Playlist 2017: 5th Commentary

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Time for another commentary on my growing 2017's Playlist. Background to the project can be found here.

  • Ruth Crawford Seeger, Suite No 2 for Four Stringed Instruments and Piano (1929). What I love about this music is the way it is both completely post-tonal and intensely melodic. The part of me that enjoys technical control can marvel at the intellectual integrity of it all, or it can let go and just let the lines pull my imagination in.
  • Pauline Oliveros, Bye Bye Butterfly (1967). Oliveros is one of those composers who work I’ve always felt I should know better than I do. Listening to this brings home why.
  • Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Piano Concerto in D-minor Op.37. My google-fu has failed to identify the date of composition for this concerto, but it was started some time after 1885 when Le Beau moved with her parents to Wiesbaden.
  • Emilie Mayer, Symphony No.7 in F-minor (1856). I started listening to this wondering if it would be overloading the playlist with C19th symphonies. But once I realised I wanted to listen to it all the way through anyway I thought it would selfish not to share it.

    One of the points that this playlist is bringing home to me over time is that the problem with a male-dominated anything is not merely the existence of obstacles for competent women, but the absence of obstacles for mediocre men. I listened to a lot of C19th symphonies in preparation for the Part I exams of my degree, all by men, and several of which were less competently crafted than the symphonies you’ll find on this playlist, none of which were available in the Music Department library at the time.

  • Eliane Radigue, Tryptich, Part I (1978). Well, this was surprising. I am usually quite blasé about writing about music – whilst words can’t duplicate the experience, they can have an interesting dialogue with musical time. This piece resists words more than most though.
  • Margaret Bonds, Troubled Water (1967). Youtube reveals this piece to be one that is widely performed, but not nearly as widely recorded. I picked the performance from a CD not just because it had better sound quality than many of the live-videoed performances; I also liked the shaping of this performance. But it’s worth a listen around – there is an interesting variety in the approaches different pianists take to it.
  • Maria Theresia von Paradis, 'Morgenlied eines armen Mannes' (1786). In a twist on the narrative of a female composer’s work being attributed to others, it turns out that von Paradis’s most performed work (Sicilienne) is actually spurious. It turns out that most of her major works are lost.

    I feel I’m cheating a bit with this one, as I must have listened to it when I was reviewing the New Historical Anthology of Music by Women for Music and Letters. But since I didn’t recognise it when I came across it, it clearly counts as something I should know better!

  • Else Marie Pade, Faust (1962). Pade was Denmark’s first composer of musique concrete. I’m finding the combination of a very traditional narrative programme with very untraditional soundworld quite intriguing. The first paper I ever gave at an academic conference was a critique of the gendered musical language in Liszt’s Faust Symphony; I haven’t found my way into Pade’s expressive world deeply enough to work out if there are gendered codes going within in, but I can confirm that if there are any, they are quite different from those I identified in Liszt (and went on to discuss in more detail in my PhD).
  • May Brahe, 'Bless This House' (1927). This is probably the most famous piece I’ve included in the playlist by several orders of magnitude. It is interesting how the song is so much more famous than its composer. If you ever think that Brahe’s compositional style reminds you of Stanley Dickson, that was the other name she published under.
  • Cecilia Maria Barthélemon, Sonata in E Op. 1/3 (1786). Here is another composer whose musical career ended on marriage (Amanda Röntgen-Maier, covered in the previous commentary, was another). Interestingly, though, her parents were both professional musicians throughout her childhood. There is something interesting going on here about changing roles for married women at the turn of the C19th, and/or social mobility – economic inactivity in women becoming a mark of middle-classness around then.

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