Ambient Caroling

My friend George is looking forward to a respite from Cage performances now that the centennial is ending. He says it got so bad he couldn't even enjoy "Silent Night" anymore.   … [Read more...]

Graphing Glass


A week from today and tomorrow, I'll be in Amsterdam for the University of Amsterdam's conference on Phil Glass's Einstein on the Beach. I'm taking part in a panel discussion January 5, and on the morning of the 6th I'll give a paper on my analysis of Einstein, the writing of which I am interrupting briefly to make this announcement. My interest is in the intuitive and nonlinear (right-brain) structuring of the piece's music, which was such a departure from the process-oriented minimalism of previous years. In fact, while it's easy to see … [Read more...]

The Untold Tale

People are telling me they've received their copies of my Robert Ashley book from Amazon. (I still have only one myself.) There's one story Bob told me that I didn't include in the book, just because a scholarly book like this didn't seem the right place for it. (Well, there are several stories, but one he didn't ask me to keep to myself.) When Bob was a toddler his mother and grandmother were giving him a bath in the sink, and he managed to stick his finger into an empty electrical socket. He lost consciousness and they frantically tried to … [Read more...]

It’s a Niche

For reasons not yet clear to me, the Oxford University Press blog has been doing a series of articles about Mars, and they asked me to write an entry on Mars and music, from an astrological point of view, which is now up. They are plotting some major announcement about Mars, and apparently I am one of the few musicologist-composer-writer-astrologers around since the death of Dane Rudhyar. I almost declined, but then reflected that Uranus is trining my ascendent, which suggests that benefits may come my way from totally out-of-left-field … [Read more...]

Of the Making of Books There Is No End


A single copy of my new book Robert Ashley has just arrived in the mail, inexplicably delayed these last few weeks but just as welcome now. Amazon is still giving the official release date as Dec. 16 10, so perhaps there's time to get it for Christmas. A few weeks ago I put what are, for now, the finishing touches on my Robert Ashley web site of musical examples, with charts and transcriptions from six of the operas, the piano sonata, and Outcome Inevitable. While musical examples in the book would have been nice, these have the advantage that … [Read more...]

Gearing Up for the Minimalists Again

From the Society for Minimalist Music website, here's the invitation for the Fourth International Conference on Music and Minimalism, Long Beach, CA, 3-6 October 2013: You are kindly invited to submit proposals for the Fourth International Conference on Music and Minimalism, jointly hosted by UCLA and the California State University, Long Beach on the campus of CSULB in Long Beach, CA, 3-6 October 2013. All scholars interested in music and minimalism are invited to submit paper proposals. The conference welcomes all papers concerning … [Read more...]

Gannian Homage to Ives, for Orchestra

A recording of my 2011 orchestra piece Serenity Meditation has arrived, courtesy of the Bowling Green State University New Music Festival, and conducted by J.J. Pearse. The piece, curated for this event by John Luther Adams, is based on three Ives songs, mostly "Serenity" and to a smaller extent "Sunrise" and "General William Booth Enters into Heaven." It's dedicated to Neely Bruce, who commissioned the keynote address in which I mentioned those three songs as examples of Ivesian stasis. I've had so little experience with orchestras that it's … [Read more...]

November While It’s Still November

When I moved my web site I didn't re-upload the four-plus-hour recording Sarah Cahill and I made in Kansas City of Dennis Johnson's minimalist piano classic November. Several people have asked me to reinstall it and I keep forgetting, but it's up here now. Andy Lee is recording the piece for the Irritable Hedgehog label, so there will be an excellent commercial studio recording out soon. I'll let you know. … [Read more...]

Everybody’s a Critic

"I might end up never firing the pistol. Contrary to Chekhov's principle." "That's fine, too," Tamaru said. "Nothing could be better than not firing it. We're drawing close to the end of the twentieth century. Things are different from back in Chekhov's time. No more horse-drawn carriages, no more women in corsets. Somehow the world survived the Nazis, the atomic bomb, and modern music." - Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, p. 1108 And I started reading the book because it mentioned Janacek's Sinfonietta in the second … [Read more...]

The Schumann of Postclassicism

Since his memorial service I've been desperately longing to hear William Duckworth's Simple Songs about Sex and War, but I couldn't find my old tape of it. (There's a commercial CD, but the performance is weird and too disappointing to listen to.) Finally I ran across an mp3 on a hard drive - he and Nora must have given it to me last time I visited - and for all those similarly susceptible I post it here. Based on poems written for Bill by Hayden Carruth, it is the perfect postclassical song cycle, sung by the incomparable Barbara Noska (a … [Read more...]

Everybody Gets a 100th Birthday Sometime


I am not much given to commemorating accidents of the calendar - anniversaries, centenaries, and so on - but given my history with the subject, I would be remiss, I think, if I failed to note that Conlon Nancarrow was born a hundred years ago today. Next weekend I will be in Berkeley for the Nancarrow at 100 conference/festival being presented by Other Minds. I have been interviewed frequently these last few months for radio programs and newspaper articles on Cage and Nancarrow, and I haven't received many of the URLs at which those interviews … [Read more...]

The silence of eternity…

Tomorrow afternoon will hear the world premiere of my chamber orchestra piece Serenity Meditation at the Bowling Green New Music Festival. Written in the summer of 2011, it's based on Charles Ives's song Serenity, which I've always wished was much longer. I'm grateful to John Luther Adams for curating it; he's there now, and speaking this afternoon. I had hoped to go, but with Bill Duckworth dying, I've already missed more classes than I could afford this semester, and my course continuity is threatening to get out of control. … [Read more...]

Misfits in the Corridors of Power

I let myself get talked into becoming chair of the arts division at my school this year. No musician had ever done it before. I get to teach one less course per semester for doing it, so in effect my position is 40 percent administrative for the next three years. This does not come naturally to me at all. What comes naturally to me is being the disgruntled rebel outsider, not the authority figure who's charged with haranguing his colleagues to live up to their responsibilities. Problem is, that seems to be pretty much true of all the other … [Read more...]