Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Play it and they will come


In response to my post 'Today's Koan: what is the sound just before Beethoven Nine?' reader Tim Brooke added a comment asking 'Does Beethoven 9 even need an accompanying piece?' Which reminded me of this appreciation by the composer R. Murray Schafer of the Ten Centuries Concerts which ran in Toronto from 1962 to 1967.
What made Ten Centuries Concerts unique was that the choice of music always came first, above the performers and the tastes of the audience. In a lengthy article on Ten Centuries Concerts I tried to explain how putting two pieces of music together on a program is like a montage in film. The law was formulated by Sergei Eisenstein and it states that two agglutinated pieces of film combine to produce a third effect different from the sensations produced by either piece in isolation. As examples from the first year of Ten Centuries Concerts I might mention the thirteenth-century chant fable, Aucassin et Nicolette paired with Schoenberg's twentieth-century Pierrot Lunaire. I might also mention that in the 1960s Toronto audiences were as ignorant of medieval music as they were of twentieth-century music. Another flamboyant experiment was a performance of Bach's Musical Offering, based on a tune that Frederick the Great gave to Bach followed by compositions for jazz band based on the same tune.
R. Murray Schafer is seen above and the passage comes from his autobiographical My Life On Earth And Elsewhere. I have written previously in appreciation of R. Murray Schafer's music, and it is shameful that the thirteen quartets of this 86 year old Canadian composer remain neglected despite their incontestable merit - excellent recordings by the Molinari Quartet of all but the last quartet can be heard on Spotify. It grieves me to say this, but it would be far easier in today's paradoxical culture where virtue signalling takes precedence over merit to generate interest in his richly deserving music if R. Murray Schafer was a female composer.

Header image is taken from the Esprit Orchestra's video The Musical Mind #2: R. Murray Schafer. New Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

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