Still puzzling over this remark from Judd Greenstein yesterday:
I would get so torn apart if I tried to pass of those Hamelin Etudes as my latest compositions.
Judd’s referring to these pieces by the Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin. They’re hyper-Romantic in a post-Liszty, totally non-ironic way. Let’s just say that if Rachmaninoff was born too late, Hamelin is, like, an Egyptian mummy.
Over dinner last night, Ted claimed that all the best performers are also composers (apropos of the fact that six out of seven members of his band Delusion Story write music). Hamelin’s a good example. He’s one of my favorite pianists, one of the few I’d happily pay my own money to go hear. He plays a mean People United. He plays Beethoven. He plays insane, piano-dork stuff like Alkan and Sorabji. I think we can all agree that more pianists should be like him—curious, unpredictable, eager to experiment, just a bit weird. Maybe more of them should compose, too.
Back to Judd’s comment. Isn’t he the guy who wrote a super-romantic piano piece and called it First Ballade? Yes, I believe he is:
With respect to sound-world and pianistic writing, the piece is not so far from a Hamelin étude. So what makes Judd’s piece feel ‘referential’ and not ‘hopelessly out of touch with the compositional zeitgeist’? Is it because we bring to it our preconceived ideas of what kind of composer Judd is? Why does he get this privilege, and Hamelin doesn’t? I think I benefit from this same prejudice. I’ve written piece after piece explicitly referring to Brahms/Beethoven/Chopin/Mozart etc., and people seem to understand it as a postmodern collage type of thing. Funny, I don’t feel postmodern when I’m writing it.
I don’t think Judd’s love for the piano, or my love for the piano, is that different from Marc-André Hamelin’s love for his instrument. It’s a matter of context. Judd and I both went to “composition school”. We both live in Brooklyn and drink overpriced cocktails and write pretty music. Hamelin’s old. His name sounds like he might be French. Shouldn’t he write, like, spectralism or something?