Which composer leaves us ‘staring at the ceiling, wondering when it will be over?’

Which composer leaves us ‘staring at the ceiling, wondering when it will be over?’


norman lebrecht

August 01, 2018

From Anna Picard’s Times review of a new work at the BBC Proms by the Austrian experimentalist Georg Friedrich Haas:

For a composer unusually open about his sexual interests (his biography mentions the dominant-submissive relationship he enjoys with his wife) Haas is remarkably happy to leave his listeners staring at the ceiling, wondering when it will be over.

He’s a gift to a good critic.


  • Nik says:

    Is this your version of the Andrew Neil picture in Private Eye?

  • Caravaggio says:

    These people strike me as self promoting hacks. They are of course perfect for the times we live in.

  • Bruce says:

    I love how she compares enduring a performance of his music to bad sex (especially since he’s made such a public topic of his own leanings in that area).

    To be fair, it sounds like it might be interesting; but not enough that I’m going to seek out a recording.

  • Vienna calling says:

    Being left “staring at the ceiling, wondering when it will all be over”. That’s gotta be somebody’s perfect BDSM fantasy.

  • J says:

    Is anyone else tired of the endless juvenile attempts to make very simplistic critiques of Haas’ music from the perspective of his private life?

    • Steven says:

      Yes! Cheap shots, nothing more.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Let’s go into the music then. With all due respect, but it is a sinister, morbid, nihilistic muttering for its own sake, creating the effective aural equivalent for psychopathological disorders. It is beautiful to see such harmonious unity between creator and work.

      Some examples:

      Sound art that tries to be music, but in vain:


      Here Haas reaches, approximately, the limitations of what he wanted to demonstrate:


      Here his wife collaborated, offering some consoling, uplifting words:


      But since even someone like Haas wants to have fun now and then, apart from marital exercises, he wrote a concerto grosso for alp horns:


      For people, on the look for an object to project their political engagement into, an object that does not have any content of itself so which will be perfectly suited to be filled with ideas about ‘political action’ which ‘pushes boundaries’, Haas’ work is a gift from heaven. Like concept art which is accompanied by ideas and theory as a manual to understanding where the object itself is meaningless, this sonic art offers the attractive combination of political commitment and the feeling of being involved in some kind of avantgarde art, so: truly connected to the modern world. And so much easier than that silly museum culture called ‘classical music’ which is nonetheless so hard to understand.


      The irony is, that this sound art is in its aesthetic ideas very, very old and has only a historic relationship to what was called, in the golden days of progress, the ‘avantgarde’.

  • Been Here Before says:

    Still waiting for a comment from JB. Had he and Sally gone to a nudist camp in the South of France?

    • John Borstlap says:

      How did you know? I travelled in a burka and JB took a separate route so that we would not be recognized. It was terribly, really terribly hot under the cloth and I got checked in the train all the time because I had my bassoon with me, wanted to try-out this new hobby but the case seemed to raise quite some suspicions along the way.


  • anon says:

    To continue the analogy to bad sex:

    The parallel to the audience “staring at the ceiling, wondering when it will all be over” is the conductor “faking an orgasm” as he (or she) conducts the piece.

    And it applies to 99% of contemporary music: conductors wanting to prove they can do it, while audiences are barely conscious waiting for it all to end.

    In fact, it IS a rape of the ears.

    I wish there were a #notme movement for contemporary music.

  • Hilary says:

    “In fact, it IS a rape of the ears.”

    For sure, it’s a rape of *your* ears. Much discrepancy of preferences out there.

    It’s also worth remembering that the extraordinary variety in contemporary music isn’t necessarily reflected in Proms programming.
    Do we really need yet another commission from Anna Meredith for instance?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Let’s not forget that the Eroica was for quite some people a bundle of random noise at the premiere, so: every new piece which sounds like random noise must be something truly great, also if you don’t hear it.

      • The View from America says:

        Right, and now we’ve moved to the “Erotica.”

      • Hilary says:

        I don’t agree. Only a fool hears all new music through the prism of Nicholas Sloninsky’s famed Lexicon of Musical Invective. Life is too short.
        Reviews, and critical appreciation don’t bear your slant out.

        • John Borstlap says:

          On a more serious note;

          There was immediate appreciation of the Eroica at the premiere as well, as there was enthusiasm about B’s so-called ‘difficult’ late string quartets at the time. Somehow they managed to perform the Ninth to much acclaim in 1824, and much of the new music of the 19th century was well received by audiences – even Wagner. But misinterpretations of the premiere of Stravinsky’s Sacre (1913) and the ‘Skandalkonzert’ in Vienna (1913) developed into the avantgarde myth that for a new piece to be really good, it had to shock and upset a dull, conservative, nitwitted audience.

  • Sue says:

    Symphonia Adiposa. Music high in calories, low in nutrition.

  • Gsutav Mahler says:

    In Austria we just would say: “Dös is a Schaas”. So his name is fully covered in that statement.

  • Mark says:

    Did he compose that great country music masterpiece “Who let the pigs out ?”

  • boringfileclerk says:

    His private life is not my jam, but his music will be remembered for generations. He’s a surprisingly fresh voice in modern music.