The Gershwin songs that inspired Finnissy

Those who have seen my last blog post will know that on Tuesday, September 27th 2016, beginning at 18:00, at the Performance Space, College Building, City University, I will be playing all of Michael Finnissy’s arrangements of Gershwin, as well as his Piano Concertos 4 and 6. The twenty-three pieces in question (plus a few early versions) are all derived from different Gershwin songs, generally from the musical comedies and revues for which he wrote some or all of the music, and also for various films.

Whilst Gershwin’s original melodies (and some derivative of other aspects of the harmony, figuration, vocal styles of particular performers) are clearly present and generally recognisable (certainly in comparison to the much more oblique Verdi Transcriptions), albeit heavily mediated, nonetheless not all of the originals are amongst Gershwin’s most famous songs, and some are relatively, though undeservedly obscure. Finnissy avoided setting any of the songs which Gershwin had himself transcribed for piano, or which had been transcribed by Percy Grainger. Here are the two sets of arrangements with the origins of each song:

MICHAEL FINNISSY, Gershwin Arrangements (1975-1988)

  1. How long has this been going on? (from the musical comedy Rosalie (1928))
  2. Things are looking up (from the film A Damsel in Distress (1937))
  3. A foggy day in London town (from the film A Damsel in Distress (1937))
  4. Love is here to stay (from the film The Goldwyn Follies (1938))
  5. They can’t take that away from me (from the film Shall We Dance (1937))
  6. Shall we dance? (from the film Shall We Dance (1937))
  7. They’re writing songs of love, but not for me (from the musical comedy Girl Crazy (1930))
  8. Fidgety feet (from the musical comedy Oh, Kay! (1926))
  9. Embraceable you (from the musical comedy Girl Crazy (1930))
  10. Waiting for the sun to come out (from the musical comedy The Sweetheart Shop (1920), book and lyrics by Anne Caldwell, most music by Hugo Felix)
  11. Innocent ingénue baby (from the musical comedy Our Nell (1922))
  12. Blah, blah, blah (from the film Delicious (1931))
  13. Boy wanted (from the musical comedy A Dangerous Maid (1921))

 

MICHAEL FINNISSY, More Gershwin (1989-1990)

  1. Limehouse Nights (from the revue Morris Gest’s Midnight Whirl (1919))
  2. Wait a bit, Susie (from the musical comedy Primrose (1924))
  3. I’d Rather Charleston (for 1926 London production of musical comedy Lady, be Good! (1924))
  4. Isn’t it Wonderful! (from the musical comedy Primrose (1924))
  5. Nobody but You (from the musical comedy La, la Lucille (1919))
  6. Swanee (from Demi Tasse Revue, part of Capitol Revue (1919), show produced and choreographed by Ned Wayburn)
  7. Dixie Rose (song from 1921)
  8. Someone Believes in You (from the musical comedy Sweet Little Devil (1924))
  9. Nashville Nightingale (from the revue Nifties of 1923, produced by Charles B. Dillingham)

 

There was also a further arrangement composed in 1998, called Please pay some attention to me, derived from a very little-known song, ‘Pay Some Attention to Me’ (1937) which George and Ira Gershwin had originally written for the film A Damsel in Distress, but abandoned it incomplete. Finnissy obtained the manuscript for this from the late composer Richard Rodney Bennett, and first made a version for soprano and piano duet which was performed at Steyning Music Club, then transformed this into a solo piano work in which Gershwin-derived material is alternated with a type of imaginary dodecaphonic music, as an evocation of the tennis games which Gershwin played with Schoenberg at the former’s Hollywood mansion during the last year of his life.

I thought I would post links to recordings of each of the songs in the two sets as a point of reference, in the same order. Whilst most of the Finnissy works were essentially composed as a free response to the scores (including all of the second set), a few were also inspired by particular performances, including Judy Garland’s ‘But not for me’ and some of the Fred Astaire classics. The particular choices posted here are naturally a little restricted by online availability.

Sarah Vaughan singing ‘How long has this been going on?’ in a 1957 recording with Hal Mooney and his orchestra.

 

‘Things are looking up’ as sung by Fred Astaire to Joan Fontaine in the sequence in A Damsel in Distress (1937).

 

‘A foggy day in London Town’ sung by Fred Astaire in the same film.

 

Kenny Baker singing ‘Love is here to stay’ in The Goldwyn Follies (1938).

 

Fred Astaire singing ‘They can’t take that away from me’ to Ginger Rogers, from the film Shall We Dance (1937).

 

More Astaire and Ginger Rogers: the title track ‘Shall We Dance?’ from the film.

 

The timeless performance by Judy Garland of ‘But not for me’, from Girl Crazy (1943).

 

‘Fidgety Feet’ as played by the Savoy Ophreans, recorded in 1927.

 

Billie Holiday singing ‘Embraceable You’, recorded in 1944.

 

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/7583/

Lambert Murphy singing ‘Waiting for the sun to come out’ (1920 recording) (click on the above to go to the site to play it)

 

A more recent performance of ‘Innocent ingenue baby’ (the only version I could find online)

 

The full film Delicious (1931) – ‘Blah blah blah’ is at around 1h 16’50”.

 

And Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘Boy Wanted’.

 

Gershwin’s own piano-roll of ‘Limehouse Nights’, made in 1920.

 

‘Wait a bit, Susie’, played by the Savoy Havana Band in 1924.

 

Fred and Adele Astaire singing ‘I’d rather Charleston’, with Gershwin at the piano, recorded in London in 1926.

 

Steven Blier and Judy Kaye singing ‘Isn’t It Wonderful?’ (requires log-in to Spotify).

 

Gershwin’s 1919 piano roll of ‘Nobody but you’.

 

Al Jolson’s 1920 recording of ‘Swanee’.

 

Rick Rogers sings ‘Dixie Rose’.

I was unable to find a linkable performance of ‘Someone believes in you’, but the track can be bought as an MP3 here as part of the first recording of Sweet Little Devil.

 

‘Nashville Nightingale’, recorded in 1927 by the Piccadilly Revels Dance Band.

 

And Lena Jansson singing ‘Pay some attention to me’ (needs Spotify log-in).


