The Blind Alleys of Criticism

A particularly invidious form of comparison arises when critics appoint themselves to the rank of H[er]. M[ajesty's]. Customs and Excise officers whose function it is to spot composers smuggling contraband ideas from one work to another. To ask a composer if he has anything to declare while he is busily unrolling his music to public view is not a very intelligent question. Each act of composition is a declaration. If it did not owe something to somebody it would be intelligible to nobody. Elgar may be said to have "smuggled" the closing pages … [Read more...]

New Horizons in Terminology

I play around a lot with microtones in class when I probably shouldn't. My counterpoint students, for some reason (and they're not the first class to do so) find the Picardy third hilarious. One day I ended a three-part counterpoint in aeolian with a major third, A-C#, and they laughingly objected. So I offered to split the difference with them and made it a quarter-tone C half-sharp (a lovely 11/9 interval). I played the result with Sibelius's pitch-bend plug-in, and it was deliciously sour. One student immediately dubbed it the "Picardy … [Read more...]

Add Your Name

I will generally not use this blog as a forum to draw attention to other events, artists, or organizations, but this one is just too important. Sign up. UPDATE: In fact, the following comment in reaction to a Times article about the UC Davis pepper spray incident is enough to make me return (temporarily) to blogging political: The police use of violence to quash a peaceful protest serves one aim, and one aim only--to intimidate those on campus and off campus from engaging in lawful, peaceful protest throughout our cities. Living in Chapel … [Read more...]

The Score So Far

Björk - 46 Voltaire - 317 Marlo Thomas - 73 Rene Magritte - 113 Friedrich Schleiermacher - 243 Goldie Hawn - 66 Coleman Hawkins - 107 Judith Shatin - 62 Kyle Gann - 56 … [Read more...]

Correctly Pigeonholed for Once

PTYX - (d)'apres Satie

The PTYX ensemble in France will be playing a number of my works over the next year in a series they're calling "(d') apres SATIE," of music by living composers who followed Satie in some respect or another. They've certainly got me pegged right. You won't be able to read the light print at the top of the poster, but it lists the composers on their Dec. 1 concert: Birtwistle, Duckworth, Gann, Sellars, Skempton. I presume that's James Sellars, whose music I greatly admire, as I do the others. They're playing my Kierkegaard, Walking and Minute … [Read more...]

Tooting my Own Horn

I've been doubtful about how much journalistic attention the 50th-anniversary edition of Cage's Silence is going to get, but the distinguished literary critic Marjorie Perloff wrote a column about it in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and made several generous comments about my foreword. I appreciate her point that we all think of Cage as such a sunny character, but in retrospect some of those stories in Silence seem darker than we first thought. … [Read more...]