A Slope of Rugrats

Lord, am I enjoying wallowing in this wonderful recording of Sarah Cahill playing my transcription of Harold Budd's Children on the Hill from a few weeks ago at the Second International Minimalism Conference. Near the end of the fast part, every key change could signal a return to the A section, and every one that doesn't is a heartbreaking reassurance that the heaven of the piece isn't about to end yet. It's been a long teaching week, so I'm not in the mood to discuss why one should never, ever transcribe and recreate a recording of an … [Read more...]

The Things You Can Steal from Students

As you may know, I love using Sibelius to generate wacky rhythms, but one of my students, Ben Raker, showed me some in a piece of his today (50 minutes long!) that I'd never tried. For some reason I've generally shied away from tuplets-within-tuplets, but Ben had come up (accidentally, he admitted, by punching the tuplet button twice instead of once) with a scheme for a quasi-irrational but actually elegantly geometric acceleration and ritard:Hear the result here.I quickly realized you could get more gradual patterns with larger numbers:Hear … [Read more...]

The Outside-One’s-Ism Student

In comments, Ernest asks (and I'd rather address this than the article I'm supposed to be writing today):I was always curious about what a student could do if their professors genuinely dislike the music they create. It seems like a giant imposition on the student to alter his style just to fit his or her teacher's expectation of good music. Is this at least expected of the student in so far as the course is concerned? I don't want to seem like I think this is the norm, but there has to have been overzealous teachers who try to discourage them … [Read more...]

Already Against the Next War

Sarah Cahill has finally given me a recording of my political piece War Is Just a Racket, which she premiered last March, and I've posted it to my web site. The program notes, detailing the text by General Smedley Butler and context, are here. Sarah does a beautiful job, as always. … [Read more...]

The Minimalist Alliance

As my co-director David McIntire so aptly said in his opening remarks to the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music, minimalist music has always stressed community - not only in its unison-rhythmed, non-soloistic ensemble style, nor in its tendency to bring an audience together in a kind of mass ecstasy, but in the collective enthusiasm it kindles among its devotees. This was evident in the first conference in 2007, and became even more apparent last week in Kansas City. That group of us who attended both conferences - myself, … [Read more...]

Conference Blog Goes the Way of Other Good Ideas

Well, the idea of a conference being blogged daily by the co-director of same conference has pretty much been derailed. I'll have to wrap it up when I get back. Let me leave you for now with another group photo, taken remotely by Scott Unrein on the roof of his apartment building. This followed Sarah Cahill's absolutely dynamite recital, in which the revival of Harold Budd's Children on the Hill rang out perfectly; as Scott said, close your eyes and that was Budd up there playing. Sarah closed with Terry Riley's sophisticatedly jaunty "Be Kind … [Read more...]

Political Interlude

Here in Missouri I saw a car festooned with the most virulent anti-Obama bumper stickers, plus one that read: "I'll be as gracious to your president as you were to mine." That settles something I'd wondered about: a lot of the anti-Obama vitriol, I feel certain, is little more than revenge for decent peoples' justified anger over things W. Bush actually did, and for the Right's embarrassment for having supported a moron, while we have a nice, well-spoken, dignified president. … [Read more...]

Narayana’s Cows with the Perfect Sauce

The big minimalist event today was maximalist indeed - a celebrity dinner party at Arthur Bryant's, just about the most famous barbecue place in the world. The photo below just postdated Mikel Rouse's departure, but still we had Rachel McIntire (David's daughter, video-documenting the conference); composers Paul Epstein, Charlemagne Palestine, and Scott Unrein; pianist Sarah Cahill; and musicologists Keith Potter, Dragana Stojanovic-Novicic, and Pwyll ap Sion: For over a decade I had pictured Arthur Bryant as some really plush, elegant place, … [Read more...]

Watching History Turn on a Dime

What an amazing first day of the 2nd International Conference on Minimalist Music. Maarten Bierens from Belgium demonstrated how Louis Andriessen's subtly subversive use of quotations gave his music a dialectical significance quite foreign to American minimalism; Pwyll ap Sion detailed the amazing range of self-quotation in Michael Nyman's output. But what blew me away were three papers on Phill Niblock by Keith Potter, Richard Glover, and Rich Housh, who had gotten access to Phill's files and could exhibit the varied ways he shapes his slowly … [Read more...]

D-Day Minus One

David McIntire and I had been wanting to visit the grave of Virgil Thomson, and came up with a minimalism conference as the simplest way to create the opportunity. So early this morning four of us headed off for Slater, Missouri (pop. 2083), the town Thomson was born in. Only we found the town more willing to take credit for a different favorite son:This led to my idea for my paper for the next conference: "The Great Escape and The Mother of Us All: Slater's Impact on Modernism." But I digress. We (that is, Scott Unrein, Andrew Granade, myself, … [Read more...]