Monday, February 8, 2010

David Fennessy 's Bodies: A Haunting and Iconclastic commentary on taxpayer funded art.

I don't normally do classical music reviews, but after surviving the premiere of David Fennessy's aptly named new work 'Bodies' feel I have to. I have to wonder how much RTE knew about the piece before it was premiered - One imagines the conversation would have run like this:
The scene: An office at RTE headquarters. Mr Fennessy is explaining his
latest project to his sponsor.....

RTE: So how's it going ?

Composer: Great! I'm just putting the finishing touches now. I've added a selection of Japanese gongs to go with the Harp.

RTE: But don't you also have 8 double bases?

Composer: Yes - there's no point in doing anything by halves. Actually I think 8 is a minimum....

RTE: A Minimum? Won't it be a little ... basey?

Composer: Not really - the double bases are needed to balance the augmented percussion section in the room next door to the stage.

RTE: What?

Composer: The extra percussionists. They'll be in a room next to the auditorium and will be playing as well.

RTE: Ummm, won't that confuse the audience? Isn't one of the unwritten rules of Classical Music that all the people playing the music be in the same location as the audience? And the conductor for that matter?

Composer: But rules are made to be broken! Having all the orchestra actually in the orchestral venue is a pointless tradition that has long outlived its usefulness. With the piece I've moved beyond melody and harmony. They weren't adding anything. Not only that, I've eliminated the ludicrous requirement that the instruments complement each other when played. At one point I even have the Harp, the Japanese gongs, all eight double bases and the percussion section in the next room all going at once!

RTE: Isn't there anything conventional about this piece?

Composer: Well, at the very end the string section suddenly breaks away and starts playing harmoniously for about thirty seconds. It's a doomed yet beautiful act. Sort of a musical equivalent of the Warsaw Uprising. Then the piece ends.

RTE: So let's get this right - we've given you licence payer's money and you've written this?

Composer: Yes. Actually we'll need a bit more cash. Some of the musicians are demanding Danger Money to play it. They are concerned about the audience reaction.

RTE: But no normal person is going to want to listen to this...

Composer: So it'll fit well with your other stuff then?

RTE: Hmmm.. We do Property Porn, Reality TV shows about people who don't drink, Reality TV about schools nobody cares about, startlingly predictable current affairs programs...Yes, I can see a fit...


The above conversation may not have taken place but I swear to god the music is as described. If you don't believe you can see an interview of Fennessy on YouTube where he freely admits all this. Except the bit about danger money....

4 comments:

China said...

"I don't normally do classical music reviews"

This 'review' should't have gone any further than this line. Next time, why not do something better than choosing a subject that you don't understand but still dislike, then going on to tell us absolutely nothing about it.

David Rolfe said...

"This 'review' should't have gone any further than this line."

Why not? it's my Blog, I was there, and I know enough about music to know pretentious garbage when I see it. To be blunt I don't think my opinions are far removed from the majority of the audience, who were at best baffled and in at least one case visibly distressed

cicero said...

"I know enough..."

How does one quantify such knowledge so that one knows when one has arrived at a sufficient amount of it?

In the meantime, I know enough about logic to know "argumentum ad populum" and "appeal to authority" when I see it.

David Rolfe said...

I have to wonder if 'cicero' and 'china' - both of whom are anonymous - aren't the same person...

Surely telling me I don't know enough to offer criticism is an 'argument to authority'?

As as to referring to 'argumentum ad populum' - When I went to this performance I was in a roomful of people who had spent time and energy going to the NCH and were about as a happy as AIB shareholders by the end of it...