In case you missed them, here are a few articles on composers you might enjoy. First, there was an interview-profile of Hamburg-based Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina (It pays to be poor, August 12) by Gerard McBurney for The Guardian:
Some years ago, a London critic, Dominic Gill, made an interesting comparison between Gubaidulina's work and the principles of the great Polish theatre director, Jerzy Grotowski, Gubaidulina's near-contemporary and another child of the post-communist bloc. Grotowski wrote a famous book, a Bible of theatrical practice, entitled Towards a Poor Theatre; borrowing from this specific sense, Gill proposed that Gubaidulina writes "Poor Music". What Gill most probably had in mind was the striking "poverty" of the surface of Gubaidulina's music, the way she generates enormous energy and concentration using the frailest wisps of sound, breath-like sighs and moans, scraps of Russian Orthodox chant, gigantic but extremely simple unisons, shudders and tremblings like the merest moments of tension from a film score, the simplest common chords.Gwyneth Lewis wrote an article (The cruel sea, August 15) for The Guardian about how she came to write the libretto for the new opera with Welsh National Opera, The Most Beautiful Man from the Sea, to music composed by Richard Chew and Orlando Gough:
Given that the main character in the story is a corpse, the change of genre from novel to libretto presented one major dilemma - should the dead man on the beach sing or not? Characters can only live vocally in an oratorio, so I decided to be bold and make the drowned man sing. In fact, once he'd started to talk, I couldn't shut him up; he wanted to take part in a vigorous dialogue with the villagers who found him. Eventually, I decided that the villagers would only be able to hear the man from the sea when they had stopped communicating with each other completely. The children still have some imagination (and they are the first to hear the beautiful man sing) but the men and women are locked in apathetic resignation. As each of the groups reaches a crisis, they hear the drowned man, whom the villagers name Esteban. He becomes a blank canvas on to which they can project their fears and, eventually, their new hopes. The men are the last to embrace the ultimate image of disaster he embodies, but, once they face the reality of death, they give Esteban a joyful funeral, in which he's carried through the village streets like a local saint. I wrote this final scene shortly after we had returned to the boat in Ceuta, only to witness the feast day of the local saint. Two brass bands accompanied the effigy around the city and this is, musically, how I imagined Esteban's cortege.Judith Mackrell gets the story from composer John Tavener (Pump it up John, September 8), in The Guardian, about how his heart condition inspired Random Dance Company's latest show:
These two worlds would never have collided but for one shared fascination: the symbolism and physiology of the human heart. For Tavener, the obsession grew out of his own medical history. He has Marfan syndrome, a complicated heart condition, and it was while undergoing investigative surgery that he encountered the work of heart-imaging specialist Philip Kilner. Tavener was entranced by the scans Kilner showed him: "The pumping of the heart's chambers and the movement of the blood around the arteries - it looked beautiful to me, like a dance." The images made him think about an old score, Laila, that he had begun writing a few years ago, but abandoned as unworkable. It was a dramatic choral work, based on a Sufi love poem. Its storyline was passionate - "the Romeo and Juliet of the Arabian world", Tavener calls it - but he had been unable to visualise how its erotic, romantic and mystical passions could be represented on stage. "Opera seems to me dead; people having tedious conversations with each other," he says. "And it would have been particularly embarrassing seeing singers trying to act Laila."Last year, the Tavener news was about how he had a falling out with his Orthodox spiritual adviser. He is now writing music based on something other than Orthodox Christian liturgical texts.