A Fractured Landscape (in memoriam Edward Said) (2009)

for solo piano

Duration: c. 7'00"

Première

First performance: Monday 17 August 2009; Australia; Antony Gray pianoperformance details.

Programme note

The death in 2003 of the philosopher and musician Edward Said, and the posthumous publication of his book On Late Style, led me to consider afresh the notion of so-called late style in music. I looked particularly at piano music -- late Beethoven, late Schubert, late Liszt and late Brahms -- and given Tony Gray's special affinity with Brahms' four late sets of Klavierstucke, I set about composing (what might be) the first of a series of reflective essays for the same medium.

Said talks too about 'lateness' in the writings of Adorno, who -- on the subject of late Beethoven -- wrote:

"his late works constitute a form of exile...the late works are relegated to the outer reaches of art, in the vicinity of document...the power of subjectivity in the late works of art is the irascible gesture with which it takes leave of the works themselves. It breaks their bonds, not in order to express itself, but in order, expressionless, to cast off the appearance of art. Of the works themselves it leaves only fragments behind, and communicates itself, like a cipher, only through the blank spaces from which it has disengaged itself...objective is the fractured landscape, subjective the light in which -- alone -- it glows into life. He does not bring about their harmonious synthesis. As the power of dissociation, he tears them apart in time, in order perhaps, to preserve them for the eternal. In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes." (Adorno "Essays on Music")

I composed A Fractured Landscape (in memoriam Edward Said) at Tony Gray's request for his concerts in Australia in August 2009. I started the piece in Hout Bay in June, wrote a good deal of it in London at Tony's piano, and finished it on tour in my hotel room in Pretoria on 21 July. It received its first performance in Adelaide on 17 August 2009.

Press

South African Michael Blake’s A Fractured Landscape, in its first performance, underscored the tight, taut control this influential composer has previously shown. Angular, pulsing with energy and noisily exuberant at times, this challenging piece was approached by Gray in his cool, calm, objective manner that characterized all his performances, letting the music speak for itself and ensuring its voice was clear and unambiguous.
Rodney Smith, Adelaide Now, August 2009