Battle of the Tuning Softwares: LMSO vs. Scala

For those interested in what tuning software will make microtonality most convenient for them (assuming you can be seduced down the primrose path, my pretty), microtonal programming expert Bill Sethares has offered an authoritative comparison, over at the tuning list, between Li'l Miss' Scale Oven (LMSO) and Scala: [W]hile they do overlap in some functions, they do differ. The similarities: both will generate scales, both will save to a variety of formats, both are written by dedicated people who have done a lot to make it easier to explore … [Read more...]

Das Lied von der Erde, Indeed

The estimable Frank Oteri asked me for a report on John Luther Adams's sound installation The Place Where You Go to Listen for New Music Box, so instead of rambling about it here, I wrote it up real good for him, and it's now over there. The title, "A Long Ride in a Slow Machine," comes from a joke John made about the difference between his career and that of the other John Adams, whom we tend to refer to as John Coolidge Adams. After you go read that article, you'll get more of a kick out of this message I just got from John: Yesterday … [Read more...]

Unpaid Commercial Endorsement

Hundreds of hours of my life have been spent retuning synthesizers. It's the last task, once I've figured out a tuning I want to explore, before I get to hear anything. It's a tedious, mind-numbing job, usually lasting anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, plus a break to give my brain a rest. I've got about 50 tunings stored on my Yamaha DX7-IIFD, four Proteus's (one keyboard and three rack-mount) whose dozen-each user tunings have been tuned and retuned countless times, and many floppy disks with various tunings for my creaky old Akai sampler. Each … [Read more...]

Mario and Me

This Thursday evening at Connecticut College, March 30 at 8 PM, the Da Capo ensemble is playing my The Day Revisited, along with my son Bernard Gann on fretless bass and myself on synthesizer. Presented in Evans Hall of the Cummings Arts Center in New London, CT, it's part of a symposium on art and technology, and the program runs as follows: In Ida's Mirror by Stan Link (alto flute and electronic sound) Response by Panayiotis Kokoras (electronic sound) Meeting Places by Arthur Kreiger (ensemble and electronic sound) New York Counterpoint by … [Read more...]

Gannook of the North

FAIRBANKS - They drive on the rivers up here. In winter the frozen rivers are treated as extra streets and even shown that way on maps, until at some point the thaw suddenly sets in, a car or snowmobile falls through, and they close them up for the summer. People also ski pulled by high-speed dogs, sort of like waterskiing on land. It’s called ski-jouring, or something, and is not regarded as evidence of suicidal mental illness. Alaska is not like the lower 48. I’m told it’s homogenized considerably in recent years, but it will never be the … [Read more...]

Must Be The Place

Look where I’m going: Saturday morning before dawn I’m flying to Fairbanks, Alaska. John Luther Adams has a permanent sound and light installation opening this Tuesday, March 21, at the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. The installation is a set of rooms called The Place Where You Go to Listen, which is a translation of an Iñupiaq word for a legendary place on the arctic coast. Called by its creator “a virtual world that resonates with the real world,” The Place Where You Go to Listen translates seismic activity, … [Read more...]

Personal Service

I'd never applied for a Guggenheim before, and I found the wording of their rejection a little surprising: "Yeah, right, we're gonna give you a Guggenheim, and George Bush is going to give Cindy Sheehan a cabinet post." Can anyone tell me if this is their standard form letter? … [Read more...]

Advantages of Foreign Imperialism

Sunday the Da Capo ensemble performed a program here at Bard College of music by Russian composers who all attended: Elena Antonenko, Boris Filanovski, Alexander Radvilovitch, Vladimir Tarnopolski, Kirill Umansky, and my friend Dmitri Riabtsev, who three years ago was invaluable in helping me produce my opera Cinderella's Bad Magic in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There was a panel discussion before the concert on the subject of how life has changed for composers since the fall of communism. Some claimed it had changed not at all, others that it … [Read more...]

Mason Bates/DJ Masonic in Symphony

My Symphony magazine article on orchestral composer/DJ Mason Bates is now online: "Mason Bates, or someone like him, was bound to appear sooner or later...." Also, my profile of composer Melissa Hui is out in the current Chamber Music magazine, but not, alas, online. And on a minor note, student flutist Sarah Elia performed my solo flute piece Desert Flowers tonight at Bard College. It hadn't been heard publicly (that I know of) since 1989. I was 23 when I wrote it. Carter was president at the time. Sarah did a lovely job. … [Read more...]

Mysteries of Barbershop

Barbershop quartet music, like ragtime, is a great source of common-tone diminished seventh chords, when it’s time to teach those. It’s also full of parallel tritones in chromatic descent implying root motion around the circle of fifths. It actually has a lot in common with postminimalism: a use of voice-leading so consistently circumscribed that it tends to generate the same consonant (but not always functionally-related) sonorities over and over again. But the style contains one common chord I haven’t seen in any other context: a dominant … [Read more...]

Selected to Bother

A pessimistic dinner conversation with a musicologist friend about the patent incompetence of composers with highly visible orchestral careers brings to mind David Mamet’s classic essay “Decay: Some Thoughts for Actors.” A 1986 lecture given at Harvard, it’s included in Writing in Restaurants: We as a culture, as a civilization, are at the point where the appropriate, the life-giving, task of the organism is to decay. Nothing will stop it, nothing can stop it, for it is the force of life, and the evidence is all around us. Listen to the music … [Read more...]

Thank Goodness for Insomnia

If you hurry and look right... now, the playlist for Postclassic Radio is currently accurate and up-to-date. Oops, too late! You weren't quick enough. (New pieces by Frank Denyer, Peter Gena, Walter Zimmermann. At this point I've played well over 600 pieces, something like 130 hours' worth of postclassical music. And there's plenty more where that came from.) … [Read more...]

Metametrics as an Illiteracy Solution

I don’t understand why the electric guitar orchestra hasn’t become a compositional focus for more composers, for practical reasons alone. It certainly looked like it was going to in the 1980s, with works and ensembles by Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, John Myers, Wharton Tiers, Phil Kline, and Todd Levin. The old joke is, Q.: How do you get a guitarist to stop playing? A.: Put some sheet music in front of him. and certainly dealing with guitarists who don’t read was part of the challenge, especially starting in 1989 when Rhys Chatham initiated … [Read more...]