In the vibrant and dynamic world of Post-Modern music making, composers and performers are increasingly finding new ways to honour the traditions of Western Art Music through re-invention. Contemporary composers and performers alike stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us, re-framing the past to inform our present world.
But, unlike Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History, who is blown backwards into the future by the storm called progress, and feels incapable of changing the detritus of history, I see great promise in utilizing the works of the past to create works for the here and now.
Meow Meow introduced me to the Benjamin via a Laurie Anderson song The Dream Before, a song she will be sure to perform at the Friday night Divas concert. However, it is the work that she performs at the Saturday Night Gala that is the epitome of the re-invention so prevalent in today’s contemporary music making. In taking the form of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and reframing it utilizing only the songs of the great German romantic tradition, Reinbert de Leeuw is giving us a path forward, beyond pure modernism, into a world where progress is reaching both backwards and forwards, simultaneously acknowledging both history, and the future. Like it was for Bartok with his folk melodies, or Stravinsky with his neo-classicism, the prism through which those works are viewed is utterly contemporary, however the material allows a certain approachability through familiarity. It is this accessibility and ability to encapsulate the emotional as well as the intellectual that draws me to these post-modern paradigms.
All of this makes re-invention sound like it’s something new. Nothing could be further from the truth. The very building blocks of the western musical tradition are concerned with invention, adaption and development, so our Festival contains not only Bach’s Goldberg Variations with a newly composed violin obbligato by Joe Chindamo, it also contains Themes and variations from composers as stylistically disparate as Ligeti and Brahms. It also contains miraculous reworkings of Australian folk songs from Bush Gothic – reworkings which, like Wunderschön, reveal an inner dramatic core of yearning that speaks directly to our fragility in this world.
Iain Grandage 2016