Song for the FCC that They Can’t Broadcast

Still on a political note but in a very different mode, I pass on, from a friend who alerted me, a link to a timely Eric Idle song, laced with charming obscenity directed at all the right targets, and with particular compliments to the FCC. Be advised of "adult content" in the lyrics, but it'll certainly leave a better aftertaste than the Nick Berg video - unless you don't get the irony in the line, "Save the Great White Males!" … [Read more...]

Have We Been Hoaxed?

All right, it's off-topic, but I'm getting pretty freaked out by the amount of speculation, accompanied by detailed video analysis, that the Nick Berg decapitation video was a fake. At first I thought I had stumbled onto a whacko conspiracy web page (not that I mind, I've rarely heard a conspiracy theory I couldn't believe), but then I Googled the subject, and there seems to be a rapidly growing chorus of doubters. Main points: 1. The editing is sloppy, with unexplainable time lapses. 2. One of the "Arabs" is wearing a gold ring, contrary to … [Read more...]

Paradigms Found: Town and Country

I haven't been blogging, and have no better, nor worse, excuse to offer than the euphoria that accompanies the ending of the school year and my annual opportunity to plunge back into composing. But the year-end hysteria prevented me from recording a very interesting concert that took place a couple of weeks ago at Bard, which was quintessentially postclassical if the word has any meaning at all. Student composer Matt Wellins (Mr. New Music of Postclassic fame) brought to campus a Chicago-based quartet I'd never heard of before named Town and … [Read more...]

More on Ives, Thoughts on Revising

Another thought on Ives, if you can stand it, from reader Jacob Smullyan: [W]hile the attempt to characterize Ives as fraudulent should be condemned outright, a related thesis is worth considering seriously, namely, that his later revisions may not be entirely satisfactory. He had grown distant from the roots of his inspiration, and wanting to get re-involved, gilded the lily a bit (perhaps gold is too trite a mineral -- mica?). Some of the thickenings (I'm thinking of Concord here) are inspired, and some are merely uniformly thick. I … [Read more...]

The Ives Double Standard

My posts on Charles Ives brought a response from one of the Ives-haters who takes seriously Maynard Solomon's claims that Ives covertly back-dated his scores to establish his priority as an innovator. I issued him a challenge, and I'll issue it to the world. The charge that Ives was trying to establish his priority as an innovator does not square with the picture we get of him from his writings. In all of Ives's writings that I've ever read, which by my count is 100 percent some four or five times at least, Ives presents himself as generally … [Read more...]

When Is a Piece of Music Finished?

Wow - thinking about Ives and his accusers, what a beautiful statement from composer and loyal respondent Art Jarvinen: About that conception that Ives went back and "updated" his scores, to make it appear that he was ahead of his time or whatever: When I was reading the Swafford bio on Ives it struck me that he was probably just a lot like Frank Zappa. When I worked for FZ as a copyist one of the things we were working on was the score to 200 Motels, which had long before been "finished", recorded and released. He wanted it all cleaned up and … [Read more...]

Critical Consensus

I'm very happy to see Richard Taruskin in the Times today saying that Charles Ives was a great composer not only because of his innovations, but because of the depth of feeling of even his so-called "conservative" music. As he puts it, Thus was Ives effectively plugged into a powerful discourse that valued artists chiefly in proportion to their technical and formal innovations. It was not necessarily the best vantage point from which to view Ives (or, some might argue, any artist). But the long-frustrated composer bought into it for a while, … [Read more...]

Postclassical (Un)Defined at Last!

A fine postclassical composer whom I inadvertently left off my postclassical piano list (I have since added him on) writes to ask in some confusion what my criteria for postclassical music are. Ah! That is the question, isn't it? I have intentionally been avoiding specifying what postclassical music is, exactly, and perhaps my lists are an attempt to show what it is by dozens of examples, without setting up a definition. Quite essentially, I don't know how to define postclassical music any better than anyone else, but I know it when I hear it. … [Read more...]

The Postclassical Multiple Piano List

All right, here's the repertoire list for postclassical music for multiple pianos, as well as I've been able to piece it together - and longer than I expected to find, I must say, given the inconvenient nature of the medium. There's a temptation to broaden the category, since so many fine works for multiple pianos remain little known. For instance, Wallingford Riegger's Variations for two pianos is among his best works, and Ferruccio Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica, based on fragments of Bach's last, unfinished fugue, has been a tremendous … [Read more...]

Let a Critic Talk and Talk and Talk

I rarely get to sit and talk endlessly about my own music, and I love doing it. You maybe don't want to hear about it, but if you do, composer Daniel Varela's interview with me just came online at Perfect Sound Forever magazine ("the online music magazine with warped perspectives"). And I have so much insight into myself! … [Read more...]

Liquid Prose

I have to wonder how often someone reads my blog and then goes back later and reads the same entry again. It must be disconcerting. Because I'll finish a blog entry, go onto Arts Journal and read it, then go back and fiddle with it, correcting typos, changing a word here and there, even adding or subtracting sentences. I get such a different sense of how the essay looks on the internet than how it looks in my word processor that I almost always change something, even a day or two later. Quote me, and someone looking up the quote may find … [Read more...]

Bryars Tells It Like It Is

My new-music-obsessed friend Anthony Creamer alerts me to a very articulate interview with composer Gavin Bryars, who has written some wonderful music, courtesy of the BBC. (I especially recommend a gorgeous Bryars postminimalist ensemble piece called Four Elements, recorded on ECM.) Bryars echoes my point about fulfillment coming more from the act of composing than from the performance. He also feels, though, as I do, more comfortable being onstage playing in the performance than sitting helplessly in the audience as a new work is played. I … [Read more...]