another path Paolo Pandolfo expresses himself as a great human being in Baghdad's Spring.


The Carl Friedrich Abel CD was bought from Prelude Records, the Tobias Hume disc from HMV online. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the road with Lutoslawski


When I was writing about Jordi Savall's epic new project Jerusalem I quoted Timothy Leary's observation that 'thinking is the best way to travel'. Over the past four years I have wandered as far as Asia and Africa as well as across a lot of Europe. But, increasingly, my travels have shifted from macro to micro. Travelling short distances on the ground, but great distances in the head, is also the theme of an extraordinary work of literature that has recently become available in English translation.

Julio Cortázar's Argentian father managed family business interests in Belgium, and the author was born in Brussels a few days after the German invasion of the country in 1914. As the conflict spread the Cortázar family moved first to Switzerland and then to Spain, before returning to Argentina. Despite not completing his degree in philosophy and languages at the University of Buenos Aires, Cortázar became professor of French literature at the Univeristy of Cuyo in Argentian in 1944. Seven years later Julio Cortázar's opposition to the regime of Juan Domingo Perón led him to emigrate to France. In 1952 he became a translator for UNESCO and continued to live in France until his death in 1984. Towards the end of his life Cortázar actively opposed human rights abuses in Latin America, and he was a supporter of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.

Many of Julio Cortázar's major works were written in Paris. His output included short stories, poetry, drama, non-fiction and novels. His 1963 novel Hopscotch (Rayuela) is probably his best known work. One of his short stories was based on the life of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Jazz improvisation was an important influence on Cortázar's style. He was a pioneer of the use of interior monologues and stream of consciousness, and art forms from other disciplines, including Surrealism, influenced his work. Cortázar's writing is sometimes categorised as 'magic realism'. The mystical elements in his writings link it to the Zen Buddhist teachings of Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki and others. These elements, and the use of non-linear forms, also link Cortázar with the contemporary movement known as downtown music. The Argentian composer Amanda Guerreño (born 1933 - do follow that previous link) has set several of Cortázar's poems to music.

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, co-written with his third wife the Canadian author and photographer Carol Dunlop, was one of Julio Cortázar's last works. The subject matter could not be more unlikely. In 1982 Cortazar and Dunlop spent thirty-three days travelling the 485 miles from Paris to Marseille in a classic Volkswagen motor home (as in the header photo). It is a route I know well, and which has provided the starting point for many paths, including those about new music for the kithara, a reflowering of contemplative thought, a contemporary music festival and a a gypsy saint.

The journey made by Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop was rather different to my own flat-out blasts south on the Autoroute du Soleil. In a mirror of the I Ching (and John Cage) the authors made a series of micro journeys governed by pre-determined rules. These rules determined that they travelled only on autoroutes (French freeways or motorways). They never left the autoroute during the thirty-three days. They stopped at every single service and rest stop en route, and they stayed overnight at every other stopping point. Each day's total driving was therefore only around thirty miles. So the journey itself became secondary. The book is a meditation on the act of travelling, both mentally and physical, rather than a homage to the destination.

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute was originally published in Spanish in 1983. It was given a superb English translation by Anne McLean in 2007, and is available in paperback from independent publishing house Telegram, who, rather wonderfully, have offices in London, Berkeley and Beirut. My beautifully designed copy, which has photographs by the authors (including the cover seen below) and sketches by Dunlop's son, was printed in the Lebanon. This book is both an affordable object of beauty and a wonderful introduction to Julio Cortázar's work.

Written as a diary with accompanying photos, Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is a forerunner of the blog. But it sets a standard which the humble blogger can only dream of reaching. This is not travel writing. This is an amusing, playful, inventive, optimistic and moving reflection on our strange journey through life. Shockingly, that journey was to end for both the authors soon after they travelled through France in 1982., Illness took Carol Dunlop, aged 36, before the book was finished, and Julio Cortázar died of leukemia two years later. In this superb English translation Autonauts of the Cosmoroute should join W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn as a contemporary 'road trip' classic. If you crave for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance without the pretentiousness, Autonauts of the Cosmoroute is the book for you.
'I'll never know how I bought three cassettes of Fats Waller and only one of Ellington and one of Armstrong; I'm not making value judgements, but it's funny to find an hour of music by Charles Mingus and another of Jelly Roll Morton against barely ten minutes of Lester Young; I think I was half asleep that morning, although thank heavens I remembered to bring the best of Bix and Trum, which sounds so perfectly clear in the rest area nights. And there's also Schubert's quartets numbers 804 and 887, played by the Juilliards, and Arnold Schoenberg's first quartet. But in the end I think I was right to overdo it on the Lutoslawski, because it's what I listen to most and best these days. There is something in his prodigous String Quartet, in his 'Music for 13 instruments' which chimes marvellously well with the sonorous atmosphere of the rest areas where the sound of the freeway is a mere backdrop for birds, insects, broken branches, all that feeds into the texture of the music although musicologists won't believe it ~ page 321 of Autonauts of the Cosmoroute.

