Huddersfield 2009 (1/5)

During the final weekend of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, someone asked me what my favorite event was. I told them that it was not any single event (though I can and will point to several truly stunning events) but the way that different aesthetics/approaches pushed against each other. Part of what pulls me back to the Huddersfield festival year after year (this is my third year running) is that it does not rotate around a single aesthetic or national identity, but presents compelling work at the very highest standard. What I’m trying to get at is that it is the opposite of provincial. But there is no single useful single antonym of provincial. Dictionary.com offers me citified (no), liberal (okay, yes), metropolitan (anyone who’s been to Huddersfield, I invite your reactions), modern (this one is obvious). Actually, there is a part of the definition of metropolitan that applies: “culture, sophistication … accepting and combining a wide variety of people, ideas, etc.” In an interview with Graham McKenzie on the second weekend of the festival, Richard Barrett responded quite intelligently to a question about his label as a “new complexity” composer. He made the point that the effort to place every piece on a spectrum from simple to complex is in itself very simplistic. “There is an enormous complexity in the interaction that goes on between any music and one or more people listening to it.” He could have been speaking directly about my own vastly different experiences on five successive days of a piano piece by Michael Pisaro that involved single, repeated notes. (I’ll speak about that more in a soon-to-come post.) Barrett opens up from a historical attempt to categorize (/separate/stratify) composers or works to a three-or-more-dimensional relationship between works, performances, and experiences. The festival offered a great opportunity to do just that.


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