The Unexpected Return of Arthur Russell

If you'll watch now, I'm going to do something very different, for me: an actual short, informative blog entry referring to something I found on the internet, to prove to you that I don't always have to write a 2500-word essay wrapped around a sinuous argument emerging in a moral at the end having to do with the heinous superficiality and crass commercialism of today's world. Watch: If there were any new music composer of my lifetime whose work I would have thought would be lost to history, it was Arthur Russell. I used to review his … [Read more...]

Advantages of the Hudson Valley

As you may know, I live near a pretty rural town town in the Hudson Valley, and there are interesting advantages to this part of the country. To wit: this morning we ate breakfast in the local diner. The somewhat elderly couple at the next booth were reading the morning paper of a Sunday, and complaining about the political news with a "What's the world coming to?" kind of tone. And the complaint I overheard was: "It's terrible that John Kerry won't just come out and unequivocally say he'll support these gay marriages." How many rural areas of … [Read more...]

Announcing Liquid Brick

Last year I performed at a festival in Birmingham, Alabama, curated by composer Monroe Golden. Also on that festival was a local quartet called Liquid Brick - two percussionists, electric guitar, and acoustic bass, as I recall. Their heavily rhythmic music, with slower harmonic effects on the pitched instruments, was very interesting, and was intertwined with a computerized video show with moving images intercut among each other, both real and abstract. The complex interrelation of sounds and images was entertaining, and represented, I thought, … [Read more...]

Make that “Small-Ensemble Music”

One of New York's self-admitted curmudgeonly composers, who wishes to remain anonymous for understandable reasons, responds to my "Master Narratives" blog entry, going even a little further than I would have: It has always been curious (and frustrating) to see that contemporary musicians are so willing to anchor themselves to the very narrative that you write about. How many times have you been in a conversation nominally about new music, only to have someone in the group say things like "well, its just like what Bach did in The Art of Fugue" … [Read more...]

Following the Classical Script

Through Salon.com, I was turned onto an article from Jay Rosen's blog Press Think about the Master Narrative in journalism, a term borrowed from literary criticism. The Master Narrative is the big, behind-the-scenes story that generates all the other stories, that structurally contains them, but that is itself almost invisible, rarely examined, assumed without being acknowledged. His example in political journalism: In standard coverage of political campaigns, where one goal is always to appear nonpartisan and above the fray, the master … [Read more...]

Academie d’Underrated: Ralph Shapey

The next repertoire I'm transferring from vinyl to CD is my collection of Ralph Shapey recordings: I believe I have every vinyl recording he ever produced. Shapey (1921-2002), whom I knew in Chicago, is not the kind of composer I'm supposed to like - his music is atonal, thorny, somewhat complex, relentlessly abstract - and I mystify some of my Downtown friends by championing him. But he was a tremendously misunderstood figure. He became grouped with a lot of the more academic composers, both because he taught at the University of Chicago from … [Read more...]

A Postminimalist Continuum by Any Other Name…

Art Jarvinen's out there in Los Angeles still trying to figure out a name for the kind of music he and I and our friends write, and I write about: "for those of us who grew up amongst the rampages of political correctness, and still can't find a way to describe new music how about 'differently accessible' ?" … [Read more...]

A Long Day’s Ninth

I wrote about Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch in my Village Voice column this week, and you should read that, but I have more to say about the piece than I have space for there. Briefly, what Norwegian composer Inge has done is stretch out, via digital software, a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to last 24 hours without changing the pitch - and since the unstretched Ninth lasts about an hour, that means it's 24 times as slow as normal. The whole 24 hours is coming out next month on a two-DVD set from Table of the Elements, but you can … [Read more...]

Academie d’Underrated: Beth Anderson

And speaking of art's ability to sharpen our perceptions (which I was), Beth Anderson's Ocean Motion Mildew Mind has given me a new appreciation for the counterpoint between word sounds and word connotations. If you're not familiar with her - and you should be, for she's been producing fantastic music for a long time, even if not the kind lionized by classical institutions - Anderson writes what is just about the prettiest music of any composer today, with the possible and very different exception of Californian Harold Budd. But she didn''t … [Read more...]

One Man’s View of Classical Radio

As evidence of the ability of music to organize our emotional life (referred to in my last entry), I adduce one of my favorite poems, C Minor by Richard Wilbur (1974), which I lift from The Atlantic, where it first appeared. Not only does Wilbur affirm the sense that music says something real about life, there's a mild complaint about the ultimate disconnect between Beethoven's 1805 musings in Vienna and the daily life of Americans today, which we could take as a suggestion that new experiences require new music to organize them: Beethoven … [Read more...]

Learning to See from a Desktop Pattern

One of my favorite features on my new Mac G4 laptop is its rotating desktop images. You can designate a file of images, and both the desktop and screen saver will cycle through the images in that file randomly, at a number of variable frequency rates. So after trying out several of the image styles that came with the computer, I decided to build up my own image base off the internet. J.M.W. Turner is about my favorite painter, and I had a thrilling experience with an exhibition of his work at the Tate Gallery a couple of years ago, so I went to … [Read more...]

What?!?!?

From the web site of Democrat Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, as quoted on Salon.com: "The culture of far left America was displayed in a startling way during the Super Bowl's now infamous half-time show. A show brought to us courtesy of Value-Les Moonves and the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon." What?!? If there's a "culture of far left America," I want credit for being right in the middle of it. Les Moonves is the President of CBS. CBS and Viacom are megacorporations against whose influence the Left is always fighting. How does the Left not … [Read more...]

Please Stand By

As soon as I returned from England my semester started, I had to move a houseful of belongings, and I had six articles due. (Besides teaching full-time, writing operas, and blogging, I still turn out about fifty articles a year.) I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and am collecting things to blog about. See you shortly. … [Read more...]