The Difference Revealed

Is it necessary to remark what a tremendous difference between Democrats and Republicans is revealed in reactions to the death of Gerald Ford? No one has anything bad to say about the guy, from either side of the aisle. Democrats, despite one arguable reason to harbor a grudge against him, are happy to concede that the man did virtually no wrong. Had he been a Democrat, the Republicans would be rushing to besmirch his reputation and diminish his significance - as they doubtless will, again, when we lose Jimmy Carter, another generous and … [Read more...]

Getcher Dirty Mitts Off My Genre

My "Progress Versus Populism in 20th-Century Music" class became a focus group for trying out recent musical styles. Time and again the students surprised me, never more than by their resistance to the attempt to fuse classical music with pop conventions. They just didn't seem to see it as a worthwhile goal. The way I approached it was, many composers today grow up being trained in more than one genre - playing in a garage band in high school, playing jazz in college, studying classical history and composition - and they're tired of having to … [Read more...]

Music Not of its Time

I'm getting more and more fed up, for I can see clearly that I was not born into my proper period - [but into] a period I can't accommodate myself to.... Erik Satie to his brother, February 4, 1901 I believe we are in a period, and have been for just over two decades, in which masculine archetypes dominate cultural consciousness. The various musics that occupy musical discourse have masculine qualities. "Kickass," hard-grinding, "risk-taking" improvisation has its champions at Signal and Noise and Musicworks magazines, and elsewhere. The … [Read more...]

We Who Travel Lightly…

In 1922, Erik Satie offered a curiously plausible explanation for why it had been easier for him to break away from Wagnerism and create a French style than for his friend Debussy, who had won the Prix de Rome: When I first met him [Debussy], at the beginning of our liaison, he was full of Mussorgsky and very conscientiously seeking a path that was not easy to find. In this respect, I myself had a great advance over him: no "prizes" from Rome, or any other town, weighed down my steps, since I don't carry any such prizes around on me, or on my … [Read more...]

What’s Going On Here

This is a blog mostly about composed music of the last few decades, with a focus on that coming from the "Downtown," minimalist, and post-Cage directions.... … [Read more...]

What the Forest Animals Tell Me

The squirrels of Columbia County, New York, are incorrigible punks. (Today's post is, as we say, off-topic.) In most respects this is a lovely place to live, but squirrelwise, it's like some Bronx tenement project where the young squirrels grow up without fathers, and fall prey early to gangs of juvenile delinquent squirrels. I've had a squirrel here face off with me two feet away, and look down his nose at me with as little concern as if I were a june bug. My bird feeder still bears a dent in its metal frame where I took a swat at it with a … [Read more...]

History Written by a Poet

My old friend William Hogeland has The Whiskey Rebellion (Scribner). As a detailed story of how this country's wealthy class brought the bulk of the citizenry under its thumb, Bill's storyline makes a timely metaphor for the Bush administration, but he never pushes the analogy - he doesn't need to. If you already thought Alexander Hamilton was the bad guy among America's founders, you'll find his deeds in The Whiskey Rebellion so nefarious that you'll never feel good taking a ten-dollar bill again. The book benefits from a novelist's touch, and … [Read more...]

Coming Up for a Year’s Worth of Air

Yesterday I taught my last class of the semester, and do not teach another one until February of 2008. My sabbatical has begun, and the English language affords no sweeter word. The next 13 months will consist of only composing, writing, traveling, and, of course, blogging. I slept last night as I haven't in many months. If you are the kind of musician who tends to envy other musicians, you may envy me now. If you know of any other kind of musician, I'd love to hear about it. I'll let you know when you can go back to regarding my life with … [Read more...]

If Nominated, I Will Not Run

I find it difficult to credit this, since my blog is so peripheral to my activities in general - merely an adjunct to my professional writing, which is already an adjunct to my teaching, which is itself something I do to support my composing - but this blog entry seems to indicate that Postclassic is number 5 among the top classical music blogs. Geez, Louise, what an easy profession. Frankly, I think listing me one notch above Sandow is bogus. He gets a lot more traffic than I do. (Besides, this is a POST-classical blog. How about a listing of … [Read more...]

“The Lessing Is Miracle”

For musicological purposes, if nothing else, I should write a few words about the experience of performing Julius Eastman's Gay Guerrilla with electric guitars. This work, along with its companion pieces Evil Nigger and Crazy Nigger, are ostensibly written for multiples of any instrument. At Northwestern in January of 1980, and at New Music America in Minneapolis in July of that year, Julius performed the piece with four pianos. [UPDATE: Mary Jane Leach adds that the Kitchen toured the piece in Europe that year.] Aside from those and our … [Read more...]