D-Day Minus Two

Kansas City ain't Wales, but it has its impressive features:One of them is Luyben Music at 4318 Main Street, the kind of old-fashioned, full-of-obscure-scores-oh-my-god-look-at-this music store that I thought had ceased to exist. I bought scores to Milton Babbitt's All Set, Elie Siegmeister's Third Symphony, Max Reger's Requiem, Martin Bresnick's My Twentieth Century, Henry Brant's Ice Field, a slew of Arvo Pärt choral music, John Becker's Third, and Philip Glass's Arioso No. 2 (one of his pre-minimalist pieces), all for whatever prices they … [Read more...]

November Already

I am not the first person to play through Dennis Johnson's November, but on August 12 I became apparently the first person to listen to an entire recording of it. You can be the second. In honor of the sixth anniversary of this blog tomorrow (Saturday), among other things, I have uploaded a complete performance of November, one of the earliest (1959) major minimalist works. The first public performance of the piece since the early '60s at least will take place in Kansas City on September 6, with myself and Sarah Cahill alternating at the … [Read more...]

Great Moments in Music History

Composer Mikel Rouse carries a sketch pad with him wherever he goes. Today I ran across this treasured cartoon he drew in 1993 depicting himself, me, and Ben Neill sitting at Rudy's Bar at 44th and 9th, as we did almost weekly (they with beers and me with a scotch, scrupulously so depicted), capturing the moment at which we went from merely talking about the kinds of multitempo structures we were interested in to actually considering it a new musical movement. Mikel and Ben look 16 years younger here than they do now, but somehow I already look … [Read more...]

Minimalists Prepare for Counterattack

I have been too busy to give timely notice to the nice attention that Galen Brown (whose paper on minimalist means and ends will be featured) has given to our minimalism conference over at Sequenza 21 via an interview with me, in my usual punchy style. … [Read more...]

Right Name, Wrong Campaign

Here's one of my prize possessions, that's always been in my school office but I moved it home today: While I was working on the Nancarrow book, one of his cousins ran for judge in Dallas, my home town. I guess he won. (Nancarrow and I grew up only 180 miles apart, but 180 of the dreariest, flattest, least picturesque miles you can imagine - a true minimalist stretch of highway.) My dad, bless his heart, saw this sign in a vacant lot, stopped his car, and stole it for me. I asked Conlon about it, and I believe he referred to his cousin as a … [Read more...]

This Budd’s for You

OK. The night was Friday, July 9, 1982. I was administrative assistant for the New Music America festival in Chicago. I had a big argument with my then-girlfriend (whom I later married nevertheless) which turned out, surprisingly enough, to be all my fault. In a huff brought on by my inability to invent a benign rationale for my behavior convincing enough to satisfy even myself, I sulked out and vowed to walk from our apartment to the festival. As the distance was something under three miles, I had an hour to make it in, and it was a mild … [Read more...]

You Can Judge This Book by It

I got a big laugh out of Yale UP's jacket design for my Cage book (pictured). It's David Tudor's 1989 reconstruction of the original (but lost) score to 4'33". There have been so many delays on this book I had quit feeling like it was ever going to come out, but this makes it seem real again. We went to see Julia and Julie (or vice versa) the other night. Didn't realize half of it was about someone struggling with her blog, the other half about someone struggling to get a book out. Hey, Hollywood! - I go to the movies to escape. … [Read more...]

Maxing Out on Minimalism in Kansas City

David McIntire, Andrew Granade, Andy Lee, Scott Unrein, Jedd Schneider, and the UMKC gang have been doing magnificent work getting the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music (September 2-6) together, and I, in my role as wise WASP co-director, have been sending them good vibes and the occasional encouraging e-mail, and generally nodding sagely, even when they can't see me. Mikel Rouse will present and talk about his films Funding and Music for Minorities; Charlemagne Palestine will perform his organ masterpiece Schlingen-Blängen; … [Read more...]

It’s the Orchestras that Are Experimental

Words from a great composer:There was an agreement among journalists after about 1970, when America took a sharp turn to the right, to call all music that did not use traditional instruments - the orchestra or combinations of orchestral instruments - "experimental." This was a greater disappointment to me than most things that journalists do, because it showed a deep misunderstanding of the way things were. There were noble aspirations among a few younger conductors to revive the relationship between the composer and the orchestra, but there … [Read more...]

I’m a Little Slow

Dave Seidel, who makes some of gentlest and most natural-sounding purely-tuned music around (sort of in the Eliane Radigue/Phill Niblock vein but with even softer edges, kind of happier), has a beautiful new album on the web called Elementals. I was about to write him and say it's too bad I don't have an internet radio station anymore, or those would go right on it. Then I had a thought. "Wait a minute!," I said to myself. "If only I possessed some means of communication with other new-music lovers, I could alert them and they could listen to … [Read more...]

The Next Step

You know, this health care debate is setting the groundwork nicely. Everyone is familiarizing themselves with the concept that for-profit insurance companies cannot possibly act in their customers' best interests because they're trying to maximize profits, which means giving minimum service for maximum return. The obvious next step is that art is the same way. The corporations that produce most of our art and entertainment (one of those distinctions I don't make, sorry) are trying to maximize profit, which means they give us art (entertainment) … [Read more...]

The Epistemology of Elitism

The composer friend I referred to recently who loves most new music but doesn't like Feldman told me why: he doesn't care for his harmony. Well, I had to grant him that. Your typical late Feldman piece starts out with a pitch set like B-C-C#-D, and while sometimes there's a third thrown in so it's C#-A-C-D, he doesn't vary a lot in that respect. I don't even think it's a fault: Feldman needed to create a floating musical stasis, and harmony tends to mooooove somewhere, so to do what Feldman needed to do, he had to put harmony on the back burner … [Read more...]