Klaas Coulembier

Overload or Generosity? Analysing Brian Ferneyhough’s Time and Motion Study II

It is commonly known that any musical score by Brian Ferneyhough is rather hermetic, if not to say impenetrable, even after many readings. The overload of notational details and textual information – a result of complex pre-compositional procedures – leads to music sounding very different than it looks. Sketch studies or reconstructions of the composition process hardly render these compositions more accessible; the analyst is faced with a lack of clear reference points upon which to base the analysis.
On the other hand, the abundance of information offers the analyst with a great variety of potential ‘entrance gates’ to try and get a grasp on these works. Depending on the focus on specific parameters, different analytical approaches can contribute to a deeper understanding of this repertoire. Previous analytical studies (often relying on metaphors) have convincingly demonstrated that the music of Ferneyhough is not just an abstract jumble of black spots and lines on paper, but very strongly appeals to musical imagination and analytical creativity.
In this paper, I will focus on the challenges this music poses to music analysts. I will consider a number of important choices that have to be made when dealing with this repertoire and propose some workable strategies. Including sketches, texts and commentaries on the composition can be helpful, but it is questionable that the analyst should merely confirm the intentions of the composer. I will use Ferneyhough’s well-known Time and Motion Study II as an example to investigate to what extent the musical score, in combination with the auditory result, can be an adequate source of information for music analysis, approaching the overload of information as a token of generosity from the part of the composer, and not as a scarecrow towards the performer/analyst.