Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

The Love and Passion of Leo Gandelman

First Festival of Brazilian Music in London [iii]
at Venezuela’s Bolivar Hall – 2 & 3 November 2007, 7.30pm.


With Leo Gandelman, Saxophonist par excellence, a Paganini-style virtuoso, and his Band, you are back into the folds of traditional jazz – with a piano, and Oh what a Piano! Grand and ultra-modern performance by David Feldman – and musical improvisation, though (interestingly enough to observe) not in the world of syncopated rhythms such music is usually linked with.

Gandleman is most certainly a classical man, and a man of the classics – with 3 different Saxophones on the stage – tenor, alto, basso – and perhaps ‘ten’ more … at home in Brazil, the new Brit-American Govs restrictions would not allow him to bring along on the airplanes in case his jazzman’s breath explodes the aircraft …

Gandelman plays the Saxophone and every possible tonal and textural permutation of it like … Paganini played the violin and the latter’s critics of medieval mindset thought that the Devil had possessed Paganini enabling him to do all sorts of things no other violinist until then was ever able to perform. I bet the medieval fundamentalists of red-neck America would think the same if they ever had the chance of experiencing Leo Gandelman and his Band, with David Feldman at the piano, whose fingers sometimes like a plectrum pluck on the hammers inside the Grand Piano’s wing, and plays it like a huge guitar …

This young David is a … Goliath of the piano, so blended with it and his music-making that he succeeds in converting the piano into an extension of his own body – you cannot tell whether he becomes the piano, or vice versa, the piano becomes his fingers … David Feldman’s future is even more brilliant than his present – he shall soon be a second Duke Ellington who can now rest in total peace and harmony...

Incredible but True

Could anyone ever think or imagine that delicate almost feminine pizzicati – the mark of Paganini’s diabolical violin playing, could ever be achieved on a Saxophone, the most virile of the musical instruments?

Incredibly, that technical impossibility is achieved by Leo Gandelman, whose music pours out of every pore of his body – a tall, slender figure, dressed in all white, he cuts the shape of a Chekhovian Seagull … his 2nd night appearance was like a Crow at the Tower of London – dressed in all black, with a beaten up face and a weathered alto Saxophone looking like an old banger of a car, but the music it produced via Gandelman’s godly breath was as tonally perfect and texturally beautiful as anything human can ever be.

To say that Gandelman is an old Pro and a true showman –especially when he reveals his idiosyncratic trademark towards the end of his shows – he deserts the stage to his Band and descends the stairs to join the audience while playing continuously for individual audience-members, covering the whole auditorium front to back and back to front, driving people Bacchus-wild and mad-drunk on his music – it is high compliment indeed in British cultural terms, but it recognizes nothing of Leo Gandelman’s genuine warmth and extraordinary humanity towards his fellow man manifest through a consummate artistry.

People (the audience) feel loved by Gandelman’s love of sheer music and his virtuoso music-creations (not to say production). I could witness it – I was lucky enough to be there – and I wouldn’t care if I had just won the obscene sums of the British Lottery!

Leo Gandelman is human love and music incarnate. Music and love for humanity stream out of him as in the flood plains of the Amazon River. A classical stylist from the moment of his first appearance – he shuts his eyes and is off, creating his own world of fertile sound – and when he opens his eyes and is back again, already his keyboard player is in his (Leo’s) created world, in total harmony with him.

And so are Gandelman’s youthful Drums (Allen Pontes), and Bass (Alberto Continentino), even his technician (David Ruv) … they all adore him – very soon to be joined by everyone in the audience, young and middle-aged and old alike, in awe and wonder at Leo’s playing of every possible Saxophone type, from the Bass Sax to the Alto, which sings like a flute on his lips and sounds like a Clarinet in his hands.
Gandelman is such a total master of the instrument that it seems he could play any kind of saxophone under the sun with equal virtuosity.

Musical Jokes – Humour in Serious Music

The great Haydn, “Father of the Symphony”, possessed a great sense of humour – in the 2nd Movement (andante) of his Symphony No. 94 in G nicknamed ‘The Surprise Symphony’, he put a sudden loud chord to “startle the Ladies”!

In the ‘Clock SymphonyNo. 101 in D, again for the 2nd Movement, he wrote in a ticking accompaniment, and a lot of fooling around in the Menuetto allegretto.

My (and most people’s) favourite is the massive protest-joke in defense of his fellow musicians’ human rights, daring his patron Prince Esterhazy to change plans and return his Court nearer to Vienna, to enable the musicians to be closer to their families – the ‘Farewell Symphony' No. 45 in the extremely rare Key of F sharp Minor – in the last Movement, Haydn added an Adagio, whereby he gradually reduced the number of the instruments, to let his musicians snuff out their candles in turn one by one and leave the stage … until only Haydn and the First violin (Tomasini) were left to bow to the Prince, who was enlightened enough to get the joke and grant Haydn his polite political trade-unionist request …

Haydn seems to have pioneered the Jazzman’s act of joking with fellow musicians and audiences alike – a joyous ‘jokey’ ambiance among the classical Jazz music-improvisers on the stage is the mark of a great Jazz session. And Gondelman has plenty of it with his band-members who he really seems to love always as his children and frequently as siblings – he offers a glass of water to his exhausted drummer half his age … and ends his Sax-as-Clarinet playing of Cartola’s As Rosas Não Falam (=Roses Speak Not) on mere breath-exhalations – perhaps the complaint of a Shakespearean lover’s sighs ...

I am sure if Haydn was given the miraculous chance of returning to this planet as a jazz-man, he would have selected Leo Gandelman's body, whose surname suggests to me to be a corruption of the yiddish “Candle-man”.

On the famous Bossa Nova and its missing French Factor

I like the way Gandelman puns musically on Bossa Nova (=New Wave) everybody’s favourite Brazilian musical innovation, the very word and concept invented in the 19-fifties by the great Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, pianist, guitarist, and composer, himself influenced by cool jazz referring to the harmonies of Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan.

Stan Getz, the American jazz saxophonist, caused a Bossa Nova craze throughout America in 1962 with his Jazz Samba album, which included among others Jobim’s musical meditations Desafinado and Meditation, hitting No 1 in the US charts. Desafinado even won a Grammy Award – Jobim himself was invited to perform the same year in New York's Carnegie Hall with Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.

