Darla Crispin


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Exposition: Delirious Brahms (01/01/2013) by Eivind Buene
Darla Crispin 18/12/2013 at 17:25

The exposition ‘Delirious Brahms’ opens not with hallucinatory delirium, but with the all-too-real sense of bored dissatisfaction that can overtake the hardened concert-goer, even when the performance itself is of good quality.  Buene’s complaint is not about standards, but about frustration with the still apparently inviolable norms of conduct in the traditional classical concert set-up, its dictums, the separation of composer, performer and audience and the passivity that results.


Buene dreams of breaching the proscenium of the stage in order to make 'composerly' interventions in an otherwise ‘standard’ Brahms Trio performance.   Through the exposition, we see how he strives to realize this through a new composition, which has rather complex philosophical roots in a ‘paranoid-critical’ approach, originating from Dali and taken up by the architect, Rem Koolhaas.  This is then articulated in a musical process that echoes Lachenmann in its compositional processes and Kagel in its staged provocations.  Buene creates a work in which an apparently ‘traditional’ performance of the Trio is gradually undermined by a series of onstage interventions until the genre of piano trio is destroyed by the electronic music that takes over the scene, and even by the numerical disruption that changes three onstage performers into five.


The exposition tells the story of this process of transformation, and includes information that demonstrates that the compositional process is far from random, being a targeted deconstruction of the originating score.  The final irony, of course, is that the overcoming of one kind of resistant tradition simply demonstrates the persistence of others: in this composition, as in those of the canon, the composer exacts obedience and the performers comply, being made increasingly passive as electronic composition takes over the stage and leaves them nothing to do.  The final tableau, in which the electronics and their manipulators are at centre-stage harks back not only to the controlling modernist character of a figure such as Stockhausen, but, at still greater remove, to the centrality of the composer within the creative hierarchy of nineteenth century music.  Once again, the composer is top dog.  Does this not form another subject for frustration and ennui?