A couple of years ago I was going off my nut with work stress and young children pressure so managed to get out to the Barbican on a wet Saturday. The only thing that was on was a documentary about Herr Rihm.
I mostly remember how the music made sense, and how he said as a child he had seen the orchestra, and that’s how he composed: by thinking of the movements of arms and fingers of the players.
I hadn’t heard of him, but there are a lot of people in the world, so that isn’t really surprising. Except what a genius. A contemporary classical composer, of the discordant type: lots of scraping of violin strings and long moans by oboes being throttled.
We were in Germany once and happened upon an exhibition of Tapies sketches. I had never taken to his paintings but these were something else: books of studies which seemed to be reality appearing, or just about to come into focus but somehow prevented. Tantalisation. That’s how I would describe Rihm’s music.
Again, ragged by parenting and lack of sleep, on a too-bright day so there was nowhere to hide, hideous sky-blue reality getting into the spaces in my bones, I put his work on and what might on occasion seem “difficult” contemporary classical, was physically affecting. Calming, even. I imagined the peaks and troughs of my brainwaves at that moment somehow mirrored by what was going on in the music.
And last week. In the slush and followed by the moon, going past the old Presbyterian, empty, hulking red-brick church, Rihm in my ears was the perfect soundtrack. All this life hinted at, half-formed, becoming and failing, unremarked.
Un Chien Andalou, with the tango “Ole Guapa”, a traditional tango that has been recorded numerous times by different artists, and the Wagner pieces are from his Opera “Tristan und Isolde”: “Vorspiel” and “Liebestod.”
Listen to this lot and see if you don’t feel moved to create.