Culture in the EU (8): Estonia

 

[Because of other commitments, it has not been possible to post more in this series for a little while, but I am endeavouring to complete as many as possible before the referendum on Thursday. For now, I will mostly give links and text without so much commentary, which may follow later]

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Estonia

[With profound thanks to Helen Harjak for various suggestions of Estonian culture to investigate]

A major figure in the post-war Estonian literary scene was the writer and poet Bernard Kangro (1910-1994), who founded the cultural journal Tulimuld, which ran from 1950 to 1993. A selection of his quasi-surrealist poems is available in English translation, called Earthbound.

Kangro - Earthbound

Here is Kangro’s poem, ‘Late Flowers, Wind, Sea, Sand and Fish’, translated Ivar Ivask.

Wind wilts
late flowers,
tiny blossoms
at edge of bay.

Don’t blame the breeze!
The sea’s there
thundering
upon the sand.

Wave above,
sand blow.
Fish laugh
and skip away.

Another poem can be read here.

Another surrealist Estonian writer was the poet and sound poet Ilmar Laaban (1921-2000), who lived in Sweden from 1944. Here is Laaban’s poem ‘Silence and Violence’, as translated by Richard Adang and Andres Ehin

Silence and Violence

Long ago on a windy hunt
a horrible happiness abruptly bloomed in me
and the landscape congealed only its pungent
blood rustling through my veins the gun smoked
incessantly the hound did not bark
as it gazed at the clouds tightening
into meat and skinning over with fur
streaming tangled by despair

Because on the horizon a stout tower appeared
which swayed slowly between emptiness
and the overflowing clamor of hideous joy
like a gigantic latrine
the sweaty sun mottled Earth and Welkin
until suddenly it was eclipsed by cold
ravens of freedom who carried my eyes
and fresh images like flags in their bills

At twilight which was only flashes
as the sea is but the triumph of the drowned
my hunting jacket was freed of its heavy
web of lust I simply ran forward
along the mute moor coming across
animals with shining coals for hearts
I shot them so many that the road home
was finally choked with grass

Long ago I seized the empty beaker
and faced its inflexible challenge
and ever since this endless draught rinses –
my gun-barrel mouth which sparkles
in the starry sky and when it sees
some too-warm nebula defiling cosmic night
it proclaims ponderously and clearly
I DENY DEATH BUT AFFIRM ICE

Here is Laaban’s sound-text composition Ciel Inamputable (1969)

 

Amongst the most renowned Estonian writers of the post-war era are Jann Kaplinski (b. 1941), who drew widely upon mythology and Asian thought, and Jaan Kross (1920-2007), who spent an eight-year period as a prisoner in Soviet labour camps. Here is an obituary of Kross in The Guardian. Kross’s novels often had historical settings, but served as allegories of the contemporary situation under Soviet communism. His four volume sequence of novels Kolme katku vahel/Between Three Plagues (1970-1976) told the story of the sixteenth-century chronicler Balthasar Russow, who wrote the chronicle of the Livovian War, detailing his experience of the effects upon the peasantry from which he came.

Kross - The Ropewalker

 

A sparse form of poetry, reflecting post-1968 disillusionment and disenchantment, can be found in the work of Paul-Eerik Rummo (b. 1942), who also went on to become an Estonian politician. A selection of his poems can be read in translation here; here is one, ‘Crooning’.

Crooning

I am so fleeting
sighed the girl to the sea
oh, what can I do
you are eternal

I am transparent like you
sighed the girl to the window
oh, what can I do
my heart’s in full view

I open like you
sighed the girl to the door
oh, what can I do
the sun steps in

I am so small
sighed the girl to the sun
oh, what can I do
you are so large

I am so foolish
sighed the girl to the wise man
oh, what can I do
everyone is so wise

More on Rummo can be read here.

Poet and author Tõnu Õnnepalu (b. 1962), who has also published under the names Emil Tode and Anton Nigov. His novel Piiririik/Border State (1993), a short novel about the overwhelming and sometimes destructive effect of Western culture upon a Baltic citizen, comes highly recommended; more can be read about it here.

Onnepalu - Border State

Also, do check out the poet, short story writer and librettist Maarja Kangro (b. 1973). Here is her poem ‘The Butterfly of No Return’, as translated by Ilmar Lehtpere. A further selection of poems, with various translations, can be read here.

THE BUTTERFLY OF NO RETURN

‘again’ is a big word.
slowly and quickly
again

again men rejoice on the radio
that they are on the right road
and talk of the cyclical nature of time

a proper road goes in circles, even I
recognize young skin on the beach and
”et si tu n’existais pas,” is sung loudly

men on the radio speak of the connection
of everything to everything else:  ringingly
one says butterfly effect – I lift my wings

a good sleep gives you cyclical time
for after such a sleep you think you’re revived
and again

I flutter my wing
the good men on the radio start coughing
I flap my wings more amply and a wind comes up

the men cough wheezing, the airwaves revolt
ships sink and swimmers drown, the final sleep
comes stormy and grey

let’s think of a word that never was before
was just now
and now isn’t anymore

***

There’s a whining and ringing in the air.
You talk of a lout.
I’m the very one.  Through me you’ll never
reach the deeper levels or the heights,
the flash of pure being that you believe
you see in the village drunkard
or the poet gone mad.
When he drinks, secrets come to light.
When I get legless, I attack.
Or I drift off, stinking.  My gaze is dark.
I give off my exhaust in your face.
I want lovely meat that won‘t shame me.  I’m afraid of losing.
Words anger me.  I bellow.
I watch the telly, don’t read, can’t write properly.
Rubbish is left behind me.
I am rubbish. I’m the one you’re talking about.
– Ah no, what are you going on about, it’s me.
– Ah no, it’s me.
– No, I’m the one.
– No, I am.  Forgive me.
The whole road is full of us, and our fragile souls
are ringing.  Listen, how quietly, dear girls and boys.

One of the first major groups of Estonian artists to look beyond Soviet orthodoxy was ANK-64, who were responsible for resurrecting cubist and constructivist work from earlier in the century. One of the leading figures in this movement was Jüri Arrak (b. 1936), whose work employs cartoon-like imagery and surrealist ideas; other important artists who were involved with this movement include Kristiina Kaasik (b. 1943) and Marju Musu (1941-1980)

Arrak - Lennuk 6-20

Jüri Arrak, Lennuk 6/20 (1972)

 

Kaasik - Vaade treppu

Kristiina Kaasik, Vaade trepilt (1974)

 

Mutsu - Early in the Morning

Marju Mutsu, Early in the Morning (1970)

In 1967, artist Kaljo Põllu (1934-2010) created another group called the Visarid, which disseminated much information on Western artistic movements and ideas, not least relating to pop art and graphic design.

