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They hate me…

… They Really Hate Me

The Ottawa Citizen, July 28, 2007

Youth orchestra’s performance anything but youthful 

…Next came From the Drum Comes a Thundering Beat, a 1995 work by the orchestra’s composer in residence, Kelly-Marie Murphy. The orchestra’s skillful execution could not hide the work’s flaws as yet another obnoxious, wholly predictable imitation of Stravinsky’s Sacre, complete with cliche “spirit-flute” utterances and primal yelling…

The Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 1, 2003
Harp concerto wins contest – Robert Everett-Green

Competitions in art are trials without an accused, in which the innocent are almost always punished. Most of the pain was out of the way by the time the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s annual composers’ competition became a public event.

…Murphy’s opus is a harp concerto written for Judy Loman, who reprised the piece she first played at Toronto concerts held to mark her retirement as principal harpist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It’s a showpiece of classic dimensions, with plenty of opportunities for Loman to demonstrate her gold-plated virtuosity. Murphy knows how to write large, and also how to say unremarkable things with conviction. This is a formidable asset, and at a time in music when the promise of dreams is often as bankable as the real thing. The piece was a big hit with the attentive audience as with the judges, although I doubt there’s an idea to be found in the entire score…

The Globe and Mail, Thursday, May 11, 2000
Soundstreams presentation doesn’t know when it’s run dry – Elissa Poole

…Murphy also writes to program: Her Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly for piano trio retells the phoenix myth in three movements signifying fire, desolation, and rebirth. The Gryphon Trio burns rubber in this piece, and it’s a real crowd-pleaser — lots of flicker in the strings, thunderous piano writing and exciting ensemble. It didn’t make me a fan of Murphy’s writing, but it was a splendid performance.

Not so Murphy’s Indelible Lines, Invisible Surface, a tired and superficial concerto for oboe and strings that was written as a response to global violence. Cliches abounded — the lamenting oboe, the pounding, aggressive rhythms in the low strings — and all clumsily strung together. But I was wrong to think it was the evening’s low point: That goes to Circadian Rhythms, a string orchestra piece (inspired by the different phases of sleep) that was clumsier still and predicatable in every way…

[Source: the Two New Hours chat-line via listbot]
From: Christopher Matey
To: Two New Hours
Subject: Kiss My Murphy
Date: Sunday, September 06, 1998 8:05PM
Two New Hours –

Listening to tonight’s rerun and having heard a lot of similar stuff I must say that I think Kelly Marie Murphy’s music, while certainly innocuous and sometimes even pleasant to listen to, lacks depth. I could be wrong about this. I have had revelations about composers, Chopin and Debussy being prime examples, whose music appears pretty squooshy on the surface but on further examination, usually with the guidance of a master, reveals a great deal of underlying intelligence, planning, complexity, call it what you want. It’s not that I lament the obvious direction music is taking these days, towards more melody and simpler harmony, it’s just that I don’t think Murphy’s work is the best example of the possibilities of music that follows this trend. Nor am I saying that her music shouldn’t be played. It definitely should, if for no other reason than many people (this is of course a relative term) seem to like it. However, with the amount of airplay she gets it sometimes seems that 2NH might as well be renamed “The Kelly-Marie Murphy Show.”
Christopher Matey
P.S. This isn’t personal. The only time we ever met — at a Composers’ Orchestra concert where we were both on the programme — she said she liked my piece. I don’t care if it was true. The point is that she was very personable. And I liked her piece…sort of.

From: Victor Botari
To: Christopher Matey
Subject: RE: Kiss My Murphy
Date: Tuesday, September 08, 1998 9:36AM

Hear Hear. I agree that KMM doesn’t have it as a serious composer. My view on it is that she is good at capturing whatever little trick or technique is currently trendy, but does not have the ability (or personal depth) to go beyond that. One of the problems with Canadian music getting known is that there are so few forums; and with the Winnipeg New Music Festival being a popular (in intent as well as reception) one, whoever takes the fancy of Bramwell Tovey/Glen Buhr/Randolph Peters gets almost instant fame, as everyone else tries to jump on the bandwagon.

We need more discrimination. Not every Canadian composer, of any age, is good. If we want Canadian music to have credibility, we have to show the taste and courage to say that this piece, this composer, is just not very good. KMM is not very good.

From: Victor Botari
Subject: Re: Kiss My Murphy
Date: Tuesday, September 08, 1998 9:48AM

Your rant about Christopher Matey’s rant is unfair. Not every Canadian work and not every Canadian composer are good. If we want to build any real credibility for Canadian music and its composers, then we’ve got to have the discrimination and the courage to make judgements. Only them can we begin to create any consensus on who are the genuine classic or upcoming classic Canadian composers, and which are the genuinely great works.

Lightweight pop composers like KMM will always have a place (just like in the European canon people like vonsuppe and mozart do), but lets not confuse popularity with quality. While they can and do coexist on occasion, most often they do not. 

Be brave! Make judgements! And respect those of others.

From: Christopher Matey
To: Two New Hours
Date: September 8, 1998 10:07 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Kiss My Murphy

I’m sure that even if she heard our criticism she wouldn’t give a hoot. “Cried all the way to the bank,” and all that. To any composer who ceases to develop because of criticism, all I can say is “You’d better get used to it,” and recommend a good psychiatrist. If we’re going to have any kind of meaningful discussion on this list it is inevitable that some of it will be negative.
Christopher Matey

Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer