More Obscure Composers

You know your tastes in composers is extremely obscure when you get blank stares of miscomprehension from musicologists. There's something so tasty about music being made by all manner of people, all the time, swept aside and forgotten only to be unearthed and appreciated, if only in a little way, by moi. Here are some that I'm learning about lately.

Erik Chisholm (1904-1965)

It's impressive if you know even one name of a classical musician from Scotland. Just try it for a second...
I found Erik Chisholm while expanding my search for prelude sets. Although he only completed nine of the twenty-four preludes (the set is titled The True Edge of the Great World), his modernist style, love of folk idioms (earning him the name MacBartok) give a wealth of music to explore and enjoy. Check out John Purser's Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist: Chasing a Restless Muse for info on his very busy life, notes on the integration of piobaireachd and ragas, descriptions of his Middle English operas, and more. I was left with a sense of what self-sacrificial work can achieve. Looking forward to getting my hands on his music some day.

Mikalojus Čiurlionis (1875-1911)

Ok, now try to think of any classical Lithuanian composers. If you're going to be familiar with just one, M.K. Čiurlionis is the one. His life churns in the maelstrom of Lithuanian nationalism, twentieth century musical revolutions, late-Romantic strivings for beyondness, love and poverty, and insane asylums. I first heard of him as someone whose style has close parallels with Scriabin and also someone who wrote a plethora of preludes. Sadly his life ended before he could securely codify the diverse musical techniques he was developing. He incorporated folk song concepts into his music as well as pieces that utilize rows in a way. He was also an avid painter in the Symbolist tradition. Again, he just didn't have enough time to bring it to the next level. Check out his dozens of preludes and other piano miniatures and his painting cycles such as Creation of the World. I found Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis" Music of the Spheres by Senn, Bowlt, and Staškevičius very informative.

Bronius Kutavičius (1932-)

Here's another Lithuanian composer I found on a CD of Baltic organ music which also included some pieces by Čiurlionis. Aside from this lone organ piece there are not very many CDs, but what there is shows a composer of a compelling musical universe. Last Pagan Rites in particular is haunting: folk-based minimalisms, aleatoric mists, scored for choir, horns, organ, and soloist. Add to that a historical USS Lithuania context (via Raminta Lampsatis' Bronius Kutavičius: Music of Signs and Changes) and it becomes a signpost of a Soviet yearning for freedom and life and spirit in the midst of secular materialism. The other piece you can hear is The Gates of Jerusalem which I haven't tackled yet, but will when I have an extra two hours to spare.

Wilfried Hiller

I know very little about this chap. He has written pieces for children in collaboration with Michael Ende (the author of The Neverending Story). He's also written a cycle of piano piece called Buch der Sterne which gives a sonic picture of heavenly constellations. Worth it to read and listen up on this guy. Plus look at that beret!

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