Pollu - Mangutuba

Kaljo Põllu, Mängutuba (1967)

 

Pollu - Kullatja

Kaljo Põllu, Kuulataja (Vaikus) (1968)

 

Pollu - Keegi

Kaljo Põllu, Keegi (1987)

A starker type of art came from the SOUP-69 group, also inspired by pop art and other movements. Amongst the leading figures here were Leonhard Lapin (b. 1947) and Ando Keskküla (b. 1950).

 

Lapin - Woman Machine

Leonhard Lapin, Woman-Machine X (1974)

 

Keskkula - Finish

Ando Keskküla, Finish (1979).

Also part of this movement was the architect Vilen Künnapu (b. 1948), who would later engage with post-modern architectural ideas.

Künnapu - Office of the State Farm October

 

Kunnapu - Snail tower

Vilen Künnapu, Snail Tower, Tartu (2008)

 

Other notable modern Estonian architects include Raine Karp (b. 1939) and Riina Altmäe (b. 1949), whose best known work is the brutalist Tallinn City Concert Hall (Linnahall) (1976-1980), shown here from various angles.

 

The Estonian painter Raoul Kurvitz (b. 1961) formed a group called Rühm T in 1986, whose work (which included performance art as much as painting) was described by them as ‘Cold Expressionism’. Here is Kurvitz’s painting Chapelle (1999):

Kurvitz - Chapelle

And here is a picture of Kurvitz’s ‘Reconstructed Environment’ Maelstrom (1999/2013):

Kurvitz - Maelstrom

An interview with Kurvitz can be read here, while more information on his work can be read here.

One artist inhabiting the wilder realms of video and performance art is Jaan Toomik (b. 1961), some of whose work was inspired by the Viennese Actionists, and involves various types of degradation to the body, use of bodily fluids, and so on, but also clear political themes, as well as a recurrent concert with the nature of communication. An interview with Toomik can be read here, and here are some videos of his work.

 

 

 

Another is Ene-Liis Semper (b. 1969), whose work focuses on the body, and especially the mouth and tongue. More can be read on her work here, not least her notorious Licked Room (2000), in which she literally licked a room clean with her tongue.

Here are some samples of Semper’s work:

 

 

Semper also formed the theatre group NO99 together with Tiit Ojasoo. Here is a video about their work:

 

This is one of NO99’s best-known works, NO83 How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, inspired by Joseph Beuys.

 

Another important figure in radical contemporary Estonian theatre (about which more can be read here) is writer and director Mati Unt (b. 1944). Here is a video of his production Hot (2002).

 

Best-known of Estonian composers is undoubtedly Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), whose works such as Fratres (1977), Tabula Rasa (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), and St John Passion (1982) appealed to certain Western ideals of ‘spiritualism’ and won world renown as a result. But not all of Pärt’s work is like this; the cello concerto Pro et contra (1966) is clearly indebted to aspects of a Western avant-garde language, including collage-like techniques, whilst in Credo (1968) for choir, piano and orchestra, Pärt distorts and defamiliarises Bach’s C major Prelude from Das wohltempierte Klavier, Book 1.

 

 

 

 

Here are two examples of Pärt’s later work:

 

 

 

Another composer of the same generation whose work Kuldar Sink (1942-1995), who began engaging with some modernist traditions, including the neo-classicism, the Second Viennese School, aleatoric composition, and even happenings (Sink, like Pärt, and ANK-64, was linked to an Estonian Fluxus movement in the late 1960s).

 

 

In later work, before his death in a house fire, Sink turned to Central Asian folk musics and drastic simplification.

 

 

 

A younger composer who also traversed a path from the avant-garde to modalism and postminimalism (from the early 1980s onwards) was Lepo Sumera (1950-2000)

Lepo Sumera, Pantomiim/Pantomime (1981)

 

Lepo Sumera, Senza metro (1986)

 

Lepo Sumera, Tähed / Stars for soprano and piano (2000)

In the  fascinating work of Jüri Reinvere (b. 1971), however, one finds a particular type of fusion or interplay of modernist, aleatoric, and romantic elements to varying degrees.

 

Jüri Reinvere, t.i.m.e. (2005)

 

Jüri Reinvere, Requiem (2009), excerpt.

Helena Tulve (b. 1972) combines modal elements with a wider musical language influenced in part by musique spectrale, and in some ways reminiscent of the work of Kaija Saariaho.

 

A much more pared-down music can be found in the work of composer and harpist Liis Viira (b. 1983), notorious for her Reverbeebi/Baby Symphony (2015), in which babies’ voices were combined with instruments.

 

The group Ensemble U have garnered attention through their creation of an ‘audience orchestra’ in which the audience members control much of the musical decision making.

 

Estonian cinema is generally thought to have come into its own in the 1960s. One of film which generated a fair degree of international interest was Arvo Kruusement’s Kevade/Spring (1969), based on a popular novel by Oskar Luts, a coming-of-age story set at the end of the 19th century. Here is a section of it, alas without subtitles, but which enables one to sample the visual qualities.

 

 

(the rest of the film can be viewed on the same YouTube channel)

Here is a film from the previous year, Kaljo Kiisk’s Hullumeelsus/Madness (1968)

 

And here is Leida Laius’s Kõrboja peremees (1979)

 

Of post-independence Estonian cinema, required viewing includes Hardi Volmer’s parody of the Russian Revolution, Minu Leninid/All My Lenins (1997), here available with English subtitles.

 

There is also an important tradition of Estonian animated film, in which the leading figure is Priit Pärn (b. 1946). Here is his  Ein murual/Breakfast on the Grass (1983, released 1986)

 

Here is a clip from Pärn’s 1992 film Hotel E:

Many other of Pärn’s animations can be viewed online.

An article on the evolution of Estonian contemporary dance post-independence can be read here. Here is a clip of the work of Fine 5 Dance Theatre, founded in 1992:

 

One can read about the United Dancers of Zuga here (unfortunately I have not found a good clip of their work).

