Iain Cameron's Diary
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2010-10-24 - 2:41 a.m.
After an early lunch I set off for QEH and arrived with more than half an hour to spare. I bought a seat in the 4th row from the front right over on the left hand side. I bought a programme and a coffee and was one of the first people into the hall. I recognised Mr Arditti talking to some friends next to the table where I had sat drinking my coffee. The first part of the concert was two Lachenmann’s string quartets – the first from the early 70s and the second about 10 years old. The first was very abstract, very much on the margin of sound and music. After the interval L was interviewed on stage and he explained how in the 50s he had met John Cage. One thread in his music seemed to me to be a follow up of Cage’s 4 mins 33 secs. L uses silence as one aspect of the situations he creates in the performance of his works. A musician will move as if they are making a conventional musical sound but in fact they are making a minimal sound – somewhere between something and nothing. L talked about how severe Nono, his teacher had been, especially in steering L away from what he regarded as bourgeois outdated forms (like tunes). He also spoke about the way the fascist use of the classical tradition had made the post-war generation seek uncorrupted musical sound. The second 4tet in the programme (L’s third) eventually brings in some conventional harmony. I found this fantastically powerful after all the small abstract sounds. Indeed for me his 3rd SQ could be 15-20 minutes longer.
After the interview there was another interval followed by L playing a piano piece he had written for children, a solo cello piece, a solo violin piece and then a song setting with soprano accompanied by another pianist. The childrens’ piece was very conceptual in the sense that it explored a series of musical features – the first movement was based on the chromatic scale from the top of the piano to the bottom for example. The solo violin and cello pieces were much harder work – again there was near silence and the exploration of the margin between sound and music. In contrast the song was much more dramatic – both the singer and the pianist used extended vocabularies – this was the first time I had seen a ‘classical’ singer working in this way and I found it very exciting – especially when the accompaniment also used all kinds of extended techniques. The concert lasted from 3pm until past 6.30pm – an amazingly good deal for £12.
I had a beer in the QEH and then I set off via the DLR to Greenwich. I went round the block once looking for the de Witt café but eventually I found it quite close to the church. They had taken my reservation. The café was much smaller than I expected and in fact it doesn’t look as if it belongs in London – rather it ought to be in St Ives. Charles and Andy were finishing their meal when I arrived and we chatted a bit – partly about Lachenmann and also about the forthcoming London Jazz Festival. I thought C&A were on extremely good form – I was sitting about 10 feet away and I could clearly see the fretboard of both. I couldn’t help wondering why I play guitar – faced with technique that is so far ahead of mine. I ate sausage and mash followed by lemon sponge and custard and drank most of a bottle of Barberra. It was very relaxed. In the interval I chatted to Charles about the way he is developing Jazzwise, especially his move into music publishing.
The DLR ride back to the Bank had a really strange atmosphere – not like London at all but more like some city of the future . CBR was on the late night film on C4 – at about 2.30am – she looked and sounded fine.