Academy d’Underrated: Robert Ashley

February is the shortest month, mercifully, and I'm going to leave all of John Luther Adams' music up on Postclassic Radio for a few more days at least as compensation. But I hereby proclaim Robert Ashley Composer-of-the-Months for not only March but April as well - on account of, I'm sick and tired of having classical musicians and even composers respond, "Who's Robert Ashley?" "I've never heard his music, what's it like?" And so if you've never heard his music you're going to hear it this month, and if you have, you may revel in it to your … [Read more...]

Just Posted

New on Postclassic Radio: Lonesome Road: The Crawford Variations (1988-89), Larry Polansky's massive, 76-minute set of piano variations on Ruth Crawford's arrangement of an American folk song, played by Martin Christ A few selections from Mikel Rouse's brand new album Test Tones, just out this week Kevin Volans's String Quartet No. 4, "The Ramanujan Notebooks" (1990-94), played by the Duke Quartet, and based on music he wrote for a dance opera about the life of the Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan (1887-1920); and Another string quartet, Phil … [Read more...]

In the Voice

My review of Eric Richards's recent concert has just appeared in the Village Voice. It used to be, you could input my name in the Voice search box, and a list of my articles would come up in reverse chronological order, so you could always find the most recent one. Now, the list comes up in seemingly random order. Very inconvenient, for me as well as anyone wanting to read me. Things change, but I never understand why things get worse without anyone seeming to benefit. … [Read more...]

The Nancarrow Saga Continues

Conlon Nancarrow, like all artists interesting to read about, was a fount of idiosyncracies. One was the tendency to bring out earlier music, often abandoned works from his early years, as brand new music. His most spectacular instance of this was renumbering his Player Piano Studies Nos. 38 and 39 as Nos. 41 and 48 because he was using them to fulfill commissions, and didn't want his patrons to know that they were paying for works that had already been completed prior to the commission. (No shame in this, by the way; Stravinsky did it as a … [Read more...]

Something Fishy

You're probably not used to hearing anything strangely familiar on PostClassic Radio, but if some of the chord progressions ring a bell in coming weeks, it's because I'm playing some selections from CRI's disc The Alternative Schubertiade. On September 12, 1997, a bunch of the most incorrigible Downtown composers, invited by Phil Kline, got together at American Opera Projects to pay homage to good old Franz Schubert. I reviewed that concert, they recorded and released it, and I'm playing: Nick Didkovsky: Impromptu in Eb Major, arr. Minsky … [Read more...]

Conlon Nancarrow, Posthumously

In my book on Conlon Nancarrow I analyzed 65 of his works, which was everything known to me at the time. However, like Schubert, Conlon goes on producing music posthumously, and recently I’ve been getting information on three pieces I didn’t include. First, pianist Helena Bugallo, who has been performing his player piano works in piano duo arrangements, has just completed her doctoral dissertation at SUNY Buffalo, entitled Selected Studies for Player Piano by Conlon Nancarrow: Sources, Working Methods, and Compositional Studies. (It’s available … [Read more...]

Theory Dreams

Last night the American Symphony Orchestra played Brahms’s First Piano Concerto here at Bard, with Blanca Uribe as soloist. As you may know, the work starts off with an aggressive drone on D, above which the theme enters on a surprising B-flat major triad. Much later in the 22-minute first movement, in the recapitulation, the orchestra lands dramatically on that D drone again, only this time, the soloist slaps down the theme on an E major triad, a tritone away from the opening statement and thus the biggest harmonic shock possible; the D drone … [Read more...]

February with JLA

It took longer than usual uploading everything, because his pieces tend to be epic, but John Luther Adams is Postclassic Radio's February Composer of the Month. Adams is the self-created composer of the Alaskan landscape, a painter of 60-minute-plus continuous orchestral canvases that shimmer and sparkle and hover in the air, often with little or nothing in the foreground. He's written an astonishing number of pieces that use only "white" notes, no sharps or flats, including his large orchestra piece In the White Silence, which I've posted in … [Read more...]