Where Never Is Heard a Maximalist Word

Bangor Pier: The University of Wales' First International Festival of Music and Minimalism is chock-a-block with such intriguing developments that I feel I should be live-blogging it, but under the circumstances it would be intrusive. Conference directors Pwyll ap Sion and Tristian Evans had planned for a one-day conference, but were overrun with so many interested parties - even ones willing to find and fund their way to this lovely out-of-the-way burg - that they expanded to three days. No trendy kneejerk revisionism here. Keynote speaker … [Read more...]

Worth a Thousand Pounds, I Mean Words

Enough said. Purchases so far (scores): Sibelius: Voces Intimae Busoni: Suite Campestre Busoni: Berceuse Elegiaque (orchestral version) Cage: 0'0" John White: Piano Sonatas Nos. 53, 62, 65, 75, 78, 84, 86, 90, 91, 95, 96, 103, 110 Monteverdi: Messa III and Messa a 4 voci M XV, 59 Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 Being en route to London yesterday, by the way, prevented me from noting Postclassic's fourth anniversary. … [Read more...]

So Where’s My T-Shirt, Already?

We have a winner! Richard made me realize the perfect term for the slow-changing music of La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, Phill Niblock, early Reich and Glass, Eliane Radique, and so on, so obvious I didn't even see it: the-music-formerly-known-as-minimalism! It's so perfectly accurate, evocative, unmistakable, and even compresses a whole historical critique into one phrase. Of course, the working title for my new book, formerly Music After Minimalism, is now Music After the-Music-Formerly-Known-As-Minimalism. I'm going to have a hell of … [Read more...]

Bowing to the Great God Usage

UPDATE below. Listen to this excerpt of this is. I think I've made a mistake. I've often written that the most essential characteristic of minimalism was obvious surface structure, but I've realized that that's not necessarily what makes me most feel that a piece is minimalist. Taking the plethora of recent advice that Democrats need to argue from the heart rather rely on rational discourse, I'm going to say, then, that what convinces me that a piece is minimalist is its low information content, the fact that what's first noticeable about it is … [Read more...]

The Other Shoe Has Dropped

In the past when I've gone to England to teach and lecture, I lugged over about 70 pounds of scores in my suitcase. No more. I've got a scanner. The first sea change in my teaching methods came when I loaded 14,000 mp3s onto my external hard drive, and could now instantly play for classes any piece that occurred to me, without having to rummage through my CD collection. The second change is that I'm now loading PDFs of every minimalist, postminimalist, totalist, or microtonal score I would ever want to teach. (I even got major assistance in the … [Read more...]

Just as I’m on My Way There…

"I'm in the US mostly because it allows me to write the music I want. I feel the US are freer aesthetically, and also, politically (in music, that is)." - from a note I received today from a European composer living in the U.S. … [Read more...]

How Do You Boil a Bridge in Wine?

Here's what's shakin'. This Monday, from 2 to 3, I'll appear on WNYC's Soundcheck program along with Steve Smith from the Times. John Schafer's interviewing us about that minimalism brouhaha that occasioned such an outpouring of comments recently, but since I think Steve and I see fairly eye-to-eye, I doubt that it will bring any new controversy. You never know. Sometimes I feel like Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore, who is considered such a disreputable character that his most innocuous platitudes are reflexively greeted with horror and … [Read more...]

Two More Voices in the Din

The tendency of composers to have too much time on their hands and not know what to do with themselves is an ongoing crisis. Two more have recently decided to deal with it in the traditional manner: blogging. American composer [oops! - Canadian, sorry] Matthew Whittall writes Well-Weathered Music starts off, appropriately enough, with reminiscences of new music in the late 1970s that bring back all-too-familiar memories. They lean toward the minimalist/new-music side of things (though Whittall expresses fondness for Kaija Saariaho's music, a … [Read more...]

Curious Biographical Note

I grew up attending the First Baptist Church of Dallas, the south's largest Baptist Church, and the one of which Billy Graham was officially a member. Many of my peers there seemed to me the worst kind of religious hypocrites, and some were just ruffians stuffed into Sunday suits, but there was one kid named Robert Jeffress who was quiet, likable, humble, and genuinely nice, mature beyond his years. I didn't run into him often, but he played the accordion precociously well, so we occasionally discussed our common interest in music. My mother … [Read more...]

Go Gentle, My Upload

The papers blown off of the Adirondack chair were the first sign that something was amiss. A new nip was in the air, almost chilly. The mountains etched the horizon with a crisp, purple line that he hadn't noticed in months. A sense of time passing settled slowly on him like dust stirred up from a long-neglected cabinet. Old enmities had passed; recent inequities were etched in stone with a certitude that no hand could revoke. He struggled to rid his mind of the remnants of insistent issues that now needed no longer ever be thought of again. … [Read more...]

When Bloggers Dine

I just had dinner with Alex Ross, here for the Bard Festival. My conversation is greatly inhibited these days because any story I tell, the response tends to be, "Oh yeah, I read that on your blog," so it suddenly occurred to me as we sat down that, since Alex and I read each other every day, we wouldn't have a thing to say to each other. But we both thought for awhile and came up with some news we hadn't blogged about. Geez, now I can't start a conversation by telling anyone I had dinner with Alex Ross. As Alex said, "Maybe we need to be a bit … [Read more...]