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Thread: Brian Ferneyhough

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    Quote Originally Posted by keqrops View Post
    I haven’t spent that much time listening to Ferneyhough’s music, but I love what I’ve heard. When I first read about New Complexity I imagined something like Hans Joachim Hespos, so I was surprised to hear how beautiful Ferneyhough’s music is. I’ve been loving pieces like Lemma-Icon-Epigram, La Chute d’Icare and no time (at all) recently, they’re all so intricate and flow very nicely. I hope I’ll be able to do a deep dive into his works soon. Shadowtime impressed me as an opera where the music can really stand on its own.
    The last couple of things I listened to were the second quartet and Time and Motion Study 1, both seem to me rather nice.
    Last edited by Mandryka; May-08-2020 at 16:30.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Ferneyhough wrote his own solo violin music. The Freeman Etudes are, I think, totally random sounds made by the instrument. I think that there's other things going on in the Ferneyhough.

    No, Cage notated it. In the Mode recording, with Irvine Arditti, there's a photo of John Cage holding up the score while Arditti attacks it. Of course, it depends on what you mean. The music by Cage certainly sounds 'random' on a certain level, but is too frantic and changing to be what I would call truly 'random-sounding.'

    Brian Ferneyhough? Wasn't he in Roxy Music?
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-08-2020 at 18:07.

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    How to pronounce his name? Andreyev pronounces it 'Furny-how.'

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    No, Cage notated it.
    He notated the results of a totally random process of composition -- like in the Variations II the performer notates the result of a totally random process.

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    The music by Cage certainly sounds 'random' on a certain level, but is too frantic and changing to be what I would call truly 'random-sounding.'
    I just cannot bear that Arditti recording, nor the Fusi one. But I finally found one I like -- well it's the Borealis Etudes but it's the same sort of thing fundamentally.

    61UlllGy1qL._AC_SL1200_.jpg
    Last edited by Mandryka; May-09-2020 at 06:08.

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    I'm ready to dip my feet in the water. Where to begin?

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I'm ready to dip my feet in the water. Where to begin?

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  8. #82
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Ferneyhough wrote his own solo violin music. The Freeman Etudes are, I think, totally random sounds made by the instrument. I think that there's other things going on in the Ferneyhough.
    There probably are, since Ferneyhough is using more intentional compositional procedures. Ferneyhough's use of complex notation is to fix "aleatoric effects" of sounds into a totally fixed rational language, creating precise aleatoric-sounding events without it being truly 'random.'

    T
    he effect of many of the 'nested tuplet' and complex rhythmic notation, when listened to, sounds like gradual slowing or 'rubato' phrasing. It's like certain 'uneven' events happening within a measure, which totally obscures any underlying pulse.

    So the factor of intention in the compositional process is the big difference between Cage and Ferneyhough, but the net result might sound the same to some listeners.

    The use of complex notation, unusual for Cage, makes the Freeman Etudes a kind of 'comment' on the New Complexity. John Cage "sticking his nose" into places it doesn't belong. It's the "idea" of randomness that gives people problems.


    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-09-2020 at 12:51.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    I'm trying to get into Ferneyhough a little, and coming up with nothing. Those of you who like him, what do you like about him?

    Also, every article I've read about him talks a lot about these over-the-top nested rhythms. As many people have pointed out they are not playable by humans, so is this purely conceptual? If so, what is the concept and why is it interesting?
    This link might prove illuminating:

    https://youtu.be/bec1B3h3F4g

    My take on it (this is just my opinion) is that Ferneyhough has taken the sound of randomness and has made it "legit" by using the complex notation. Thus, the "idea" of randomness is dispensed with, and the composition (and composer) gains the legitimacy of intention (associated with the complex notation of Boulez and others) which it would not otherwise have had, since people have a problem with music produced randomly, like John Cage.

    As Samuel Andreyov said, it's impossible to play a Ferneyhough piece 100% accurately. So, there is an element of "conceptuality" at play here, since the actual score is an "impossible ideal" to an extent, and exists as an unrealized idea.

    I think Ferneyhough's strategy is to escape the label of "randomness", which seems to be Cage's territory historically (and was ultimately rejected by Boulez), and to establish himself as a legitimate composer who actually "composes" with his intent, not chance. Yet, the net result sounds uncomfortably close to random to many listeners, I would imagine.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-09-2020 at 12:47.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    There probably are, since Ferneyhough is using more intentional compositional procedures. Ferneyhough's use of complex notation is to fix "aleatoric effects" of sounds into a totally fixed rational language, creating precise aleatoric-sounding events without it being truly 'random.'

    T
    he effect of many of the 'nested tuplet' and complex rhythmic notation, when listened to, sounds like gradual slowing or 'rubato' phrasing. It's like certain 'uneven' events happening within a measure, which totally obscures any underlying pulse.

    So the factor of intention in the compositional process is the big difference between Cage and Ferneyhough, but the net result might sound the same to some listeners.

    The use of complex notation, unusual for Cage, makes the Freeman Etudes a kind of 'comment' on the New Complexity. John Cage "sticking his nose" into places it doesn't belong. It's the "idea" of randomness that gives people problems.


    One thing I want to say is this -- Cage seemed to find a way of transforming random sounds into beautiful music by doing two things:

    1. Using notations which give the performer the opportunity to use his discretion, creativity. This gets their commitment, their engagement.

    2. Using silence. The silence in Cage's compositions make them somehow introvert, and engaging when you're in a Zen mood.

    When Cage notates random music fully, so that the musician is on rails, the results seem much less satisfactory, especially where there are a lot of notes. I don't know if I've ever heard a satisfying performance of Music for Changes, for example, in fact, I don't know what it would be other than a technically correct one. And maybe the most satisfying performances of the Etudes add expression to the score -- something he may not have wanted. (Crismani)

    On the other hand, this piece of random music seems beautiful to me, it is in a way fully notated but there are important points of performer discretion: "for any number of players, using any sound-producing means" so they can be creative.



    and this, the score derived from the random shapes of rocks in a Japanese garden, but look: "For any solo from or combination of voice, flute, oboe, trombone, double bass ad libitum with tape, and obbligato percussionist or any 20 instruments" -- so they are all engaged in turning the score into something musical.



    Ferneyhough never does anything like this. He wants to get the musicians' engagement by giving them something very difficult to do, but his scores have a structure, which I can hear. They never sound random to me. Of course his music is so complex you may never hear all that's going on. The uploader of this recording of Time and Motion Study III has kindly reproduced some notes by the composer which are quite revealing of the way his mind works

    Last edited by Mandryka; May-09-2020 at 17:51.

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