The Divine Art/Metier website describes Laurence Crane’s music
as “thoroughly contemporary ... His music can be described as
super-minimalist, but that would ignore the incredibly fine transitions
of harmony and time embedded in his works. Ultimately this is
music for the post-modernist age ...” The term minimalist here
doesn’t imply ostinato-style writing in the manner of Steve Reich.
Crane embraces the ‘less is more’ principle in most of these works,
paring the notes down so that, while each work has its own substance
and atmosphere, the complications of virtuoso pianism, atonality,
alternative modern piano techniques or the pressing need for some
kind of avant-garde originality are all elegantly sidestepped.
this way, piano buffs who already know and like the work of
Erik Satie or G.I Gurdjieff are on fairly safe ground here.
Some pieces are simple almost to the point of a kind of naivety.
The last of the Three Preludes for instance develops
a disarmingly childlike melodic shape, but only takes it on
a very short walk, hands held the whole time. This is immediately
followed by Blue Blue Blue, which extends a fairly
straightforward but nonetheless potent ‘jazz’ progression
over its entire seven-minute length. Once you have overcome
the empty intervals in Kierkegaard his prelude you
should have an idea as to whether 80 minutes of this kind
of music is going to inspire you, or drive you completely
up the wall.
me, Crane is at his best where at his quietest and most restrained
– by which I mean not always in terms of sheer volume of sound.
The simplicity of line and integrity of structure in a piece
such as the Birthday Piece for Michael Finnissy is
priceless. I had come across Laurence Crane’s music as part
of the Spectrum
series, and the short Chorale for Howard Skempton was
written for its second volume, being another miniature masterpiece.
This is of course a matter of taste, but I am less enamoured
of the ‘pounding’ repetitions in the entire Jacques Derrida
series and other pieces – not that the repeating notes
‘pound’ in the same way as a Michael Nyman, but when you have
a similar repeated pattern going on long enough it tends to
drill little holes in your brain. Taken in isolation the pieces
are fine, and placed in context – a theatrical presentation
with texts and a diversity of media – these would no doubt
work very well indeed. After a while I’d had enough however,
especially as several of the pieces which follow: James
Duke son of John Duke, Looking for Michael Bracewell,
and the last of the Three Pieces for James Clapperton use
similar repeated chord patterns.
is a fine piano recording, and Michael Finnissy’s peerless
playing is of course unsurpassed in this kind of material.
I admire Laurence Crane’s expressive mission and musical honesty,
and am delighted to have been allowed a good long look into
his output for solo piano. For me it was a little like peering
into a coral reef in a glass-bottom boat – full of timeless
beauty. Maybe it’s an effect of Post-Modernist Composer Global
Warming: I only found it a shame that nothing really surprising
popped out from behind any of those wonderful shapes.
see also Review
by Bob Briggs