Thursday, 22 May 2014

Humphrey Who?




This post is one of a series on post-WWII British Composers. Click on the link for more information or click on the British Composers label to read them all.


I won't say a lot about this, or about Humphrey Searle - just that when I hear pieces like this it strikes me that posterity is often kinder to art than to music. True, many paintings are left for years stacked in attics, facing the wall, but all a painting needs is a wall to be hung on. Some people might glance at it. A few might meditate upon it. Of them, only a few people might get anything out of it and many people might detest it. Whatever the response, the artist felt he or she had something that needed to be expressed - and expressed it. There it is, so long as someone provides the wall-space for it.

Music, on the other hand, needs people to perform it, needs people to have enough confidence in it to want to perform it. Unperformed, it exists merely as dots on a page, silent, in the dark.  Recording technology has brought the condition of music a step closer to that of painting but it still requires musicians to record the music and listeners to click on it. Music sleeps until it is woken up.

Humphrey Searle wrote five symphonies, not to mention music for a lost episode of Dr Who and the 1963 film, The Haunting. He was also a great cat-lover.

4 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

I liked it - although I would not want an unvaried diet of it. Since I haven't heard his other music, I don't know if there was variety or not.

The Solitary Walker said...

I see from Wiki that Searle wrote quite a lot for film and TV — which is gratifying, as I can appreciate this music as an atmospheric backdrop, but can only uncomfortably listen to it 'on its own'. (I know that's just me, Dominic — I feel the same way about quite a lot of modern music, and it's probably my lack of auditory application... I do appreciate your help here and there in nudging me towards a greater understanding!)

I did, however, completely latch on to your comparison between paintings on the wall and music on the page. 'Music sleeps until it is woken up.' Ah, yes.

Gwil W said...

I've quite gone off the conducted orchestra thing lately . . . well, for a while actually . . . and now I'm more into small combos . . . string quartettes, trios plus piano and the like . . . I mean music where I can hear every note and know where it's coming from . . . and paint my own picture . . . which is a strange thing . . . so I've put lots of dots on your page . . . etc., Dominic.

Gwil W said...

I'm catching up with you. I enjoyed your Whernsides walk and the photos. I'll have a look at your MacDiarmid video a bit later tonight.