R.I.P. Leon Kirchner

Influential American composer Leon Kirchner has died at the age of 90.

Obituaries have appeared in the New York Times and on NewMusicBox. But more touching, I think, is Jeremy Denk’s heartfelt farewell.


Golden Fur in Sydney

Here is a really weird review by Rachel Orzech of the concert Golden Fur did for New Music Network in Sydney last weekend, containing music by Liza Lim, Kate Neal, Alvin Lucier, Jaap Blonk and Marco Fusinato. It’s weird in the sense that Orzech seems fairly confident in her assertions of what the ‘average listener’ would like to have been done differently, but doesn’t criticise the musicianship in any way whatsoever. In my experience, the ‘average listener’ at a concert of this sort of repertoire is there to, er, listen. Maybe they know what a pure wave oscillator is, and maybe they don’t, but ultimately this is utterly irrelevant to the success or otherwise of the work.

In the case of the Marco Fusinato piece, while it might be both interesting and informative to see the artworks that constitue the score, having these visible during the performance of the work would, I think, prove overly limiting in terms of how the audience is then invited to interact with the sounds themselves. The audience would effectively be encouraged to listen for a 1:1 relationship between image and sound, which is never a constructive way to listen to a performance, regardless of the work.

I don’t know. Maybe things like emphasising concert structure, or explaining how a piece works are actually important. But they can’t possibly be remotely so important as the sounds themselves. And, as I said at the start, I just find Orzech’s almost myopic focus on issues such as lack of eye contact or explanatory verbiage really… weird.

Golden Fur is something to experience with your ears and your mind. Everything else is sundry. And I wish I’d been there.


Aaaaaaaaages ago, on the 31st of July, there was a concert at the Richmond Uniting Church given by Quiver, a newly formed contemporary music ensemble. Anthony Lyons has reviewed the concert for Resonate magazine, but it (undeservedly) completely slipped SoundisGrammar’s mind.

I don’t have too much to add to the linked review, except to say that one of the great strengths of the concert was its extreme diversity. The composers on the program are all from utterly different worlds, and rather than seeming like a disconnected mess like many such concerts are, the superb musicianship of Quiver was able to not only transcend these differences, but capitalise on them. The differences between the works were sometimes exaggerated, sometimes elided, commonalities were found, illuminated and explored, discrepancies were collided. In short, the program resulted in a sensational play of resonance between remarkably different sounding bodies.

Luke Paulding’s work, her sparkling flesh in a saecular ecstasy, is also deserving of comment. I didn’t, perhaps, like it quite so much as Anthony Lyons did. I wasn’t convinced by it architecturally, and thought that some of the sounds (or rather, their mode of production) seemed to err towards calculated sensationalism, rather than sonic or semantic meaning. But this was a very, very strong work, of the sort that I would have sold my soul several times over to have been writing music this interesting when I was in my early twenties (or even now, in my late twenties…), and it seems clear to me that …saecular ecstasy heralds the arrival of what promises to be major new voice in the Australian compositional landscape.