Some Composers Are Not Islands

I have to say, this has become one of the most richly fulfilling summers I've ever had. On one hand I've done all this work on piano recordings by Harold Budd and Dennis Johnson, plus a long John Luther Adams analysis I'm finishing and my Robert Ashley biography (3000 words written today, after hours of composing); on the other, recording my piece The Planets with Relache, and then a slew of music rushing out of me lately, with a ten-minute microtonal piece written this week (of which more soon), and two other new pieces begun in the same … [Read more...]

A Cautionary Example

If you have a friend who's considering becoming a microtonal composer, and you are frantic to spare him a life of agony and unfulfillment, I'm about to do you a big service: just have him read this. All day yesterday and this morning I spent hours filling my little sketch book with pages of notes and numbers like this:I was looking for a series of fractions between about 1.5 and 1.9, and then trying out different ways of harmonizing them so that 1. you don't get any parallel chords close together in the series, 2. the same chord roots don't get … [Read more...]

The Composer’s Code of Polite Silence

I'm transcribing my interviews with Bob Ashley (kind of in shorthand, I don't have time to do a real transcript; some student can do that someday if he wants). A name of one of Bob's contemporaries would occasionally come up, and he'd give me a frank appraisal of the person's music. Sometimes he'd asked me to switch off the tape recorder to do so, sometimes he'd instead hesitate a moment and then say, "You can put that in the book." After one of those, he said, "There's got to be somebody who says something about somebody." Amen. … [Read more...]

Those Jangling High C’s on the Piano

What a pleasure it was to find Robert Carl's new book about Terry Riley's In C (from Oxford) in my mailbox today (or actually, on top of it, which was poor judgment on the mailman's part, since it's rained here every day for the last month). I wrote a blurb for the back cover and shouldn't say anything more, but I'm impressed once again with the smoothness and non-academicism of Robert's writing style - I thought composers had to work for a newspaper for years to achieve that. Also with the number of people he interviewed in great detail about … [Read more...]