 


Culture in the EU (7): Denmark

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Denmark

Much read in Denmark is the tragic writer Tove Ditlevsen (1917-1976), whose work drew heavily upon an unhappy and materially and emotionally deprived life, culminating in her suicide in 1976. Here is a detailed article on Ditlevsen’s life and work, and here is an article on Ditlevsen’s 1967 autobiographical books Barndom/Childhood and Ungdom/Youth, which were translated into English as Early Spring.

Ditlevsen - Early Spring

 

I hope very much to be able soon to read Ditlevsen’s novel Ansigterne/The Faces (1968), about a disturbed children’s author with suicidal urges, tormented by her housekeeper and her family, haunted by hallucinatory visions, but ultimately finding her way towards peace through her art . Reviews of this can be read here  and here.

One of Ditlevsen’s best-known poems is ‘Blinkende Lygter’/’Flickering Lights’, a translation of which I have copied from here:

In childhood’s long night, both dim and dark
there are small twinkling lights that burn bright
like traces memory’s left there as sparks
while the heart freezes so and takes flight.

It’s here that your pathless love shines clear,
once lost in nights misty and chill,
and all that you’ve since loved and suffered most dear
has boundaries set by the will.

The first-felt sorrow’s a frail, thin light
like a tear that quivers in space;
that sorrow alone your heart will hold tight
when all others time has effaced.

High as a star on a night as in spring
your childhood’s first happiness burns,
you sought for it later, only to cling
to late-summer shadow’s swift turns.

Your faith you took with you to great extremes,
the first and the last to your cost,
in the dark now somewhere it surely gleams,
and there is no more to be lost.

And someone or other draws near to you but
will never quite manage to know you,
for beneath those small lights your life has been put,
since when everyone must forego you.

One of the most profilic of modern Danish writers was Klaus Rifbjerg (b. 1931), whose output included over 100 novels and poetry, short stories, plays, etc, often involving formal and linguistic experimentation. His novel Anna (jeg) Anna/Anna (I) Anna, which was translated in 1982, is the story of a diplomat’s wife suffering neurosis, who elopes with a hippie to a new Bohemian world, but discovers the fragmented and multifaceted nature of her character in the process. His best-known novel, Den kroniske uskyld/Terminal Innocence (1958) has recently appeared in English translation. An enticing review can be read here.

 

Rifbjerg - Terminal Innocence

 

Poet Inger Christensen (1935-2009) explored formal devices, some drawn from mathematics, to defamiliarise language and reveal other underlying patterns. This obituary gives more detail about her work.

Inger Christensen, from alphabet (1981), (as translated here)

1

apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist

2

bracken exists; and blackberries, blackberries;
bromine exists; and hydrogen, hydrogen

3

cicadas exist; chicory, chromium,
citrus trees; cicadas exist;
cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cerebellum

4

doves exist, dreamers, and dolls;
killers exist, and doves, and doves;
haze, dioxin, and days; days
exist, days and death; and poems
exist; poems, days, death

5

early fall exists; aftertaste, afterthought;
seclusion and angels exist;
widows and elk exist; every
detail exists; memory, memory’s light;
afterglow exists; oaks, elms,
junipers, sameness, loneliness exist;
eider ducks, spiders, and vinegar
exist, and the future, the future

Christensen - Alphabet
Inger Christensen, from Letter in April: IV (as translated here)
Already on the street
with our money clutched
in our hands,
and the world is a white laundry,
where we are boiled and wrung
and dried and ironed,
and smoothed down
and forsaken
we sweep
back
in children’s dreams
of chains and jail
and the heartfelt sigh
of liberation
and in the spark trails
of feelings
the fire eater
the cigarette swallower
come
to light
and we pay
and distance ourselves
with laughter.

 

Two internationally well-known elder Danish composers, both somewhat aloof from the wider Western avant-garde, but no less original, are Ib Nørholm (b. 1931) and Per Nørgård (b. 1932). Little of Nørholm’s early work, which dabbled with serialism, graphic notation, aleatory devices, and the use of mecahnical toys, is available to listen to online, but one can read about it here. From the late 1960s, Nørholm would become associated with the so-called ‘New Simplicity’, in opposition to certain manifestations of the avant-garde, and gradualy moved back towards a form of Nordic expression with roots in the earlier symphonic tradition, whilst maintaining a degree of stylistic pluralism, as in the Third Symphony, A Day’s Nightmare (1973).

The trajectory of Nørgård’s compositional development was not dissimilar. Coming from an early influence of Sibelius, with whom he corresponded. His particular combination of microtonally-inflected exploration of natural harmonics, and textural composition, have led to his being cited as a forerunner of musique spectrale. These qualities can be heard in his Iris (1966-1967):

In his symphonic work, Nørgård demonstrated the possibility of some reconciliation of his earlier compositional achievements with the symphonic tradition to which he was earlier drawn, as demonstrated in the Third Symphony of 1975.

 

A composer associated with considerably more radical tendencies was Henning Christiansen (1932-2008) who was associated with the Fluxus movement and worked closely with Joseph Beuys. Here is a detailed article on his work, while a range of Christiansen’s work can be listened to here. Here is the score of his Audience Eve (1964), published in the Fluxus Performance Workbook:

Audience Eve

In the evening, during the performances:
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
continue through the whole program.
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
If possible, then fade the light in and out,
as beautiful as possible. [like the sea]

Here is a selection of Christiansen’s remarkable and disorienting work:

Henning Christiansen, Op. 50: Requiem of Art (1970)

 

Henning Christiansen/Bjørm Nørgaard, The Horse Sacrifice (1970)

 

Henning Christiansen, Symphony Natura Op. 170 (1985)

 

Henning Christiansen, Abschiedssymphonie, Op. 177 (1988)

A leading figure in electronic music in Denmark was Else Marie Pade (1924-2016), a former resistance fighter who worked with Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and also visited Darmstadt on various occasions.

 

Gunner Møller Pedersen (b. 1943) is best known a film composer, but also wrote a number of self-standing electronic works.

 

 

Of the generation born after the war, Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1950) , a student of  Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932), was also viewed as part of the ‘new Simplicity’, in reaction against the avant-garde, though as with German composer Wolfgang Rihm, associated with the same movement, time has revealed this work to entail a modification and shift of emphasis within a broad European modernist tradition rather than a clean break as one might find amongst Anglo-American neo-romantics, say.

 

 

Hans Abrahamsen, Schnee (2006-2008)

But I cannot recommend highly enough that all listen to the extraordinarily beautiful and intimate music of Bent Sørensen (b. 1958). Here are several contrasting works.

