Reports of My Misbehavior Greatly Exaggerated

Over at New Music Box, Frank Oteri, back from his world travels, finally weighs in with his own impression of the ISCM festival in Vienna. He emphasizes (and possibly exaggerates) my slender role there, and says very nice things about me, and I'm flattered. He writes, however, that some people "had their feathers ruffled" by me, and I'm a little sensitive these days about getting trapped in the feather-ruffling meta-narrative. I sometimes think people get shocked when I open my mouth because they're trained to think that's the proper response. … [Read more...]

Snapshots from Academe


Composer Martin Bresnick gave a composers' forum at Bard tonight that was absolutely fabulous. He played recordings of the most compelling music I'd yet heard of his - Every Thing Must Go for sax quartet, Prayers Remain Forever for cello and piano, Ishi's Song for piano, and some faculty played his *** for clarinet, viola, and piano - and his manner of explaining his music was understated, humble, yet inspiring. When someone commented with surprise on the simplicity of his recent pieces, he replied, "I don't write 'modern music.' I write my own … [Read more...]

Gavin and Me


(Click for better focus.) Consequent to the recent post I wrote about analyzing Gavin Bryars's music, the man himself nicely got in touch with me, and since he was going to be in New York City anyway, we had lunch today, along with Tony Creamer (major supporter and fan of new music) and Norman Ryan, Gavin's publisher at Schott. Gavin's and my conversation really took off when we realized what big fans we both are of the music of Kaikhosru Sorabji; he was actually in touch with Sorabji, and presented the first concert of Sorabji's music in Italy … [Read more...]

I Walk Among the Dead


The biggest tourist thing I did in Vienna was visit the Zentralfriedhof, the big cemetery where many famous composers (more than I'd realized from my research) and artists are buried, even though some of them were first buried elsewhere and then moved. So here are some photos. It seems silly to include so many photos of myself (taken by my wife Nancy), but after all, you can probably find most of the tombstones on Wikipedia, and the point is to prove I was there. (Click on photos for better focus.) Here I meet the Great Man himself: But … [Read more...]

The World Turned Upside Down

[NOTE: If you're hear from a link at New Music Box, you might want to check out my response to that article as well.] [UPDATE BELOW] My journey into the very heart of musical Europe provides me with a renewed opportunity to reflect on how happy I am to no longer be a music critic, no matter how happy I once was to work as one. The day was when I would have attended every event of the ISCM’s New Music Days 2013, taken names and scrupulous notes, mentally organized the event into its own little symmetrical Theater of Memory, and presented its … [Read more...]

To Dance on Beethoven’s Grave

Friday morning I'm leaving for Vienna, where I will remain until the following Thursday. I'm speaking at the World New Music Days of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). I'll be giving my talk on the state of American music next Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 9:30 AM in the Leonie Rysanek-Saal of the Konservatorium Wien Privatuniversität, and then I'm on a panel at 11:30. I appear to be the only U.S. representative on the conference. Never been to Vienna before. I'm trying to revive a little bit of German, and it's just as I … [Read more...]

Great Moments in Teaching, part 2


I don't know if this constituted a great moment for my students, but it did for me. My favorite piece by the British postminimalist Gavin Bryars, although I doubt that I've heard everything he's recorded, has always been his 1990 piece for ballet Four Elements. I once started analyzing it on my own and didn't get far, but we spent our entire minimalism class (two and a half hours) on it the other day, and I was quite impressed with what we found. The entire piece is drawn from a three-note motive heard in the chimes in the first two measures, a … [Read more...]