July 24, 2005

Peter Maxwell Davies is one of our most prolific contemporary composers and he has a pretty good website to boot.

OK, it may not win any design awards but the site is informationally rich. In addition to the usual bio stuff he has info and photos of the Orkneys, his adopted home. He also has links to all his published scores that you can purchase. The best part is that you can buy his music online or have custom CDs made, all for a reasonable price. He was recently made Master of the Queen's (King's) Music, a distinction probably long overdue. A few years ago he traveled to Antarctica to write his Symphony no.8 "on location" and the account he wrote is quite fascinating, especially for his description of the unique sonic landscape he experienced there. All in all, he is a fascinating individual and composer and his music is deserving of a wider audience.

  • yeah, PMD rules-- I especially like the Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot, which I got to know through a friend who was singing it. Said friend has met the composer twice now, and according to her he's a lovely guy.
  • My Mother-in-law performed Eight Songs. At the end of the piece, she smashed her violin into pieces (as directed) completely shocking the audience. Of course it was a cheap plywood instrument but some those in the audience that knew her thought she had destroyed her $500k Guarnerius. Yes, PMD apparently is a man of the people and for years he volunteered with the coast guard lifeboat crews that protect the fearsome Orkney sea coast.
  • )))!!! Enjoyed his Antarctic diary immensely! Also the photographs -- fascinated by how aware he was to the indoor sounds of his companions, the metal bunks thrumming, etc. And to that vast stillness outdoors. Fine links, kamus, thank you.
  • I would love to see Davies' Eighth on the same program as its antecedent the Vaughan Williams' Seventh (aka Sinfonia Antarctica). Glorious link. Thanks, kamus.
  • I would love to see that pairing too. The fact that it hasn't been done yet (AFAIK) is probably due to the lenght of the resulting program. RVW's #8 is a fine work, as are all his symphonies, however the wind machine he employs in it, today, sounds a bit cheesy and dated.
  • IMO all symphonic textures nowadays sound just a bit cheesy and dated (that massy strings thing, never mind wind machines or sawtooth synthesized waveforms). Neither is a particularly long work, end-to-end. Perhaps each suffers from its proximity to the other: as if, having progrsmmed one, the rest of the set must consist of Handel and Purcell. /more of a chamber man myself
  • Goetter, I agree with you in one sense that the textures we hear from the most commonly heard composers and orchestrations (preserved in formaldahyde by hollywood scores) are dated. OTOH, the symphony orchestra is an amazing sonic resource that still has plenty of new sounds to be mined from it. And in particular, massed strings are capable of the most incredible variety of colours and textural innovation in the hands of composers with talent and vision such as Corigliano, MacMillan, Ades, Ligeti, Saariaho etc. There's still life in the old horse yet.