 

Bent Sørensen, The Shadows of Silence (2003-2004)

Bent Sørensen, Serenidad (2011-2012).

 

And here is a trailer for a selection of Sørensen’s vocal works.

 

An important younger figure is composer and sound artist Sandra Boss (b. 1984), whose website is here. Here is a track from her 2015 album Perfekt Termisk.

Here is a sample from her sound installation En Håndfuld Støv (Copenhagen, 2014).

A range of Boss’s other work can be heard here.

One of the leading Danish free jazz musicians was saxophonist John Martin Tchicai (1936-2012), who worked with John Coltrane and Albert Ayler.

 

And the following are a range of varied Danish bands and other artists:

The classic Danish film director Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) continued to make films after the war up until his death, maintaining his austere, stark and redemptive visions, as in Ordet/The Word (1955):

 

 

Otherwise, though, post-war Danish cinema was mostly dominated by light comedies and from the 1960s films rather obsessed with sex , such as Annelise Meineche’s Sytten (1965).

 

Lars von Trier (b. 1956) is best known for his work with the Dogme 95 collective and international hits such as Breaking the Waves (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Dogville (2003), but already had a profound effect upon the Danish film scene from the early 1980s, as with his stylised and world-weary crime film The Element of Crime (1984), made soon after graduating from the National Film School of Denmark. This can be viewed complete here.

 

Followed by Gabriel Axel’s Babettes gæstebud/Babette’s Feast (1987)

A group of film directors came together in Copenhagen in spring 1995 to issue their new Dogme manifesto, entitled ‘The Vow of Chastity’, whereby directors would swear to adhere to ten principles, mostly avoiding any type of overtly stylised cinema, in favour of a new type of exaggerated realism (which became every bit as much of a ‘style’ as any other), concentrating on personal and emotional matters. The first film of the Dogme movement was Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen/The Celebration (1998), a distressing story of a family reunion for a father’s 60th birthday, at which his son reveals how he used to sexually abuse both him and his sister when young.

 

A full list of the 35 Dogme films, some made in Italy, the USA, Chile and elsewhere as well as Denmark, can be viewed here.

As regards animation, the 1988 Den offentlige røst/The Public Voice  by Lejf Marcussen (1936-2013) is something of a classic.

 

One of the more renowned Danish painters, Richard Mortensen (1910-1993), drew upon the work of Kandinsky and Malevich:

Mortensen 1

Richard Mortensen, Garches-Suresnes (1947)

Mortensen 2

Richard Mortensen, Opus 11 (1980-81)

More individual was Asger Jorn (1914-1973), a detailed article on whose work can be read here (see also this article). Jorn had been involved with the communist resistance during the occupation of Denmark and continued into the Danish Communist Party, though he soon broke with them, finding the experience constraining. Jorn met Guy Debord in 1954, and from 1957 to 1961 was associated with the Situationist International.

 

Jorn - Stalingrad

Asger Jorn, Stalingrad, No-Man’s Land, or the Mad Laughter of Courage (1957-1960, 1967, 1972).

Jorn - The Disquieting Duckling

Asger Jorn, The Disquieting Duckling (1959)

John and Debord

Asger Jorn and Guy Debord, Fin de Copenhagen (1957)

A quite different type of approach is found in the work of Merete Barker (b. 1944), whose paintings draw upon sketches and drawings from many travels, and also produced computer-generated data landscapes. Her website is here; see in particular some essays by Barker and others on her work here.

Barker - My own Town

Meret Barker, Byen under, byen over/My Own Town (1989)

 

Barker - The Landscape Underground

Merete Barker, The Landscape Underground (2012)

The Danish artist Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961) works together with Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset to produce defamiliarising artworks employing or resembling familiar objects, as a form of social critique. Their website is here

Elmgreen and Dragset - Powerless Structures, Fig. 11

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 11 (1997) 

 

Elmgreen and Dragset - The Future

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Future (2014)

Sculptor Jens Galschiøt (b. 1954) is most renowned for his Pillar of Shame project, erecting sculptures as types of guerilla actions, to protest against violations of human rights.

Pillar of Shame - Hong Kong

Jens Galschiøt, Pillar of Shame, Hong Kong (1996) – painted red in 2008 by democracy activists.

Still the most renowned of modern Danish architects is high modernist functionalist Arno Jacobsen (1902-1971):

 

Rodovoer Town Hall

Arno Jacobsen, Rødovre Town Hall (1952-1956)

 

St Catherine's College, Oxford

Arno Jacobsen, St Catherine’s College, Oxford (1964-1966)

Later architects have applied many similar modernist principles but in more eclectic and adventurous fashion.

P1070590

Bjarke Ingels/PLOT, VM Houses, Copenhagen (2005)

 

Royal Danish Playhouse

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse (2008)

Furniture design also has a remarkable modernist tradition in Denmark, not least through the work of Hans Jørgensen Wegner (1914-2007) and Jacobsen.

 

Wegner Shell Chair

Wegner Shell Chair

 

Jacobsen Shell Sofa

Jacobsen Shell Sofa

Physical theatre is a well-established art in Denmark, following the founding of The Commedia School in 1978. The group Neander was founded in 1998 by Kristján Ingimarsson, and have won world renown.

 

A more recent physical theatre company is the Copenhagen-based Out of Balanz, founded in 2006 whose website is here. Stressing themes of community in the face of consumerism or death, here is a trailer for their work Next Door.

 

And here is a page on their Georgette va au Supermarche (2007), about a young woman’s odyssey into the supermarket.

The largest modern dance company in Denmark is the Danish Dance Theatre, founded in 1981. Here are a few clips from their work:

A different approach is to be found in the work of the Aarhus company Granhøj Dans, founded after the meeting in 1989 of dance Palle Granhøj and set designer Per Victor, who developed the ‘Obstruction Technique’, in which one dancer is physically held back by another, but still has to carry out as much of their intended phrase as possible, in the process creating a new phrase.

 


Culture in the EU (6): Czech Republic

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic was part of the single state of Czechoslovakia from 1918 until 1993. Through the course of this blog (and in the later one on Slovakia), I will refer to the area which became the Czech Republic by that name from 1945 onwards, without neglecting the effect of the unified state.

