- Paperback: 552 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (6 Jan. 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 3718655772
- ISBN-13: 978-3718655779
- Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,589,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Brian Ferneyhough: Collected Writings (Contemporary Music Studies) Paperback – 6 Jan 1995
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The book is divided into four sections: Essays (remarks on compositional and aesthetic matters), On His Own Works (descriptions of ten works from the 1970s and 1980 and the process of writing them), On the Works of Others (three pieces on Webern, Finnissy and Ruggles respectively) and Interviews (fourteen in all, ranging from 1977 to 1994).
My initial impression of the book is that Ferneyhough writes the same way his scores look. To quote just one representative paragraph:
"The immediate goal of this strategy was dual in nature: firstly, to point to that shadowy area which, in every work of art, separates overt realization and 'prehistory' (that of the genre and of the individual work) and conditions, in large part, the limits and density of discourse. Secondly, I aimed at suggesting ways of approaching and learning to converse with the complex chain of perceptual layerings which is situated between the listener and that still center of apprehension where the actively imaging and synthesizing ear comes to experience the elements of the work as *radiating out from it*, including it as an irreducible participating datum in the meaning-production of their motions."
Furthermore, besides writing highly "intellectual" music, Ferneyhough is keen to connect his work to other intellectuals. Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Adorno, Hegel and Elias Canetti are mentioned a number of times. Those who already suspect that Ferneyhough is a phoney will probably be turned off by this kind of talk and read no further.
But in fact, in spite of Ferneyhough's consistently highfaultin' way with words, what he writes always means something and it is not at all obfuscation for the sake of looking clever. Once you've got used to the writer's tone, this collection is helpful indeed in getting to grips with some daunting repertoire. I can now make sense of "Unity Capsule" (the score, at least) and can now detect the gestalts in the "Carceri d'invenzione" cycle. I understand now why Ferneyhough chose the texts he did for the String Quartet No. 4 and "On Stellar Magnitudes". I was also surprised to learn about Ferneyhough's activities as a poet -- the last interview in the book focuses exclusively on this and gives some example poems, which are inspired by the Gertrude Stein and the Language poets.
Two decades have passed since this volume was published, and Ferneyhough continues to write music and write about music. Hopefully an expanded second edition will appear someday. But for anyone interested in the works of the 1970s and 1980s, this is worth reading.
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