Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji
November 27, 2009 11:51 AM   Subscribe

The closing 4 pages are so cataclysmic and catastrophic as anything I've ever done — the harmony bites like nitric acidthe counterpoint grinds like the mills of God...

His work Opus Clavicembalisticum (1930) for solo piano takes between about 3¾ and 4¾ hours to play and consists of three sections, each divided into several movements, and each larger than the last. ... His longest work Symphonic Variations occupies 484 A3-pages of manuscript in three volumes and could take about eight hours to play. - Wikipedia (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (18 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
The closing 4 pages are so cataclysmic and catastrophic as anything I've ever done

Meh, he ain't go nothin on Brian Ferneyhough.

Seriously though, great post. I'm looking forward to doing a lot of listening this afternoon.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:00 PM on November 27, 2009


I really like Sorabji's Le Jardin Parfume. He and Scelsi are among my favorite composers.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:15 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest piano piece ever written.

The Guinness committee is a bunch of snobs. They wouldn't even consider my seminal One Billion Eight Hundred and Ninety-Two Million One Hundred and Sixty Thousand Sixteenth Notes in F.

Some nonsense about "bathroom requirements."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


...the first link. wanted to link to this image.

Cassandra's Dream Song.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski: "this image"

CLUSTERS FUCK YEAH
posted by idiopath at 12:49 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much for this.It's a nice gift for a thanksgiving weekend. I'm a huge fan of Messiaen and both Sorabji and Ferneyhough seem to sound on first listen, to these not so expert ears in this area like they have a congruent spiritual or intellectual vision.
posted by Skygazer at 12:56 PM on November 27, 2009


Wow. I never thought that we'd be discussing Ferneyhough on MeFi. Somewhere between Sorabji and Ferneyhough lies Michael Finnissy.
posted by ob at 2:12 PM on November 27, 2009


If anyone is interested in exploring Sorabji, the first stop I recommend is his 100 Transcendental Studies, currently being recorded by Fredrik Ullén on Bis (2 CDs have been released so far out of, I think, a planned 6). The individual pieces are brief enough that Sorabji's tendency towards turgidity is not allowed to overwhelm the music. His 20-plus minute fugues, which show up in other extended pieces, can be a lot to take; he has a dogged insistence in wringing out every last possibility from his themes, which can feel more like seeing hundreds of boxes checked off than witnessing genuine musical inspiration.

Opus Clavicembalisticum is of course fun to gawk at, but I don't believe there's a good recording yet. I was told to buy the John Ogdon recording over the Geoffrey Douglas Madge, but the Ogdon is kind of painful to listen to, especially with the score in hand when you can see just how much he's resorting to approximating the written notes; basically it sounds like the most impressive sight-reading performance ever. I hear that Jonathan Powell (who has a great recording of the Sonata No. 4) is working on a recording, but that's waiting on a new corrected edition of the score. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.
posted by dfan at 3:08 PM on November 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


dfan: "Opus Clavicembalisticum is of course fun to gawk at, but I don't believe there's a good recording yet. "

Marc-André Hamelin, are you reading this?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:56 PM on November 27, 2009


Ferneyhough makes me want to hurt him.

Sorabjis variations immediatly made me think of Beethoven and Frederic Rzewski and the limited literature of the mega-variation.
posted by sundri at 4:03 PM on November 27, 2009


tl;dl
also:
MOAR COWBELL!!!111!!

/philistine
posted by tspae at 6:42 PM on November 27, 2009


Call me a sucker, but Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated is one of my all-time favorite piano pieces, and it's so fucking fun to play.

Ferneyhough makes me want to hurt him.

Yeah, I get that. Some of his music has some magic, but most of it is really the apotheosis of contemporary concert music masturbation. I mean, you gotta have some big douchey balls to name your 'movement' "New Complexity," as if you couldn't tell from the score that the guy was kind of an asshole. Plus there is something about complexity for complexity sake - complexity to the extent that a genuine representation of the score is impossible in actual performance - that just sort of turns me off, even if some of the music is interesting to listen to.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:31 PM on November 27, 2009


Some of his music has some magic, but most of it is really the apotheosis of contemporary concert music masturbation. I mean, you gotta have some big douchey balls to name your 'movement' "New Complexity," as if you couldn't tell from the score that the guy was kind of an asshole. Plus there is something about complexity for complexity sake - complexity to the extent that a genuine representation of the score is impossible in actual performance - that just sort of turns me off, even if some of the music is interesting to listen to.

Yes.
posted by ob at 10:33 PM on November 27, 2009


John Tesh could handle it.
posted by bardic at 10:38 PM on November 27, 2009


the apotheosis of contemporary concert music masturbation

Exactly! From my point of view, It's often complexity at the expense of competency.

But as an aside... is there power in Ferneyhough to demand our attention at the mere mention of his name in a post about Sorabji?
posted by sundri at 1:38 AM on November 28, 2009


Eh, from my point of view music doesn't all have to serve the same function, that we benefit from a diversity of music with different mission statements, and complexity for complexity's sake is as valid as any other. So Ferneyhough is fine by me.

One justification I've heard for this complexity/difficulty is that, even though in many cases performers can merely approach an accurate performance of the score, the supreme effort and concentration required produces an intensity that is not otherwise possible. Richard Barrett has said that the complexity of his music is inspired by the emergent intricacy of freely improvised music.

I don't totally buy these explanations -- using obsessively detailed notation to capture improvised gestures seems a bit like circumnavigating the world in order to cross the street -- but I don't mind them, and in contrast, I often find the movement to make contemporary concert music more "accessible" to be pandering and condescending. John Corigliano is at least as much of a dick as Ferneyhough.

Anyway, back on topic, thanks for this post! I don't know much about Sorabji so I'm looking forward to finding out more.
posted by speicus at 7:07 AM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


John Corigliano is at least as much of a dick as Ferneyhough.

That's fantastic.
posted by ob at 1:53 PM on November 28, 2009


I dunno, sounds like his cat was walking on the keyboard, but thanks for the links.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2009


« Older Budd Boetticher   |   "Mirabel International Airport... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments