Blogged by Ross

That young whippersnapper Alex Ross has taken pity on an old man and mentioned some nice things about my Nude Rolling Down an Escalator CD, namely: “some of the pieces (‘Texarkana,’ ‘Despotic Waltz’) draw Chaplinesque comedy from the hyperkinetic action of the computerized piano, while others summon clouds of Ivesian mystery (‘Unquiet Night’) or simply make you happy (‘Bud Ran Back Out’).” I’m in a wrap-up along with recordings of Arvo Pärt, Mozart, Chopin, Victoria, Michael Finnissy, and my contemporary J.S. Bach.

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  1. mclaren says

    Nude Rolling Down An Escalator contains a great big sky-arching rainbow of quirkily wonderful music, and I’d strongly encourage everyone to pick up a copy and do their ears a favor. However, on this CD Gann energetically swims aginst the tide in good old Murka with Nude Rolling Down An Escalator, since the collection leans lopsidedly toward the French side of the compositional spectrum, rather than the German end.

    In a nutsehll: if we define music along the axis of unity vs. variety, French composers have tended to fetishize variety, while German composers focus on unity as the be-all and end-all of the musical universe. Those of us who consider Saint-Saens a better composer than Beethoven appreciate the iridescent variety of Saint-Saens’ Third Symphony as opposed to the tiresome unity of B’s C minor symphony. But ask yourself — which composition gets taught in E*V*E*R*Y S*I*N*G*L*E Introduction To Composition class in Murka?

    As we all know, AmeriKKKan musical ideology has overwhelmingly skewed towards Teutonic models ever since the late 19th century. No surprise. Back then, everybody in Murka who was anybody went to Germany to pick up a little Musikwisschenschaft along with their Frischfroehliches Kriegsfuehrung, and as a result Murkan higher musical education finds itself tainted by the aniline dye of the German model of musiKKKal thought. The net result is that you get assloads of Schenker taught in American music departments (unity ueber alles — Heute Europa, Morgen die Welt!) but no Pierre Henry.

    Just try finding an English translation of Henry’s Traite des Objets Musicaux — I’ll wait — or Jean Jacques Nattiez’s Combat De Chronos et D’Orfee. Sauerkraut, we got hip deep in AmeriKKKan music depts., but nary a Frog in sight.

    Meanwhile, countless superb but non-Germanic composers who value musical variety over unity, like Saint Saens and Faure and Debussy and Pierre Schafer and Pierre Henry and Henri Dutilleux and Jean-Claude Risset and Tristan Murail and the Baschet brothers get completely ignored, in favor of Teutonic Shlockomponists like the Second Playskool of Vienna and their Elliott Carter epigones.

    Gann’s Disklavier collection (ye gods, even the friggin’ NAME of the instrument is Teutonic…can’t we escape from the Germans for ONE SECOND???) impishly cherishes dazzling diversity rather than navel-gazing consistency as a prime musical value. Big no-no in musiKKKal AmeriKKKa. Thus, outstanding music like Gann’s collection gets slighted by Murkan critics, in favor of vereinheitlichtigkeit unity-ueber-alles-fests in which each note gets derived from some suitably incoherently-derived starting pitch. (See latest panegyrics for Ferneyhough’s New Perplexity muzak for a typical example of Murkan music-critical tunnel vision.)

    The Germanic monomania from which American music suffers has been a long time a-dyin’, and still maintains its stranglehold on both the AmeriKKKan concert hall and the AmeriKKKan university music classroom.

    Withal, the sheer range of Gann’s moods in Nude Rolling Down An Escalator is truly something to behold, along with the kaleidoscope of musical styles he employs. A real smorgasbord feast for the ears. But, to Murkan musiKKKal critics, another big no-no. In Murka, yer s’posed to pick a style ‘n stick with it. Real post-classic Musical Murkan Men don’t cross-dress as jazz boys (a la “Bud Ran Back Out”).

    It’s possible I’ve got Gann’s approach wrong, but the clincher seems like the title — undoubtedly a play on Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending A Staircase, which would seem to nail the French mindset. Well — at least Gann didn’t title any of his compositions “Fountain”…