Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lilburn and McGann

You can say ‘hypocrite’ if you like, but I have to admit that I’m listening to Lilburn on streaming radio at the moment. It’s his first symphony. Now let’s be clear; I haven’t changed my view that Lilburn at best is a master of movement without melody, as in this symphony, and even in this piece there are stretches where nothing is happening except rhythmic phrases. Time and again he seems about to break out into a real surge, a soaring, and time and again he breaks off. Given that, however, this piece is certainly more attractive than his later works, where he got into ‘modernism’ (of some sort) to such a degree that music flew out the window almost completely. And don’t even let’s go down the track of his electronic music. That stuff is akin to Stravinsky’s serial music, which he produced in his last years; music which is now almost never heard. I have some records somewhere of some of it, with Robert Craft (almost wrote Crafty) writing the notes in esoteric fashion. It’s all baloney, I’m afraid, as far as I can hear.

I’ve just noted too, while I was finding the streaming music on Radio NZ, that Brad McGann, the NZ film director, has died at the age of 43. For those who know more about him than I do, his other films will no doubt be remembered, but the only movie of his I ever saw was the brilliant In My Father’s Den, which came out only two or three years ago. A very strange movie, which could have easily gone so far into the ‘arty’ (as The Piano did) that it would have lost its audience, yet it somehow managed to keep the story in focus, and to offer excellent characters, and not a few surprises. It has to be regarded as a classic in the Crash Palace (with Bruno Lawrence) genre.

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