Czech cinema was relatively conventional in the 1950s, but this changed dramatically by the end of the decade, and led to an overwhelming wave of creative imagination from then onwards. One of the first films to win an international audience, is the notorious Ostře sledované vlaky/Closely Watched Trains (1966) by Jiří Menzel (b. 1938).

 

 

Soon afterwards followed the Czechoslovkian New Wave, most active in the 1960s and early 1970s, centered around the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). Characteristic of this movement is Věra Chytilová’s abstract, elemental and fantastical tale of two teenage girls undergoing a Candide-like odyssey: Sedmikrásky/Daisies (1966)

 

Few other major New Wave films are available online, but here are a few clips, trailers and features:

 

The Czech Republic has one of the most distinctive animation cultures in Eastern Europe. Jiří Trnka’s film Ruka/The Hand (1965) is thought by many to be amongst the greatest animations of all time.

 

The most internationally well-known of Czech animators is Jan Švankmajer (b. 1934). Here are three contrasting works.

 

This is a scene from his 1988 film Alice:

 

The complete works of a slightly younger figure, Jiri Barta (b. 1948), can be viewed here:

 

A brief overview of modern Czech literature can be read here. Highly significant in the establishment of an underground literary scene immediately after the war was the poet, writer and painter Jiří Kolář (1914-2002), a quite detailed account of whom can be read here. Kolář was a key member of Skupina 42a group of modernist artists founded in 1942, but disbanded in 1948. The writer Elinor S. Miller has written in detail about the relationships between Kolář’s work and that of French nouveau roman author Michel Butor.

Kolar - The End of Words

A selection of Kolar’s poems can be read here.

Kolar, ‘No One Ever’

Draw a square on the floor
a circle
a triangle
and a trapezium
Place into each
an everyday item
a book
a gadget
into the last arrange yourself
– test out all sixteen combinations
which can be formed
Afterwards switch on the radio
get undressed
attach to your naked body
the book as well as the gadget
clear your mind of thoughts
remain calm for several seconds and say:
“I loved you since the first moment I saw you…”
Listen attentively and after a while reply:
“I hated you since the first moment I saw you…”
Listen attentively and after a while continue:
“No one has ever love and hated you so much as I have.”

Equally central to post-war Czech literary history is the Nobel Prize winning poet Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986). Some translations of Seifert’s poems can be read at one site here, and another here.

Seifert, ‘Fragment of a Letter’

All night rain lashed the windows.
I couldn’t go to sleep.
So I switched on the light
and wrote a letter.

If love could fly,
as of course it can’t,
and didn’t so often stay close to the ground,
it would be delightful to be enveloped
in its breeze.

But like infuriated bees
jealous kisses swarm down upon
the sweetness of the female body
and an impatient hand grasps
whatever it can reach,
and desire does not flag.
Even death might be without terror
at the moment of exultation.

But who has ever calculated
how much love goes
into one pair of open arms!

Letters to women
I always sent by pigeon post.
My conscience is clear.
I never entrusted them to sparrowhawks
or goshawks.

Under my pen the verses dance no longer
and like a tear in the corner of an eye
the word hangs back.
And all my life, at its end,
is now only a fast journey on a train:

I’m standing by the window of the carriage
and day after day
speeds back into yesterday
to join the black mists of sorrow.
At times I helplessly catch hold
of the emergency brake.

Perhaps I shall once more catch sight
of a woman’s smile,
trapped like a torn-off flower
on the lashes of her eyes.
Perhaps I may still be allowed
to send those eyes at least one kiss
before they’re lost to me in the dark.

Perhaps once more I shall even see
a slender ankle
chiselled like a gem
out of warm tenderness,
so that I might once more
half choke with longing.

How much is there that man must leave behind
as the train inexorably approaches
Lethe Station
with its plantations of shimmering asphodels
amidst whose perfume everything is forgotten.
Including human love.

That is the final stop:
the train goes no further.

Seifert’s collection Odlevdni zvonu/The Casting of Bells (1967) has been available to read in English for some time.

Seifert - The Casting of Bells

Dissident novelist Pavel Kohout (b. 1928), in his novel White Book, created a terrifying narrative developing Kafka and the Theatre of the Abusrd, relating (though not explicitly) to the craziness of communism, especially following the crushing of the Prague Spring. A short review can be read here.

Kohout - White Book

Some of the most disturbing work of writer Ota Pavel (1930-1973) (whose Jewish father and two brothers were incarcerated in camps during the Nazi era) was written when he was coming to terms with his own bipolar disorder and facing a break down. A book of unsettling but memorable tales from Pavel’s childhood was published just after his death as How I Came to Know Fish.

Pavel - How I Came to Know Fish

 

A younger, but no less important, Czech writer is former underground poet and songwriter Jáchym Topol (b. 1962). Some of Topol’s work writes outwards from his experience as a journalist; elsewhere he considers sites saturated by memory, such as the camp of Terezin, during the post-Nazi era, in his The Devil’s Workshop. Here is an important interview with Topol.

A wide range of new developments ensued in Czech theatre throughout the post-war period. One of the most innovative developments was black-light theatre, founded by Jiri Srnec in 1961, which played on the illusion to the eye which encounters black on black. Srnec founded the Černé divadlo Jiřího Srnce.

 

Here is a sample of Laterna Magika, founded in 1958, whose work mixes projected images with live stage production:

 

No-one could ignore the work of Václav Havel (1936-2011), who went onto become the first President of post-communist Czechoslovakia, then of the Czech Republic.

Here is a site devoted to Havel’s work, and here is a selection of it:

 

 

Puppet theatre is also a prominent feature in the post-war Czech Republic, not least in the theatre Divaldo Minor, dedicated to such work:

 

The theatre of Divadlo Alfréd ve dvoře focuses on motion and the body as much as words:

 

Here are some of the most notable contemporary Czech composers:

 

Miloslav Kabeláč (1908-1979):

Zbyněk Vostřák (1920-1985):

Jarmil Burghauser (1921-1997):

 

A link to earlier musical worlds, with a certain displaced sensibility, can be found in the music of Jan Klusák (b. 1934):

 

Rudolf Růžíčka (b. 1941)

Some more samples of Růžíčka’s electroacoustic music can be listened to here.

Several periodicals appeared in the 1960s devoted to experimental music, including Konfrontace (1968-1970) and Nové cesty hudby (1964, 1970).