'We dedicate this expedition and its chronicles to all the world's nutcases and especially to the English gentleman whose name we do not recall and who in the eighteenth century walked backwards from London to Edinburgh singing Anabaptist hymns' ~ from the authors' introduction to Autonauts of the Cosmoroute.

Anyone who doesn't read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease, which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder ... and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair' ~ Pablo Neruda says it all.

* 'Anyone who hasn't heard Lutoslawski's bracing Quartet is also doomed. Well, not quite. You can make it's acquaintance quite painlessly in an excellent performance by the Alban Berg Quartet. It is on an EMI double CD of the composer's music that is currently available on Amazon for just £8.79. Which is a bit of a contrast to Nonesuch who see fit to charge full price for the Kronos Quartet's recording which comes without any coupling. That translates to a very post-modern £12.69 for just over 23 minutes of music. More on the EMI double CD here.

* On An Overgrown Path will be taking one of a series of extended summer breaks at the end of this week. By a neat piece of synchronicity we are off on a road trip to France. And yes, Lutoslawki is on the iPod.

My copy of Autonauts of the Cosmoroute was bought online. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Theodorakis revival?

Email received - A quick follow-up to your post on Mikis Theodorakis (seen above). The fairly adventurous Swiss Romande Orchestra is playing next week Theorodakis’s oratorio Axion Esti. The composer was due to conduct but seems cannot because of his health, his replacement is the Greek chief conductor of the contemporary music at the Greek Radio, Andreas Pylarinos. I am quite looking forwards to it.

This comes after a concert where Silvestre Revueltas’s Night of the Mayas was conducted by a Peruvian conductor.

I have personally expressed concerns on the Victoria Hall where the orchestra plays but have to say that the originality of the programs is quite outstanding and overrides all what the World believes on old-fashioned stodgy Switzerland.

Best, Antoine Leboyer
Mikis Theodorakis' Requiem should also be in the repertoire.
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Newspapers continue to set the standard


The paper's chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins gave us the inside track on the arts world in recession in Saturday's Guardian. The double-page spread tells us it is not all bad news and reveals:
Exporters are luckier - such as Aldeburgh festival, whose production of Britten's Rape of Lucretia has just visited Prague.
Even if we overlook the incorrect lower case for 'festival' and the missing definite article in the title of Britten's opera, there is still a problem. The Aldeburgh Festival's 2001 production of The Rape of Lucretia hasn't just visited Prague. But their 2007 production of Death in Venice has, to considerable acclaim.

As Norman Lebrecht declared:
Until bloggers deliver hard facts … paid for newspapers will continue to set the standard as the only show in town.
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It changed my world

She gave us all permission. Until Joni, I felt like all these feelings and all of that artsitic expression and working out your sexual selves and your emotional selves in a public and creative forum - I thought that was all the province of men until Joni did it. And then I saw how possible it was for a woman to explore [that] in a public arena. And it was completely inspiring. It changed my world.
Rosanne Cash on Joni Mitchell in Listen to This by Alan Reder and John Baxter. Can classical music help change the world?

Sleeve scan is Joni's 1969 album Clouds. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who needs music?


Laurent Cantet's film The Class ( French title Entre les murs) won the 2008 Cannes Palme d'Or and was a 2009 Oscar nominee, so it doesn't need me to tell you how good it is. But when we saw The Class at the Cambridge Arts Cinema last Wednesday I noticed one interesting point that seems to have passed the critics by. Throughout 128 minutes of spell-binding cinema Laurent Cantet's film does not use one single note of soundtrack music. But that is not a (silent) record. Another highly acclaimed European film ran for 169 minutes with using any music.



This is the trailer (with added background music) for Entre les Murs, in French with no sub-titles. But you don't need to speak French to appreciate the masterful performance of François Bégaudeau as the teacher. Not only is François Bégaudeau centre screen for the entire film, he also wrote the book on which the film is based, and was a member of the 1990s punk rock group Zabriskie Point. From where it is a short path to Rhythm Is It!

