The Medium is Now the Material: The ‘Folklore’ of Chris Newman and Michael Finnissy

Redhead, L. 2019. The Medium is Now the Material: The ‘Folklore’ of Chris Newman and Michael Finnissy. In: I Pace and N McBride, eds. Critical Perspectives on the Music of Michael Finnissy: Bright Futures, Dark Pasts. Routledge. ISBN 9781138491977 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Chris Newman and Michael Finnissy are both composers who frequently make use of borrowed material. In this paper, their approaches to composition with these materials are compared and contrasted, in order to examine whether the numerous, surface-level, binary oppositions that might be posited between their musics hide similarities in their approach to musical material and, in particular, if these similarities can be read as an approach to music and politics in their work. The theoretical approach taken here includes a reversed subject-object distinction, proposed by Newman (2005), alongside art theorist Nicholas Bourriaud’s conception of the ‘exform’ (2016). These ideas offer a perspective on the work of these composers that reads it as inherently political as a result of its materialism. The materials of a selection of keyboard works are considered, alongside the com- posers’ more general approach to material and to medium. The existing musicological tradition of Finnissy’s work is also compared and contrasted with Newman’s critical stance towards his own work—particularly his visual art works—in order to uncover evidence of this political stance in ex- isting writing. Finally, the antagonistic attitude of the work of Finnissy and Newman towards labels such as ‘modernism’ and ‘experimental music’ is examined as a facet of its exformal properties.

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12 September 2018Completed
21 May 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

22 Oct 2018 13:53

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:55


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