Archive for December, 2018

This review is by Peter Byrom-Smith who is rather more than a critic. He is a composer, he lectures on musical composition and hosts a radio show on Fab Radio International. I always welcome being discussed, dissected by fellow musicians, especially when they are composers. They typically exhibit great dollops of empathy, perception and acuity when writing about my Non-Prescriptive compositional techniques.


His review is most positive and his comments generous although, not for the first time, Scott McLaughlin’s magnificent notes receive some flack.


I will again rise to the defense of Scott (that’s Dr. Scott) McLaughlin’s sleeve notes. Who, other than he is able to write with such clarity, erudition and authority about the insanity of quantum entanglement and the complexity of my compositional techniques? Yes, Scott also reads Difficult Science and has closely followed the evolution of my compositional techniques for many years. I know that many people, including reviewers, are dependent upon his notes to gain a greater understanding of my music.


I do, however, have one quibble with the review. Mr. Byrom-Smith labels Entangled States as “An interesting concept album”. This is the first time any reviewer has used this term in connection with my music. I think that Mr. Byrom-Smith might be applying that word “conceptional” in the sense of an album whose parts hold a greater purpose collectively than they do individually – where the process of creation is more important than what is actually created, the idea or the concept being the most important aspect of the work as opposed to the outcome. I am guessing, surmising here. I have not discussed this with the author. My presumption may be way off-track. I might be interpreting his label wrongly. But he does refer to ES as “an interesting conceptual idea”. That’s a clue, isn’t it?


If this is the case and my suspicion is indeed correct, then I must state that my Non-Prescriptive ideas, techniques and methodologies have been developed solely in order to achieve a quite specific end result. They have never been considered (until now ?) as an end in themselves.


Allow me to extend two examples which I think are relevant to this point.


Firstly, 12 Tone Rows or serialism. This once reactionary methodology is associated with Schoenberg and his contemporaries, the Second Viennese School, c.1920. This system was never an end in itself. It was developed essentially to challenge the traditional tonal, melodic and harmonic structures which had been the bedrock of western music for four centuries. The fundamental concept of the 12 Tone Row System was designed to give equal importance to each note of the diatonic scale. Doh was dead. Doh was no more! Atonality was the new big idea.


Secondly, counterpoint, sometimes although not always correctly, referred to as polyphony.


This complex and rather cerebral compositional technique was developed in the Renaissance  and perfected in the Baroque period by J. S. Bach and his contemporaries. Typically the music is identified by having several lines or voices that utilise the same melodic idea. The result is a rich harmonic tapestry, each part contributing to and enriching the whole. One of the greatest examples- for me as a pianist- of counterpoint is Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues c 1730. It is no coincidence that Entangled States is also made up of 48 pieces. Bach’s 48 was inspirational for me. And also, like Bach, I wanted to fully demonstrate my own compositional ideas that are embodied in my Non-Prescriptive techniques. The 48 also known as the Well-Tempered Clavier (no, I’m not going there) has been performed many times by giants, Ashkenazy, Barenboim, Gould, Richter inter alia. But significantly, not one recording of the 48 has been described as a concept album. Ever. QED…


That’s my cavilling done with. That’s my two cents- worth. Think of it what you will. I do hope Mr. Byrom-Smith responds and that we can engage, exchange ideas, discuss this point.   Is that label justified?

To read the full review, click on:


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