The November Composer-of-the-Month at Postclassic Radio is, logically enough, William Duckworth, whose elegant musical logic has been a tremendous influence on my own music. I've uploaded two major Duckworth works, The Time Curve Preludes (1978-79) for piano, played on Lovely Music by neely Bruce, and Southern Harmony (1980-81), a choral piece sung by the Gregg Smith Singers and the Rooke Chapel Choir of Bucknell University. The latter work is in 20 movements divided into four books, and I've separated the four books out among other works in … [Read more...]

Can We Even Call Them Freudian Slips Anymore?

I was listening to NPR on my way to New York today. I wouldn't believe what I heard if I hadn't heard it with my own ears. Our Potemkin President (as Doonesbury has finally called him - someone had to) was responding to Kerry's charges that he goofed in allowing 380 tons of munitions to be stolen in Iraq. And he shouted, in slow, emphatic words, as though explaining the simplest common sense: "The president... needs to collect ALL the facts... before making politically-motivated statements!" I laughed so hard I nearly drove off the road. I'm … [Read more...]

Gann in the Bay Area

I have two performances coming up in San Francisco and Berkeley next week - one I’ll be present for, the other I won’t. Red-headed pianists Sarah Cahill and Kathleen Supové - I call attention to their hair color because the title of the concert is “Two Redheads and 88 Solenoids,” although I think of Cahill as more of a strawberry blonde - are playing some music for piano and Disklavier plus piano, dotted with pieces for Disklavier alone. The premiere in my case is Private Dances, a set of dances of which I wrote two in 2000 and four more last … [Read more...]

Ba-dam, Bing!

How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb? None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness. - John Cleese Q: What's the difference between the … [Read more...]

Did Nancarrow Have Days Like This?

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to play my Disklavier pieces lately, in New York and at Bard. A Disklavier, just to be very clear since so many get the wrong idea, is an acoustic piano, with real strings struck by felt hammers and vibrating in the air, but operated from a computer (or disc) via MIDI instructions. The keys move, just as though a pianist were playing them. It’s a modern player piano, only the paper piano roll is now replaced by a sequence of digital information. Anyway, the response I get is kind of deadeningly repetitive. The … [Read more...]

Jonathan Kramer, In Memoriam

I'm late in announcing this - things have been hectic - but there's a memorial concert tomorrow for Jonathan Kramer: Sunday, October 24th at 2:00 PM at Miller Theatre, Columbia University. Several of Jonathan's pieces will be performed, including Imagined Ancestors (of which this is the world premiere), Renascence, Whirled Piece, Remembrance of a People, and Atlanta Licks. All ticket money goes to a fund started in Jonathan's honor to commission young composers, a cause he greatly believed in. … [Read more...]

No Comment

Today’s headlines: The New York Times: The Year of Fear, by William Safire - "Fearmongers in the Kerry campaign are turning any breaking news story they can into a personal threat" AP: Cheney: "terrorists may bomb U.S. cities" UPDATE: Breaking news: Iran endorses Bush, because Democrats have this pesky concern with human rights. Not our Commander-in-Chimp! I mean Chief. … [Read more...]

Don’t Shoot the Critic (Again)

You’re not going to believe this, but tomorrow night - Thursday, October 21, at 8 PM at New York’s Cooper Union - I’m going to play Abraham Lincoln in a new work by Gloria Coates. The piece is titled Abraham Lincoln´s Cooper Union Address, and I’ll be reading, in costume, a speech that Lincoln delivered in Cooper Union on February 27, 1860, disputing the notion that the framers of the U.S. Constitution supported the furtherance of slavery. I suppose what qualifies me for this role, beyond my enthusiastic support for Coates's music, is my past … [Read more...]

Award Validation at Last! Another Bio Line!

Less than a month after it went on the air, Postclassic Radio has won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for internet service to new music. Actually, it’s a co-winner along with Iridian Radio, whose virtual DJ Robin Cox has been doing a fantastic job of coming up with really obscure yet attractive new music, stuff even I’ve never heard of. Thanks, ASCAP (and I’m a member). With my performance in New York last week I didn’t have time to pay any attention to my station for several days, but I’ve made up for it: twelve new works have been added to … [Read more...]

Peeping Over the Genre Fences

My criticism class got lively today. There are a couple of jazz players in the class, a smattering of classical musicians, and the rest are all destined for the Village Voice, if not worse. I use anthologies by Virgil Thomson, Gary Giddins, and Lester Bangs as my textbooks. And one of the things I’m most interested in exploring is the differences in persona, tone, and expectations among jazz, classical, and pop writing. The students agreed that it can be hip, nonchalant, to profess ignorance in a pop review, but to express ignorance in a … [Read more...]

Sounds Like This Week

The “Sounds Like Now” festival coming up this week looks like old home week for the Downtown scene. Microtonalist David First and electronics maven Tom Hamilton curated the festival, and text composer Chris Mann is emceeing. The schedule, running from Thursday through Sunday, October 14 to 17, at La MaMa Etc., 74A East 4th St. in New York City, is as follows: Thursday, Oct 14 8PM "Blue" Gene Tyranny Annea Lockwood Petr Kotik Alvin Lucier Thomas Buckner Friday, Oct 15 8PM "Blue" Gene Tyranny & Jon Gibson Jin Hi Kim David Behrman Muhal Richard … [Read more...]

Speak for Yourself

“I don’t really believe in program notes, I think the music should speak for itself.” Boy, do I get this from composers a lot. I’ve made a living for 22 years from explaining music in words, and I’d say half the composers I meet consider it a dishonest living - justified only insofar as I can praise them in print and help them get future gigs. Music should speak for itself, should communicate what it’s about, and thus the veiled hostility of the statement passes without notice. When music fails to communicate, it can be the music’s fault, and … [Read more...]

Very Thoughty of Me

I just realized that, on Postclassic Radio, I've been playing my own music theater piece Custer and Sitting Bull with the vocal part missing from the second, Sitting Bull scene. I must have accidentally uploaded that movement from the performance CD, which is a kind of "Music Minus One" version. (Does anyone besides me remember "Music Minus One" records, which would allow you to practice a concerto with a recorded orchestra?) I apologize for the confusion - most of all, to myself. That piece is now followed by a beautiful 1992 work for multiple … [Read more...]