To his chagrin, Michael Finnissy is often cited as a main member of the “New Complexity” school of composition, which is most usually associated with the use of extremely complex musical notation, polyrhythms, extended techniques, unusual timbres, and so on. Many of Finnissy’s compositions often reflect his own abilities as a pianist, his interest in popular music, and social and political themes. His Gershwin Arrangements are variations, meditations, and reflections on George Gershwin’s melodies. But beyond good melodies on which to compose variations, Finnissy writes:
"For me Gershwin’s music is part of a “popular music” paradigm, and also documents certain changes in the cultural attitudes of the inter-war years, to do with class, ethnicity, power, and the acquisition and distribution of wealth, with which we are still dealing—or more precisely, failing to deal.
My Gershwin Arrangements and More Gershwin allude to popular culture: the sort of music I grew up with—since my mother and father played it on the gramophone or radio (in preference to Schoenberg or Bartok—and why not?).
More exactly the pieces are about the ideas and emotions expressed in the original songs: filtered (and thus composed through) my own painful” experience. They are mostly about love: first meetings, final partings, anticipation, recollection, rejection and loneliness."