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 Hindenburg. That was the major Dutch premiere I flew back from London to hear last November. It’s on as I write this, and I can’t stop listening. (Note – if it sounds like the recording is playing on well-worn vinyl, it’s because Renske sampled vinyl noise and plays it in the piece’s background to evoke the milieu. Charming idea.)

– Canadian music, since I’m trying to convince even the Canadians themselves that there’s a lot of good stuff. To that end I’ve put up some pieces by Paul Dolden, whose music is parallel to M.C. Maguire’s in that it hits you with an overload of hundreds of tracks running at once. Just between the two of them, Maguire and Dolden pull the geographic center of North American hair-raising crazy-mad fanatical sonic complexity up to somewhere around Fargo. I also add some major works by that “totalist of Canada” Tim Brady, including his half-hour piece for 20 electric guitars and his Symphony No. 1, which sounds a little like Olivier Messiaen started messiaen’ around with some of Glenn Branca’s MIDI files. That’s pretty high-energy stuff too, so the station’s going through a definite uptempo phase. It must be too cold up in Canada to write the kind of slow, soft, mellow, depressing music a lot of us favor down here. You got to keep even those inner-ear follicles moving.

– Pieces by Jeff Harrington, Ben Harper, Eve Beglarian, some brand new John Luther Adams, Steve Layton, and David Borden, including several installments of his Earth Journeys for Composers (including, so far, For Alvin Curran, For Paul Chihara, and For Kyle Gann). (Hey, it’s another way to get my name on the station.) If you hear some unexpectedly conventional-sounding songs, those are Corey Dargel’s “Condoleezza Rice Songs,” so focus on the lyrics. My concept for Postclassic Radio was always as a way to get my CD collection out on the internet, and I was reluctant to use content that could already be found online, but considering so many good composers don’t have CDs out these days, I’m starting to rethink that a little.

– Some of my recent pieces that premiered lately. Since I never repeat pieces (well, almost never), my own music hadn’t had much of a presence on the station in several months. 

More to come. Part of the hurdle is always the thought of updating the playlist, so I’ve finally decided to quit trying to make it a guide to the current station, and instead simply list all the pieces I’ve played – which I like to do as a public reminder of the incredible volume and diversity of postclassical music. I finally realized why I’ve suddenly gotten tremendously busy the last few weeks, because next month my three largest non-operatic works are being either performed or recorded. My piano concerto Sunken City needed a few minor revisions prior to its American premiere at Williams College May 9, and I’ve been making a new version of Transcendental Sonnets with a two-piano accompaniment for a May 6 performance at Bard. And I’ve been finishing The Planets, a 70-minute work I started in 1994 and which had laid dormant since 2001. The Relache ensemble is putting it on CD this summer. More of that later, soon, when everything’s finished. Meanwhile, it’ll be safe, and maybe even enlightening, to return to Postclassic Radio.


  1. Patrick Nickleson says

    I just got Paul Dolden’s L’ivresse de la Vitesse off eMusic and ordered a few of Tim Brady’s CDs.
    You may have cured my self-loathing, New Music- loving, Canadian classical guitarist problems.
    If you’ve got any more suggestions of Canadians that are doing this kind of stuff please keep them coming! I’ve been listening to Glenn Branca since I was in High school but somehow had no idea there were people here doing similar stuff.

  2. says

    I thought that I would add a couple of great Canadian percussion pieces to your list of new music. Fertility Rites by Christos Hatzis is a piece for solo marimba with tape that uses sampled marimba sounds along with samples of native Inuit throat singing.
    Another piece that deserves some merit is a solo marimba piece by Ellen Lindquist titled Scorned as Timber Beloved of the Sky. It is based on Canadian artist Emily Carr’s painting of the same name. The piece reflects the horrors of deforestation through the viewpoint of a tree.
    KG replies: I’ll look for those, thanks.

  3. says

    Off the top of my head, Canadians living (or within a few years of it…) and well worth checking out: Jose Evangelista, Allison Cameron, Linda Catlin Smith, John Rea, Francis Dhomont, Monique Jean, Linda Bouchard, Bengt Hambraeus, Rodney Sharman, John Mark Sherlock, Gilles Tremblay, Derek Charke, Denys Bouliane, Hildegard Westerkamp, Alexina Louie, Tim Brady. And plenty more to be perfectly proud of! Not to take away from your 365 radio, but one very nice way to hear many of these folks is at the Actuelle CD site:
    Lots of CDs and hundreds of clips to stream.
    KG replies: I wrote about half of those people in the Village Voice.