Match Made in Music Heaven

For the first time in many years, I’ll be teaching a 20th-century history survey this fall. In preparation I’m transferring a lot of old vinyl records to CD, and a lot of CDs to my external hard drive (more than 8500 mp3s so far), so that any time a title flashes through my mind, I’ll be able to punch it up and play it in class. My entire musical youth, including many pieces never available on CD, is going onto this hard drive, and it’s a trip down memory lane. I’m using one computer to record the vinyl, another to rip the CDs, and so I’ve been enjoying a Cagean clash of simultaneous composers: Ligeti, Harbison, Jon Gibson, Betsy Jolas, Diamanda Galas, Barraqué, Del Tredici, Niblock, Sculthorpe, Nono, Carter, Ferneyhough, yada, yada, yada.

At one point I had Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony playing along with Diamanda’s Tragouthia Apo To Aima Exoun Fonos (Song from the Blood of Those Murdered). Diamanda was riffing off a high B, hitting notes all around it and always returning. The Rachmaninoff was in E minor, modulating in a way that kept B in the harmony as a pivot note. Like an avenging angel, she poured her passionate lament into Rachmaninoff’s gently commiserating chorale, perfectly in tune, like it was all planned out. It was the most thrilling musical moment I’d had in awhile.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Actually, it was in harmony, but out of tempo, which sounds like an average description of my own music. No wonder I loved it.


  1. says

    I hope you will include some of these newly-ripped recordings on the PostClassic Radio playlist for all of us to enjoy. That would be lovely.
    KG replies: Well, I’ll try, and I already have programmed a lot of early vinyl, including the early Terry Riley film scores. But, by dint of its age, merely being on vinyl, not much of it is what I’d call postclassical. Maybe I’ll put up the old Diamanda, though.

  2. Jon says

    Hah! Sounds like serendipity still exists in this old universe. Have fun ripping, Kyle – some day I’m going to have to go through this process myself.

  3. says

    Well, perhaps a special week or month called “Proto-PostClassic?”
    KG replies: I’ve been playing protopostclassical music all along. It’s the prepostclassical music that I have trouble with.

  4. says

    Under no circumstances are you to get on Soulseek and share this enormous library with the rest of us. Not at all. That would be wrong.

  5. says

    Ah, Barraque’. I haven’t thought about him in so long. What a great tragic figure. So much promise.
    Extraordinary music.
    Hmmmm. Is it just nostalgia or just that we never hear this kind of music any more?

  6. Eric Bruskin says

    I’d like to hear the Rachmaninoff – Galas duet.
    That’s one way to compress files, I guess.

  7. mclaren says

    Boy, I’d sure kill to get into that theory class when you teach it.

    Please, please please tell me you will videotape each lecture in this course when you give it. Then put ’em online at YouTube. Whoa yeah!

  8. Ed McKeon says

    You’ve probably come across Arnold Whittall’s ‘Exploring Twentieth Century Music’. It’s good at what it does, albeit he doesn’t really venture outside the printed scores. It’s an updated version of an earlier book and whilst post-1970s are there, they’re still a bit patchy.
    Other than that I quite agree, the general texts are either crap or out-of-date. Mind you, I haven’t had the budget to check out Taruskin’s grand survey.
    If you find anything actually useful, please let us all know!