Theory Wonk Post

October is the cruelest month. Or rather, late October/early November: my first-year students know diatonic chords and a few non-chord tones, but it's awfully difficult to find pieces of music (even hymns!) devoid of accidentals for people still stymied by secondary dominants. One piece that I've found wonderful for teaching around Halloween is Barber's Adagio for Strings - I'm not a fan of Barber or the piece, but they all know it by heart, and the film industry has done very well by it. And a lot of it stays in B-flat minor and teaches the … [Read more...]

Thank You, Sarah Palin

We in American music owe a great debt to John McCain and Sarah Palin. Those two have so cheapened and tainted the word "maverick" that it will be at least a generation, maybe two, before anyone will be able to use the word non-ironically again. And that means, surely, that there will be no more talk about the "American maverick composers." As I've written here before, the musicological purpose of the word "maverick" is to legitimize certain handpicked composers despite the unconventionality (as compared with alleged European norms) of their … [Read more...]

My Unpopularity in Perspective

I had a lovely lunch yesterday with my former editor from the Voice, Doug Simmons, who hired me and edited me for seven heady years. Each of us had some anecdotes from those years we'd never told the other before. The guy who'd recommended me for the job (who might want to remain nameless in this instance) once called Doug up, furious about some new infraction I'd committed in the paper. "You're the guy who recommended him to me," Doug expostulated, "I'd never heard of him before." "I think I've created a monster!," the guy exclaimed, and hung … [Read more...]

The Op. 111 Club

I refuse to do those "playlist" things that tell you what I'm listening to lately, because 1. I go for long periods without listening to anything, and I'm entitled because I've already spent way too much of my life involved with other people's music; 2. half of what I do listen to is for teaching reasons; 3. I often listen to pieces because I'm planning to steal ideas from them, so admitting it would sometimes be too revealing. But lately I'm listening over and over to a mammoth work that's long fascinated me, Grand Hotel (1989) by Cornelis de … [Read more...]

My Back Yard in Autumn

One of the more anti-American parts of the country:UPDATE: I keep glancing at this and thinking it's my post on the Hudson Valley painters. I wonder why. … [Read more...]

Some of Us Are More Hardcore than Others

Pursuant to requests from our European affiliates, the deadline for submissions to the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music is being moved back to January 31, 2009. Thanks to all those who've already submitted - you've given us an early idea of what we can expect, and the results are already exciting. Some members of the Society, though, just found the preparation time too... too... too minimal.  … [Read more...]

As the Economy Contracts, PostClassic Radio Expands

There's a lot of new interest in the songwriter/cellist/composer Arthur Russell, who died of AIDS in 1992, because of his work in dance electronica. I don't know how far the interest extends to his early minimalist music, but I ran across my old Arthur Russell vinyl discs yesterday, and it occurred to me that I've never played his music on PostClassic Radio. So I've put two records up, Instrumentals 1974 Vol. 2, and Tower of Meaning (1981). Some of the Instrumentals have a nice beat to them, but Tower of Meaning (conducted by Julius Eastman, no … [Read more...]

Mirror Image Around the World

Pianist Sarah Cahill has been trying to get me together with Japanese composer Mamoru Fujieda, and Saturday he and I managed to have lunch in New York. Among other points of commonality, he's written a book on microtonality (I should say, I am currently writing a book on microtonality; I will always be writing a book on microtonality; I am so wary of the thousands of picayune errors of fact and number that my fellow microtonalists will hit me with, that I am planning to time its publication to occur mere moments before my death, so that their … [Read more...]

Daily Challenge

[UPDATE: Anwer below] Don't you wish your doctoral music exams could have gone on forever? I know I do. And here, just to relive a little of the thrill, is a small test reminiscent of same. If you can guess the composer's name, you and I have a lot to talk about, but failing that, guess 1. the date of composition, and 2. the date of the composer's birth. Here's an mp3 of the passage so you don't have to drag your computer to the piano.Answers later.UPDATE: OK, several people (including Alex Ross, who sent me a separate note) figured out that … [Read more...]

I Do Love a Good Piece of Writing

Off topic, I realize, but this Palin article by Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone is too entertaining not to share:Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to … [Read more...]