Roger Reynolds at LOC now up

The Library of Congress’s site featuring the music of Roger Reynolds is an outstanding example of what such an organization can do. The site shows the depth of the Library’s holding in a particular are, covering everything from Reynolds’ music to photographs of the composer.

Reynolds has a close working relationship with the LOC; I only wish I had heard the performance of JUSTICE performance while I was still living in DC.

As a composer of sorts myself, I find the interview with Reynolds particularly interesting. He’s an interesting character. Originally an engineer, he didn’t really come to music until he was 14. His approach is an interesting combination of intuition and formalism; he uses tone rows, but what to do next is guided by the row, not dictated. As he says:

… It’s very clear that there will be an aesthetic consistency to anything that
an artist does with commitment and capacity. It cannot be otherwise. Because what it is all about, and I’ve said this to you in our correspondence, what it is all about is the exercise of aesthetic consistency. I am a being, a creature; I hear and see and interact with the world, and when I am making something the ultimate question is: Does it fit? Does it belong in this thing? And that’s not a local question. It’s a question that involves understanding the whole project even the way the whole project fits in a larger set of things – something which may be locally inadmissible in terms of its relationship to the larger thing. So for me it’s always about my aesthetic sensibility, and the things that I al
low in are right. Now they may be foolish, they may be banal, they may be
trivial, but they’re “right” if they get past my filter.

Now this is a principle I can agree with.

There’s an amazing variety of material here. I won’t link to all of it – better you visit the site and see it in context – but the particular bit I will link to is the recording and analysis of Transfigured Wind III. This interview intersperses comments by the composer, score excerpts, and the appropriate sound clips; this is something I hope other sites will aspire to doing.

Most contemporary classical music doesn’t do a lot for me. I like the electronic stuff because of the unique sonorities, mostly; I’m not an analyst by any means. Taking a composition apart in real-time is more work that I prefer to do when listening to a brand-new piece, especially when the piece is a complex one. Transfigured Wind III, however, does a great job of combining “extended” performances on various instruments with a very subtle computer part to produce a uniquely haunting and interesting piece that is an excellent esthetic experience even without deep understanding. Thanks to the analytic interview, I can have both the pleasure of listening to an excellent piece of complex music and the intellectual pleasure of really understanding the composer’s methods and intentions at the same time.

In short, this is an excellent presentation of a particular composer’s unique approach to music, and worth a detailed exploration. I plan to study it very carefully and perhaps to save a copy of the interview pages for reference.

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