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The Rambler :: blog

Friday, December 16, 2005

The good old days 

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Morning spent at the British Library's reading rooms in Colindale, hunting out reviews of Ligeti and Polish music from back in the day. Mark Plummer's review of the London premiere of the Ligeti Requiem in the 20th November 1971 edition of Melody Maker was a nice read. The Ligeti was only the first half of the concert though, but I doubt a review of Beethoven's Ninth - or any Beethoven symphony - appeared in the Melody Maker on many other occasions. Plummer liked it, but "preferred the Requiem". Stout fellow. "The Pink Floyd have got miles to go if they are ever going to reach the heights of Ligeti's use of tonal colours and emotion."

Running through the microfilm my eye was caught by one of the letters pages, in which a correspondent had written extolling the virtues of home taping. "If the music industry is going to charge us an extortionate 2 pounds an LP," the gist of his argument went, "when the tape revolution is happening at this very minute, then it deserves to be consumed by its own greed. The era of the disc is over, and so are the greedy, profiteering record companies."

Or words to that effect, anyway. In the next letter some poor beggar had paid nearly a fiver for the latest Yoko Ono album. Now he was cheesed off...

Other highlights of the day, presented for fun, and taken dramatically out of context: Ligeti briefly gets the exotic East European vampire treatment in a 1974 Christopher Ford interview for the Guardian as a not-so-non sequitur between his preference for the 'diabolical' tritone and his Transylvanian birthplace; and Peter Heyworth, reviewing the Warsaw Autumn Festival for the Observer in 1959 daydreams about a world of musical SocRealism:
In the afternoon the Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet turned up with a programme of works almost exclusively written to meet my unspoken wish for a little ease and jollity [in contemporary music]. Here were pieces whose very titles ... proclaimed their obedience to the Communist principle that one of the composer's tasks is to provide nice, catchy music that is easy on the people's ear. How passionately I agree with this admirable doctrine! How I long for another Rossini or Johann Strauss, another Offenbach or Kurt Weill, and if his pants are red and his tie embroidered with hammers and sickles, it's all one to me!"
Needless to say, the composers of East Germany did not produce a Rossini, Strauss, Weill or even Offenbach for Heyworth that day.


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