Great Moments in Teaching

I played the first several minutes of Elliott Carter's Double Concerto. Student #1: Who decided that this work was one of the great pieces of 20th-century music? Student #2: It's just like what happens in popular music. Student #1: But no, popular music becomes popular because people like it. Student #2: No, popular music is made popular by the industry. Somebody decided that Miley Cyrus could be popular, and so they poured a ton of money and publicity into her. Her career was completely orchestrated. Me: Between the two of you, … [Read more...]

Minimalism Has Arrived, Academically Speaking

When I arrived at school today I found a box of copies of the Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, straight off the press. (With all due deference to my esteemed colleagues Pwyll ap Sion and Keith Potter, I would like to point out that the first eleven pages of the book's Introduction, credited to all three of us, were written by myself; they wrote the conclusion detailing the book's contents. But they did more of the editing than I did, and provided more of the impetus behind the book.) As I write in the … [Read more...]

Niblock Under the Microscope


I'm teaching my Analysis of Minimalism seminar this semester, and I have never had a group of students (eight of them) who came in already knowing so much about the repertoire we were dealing with. They bring up pieces I hadn't planned to mention and occasionally even one I hadn't heard of, and I have to think quick to stay one step ahead of them. What I enjoy doing most in my analysis seminars is figuring out music I'd never analyzed before. I let them do the work for me (or if I end up doing it myself, I assume they'll learn from watching … [Read more...]

Vertiginous Plastic for Sale


I received in yesterday's mail several copies of pianist Aron Kallay's new CD Beyond 12: Reinventing the Piano, the first installment of his project of playing microtonal music on virtual pianos. (I love the unmatched black keys on the cover art.) The disc includes my own Echoes of Nothing, which I wrote for him in 2011; also non-12 pieces by Isaac Schankler, Aaron K. Johnson, John Schneider, Tom Flaherty, Vera Ivanova, Jason Heath, and Brian Shepard. It's a disc of remarkably delicate and gentle and colorful music, though ranging from the … [Read more...]

In Which Exception Is Taken to Various Common Practices

Here is a quotation from a document I had to discuss with my academic colleagues today: The school should continue moving forward in its attempt to formalize more structured processes for planning and the allocation of resources. It is important that a more structured planning process involve various constituencies, provide increased opportunities for collaboration across units, communication, and shared governance, and that it should integrate multiple programs and sites into a coherent whole. I know all these words, but this is so vague … [Read more...]

Hearing the Symphony without Going to Boston


Next Sunday at 2 (Oct. 20, Ives's birthday) I will present a lecture, "Thoreau's Flute and Charles Ives's Concord Sonata" at Henry David Thoreau's birthplace in Concord, Massachusetts. Drawn from my upcoming book on the Concord, the talk will trace a simple argument, based on the manuscripts, that the sonata's "Human Faith" melody was originally conceived as being Thoreau's flute over Walden Pond, and from there made its way into the other movements of the sonata. This will be a welcome chance to present to non-musicians, and I'm enjoying my … [Read more...]

“Fatally Attracted to the Complexity of Speech”


I didn’t anticipate that I would arrive at anything new to say about Robert Ashley in my paper about him at last week's minimalism conference at Cal State Long Beach. But as it happened, the attempt to talk about him in a minimalist context elicited some insights I hadn’t had before, and as some previously Ashley-dubious audience members claimed to find them persuasive, I decided to post the paper here. Also probably at the Society for Minimalist Music website as a PDF, but here I can link to the audio examples. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * … [Read more...]