Jobim had come to international attention in 1959, when the film Black Orfeus for which he had composed music (with the guitarist Luis Bonfa) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, and then an Oscar the same year for the best foreign film.
One cannot forget the essential vital contribution rendered to Bossa Nova by the singer/ guitarist Joao Gilbert. I like the melodic and harmonic complexities, if and when they occur. I am not one for simplistic naïve art in our very complicated globalized lives. I feel no nostalgia for the fanciful good old simple life that never wasas long as human beings have been, are and shall be endowed with an all-consuming sexual passion, for the Woman as the child-bearer, there can never be a simple life.

Occasionally, Bossa Nova gets too diluted in its attempt to be all-inclusive, inducing a certain artificial Bourgeois-camp (New York style) nasality to its vocal twang, although one could search for the roots of this in the nasal vocals of the Brazilian rural cabaclo music.

In its time, under military boots, Bossa Nova was a commendable medium at integrating human and aesthetic limitations and inadequacies – Songs like Samba de una Nota So (= Samba of a single Note) is a case in point, as all sambas are of a single note … and excitingly Desafinado (=out of Tune) and syncopated, but most certainly always erotic A Garota de Ipanema (=To the Ipanema Girl) – obviously autobiographical, as Jobim (its composer) was born in Rio de Janeiro, but grew up in Ipanema – a neighbouring town on the sun-drenched beach.

What astounds me is the fact that no musicologist hitherto seems to have cottoned onto the historical reality (distracted by the above-mentioned Stan Getz publicity stunt in the USA) that the major influence on the Brazilian Bossa Nova must have come from the sound-tracks of the innovative French film-making known precisely by the same words in French the Nouvelle Vague (=New Wave).

The significance of this un-acknowledged cinematic (musical) fact is that the innovative French style was itself unwittingly trying to find a new visual language to express the emotional anxieties caused by the huge intellectual upheavals brought about by French Existentialism (of Jean Paul Sartre) – an immediate result was the sudden increase in youth-suicide rates listening to the sweetly depressive songs of Juliette Greco … To my ears the french-y lilt of Jobim’s Ipanema Girl is a perfect fit for any Jean Luc Goddard film!

Time for Musical Change

Leo Gandelman displays a healthy attitude to the venerated Sacred Cow of modern Brazilian music by endlessly punning teasingly on the concept and its themes – Bari Bossa, Bossa Rara, but never Nova!)

To begin with, he eliminates its nasal vocals – he could have kept them if he really wanted to – Leo can and would do anything if he feels it is right for his musical purpose.

More like a super nova he sucks his audience into his own world of Bossa Rara inspired by the heavy rain falling on his window panes in Rio, improvising a series of musical variations on themes by William Magalhaes and Juliano Zanoni, but also sophisticated Miles Davis and Europeanized New York, even jumping to Hollywood Pink Panther … juggling all the time to stay rhythmically more Afro-Euro US jazz than Brazilian candomblé.

I agreed entirely with Leo's conjecture that Ary Barroso may be the future of Brazilian Jazz – I would add Jazz-rock-and-heavy-metal fusion, futuristic (in the meaning of the Italian art-term), brilliantly proven by Gandelman and his Band’s rendering of Barroso’s remarkable composition Na Baixa do Sapateiro. It seems to amalgamate astonishingly all of the rich rhythms of the Brazilian world from the native Indian highlands down to the African beach towns, the flamenco of the colonialist masters, and the … prairie-American hamburger-growing ranchers.

Most of all, there is the heaving bossa (=wave) of a post-modern Metropolis, with its futuristic inner dynamo running relentlessly, like a train in perpetual motion, fatefully and perhaps fatally.

There is an overall rhythmic ‘mathematical’ constant in Barroso’s composition, a metronomic, machine-running dynamo-driving rock-beat, hammering throughout, typical of the restless White North American on an ethereal eternal journey traversing the vast prairies from one end of the (East) coast to the other (in the West) driving an old Oldsmobile or a Buick ...

Very interestingly, Barroso’s seemingly US-inspired post-modernism was anticipated by Baden PowellCanto de Ossanha rooted in native Brazilian grounds, inspired by the complex poetic tapestries of Vinicius de Moraes (a remarkable English translation by Nadia Kerecuk that preserves the linguistic complexity of the original).

Baden Powell – not the British inventor and founder of the global Scout Movement, but a most famous Brazilian composer, whose father having been Brasilia’s Scout-master had named his son to honour his British idol, this Brazilian Powell’s Canto was converted by Gandelmn’s Band into a greater masterpiece I think, more compact than Barroso’s slightly indulgently stretched Na Baixa.

But of course with a consummate creative virtuoso like Leo Gandelman, there can be no minor work – everything he touches, turns to 24 carat gold. He loves and lives Music – his grand passion. His variations on the world-famous Brazilian melody Tico Tico (by Zequinha de Abreu – incidentally, a surname meaning Hebrew) recorded by many, including the inimitable Carmen Miranda (Chico Chico in Americanized spelling), drove Gandelman’s audience simply Bacchus-mad!

It is when he left the stage to play all over the hall for the audience members, that they jumped to their feet and went wild with dancing and clapping and almost lap-dancing in the first row like ancient Bacchanals … all the while Leo’s deep love for humanity shining brilliant through them all, breathing on and bathing them in sheer happiness.

I have witnessed nothing like it.

I think Leo Gandelman and his Band should be taken up by the United Nations as Ambassadors of good will, to travel the world all year round, to bring joy to the masses as Brasilia’s gift to mankind for Soul, joy, peace and happiness, beyond and above all inhuman sordid politics that kills the human soul.

Leo Gandelman and his mates can re-incarnate the dead souls.

And that is the magnificent Miracle of virtuoso Music-Making.


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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

Hamilton de Holanda and Cheo Hurtado
2 Grand Masters of Making Music
First Festival of Brazilian Music in London [ii]
at Venezuela's Bolivar Hall

And the first night of the First Festival of Brazilian Music (1 November, 2007, 7.30 pm - at Venezuela’s cultural centre in London} exploded with a Big Bang of immense creativity.

