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An Example of Counterpoint from Beijing Modern Music Festival

lovers in stone

An Example of Counterpoint from Beijing Modern Music Festival

28 May 2018 / William Anderson / Compositions

Harue Kunieda’s Floral Tributes III opened the final concert of the 2018 World Music Days, hosted by Beijing Modern Music Festival. The China National Symphony Orchestra performed at 7:30 in the gorgeous, state-of-the-art opera house at the Beijing Central Conservatory.

I must mention Floral Tributes III because the music did something that is getting lost in music today. Kuneida’s work had a gently flowing harmonic scheme, shepherded by shakuhachi and percussion, and culminating in a stand-out moment where a spine-chilling non-diatonic harmony gently pushed forward into the foreground, grabbed our attention and transformed us, re-made us. The move rocked the house in a gentle way, and introduced the congas. Before we recovered from her harmonic surprise, we found ourselves hearing congas. The elements were suffused, imbricated, So, she demonstrated something that music can do that’s wonderful, deep, and rich: don’t just bring in the congas; give birth to the congas through a deep and memorable counterpoint of events. Musical events can be overdetermined. In fact there can be innumerable confluences of perceptible phenomena, contrasts & twists that can make a musical moment shake us to our very core—a counterpoint of musical events. There is too little of this kind of mastery.

We don’t need to hear congas. Maybe I don’t really like congas, but you can convince me that I need to hear congas if you set it up like Ms. Harue Kuneida did. In fact, now I want to hear the congas again. The strong composer makes us desire what she has coming for us.

Once we have heard counterpoint, we tend to spurn one-dimensional music. 100% superficial music makes us angry. There is an awful lot of it and it’s being promoted by some very well meaning but misguided gate keepers. And we are very concerned for the young composers who are being promoted before they are ready.

Note: using “counterpoint” here in the figurative sense used by Adorno and Edward Said, but we can look at actual counterpoint and see overdetermination. See Juan de Triana’s Con temor bivo–look at the posting about measure 15.

–William Anderson, RSF delegate to ISCM 2018