House Slaves

I love reading David Mamet's essays while I'm composing, because he so trenchantly exhorts the artist to be honest, to limit him- or herself to moves that advance the action of the piece, and to avoid the chicanery of poetic touches that do not carry the action forward. I suppose I love it all the more because what constitutes chicanery in music is not exactly what constitutes it in theater or film, thus I get to interpret his exhortations to fit my comfort level. And his observations of the artistic world are much in sync with mine. From Bambi … [Read more...]

Hans Otte, 1926-2007

Hans Otte, the German postminimalist composer of the piano magnum opus Das Buch der Klänge (1979-82), has just died. I never knew much about him - Bill Duckworth was a mutual friend, and informed me - but Das Buch der Klänge is a lovely work, one I've played on Postclassic Radio. I gather Otte was not prolific, and was best known as an innovative radio producer for Radio Bremen. … [Read more...]

Sign of the Apocalypse

And lo, in the last days even he who had forever sworn that he would rather have his eyeballs penetrated with vanadium wires than own a cell phone will relent, and choose ringtones. - Nostradamus For Christmas I asked for, and received, a cell phone, which officially means that every adult, child, and household pet in America now has one, since I was determined to be the last holdout. But I got too tired of people who asked for my cell phone number looking at me as though I had shown up at their formal party in knee breeches, or had just cooked … [Read more...]


David Mamet in his wonderful new book Bambi vs. Godzilla: Every [film] studio pays myriads of number crunchers, market analysts, and various other experts to predict and strategize. The breakaway hits, however, have usually been films that were originally discarded as "too." "Too" what? What matter? Too original, too predictable, too mature, too infantile, too genre, not sufficiently genre, etcetera. I am reminded of what I wrote in a … [Read more...]

Not Deliverable by Christmas, Sadly

A copy of my new CD on the New Albion label, Private Dances, has just been handed to me. The official release date is January 22. My stuff never seems to get out quite in time for Christmas (this happened with Music Downtown two years ago too), but then, I'm not much for participating in American commercialism anyway. I guess. Contents: Private Dances (2000/4), played by Sarah Cahill Hovenweep (2000), played by Da Capo Time Does Not Exist (2000), played by S.C. The Day Revisited (2005), played by Da Capo with myself and Bernard Gann On Reading … [Read more...]

The Expulsion of “Must”

[T]here are still modernist philosophical experiments in art since the end of art, as if modernism had not ended, as indeed it has not in the minds and practices of those who continue to believe in it. But the deep truth of the historical present, it seems to me, lies in the Age of Manifestos being over because the underlying premiss of manifesto-driven art is philosophically indefensible. A manifesto singles out the art it justifies as the true and only art, as if the movement it expresses had made the philosophical discovery of what art … [Read more...]

What Hath Alex Ross Wrought?

Postmodern singer-songwriter extraordinaire Corey Dargel has submitted a photo of his cat next to Music Downtown. The only problem is that his cat looks so much like my Ruby that skeptics are likely to conclude that they are the same cat. But if you compare the markings, you can see that Corey's cat is more spotted, Ruby more swirled: Thanks to all those who submitted photos of their cats with Music Downtown, but since some of those animals are clearly not cats, and the books ranged anywhere from Sun-Tzu's The Art of War to Pat Robertson's The … [Read more...]

I Have a Scanner Now

...and I've always wanted to do something with this 1989 photo of Conlon Nancarrow giving a remarkably young and thin Kyle Gann a tour of a 16th-century convent in the Mexican town of Tepoztlan. For awhile Conlon and his wife Yoko (who took the snapshot) had a country home near Tepoztlan, and took me out with them to stay there. In a Tepoztlan restaurant I had one of the two best meals of my entire life: a mole dish with a shimmeringly complex sauce that contained 19 ingredients. I came home from that trip and wrote a tempo canon for two … [Read more...]