John Gordon Armstrong

Canadian Composer


An die Musik II

An die Musik II was written in 1985 for Eleanor Gang and Andrew MacDonald. Setting his own texts along with Shakespeare’s “If music be the food of love…” from Twelfth Night, he deals with the problematic question: “What should serious music be like in 1985? Should it be profound and elusive or should it be accessible and entertaining?” The central song is a humorous lecture on the subject of the composer’s relationship to both the entertainment world and to the great masters of the past, as exemplified by Mozart. Songs II and IV are straightforward settings which depict music, and composition, as entirely sensual, “non-intellectual” experiences. Song I is, in terms of pitch and phonetics, the retrograde of song V, which itself “inverts” the original meaning of the Shakespeare text by depicting love as a metaphor for music rather than music as a metaphor for love.

Should serious music be profound or should it be entertaining? The answer is an unequivocal yes!

The recording below is by Judith Kellock, soprano and John Armstrong, guitar. I THINK it’s from a concert at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in the Spring of 1988.

Composed in 1985 for soprano voice and guitar
Text by William Shakespeare and John Armstrong
Five Songs
Duration: 15 minutes
Very Difficult/Very Accessible
Published: Canadian Music Centre (Toronto)

1. “Antemusik”

2. “Viola”

3. “Antimusik”

4. “Syrinx”

5. “If Musik”