Cowell, Garland, Zorn on the Web

Composer Adam Baratz, whom I've long corresponded with via Sequenza 21, and finally met this last month, has alerted me to two online texts well worth reading. One is the speech given by Peter Garland at the 1997 Henry Cowell centennial conference, which is posted at here. Rather than live up to its ferocious title, I find the piece rather even-handed, and I must say I find its conclusion about his music well-put: Zorn is an exceptional artist, without question, because he prizes and seeks exceptionalism above all. This is not to say that he … [Read more...]

Tim of the Jungle

I've never succeeded in getting my music on NPR, but I now have a relative who has. My brother-in-law Tim Cook has a CD of his harmonica playing, … [Read more...]

The Alt. Route to Metametrics

Art Jarvinen, whose rhythmic intricacies are second to those of no one I write about, offers a different genealogy for how he came to metametric complexities. In ninth grade (circa 1971) he discovered Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band's then-brand-new album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, which he found, as he puts it, thoroughly "post-minimal/totalist, with the crunch that was supposedly added to the prettier pattern/phase things of Reich et al by my generation of composers." As evidence he sends an mp3 of the song … [Read more...]

A Truly Loopy Idea

The idea of different-length loops running at the same time and going out of phase with each other, which I wrote about in the here. Every few years I seem to make some breakthrough to a more effective use of the idea. Out-of-phase loops can also be heard in Mikel Rouse's songs of the 1990s, and in Michael Gordon's pieces of the same period, like Yo Shakespeare (1993) and Trance (1995); and one can, of course, find similar ideas - usually with only the rhythms looped, and not the pitches - in the musics of John Luther Adams, Art Jarvinen, … [Read more...]

New Music for the Hyperactive

I promised you my original post, and, as promised, I'm deleting Short History from my web site so as not to cut into Mike's (and Zorn's) sales. But it's one of the most astonishing CDs I've ever heard, not intended for the faint-hearted, and if you listen often and closely, you'll hear tempo and collage effects you've never heard before. … [Read more...]

Rehab Complete

It's time for me to check out of the Betty Ford Center, the wing for recovering Wikipedia editors. I'm cured! I know because the Minimalism article over there is getting more and more misleading - and I don't even care! The opening paragraph now lists eight European minimalists and only four Americans, making it look like it was a predominantly European movement. Louis Andriessen is now a minimalist! And Gavin Bryars, and Steve Martland, and John Tavener! I have a score to Bryars's Four Elements next to me, which I don't have time or energy to … [Read more...]

Call Me Amadeus

I heard some music the other night in a loose improv style that, given a lot of more rigorous recent musical developments, I find a little old-fashioned. But I imagined myself going up to the performers and telling them that I had just finished a piano concerto, and thought I could do it with a straight face only if I were wearing a powdered wig and dipping into my Wedgwood ceramic snuff box. How old-fashioned would that have sounded? "I finished a piano concerto today" - it sounds as comically anachronistic as the sketch with which S.J. … [Read more...]

Up is Down

I was subjected this morning to an NPR spot about André Previn's new solo jazz piano album. Excerpts I heard were sensitively played, I guess - but it was the kind of lusterless, easy cocktail piano that our best student jazz pianists can doodle out when they're not really thinking about it. Our jazz piano professor would play in that style only for satirical purposes. But André Previn is a famous musician, and of course famous musicians make only great music, and NPR can't risk wasting its audience's time with a musician no one's heard of.... … [Read more...]

Mysteries of the Composing Brain

A playable draft of the 18-minute second movement of Sunken City, my piano concerto in homage to New Orleans, is completed. Now I have to go back and tackle the first movement's complex coda. The problem with composing, for me, is that once I start it pretty much ruins me for any more practical work. It's really not unlike drinking too much: once my head is absorbed in trying to figure out where the piece goes next, all quotidian matters, like e-mails I need to write, bills I need to pay, errands I need to run, fly out of my head and it's … [Read more...]