Titel: Thomas Christoph Heyde - HIGH CULTURE MOTHERFUCKER
Thomas Christoph Heyde is a composer and musician who is also the curator for ‘Forum Zeitgenossicher Musik Leipzig’. He also, obviously someone his is displeased with the current scene in ‘modern classical music’ as it is so often named (perhaps maybe if the ‘classical’ bit was dropped this would make it nicer to be pigeon-holed under!). His polemically titled album ‘High-Culture-Motherfucker’ is a brazen aural assault on what he presumably sees as some of the problems with the current musical scene he is confronted with.
The album opens up with ‘Fieldz’, a piece for piano, 4 percussionists, turntable and live electronics (the live electronics being an omnipresent feature on the album). It is patient music, developing slowly whilst having a continually growing range of gestures and sound materials which add to the sparse textures. At this point the music is very interesting and extremely refreshing, the balance of fleeting gestures and harmony borrowed from salon-bar-type piano material and the creative use of percussion means that one constantly has to refocus and comprehend the re-contextualized material. This made me all the more disappointed when the music descended into a distorted guitar funeral march which might have sounded like something that would be found in an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. It made the whole thing farcical: Here is a composer who obviously has interesting ideas but because he seemingly is put off by the image of being a ‘classical’ composer, sees it fit to violently bring together two different musical styles in a horribly crass way. The aforementioned march staggers on for much too long before being drawn to a halt, finally ending the track at just over eleven minutes.
The title track however is altogether a much stronger affair: it is patient and consistent in its artist intent. The formal balance is particularly impressive here, entries or new material being judged very finely, especially the final rambunctious drum break towards the end which raises the piece up to a level its highest moment in the album. One thing that makes the track ‘High-Culture-Motherfucker’ the strongest is also its general lack of any defined harmony, obviously a conscious choice by Heyde. It is when he tries to incorporate some kind of harmonic development that his music becomes weakened in my view. ‘3xkurz-3xlang (Excerpt)’ is perhaps the most glaring example of this on the album: It doesn’t feel like he has a grasp of what a personal harmonic identity can or cannot do. In this track, which has a mostly atonal feeling, a tonal chord is suddenly repeated in the piano. This is very interesting at first but its static nature and the use of it as a repeated item makes it seem rather banal than just a passing gesture of wit or decontextualization. In a sense, it gains functionality the more he repeats it, but this is lambasted by the composer as he seems uncomfortable in using any sort of personal harmonic developmental techniques or in having a harmony which has the possibility to function in any sort of way. Perhaps this is his way of showing two fingers to Mozart-lovers, the problem is, his music is suffering because of it.
The other tracks on the album are altogether stronger and more assured, ‘Waves from Underground’ for Bassoon and Live Electronics is particularly impressive in its assured instrumental writing and juxtaposition of texture. It sounds fresh, whilst also firmly jibing at the historical origins of what a bassoon used to sound like, this is definitely more the type of thing in which Heyde should be taken seriously on, he knows what he is doing when he avoids trying to do some kind of ‘cross-over’ in styles. Overall, I would say that Heyde just about succeeds in making a valid and bold artistic statement. The music is brimming with fresh ideas and a daring formal sense, if showing some slight naïvity in some areas. It may leave you unsure of what you have heard, but this album is definitely worth an hour of anyone’s time.
Autor: Johnny Herb