A whole album devoted to music from the Czech Electronic Music Studios, founded in 1967, specifically from composers Vostřák, Miloslav Ištvan, and Václav Kučera, can be listened to here:

 

The Czech artistic avant-garde flourished between the wars, but was largely neutered during the communist period. A range of highly iconoclastic artists have come to prominence in this later period; here are a few examples.

Zbyněk Baladrán  (b. 1973)

Dead Reckoning (2014)

Ján Mančuška (1972-2011) – website here:

http://janmancuska.com/en/page/show/id/143/title/video

a middle aged woman (2009)

From Invisible (2011)

Here are some of the most arresting examples of post-war Czech architecture:

Jested TV Tower

Karel Hubáček, Jested TV Tower (1963-1983).

 

CKD Building

Alena Šrámková, ČKD building (1983).

 

Church at Cernocise

Zdeněk Fránek, Church in Černošice (2010)

Modern dance was an ill-developed genre in the Czech Republic until the fall of communism. But the range of new work which has emerged since then is extraordinary. One very important director of recent decades is Mirka Eliášová (b. 1975), who has done much of her important work with children.

 

Here is the group DOT504 and their work of dance-theatre Collective Loss of Memory (a wide range of other work from this group can be found online):

 

In the work of dance company TOW with their director Petra Hauerová (b. 1975), one encounters a mixture of dance with elaborate use of lasers and animation:

 

Here is a longer sample of TOW’s work.

And here is a sample from the group Farm in the Cave, who were established in 2001:

Farm in the Cave, The Song of an Emigrant (2007).

 

 


Culture in the EU (4): Croatia

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Croatia

First, here is an article on the Grupa šestorice autora/Group of Six Authors who came to prominence in Croatia in the mid-1970s, especially around the journal Maj 75, published 1978-1984.

Maj 75-i-1982

And here is a detailed article on Vlado Martek (b. 1951), Croatian conceptual poet who was part of the Group of Six.

Martek - poemn

 

The following is a documentary film about the Group of Six, though has no subtitles:

http://www.mojnet.com/video-g6-grupa-sestorice-autora-dokumetarni-film-a/8b1625fc9f87e7491ae0

and http://www.mojnet.com/video-g6-grupa-sestorice-autora-dokumetarni-film-b/50704adf139d994d5472

Here is the website for writer Dubravka Ugrešić (b. 1947)

Ugresic - Fording

I greatly enjoyed reading this somewhat existential journey through post-Cold War Eastern Europe by Slavenka Drakulić (b. 1949):

Drakulic - Café Europa

Drakulić is perhaps best known however for her 1999 novel S: A Novel about the Balkans, dealing with the horrors of the Balkan wars and especially atrocities against women (Drakulić had been denounced together with other women by an advisor to Franjo Tudjman for not accepting the nationalistic line on the war, and later received threats, leading her to leave her country).

Drakulic - S

Another response to the Yugoslav war, drawing upon myth and fairytale, is the 2002 novel Smrt djevojčice sa žigicama (Death of the Little Match Girl), by Zoran Ferić (b. 1961).

Feric - Death of the Little Match Girl

On of the most important movements for Croatian poetry was Quorum, the name of a library formed in 1984 and magazine in 1985. A short piece on this movement, with a text which can be purchased, is here.

Here is some music by Milko Kelemen (b. 1924), whose work was known and respected by the Western European avant-garde.

 

And here is some more mainstream (with some audible relation to that of Prokofiev, Shostakovich and others) Eastern European contemporary music by Natko Devc̆ić (1914-1997):

 

But most remarkable of all is Ivo Malec (b. 1925), who spent much of his professional life in France:

 

 

Then, from Marko Ruz̆djak (1946-2012), after the work of Alfred Jarry, a little in the manner of the pitchless music of Carl Orff such as Astutuli:

 

And some very strange music by Igor Kuljerić (1938-2006) making extensive use of quotation:

 

The Croatian film director Nikola Tanhofer (1926-1998) had a major impact with his films from the 1950s onwards, not least with H-8 (1958), based upon a true story of a fatal traffic accident between Zagreb and Belgrade (this version has subtitles):

 

Here are two animated films (of many) from the 1960s: Surogat/Ersatz (1961) by Dusan Vukotic (1927-1998):

 

and Don Kihot (1961) by Vlado Kristl (1923-2004):

 

Here is Zoran Tadić’s 1981 Ritam zločina/Rhythm of a Crime:

 

And Vatroslav Mimica’s 1981 Banović Strahinj/The Falcon:

And here is an interview with director Vinko Brešan (b. 1964) on his 2013 film Svećenikova djeca/The Priest’s Children:

 

Puppet theatre is an important part of the cultural landscape of Zagreb, drawing upon guignol and Javanese stick-puppet traditions, especially through the work of the company Družina mladih/Company of the Young, established soon after World War Two. Here is a video of some work for children from the Zagreb Puppet Theatre:

 

I have not been able to find much in the way of films of contemporary Croatian theatre which would be comprehensible to non-Croat speakers (like myself!), but here is a trailer for a London performance of a modern classic, Glorija (1955), by Ranko Marinković (1913-2001):

 

And here one can read an article on the theatrical work of Ivo Brešan (b. 1936).

A site here gives some detail and examples of the work of painters and architects who were part of the movement EXAT 51/Experimental Studio, active from 1946 to 1968.

Srnec - KA-5 (1956)

Aleksander Srnec, KA-5 (1956)

A slightly later movement was the Gorgona Group, founded in the late 1950s in Zagreb, which can be read about in detail here.

Knifer - Gorgona No. 2 (1961)

Julije Knifer, Gorgona no. 2 (1961).

And here is a website about Croatian painter and graphic artist Miroslav Šutej (1936-2005):

Sutej - Alchetron

The following is a documentary on the painter Edo Murtić (1921-2005):

 

And here is some information on Croatian architect Alfred Albini (1896-1978):

Albini

 

Finally, here is a site about a Croatian Institute for contemporary dance and mine.

 

 


Culture in the EU (3): Bulgaria

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Bulgaria

I will begin with a section from the the 1964 film Крадецът на праскови/The Peach-Garden Trespasser, directed by Vulo Radev (1923-2001):

 

And this is the 1973 film, Преброяване на дивите зайци/The Hare Census, directed by Eduard Zahariev (1938-1996). I can’t find a version with subtitles, but it is interesting to watch visually anyhow.

 

Here is some more information on this film.

