Sunday, April 06, 2003


I am immensely grateful to Meirion Bowen, who has perhaps done more in his lifetime than any other single individual to promote the music and thought of Michael Tippett, for sending me a copy of 'Music of the Angels'. This compendium from Tippett's essays and sketchbooks has been out of print for some time, and I have long wanted to acquire a copy. It was assembled by Bowen and published by Ernst Eulenberg in 1980, as part of a series edited by William Glock. Quite a bit of the material was subsequently revised, re-edited and updated for inclusion in 'Tippett on Music' (Oxford University Press, 1995), timed to coincide with the composer's 90th birthday celebrations.

Tippett's writing style, like his compositional approach, was fresh, passionate, angular and (in the proper sense of the word) peculiar. It was also oddly prophetic. I am thinking of elements of 'Bartok, Kodaly and Nationalism', for example, and this clear sighted observation on globalism in vernacular styles from the essay 'Towards the Condition of Music' (page 26):

"European polyphony has proved so powerful that it is mostly sweeping over the whole world and carrying away much of the indigenous traditional music with it. In this way Europe and America appear still as musical initiators for the globe. But this will not last. When the time is ripe the values of the non-European musical traditions, where they have been temporarily lost, will be rediscovered. The speed at which we are having to become industrially and politically one world would seem to be such that the problems of forging a unified expressive medium may be coming upon us faster than the European composers are yet aware. This question may well, in my opinion, solve itself first through popular music, just because popular music is by definition and purpose music of the people. Popular music is an open music. In order to entertain it will take everything offered, from Bali to New Orleans, and what is successful will be amplified round the world. Popular music will become increasingly global rather than local." (c) Estate of the late Sir Michael Tippett.

I will return to 'Music of the Angels' again in the near future...

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