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 to One Another” Rag – another improvised piece, which Terry wrote down after improvising it for Sarah to play. Here we are – Charlemagne Palestine, Sarah, me, Kerry O’Brien, Scott and his wife Judy, David McIntire and his wife Michelle, Andrew Granade, Galen Brown, Andy Lee, Jedd Schneider, Andy Bliss, Sumanth Gopinath, Rachel McIntire, and Kansas City:



  1. says

    KG-can’t wait to read your comments about the rest of the conference. Last night’s concert at G&HT made me scribble down “1st Church of Charlemagne” as well as a few other observations. Good to meet you!

  2. says

    So when will any recordings be available?
    And when is the conference going to come to San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland?
    Wish I could have been there.
    KG replies: When I have something I can post, you’ll hear about it immediately. You know an institution in the Bay Area willing to sponsor us?

  3. says

    Thanks for co-hosting the conference Kyle, we didn’t get to talk much (was running around the city all week) but I had a really good time. It felt nice to interact with knowledgable people interested in the same subject, and I was able to reconnect with a few people from my undergrad and grad days as well.

    I’m applying around for schools for my doctorate program this year (UCSD, UCLA, CalArts) — if I can somehow manage to get in, I’ll try to ask around and see if they might be interested in hosting this event some time in the future as well. The programs I’m looking at seem sympathetic to the cause so I think there’s a good chance that it could happen. Would be nice to see it happen on the West Coast.

    KG replies: Hi, Ryan. I had been keeping an eye out for you and am sorry I didn’t get to talk to you. By the time I figured out who you were, November had me in its clutches.

  4. mclaren says

    UCSD is widely known as SCUD in the San Diego area. Their music department is dominated by hard-core fanatical modernists, most notably Roger Ramjet — excuse me, Roger Reynolds. SCUD’s music department is an intellectual weapon of mass destruction: the music student remains standing, but hi/r imagination has been destroyed.
    SCUD would have no more interest in hosting a conference on musical minimalism than Dick Cheney would have in hosting the Summer of Love.
    Stay away from UCSD if you’re a music student. This was the place where music students were for years informed, in tones of punitive hysteria, that they first had to perform Fourier analysis of all the interactions of the various types of waveforms before they could dream of composing any electronic music. Throughout SCUD every students gets run through a brutal regimen of hard science and math — including liberal arts students. If you’re a talented artist but you can’t make it through a savage crash course in calculus and differential equations, you’re flushed out like waste. Kyle Gann, along with most of the other talented musicians I know of, would never have been able to graduate from SCUD because he wouldn’t have been able to survive their infamous pressure-cooker math regimen. If you can’t go from line integrals to conformal mapping in a semester, SCUD is not for you.
    When he graduted from SCUD, microtonalist [name redacted] urinated in the stairwell of one of their hideous modernist buildings all the way down as a token of his contempt for the institution. Bill Wesley sat outside the SCUD CME (Center for Music Excrement) for weeks playing his newly-invented array mbira years ago trying to attract the attention of the music department. As with Harry Partch, the music department treated Wesley with the utmost contempt and disdain. UCSD had a chance to house Harry Partch’s instruments — Partch contacted them about donating his instruments in the 1960s. They turned him down flat: “Everything that has happened in my five years of slight association with UCSD has been consistent. Stewart is dedicated to electronics-indeterminacy and he appointed [people] to implement his beliefs… There are five disciples of Cage-Tudor-Stockhausen beliefs. And no a single person on the campus who can teach my instruments, tune them, or repair them…” [Harry Partch: A Biography, Bob Gilmore, 1998, pg. 354]
    The campus buildings at SCUD were designed by an architect better known for designing prisons, and the campus looks it.
    UCSD is the place to go if you’re a biology major. The nearby Salk Institute and the fabulous array of biotech research institutions in the Golden Triangle in La Jolla are all world-class. But for the liberal arts, SCUD is the touch of death. It’s the aesthetic equivalent of ebola virus. At SCUD, their idea of teaching art is to write programs to get computers to draw modernist abstract expressionist art. At SCUD, their idea of teaching music is to get computers to analyze and regurgitate modernist schlockmusik in the style of the serialist 50s and early 60s. When I lived in San Diego I used to go to the SCUD music department’s open concerts every year, and the results proved dismal indeed. A time warp full of wanna-be Darmstadt doyens even though that music scene has now long since vanished in Germany.
    If you’re a music student stay far, far away from SCUD. In order to get a PhD in musicology from SCUD you’d have to abandon any interest in minimalism and instead devote your life to intensive mathematical analysis of various high modernist works like Stockhausen’s Klavierstuecke and Boulez’s Reponse. You have been warned.
    KG replies: The one student of mine who went there had to switch majors to finish his doctorate, and others told me they wrote fake pieces to placate their composition teachers, while keeping their real pieces secret. But that was 15 years ago – I wonder if anything’s changed.

  5. says

    Thanks for the info, but I’m well aware of the high-modernism that pervades the composition department of UCSD. Raynolds especially has quite a reputation and I’ve heard a lot of things about him coming from younger students, even if they might be somewhat sympathetic to his aesthetic.

    I’m looking at their Integrative Studies program, however, which seems to attract a different sort of breed of musicians. They have a lot of improvisers there, which I’m mainly interested in turning into my doctoral project right now. Of the concerts I’ve heard there were some works which I would say had some minimalist elements to it (i.e. rhythmic drives, pop elements infused within the music) so there may be a chance.

    I’ve heard rumors that a few years ago there was a falling out between the two departments and it ended up with some people leaving the school and whatnot. If it happens, it will be definitely have to be through the IS program, which might provoke some antagonism from the composition program. Though I do think that it will attract some of the more adventurous composition students…it seems like the professors are generally more politically invested than the students are.

    CalArts and UCLA recently got some money from the Herb Alpert grant (15 mil and 30 mil respectively) so there are lot of structural changes going on in both schools. I recently heard John Adams talk at UCLA so that should be a sign that there is already some interest there. CalArts is…well, CalArts. It’s not an academic school by any means — in fact, while I was there I insisted that I write a master’s thesis (which was the first draft of the paper I presented as the conference) and I think I was the only one in my class doing any sort of scholarly work.

    But, they recently started a DMA program (brand spanking new…this is the first year) and have been looking to increase their credibility on that side of things, which this conference could do for them. I’m meeting with David Rosenboom next month so maybe I’ll mention it then — it seems like it could be a win-win situation for both parties if its played right.

    This is all just speculation at this point, though, so I don’t want to say or promise anything in case I don’t get in this year. But that’s a quick low-down on what’s happening in the LA area right now. Oh, I got to see Fox Cox Fink and Smith from the Cold Blue record play at Amoeba Music this weekend. Gotta say that I have a soft spot for that type of ambient music. Took me a while to get used to it, but I’ve come to love this city so it would be nice to see more stuff happening here on the west coast.