Even Wunderkinds Age

I was almost remiss in letting an important milestone go by: today composer Mikel Rouse turns 50. In America you're a "young composer" until you're 50, and it's disconcerting to think that Mikel, only 14 months younger than me but ten years younger-looking, has crossed the line. He's the only composer younger than myself whose music has influenced my own long-term. He piles up layer after layer after layer in his recordings, all at different tempos and rhythms, and yet his music retains a remarkable clarity, and the ear can zero in wherever it … [Read more...]

P[retty] D[amn] F[ine] Scores

A singing correspondent asks if I've written any songs, and I have, and it makes me realize that I haven't made all my music available that I could have. So I've added four songs to … [Read more...]

Sexy 7ths, Ambiguous 11ths

We pre-empt your attention to the succeeding postminimalist rant to alert you to a fantastic interview Frank Oteri did with my teacher Ben Johnston Aleister Crowley: 11: The general number of magick, or energy tending to change. 13: The scale of the highest feminine unity... or, the unity resulting from love. 17: The masculine unity.... 43: A number of orgasm, especially the male... 61: The negative conceiving itself as a positive... It's so tempting for a just intonationist to try to apply qualitative aspects of numbers to tuning. One book I … [Read more...]

Why I Am a Postminimalist

It is undoubtedly the most heinously unpopular thing about me, that I will apply a generic term to my own creativity. No other cliché could possibly be as widespread in music today as the conviction that one should never, ever admit that one's art falls into any kind of category. ("Beyond category" is oft trotted out as Duke Ellington's highest compliment, and every grad composition student believes it already applies to himself.) And yet I not only refer to myself as a postminimalist, but embrace it as kind of a guideline. Perhaps it's a … [Read more...]

The Uncontrolling Composer

At Bard's Schoenberg festival several years ago, the guy who introduced Arnold Schoenberg to Charlie Chaplin (I disremember his name, sorry) told about the experience, which occurred after the composer moved to Hollywood. Schoenberg, he said, was disappointed to find Chaplin running around, fixing his cameras, doing the quotidian work of the studio, and cracking jokes, rather than strutting around with an overcoat over his shoulders and voicing his august theories on filmmaking while his subordinates did all the work. That story has always made … [Read more...]

The Scene that Dare Not Speak its Name

On the front cover of this week's New York magazine is a headline about three performance artists who, quote, "are doing their outrageous best to prove that downtown lives on." [Emphasis in the original.] And the article talks about this guy Dash who's "a downtown legend." Now, whenever I use the word "downtown," six people leave comments to chastise me for referring to it, three people write to New Music Box to ask, "What's this uptown/downtown thing about?," and 14 bloggers go on the web to aver that there's nothing in the world they despise … [Read more...]

Going Against Everything You Believe

I just completed an extraordinarily smooth and successful two-day recording session with pianist Sarah Cahill for my upcoming New Albion CD. Tom Lazarus is the recording engineer, with a resumé of hundreds of great discs behind him. (One of his credits was the last recording made by Vladimir Horowitz, which made me expect he'd be a bearded patriarch; actually Tom's my age and looks younger, and we kidded him about having worked with Horowitz at age seven.) We recorded three works: Private Dances, Time Does Not Exist, and On Reading Emerson. In … [Read more...]

Discovered Google Earth, Can’t Stop Looking

Bard College music and film building (center): The parking lot on right is student dorm parking. I park right next to the building in an area that's shadowed here: can't tell whether my car's there. The photo's about a year old because it was taken in winter and includes the new music building addition but not the extension being built on the Curatorial Studies Center across the field (top of the photo). Gain a new perspective … [Read more...]

Advice from Miles

I just woke from a vivid dream that I was telling a class about a jazz trio recording with Miles Davis, Kenny Barron, and a drummer whose name I never got. (Waking researches suggest that Miles and Barron never recorded together, and I realize now that the record cover I was looking at was actually Coltrane's Ascension, with, significantly, only one figure on the cover.) The brief liner notes on the back - those were the days - merely told an anecdote about how Miles scoffed at the idea of explaining his music, and swore he could show his … [Read more...]

The Kleinmeister Factory, Then and Now

For Christmas I received Richard Taruskin's massive two-volume tome Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, and I'm finally reading it. I always knew I would eventually, but I put it off for years - because the book is bulky enough to serve as doorstop at Notre Dame Cathedral, because I was afraid it would tell me more about Stravinsky than I wanted to learn, and because after 2000 pages it only progresses up through Mavra, which is not my favorite period of Stravinsky. However, I should have realized that the brilliance of Taruskin's writing … [Read more...]

Where Cage Failed…

Whether this is on the level I can't vouch, but inevitable it surely was. A press release making the rounds on the web (here, for instance) claims that a conceptual artist named Jonathon Keats has made Cage's 4'33" into a ringtone. (After all the goddamned ringtone advertisements that internet robots have tried to post on this blog as comments, I can't even believe I'm mentioning this.) I consider cellphones an evil technology, and won't have one: no one answers them, they go off at inappropriate times, they're a sonic nuisance, their batteries … [Read more...]