Works for Me

The venerable (by new-music standards) here. Of course, this means I drive down to NYC with a car full of equipment - two MIDI keyboards, three amps, two keyboard stands, three music stands, a fretless bass, my computer, and all associated cables and sheet music which I hope I can remember - for rehearsals and performance, and since it's New York I can't park outside the rehearsal space but have to go down the street and park in a garage and carry everything all at once up several flights of stairs and then carry it all back down again once … [Read more...]

The New-Music Narrative, Interrupted

Take a look at this list of books: Leonard Meyer: Music, the Arts, and Ideas, 1967 Iannis Xenakis: Formalized Music, 1971 David Cope: New Directions in Music, 1971 Michael Nyman: Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, 1974 Cornelius Cardew: Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, 1974 John Vinton, ed.: Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Music, 1974 Robert Erickson: Sound Structure in Music, 1975 Roger Reynolds: Mind Models, 1975 Steve Reich: Writings About Music, 1975 Walter Zimmermann: Desert Plants, 1976 Gregory Battcock, ed.: Breaking the Sound … [Read more...]

Making History Up as It Goes Along

In the question period following my Indiana University lecture the other day, composer-musicologist Brent Reidy asked me what the role of the musicologist should be, given the explosion of interest in There's no way to describe chaos in its complexity; to describe anything involves making choices. And so the musicologist has to select what means something to him, something that follows a story he identifies with. In my own case, that was pretty easy. The great musical event of my adolescence was the advent of minimalism, and the ongoing story … [Read more...]

Uselessness Is Next to Saintliness

Fear, hunger, sex, and aggression are widely acknowledged, but one of the most destructive human impulses passes without notice: the urge to be useful. The wisest man I ever knew used to instruct his doctoral students to insert errors and infelicities in their dissertations - he was bound to assert his usefulness by changing something, he said, and if the dissertation came to him perfect, anything he changed would only mar it, and he would be unable to help himself. I used to follow this principle with my editor at the Village Voice, with … [Read more...]

Greedy Corporations – Always A Safe Target

I just returned tonight from Indiana University, where I gave a lecture Tuesday for the music department entitled "The Ethics of Composing in a Corporate Society." I probably should have mentioned here beforehand that I was going to present this, so that if you were around you could have gone. But I mention it now because, to tell you the truth, one of the benefits of maintaining this blog is that it contains a running list of my gigs, so that later, if I need to update my résumé (something I hope I won't have to do many more times in my life), … [Read more...]

Rebellion of the Minnows

Ostertag is not only an interesting San Francisco composer whose music deals with electronics and political issues, but an extremely insightful and articulate writer on issues of musical politics whose articles I've linked to before. I wish I knew enough to have written his AlterNet), in which he eloquently explains why he has chosen to put all of his recordings up for free on the internet. You should read the whole thing, but I'll give you some tease quotes. Starting out by showing how, in the mid-20th century, record companies were necessary … [Read more...]

Logorrhea Belatedly Given Up for Lent

Someone noted that by the time you get to paragraph 14 of one of my posts, you realize I haven't really taken to the spirit of the blog format. It's true, I'm not really into the whole brevity thing, El Duderino. I yearn for my glory days when the Voice used to give me a lovely, ad-less, 1700-word page to fill up, and to fit into that I'd have to shear 700 words off of my first draft. But this will be brief. This Sunday night - Easter, admittedly - in Boston, Da Capo ensemble will play my Hovenweep at Princeton, at Wolfensohn Hall at the … [Read more...]

The Out-of-Style Experience

I have a modest personal stake in the preceding discussion of classical composers borrowing pop elements: I'm writing a piano concerto largely based in jazz idioms. The reason is it's a commission from the Orkest de Volharding in Amsterdam, and they have an unusual instrumentation: flute, three saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones, horn, and bass. When I first thought about it, I thought of the few classical pieces I'd heard for piano and brass, and recoiled. (The two great concerti for piano and winds are by Stravinsky and Kevin Volans, … [Read more...]