Composer Peter Fahey on Music of Friends and Colleagues

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The music of Irish composer Peter Fahey has been performed by iO Quartet, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and Talea Ensemble, among others. In 2012, he was named the winner of the American Composers Orchestra's Annual Underwood Commission and on October 25th, the ACO premiered Fahey's A Mirror to Kathleen's Face alongside music by Fred Lerdahl, Julia Wolfe and Christopher Theofanidis.

Peter Fahey writes the following of his Mixtape:

While I’ve included a couple of very brief moments from operas by Helmut Lachenmann and Salvatore Sciarrino - both which have had a big influence on my own writing - most of the music here is by younger composers I know who I think are writing really good music. It’s always exciting to hear the music my friends and colleagues are making.

Jonathan Harvey’s Speakings is a piece I’ve been listening to a lot recently. I’ve just finished writing a piece for the American Composers Orchestra for the opening concert of their Orchestra Underground series at Carnegie Hall on October 25; in it I derive harmonic material from a computer analysis of a recording of speech. Harvey’s piece is the obvious model for any piece that involves speech and computer-aided composition nowadays. 

I heard Yoshiaki Onishi’s Départ dans… at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn last year performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble with Yoshi conducting. It’s an impressive piece and an impressive performance; this is the recording from Issue Project Room.

I met Hendel Almétus at the Wellesley Composers Conference in Boston about a year ago and got to hear his Rêves Transcendants rehearsed and performed. The second movement is a very moving setting of some biblical texts including a passage from Song of Songs (“Arise, my darling… come with me”).

Taylan Cihan is a Turkish composer living in Upstate New York who designs and builds his own analog and digital electronic instruments and uses them for improvised performances he calls Gameclectic. I’ve been to some really great concerts of improvised music in the past couple of years; listening to really good improvisers and thinking about how one would notate what is being played highlights the limitations of musical notation, even notated music, and these performances have undermined my relationship with musical notation (in a good way, of course!).

I first heard Ulrich Kreppein’s music about five or six years ago when I met him at a composers workshop in Weimar. There is something nostalgic or Neo-Romantic about Ulrich’s music but it never sounds “old” or derivative; to paraphrase something Lachenmann has said about his own recent music, it looks back without taking a step back.

Petite chambre is the first movement of a set of miniatures for string quartet by Mu-Xuan Lin. There’s an impolite quality about this music that I like. The violent, deliberately harsh-sounding outbursts - superimposed onto something more measured and sedate - curiously flitter away at the end and leaves us wondering what is going to happen next.

A lot of Christopher Stark’s music is inspired by the landscape of the Western United States where he grew up and I think there is a genuine attempt in it to write a new, alternative classical music of the American West. The music he writes for live instruments with electronics is especially good.

I’ve been revisiting some of Björk’s older albums recently after hearing "Biophilia." I think "Homogenic" and "Vespertine" in particular are two really incredible albums. I’ve included Unravel here, a track from Homogenic, but there are so many good songs on both of these albums, I could have chosen almost any track from either of them.

My playlist begins with a short piece called Bird’s Lament (in memory of Charlie Parker) by one of my favourite American composers, Moondog.

1. Moondog - Bird’s Lament (Moondog and the London Saxophonic)
2. Jonathan Harvey - Speakings: I. (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Ilan Volkov, conductor)
3. Yoshiaki Onishi - Départ dans... (Wet Ink Ensemble; Yoshiaki Onishi, conductor)
4. Björk- Unravel
5. Ulrich Kreppein - Phantasiestücke I: Windinnres (Ensemble Modern)
6. Helmut Lachenmann - Teil 2: An Der Hauswand. Schwefelhölzern: Ritsch 3  (SWR Sinfonieorchester; Sylvain Cambreling, conductor)
7. Hendel Almétus: Rêves Transcendants: Rêve II - Rencontre (Tony Arnold, Soprano; Wellesley Composers Conference Ensemble)
8. Taylan Cihan: Gameclectic
9. Salvatore Sciarrino - Luci mie traditrici: Act 2, Intermezzo II  (Klangforum Wien; Beat Furrer, conductor)
10. Mu-Xuan Lin - Petits Quatours: I. petite chambre (Lydian String Quartet)
11. Christopher Stark: Two-Handed Story Telling (Andrew Zhou, piano)

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