Michael Finnissy is reckoned to be at the grittier end of the avantgarde, his music highly complex – hence the term “new Complexity” which journalists reach for, also covering the work of James Dillon and Brian Ferneyhough. But it should be emphasised that much of “Folklore” is very gentle music.
The longest piece by far is the 30-minute Folklore II. But like most of the pieces here, the basic ideas is surprisingly simple. As with the idealised folk-music from which it takes its inspiration, there is essentially just one melodic line, ith satellite commentaries. The “harmony” is really just coloration of the melody, and the music is repleat with trills and other filigree. Complexity is most obvious in the rhythm, where Finnissy reacts against what he regards as the four-square classical tradition.
Most of the pieces have a folk basis – transcription of folk-material is very important to Finnissy. There are three traditional love songs – English, Scottish and Irish – including most famously My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, and two Australian Sea Shanties. Don’t expect Percy Grainger-style arrangements, but striking essays nonetheless in a unique tonal language… Often euphonious music – an ideal introduction to one of Britain’s most important avant-gardists.