this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling…

I stayed in Aarhus, Denmark, courtesy of Wayne Siegel, a California-born composer who's lived in Denmark since 1974, moving up to the position of the country's only official electronic music professor. Wayne and his wife, the novelist Elisabeth Siegel, have a pet jackdaw named Alice. A jackdaw is a raven-like bird, though smaller, native to Europe. Having been rescued as a baby bird by a man with a beard, Alice loves men with facial hair, and took to me right away. She's noisy, as birds tend to be, and every sound I would make in her presence … [Read more...]

Workers on the Rolls

ON THE TRAIN FROM BASEL TO HAMBURG - For years I've wanted to visit the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel and look through the Conlon Nancarrow archive there, full of manuscripts that I last saw in his studio in 1994, while he was still alive. I've finally done it. It wasn't quite the cornucopia I had imagined. While all of the official works in his oeuvre have been catalogued, the great bulk of his papers await classification. Hit-and-run interlopers like myself, Nancarrow book or no Nancarrow book, aren't allowed to charge in and start throwing … [Read more...]

It’s All Related, Somehow

Tomorrow night (October 18) at 8, pianist Lois Svard is playing my music in a program at Muskingum College in Concord, Ohio. She'll play my recent work On Reading Emerson (which is coming out on a New Albion disc with Sarah Cahill any minute now), along with "The Alcotts" from the Concord Sonata, Bill Duckworth's Imaginary Dances, and George Tsontakis's Ghost Variations. Gann and His World, indeed. Thursday, October 25 [note - I had originally listed the wrong date], I'm giving a concert of microtonal and Disklavier works at the Mendelssohnsaal … [Read more...]

Remembering November

AMSTERDAM - I'm not over here just turning European musical society on its ear, you know. In fact, I don't seem to be doing that at all. I haven't yet had to place a revolver on the piano to quell potential riots, the way Antheil did when he came to Europe - audiences here have simmered down over the years. But besides performing and lecturing, I'm also working on my book, whose title had already changed from Music After Minimalism to Music After the-Music-Formerly-Known-as-Minimalism, and now may have to be titled … [Read more...]

Unveiling on Sweelinck’s Street

This Tuesday, October 9, at 8:30 PM I'll be presenting half of a microtonal concert at the Karnatic Lab in Amsterdam, at their De Badcuyp space, 1st Sweelinckstr. 10 in Amsterdam. This concert features myself, Ned playing a duet with recorder player Susanna Borsch, and the Scordatura Trio, which consists of vocalist Alfrun Schmid, violist Elisabeth Smalt, and on keyboards my good friend Bob Gilmore. Bob is the Irish musicologist who wrote the excellent Harry Partch biography, edited a recent volume of the writings of Ben Johnston, and has now … [Read more...]

The Solitary Listener

I've been posting way too many photos - probably more of you have already seen Yurp than I imagine - but I couldn't resist this image of John Luther Adams (front) listening to his Veils and Vesper installation at the Muziekgebouw: It was a fantastic space for it, high-ceilinged and well insulated from other spaces despite its openness, and surrounded on various sides by wood, concrete, metal, and glass - tieing in conceptually, in that respect, to John's percussion music, which groups instruments via those categories. Walking among the … [Read more...]

Pretending to be a Stumblebum

AMSTERDAM - The painter Philip Guston was Morton Feldman's best friend. In 1970, Guston abandoned the abstract expressionist style he had been closely associated with, and began painting cartoonish figures that often included shoes, disembodied eyeballs, and hooded figures. To say Feldman was shocked would be an understatement. As someone recently told me the story (heard from someone else who was there), Feldman came to the initial exhibition and Guston came up to ask him what he thought. For several minutes, Feldman simply couldn't speak, and … [Read more...]

Taking Spectralism to the Streets

Rumor had it that Pierre Boulez performed in Amsterdam at the same time as the Output Festival, and I think I ran across his group: Isn't this the Ensemble InterContemporain, with Pierre on the far right playing drum? In any case, they were the hottest music I've heard here so far. There was a lot of I, flat VII, flat VI, V over and over in the bass, but for variety they'd go into I, V, I, ii, V, and there were so many repetitions that I can't imagine how they kept everything straight at the riotous tempo they took. I was most impressed with … [Read more...]

Composing in Hotels…

...is fantastic, isn't it? I don't think there's been any part of this trip I've looked forward to more than just hiding away in some cubbyhole where no one knows how to reach me, and composing my pointy little head off. The phone doesn't ring, no one stops by, people start to assume you're unreachable, there's no refrigerator full of tempting food, there's not even anything on the walls worth looking at, and if you're in a country where you don't speak the language, even the idea of trying to run out and do errands is pretty disinviting. It's … [Read more...]