April 30, 2011

Mark Andre


The archive search for items related to Mark Andre in the leading American newspaper - based in the self-proclaimed "Cultural Capital of the World" - is downright depressing.  There is only one article (2006), reviewing a dance in which Andre's "ASCHE" was used as a soundtrack, with the music itself described only as "eerie whines and bleeps".
     Even more depressing manifestations of American musical provincialism can be found on the CD-reviewing website www.classicstoday.com, especially in the reviews of recordings of contemporary European music written by one Daniel Felsenfeld - a frustrated music teacher from New York's City College.  The music of contemporary European composers reviewed there - from Helmut Lachenmann to Olga Neuwirth, Rebecca Saunders, and Beat Furrer - is invariably described with the same dismissively economic vocabulary of "whines", "bleeps", and "squeaks".
     After I checked out a few samples of Felsenfeld's own compositions on his personal website, the theoretical basis of his critical vitriol toward the European avant-garde became crystal clear: that kind of music must be shit because he, Felsenfeld, is utterly incapable of producing anything even remotely approaching its individuality and originality.  And the fact that conductors of the stature of Boulez never program anything by Felsenfeld and other victims of musical graphomania collectively known as New York's Downtown Composers (while regularly performing music by young Europeans)  only proves to the aggrieved Felsenfeld that contemporary music in Europe is infected by vicious anti-American bias.  No wonder he relishes the opportunity to strike back at those snotty, anti-American Euro-motherfuckers in his online reviews of every Kairos CD sent to him by the clueless editor of classicstoday.com.

A few words about Mark Andre: Although he studied with Claude Ballif and Gerard Grisey before coming to Helmut Lachenmann, it is the latter's influence that I feel most strongly in Andre's music, even if Andre's musical aesthetic is entirely his own.  To my mind, Andre is the most interesting and substantial composer of his generation.  He certainly does not aim at being liked on the first hearing (as, for example, do Marc-Andre Dalbavie and Bruno Mantovani with their tonally centered and rather lushly orchestrated compositions), nor does he try to boost the "hip factor" of his music with rock-tinged electronica (à la Olga Neurwirth or Fausto Romitelli).  His splendidly otherwordly works for large orchestra have received a good deal of attention over the last two decades - Boulez has performed them often with EIC, and there also are recorded performances under Hans Zender and other well-known conductors of contemporary music. 

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