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Just give me the facts


Treat with scepticism anything you read in the music press. And treat with scepticism anything you find on Amazon. Scatter Cushions followed my Noddy and Berg's ears path and found the result above by searching against the terms 'war peace enid blyton'. Searching On An Overgrown Path for 'Tolstoy' returns this much more interesting result.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cornlelius Cardew - a life unfinished


The London Review of Books has an excellent review of John Tilbury's life of Cornelius Cardew, who is seen above. Back in October 2008 I wrote that 'perfection is out, participation is in', as pioneered by Cornlius Cardew's famous Scratch Orchestra; while John Tilbury featured in Brand new music for harpsichord.

With thanks to Daithi Mac Sithigh at UEA for sharing the link with us. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Blue electricity in my stomach


'I was recently running a jazz workshop in a primary school in London. I asked the children how jazz music made them feel and one of them said, 'it feels like I've got blue electricity in my tummy'.
Jazz pianist and composer Pete Letanka writes in the sleeve notes of his first CD Afrostocracy. Pete Letanka is one hell of a jazz pianist, and Afrostocracy has spent a fair amount of time in my CD player since it arrived in the post a few days ago. Two Letanka compositions are coupled with ten standards in straight but tight treatments. Letanka's hero is Oscar Peterson and it shows, but Bill Evans fans will find a lot to savour here as well. He may work at Aldeburgh and Glyndebourne, but Pete Letanka can also make Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson swing. The final cut of the Letanka Trio's take on Brian Wilson's God Only Knows is the standout. Read about Pete Letanka at Aldeburgh here. And while we are on the subject of blue electricity and great tunes let's give a heads up to the Bill Charlap Trio's treatment of the songs of Leonard Bernstein on Blue Note, Somewhere.


Then, of course, there is André Previn.
I bought Afrostaocracy online from an amazon.co.uk reseller. The Bill Charlap Trio CD was purchased when it was released in 2004, I can't remember who from. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where is your pie?


Yesterday the music press was full of pie in the sky. There is no doubt, the core story was a positive one. London's Barbican Arts Centre has long-term plans to host extended stays by four top orchestras that will include time in schools. But the music press does not do balance these days: it does press releases. The news that the Los Angeles Philharmonic is coming to town brought on one of the Guardian's all too frequent Dudamel moments under the gushing headline 'Barbican transformed by dancing to Bowie and Venezuela's maestro'.

Very few journalists bothered to drill down. The LA Phil's residency is not until the 2012-13 season; that's an awfully long time off in a country where financial planning horizons are currently weeks, not months, yet alone years. Another of the resident orchestras is the New York Philharmonic under a different man of the moment, Alan Gilbert. But the New York orchestra's next visit in far-off February 2010 is business as usual, with just two concerts on two consecutive days. A New York Phil residency for 2011-12 is promised, but this may mean no more than an increase to just three concerts over a week.

The articles on the Barbican's plans echoed lots of funder-pleasing buzzwords such as access, outreach and schools. Yet not one questions how the concepts of outreach and access reconcile with reports that the residencies are exclusive. This blocks any access to the visiting orchestras at London's South Bank Centre; which means if you are a youngster in a school on the south side of London you will not be tasting any of the Barbican's pie. Strange how the Guardian describes that as a 'coup'.

Away from London there has been an awful lot of pie in the fridge to enjoy this week. I have already written about Aldeburgh Music's inspirational week-long Celebration of School's Music. This is just one of many school's music events that is not available in user-friendly press release form to London-centric music journalists; so you will probably only read about it here. Last night we were savouring some delicous pie at another venue. A school's production of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde is playing to capacity audiences in churches in south Norfolk. Eleven schools from the area are taking part, including five primary schools. We were at the performance in the 12th century Wymondham Abbey yesterday evening, and it was quite magnificent under the inspiring conducting of Margery Baker.

Genius is another word that has been devalued by the music press. But Benjamin Britten was a genius in the true meaning of the word. There is not one artistic compromise in Noye's Fludde, not one superfluous note, and not one cliché. Yet it can be performed by a cast of untrained youngsters and produce more tears than any Mahler symphony at the Barbican. As I drove home last night I marvelled at just how many youngsters and adults had been touched by classical music through this Norfolk school's production. And I bet that very few of them have ever heard of the indisputably very talented Gustavo Dudamel.


