Minimalism as Political Stance

I've learned too many things from my students in the past two weeks to get them all in one blog entry. It'll take three at least. Our three-and-a-half-hour Open Instrumentation Ensemble concert last night went splendidly. We played Glass's Music in Fifths, Riley's In C, Samuel Vriezen's The Weather Riots, Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio, Rzewski's Attica, and an electric guitar version of Julius Eastman's Gay Guerrilla, plus three works written by students in the ensemble. I was truly dumbfounded by the massive student enthusiasm for this music - as … [Read more...]

Merry Christmas from Ahnold

"Silent Night" begins with the notes G A G E. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" starts with the same pitches, G G G A G G E. Arnold Schoenberg was delighted by this coincidence, and in 1921 wrote a little work for piano, string trio, and harmonium, in which one tune morphs into the other. Called Weihnachtsmusik, it's absolutely charming - and not one new-music fan in thirty that I talk to has ever heard of it. In fact, it's the one Schoenberg piece about which I feel most affectionate, and I almost have to assume that Schoenberg's fans hide it … [Read more...]

Tower and Gann, for the First and Last Time

This Saturday night, December 16, at 7:00 PM at Bard College's Bard Hall, my son Bernard Gann will present a concert of his music. Much of it will be by his rock trio, Architeuthis. A piano piece will be played by, coincidentally, student Ming Gan. And a new work called Two Organs will be performed by myself and Joan Tower on electric keyboards. Joan and I have never performed together. It is highly unlikely that we will ever perform together again - I'm not much of a performer, except possibly of my own music, and Joan has retired from … [Read more...]

Swed on Tenney

The ever-vigilant Jon Szanto draws my attention to an admirably insightful summing-up of James Tenney's output by Mark Swed, in the form of an LA Times review of the recent Tenney memorial concert. Wish I'd been there - it sounds splendid. … [Read more...]

Gann’s Schaffen in Vienna

American expatriate composer Nancy van de Vate (or maybe we should call her "Austrian composer," we can argue about that later) kindly informs me that pianist Iris Gerber, famous for her toy piano work, is giving a concert this Friday at 7 at the Alte Schmiede in Vienna, titled: "Down Town New York: Kyle Gann und Tom Johnson, die Komponisten-Kritiker der Zeitschrift Village Voice und ihr Schaffen." I don't know which of my Schaffen she's playing, but I'll list a program if I get it. She would have needed to include Carman Moore and Greg Sandow, … [Read more...]

Lightning Fingers

YouTube offers an incredible Oscar Peterson performance. Make sure you go past 2:44, when he goes crazy. Peterson received an honorary doctorate at Northwestern the year I got my regular doctorate there (1983), so I was once on a stage with him. But not playing. … [Read more...]

A Cruel Loss, Apparently

Compliments are something I'm inured to, and I'm well aware that everyone in every public field receives them for reasons that have nothing to do with quality. But I am particularly touched by Time Out's mention of my new book Music Downtown. In an article reviewing New York's critics they don't include me, of course, since I haven't written in the city since last December. But they do include my book in a list of anthologies of criticism, with the very kind comment: One of the cruelest cuts of the ongoing reorganization at the Voice is the … [Read more...]

The Excitement of Open Music

I just now got out of a three-and-a-half-hour rehearsal for the concert I'm presenting next week, of my Open Instrumentation Ensemble at Bard. December 14 at 7:30 in Bard Hall, we'll be presenting the following marathon program: Philip Glass: Music in Fifths Willy Berliner: Persistence of Vision* Samuel Vriezen: The Weather Riots Frederic Rzewski: Attica Brian Baumbusch: Cyclical Counterpoint with Sangse* Rzewski: Les Moutons de Panurge Julius Eastman: Gay Guerrilla Jonathan Nocera: Blues for Julius Eastman* Rhys Chatham: Guitar Trio Terry … [Read more...]

Nancarrow, American

We're having a pretty tedious reversion war over at Wikipedia vis-a-vis the Nancarrow article. I refer to Nancarrow as an American composer who moved to Mexico. I would be happy to call him an "American-born and -trained composer who took Mexican citizenship." But a couple of guys, including Conlon's late-life assistant Carlos Sandoval, insist that he must be referred to as a "Mexican composer." I find this misleading, cognitively dissonant. Nancarrow did take Mexican citizenship in 1955, but he had few friends among Mexican composers, who were … [Read more...]

Enough About Me

I have noted here before that I am a fairly notorious introvert. There are periods, such as the present, in which very little in the outer world catches my attention. However, I am not, in person, much given to talking about myself unless asked, and I do, for the record, feel some pangs of conscience when my blog ends up being mostly about myself. So, sorry to be so self-obsessed lately, but I might as well alert you to the fact that Jean Churchill, professor of dance at Bard College, has choreographed two of my Disklavier pieces for faculty … [Read more...]

Custer Returns

A student complained that my microtonal music-theater piece Custer and Sitting Bull is currently (if temporarily) out of print, and that it's not available on my MP3 web page either. It's a reasonable complaint, so I've fixed that. The whole thing can now be heard Custer: "If I Were an Indian..." (8:42) Sun Dance / Battle of the Greasy-Grass River (7:59) … [Read more...]