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 improvisation; be assured that I know many of you think that, and that I am suitably ashamed of my unconscionable behavior. If you miss the original recording’s crying baby, well, right. [UPDATE: Actually, we were afraid Charlemagne Palestine’s snoring might be audible.] Please allow me, on a tired Friday night, to enjoy the illusion that I put dozens of hours into a project that pleased me and a few other people and did no one any harm.


  1. says

    Thanks for posting this, Kyle. And FWIW, I am very glad you transcribed this. Now if only someone would/could transcribe Eastman’s Joan of Arc piece for multiple cellos, I’d be ecstatic. I don’t see why any of this is at issue. Just sayin…
    KG replies: David, I’ve come to think it’s just that my reputation as the Peck’s Bad Boy of new music is so ingrained that certain people reflexively consider *anything* I do sinister, whether I’m dissing 12-tone music or making free recordings available doesn’t matter: Kyle Gann Must Be Opposed….

  2. says

    I don’t know where the credit best lies — in Harold Budd’s wondrous original performance(s), in the care you obviously lavished on the transcription, or in the sheer in-the-moment Presence of Sarah Cahill’s performance — but wherever it may be, you certainly deserve thanks for having implemented, preserved and posted this recording. Thank you, to you in particular but ultimately to each of the indispensable co-creators of this wondrous artifact, this Extraordinary and Lovely Thing.

  3. mclaren says

    And 27 years from now, some scholar will spend years recreating the original recording with the crying baby live, by lavishing endles mathematical effort on generating an exquisitely detailed physical model synthesis of a baby’s vocal tract to get it just right, and then play it live with a desktop supercomputer along with your transcription.
    KG replies: I wouldn’t doubt it for a moment.

  4. says

    Thank you (and to Sarah Cahill and Harold Budd as well) for making these and other works available. The analogy is not exact, but I’d compare your work to that of free and open source developers: You’re making this stuff openly and freely available so that some (like me) can just enjoy it while others can learn from and build on it. It’s a worthy task and I’m grateful that you’re doing it.

  5. says

    Looking forward to hearing it, Kyle.
    David, George Steele actually hired someone to transcribe Julius’s cello piece, which is a lot different than what Kyle did, since it was fully notated. I was pretty sceptical that it could be done, since pieces for multiples create all kinds of un-notated sound phenomenon. The person who was going to do it was pretty confident, but ended up unable to do it. Now maybe a cellist could do it, but it would still be pretty difficult.
    That said, I don’t question anyone attempting to do what Kyle did – I think it more important that the music is heard. Maybe I question their sanity. 😉

  6. Allan J. Cronin says

    The transcription does a great service if only because we get a chance to hear Sarah Cahill playing the piece. This version is wonderful but I still also like the original, baby and all.