Brian Ferneyhough was born in Coventry, England in 1943, he studied in England and eventually found a job teaching at the university in Freiburg, Germany and later the University of Claifornia, San Diego. Since 1999 he has taught at Stanford University. Ferneyhough achieved international reknown with his incredibly difficult piece for solo flute Cassandra's Dream Song. In this work, Ferneyhough made innumerable demands on the player asking for all manner of extended playing techniques on the instrument, often at the same time. Combined with this new method of playing, Ferneyhough also asked for new methods of time keeping and rhythmic precision. At times the player is asked to play in irrational meters and nested tuplets (for example triplets within triplets). Subsequent hyper-complex works and several followers led critics to dub Ferneyhough's music new complexity.
Things to Note
Like many of Ferneyhough's compositions, La Chute D'Icare has an extramusical inspiration. In this case, it is Pieter Brueghel's 1558 painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." In Brueghel's painting, as in Ferneyhough's score, the individual is dwarfed by the landscape around him, and the dreamer's failure to overcome the laws of nature and subsequent crash is ignored by the people around. In Ferneyhough's score, the role of Icarus is taken by the solo clarinet, and his fall illustrated in the clarinet's challenging cadenza.
Ferneyhough's music is characterized by its complicated substructure into which relatively free musical material is placed. Ferneyhough sometimes thinks of these overlapping rhythmic and formal layers as prisons in which the music lives.
I've never seen him with a smile like that, though perhaps the article explains