Michael Finnissy: Mississipi Hornpipes

New Release - Press Information

If the title suggests to you some folkie American Appalachian adaptations, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Finnissy — Prof Finnissy to give him his proper title — is professor of composition at the University of Southampton.

We found this quote attributed to him: “If it’s a commercial success you have in your sights, lay the weapons on the ground and come away quietly. This music is much too interesting ever to succeed along those low lines,” and that applies to this CD. If you want some nice tuneful music, try the baroque album from last week.

This is music for violin and piano and it’s in the experimental section of the record store. Finnissy takes tunes, breaks them down into non-musical bits and then re-assembles them in the hope that something organic emerges. This means on this that the two instruments seem to be doing different things at the same time, and the fact that there’s only the two of them gives it a fairly cold sound. “Sonic mosaics” was the title of a book about composers that included Finnissy, and a mosaic is a good image for this album: sometimes the instruments combine to create a pattern, sometimes they don’t.

He’s approaching it with some wit though: track two Seterjentens Fridag translates roughly as “milkmaid’s day off”. Molly House was written for one Molly Money on her 80th birthday; a molly house is a brothel, and Molly House itself includes section for Hoover, hair dryer and shaver.

His academic tendencies can be seen in the sleeve notes: what went on in molly houses was behind closed doors and Finnissy believes that much of modern contemporary music is behind the closed doors of modern conglomerates and publishers and Art (capital A) should counteract this.

It has to be said that if you don’t want to work a little at your music you probably won’t like this, but given what’s said above it is surprisingly melodic.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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