My lower montage includes photo of Britten at the first performance of Noye's Fludde in Orford Church, Suffolk, 1958. The Decca recording with Norman del Mar directing Britten's English Opera Group is a classic of the gramophone and should be in every CD collection. It is currently £7.78 on amazon.co.uk. We paid for our tickets for the Wymondham Youth Music Society performance of Noye's Fludde. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Journals of resistance


This LP sleeve perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the 1971 CBS disc Maria Farantouri and John Williams perform music by Mikis Theodorakis, including the theme from Constatin Costa Gravas' film Z. For my money it is one of the most beautiful records ever made. It is available on a Sony Greece CD; but, sadly, the cover photograph has been replaced by bland graphics. As the LP sleeve notes explains:
Theodorakis has set to music a number of passages from the verse-drama "The Hostage" by the Irish writer Brendan Behan. Although "The Hostage" deals with the Irish troubles, the Greek people applied the songs to their own struggle against the tyranny set up in Athens after the coup d'etat of April 1967, and in particular "The Smiling Boy" was taken as referring to the death of Lambrakis.
Mikis Theodorakis was imprisoned by the Greek military dictatorship. Below is the title page from my copy of his account of those times, Journals of Resistance. Maria Farantouri (which is the usual transliteration of the Greek, rather than Farandouri as on the record sleeve) went into exile when Theodorakis' music was banned after the 1967 coup. She became known as 'the Greek Joan Baez' and made a major contribution to the international resistance to the fascist regime by performing Theodorakis' songs around the world. There is some powerful footage on YouTube of Maria Farantouri performing with Mikis Theodorakis. Read about music's fight against the Greek military junta in songs of freedom.


Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Lost in ambition


At the Metropolitan Opera in New York Renée Fleming leads a star-studded cast in Dvorak's Rusalka with Jirí Belohlávek conducting. While at the Barbican Centre in London the BBC Symphony Orchestra presents a festival of Iannis Xenakis' music conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The connection between the two events is that Jirí Belohlávek is the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. However, he does not conduct his BBC orchestra very often these days, except on foreign tours. By complete coincidence maestro Belohlávek's agent, IMG Artists, also represent Renée Fleming, as well as Christine Goerke, who sings the important role of the Foreign Princess in Rusalka. By another sheer chance IMG Artists include the BBC Symphony Orchestra among their clients for foreign tour management. The BBC Symphony Orchestra also work with John Adams, who by coincidence is also an IMG Artists conductor. While, in an unrelated development, IMG Artists managed the BBC Legends record label, among their titles was a now-deleted 2002 release of John Adams conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra - see scan below from BBC Legends CD inlay. But back to Jirí Belohlávek, who is living proof that chance really is a fine thing. On Saturday, instead of broadcasting a concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra directed by its chief conductor, BBC Radio 3 is relaying Belohlávek conducting his fine singers in Rusalka from the Met. More adventures of Mr. Belohlávek here and here.


You really don't want to be reminded of when Pierre Boulez was chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, do you?
I borrowed the empty podium from Whitebox3. CD inlay is from BBC Legends BBCL 4179-2. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This intriguing and provocative blog works


The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra blog takes up my advocacy of E. J. Moeran's Symphony in G minor. Could this lead to a future performance by the CBSO of this splendid and neglected work? 'I've always felt that it is and will be strong enthusiasm that will change the world!'

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Is classical music a lifestyle?


Steinway owned ArchivMusic are doing some interesting things. These now include launching Listen, a new $4.95 bi-monthly print publication which is described as 'a lifestyle magazine for classical music'. But isn't that what Haymarket Publications set out to create when they ruined the Gramophone?

Is classical music a lifestyle? Is it a brand?
Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Noddy and Berg's ears


Question - what is the link between Alban Berg and Enid Blyton?

Answer - the result seen above, which is returned when you search for the terms 'Alban Berg Enid Blyton' on amazon.co.uk

Thanks to reader John Shimwell. But you can't call that music.
Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Talking of Sibelius ...


'The fact that I'm a Sibelian would ... certainly explain why I was quite bowled over by the (Rubbra) Fifth' said Philip on Desert island diversion. Philip, do you know the Sibelius influenced (listen to the closing bars) Symphony in G minor by the Norfolk bred E. J. Moeran? The sleeve above is my 1975 Lyrita LP. It is now transferred to CD, alas without the stunning Turner painting 'Storm Clouds: Sunset' The Boult Lyrita account is superior to Tod Handley on Chandos. In fact Sir Adrian's account is one of his many great underrated recordings, and, of course, the Lyrita sound is sensational. I would also recommend the Moeran Violin and Cello Concertos and, indeed, the Rubbra Violin and Viola Concertos. I have the long-deleted Tod Handley Conifer CD of the Rubbra Concertos with Tasmin Little and Rivka Golani as soloists. The two concertos are available separately with different couplings on other labels. And talking of Norfolk and sunsets, there is a A Norfolk Rhapsody here.

