It’s just a short walk from the house where he lives with his wife the harpsichordist Annelie de Man.
Roderik was praising Stravinsky’s idiosyncratic use of 12-tone technique, for example in the “In memoriam Dylan Thomas” (1954). He pointed to the beautiful use of octaves at the words “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. I said I remembered exactly the sonority at that point. And of course it goes “against the rules”. Speaking about the Schoenberg system itself, he said that it was limited to pitches only, and added that “it is not so that I find a serious flaw in Schoenberg’s technique, he is of course a brilliant inventor and master. I do however think that disregarding the octave in which the note is placed, is dubious”. He pointed out that the intervals in a row, spread out over several octaves, tend to lose their original quality. For example, if you add an octave to a fourth, so that it becomes an eleventh, you’ve got a very different interval to the one you started out with. Schoenberg’s system disregards this.
I said I like Stravinsky’s sense of history, exampled in his choice of traditional trombones for a piece focused on death. And I said that Stravinsky’s serial music builds a bridge between medieval music and new music. We talked about his evident jealousy of some younger colleagues (R. said he was horrible about Britten for example) and how this is such a feature of our world. R. says that even the nicey-nicey composers are busy stabbing each other in the back. And then we discussed the “nothing is ever enough” issue. And I cited the Empress Livia in I, Claudius who at the end of a long life as the most powerful woman in Rome begged to be deified by Claudius.
Several times during our long conversation, a horse and carriage passed by the windows. I said it was a perfect spot for tourists. It was an idyllic sunny day and a child was scooting in and out of the entrance.
Going back to the issue of the 1950s avant-garde forbidding tonal references (things like the Stravinsky octaves) R. made a general complaint about theory and practice being divorced. He referred to Berio’s negative description of Schenker and I added that Berio also castigated Adorno in an interview with Rossana Dalmonte .
R. said that Peter Schat, a student of Boulez in Basel, had already put the boot in long ago with his Anathema for piano – it contains many tonal references alongside the more conventional sounds of the time (1969). He called that “thumbing your nose”.
R. was also praising some recent film scores by Philip Glass.
Next thing coming up for de Man is a trombone concerto……I mustn’t miss that. And we need not to let our lunches become too infrequent……it’s been too long since the last one.
I came away with four de Man pieces involving organ – a gift for Michael. He dived straight into them of course.