Boulez on Music 22 Years Ago

Today I ran across a box of audio cassettes that has been misplaced for years. Among many treasures are my interviews with Boulez, Yoko Ono, Trimpin, Ashley, Branca, Mikel Rouse, and a few others, plus about ten cassettes' worth of Nancarrow. I thought the Boulez interview might be of particular interest. It took place in a hotel room in Chicago on October 27, 1987, when Boulez had come to perform Repons and conduct the Chicago Symphony in his Notations and other works. This was back when I'd only been at the Voice a few months, and I was … [Read more...]

Am I Getting Overexposed Yet?

My new book was mentioned today in the New Yorker, and my music in the New York Times. The latter sort of implied that my Disklavier music is "silly." Personally I think classical music should lighten up and indulge a joke now and then, but I'm finding that when you write a humorous piece, people are just disturbed by it. I guess it's back to solemn and portentous for me.UPDATE: The worst experience I ever had in this respect was the only performance I've ever given in Germany, in Hamburg in 2007. I had somehow willfully forgotten that Germans … [Read more...]

Concert Reminders

Tomorrow night, February 20: Relache playing the official world premiere of The Planets, Trinity Center for Urban Life in Philadelphia, 22nd & Spruce Streets, 8 PM. Maybe a pre-concert talk at 7:15, not sure yet.Sunday, Feb. 21: Percussionist Andrew Bliss includes my solo vibraphone piece Olana on a solo program he's giving at the University of Tennessee at Martin. It's 3 PM in the Humanities Auditorium, with music by David Lang, Xenakis, Bob Becker, and Ben Wahlund.February 23, 25, 26, 27:  The Mark Morris Dance Group performs Looky at the … [Read more...]

Too Soon to Celebrate

Critic Anthony Tommasini's piece in the Times today is headlined, "Dogma No More: Anything Goes." Isn't that a wonderful pronouncement? And the occasion for the article is his realization that young musicians these days are open to all styles, and no longer care about the aesthetic battles of the past. His evidence is a concert by the Ensemble ACJW that included a wild and eclectic mix of composers: Stockhausen, Babbitt, Berio, Davidovsky, Daniel Bjarnason. "Categories be damned!," Tommasini cries. Amen to that, and thank goodness musical … [Read more...]

The Objective View

Two boxes of my book No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33" arrived this week, the first time I've had a book and CD come out the same week. (Today I also received an announcement that an Italian edition is under way.) And although Amazon still has the release date as March 23, I've already gotten a nice review from Publishers Weekly. Especially gratifying were these lines:   Following a biographical summary of Cage's early musical development, Gann considers the various influences that got him thinking about "silence, meditation, and … [Read more...]

Internalizing Absurdity

My CD of The Planets has arrived. One friend has already received the copy he ordered directly from Meyer Media. You can hear some excerpts there, and I've left two movements up on my web site as teasers: Venus and Uranus. And I thought I'd brag a little about what I did in Uranus, one of my favorite movements.Uranus, in astrology, is the planet of individuality and unexpected events. When Uranus hits your chart, strange and unpredicted things happen to you, indicating that your life has become so mired in habit that it no longer reflects who … [Read more...]

Erasing the Timeline

Thus spake Bob Ashley:  We have recently - about fifty years ago - come upon a new idea in thinking about music, but I think it is not even approached in theory. This new idea does not use the timeline score.... By timeline music I mean music having any number of parts, a piano score or an orchestra score, that are coordinated by bar lines. This music must, by definition, be "linear."... Curiously, the most famous proponents - for Europeans and Asians as well as Americans - of a new kind of music among American composers, John Cage and Morton … [Read more...]

How to Read

Being of an age, and begging the indulgence of my seniors among my readers, I'm going to step into professorial mode for a moment and give a little lecture on reading comprehension. I suppressed a few negative responses I received to the recent excerpt I posted from Bob Ashley's new book, both out of respect for Ashley and because they didn't really engage what he said. Perhaps the fact that it was his writing being reacted to and not my own gave me an opportunity for a little more objective view into the reflexes of blog reading. Two major … [Read more...]

Saturn, Bringer of Delay

About a year ago I wrote that my suite The Planets would receive its full world premiere with the Relache ensemble in May of 2009. By May I was announcing that it would be September, and the performance was postponed to October and then November, and finally to February 6, 2010. Today, due to a threat of a huge two-day blizzard hitting Philadelphia tomorrow, the premiere was once again postponed, to February 20, at the Trinity Center for Urban Life in Philadelphia, 22nd and Spruce Streets, 8 PM. I am told this time the piece will be performed … [Read more...]

The Curse of the Recital

The immediate future of my blog may well be excerpts from MusikTexte's new volume of Robert Ashley's writings, Outside of Time: Ideas about Music. Damn, he's a great writer. This one's about the conservative reaction that followed the demise of the ONCE festivals in 1968:Recitals are a curse. Forget for the moment the history of how they came into being. Recitals are a curse. They make the musician into an entertainer, rated, say, on a scale of ten: Ashley = 1; Michael Jackson = 10. They make the audience into a consumer, requiring the … [Read more...]