And here is one of the many animations on the ‘Three Fools’ by Donyo Donev (1929-2007):

 

The writer Nikolai Rainov (1889-1954) lived into the post-war era, but his work did not receive widespread distribution in Bulgaria until after the fall of communism. Here is an article on his writing.

Rainov - Bulgarian Magical Fairy Tales

 

Here is one set of translations from the Bulgarian poet Atanas Dalchev (1904-1978); another is here.

This article gives plenty of information on a more recent Bulgarian writer, Georgi Gospodinov (b. 1968); I am especially looking forward to reading the following 1999 novel, which has been widely translated:

Gospodinov - Natural Novel

 

Here is the website for Bulgarian sculptor Ivan Minekov (b. 1947).

Minekov

Whilst here is the site for the couple Christo (b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude Javacheff (1935-2009), installation artists about who there is much information on the web.

Jevacheff

Here is some of the work of painter and sculptor Andrey Lekarski (b. 1940), representing in part an extension of some devices and aesthetics derived from surrealism and pop art.

Lekarski.jpg

 

Here is the website for feminist performance artist Boryana Rossa (b. 1972).

Rossa

And here is an interview with Rossa on art and politics:

 

Here are a selection of diverse works by contemporary Bulgarian composers:

 

 

 

 

And here is the amazing and idiosyncratic Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012):

 

The work of this ensemble, playing a music with roots in traditional Bulgarian folk music, was much admired by Frank Zappa.

 

And for another genre, here is some electronica from Ivan Shopov:

 

One of the most renowned public intellectuals anywhere is the  Bulgarian-born  Julia Kristeva (b. 1941); here is her official site, and here is an extended interview:

 

The following is a film about Bulgarian choreographer Mila Iskenova (b. 1960):

 

 

More on Iskrenova can be seen here.

This volume made a good deal of contemporary Bulgarian theatre available to English speakers for the first time in the 1990s:

Contemporary Bulgarian Theatre

And here is a biography of leading theatre practitioner Yordan Radichkov (1929-2004). Radichkov was notorious for his 1978 drama Opit za letene/Trying to Fly, about which one can read more here.

Finally, here is the website for architect Georgi Stanishev (b. 1952).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Culture in the EU (2): Belgium

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Belgium

I will begin with one of the most important of all artists of the twentieth century, poet, post-Duchamp artist and filmmaker Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976). Here is a site with lots of information on his work and illustrations.

Citron-Citroen 1974 by Marcel Broodthaers 1924-1976

Citron-Citroen 1974 Marcel Broodthaers 1924-1976 Purchased 1977 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P07211

Marcel Broodthaers, Citron-Citroen, réclame pour la Mer du Nord (Advertisement for the North Sea) (1974).

And here one can listen to his ‘Interview with a Cat’.

Furthermore, here is Broodthaers’ 1968 film Le Corbeau et le Renard.

 

Here is a discussion of his work at the time of a 2016 retrospective at MOMA.

And here is a reading of Broodthaers’ poetry:

 

This site gives information on the experimental Belgian poet Hugo Claus (1929-2008), including some important links. Furthermore, at this site one can read and listen to a variety of Claus’s work.

Amongst other important Belgian writers are Françoise Mallet-Joris (b. 1930), about whom one can watch a feature here (only an excerpt available to those who have not subscribed). A biography and list of works (in French) is here. And some information on translations of highly-regarded writer Monika van Paemel (b. 1945) can be found here. Here are details of a translation of her story ‘The Accursed Fathers’. Some information on writer Kristien Hemmerechts (b. 1955) can be found here.

A useful page on Christian Dotremont (1922-1979), who brought together poetry and painting, is here.

Dotremont - Day of the Artist.jpg

And here is a poem by Jacques Izoard (1936-2008). A wider range can be viewed here.

This site gives much detail on the work of Gent artist Marthe Donas (1887-1967).

Donas - Intution No. 19 (1958)

Marthe Donas, Intuition No. 19 (1958).

 

The website of multi-faceted artist Jan Fabre (b. 1958) is here, whilst that of conceptual artist Arne Quinze (b. 1971) is here.

Quinze Cityscape wooden sculpture

Pictures related to my Brussels Photo Blog dedicated to anyone that wish to know more about the major or less known attractions of the city of Brussels.

Arno Quinze, Cityscape Wooden Sculpture.

 

Here is a site on the fantastic photography of Dirk Braeckman (b. 1958).

Braeckman

And here is the site of  Memymom, mother-daughter partnership Lisa De Boeck (b. 1985) and  Marilène Coolens (b. 1953).

Memymom

 

The senior figures of post-war Belgian music were Henri Pousseur (1929-2009) and Karol Goeyvaerts (1923-1993), both of seminal importance in the history of serial music.

 

 

Another figure who is a prominent and generous presence in Belgian musical life is André Laporte (b. 1931):

 

A very different type of music can be found in the minimalist work of Wim Mertens (b. 1953), known in particular for his music for the film The Belly of an Architect by Peter Greenaway, and for an extremely important book on American minimal music.

 

Amongst numerous younger figures, one should listen to the music of Serge Verstockt (b. 1957):

And also the remarkably fluent and effortless composer Luc Brewaeys (1959-2015), who was tragically lost to cancer last year.

 

 

An important institution for the promotion of new music in Belgium is the Logos Foundation, which is currently threatened with closure.

 

Amongst the numerous early music groups in Belgian, one of the most important is Collegium vocale, under the general direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Here they are singing Jean Langlais:

Here is a range of significant Belgian popular music, ranging from noise music to trip-hop.

 

Here is the 1966 animation Chromophobia by Raoul Servais (b. 1928):

 

A hugely important feminist work is Chantal Akerman’s 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975):

 

Whilst the disturbing 1992 film Man bites Dog, directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Nobzel and Benoît Poelvoorde (the latter in the main role), received some international attention upon release:

 

One of the most significant post-war theatre directors in Belgium is Michel Dezoteux (b. 1949). Here is is Le Revizor (2008), based on the work of Nikolai Gogol:

 

And here is an interview with another hugely important figure in contemporary Belgian theatre, Frédéric Baal (b. 1940):

 

The choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (b. 1960), created the dance company Rosas, who were resident at La Monnaie from 1992 to 2007. Here is a video of their work:

 

Finally, an article on the fashion collective, the Antwerp Six.

Dries van Noten.jpg