Tropes of Condescension

Here's a common academicism that always irks me: As is the case in the other works of Hartmann's maturity, the layout of the Horn Concerto is best understood against a background of formal conventions familiar from the music of the Classic and Romantic eras. This does not imply that the music merely conforms to the outlines of, say, textbook sonata or rondo forms; on the contrary, key features of such stereotypes are placed in focus just sufficiently for the listener to be alert to the ongoing play of near-repetitions, etc. I have changed the … [Read more...]

Names that Once Loomed Large

On the piano recital I gave as a high school senior, the composer represented by the most works was Robert Muczynski (b. 1929) - kind of a middle-of-the-road, unsystematically dissonant, respectable Americanist composer. I still have the Xeroxed scores my piano teacher gave me, in a box somewhere. Muczynski is primarily known for his flute music, it seems, particularly a sonata that still gets played. I am informed that he died Tuesday, in Tucson, whence whither he had emigrated from Chicago.UPDATE: The redoubtable Walter Simmons gives … [Read more...]

The Sumer Aggregate Is a Cumin In

Four days into the summer, I've completed my first piece. Larry Polansky publishes an expanding book of rounds, and for years he's been bugging me to write one, so I finally did. Dodecaphonically. [UPDATE: Larry's put a better copy on the web here, and you can also see a lot of the other rounds in his collection.] [MIDI piano version here.]It's pretty singable if you don't try the repeat. [UPDATE: It occurs to me that it would be more consonant and easier to sing if the repeat used P11 (down a half-step), the next repeat P10, and so on. Sort of … [Read more...]

Clean Copy Saved My Life

Jason Gross, the tireless entrepreneur of Perfect Sound Forever, asked dozens of critics, myself included, what kind of advice they'd give to aspiring young critics, and he's beginning to post the answers here (critics A through D this week; I presume I'll be in the following alphabetic fistful). [UPDATE: Oops: E through K appeared while I was writing this.] My first thought was, there are still aspiring young critics? My second was, what advice would do them any good at THIS point? But on reflection I managed to come up with some, not nearly … [Read more...]

Challenging Holst’s Musical Monopoly

Wow - Jay Batzner over at Sequenza 21 gave The Planets as insightful and complimentary a review (or are those the same thing?) as I ever expect to get. I especially appreciate: "I never feel as if I am receiving some grand and verbose lecture on How to Write Post-Minimal Music, even though this disc is a treasure trove of relationships and techniques." … [Read more...]

Music in the Prison’s Shadow

I still have a couple of full days this week, but the bulk of my school work came to an abrupt halt last night, giving me today my first chance to breathe in weeks. Except for their orchestral performances this Friday, my seniors are pretty much packed off into the world to start figuring out, come Sunday, what they're going to do with their lives. I didn't get a chance to write about the contemporary music festival at Sam Houston State University at which I was the featured composer. I spent several days that week on the street that Kate … [Read more...]

There Will Always Be English Book Reviewers, Unfortunately

[UPDATED BELOW, + FINAL UPDATE] Literarily, if not always musically, I am something of an Anglophile, a frank worshipper of that scepter'd isle, that earth of majesty and seat of Mars, the land of Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Dickens, and Trollope. But I have now had three book reviews from English critics, and they have been appalling in their incompetence.The first was by composer Thomas Adès, who reviewed my Nancarrow book for the London Times. He accused me of having squelched, for some nefarious reason, the third of Conlon's Three Canons for … [Read more...]

Go Figure

Thirteen Sixteen kids have signed up for my 12-tone Analysis seminar, and only 6 7 for my Beethoven class.UPDATE: And by the way, for those of you who were getting malware warnings when trying to access my blog, Fearless Leader Douglas McLennan explains. Sorry about that. … [Read more...]