A Gannian Convergence

Very big week for my music coming up next week. First, Kate Ryder reprises my Paris Intermezzo in a second concert for toy piano this Sunday, May 4, at the Space Enterprise Festival in London, England, 269 Westferry Road.Next Tuesday, May 6, my good friend James Bagwell will conduct the Bard College Community Chorus and Chamber Singers in my Transcendental Sonnets (2001-2), at the famous Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center. James commissioned the piece for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir years ago. For this performance, I've prepared a new … [Read more...]

Mi libro finalmente ha aparecido

At long last composer Julio Estrada tells me that my book on Conlon Nancarrow is now available in Spanish, from the University of Mexico Press. I'm awaiting a copy in the mail. Here (in the right column) is the only advertisement I can find for it. Espero que seas ayudado por esta publicación. … [Read more...]

Henry Brant (1913-2008)

Neely Bruce informs me that the great Henry Brant has died within the last few hours. He was a phenomenally creative figure, though one hard to wrap one's ears around, because his specialty was spatial music; his works, often involving multiple ensembles separated by distance, were too enormous to stage often, and recordings hardly do them justice. I was privileged to have heard his 500: Hidden Hemisphere live, a mammoth piece in celebration of Columbus for three wind ensembles and steel drum band, placed around the fountain at Lincoln Center … [Read more...]

Truly Arcane Theory Joke

This afternoon we were analyzing movement VII of the Quartet for the End of Time, and came upon a passage using, for the only time in the piece, the following mode of limited transposition, which I asked the class to identify: Came the answer from the back of the class: "It's the Tchereptatonic!"Some of you will get it.The rest of you presumably have lives. … [Read more...]

Spaced Out

OK. I've finished The Planets, and so I'm listening, once again for the 30th time, to John Coltrane's closely related Interstellar Space album, with just himself and Rashied Ali on drums. I love Coltrane, of course, as who doesn't? Black Pearls, A Love Supreme, Ascension, Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Ballads, they're all among my favorite jazz albums. But Interstellar Space I admit I have trouble figuring out. Mars and Venus should be polar opposites, but I have trouble finding much variety of mood or method on this CD. What am I missing? … [Read more...]

The Rock Need Not Return to Earth

The Stefan Wolpe Society has just sent out its 2007 newsletter (PDF), which is worth reading if you like Wolpe's music. I do, immensely. Of all the modernist-atonalists of the mid-century, he was my favorite, yet of all the composers whose music I'm nuts about, his is the most difficult to justify to people who don't get it. I think of his as the music I wanted Elliott Carter's to be, but Wolpe's seems tremendously more focused, more taut, more playful, and easier to follow intuitively - if still, at times, mystifying. I've always liked the … [Read more...]

Sounding the Solar System

I finished my magnum opus today: The Planets, for flute, oboe, alto sax, bassoon, percussion, synthesizer, viola, and contrabass, commissioned in stages by the wonderful Relache ensemble in Philadelphia. It's just over 70 minutes long, a 346-page score, in ten movements, my own personal Turangalila. I started writing it in January of 1994, sitting on a plane en route to Seattle next to Laurel Wyckoff, the ensemble's former flutist. They commissioned the first four movements as part of the Music in Motion project, by which ensembles and … [Read more...]

Veni, MIDI, Non Vici

I'm in a quandary. Oh, not much of a quandary, just a little composer's mini-quandary.  In the last year, performers have started asking me for MIDI mockups of pieces I've written for them. I don't recall this happening before. Of course I provide MIDI versions in the case of the occasional acoustic microtonal piece, in which the performers need to learn pitches they're not used to hearing, and my microtonal music consists only of MIDI "versions," in which cases I humanize the hell out of the file and avoid instrumental sounds that don't sample … [Read more...]

Those Uptempo Canadians

For months Postclassic Radio has chugged along with no help or intervention from me, playing its little heart out with Dutch, British, and Irish new music. Last night I found myself with some unexpected free time after bringing several long projects to completion, and ripped about ten hours' worth out of the rapidly aging 17-hour playlist. I've been building it back up with the following: - Renske Vrolijk's complete theater work Charlie Charlie, her well-researched and mesmerizingly beautiful postminimalist story of the wreck of the … [Read more...]

Downside of Matilda’s Waltzing

The estimable Warren Burt (whom I believe I have run into in more different parts of the world than any other composer), American born but long resident in Australia, writes in to clarify, correct, and complete the picture of the Australian scene I alluded to in writing about Canada. He agrees that Australia treats its composers better than the U.S., but not as well as Canada. In particular, he says,  your implication that there are orchestral commissions aplenty down here is mistaken. The orchestral scene here is a closed shop, and only … [Read more...]

Finding Springtime in a Score

Students are finishing up their orchestra pieces. We're going through scores and parts with a microscope, making sure every entrance has a dynamic, breaking up undotted half-notes in 6/8 meter, deciding almost arbitrarily whether one oboe or two on a given line, figuring out how far to extend cautionary accidentals, and so on and so on. We're so petrified that a question about some ambiguity will arise in our allotted 20 minutes of rehearsal. We split hairs to make lines lightning-fast to sightread that aren't at all difficult to play. It … [Read more...]

An Embarrassment of Too Many Pianos

My music has two performances this weekend. The first is a multiple-piano concert Friday, April 11, at 8 at the College of Fine Arts Concert Hall at Boston University. Pianists Rodney Lister, David Kopp, and Ketty Nez will play my 1981 piece Long Night, in an intriguing-looking program that also includes Arthur Berger's Polyphony, Ingolf Dahl's The Fancy Blue Devil's Breakdown, and Rodney's own Detour.  Saturday evening at 7:30, Kate Ryder is giving a recital of toy piano works at the Space Enterprise Festival in London, at 269 Westferry Road. … [Read more...]

The Maple Leaves Are Always Greener…

I got back from Canada the other day, again. I'm trying to cure Canadian composers of their American-composer envy. My standard line is that an unsuccessful Canadian composer gets more commissions than a successful American composer. And they always reply (or maybe I just keep talking to the same guy over and over again), "That's not true, look at John Adams!" Well.  "Blacks in America face a lot of discrimination.""That's not true, look at Halle Berry!" The point, as I patiently explain, is that the American composer scene differs from the … [Read more...]