Call Me a Crazy Uncle

Speaking of criticisms of Ives, I was a little startled to read this in Martin Bresnick's op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, speaking about the composer Eric Stokes: Eric was the first “Ivesian” composer I ever met. There were very few of them in those days and there are not many now. I always felt vaguely embarrassed by Charles Ives. I found his music too candid, too forthright. It stuck out like a crazy, opinionated uncle at a polite social event — too unsophisticated for a sophisticated new music audience. He afterward says "I am … [Read more...]

Repeating Myself

I have often written about the 1989 review in which John Rockwell called my music "naively pictorial," and the fact that I liked it so much that I've ever since adopted "naive pictorialism" as my stylistic moniker. Recently I ran across the 1944 review in Modern Music in which Elliott Carter disparaged Charles Ives's music as - guess what? - "naively pictorial." This is company I will gladly keep. I wish Charlie and I could share a good laugh over that one. I wondered, when I was writing the 4'33" book, whether a renewed involvement with … [Read more...]

Curious Genealogies


My son's black metal band Liturgy has put out a four-minute video of their song "Returner." Apparently there's some big controversy (like father, like son) connected to the fact that they're "hipsters" playing black metal; Bernard says the fans would prefer that they be wearing bullets on their belts and rusty nails sticking out of their shoulders. I don't get it. After playing the South by Southwest festival they stopped in McKinney, Texas, and visited my 83-year-old mother. If you knew my mother, you would find the idea of her entertaining a … [Read more...]

Forced Conversions

I have been so deleriously busy in the last several months that I am having a harder time transitioning into summer than usual. I feel like a puppet whose strings have suddenly been cut. I am so accustomed to being driven by exigencies that the self-management of free time comes as an unfamiliar shock. I have also been a little discouraged by changes in this blog resulting from the reformatting. Journal-meister McLennan has managed to make the "Older Posts" button at the bottom of the main page start working, but, unlike in the older format, … [Read more...]

In Which I Am Poeticized


I would be loath to argue that seeing me talk about 4'33" in front of the Maverick Concert Hall adds anything worthwhile to what can be gleaned from my book on it, but filmmaker Cambiz A. Khosravi, a historian of Woodstock, NY, has created such a video from an interview he did with me. As it ends, note the length (you can guess). Toward the end I overstate the dearth of indigenous American musical influences prior to 4'33"; perhaps what I said made more sense in the context of the complete interview. I'm a good writer partly because I'm a good … [Read more...]