Complex Overlaps and overlapping Complexities

As the Chavezian revolutionary Democracy is breaking-up the oligarchy of the South American political elites (with hands in North American pockets), it is simultaneously forging patriotic (not, ‘nationalist’) multi-ethnic cultures typical of the South American continent. And herein is embedded their original power and creative strength. The South American countries, more than ever, shall come out as ‘national’ cultures in harmony with each other, precisely because their genuine historical multi-ethnicity constitutes their common ground, blossoming and expanding, truly globalizing their creative impetus, unlike the racist, mutually destructive, ultra-nationalism fostered by Fascist regimes – like that of the mentally unbalanced (I think – later proved by his suicide in 1954) President Getúlio Vargas. The fascist use of multi-culturalism is a ‘nationalist’ abuse, a form of collective rape of the ethnic group that produces it – like Vargas, suddenly getting the ‘brilliant’ marketing idea of stealing and promoting the African-rooted samba as a Brazilian-national cultural symbol, while perpetuating the White supremacy by treating the poverty-ridden Blacks of the country as Second class-citizens.
Vargas was mad like that; proud to be a Mussolini aficionado (like Mosley's Jew-bashing Black Shirts of Britain), yet he would declare for the Allies in the Second World War, merely because he was annoyed by the hyperactivity of Hitler’s agents in Brazil …

Genuine egalitarian multi-culturalism in South America now given a second life by the Chavezian revolutionary impetus could only emerge in Brazil in the late 19-sixties through the immense efforts of young music-makers warmly known as the Tropicalistas, fighting for creative and societal freedoms, sustained by the masses who were their audiences. Led by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, after their return from exile in London, these musicians consciously sought out and forged egalitarian respect for the cultural products of all the ethnic groups constituting the tapestry of the Brazilian people, organizing ‘liberational’ music festivals under the general title of Tropicália.

It is almost a divine gift and a privilege in London to be a contemporary witness at the cauldron of creativity of the resurgent multi-ethnic brew being made at the Bolivar Hall. The peoples of South America are all the world’s inhabitants in one – from the Mayas, down to the African slaves, and the ignorantly labeled ‘red Indians’ in between (hugely genocided out of their land by the “Pilgrim Fathers”).

And here is an overlapping complexity a genocidal killer-idiot from the CIA School of Americas could never understand;

In reciprocation for the kindness of lending them the Bolivar Hall, the Brazilians had invited one of … Venezuela’s great music-makers, to switch on the powerful lights for their Brazilian music – an act of practical Socialist brotherhood if ever there was one.
And what an excellent choice of a star musician than Asdrúbal Cheo Hurtado – a grand master of the mandolin, the guitar, the tres, the bandola guayanesa, and double bass, but most of all the cuatro, a toy-like contraption very much emerging as the ‘national’ instrument of the Bolivarian-Chavezian Venezuela.
Cuatro is half a traditional Guitar. Its name meaning ‘4’ in Spanish is thought to refer to its 4 strings, half the number of its mother-instrument. But I think there is a clever little folk-pun on the word meaning a quarter – a quarter-instrument that is really half a size – a complex ‘proletarian’ joke not for the dim-witted US killers. The great Armenian composer Komitas used to say; “Tcharern miyain yerk tchunin” = only evil people lack songs = cannot sing, they cannot produce music. Hitler was Wagner-mad – the Nazis produced some kind of ‘classical’ copy-cat sculpture/architecture, but definitely could not produce a composer!

It is important to note that, of limited technical capacity, the cuatro is obviously a poor man’s guitar, more percussive than melodic. The massively exploited, highly-strung, are forced onto the move continuously, merely to survive, they have no leisure time to sit in a space they can call home (if they had a shack they could call their own) to relax and listen to … Baroque melodies – a dynamic cuatro is more than enough for their needs.

But not for Cheo Hurtado – in his hands, and as evidence of his creative genius – a tribute to the good (not evil) man’s musical genius transcending time and class, the cuatro becomes … all the various instruments Hurtado knows how best to play, including the classical Spanish guitar (of the immortal Andre Segovia).

The cuatro is played with bare fingers (and fist!), not with a plectrum. Hurtado’s Right hand is a miracle of … speed. You have seen nothing like it! His breathtaking percussionist climactic crescendos are a sight to behold, never mind to listen to … The wonder is that his instrument does not break as Hurtado definitely breaks the boundaries of cuatro music.

I missed though in Hurtado’s repertoire a deeper, darker, and a more melodic range in the revolution of the instrument that he is affecting. He should occasionally restrain his technical percussionist wizardry and bring to life the darker tunes of Venezuelan music. There is too much of a revolutionary joy in Hurtado’s music-making, even though his looks do betray a certain existential sadness typical of all deeply creative people. For a sensitive human soul, even the life-enhancing revolutionary joy can never override the emotion of profound tragedy felt at the thought of existential mortality. The display of such melancholy is anwyay technically vital to highlight the spiritual joy portrayed by the other side of the existential coin. Joyous celebration does need the occasional tragic sadness to relieve it.

Hamilton de Holanda Vasconcelos Neto is the Brazilian master of the mandolin played with a plectrum – a physical disciplinary inhibition (compared to the full hand-use on the cuatro) which Hamilton transcends effortlessly. A Renaissance instrument of limited potential, Hamilton has transformed the mandolin into almost a … Grand Piano! And not only because he has consciously extended its polyphonic potential by adding an extra string (low C) for a total of 10.

Capitalism vs Musical Socialism

Wearing sable tinted Levis, Hamilton walked onto the stage as if from under an American 1930’s Oldsmobile, with his little-mandolin instead of an oil-can – mechanic garage-chic … bolshie towards Hurtado, determined to knock him out in a musical mating game … But something extraordinary happened, of such uniqueness, un-repeatable, that I wish everyone I love was there to have experienced it; Hamilton’s ‘capitalist’ musical aggression was slowly but surely won over by Hurtado’s patient musical … socialism, which caused a massive creative miracle.
When the two petite-instruments finally achieved musical equality and brotherhood, their master music-makers produced such intensely passionate music of such profound humanity and sheer energetic life-force that it left one stunned – incredible crescendos with impossible precision of pitch, and crystal-clarity of musical diction … They shot the audience with rocket-speed (Japanese bullet-trains?) over the moon, in sheer unadulterated existential happiness.

I am certain such culturally mixed-music – Brazilian ‘Portuguese’ with Venezuelan ‘Spanish’ – reflects planetary motion. People usually forget that we live on a planet which turns around the Sun in unimaginable speed every second of a minute, to which is owed our daily life on earth.

Hamilton plays with all of his body and all over the place. Initially, I thought he would even walk all over the audience … Music drips from his music-soaked physique.
Yet this bull of a man in a musical china shop, helped by Hurtado’s musical kindness, could transform himself instantly to a most gentle giant of unusual compassion, all-giving, all-sharing the moment he called his orchestra onto the stage.

