All Politics Is Local

I live in New York's 20th congressional district, upon which the eyes of the nation are riveted at the moment as Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco battle it out to fill Kirsten Gillibrand's empty seat. Many are trying to make this a referendum on the Obama administration. But the truth is, nothing Obama has done since taking office could have swayed any vote in my county one way or the other. Half the county is local rednecks descended from families who've lived here forever, and they despise the other half: New York cityfolk who … [Read more...]

Draw a Straight Line and Follow It

Well, the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music committee has gone through all the paper proposals, and we've put together a program of about 56 papers. It's a stunner. I'm really proud of the lineup, especially because it exhibits an intelligently varied yet limited range of minimalism. Yes, there are ten papers that talk about Steve Reich, but there are no fewer than four on Phill Niblock (!), two on Julius Eastman, also two each on Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Arvo Pärt, one each on Jim Fox, David Borden, Michael Torke, Jim … [Read more...]

Reconstructing Harold

Here's a brief audio sample from Harold Budd's Children on the Hill, the improvisatory piece I'm transcribing from a 1982 perfomance for reconstruction on our upcoming Minimalism conference. At 23 minutes in length, it's a completely different piece than his eponymous performance on the old Obscure CD. The beginning and end were easy to transcribe, but in the middle of the piece is a wildly rhapsodic wash of arpeggios that goes on for 13 minutes. I can slow down the soundfile to catch all the notes, but slowing down also blurs the note attacks, … [Read more...]

Where It’s Warm Enough to Move One’s Fingers

Tomorrow night at 8, Wednesday, March 25, pianist Justin Kolb will play some of my Private Dances along with Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata at the PHCC Performing Arts Centre in New Port Richey, Florida. Also on the program are pieces by Victoria Bond and Stella Sung, as well as some Liszt arrangements of Mendelssohn songs and Bernstein's piano-ization of Copland's El Salon Mexico. It's not often I find myself in such company. Justin, with whom I've carried on a lively correspondence, will repeat my pieces April 20 at Symphony Space in New … [Read more...]

Opera You Can Afford

I've been so busy surviving until spring break that I forgot to mention that I'll be on a panel today at 5 in advance of Elodie Lauten's Two-Cent Opera tonight at Theater for a New City in New York (1st Ave. between 9th and 10th). We needed a Beggar's Opera for the 21st Century and this sounds like it: a mystic meditation on jobs and money. It doesn't quite sound like anything else she's ever written, yet it's still infused with that same Neptunian personality that enchanted me in The Death of Don Juan 25 years ago.  … [Read more...]

The Weightless Life

Only five short years ago, it was part of my daily morning routine to mentally run through my imminent classes and gather all the compact discs and scores I'd need for the day. I'd stash as many as I could in my computer bag, and sometimes make two trips to the car. At least two days out of three - I don't exaggerate - I would head down the little lane that leads toward school, turn around after a quarter-mile, and drive back to get something I'd forgotten. I frequently had to get to school in time to run to the library and check out a couple … [Read more...]

Running Up Against the Past

Sarah Cahill's premiere of my War Is Just a Racket last night was fabulous. The video her husband John Sanborn made to accompany my piece (which I hadn't yet seen), was, I thought, with its footage of General Smedley Butler speaking and a dollar bill waving like a flag, the evening's most apt and imaginative video, and I'm ready to package the music plus video as a multimedia piece. (It does require three screens, though, which will make the video impractical for general use.) But I'm stuck with one of those nagging problems that plagues … [Read more...]

Another Jolt in the Paradigm Shift

Yesterday I received a check in the mail from Arts Journal, my first income from the ads over on the right side of your screen. Since 2003 I've now made nearly a quarter per entry for all my musings on this blog! - although, if you limit it to the last eight months that we've had ads (as I should), I'm really making just over $2 per entry. I'm going to call that pretty damn good for now, considering I started this without a thought of making any money at all. I suppose plans for making the internet yield money are slowly creeping into place. I … [Read more...]

Piano Music to Leave Iraq By

"We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war," said Martin Luther King in his Nobel Lecture. Pianist Sarah Cahill took the phrase "A Sweeter Music" for her project of 18 anti-war (or pro-peace) works that she's premiering this year. I'm happy to say that one concert in that series will take place this Thursday evening, March 12, at 8 at Merkin Hall in New York City, and that it will include the world premiere of my War Is Just a Racket. It's an odd piece for me, written for a … [Read more...]

So I’m Neo-Riemannian: Who Knew?

To teach undergraduate music theory is to recount over and over and over, year after year without variation, facts, terminology, and principles that haven't changed since well before I was born. But Wednesday I managed to teach something new, and got a real kick out of it: Neo-Riemannian theory (named for the German musicologist Hugo Riemann, 1849-1919). I had never heard of the subject until the 2007 Minimalism conference in Wales, where Scott Alexander Cook applied the methodology to the music of Gavin Bryars (PDF). The idea is that … [Read more...]

What 2009 Sounds Like, Symphonically

Here is the recording of Robert Carl's Symphony No. 4 (2009) that I promised you, with Christopher Zimmerman conducting the Hartt School Orchestra. The opening is very quiet. I'll play it for my "20th-century" Orchestral Repertoire class this week - I just love giving them as much of the 21st century as possible.UPDATE: Wow - it sounds so much like a real symphony that I keep having to remind myself I know the guy who wrote it. There is a sense of space in Robert's orchestral music, a sense of allowing things to happen rather than trying to … [Read more...]