Exaggerated Rumors of Downtown’s Cooptation

My mother has a stock answer for people who draw generalizations from insufficient data. She replies, with a tinge of sarcasm, “All Indians walk single file. I saw one once, and he did.” I admire Bill Osborne’s writing enough that I don’t think he’ll mind my taking issue with his note to Jan Herman which that worthy reprinted in his excellent blog. Bill went to a John Zorn concert at Miller Theater, and concluded (on the basis of that and other unspecified concerts) that there is no longer any difference between Uptown and Downtown music these … [Read more...]

New Music: The Generation Problem

Hard to believe from my gray locks, but I was 13 once - or so says the evidence from boxes of old manuscripts in my storage room. I fell in love then, slowly and cautiously, with the Concord Sonata and Le sacre du printemps and Cage’s Variations IV. I needed a refuge from grownups, and like many teenagers, found it in music that grownups didn’t understand. My peers anchored their contemptus mundi in loud rock ‘n’ roll, but I was practicing George Rochberg’s 12-tone Sonata-Fantasia on the piano, along with the acerbically atonal Form by Stefan … [Read more...]

Multiple CD Release Advice

As to my question of whether a composer should issue three CDs at once, or space them out one a year or so, the masses have spoken, and they do not speak with one voice. The only person to unequivocally agree with my record producer about spacing them out was another composer/CD producer, Mary Jane Leach formerly of XI discs, who said My feeling in that you should space them out, maybe six months apart. Unless they're all very similar, it will "confuse" most critics (which one sheet takes precedence over the other?), and you might end up with … [Read more...]

Village Voice Column with Listening Examples

In my Village Voice column this week, I review the Sequitur ensemble playing four works, two of which I possess recordings of. And so, in an experiment aimed at making music criticism more accessible and relevant, which I have long wanted to try out, I temporarily post those two works so, having read the article, you may then listen to them if you like: Eve Beglarian: Creating the World Bunita Marcus: Adam and Eve Both pieces are also posted on Postclassic Radio as noted in the article, but rather than tune in and wait several hours for them, … [Read more...]

Is More More or Less?

I appeal to my experienced readers to settle a dispute. I have been told by a couple of artists that the only way to break through the wall of public indifference and get attention in the press is to have a lot of work come out at once. A CD will pass unnoticed; release three CDs in quick proximity and people will suddenly think you’re on a roll, and treat you as important. Now, it just so happens that I may have the opportunity to put out three CDs in 2005. And one of the record producers just told me exactly the opposite: that if you put out … [Read more...]

A Generation of Equals

Composer Lawrence Dillon, who keeps me honest, and who now has his own blog to assist in that interminable quest, notes an ambiguity in my Where are the Philistines? entry. It seemed to him that I was making a sour grapes gripe for certain composers who weren’t getting their fair share of the pie, whereas my intent was to make a more general plea for my own generation, who seem to be the first generation to come of age after the officially defined end of music history. But I will, to even out the score, make an ameliorating comment about my own … [Read more...]

Endless Melody

When I was in high school my best friend Marcus McDaniel was working on an opera about a scientist who generated music from the digits of pi. The crisis in the opera (which sounded to be a very brief work) came when the music came to an unexpected halt, indicating a final digit to this transcendental number. The opera never came to fruition, but a web site just forwarded to me allows you to be that scientist. You can either choose your own pitches to relate to the Arabic numbers, or the program will do it for you. Marcus also had another opera … [Read more...]

Where Are the Philistines?

We all know what was wrong with modernist music: it had no melody, it was so dissonant you couldn’t tell whether people were playing the right notes or not, it expressed only anxiety, it was either loud and savage and unpleasant (Stockhausen), or it was dull, gray, too technical, and unmemorable (Babbitt). And so audiences stayed out of the concert hall when it was played, and wrote angry letters to orchestra managements. The music itself is widely taken to justify audiences’ lack of interest in it. And we all know what was wrong with … [Read more...]

Good God

From Salon.com: Twenty-seven percent of online adults in the United States said in November they read blogs, compared with 17 percent in a February survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.... Though blog readership jumped [in 2004], the percentage of online Americans who write blogs grew only slightly - to 7 percent in November, up from 5 percent early in the year. Blog creators tend to be male, affluent, well-educated and young [two out of four ain't bad, I guess]; 70 percent of them have high-speed connections at home, and 82 … [Read more...]

The Many Sides of Elodie Lauten

Postminimalist, neoclassicist, meditationist, New Ageist, improviser, jazzer, opera composer, Elodie Lauten is one of the most Protean composers of recent years, with many sides to her personality, but they all sound like her. I think of her a little as the female Terry Riley, though her music is a little more muted in tone, and more recognizably hers regardless of genre than Terry’s sometimes is. In making her January’s composer of the month on Postclassic Radio, I tried to include something from all sides. Two long works I’ve posted in their … [Read more...]