And what an orchestra of first-class musicians; André Lopes de Vasconcellos, electric guitar; Daniel Santiago, acoustic guitar; Márcio Bahia, drums; and last but foremost the unexpected co-star to Hamilton’s mandolin is Gabriel Grossi’s chromatic harmonica, rendering the formation of the Band conceptually totally original. Gabriel holds the American prairie-instrument in his mouth perched (like a favela …) a-top a microphone in his left hand, and plays (with the right hand) like a Blues-singer, on a par with Hamilton’s mandolin.

Gabriel Grossi ‘s harmonica sound usually emerges as a lonely voice, as haunting as Modest Mussorgsky’s delicate and highly civilized melody played out of the harsh cacophony of the barbaric nature of a Night on the Bare Mountain (1867), here, in the Hamilton de Holand Quintet surfacing frequently from the oceanic depths imaged by Márcio Bahia’s tympani.

Márcio Bahia, looking like an olive-oiled Turkish wrestler, is a hard-rock Drummer in every sense of the words – I had never heard such petrifying (puns intended!) sounds of cold stone, with heavy-metal hammers, mining massive pieces of musical rock, as if to re-build Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem …
With elaborate rock-band psychedelic stage-lighting, Márcio Bahia could scare the pants off the female members of the audience! He is a one-man rhythmical cement-mixer, holds everything together, and is not even a show-off … He kills you with the power of his stone-age music.

The Hamilton de Holanda Quintet illustrates the remarkable South American revolutionary musical innovation that needs to be urgently globalized – Brazilians and Venezuelans seem uninhibited in orchestrating the most unusual instruments into harmonious ensembles of contrapuntal polyphony.

Endowed with a towering height, Hamilton’s musical fusion with his orchestra is so noble and giving and loving (non-diva like …) that he physically seems to melt away in amongst the average heighted music-makers of his group, although his solo appearance seemed quite the reverse, and rightly so (I am all for the British-style mixed economy actively imitated by the Chinese Communists ...)

There is no doubting Hamilton’s strong egalitarian bond with his musicians, to which was owed the intense beauty of the music created about a large Brazilian animal called the Ant-Eater – Hamilton’s emphasis (in his verbal explanation) on the “little”- ness of the ants was significant and indicative of its ample reflection in the music – a clash of complex contrasting rhythmic patterns woven contrapuntally in harmonies that could explode the cavernous Royal Albert Hall.

Hamilton the Great came to his own yet again for the last encore of the evening – In an act of extraordinary socialist fraternal graciousness, he invited the most civilized Cheo Hurtado back onto the stage to accompany him in a masterly interpretation – a series of wonderful variations on Besame Mucho. It left me in no doubt whatsoever that Hamilton must be a great lover of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Jehovah of all music.

Even if Hamilton himself would belie me, I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe him.
I long to hear one day live, his interpretations of Bach and even perhaps Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart … I would hop on a plane to Brazil for it – provided of course that there won’t be yet another junta burning down the Amazon forests to fatten the American hamburger-eaters.
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Friday, 23 November 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

First Festival of Brazilian Music in London [i]
at Venezuela’s Bolivar Hall


Something new is forging ahead in Brazil. An amalgam of new socio-political creative forces is in the fore – a brand new bossa nova (= new wave) forming in Chavezian Venezuela is engulfing South America. It needs a new form of art-criticism. This is an attempt at such.
It is no more possible to sit back in a genteel concert-hall and pontificate rigidly and frigidly upon a worn-out interpretation of a Beethoven Sonata, even if it were The Appassionata.
Mono-instrumental virtuosity in the classical West shall have to live cheek-by-jowl now with multi-layered polymathic musicianship; the new master music-makers of bursting multi-ethnic cultures are polymath instrumentalists.


Socio-political Meditations
For a country (Brazil) half the size of a whole continent (South America), and the 9th largest economy in the world, to have its very … 1st Music Festival concert in London is “passing strange” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet would have it …
We should really have celebrated by now a Golden jubilee of Brazilian Art-festivals, not its first. The classically minded Armenians say ush lini - anush lini = let it be late, but only if it be sweet! The equivalent in Portuguese of mais vale tarde que nunca = but better late than never!
Still, the fact needs a theoretical explanation which led me to a series of meditative thoughts –
Brazil possesses a miraculous wealth of (not only Gold and industrial raw materials – the target of the Miami-mafia driven corrupt politicians in US pockets) but also the rich tapestries of multi-ethnic cultures, all interweaving as powerfully as the electrically charged neurons of the active human brain.
There is nothing on this earth like the country of Brazil.

It contains the largest population of Black people outside Africa, and the largest Diaspora of Japanese people, in addition to pre-literate groups of people (still referred to as ‘primitive’ by some) – known (like the Yanomami and the Piraha), and still unknown hunter-gatherers in the Amazon rainforests, which are truly the lungs of this planet Earth – its destruction is everybody’s business, and not only the despicable ranchers of the Brazilian political elite flushing them down the Hamburger guts of the American toilets.
Replenishing the devastated rainforests of Brasilia must be crucial in the global fight to save our lives on this planet.

If the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva meant every word he uttered at the Plenary Session in New York of the 61st United Nations General Assembly (on 19th September 2006, and I urge you to read it) http://www.brazil.org.uk/newsandmedia/speeches_files/20060919.html
then the rest of us in the world must feel grateful to the Brazilian people for the collective wisdom of electing him as their president (only last year) for a 2nd term of office. Lula da Silva seems to be the first incorruptible President of Brazil, without any strings attached to US / CIA government-puppets.
Unfortunately, President Lula and his supporters in the world, have no time to waste, neither the world can afford to wait – he better quicken his Nelson Mandela-type evolutionary laid-back rhythm and join forces with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to affect true Bolivarian revolutionary changes in the world, towards the realization of the 3 simple principles of, not Marxism, but … the French Revolution that still have the power to save life on earth from Climate Change;
Egalité= Social Equality

Fraternité = Brother-and-Sisterhood of man-and-womankind that leads to social mobility, the corner-stone of Meritocracy as the post-modern paradigm of the social structure overriding skin-colour and class-stratification

Liberté = Freedom, as a fundamental and vital human right, and not a luxury given by post-modern slave-mongers like the ex-imperialist governments of the West.

The whole of South America needs to be liberated from the economic strangulation of the United States governments.

