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Squeaks & Squeals

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LTTE 29

Dear Sir,

‘Bangers and Clangers’ – that’s how Bartok’s Sonata for Two Piano and Percussion became known. Equally Reuben Jelleyman’s ‘Catalogue’ (recent winner of the Sounz Contemporary Award) could be titled ‘Squeaks and Squeals’ – and seventeen minutes of them at that!

Jelleyman is keen to tell us that he has recently returned from studies in France, presumably with his laptop under his arm. His ‘noise’ piece, combining electronic sounds and live instruments, was chosen by a panel of four local musicians from 54 works submitted by 46 composers. (What were the other works like if that was the winner?) Jelleyman says, ‘I took some excepts from Bruckner and Mozart symphonies and composed over the top of them, as if I was adding sound design. I removed the underlying music and was left with the new layers I had created.’ To be quite honest he would have been better off removing the added Jelleyman and leaving the real music behind. Of course throwing Mozart under the bus has a precedent in New Zealand. Douglas Lilburn, darling of Te Koki, also thought Mozart was irrelevant – because he hadn’t seen Mt. Ruapehu? – Lilburn had clearly never been to Salzburg. And Lilburn’s legacy means that a lot of new music from Te Koki is merely sound-effects and laptops are often used in performances (don’t we all pray for a power-cut in such concerts!). Recently Creative New Zealand, in a fit of wokism, also attempted to cut away our cultural heritage by claiming that Shakespeare was – ‘a canon of imperialism’ and was not relevant to life in modern day New Zealand. Happily this caused a public outcry and even the prime minister stepped up to defend the Bard (this tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues, was once thought honest – W. Shakespeare). Jelleyman says that he is pleased that his work – ‘has some resonance in the community’. This must be the community of the four judges because the wider public will dismiss this ‘noise-piece’ as ‘contemporary music’ in its most pejorative sense. I challenge anyone to get to the end of the work without their fingers in their ears. So yeh-nah! You can’t beat the masters whose music moves the heart and stands the test of time. Jelleyman’s ‘Catalogue’ will inevitably fade into background noise where it probably belongs.

Signed – a real music lover.

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