Get Yer Excuse Straight

A box of paperback copies of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow has just been delivered to this office. This means that all of you who have avoided buying the book all these years because it was horribly expensive will now have to avoid buying it because it's too technical and doesn't contain enough pictures. … [Read more...]

Busy Week

I've got three conflicting events coming up the end of this week: -- Pianist Sarah Cahill will premiere my brand new work, On Reading Emerson, which she commissioned, at the Harvard Faculty Club inCambridge, Mass., on Friday morning, September 29. It's part of the Boston Research Center's conference "Emerson and Imagination." Looks like you have to register for the conference to attend, though. She'll be giving a couple more performances in the Bay Area in October; info here, but I'll post about those later. -- Also this Friday, I'll be on a … [Read more...]

The BBC Goes Downtown

This afternoon at 5:45 PM Greenwich time, which if I remember my time-zone conversions correctly is 12:45 PM New York time, BBC Radio will air a special edition of the show "Music Matters" on Steve Reich's legacy in honor of his 70th birthday. The show examines Reich's influence in - brace yourself - the context of Uptown and Downtown, the angle being that a disreputable Downtown composer is now the darling of places like Lincoln Center. Music journalist Tom Service, who does the show, also interviewed me for local color; we drove around to … [Read more...]

The Bandleader Career Resumes

I'm directing, this semester, a student ensemble for works of unspecified instrumentation. It's above my accustomed course load, and takes up a chunk of my time, but I took it on out of guilt. I've felt terrible for years that our students graduate thinking that the sole available mode of modern music performance is faithful reading of scores elaborated in every detail of articulation and dynamics. Among the pieces we're looking at and may perform are Riley's In C (of course), Rzewski's Attica and Les Moutons de Panurge, Glass's Music in … [Read more...]

Looking for a Few Good Composers

I am going to be the composer-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts next February 19 through March 11, down in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. (February and March in Florida, can you imagine? I saw the location and accepted before I knew what it was they wanted me to do.) Composers are invited to apply to come hang out with me and be Associate Artists, meeting for at least two hours a day. The rest of the time, we'll work on our own projects; I'll be writing a Concerto for Piano and Winds commissioned by pianist Geoffrey Madge and the … [Read more...]

A Gesture

I am proud to have been among the 17% of Democrats who voted in New York State today for Jonathan Tasini for U.S. senator - someone who did not support the invasion of Iraq nor has ever advocated an anti-flag-burning amendment. … [Read more...]

The Masses Speak, and Wisely

Good lord, what a superb crop of comments my last post elicited! I seem to have stumbled on a topic - the mandates of "historical progress" - that many composers think about a lot and rarely get to discuss. My readers have outdone themselves, most beyond my capacity to improve on with further comment, notably Galen Brown's points about film music. But I'll respond to a few. Matthew Guerrieri (whose thoughtful blog is worth checking out) pinpoints a dilemma that often has me dancing around in circles: It's not so much the choice of vocabulary … [Read more...]

Ignoring Progress

The other day on New Music Box some guy, a young guy I presumed, characterized composers who write tonal music as having ignored all the progress made in the 20th century. That was certainly the kneejerk complaint my old-fart college professors were making in 1975 when minimalism first reared its diatonic head. It didn't take too many years for the charge to get laughed out of court, so I'm always surprised to hear of someone still learning it in school now - like those Japanese soldiers stranded on desert islands who went months without … [Read more...]

Don’t Get Shot by the Piano Player

This Friday night, some music of mine is included in a solo recital by boffo new-music pianist Blair McMillen. It's at 8 PM at the Tenri Cultural Institute at 43A W. 13th Street in New York, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Read all the details here. He's playing two of my Private Dances, a NYC premiere, along with pieces by Annie Gosfield, Peter Flint, Feldman, Ives, Scelsi, C.P.E. Bach, and a trio arrangement of King Crimson's "21st-Century Schizoid Man" from 1969. Sounds like I'll have one of the quieter moments. … [Read more...]

The Deadly Listening List

I finally put together a listening list for my 20th-century music survey course, and, in best masochistic blogging tradition, I provide it here - not in the least because I'm proud of it, but simply to add my two bits' worth to the mountain of evidence that creating a decent listening list for a one-semester course covering an entire century is impossible. I guarantee, if you blogged your listening list for your course at your own college, and it matched mine piece for piece, I would turn away from it in scorn, just as you will here. I'm … [Read more...]

Stravinsky Captured in Words

I have sometimes used this space to complain about brilliant music books that have been allowed to go quickly out of print. This month, one of the best, perhaps the most brilliant music book written next to Charles Rosen's The Classical Style, has just come back into print: The Apollonian Clockwork by Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schönberger. Amsterdam University Press is reissuing it, officially this month. The astounding thing about the book is that, like Stravinsky's music itself, it is circuitous, unsystematic, unconcerned with completeness … [Read more...]

Unrecognizable Voice

As Alex Ross notes and I had just heard, Robert Christgau, dean of American music critics, has now been fired from the Village Voice. I think it's official: I no longer know anyone working there. I'm sure I would have been fired too, had I stayed around to find out. … [Read more...]