See what the latter are doing (still!) to miniscule Cuba – subjugating it for 4 decades now to economic genocide they call it ‘Sanctions’, while simultaneously trying to explode Fidel Castro’s … beard!
Fidel Castro is Simon Bolivar re-incarnate, and he shall be heeded to by the masses of the poor at all times even after his unthinkable natural demise.
Yes, incredibly, the whole of South America had been enslaved by the American governments since the end of the First World War in vicious replication of the Spanish and Portuguese imperialisms, in envious competition with the British Empire and the latter’s ‘ownership’ of India, Australia, and most of Africa.
Cuba, pre-Castro was a Mafia-brothel for the Miami rich. The genocidal US economic sanctions against Castro’s Cuba are the shame of the UN subservience to the US. Little Cuba shall remain America’s Achilles Heel, until the gangrenous legs of the North American giant are amputated by the likes of Hugo Chavez (Bolivarian President of Venezuela) and Evo Morales (‘Red Indian’ President of Bolivia) and hopefully Lula da Silva (The Trade Unionist shoe-shine President of Brasilia).

Corrupt Politicians and their Culture
What is a "corrupt politician"? Simple really – s/he is a brazen compulsive Liar of the first magnitude.
The great William Shakespeare had defined it perfectly in Hamlet’s words referring to his murderous uncle – “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” – a very American marketing definition indeed … And their culture?
Corrupt politicians are philistine swine – their genocidal culture is that of Las Vegas money- launderers; Prostitution and Drugs.
And Brazil until last year had god’s plenty of them – As late as the 1990s, special Police death-squads were formed in Rio de Janeiro shooting parentless homeless street-children dead, as a means of cleaning up the city… while the Creole ranchers stuffed North American gullets with hamburgers, and luscious Black Brazilian women escorts, with the most incredibly beautiful African Bottoms became the www porno Queens of the world wide web.

Brazil needed and found its first kosher president (in Lula da Silva) to mine for (to use trendy Business-discourse) and dig the priceless riches of its true creative culture – no wonder then the joint enterprise with the Chavezian Venezuelans involved with similar efforts manifest at the Bolivarian Hall in London, where all concerts are FREE.

I am hoping that the day shall come (very soon?) when the 3-day Brazilian Music Festival evolves into a month-long Festival of multi-ethnic culture, where else but in multi-ethnic London.

I would love to hear one day (for example) Os Escravos (= The Slaves), spoken by the great humanitarian British Shakespearean actor Paul Scofield; written in 1883, by Antonio De Castro Alves, famous in his own time (and ahead of the British Abolitionists … ) as the “poet of the slaves”. There is nothing like it in Britain’s abolitionist culture, nor anything like Tiradentes (1746-1792), a hero of the Brazilian Republicanism, who planned a University, and modern … social services once rid of Portuguese imperialism.
If the Portuguese imperialist genociders had not hanged and quartered Tiradentes (=tooth-puller=dentist) in public in Rio de Janeiro (April 1792), he may have created the world’s first National Health Service; and the unacceptable inhumanity of the shanty towns (the notorious favelas) may never have arisen.

Musical Meditations on Culture

Superficially, people I know identify Brazilian music with Copacabana Beach-belles sexualized for the delectation of the Miami American impotent millionaires and their mafia gamblers. Everyone of my generation would have heard the catchy tune of the beach-y song Besame Mucho (=Kiss me! A lot!), performed from Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Charles Aznavour down to Placido Domingo and … the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The No 1 hit was not even Brazilian, but Mexican, if such typicality could be claimed, as the song was one of the first cases of world music – easy on the ears, non-descript light music canned for the bored receptionists of posh hotels throughout the Western world dreaming of Copacabana beach romance.
The beautifully named Consuelo Velazquez, a Mexican teenager had written it (in 1940) before turning 16 herself – critics were surprised to discover that she had not been kissed by then … when in fact precisely because she had not, that she wanted it passionately in her song! The more interesting point is that she was inspired by an aria in a Spanish opera by Enrique Granados. I myself think Besame’s popularity may be owed to the sunny flavour of the Italian Neapolitan songs popularized by Mario Lanza.
There cannot be a soul in the world who has not heard of the Rio Carnival, and the African originated, percussion-dominated people’s samba (imitated annually in London’s Notting Hill Gate). Samba-s were possession-dances, noticeable even in the jerky movements of their much diluted Ballroom dancing versions – what the BBC punters think are modern sexy teases. Various bateria (=drums) manifest the complex wide-and-wild ranging fertility rhythms of different gods in Nature.
The Argentinean originated tango on the other hand, that outraged the puritanical hypocrisies of the 1912 United States when first introduced there, is grounded in a complex combination of ‘taking’ inventive variations of long steps and instant postures – very Spanish 16th century aristocratic peacocks … enhanced by syncopated dotted rhythms (of 2/4 and 4/4) rooted in the … Cuban habanera.
The history of the Iberian Peninsula is complex - long before the Spaniards and Portuguese formed as separate ethnic nations, the Muslim Moors owned it - and their historical record is just being re-discovered, after a deliberate loss by the Christian genociders from France.
The Spanish ruling Arsitocracy treated the Portuguese as their lower orders - this historical fact can be detected in their subsequent linguistic fossils - the Spanish language imitated the delicate soft phonemes of the French aristocracy, while the Portuguese pronounciation is soaked in 'roughage', further rough-ed up in the colonies of Brazil. However much the Portuguese patriots may disagree, I must say that historically speaking, the Portugese language may be a dialect of the Spanish language.
Borrowing a linguistic metaphor, I would further suggest that musically the Argentinean tango is a Dialect of the Brazilian samba (no offence meant to Argentinean patriots!).

It is impossible not to think of many South American musical forms simultaneously, when thinking of the Brazilian samba, tango, candomble, maxixe, choro etc., of the fact that South America is really a whole hot world on its own, needs to unite as a federative Union – just as the Brazilian civil state itself is constituted – to release its immense, boiling and bubbling multi-cultural creativity, by liberating itself first of all from the North American economic domination, I call the Slavery to the US.

With Gilberto Gil now as President Lula’s Minister of Culture, a Black musician to his core – and I do intend a pun on the Spanish corazon = heart, spirit – once imprisoned by one of those endless vicious CIA-trained Brazilian military juntas – Gil had escaped to London to save his Caribbean skin … now back in Brazil, and in power, one hopes he can initiate a resurgence of Brazilian multi-ethnic culture as a whole, and not only of its mystical music.

O How I long to hear the likes of Bachianas Brasileiras by the incomparable (and prolific – he produced 2,000 works) Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), without whose very existence the unique Frenchman Jacques Loussier’s glorious jazzed-up Bach would not have been born.

