“Mountain Messengers”

Concerto Named in Honor of The Mountain Messenger Premiers in Switzerland

Late last month, The Mountain Messenger received an e-mail we thought had to be from a prankster. But, we checked and there really is a Basel Sinfonietta, a Swiss symphonic orchestra specializing in contemporary classical music. Moreover, on Sunday, January 24, at 10 AM (PST) this group really will be giving a free, video, live performance of a new concerto whose name, Mountain Messengers, was invented after the composer read an article in the New York Times about this newspaper’s unexpected survival early in 2020. The composer, Christian Wolff, was born in Nice, France, during 1934 and is a renowned member of the New York School of composers who circled around John Cage during the 1950s.

According to a 2019 review of Wolff’s works by Tim Maryon of flypaper.Soundfly.com, “Wolff’s early compositions had a strong emphasis on exploring silence, indeterminacy and often explored creative, new ways of including improvisation amongst groups and for solo performers alike.” Thus, as Wolff has described music, “Durations of the individual notes may be indicated as relatively short, long or free, or they may be determined by the requirements of a situation… The players constantly have options of what to play (say, one of three pitches, any pitch at a fixed loudness, any loudness at a fixed timbre). It’s as though you take a walk with a friend or friends, going by whatever way you like, agreeing on the way, with a direction in mind or getting lost or going nowhere in particular, and you are absorbed by this: the landscape in which they walk is what is given.”

Continuing his tour of Wolff’s works, Maryon also wrote, “Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Wolff began to engage with the political happenings of the time, working alongside composers such as American Frederic Rzewski and Briton Cornelius Cardew. He would often include politically charged text and protest material in his work, later becoming associated with Wobblies (The Industrial Workers of the World).” And, “In 1999, Christian Wolff’s music reached an entirely new audience after being performed and recorded by Sonic Youth
in their album Goodbye 20th Century. For a flavor of what Wolff has been doing recently, you can sample his 2018 piece entitled “Resistance” on YouTube. The title, alone, tells you this fellow’s spirit has not ebbed with age. Whatever anyone thinks of the music they hear on the 24th, we will remain ecstatic about The Mountain Messenger becoming associated with the creation of a concerto. To tune in on Sunday, point your internet browser to https://baselsinfonietta.ch/konzerte/botschafter-der-erinnerung.

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