The Philosophy of Program Music, and a Query

Have I mentioned lately that I love the internet? Writing an article and needing a citation from Charles Ives' Essays Before a Sonata, I put the phrase "the nearer we get to mere expression of emotion" into Google, and it took me straight to the online publication of Ives's Essays by Project Gutenberg. I'm so happy to have it as a text file on my computer: I'm always quoting it, and having to search for the phrase I want. And carrying it around on my laptop, I remember again the vernacular yet mystical prose style that so thrilled me as a … [Read more...]

Custer in Santa Fe

In case anyone out there in blog land is within driving distance of Santa Fe, NM, I'll be performing there next weekend. Friday March 12 and Saturday March 13 at 8 PM I'll be at the Center for Contemporary Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail. The box office is at (505) 982-1338. I'll perform my one-man microtonal music theater piece Custer and Sitting Bull along with a couple of microtonal synthesizer pieces and several of my Disklavier pieces, including the world premier of Petty Larceny - a piece made entirely of quotations from the Beethoven piano … [Read more...]

Catching Up with Cardew

On the second page of Cardew's Stockhausen Serves Imperialism are words that, had they been listened to earlier, would have derailed many pointless arguments of my youth: is clearly impossible to bring work with a decidedly socialist or revolutionary content to bear on a mass audience. Access to this audience (the artist's real means of production) is controlled by the state. "Access to the mass audience is controlled by the state." And by "the state" it is now obvious that we mean, not the U.S. Government, but the corporations that own … [Read more...]

The Web Shall Make You Free

Maybe the Web is even God: it does answer prayers. UbuWeb, the fearless site for the history of radical new music, has published as a PDF Cornelius Cardew's rabble-rousing little 1974 book Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, his Maoist/Marxist, over-the-top, but sometimes dead-on critique of the avant-garde. You can get it here, and you should. Just weeks ago I was moaning because I don't have a copy, and a moment ago I downloaded it onto my computer. (UbuWeb also includes, as introduction, the article I wrote about Cardew for New Music Box, which … [Read more...]

Nothing to Hear, Move Along

David Patrick Stearns follows the Master Narrative in his piece on minimalism linked from Arts Journal. Minimalism is a dead style. Never mind that it started evolving into something else in the late 1970s. Never mind that hundreds of composers from Alaska to Florida and from Maine to Mexico have been heavily influenced by it and continue to write music evolved from it. Never mind that several generations of composers now have cited Riley's In C and Reich's Come Out as the pieces that first sparked their desire to become composers. Minimalism's … [Read more...]

Sub Specie Aeternitatis

In response to my "Master Narrative" entry of February 23, Steven Ledbetter sends the following story from his student years in the 1960s, a little long but worth reading to the end. It's about studying with Gustave Reese, an important scholar who wrote massive standard reference works like Music in the Middle Ages and Music in the Renaissance: Gustave Reese was my dissertation adviser and, though he was most famous of course for his books on Medieval and Renaissance music, he was always interested in new music as well, and I ran into him more … [Read more...]