With such thoughts in mind, swimmingly in a stream of consiousness - onto the First Night of the First Brazilian Music Festival in London, at Venzuela’s Bolivar Hall;

1 November, 2007, 7.30 pm. [to be cont.]

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Saturday, 18 August 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

Superbly Dramatic and Dramatically Superb

Myrna Moreno as the Old Lady in Lord Byron's Love Letters - R. D. Bamfield

Myrna Moreno is a remarkable mezzo-soprano, with almost a baritonal middle range, as if born to sing intense Oratorios.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was labeled a “walking Encyclopaedia” … one could similarly characterize Miss Moreno as a ‘walking Oratorio’!

Miss Moreno’s appearance on even a simply lit stage is so powerfully dramatic, so intensely tragic in the most grandiose sense of the word that she appears like a sacred ritual matriarchal icon, the likes of which one only encounters in the plays of the great Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca.

Miss Moreno has an excellently developed sense of her dramatic operatic vocal potential – she selects her repertoire perfectly. For her solo concert [on 6 June 2007] accompanied perfectly on the Piano by Miss Diana Wright, at the Bolivar Hall (the cultural centre of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in London), Miss Moreno seems to have focused on displaying her considerable vocal range upwards from the lower registers – unfortunately with music that rarely allowed the flow of her two (top and middle) ranges smoothly into one another – instead, even though the tones were made full complex use of, but they mostly stayed separate, shining like brilliant but individual diamonds. I longed for songs that would flow together and burst the shores of Miss Moreno's vocal range.

I was not happy with her accents when she sang in different languages. As a perfectionist, and familiar with eleven languages, I cannot condone the received idea that classical Singers should be forgiven their linguistic inadequacies compensated for by the beauty of their tones

I insist that Ravel’s Chanson Francaise should not sound like his Chanson Hebraique, and both sound like his Chanson Espagnole – even though I do not mind the fact that this latter may echo Bizet’s Carmen …

The sensation, nay, inspiring Revelation of the concert evening was Miss Moreno’s introduction of the Venezuelan Antonio Esteves (1916-1988), a most remarkable Song writer of intense tragic sentiment, unheard of in London concert halls.

Myrna Moreno as The Secretary in The Consul - G.C. Menotti

I have now lived in London for four decades, and I have not heard anything like this composer’s extraordinary recitative-like narrations of heavily symbolical tonal tapestries, which Miss Moreno performs to Christ-like perfection;

Here comes the man from Mariguitar
Last night he went fishing

Singing he went to sea
And at Dawn came back dead

Miss Moreno petrifies you with her vocal magical expressionism! You dare not breathe, in case you wake the dead in her Esteves song (Polo Doliente).

A hundred puzzles get carved on Miss Moreno’s visage, midstream while singing – ultimately perhaps about life and death. They need answers that Antonio Estevez does not provide in musical resolutions – He articulates Death with Major Key(s) – with intense fury, instead of the sweet melancholic Minor Keys one is accustomed to in post-Baroque European classical Music.

In El Ordenador = milking-song where the cows are called, Miss Moreno converts her recitative middle line into an almost oratorical contralto;

The Virgin of Sorrows is coming to visit you
“Carro de Oro”

thus persisting with and preserving the purity of her upper Soprano-line – the two lines never dripping (like milk) into one another;

Up there in the hills I have a clear well
Where the Virgin washes her little feet and face
“Nube blanca”

Myrna Moreno as Ana in The Seven Deadly Sins - Kurt Weil

Antonio Esteves deserves global recognition. The true worth of his music can only unfold itself in the art and craft of a consummate artist like Miss Moreno, whose intensely tragic sense of existential being (= Life) seems to be well-tuned and in perfect harmony with the composer’s.

Antonio Esteves is nothing like Schubert, but everything like the Armenian classical composer Komitas (1869-1935), who was arrested in Istanbul (in 1915) by the government of the Young Turks, as one of two hundred fifty intellectual leaders of the Armenian community,
to be killed – the signal shot of the genocide of a 'headless' million Armenians that followed it.

Komitas was well-known in Berlin, as a Founding member of the academic International Musical Society – probably the first of its kind in the world. His life was spared, but not his witnessing of the genocidal deeds.

As a direct result of the inhuman horrors, Komitas fell ... silent, lost his mind, and never uttered a word, literally, for another twenty years, breathing his last in an Asylum in Paris.

The great Claude Debussy had heard his music, and said of Komitas’ masterpiece Groonk=crane (the bird; the Hermes-type of Messenger in Armenian culture), which expressed musically the variations of the bird-in-flight, while the lyrics sang of the Refugee’s longing for his hearth, that if Komitas had composed nothing else but that song, he could have been regarded as one of the great composers of all time.

I wonder if Antonio Esteves had somehow heard the Komitas song referred to by Debussy, whose music he must have known most certainly.

How I wish that one day both composers – the Venezuelan and the Armenian – are performed together in the same program for an evening of exceptional musical experience.


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Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Prof Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

A Unique Concert of Well-Timed Truths
at the London Barbican


David Barsamian is a Good American (and an Armenian) – in fact, an excellent one – the best manifestation of American decency, compassion, and classless egalitarianism – a rare species indeed nowadays in a world polluted, devastated and on the verge of global destruction because of US corporate imperialism.

George Bush junior – twice the fraudulently selected non-elected President of America succeeded in converting the American State into the most hated in the world, rendering it practically impossible for Good Americans like David Barsamian to tell another story – that of American love of egalitarian Democracy and Renaissance humanism.

Barsamian could remind people in the world that it was the American citizenry that battled hard to destroy their governmental destroyers of the Vietnam – the pity of it is that the new generation of the American citizenry have not yet woken up to do the same to the destroyers of Iraq – alas, alack, Poor Yorick …

Barsamian is the Founder and Director of Alternative Radio – a bold brave broadcasting unit, speaking the truth about things weekly from the clean-air Mountains of Colorado (USA). He alone in America dares give a voice to the much-reviled Prophet adored in Europe, Professor Noam Chomsky, who solo in the USA dares castigate the lies, the damned lies and the endless lies of the American Governments and their imperialist agenda for permanent world-domination – defined by the Pentagon illiterates as “Full Spectrum Dominance”!

Barsamian is not your typical brash and loud motor-mouth American radio-man with inane jokes and smutty hot-air – Barsamian possesses European intelligence and quiet refinement. He is also creatively innovative – he had the brilliant idea of producing for Londoners (at the Barbican Arts Centre28th July 2007, 7.30 pm) a unique “Radio-show” on a ... theatre-stage, beautifully designed and lit by Laurence Neff, with first-class sound production by the audio engineer Brian Mohr.

