Author Archive


An evening joining the dots between music genres and digital art forms, and exploring the worlds of electronic music, contemporary classical practice and interactive visual arts, all taking place on a Cold War air base – that’s Faster Than Sound at the Aldeburgh Festival. It took place on Saturday, see more pictures of the event here, and read the background story here.    

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Rudolph Dunbar (right), who died in 1988, was the first black musician to conduct the Berlin and London Philharmonic Orchestras, he wrote a best selling book on the clarinet, was an acclaimed jazz musician, and a contemporary composer. Yet today he isn’t even mentioned in the standard music reference books, and is only remembered as a black activist – why? Read about the mystery of Rudolph Dunbar over On An Overgrown Path.  

Photo – University of Massachusetts 

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For the full story on the new aleatoric work seen being performed above on a Bösendorfer at the Two Moors Festival in the UK, take An Overgrown Path. Image credit BBC News 

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Vienna born conductor and composer Peter Paul Fuchs died in Greensboro, North Carolina on March 28 aged 90. For an appreciation of his music by John McLaughlin Williams follow An Overgrown Path

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Why a String Quartet? What is it that has given it its exalted reputation and mystique? Why have so many composers regarded it as the perfect medium of expression, though it is perhaps the most demanding to write for? And why do distinguished artists often prefer to work as a team in a first class quartet rather than make bigger money as, say, orchestral leaders? Music means different things to different people: but for those to who music is an intellectual art, a balanced and reasoned statement of ideas, an impassioned argument, an intense but disciplined expression of emotion – the string quartet is perhaps the most satisfying medium of all.

These are the words of Elizabeth Maconchy (above) who was born one hundred years ago on March 19th 1907. She wrote a remarkable cycle of thirteen string quartets that were influenced by Berg, Bartok, Janacek and her teacher in Prague, Karel Jirak. But despite its obvious merit Elizabeth Maconchy’s music remains scandalously neglected. Which prompts On An Overgrown Path to ask, how important is a composer’s music?    

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Vanessa Vanessa Lann emails – Today is the world premiere of my string quartet, Landscape of a Soul’s Remembering. In this work there are six separate locations on the stage where the musicians will stand or sit throughout the performance, changing to new positions between each of the four movements. At each spot there is specific music to be played, consisting of recognizable, repeated patterns that the players will interpret in turn – on their respective instruments – during each movement. As these patterns emerge again and again in new contexts, played on different instruments by different performers, they will each be heard in a new light.

Rather than this being a string quartet where the discussion exists in real time between the players, this is a study of the discussion, or realization, that takes place in one human soul – between the present, the future and one’s understanding of Memory.

The premiere of Landscape of a Soul’s Remembering is being given by the Doelen String Quartet (photo above), in the Eduard Flipsezaal, Concertgebouw De Doelen, Rotterdam on Sunday, March 18, 2007, 8:30 pm. The concert also includes the first performance of a work by Giel Vleggaar, and John Adams’ John’s Book of Alleged Dances.

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The big news in London this weekend is a £1 million (almost $2m) tie-up between English National Opera and Sony PlayStation to put games consoles into the foyer of the hallowed London Coliseum. This is an opera house renown for its shock tactics, as the production shot from their Don Giovanni here shows. Of course, anything to reach a new audience must be praiseworthy. Or must it? On An Overgrown Path isn’t so sure, and also has the full story

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John Ogdon was born, seventy years ago, on January 27th 1937. The following words were written by him in 1981. “Here then…are some of the harsh facts behind the words ‘severe mental illness’ and ‘serious nervous breakdown’ which the press has been using about me so often lately. Not that I am complaining about the press! – I was thrilled by the sympathetic and wide spread media interest that came my way both before and after my return to the … concert stage”. 

Ogdon (photo above) was an extraordinary pianist, composer, and new music visionary whose close friends and musical influences included Peter Maxwell Davies, (who wrote his Opus 1 Sonata for Trumpet and Opus 2 Five Pieces for Piano for him), Harrison Birtwistle and Alexander Goehr.

For the full story visit John Ogdon – a blazing meteor.

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Five minutes before Elisabeth Lutyens appeared live on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’ in 1979 she threatened to denounce Russell Harty as a ‘homosexual interviewer’ if he mentioned the phrase ‘lady composer’; thankfully Harty avoided using the words when the programme was on air. Lutyens was a larger than life personality who pioneered serial techniques in her unfairly neglected music. She was also well connected as my photo shows. For the full story, and a recommendation of a new CD of her music, click on Walking with Stravinsky.

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For articles on every one of the contemporary composers pictured above, and more, click on Overgrown Path’s People of the Year for 2006.

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