Over at Counter-Critic

To call post-war atonality "the Dark Ages" is so entirely retarded, I'm beside myself. If anything, post-war serialism... exposed more light on what music was, is and can be, and was nothing short of a cultural revelation. Post-war atonality made today's taste for oblique tonality possible. It's like women today who disparage the hard-core feminists of the 60s and 70s, even though today's women are reaping the benefits that those unsightly, nail-spitting bull-dykes risked social derision to gain.Counter-Critic (emphasis added)Few feminists I … [Read more...]

Everybody Stay Calm

The festival "Voyages: Montréal-New York" runs April 2 through 6 next week at the Theatre la Chapelle (3700, rue St.-Dominique) in Montreal, and my new electric guitar quartet lies smack dab in the middle of it, on April 4, the all-guitar concert. More info at guitarist Tim Brady's web site. The new 13-minute piece is titled Composure, after a 1986 quotation from the New York Times by the brilliant essayist-novelist Marilynne Robinson that I've quoted here before:The literature of expostulation, of Catastrophe, is taken to be very serious. But … [Read more...]

Zuni Totalism

Below is the complete transcription of part of a Zuni Buffalo Dance from Robert Cogan's and Pozzi Escot's 1976 book Sonic Design, one of the best books of musical analysis ever written. (Though long out of print, you can still get print-to-order copies on the web.) This is the book which introduced me to the practice of switching back and forth among different tempos in Southwest American Indian music. Combined with the rhythmic theory I already knew from Henry Cowell's New Musical Resources, it elicited in me an interest in meters with … [Read more...]

Sins of My Youth Revisited

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. - Ralph Waldo EmersonSorry for being remiss lately in my role as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of classical music - it's been more than a week since I've said anything my followers need distance themselves from - but I've been preoccupied with something peculiar. One of the things that has surprised me most in the last seven years is what a nurturing presence my early music has for me. I seem to go through a pattern. Of course, like … [Read more...]

Benefits of Experience

Here I am at Arts Journal's glorious new location. Hope I can figure out how to work this thing - it's WYSIWYG, and I had gotten pretty adept at HTML. His Beneficence Doug McLennan has great plans for these sites, including potential ads which will allow us bloggers to make a little income doing this. What a concept! In any case, I note that Darcy James Argue has undertaken an extended analysis of my "irrational" rhythms from my post-before-last, and found that my way of notating them, besides being less limited, is also less counter-intuitive … [Read more...]

Truth Be Damned

Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on inside. And on and on. The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs … [Read more...]

Don’t Blame Me, It Was Henry Cowell’s Idea

How's it look? This is how far I've succeeded in notating meters like 2/3, 7/12, and 5/6 in Sibelius. I have to put in a false meter, input the notes, delete the meter, insert the real meter via "Text > Special Text > Time Signatures," and then add the brackets manually. I can't decide whether it's clearer to put a "3" over two or four quarter-note triplets or "3:2." And I wish I could put a space in that bracket for the number. Suggestions welcome. Those examples are from my I'itoi Variations of 1985. I admit that since I started using … [Read more...]

Suck It Up

I haven't blogged about Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise simply because I hate being one of a crowd, and if someone else is saying the things I would say, I have little incentive to say them myself. But I find myself rather delighted by the mini-controversy of Alex getting carped at by a couple of European critics on British radio, as detailed at once wrote here about that included the blithe statement, "It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that in terms of musical impact, and in the reflection of the wider human condition and the … [Read more...]

No Kelp, Sorry, but Toy Pianos

Having some free time this week (translation: none of the people I owe work to were hounding me), I started revamping my Erling Wold's, Eve Beglarian's. I'm obviously not much concerned with graphic sophistication. The Hudson Valley doesn't provide me with kelp to drape over myself, like Alex has out there on the Pacific Coast (though if I took a walk through the Hudson I'd probably emerge with some pretty picturesque, if carcinogenic, muck). But it bothered me that my mp3s were on one page, PDF scores on another, program notes accessible … [Read more...]

Reading Time for this Entry 26.7 Seconds

This may be a subject that has been widely discussed since I was in grad school, I dunno, I don't ride the theory circuits much. But does anyone know why Bartok so meticulously put timings on each section of his scores, showing exactly how long they were supposed to last? Joseph Szigeti asked Bartok about it, and he evidently replied, "It isn't as if I said: 'This must take six minutes, 22 seconds...' but I simply go on record that when I play it the duration is six minutes, 22 seconds." I can buy that with Bartok's piano pieces, and there have … [Read more...]

Prepping Einstein for the Dissection Table

Wow. WOW. As you can infer, I am holding in my hands a copy of the score to Einstein on the Beach. I can hardly put it down. I ordered it from Chester Music, and it just came in the mail. I had come to think I would never own such a thing, because for so long Philip Glass had refused to release the music written for his ensemble, since performing it was how he made his money. But it's finally available, and next semester I'm teaching an analysis class based on minimalism and its offshoots. So before I committed to the course, I searched around … [Read more...]

Preview of Coming Attractions and Repulsions

[UPDATED] Thursday night, March 6, at 7:30 the amazing University of Kentucky Percussion Ensemble will play my Snake Dance No. 2 at the SCFA Recital Hall there in Lexington. The program also includes works by Jay Batzner, Lou Harrison, David Crowell, Russell Peck, and Paul Lansky. I've head these guys do it, and though they're young, they're incredible. (I've also been thinking about what a great place to live Lexington seemed. I was treated to lunch in a huge natural food coop where everything was great, and there were some lovely bars and … [Read more...]