Compliment from the Grave

Please pardon my self-indulgence in mentioning this, but musicologist Dragana Stojanovic-Novicic sends me an excerpt from a letter she found in the Paul Sacher Stiftung from Nancarrow to Charles Amirkhanian, and she insists that I blog it. It says,

I forgot to tell you, Kyle Gann is going to do my biography. Before I went to Germany he was here for a few days and we had a very pleasant visit. I had never heard of him before, but he brought a cassette of his music, and apart from being very simpatico he is a very good composer.

It’s especially gratifying because, when I visited him for the second time in 1989, he had on his coffee table a copy of the Ear magazine in which a Downtown composer who deserves to remain nameless excoriated me viciously for two full pages as a lousy, irredeemably conservative critic. (Conlon didn’t subscribe to Ear, they sent him a complimentary subscription.) This heals that wound. It’s good to learn, so many years later, that I earned Conlon’s respect as a musician after all.
I’ve always had contempt for the practice of those composers who, getting a compliment in a private letter from a famous composer, trumpet it in their press releases as though it was a public recommendation. So you’ll never see this quote anywhere again. But in my blog, I can say what I want.


  1. says

    Masculine reticence is so terrible and moving! So sad that Mr. Nancarrow couldn’t compliment you directly; so sweet that you received the compliment after all.
    Parallel examples from my life — in which I served as conduit of compliments otherwise not received — come to mind, but discretion prevents me from saying more.
    KG replies: What a nice take on it. Someday you’ll have to tell me the details.