The Toy Piano in My Life

My Rochberg talk out of the way, I am now focused on this week's events. First, as previously noted, the premiere of my microtonal quintet The Day Revisited occurs this Wednesday, November 2, at Bard College's Olin Auditorium. My son Bernard and I will be performing with the Da Capo ensemble, and other Bardian composers are featured, including faculty members Joan Tower and Thurman Barker, temporary faculty Keith Fitch, a very talented student Marcus Parris, and local composer Jonathan Talbott. Then I'm giving the keynote address at a … [Read more...]

New Format Issues

Some readers have a few issues with the "comments" option, and I have a couple of disappointments about the new format myself - or rather, with what the new format does to the old entries. I thought that rather than post them as comments I'd forward them to Doug McLennan and post them here. First, my issues. Somehow, in moving all my files to the new space, an awful lot of apostrophes and quotation marks got swallowed up, making the posts look a little illiterate. I've been restoring those in the articles I care most about, but it's unlikely … [Read more...]

No French After Oatmeal

Robert Ashley's brand new recording of his opera Celestial Excursions is up in its 111-minute entirety on Postclassic Radio. I think it's his most musically beautiful opera ever, even though there's not particularly much more music in it than in the other ones - something about the rhythms of the words, the way the repeated phrases make music. It's his opera about old people: Old people are special because they have no future. The future is what to eat for breakfast, or where did I leave my shoes. Everything else is in the past. Is this … [Read more...]

Hipper Than Thou for Half a Century

I neglected to notice that the Village Voice turned fifty this week - the first issue was dated Oct. 26, 1955, and I was born soon afterward. My editor Bob Christgau gives a capsule history of music criticism there. True to form, he doesn't sugarcoat anything: In 1985 I became a parent and relinquished the editorship to a talented series of successors who know why I'm not name-checking them—they experienced firsthand the space cutbacks that have continued for 20 years (and hey, now pay rates are dipping too!). [I came to the Voice in November … [Read more...]

Even I Get Reviewed Occasionally

Douglas McLennan calls my attention to a nice review of my new CD, by composer Christopher DeLaurenti in The Stranger, out of Seattle (halfway down the page): "Like Stravinsky, composer Kyle Gann has an astounding ability to forcibly deploy complex rhythms without sounding cluttered or pretentiously convoluted." Woohoo! The West Coast always seems to love me better than the East Coast, and you know what, West Coast? I love you better too. … [Read more...]

Comments Policy

As many of you have quickly noticed, this new format allows for the possibility of comments (I can set this option or not set it per individual post). The way Arts Journal’s comments work, the ones you send go into a holding pen until I OK them. Most people, so far, have kept repeatedly sending, trying to get their comments to appear, but they won’t, automatically. This is as it should be - I’ve spent enough time cleaning obscene nonsense out of my web site guest page to know that you don’t just hand total strangers a can of spray paint and … [Read more...]

Speaking of Rochberg

I've been writing quite a bit about the composer George Rochberg since he died last spring, and now, by some amazing coincidence, I've been asked to speak about him this weekend. The Colorado String Quartet, who are, or which is, in residence at Bard College, will perform Rochberg's Quartet No. 6 (1978) at 3 PM this Sunday, Oct. 30, at Olin Auditorium here, at Annandale-on-Hudson off of Route 9G. It's the last of the "Concord" Quartets, with which Rochberg boldly inaugurated postmodernism under the shocked eyes of the classical establishment, … [Read more...]

Now I’m Neat Too

Thanks to Douglas McLennan, from whom all blessings flow, I have now joined the newer, sleeker ranks of Arts Journal bloggers whose wisdom is couched in the snazzy new format. No longer will I turn from Jan Herman's blog to my own and hang my head in shame! And before, somehow because I'm on a Mac, I could never post images. Now, with the new software, I can! and I celebrate this newfound ability with an experimental post of Erik Satie, the first postclassical composer and patron saint of all who have come since. Coming up soon, I have a lot of … [Read more...]

Another Old Fart’s Grumpy Diatribe

It seems like every month another young composer shoots out of grad school and starts blogging, brimful of enthusiasm for the musics of Ligeti, Carter, Xenakis, Berio, Boulez. I have nothing against that music. And if I did, what would it matter? Might as well rail against Brahms. What depresses me, and makes me feel trapped in an age of endless musical conservatism, is the ever-renewed enthusiasm, the sense that that old, old, well-known music, music with no more secrets to divulge, music of a past century, needs ever to be championed by the … [Read more...]

I Am Blogged About

I love it when bloggers blog about bloggers. Two of my confréres have written about my interview with Frederic Rzewski at Miller Theater last Thursday, David Adler and Darcy James Argue. As a paid participant of the event, I would consider it unseemly to add my own evaluative comments about the concert - nevertheless I can say that I thought they both captured the evening's atmosphere well. … [Read more...]

Auden on Mozart et al

I was going to send my mother the poem by W.H. Auden that I quoted recently, which doesn't seem to be on the internet anywhere, so I thought I might as well post it here, where, after all, she's likely to read it. There is an audio file of Auden reading the poem via the New York Times, but it's very late in his life and he seems to make it a little more trivial, so I recommend reading it yourself first. It's one of my favorite poems about music ever, with some sagacious observations about the changes in performance practice wrought by time and … [Read more...]

Rzewski Tonight

And remember, if you're going to hear Marilyn Nonken play music by Frederic Rzewski tonight at 8 at Miller Theatre (116th St. and Broadway), you might as well catch an early dinner and hear me interview Frederic onstage at 7 before the concert. … [Read more...]

The Day Revisited

I have a new work being premiered at Bard College's Olin Auditorium on Wednesday, November 2 - and repeated next January 24 at the Knitting Factory in New York. It happened in this wise. Pat Spencer, flutist of New York's Da Capo ensemble, played in my microtonal opera Cinderella's Bad Magic, which we performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Pat is, of course, (with apologies to Walter Piston) an incredible flutist. She has mastered much of the world's most difficult flute repertoire, and is a relentless perfectionist. She once showed me a … [Read more...]