My biography? Doesn’t “fit in”. From the wrong side of the tracks all the way. Virtual failure in commercial terms, but who the hell cares either way?

That self-deprecation appears on Michael Finnissy’s website, which is also notable for the absence of social media links featuring the composer. Pianist Ian Pace has recorded Michael Finnissy’s epic The History of Photography in Sound in a superb interpretation on the Métier label. In the admirably comprehensive sleeve notes for the new release Ian Pace quotes Susan Sontag as saying:

To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge – and, therefore, like power… Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.

Elsewhere in his notes Ian Pace describes how:

Finnissy’s work investigates quite exhaustively the possibility of removing something from a unique existence in a particular context; his musical materials become flexible ‘texts’ which assume different meanings depending on the circumstances in which they are presented.

The History of Photography in Sound’s preoccupation with appropriation and changed contexts resonates with its composer’s “who the hell cares” attitude towards friends, followers and commercial success. While immersed in Ian Pace’s persuasive advocacy of Michael Finnissy’s pioneering but always human music I was reminded of these thoughts from new media maven Jason Calacanis:

We’re harvesting our lives and putting them online. We’re addicted to gaining followers and friends … and reading comments we get in return. As we look for validation and our daily 15 minutes of fame, we do so at the cost of our humanity.

Dependent arising from this path includes Michael Finnissy as teacher of both composer Hossein Hadisi and Exaudi director James Weeks, who together present the premiere of Zahhák: the Dragon King of Persia this weekend. In defiance of micro-media trends, the epic piano cycle is a distinguishing feature of contemporary music. Other examples include Kaikhosru Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum and Alvin Curran’s Inner Cities. Listen to pianist Daan Vandewalle in discussion with me about Inner Cities in an Overgrown Path podcast.

Also on Facebook and TwitterThe History of Photography in Sound was a requested sample. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as “fair use”, for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Source: On An Overgrown Path