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is it about this Fifth Simfony?


No, that headline is not another of my typos. In October last year I asked What is it about Fifth Symphonies? But Lou Harrison actually wrote a Fifth Simfony, and it is on the CD of his music for percussion ensemble titled Labrynth seen in my montage above. In a very informative sleeve note Art Lange describes how:
In this music, Harrison didn't merely adapt his influences into a pastiche of Asian pratctices and early music philosophies. He constructed his own methodology supported by ideas and theories gleaned from his studies and tempered through his own organizational prowess.
Lou Harrison's unique approach extended beyond the musical into the linguistic. His Fifth Simfony (1939) and Labrynth No. 3 (1941) were just the starting points; he went on to compose La Koro Sutro* (1972) which sets an Esperanto text for 100 voice choir with American Gamelan, harp and organ. Lou Harrison is one of a number of creative artists who have explored alternative linguistic forms. In recent months Thomas Merton's macaronic journal My Argument with the Gestapo and Paul Griffiths' Let Me Tell You, which uses the Oulipo tradition of constrained writing, have also featured here.

I know the readership of An Overgrown Path is very broad. That is both a reward and a responsibility. For some readers Lou Harrison, with his connections to John Cage, Harry Partsch and Henry Cowell will be unexplored, if not unwelcoming territory. To these readers I recommend Labrynth. As Art Lange says in his excellent notes:
In his life, Harrison is an unabashed sensualist (for proof, read his poetry), and translated to music this is reflected in his overriding passion for melody. "Melody is the grace of music/and the beauty of its work," he once wrote in one isolated couplet.
I paid just £5.37, including postage, for Labrynth from amazon.co.uk. This is a CD that rewards exploration. The sound captured in the Slee Concert Hall, University at Buffalo, New York by Swiss tonmeister Peter Pfister is truly demonstration quality. Harrison's music is performed with great flair and commitment by the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble conducted by Jan Williams. The CD is on the Swiss Hat Hut label, which is doing really wonderful things for contemporary music and jazz. A Cageian random selection of any of the Hat Hut titles is guaranteed to challenge, educate and inspire. There are not too many record labels you can say that about today.


* La Koro Sutro is an Esperanto setting of the sacred Mahāyāna Buddhist Heart Sutra, a choice of subject that reflects Lou Harrison deep commitment to the Buddhist faith and to Eastern cultures. I make no apologies for linking this footnote to Tibetan Uprising Day on 10 March 2009, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the illegal occupation of Tibet by the Chinese. Tibetan Uprising Day does not only commemorate the human genocide (a term used by the Internal Commission of Jurists) of an estimated 86,000 Tibetans in the uprising itself and more than a million in the following years. It also draws attention to the continuing cultural genocide which the Chinese government is using to destroy the centuries old culture and society of Tibet; a culture which offers real alternatives to the failing economic and social structures of the major powers. As Pico Iyer explains, the Tibetans believe that:
'Modernity has to do with a set of values rather than with a set of goods, that it is the result of a cast of mind, even more than a way of life.'
Yet, 50 years after the Chinese invasion and twenty years after its leader became a Nobel Laureate, the Tibetan Government in Exile remains unrecognised by any other state. While the Dalai Lama and every other Tibetan exile has to travel on a yellow refugee ID card in place of a passport, the world powers send their fawning politicians, performers, journalists and businessmen to practise 'cultural diplomacy' at the Beijing Olympics and other Chinese propoganda events. These 'opinion formers' rush to condemn the Soviet Gulags, but ignore the fact that million of Tibetans have died at the hands of the Chinese in Amdo province in eastern Tibet and elsewhere. I am sure that Lou Harrison, whatever his current reincarnation, will understand why I will be playing his mighty La Koro Sutro very loudly today.


Other composers influenced by Buddhism include John Cage, Jonathan Harvey, Philip Glass and Edmund Rubbra. Lou Harrison's interest in the East also meant he was a great advocate of the Gamelan. So was Colin McPhee.

Lou Harrison and Free Tibet mandalas are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2009. Middle image is a Wheel of Time Mandala (Kalachakra Mandala). Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk