Chill with Charlemagne

Are you ready to chill out for the summer? I sure as hell am. That’s why I’ve made Charlemagne Palestine June composer-of-the-month on Postclassic Radio, so you can lie on your deck in the sun and get lost in 50 minutes of Strumming Music, or 70 minutes of pipe organ drones in Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone. (That’s probably some kind of litmus test – if you can’t take seriously any piece titled Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone, no matter how transcendent it sounds, you’re no Downtowner.)

If you don’t know Palestine’s music, consider yourself lucky that you can catch up. He was notorious in the ’70s underground for long, long performances in which he hammered away on the piano for hours with relentless endurance, creating masses of overtones that seemed to give his music relevance in microtonal circles. Then, circa 1979, he left music and New York at once, and disappeared to Amsterdam. For years he was a famous name whose music you couldn’t hear for love or money. Finally, in 1995 CDs of historic and even new performances started coming out, and now there are at least six on labels like New Tone, Barooni, and Organ of Corti – you know, the important labels that you have to go to Other Music in New York to find. And at last, in September of 2000, Charlemagne appeared in New York in person to give one of his historic performances, with cognac and teddy bears, just like old times, an experience I documented with a review in the Village Voice – and I even got to have lunch with him! (In the on-line review the Voice has replaced the nice photo of Charlemagne with an ad, dammit, but I don’t make their policies.)

Interestingly, born in 1945, Charlemagne is ten years younger than La Monte Young or Terry Riley, half a generation removed from the original minimalists with whom he’s associated. There’s a lot of time left to study his music with his cooperation, and I hope someone’s doing it. Meanwhile, enjoy getting the sounds for free that I longed for for 15 years.