What Alaska Sounds Like

Winter Music, a book of the essays of John Luther Adams, has just appeared from Wesleyan University Press, with a foreword by yours truly. The title is from John Cage’s music, the publisher the same as Cage’s seminal tome Silence. Adams is the most geographically-identified of recent composers, the composer who writes from Alaska about Alaska, filling his scores with vast, white, sometimes featureless but luminous surfaces. A little reminiscent of Morton Feldman but less nettly, John writes like an artist, not analytically or even literally, … [Read more...]

Aesthetics and Arithmetic of the Looping Playlist

I’m somewhat number-obsessed, and the core idea of my music has always been melodic loops of different (mutually prime, in fact) lengths going out of phase with each other. (This is also generally true of John Luther Adams, Mikel Rouse, and to a lesser extent Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca - a lot of the totalist composers, in fact.) And so programming a repeating playlist on Postclassic Radio offers a comforting continuity with the rest of my life. I’ve bought 500 MB of web space, which offers me about 18 hours’ worth of music, and I limit it … [Read more...]

The Miracle of Perfect Sounds

Composer Kyle here. We just finished a very successful two days of recording sessions for my piece Long Night, which will be an upcoming release on Cold Blue records, an underground West Coast label that I've admired since its vinyl days. The piece is for three pianos, but since the piano parts aren't synchronized, we recorded it with one pianist, the amazing Sarah Cahill - though on three different pianos. And we did it in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard, which European newspapers have called acoustically the best … [Read more...]

Web Self-Promotion, Downtown-style

As though to demonstrate the flip-side of my argument (does the very word “flip-side” date me?), an e-mail arrives this morning announcing the appearance of Lukas Ligeti’s new web site. Ligeti is a Hungarian-American who’s performed and studied a lot in Africa, but who’s made his home in New York’s Downtown scene. His biography runs thusly: Lukas Ligeti's music is a unique fusion of acoustic and electronic, traditional and avantgarde, Occidental, African, and other influences. [Immediately he tells you what kind of music he writes. What a … [Read more...]

Competitions, as Bartok Said, Are for Horses

A young composer friend took me greatly to task for being so hard on Jennifer Higdon for listing nothing but her hundreds of prizes and awards on her web site biography. I agree that it was unfair to single her out. I was preprogrammed to explode at the seventh dry, pompous, unmusical, grant-organization-acronym-filled composer’s web site I saw, and it just happened to be hers. It must seem out of left field to chastise her for making her bio look like that of every other colleague she has. I had a particularly hard time finding information … [Read more...]

I Win Prizes, Therefore I Am

Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating in my recent complaints about Uptown composers and their program notes: I needed to look up composer Jennifer Higdon, and I found her official web page. It offers a "biography." And so I think, well, biography, I'll learn whether she was born in a log cabin, what her formative influences were, what age she started composing, what crises in her emotional life resulted in certain works, and so on. Here's how her "biography" runs: Jennifer Higdon is active as a freelance composer. Born in Brooklyn, … [Read more...]

New Music’s Most Unpronounceable Title

I've put up on PostClassic Radio a rare old Wergo recording of one of my favorite works: Çogluotobusisletmesi by the irrepressible Clarence Barlow. The title is in Turkish, and has something to do with an autobus, and there are two versions: one electronic and this one, played on piano by the formidable Herbert Henck. Barlow is an important English/Indian/German composer of tremendous wit and invention, and very little of his music is available commercially. This record was, once, and to my knowledge it has never made it to CD. The most … [Read more...]

On Being Read in Cincinnati

I don't know whether any of you reading out there live in Cincinnati - raise your hand if you do - but by an odd chain of circumstances, I sort of "inherited" the job as program annotator for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra when my friend the previous annotator Jonathan Kramer died a few months ago. This coming weekend marks my premiere in the program guide. For Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 they're reusing notes from a previous season, but I wrote this week's notes for Sibelius's Kullervo, a mammoth five-movement symphony from 1892 that … [Read more...]

New on PostClassic Radio

New tracks tonight on Postclassic Radio by microtonal guitarist Neil Haverstick (playing the blues on 19-tone guitar), Petr Kotik, Jerome Kitzke, William Duckworth, Korean composer Hyo-shin Na, and Bernadette Speach. The last's new cut is Parallel Windows - unframed (1996), one of her two pieces for piano and orchestra. I'll put the other one up soon (Within) for comparison. … [Read more...]

Cream of the Crop

Got nine minutes? Listen to this: Blue Rhythm (1990) This piece by William Duckworth is what I consider absolutely top-shelf postminimalism. You can hear, I think, how different it is from works by Steve Reich or Philip Glass - its process isn’t obvious, there are a lot more textural changes, the form goes off at right angles. These things don’t make it better or worse than Glass or Reich, just different in style. The piece is so intricate in its textures, so melodically and rhythmically inventive, so lively in its momentum, that I think it’s … [Read more...]

Music from Downtown Europe

When I performed in Moscow a couple of years ago (the day the Chechen terrorist seige of a nearby theater ended), I was generously showered with CDs by local postminimalist, electronic, and improvising composers who, in this country, would be considered “Downtown.” I’m now uploading much of that material to Postclassic Radio. In fact, although I am an American music specialist, I have quite a few Europeans running on my station now, and they are NOT the usual suspects from that continent: from Holland: Renske Vrolijk from Germany (though half … [Read more...]

Playlist Accessible

There's been some inexplicable problem accessing the playlist for Postclassic Radio, but I think I've fixed it. (I could reach it through Mozilla, but not Internet Explorer.) Please let me know if you still have trouble. … [Read more...]

Radio As It Should Be

In a climactic moment of the wonderful movie Brazil, Robert DeNiro as Harry Tuttle, subversive free-lance electrical engineer, literally drowns, or dissolves, in the bureaucratic paperwork he has spent his career circumnavigating. I’ll die that way too, not in a mass of paper but in an ocean of CDs, as my friends grab up the fallen stacks of discs only to find that I’ve completely disappeared, absorbed into the microscopic pits in the polycarbonate plastic I spent my life obsessed with. This combination of a blog and an internet radio station … [Read more...]