Birds of a feather flock together – they absolutely must to deface the tarted-up face of inhuman capitalism. The excellent Barsamian had the equally excellent idea of inviting to the podium a most articulate intellectual, one of Britain’s rare and unique truth-speakers, Tariq Ali, to talk to him about the vast problems of this wretched world re-barbarized, re-nuclearized and re-missiled by the Mafia of the US neo-Cons.

With straight questioning and up-front answering, together, bravely and boldly where no right-wingers wish to hover, David and Tariq weaved a sharply observed tapestry of world events, displaying the horrible images of poverty, neglect, disease, sheer inhumanity caused directly by the exploitation of the world’s peoples – the starving masses, devastated by high-powered ruling elites, greedy and totally corrupt in every meaning of those words.

Tariq and David took us on a journey going from America to China, passing through Pakistan and India, returning to the Middle East – the Palestinian suffering and the Nazi policies of Israel acting as the client- state for the US socio-political oligarchy (my words, not theirs). They were on the cusp of reaching Africa, when time ran out …

Perhaps the show should have been scheduled for two performances – and made more available to Londoners – the world’s most expensive city, indeed, with 12 English Pounds and 50 pence for the cheapest tickets!

Why O why, No Concessions for the students, unemployed, and the Pensioners? – Because they would constitute most of the audience?

No one who could afford paying £20 for a single ticket, plus all the accouterments – transport, food and drink – would possess the brain-interest to attend such a show anyway …

Politics and Music is another of Barsamian’s formulae that manifested itself perfectly this night – and what better choice than the great human-rights concerned Kronos Quartet.

Concert sophisticates are universally made to suffer collective amnesia by the music-world elites (subservient to the political oligarchs) about the profound links of
classical music to day-to-day socio-political events;

The greatest, Johann Sebastain Bach lost a job in a Church because he had the ‘folly’ of entertaining a girl-friend on the job! Mozart’s operas mocked at the sexual peccadilloes of the upper-classes and their hypocritical ‘Christian’ morality. Beethoven was furious with Napoleon’s conversion from a French revolutionary Liberator to a tuppeny Tyrant.

Schoenberg’s insistence on including every half-tone of the scale and imparting to them equal value and worth was an act of egalitarian Socialism and the destruction of centuries old classical musical hierarchies!

All praise to Kronos Quartet, with virtuosi players – with the most perfect holder of the base line I have yet encountered (Jeffrey Ziegler cello), valuably voluble viola (Hank Dutt), sweetly mournful ‘second’ violin (John Sherba), led by the gloriously learned ‘first’ violin David Harrington, a musicologist of the first order, and uniquely heartwarmingly humane!

They have transformed their traditional instruments electronically into communicative-media of every sort, able to produce every imaginable sound, occasionally helping themselves of other instruments and even their own human voices – they play world-music globally – global music worldly-wise.

But even they, the timeless Kronos – the first god of classical Greek mythology – can occasionally slip-up – their mythological namesake used to swollow his new born children annoying his wife, Gaia=mother Earth, who did all the child-bearing!

The absence of a printed program with background information for a concert cannot be right for post-modern tastes. It gives the impression of penny-pinching and deceit on behalf of a rip-off Management.

To do it in the name of musical Improvisation is even worse; Absolute improvisation in the professional performing arts (even in Jazz) is a gimmicky nonsense, as professionals (especially the virtuosi) develop over time their own (Plato’s) world of forms and structures while creating a personal repertoire.

As a connoisseur of Kronos Quartet, I could detect the items played, like their arrangement of a love-song by the Lebanese female star Feyrooz, married to one of the Rahbani Brothers whose music she sings exclusively throughout the Middle East; the Bollywood love-song mehbooba mehbooba = O My Beloved, immortalized by Asha Bhosle, the Bollywood film star married to the composer of the song, the late R.D. Burman. Miss Bhosle is thought to have recorded more than 12,000 songs … Still – I would have loved to have had a printed program with Notes by the learned Mr Harrington, whose writing is always a joy to read.

The Program opened with the execution of the US National Anthem in the version of the late rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix – an extraordinary piece, which I think shall emerge eventually as one of the great musical compositions of all time – it is of course impossible to dissociate it from Hendrix’ own masterful performance of it. Hendrix played it on his eclectic electrical guitar, and the result is an inspired piece of inimitable perfection. He begins playing the American National Anthem, to variation it to eventual total destruction – an immensely complex work of extraordinary dissonant-harmonies, because I think Hendrix poured all of the anger and frustration of a whole people – the American nation, and his own racially abused Black people, against the military-industrial barbarism of the Vietnam War.

I think the Kronos Quartet should have left the Hendrix original alone. I appreciate that they produced very well the sheer ugliness, violence, and Genghis-Khan style of cacophonic aggression … but I feel they bulldozed the sophisticated complexities of the Hendrix piece, which is highly textured in rhythmic nuance, melodically refined while in gradual dissonant dilapidation and eventual cacophonic destruction of melody and rhythm – All …

They could have broadcast the Jimi Hendrix recording of it, or done better creative justice to the symphonic polyphony of the piece which Kronos is generally extremely competent at achieving otherwise.

I am afraid my reservation for Miss Wu Man’s pipa featuring the opening item of the Second Part of the evening is similar. Wu Man is a consummate virtuoso of the Chinese lute (the pipa) – no doubt about it. Her fingers swim like boneless eels and flow like the waves of a running river.

She played a most celebrated Chinese musical piece of great antiquity that has survived, titled The Great Ambush, usually learnt by ear in old China, passed on in performance from Master to Disciple – it began to be written down during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in a kind of notation using numbers. It is an ancient example of what I call ‘narrative music’ - otherwise called “programme-music” post-Strauss and his symphonic poem Don Juan, although a peak illustration could be served by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

The Chinese melody tells the story of a famous battle between two generals, Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, won by Liu Bang, who then proceeds to found the Han dynasty (in 206 BC). The music represents a complex aggregate of textured sound, rhythmic proto-counterpoints with abrupt changes of tempo, imitative of a clash of body-armored armies, their spears and swords, and even the thuds of primitive cannon balls (the Chinese had already invented).

Miss Man is of course an unsurpassed master of exciting rapid strumming and twanged notes – I was therefore much perturbed when she inexplicably bull-dozed (American dumbing-down?) all complex, subtle, highly visual and onomatopoeic rhythmic variations – as if she suddenly got lazy and could not be bothered to scale the ancient depths of the piece, which is what the Kronos Quartet does famously and with great musicological panache.

