“Lucky” Mosko, 1947-2005

I am told that Stephen "Lucky" Mosko (see here and here) has passed away at the age of only 58. He was a wonderful and well-regarded conductor, a faculty member at CalArts, and a composer too, though I've never heard any of his music. I know him only by reputation and through some wonderful recordings of Morton Feldman's music that he conducted. I'm sure more detail on his career will be filled in in coming months. I do know that his father gave him the nickname Lucky, which he carried all his life, by telling him how lucky he was to have him … [Read more...]

In Praise of Benary

Rock Happens, my review of the recent concert of Barbara Benary's music by the Downtown Ensemble and Gamelan Son of Lion, is now up at the Village Voice. (By the way, her name rhymes with "plenary," not "canary" - confirmed it herself.) … [Read more...]

Screwing the Poor to Protect the Rich

Postclassic Radio has been found in violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, under which Live365.com operates. Because I sometimes play more than two consecutive tracks from the same CD, the station cannot be listed in Live365's directory - I don't really know how big a deal that is, I imagine most of my listeners go there direct from this blog. But here's the e-letter I sent to Live365: Dear Live 365 Staff, I see that my internet station, Postclassic Radio, is listed as noncompliant due to too many tracks coming from the same … [Read more...]

Our Growing List of No-Nos

Speaking of harmonies that draw specific sources to mind, my friend Bob Gilmore thinks that Morton Feldman ruined the interval of the falling minor seventh - not that it is no longer beautiful, but that using it has become an instant signal of Feldman influence. Personally, I tell all my students to steal what they want and not worry about their influences showing through. For all they know, their music may be better known a hundred years from now than that of the people they're stealing from, so they might as well plan for that optimistic … [Read more...]

The Advantages of Saintly Naïvété

Like clockwork, every November of an odd-numbered year I end up teaching Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. And we get to the gorgeous fifth movement “Louange à l’éternité de Jésus” (which I helpfully translate for the students as “Lounging through enernity with Jesus,” using the Spanish “Hay-zeus” pronunciation), and I wonder once again why so many commentators have taken Messiaen to task for using the so-called “added sixth” chord, E-G#-B-C#. Here’s Paul Griffiths on the subject: There is a discontinuity of taste as well as period.... … [Read more...]

Proof I Was There

Opening bars of John D. McDonald's Kyle Gann in Worcester: Now up on Postclassic Radio, along with new works by Amy Kohn, Belinda Reynolds, Alvin Singleton, Mason Bates, and Jo Kondo. … [Read more...]

The Repertoire of Magic Realism

One of my cherished self-indulgences is to read each new Gabriel Garcia Márquez novel as it comes out, and he has never disappointed me. His new Memories of My Melancholy Whores, however, contains this startling sentence: At noon I disconnected the phone in order to take refuge in an exquisite program of music: Wagner's Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra, Debussy's Rhapsody for Saxophone, and Bruckner's String Quintet, which is an endemic oasis in the cataclysm of his work. [Italics added] Do the Colombians know something about Wagner that … [Read more...]

Warning: Bloggers Blogging Bloggers

Ethan Iverson, himself the rather incredible young jazz pianist of Bad Plus, wrote about my CD Nude Rolling Down an Escalator for Downbeat magazine. (Geez, how hip can I get?) Not content to leave the review there, he's blogged it here. Not only that, he mentions another mention that I got from blogger Alex Ross. This is getting blogtastic!! … [Read more...]

Meter: the Postclassical Paradigm

During Bard's Janacek festival a couple of years ago, I became rather impressed with that composer's textural and tonal originality, especially upon realizing that I had always thought of him as a 20th-century composer and he was actually born in 1854. So awhile later, browsing at Patelson's in New York, I ran across the sheet music to Janacek's On an Overgrown Path - the piece that the well-known eponymous blog is named for, I suppose - and picked it up. It sat on my piano for months, but since I moved to a new house, my Steinway has developed … [Read more...]

What They Get Away With in Lit’ratyoor

In his [1938] essay, "Paleface and Redskin," the literary critic Philip Rahv claims that American writers have always tended to choose sides in a contest between two camps the result of "a dichotomy," as he put it, "between experience and consciousness...between energy and sensibility, between conduct and theories of conduct." Our best-selling novelists and our leaders of popular literary movements, from Walt Whitman to Hemingway to Jack Kerouac, number among the group Rahv called the redskins. They represent the restless frontier mentality, … [Read more...]

Gann Raised from the Dead at Other Minds

A week from tomorrow, Saturday, December 3, the Other Minds festival is holding a "musical séance" at San Francisco’s Swedenborgian Church, 2107 Lyon Street, at 2pm, 5:30pm and 8pm. The idea is to raise up the spirits of composers from the experimental (or rather, Postclassical) tradition such as Cage, Nancarrow, Cowell, Crawford, Satie, and Rudhyar. I'm not projected to be dead yet myself by that time (unless they know something I don't), but nevertheless their star pianist Sarah Cahill (pictured) will play a piece of mine, "Saintly" from my … [Read more...]

Dance Me Some Tolstoy

I’ve always had a weird fascination - don’t quite understand it myself - with music by famous people who were known for something other than music. I’ve enjoyed a long relationship with the music of Friedrich Nieztsche, own every recording of it ever made (including the old Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau vinyl disc), and savor my Xeroxes of his entire Musikalische Nachlass; I treasure my Wergo recording of the musical works of Theodor Adorno, and enjoy playing for students the hilarious completed bits of his projected opera on Tom Sawyer, Der Schatz … [Read more...]

The Downside of Expatriation

NOTE: This entry has been extensively apologized for and updated. I've always thought I should have moved to Europe decades ago, and never more than in the last five years. But a composer friend who lived in Europe for many years told me this week why he moved back to the U.S. It seems that when he applied for grants there, to foundations which preserved the anonymity of their applicants [emphasis added later], his music was regularly rejected with the comment: "too American-sounding." UPDATE: I have to apologize for so badly misstating this … [Read more...]