The Truth Is Out There

You've GOT to see this priceless photo/caption combination that Jan Herman got hold of. Sometimes the truth just suddenly appears in our midst and announces itself. … [Read more...]

Everything Is Possible

I received interesting responses to my post on the "Post-Prohibitive Era," about why some composers still push their students to write music in mid-20th-century styles. Matt Malsky quotes Cage's paraphrase of Sri Ramakrishna in Silence: "Why, if everything is possible, do we concern ourselves with history (in other words, with a sense of what is necessary to be done at a particular time)?" Cage's ambiguous answer [Matt continues] is, "In order to thicken the plot." But, in a post-prohibitive age, what is the plot? And what thickens it? Carolyn … [Read more...]

Look at Us, We’re invisible!

From Bernard Holland's generally positive review of Diamanda Galas in today's Times: Diamanda Galas is, on the other hand, a genuine original and a living, breathing survivor of a largely vanished downtown. UPDATE: Downtowner Tom Hamilton asks, "Why are we now characterized as 'survivors?' Is 'evacuee' next, followed by 'refugee'?" … [Read more...]

When Does the Post-Prohibitive Age Arrive?

I was 19 when I wrote the first piece that I still, today, consider worth performing. A 180-degree departure from my previous music, it was all on the C major scale, with no sharps or flats. My composition teacher at the time, one of the most brilliant men I've ever met, utterly disapproved. He told me I should be using "good 20th-century intervals like tritones and sevenths and ninths." Even at that age, I had enough common sense to wonder how in the world a brilliant guy like that could hold a notion as silly as the fiction that there was … [Read more...]

A Pre-ordained Meeting

I was just interrupted in my writing by a couple of Christians of some stripe or another come to the door to hand me some inspirational literature, much as I was brainwashed into doing as a teenager. One of them brought up the inevitable subject of Hurricane Katrina, and asked if I believed that God intentionally allowed such massive suffering. I told him that I didn't know about God, but that an awful lot of suffering was allowed by the human beings in charge that they should have prevented. He looked genuinely surprised, as though gripped by … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday to Postclassic

By the way, this is the first anniversary of Postclassic Radio. I moved a little closer to an all-woman-composer playlist by adding Diamanda Galas's You Must Be Certain of the Devil in its entirety last night. Sorry the playlist on my web page is so divorced from reality. … [Read more...]

The Miraculous Revival of Julius Eastman

I'm pretty swamped by writing jobs at the moment. Mostly for money - Bard pays the mortgage and electricity, but if I want to continue smoking Padrone cigars and drinking Old Vine Red, those liner notes and program notes have to keep coming. But one job I'm doing I'm very excited about: liner notes for the first commercial recording of music by Julius Eastman. Eastman (1940-1990) was a brilliant singer, fabulous pianist, politically aggressive gay African-American, outrageous personality, and one of the important musical figures of the … [Read more...]

Virgil Thomson in His Own Precise Words and Notes

Vivian Perlis, the great pioneer of oral music history, and Libby Van Cleve, expert oboist-turned-musicologist, are coming out with their first volume of oral American music history, Composers' Voices from Ives to Ellington (Yale Univ. Press, two compact discs included). I got an advance copy, and it's fascinating reading; can't put it down. Here's an excerpt from some 1977-78 interviews with the great Virgil Thomson: I came from Europe in the fall of 1940. I didn't have any money, and wasn't going to be earning any, so I came home. I took a … [Read more...]

The Downtown Noise Machine

Over at Sequenza 21, composer Galen H. Brown has written an essay explaining where my blog fits into musical politics, and arguing eloquently for my continuing it. He transplants into the musical realm David Brock's argument from his book The Republican Noise Machine that the Republicans took their own lunatic fringe overly seriously in order to alter the public perception of where the center of the political spectrum lies, moving it far right from where it used to be. Therefore, argues Brown, substituting the concept of Mainstream Classical … [Read more...]