In between, I agreed of course with every word Tariq Ali and David Barsamian uttered, filling the evening with thought-provoking ideas without a second of boredom setting in. Their up-to-the-minute well-informed analyses of world-events could not be bettered. But I wish that David Barsamian would not cast himself in the role of an interviewer, even though I appreciate it is his professional label – it plunges the interviewee into an unnecessary halo of superiority, when in fact Mr. Barsamian himself is every inch an equal – he aught to conduct his interviews as conversational Dialogues, rather than deferential monologues.

It could have been even more of an exciting evening if occasion was created for audience participation – like a phone-in – allowing members to make brief comments or put questions. Perhaps next time!

What was most heartwarming, after exposing all the miseries and wretchedness of our post-modern world of rampant globalization aka inhuman exploitation of the masses of the world from China to Palestine by the filthy rich getting unimaginably, mythically wealthier upon the dead bodies of millions and millions displaced and murdered in pointless imperialist wars, was the paean sang by Tariq Ali and David Barsamian of hope of an alternative world being created on the South American continent, against all the odds of evil American imperialist aggression and CIA terrorism – a truly peaceful revolution for true democracy and freedom through the Ballot Box, and not down US weapons of mass destruction, led by the true man-of-the-people, Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, re-elected last year with the 70% of his country’s vote, against America’s George Bush Junior, a fraudulent President if ever there was one, ruling the American roost via electoral fraud like a Banana Republic-an!

Evo Morales, scion of the ‘Red-Indian’ the Americans genocided 200 years ago in the North American continent, today is the democratically elected President of Bolivia, dedicated to improving the lot of his people much raped and massacred by the US military-industrial complex, as in all of South America from Colombia to Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Chavez and Morales, with Chomsky, John Pilger, Barsamian and Tariq Ali may yet defeat the evil American empire with their sheer Good, of human decency and compassion.

Long may they survive America’s satanic evil.

It is time that the poor of America – 50 million of them, join hands with the poor of the rest of the world to create another world more than possible – truly realizable as an actual global fact.


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Friday, 6 July 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts


The month of April in 2005 was the month of Max (as the composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies would like to be known) at London’s Royal Festival Hall (RFH).

Some shall disagree with me – some always do – but I am certain that Max is Britain’s greatest living composer, hence the Latin titles I have endowed him with … I am glad that at least Her Majesty the Queen agrees with me, having just had appointed him the Master of her [the Queen’s] Music.

Max is one of the most intensively formally educated men around – has studied Music in Manchester, Rome and at the Princeton University (USA). The sheer quantity let alone quality of his work is impressive.

I wish to focus here exclusively on his Symphony No. 8 – the Antarctic (premiered on 30th April, 2005 at the RFH), a symphonic poem against Pollution, which I think will emerge as the first great work of the 21st century music.

It proves yet again, that a composer with pure sounds as his palette, can nevertheless paint profoundly political themes (following Beethoven’s lead).

Musical inheritance detected in a composer’s work (otherwise labelled as ‘influences’, ‘references’, I call them - continuities) cannot be regarded as detrimental to the originalities of a composer’s own conceptions.

Of all the arts, especially in Music, continuities are essential to preserve an aristocratic (meaning 'classical') progeny that endures and leads to greatness. Repetition is the Soul of Music.

Max, thus, musically, is of the highest noble birth – I would say out of the wedlock of Wagner and Stravinsky, with some midwifery from Debussy!

I am no fan of later Stravinsky (Oedipus Rex – 1927), and especially dislike Wagner’s (1813-1883) oeuvre – incestuous, overstretched, macho racist absurdities (no wonder Hitler loved him), but I am passionate about Max’s own music produced in the last half a decade.

Stravinsky could not cope with his own volcanic originalities exploding in The Firebird (1910) and The Rite of Spring (1913), and went off-tangent into Collage and Neo-classical hot air (Pulcinella 1920). It is still a crux in Stravinsky scholarship as to why?

Wagner on the other hand, had difficulty finding his way back home to his tonics … even though incredibly, he became the greatest single influence on all music post-him – Strauss, Mahler, Sibelius, you name it, could not be born without his massive input.

But thank god for the failures of Wagner and Stravinsky – for here comes Max, and marries them off successfully in his music (the Antarctic Symphony) – evoluting their music the way they would have done, if only they could or knew how to … endowing their continuities with such rich and huge complexities, that the Wagnerian-Stravinskian originals in comparison sound like children playing …

Max has become an absolute master of complex orchestration. Debussy’s (1862-1912) music is illustrative, of some simple overall images (most famously La Mer=The Sea 1905). Max’s music on a parallel track (the Sea is crucial to Max’s music too – he lives drenched in it on Orkney Islands off Scotland) is profoundly, intensely, incredibly visual, almost on every phrase and cadence, more so than a symphonic poem by Strauss.

No other composer seems to me to possess such an extraordinary cinematic visuality – almost like a film-director, like a Fellini or Kurosawa. For this very same reason, I was appalled when the powers that be, forced on us the concert-goers at the RFH premiere of the symphony, projections on a huge screen of Max going on slow-motion walk-abouts among the icebergs of Antarctica, which made a nonsense of the unique visuality of his music – I had to shut my eyes throughout to focus on it ...

The ending of the Antarctic Symphony is a coup de theatre – it doesn’t end so much as it fades into the vastness of the universe, like a drop dripping from a stalactite off the edge of an iceberg.

It very much reminded me of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion – the Everest of Western Classical music – the ending of which is most unique in world music – a kind of Lullaby, as Jesus (murdered for and by our sins) sleeps in peace in his Father’s (not Mother’s) arms - Bach’s daring reversal of the maternal stereotype! - ready to wake up – for Resurrection. Bach’s music here, unending, merely fades into God’s universal space.

It remains for me to confirm that, besides being the great composer that he has become in the last half a decade - Max too had his ‘modern-music’ excesses earlier in his career - Max is also a very great writer of the English language, undiscovered yet – the Diary extracts of his Antarctic experience published in the programme prove it.

Finally, and incidentally, Max is also a first class raconteur filled with joie de vivre – having heard him, I can firmly say that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies could have been a great ... stand-up comic - the classical gentle kind - were he not the great composer that he is, and that, right at the start of our new 21st century.


On 24th April 2005, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies gave a magnificent lecture at the Royal Festival Hall concerning the present and the future of Music in Britain. He had no hesitation in decrying the evils of money-grabbing obsession and Globalization, causing massive soul-destruction globally – I myself would call it the US Imperialist Genocide of the Human Soul.

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