I’ve been thinking lately about how there’s so many different worlds in London. One day I can be walking through a street market full of regular down-to-earth people; the next I can be out at the student bar watching a lot of people my age spend their earnings on getting a bit drunk and crazy; and the next I’m in one of the fanciest halls in the city, playing for a large group of extremely wealthy individuals who are more concerned with which fork or wine glass to use than with whatever I’m playing to entertain them. I feel like I can move freely between so many of these situations, but it’s so strange to feel like a different person in each: a nobody. An equal, a colleague. An object. An employee. A child, an adult.
Not sure where I’m going with this anymore. The world is complicated, everyone has different priorities and they’re often unaware of anyone else’s.
I had a really strange week, but at the end of it I did get to perform Louis Andriessen’s De Staat in Queen Elizabeth Hall. Apparently the hall is a really important venue for contemporary music, and this year the The Rest is Noise has been going on at South Bank, chronicling the entire history of 20th-century music. Obviously we’ve got to the tail end of things now, as De Staat was composed in 1976.
The more I researched and played through it, the more I enjoyed this piece, which is actually unusual for me since most of the contemporary music I genuinely enjoy is more jazz fusion, such as Kapustin and Earl Wild (who will be included in one of my performance projects this year.) Andriessen was making a real statement using the words of Plato about music - the part about how different musical modes affect society (differents modes used for war, peace, celebration, etc.) The interesting part is that he’s both rejecting Plato’s insistence on the importance of music and its effect on society, while also wishing he could have been right and trying to see ways he could be right.
The whole piece is based on one short theme repeated over and over in many different ways, a typical minimalist structure. The ensemble is symmetrical, acting as 2 “teams” that go in and out of sync, including 4 mezzo-sopranos (perhaps a reference to muses). The text has two of them act as the teacher, two of them as the pupil. All instruments except brass are miked; Andriessen was using modern technology to his advantage, so there are some truly disturbing sections where you can’t figure out what strange sound is dominating the room, and you realize it’s the violas and harps :)
There are all sorts of weird, technically difficult sections where everyone has unison awkward 16ths, which I believe is some sort of reference to “The Machine” of society. At other times it sounds like this strange and violent war dance. Most of it is really quite loud and violent. I feel like I’m not describing it very well, so anyone interested should just look it up.
Hmmm, feeling anti-writing at the moment, sorry. I will keep you guys updated. Pictures are of Queen Elizabeth Hall, obviously!