Tuesday 28 July 2009

Berio Liner Notes; Poetic Injustice.

Dealing out criticism isn't really in this blog's remit (I prefer to feature things I like), however this is something worth covering, perhaps.

A while ago I started collecting Berio material, recordings, scores, documentaries, books and so on (previously I just had Sinfonia on cd, sad, I know.)

A primary resource is my local music library, thankfully they have quite a bit of stuff, however there was a gap in their catalogue. In stock were the scores for Chemins I and Chemins IIb/c but they didn't have any recordings of them, the only ones currently available were on a fairly recent Col Legno release (Chemins I and IIb, IIc is the same but includes an extra bass clarinet part, not sure a commercial recording of this exists.)

So I filled in a form on the library's site suggesting they buy this cd and that I would like to reserve it if they did. I heard nothing back about it for a few months and in the meantime I bought the album as an Mp3 from ClassicsOnline (link here), and very good it is too (you can watch the Chemins I performance on YouTube here, not a great quality recording but on the plus side, it's free. The cd also includes Formazioni and Concerto For Two Pianos and Orchestra.)

Then the other day I got an email saying the library had bought the cd and it was reserved for me (I had forgotten all about it), I thought I ought to go and borrow it even though I didn't really need it now (at least I could burn a copy of it and have an uncompressed audio version, I had paid for an mp3 of it remember.)

On the way home from the library I ran into a musician friend (Mark the tubist) who on hearing the story said 'at least you'll have the liner notes'. Yes I thought, good point, I walked the rest of the way home thinking about all the fine words the booklet would surely contain.

However, this was not to be. For some strange, unfathomable reason, poetry has replaced the usual and arguably more useful musicological/biographical material. I shall subject treat you to an example.
Formazioni -:

there's a draft (quake, quote)
that is building up
collectively and thereover
and above it the little birds
buzzing hissing
the sun rises
mounting darkness
a cloud of white birds in the white whey
i acknowledge
i know nothing
pricking pins (pastiche)
then the part
partitioned parts lend it
a sudden whole
trumpets fanfare briefly
strike without
You, she says, or i, say she
Ferdinand Schmatz, September 2008

I'm no literary critic so I'm not going to comment on the relative merits of the work, but do think Col Legno should have included some normal liner notes, with or without the poetry.

To end on a positive note, if you like Berio's music this cd is a must-have and I commend Col Legno for releasing it, just don't expect to learn anything about the music from the booklet.

I've 'stocked' the cd in my shop/store, UK here, US here.

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Ben.H said...

I've seen a few of these quasi-poetic liner notes now. The most frustrating thing is when the notes are in several languages, but are different texts instead of translations of a single text, especially when the notes you can't quite read seem to be more informative than the English one.

I think Hat Art have done this several times, printing an essay in German, translated into French, then half a page of prose poetry in English by the producer.

E.L. said...

The original poems are in German I think, then translated into English.

It would have been a bit annoying if the German notes had benn of a more standard/useful variety compared to the English but at least I could have translated them online I thought it was worth it.

I don't object to poetry in cd booklets, just not when it replaces information about the music.