Louis Andriessen @ 70

Dates and Venue 3-8 April 2009 @ 8pm |Roundhouse Community Arts Centre & Heritage Hall

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I was curious to find out who this celebrity was, and when I did, I decided to categorize him as one of those composers in the New Music Concert movement, the anti-classical avant-garde type which I don't really go for. I find his kind of music disturbing and tuneless.

A composition by Andriessen which was the music for a tasteless film by Peter Greenaway, "M is for Man, Music, Mozart" produced in 1991, was a 30-minute instrumental cacophony accompanied by guest vocalist Cristina Zavalloni who looked like someone from Addams family. Composers of this so-called musique nouvelle try to be unique by composing music that is non-sensical and absurd. I understand this movement because in the lates 60s and early 70s, the beatniks and hippies wanted to rebel against convention and therefore, purposely wrote music that was cacophonous.

I guess to each his own, and maybe some people buy this kind of music; perhaps, for a while, it could be a fad, but it's like clothes. Some clothes are classic, like jeans where you can wear them in the 60s, the 90s and even in the 21st century. But there are clothes you wear once and you throw away. Same thing with this kind of music. You hear it once and throw it in the garbage.

Another piece played during the April 5th show was "Scratch-Scorch", a composition by Howard Bashaw, a music professor at the University of Alberta. The first movement was really scratch. It sounded like instruments being tuned readying themselves for a performance. So, just like scratch paper, this piece should be garbaged. The next movements were again cacophonically sounding, ie, lots of meaningless noise. I asked myself: "Are they playing music, or just fooling around with their instruments?"

John Korsrud's compositions, "Lowest Tide" and "Cruel Yet Fair", inspired by Andriessen because he studied under him, were just deafening. I had to close my ears at one point because the orchestra was playing too loud, especially for a venue like Roundhouse. It would be better off to bring his Hard Rubber orchestra to open air concerts. That's probably why the orchestra is called "hard rubber".

In the eve of his 70th birthday, Louis Andriessen has indeed influenced a lot of Canadian composers who are writing this kind of music. I just hope these Canadian composers take a good look at their compositions and see if they can do something more "avant-garde" in a positive sense, such as doing creative versions of Mozart and Beethoven, instead of fighting against the classical tide of music.

© 2009 Ed Farolan