New and Improved

I was slow to start blogging this week. For one thing, I had to finish up a lengthy “hyperhistory” on music and politics for New Music Box, which will debut Nov. 1, so watch for it. More pertinently at the moment, I also moved my web site to a larger virtual space, from to Those of you who’ve checked know you’ve always been able to find me at; there was an automatic redirect to my free space at Earthlink. But that space wasn’t large enough to store MP3s, and I’ve now opened a new web site (though it looks the same, for now) to accomodate recordings of my music. My excitement will be attributed to the egotism of getting my music out to the public, but it has at least as much to do with my overcoming of what seemed to be incredible technical hurdles. I do business through Earthlink, but I had registered the domain at Yahoo, and I didn’t dream how much trouble I’d have when I decided to conflate the two. I had to get a “registry key” from Yahoo (and to be honest it was so long ago I didn’t even remember whom I had registered with), and it took three weeks and many, many phone calls, e-mails, and tech support chat lines to get everything transferred. Be careful who you register a domain with – they may make it difficult to swap. Back then (just two years ago) it seemed so self-aggrandizing to name a web site after oneself – I remember Roger Reynolds telling me apologetically about his dotcom – but now everybody and his grandmother can be found at

But I will self-indulge a few words about my MP3s. I spent 1977-86 in Chicago, and then from 1986 to 1991 I endured a near-hiatus in my composing life. For one thing, I had risen from Midwestern obscurity to my job at the Village Voice, and felt under a lot of public pressure. For another, I had discovered just intonation – an alternate approach to tuning using potentially many more than 12 pitches to the octave – in 1984, and for seven years I filled entire notebooks with grids of fractions, trying to rethink music from the ground up. Having been introduced to just intonation by my teacher Ben Johnston, it took me until 1991 to finally write a piece (Superparticular Woman) that could make sense only in that tuning system. Between the unaccustomed spotlight of the Voice job and my obsessive theoretical explorations, I wrote only a handful of brief studies in the late 1980s, and didn’t really accelerate back to full speed until 1994.

And so the music I wrote before 1986 lies on the other side of a divide – performed in Chicago and then forgotten. Some of the pieces now up as MP3s haven’t been heard publicly since 1983, and I’m pleased to have the means to expose them again. Heavily under Brian Eno’s influence from his Music for Airports on, I made my experiments with improvisation and ambient music in those years, and while I abandoned improvisation due to the difficulty of getting my intentions across to improvising musicians, I always meant to return to the ambient thread. (I’ll be really impressed if anyone can find the quote from a relatively obscure Eno album in my MP3s.) I remember in 1982 meeting Steve Reich and describing my music to him as a cross between Morton Feldman and Harold Budd – that ceased to be true, and my music became rhythmically energetic under additional Native American influences. As any artist will tell you, work produced that long ago feels as though made by another person, and I have a distanced affection for some of these pieces similar to what I might have for a Roy Harris symphony or Morton Feldman chamber piece that hasn’t yet been given its due. One’s own opinion of early works goes up and down with time as well, and right now I think much more highly of my early ’80s pieces than I did a few years ago. I wish now I could recreate the outpouring of continuous contrapuntal melody that I did in Baptism (1983), and I’ve always meant to return to the ambient, unsynchronized feel of Long Night (1980-81), and have just never gotten around to it.

As Emerson so beautifully says, “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” Not that they’re works of genius, but that’s how I sometimes react to my early music, reproached by anticipations of directions I had intended to go in.

Of course, I also have MP3s of recent music up, and if I can get performers’ permissions, I’ll put more. I’m augmenting my CD collection by downloading and burning to disc the music of composers I can follow only on the internet, and I’m happy for others to do the same with me. I trust that the RIAA won’t come snooping around a bunch of aging new-music composers trying to trade soundfiles so someone can hear their music – not when there are so many 12-year-old Brittany Spears fans with parents ready to make cash settlements.

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