I’ll Take Well-Crafted

Just learned that my song cycle Your Staccato Ways was favorably reviewed by Joanne Sydney Lessner in last Month's Opera News: "Among the other premieres, Kyle Gann’s Your Staccato Ways stood out for its well-crafted songs, particularly the harmonically restless 'Couplets' and the rag-infused 'Hotel Minor,' delivered by the appealing tenor Corey Hart." UPDATE: And a few more odds and ends - as usual, more for my own bookkeeping than because they will edify you. Roberto Friedman at San Francisco's Edge Media Network liked my War Is Just a … [Read more...]

For Those Who Haven’t Met Me in Person

After every lecture I've ever given in the northeast part of the country, at least one person has come up to me afterward and immediately asked, "Where are you from?" I grew up in Dallas, Texas. I left there in 1973. In my youth I had a broad accent, and traces of it remain. If I could time-travel back to visit the twenty-year-old me, I would say, "Kyle, hie thee to a diction teacher post-haste and get rid of that Texas accent once and for all." It has worked against me throughout my career. For one thing, it kept me out of classical radio, … [Read more...]

So Sue Me


I have gone against my most deeply-held principles. I have, for the first time, written a quarter-tone piece. As a just-intonationist, I don't believe in quarter-tones on theoretical grounds. Quarter-tones provide good approximations for certain eleven-limit intervals: 11/9 (347¢), 11/8 (551¢), 11/6 (1049¢), but the quarter-tone scale emphasizes eleven-based intervals and skips over the seven-based ones. It's one of my core beliefs that, if we are to accustom the collective ear to assimilate intervals smaller than the half-step, we need to … [Read more...]

Index to My Concord Sonata Writings

My writings on Charles Ives's Concord Sonata on this blog are now so scattered around that I've decided I should index them for those who may be trying to do research, or who simply came late to the party. I'll expand this as I add more. The Concord itself: - The whole-tone-based harmonic structure of the Concord - MIDI version of the Concord's opening - Some early analytical insights upon looking into Ives - A more rational ten-part division of the Hawthorne movement - "Angel" notes in Hawthorne notated - Analysis of the Alcotts … [Read more...]

The Whole-Tone Hypothesis


A couple of doubtless tenured and prestigious music professors suggested, as an excuse for denying me grants, that instead of trying to publish an entire book on the Concord Sonata all at once, I should first publish the individual chapters in academic journals. That would be fun, wouldn't it?, spending months going through a whole extra session of peer review so that I could bury my insights in some obscure corner of JSTOR; and then I could get the whole book peer-reviewed and receive a second, doubtless contradictory aggregation of quibbles. … [Read more...]

An Oxymoronically Postminimalist Improviser


Thanks for indulging my mystery pianist contest. I was less interested in stumping the listeners than in collecting a set of comparison pianists to relate the style to. I am grateful to all who obliged. Not surprisingly, my Downtown comrade Tom Hamilton confidently nailed the answer: it's our late friend Elodie Lauten, playing her Variations on the Orange Cycle. Elodie was not only an early punk singer, Allen Ginsburg groupie, and composer of beautiful postminimalist operas, but a phenomenal improvising pianist. I wanted to introduce a … [Read more...]

Name that Pianist

Here's a three-minute excerpt from a piano improvisation:   The style varies considerably over the course of the excerpt. See if you can guess the pianist or at least tell me who it sounds like - I know many of my readers are far more steeped in the improvisation world than I am. I'll provide the answer, and the complete 40-minute recording, in a separate post. Thanks for the help.   … [Read more...]

Every 26 Years Like Clockwork

Believe it or not, my music is featured on this Sunday's Bang on a Can marathon at Mass MOCA. The last time I had a piece on Bang on a Can was either 1989 or 1990, I can't remember. They requested, this time, to perform my Snake Dance No. 3, a 2010 piece I'm a little dubious about. It's the piece in which I added synthesizers and fretless bass playing a 19-tone (non-equal) scale to the core percussion ensemble of my previous snake dances. The piece had some problems at its premiere, which was well played, but there was no attempt to sonically … [Read more...]

I Can Compose Catholic


Eleven days ago my friend, colleague, and department chair James Bagwell wrote me to ask me to write a piece for the May Festival Youth Chorus in Cincinnati, which he conducts. The premiere is to take place in a Catholic basilica, and so the text needed to be suitable. Ezra Pound was not going to do the trick. But among Catholic writers I have always found Thomas Merton enormously appealing, and among his voluminous poetry output I quickly settled on In Silence, which begins thus: Be still. Listen to the stones of the wall. Be silent, they … [Read more...]

Owning Art

Natalie Levy And Then They Were Gone

The painting above is titled And Then They Were Gone, and it's by New York artist Natalie Levy. I chanced across it in the window at 510 Warren Gallery in Hudson, NY, and at first thought it was a photograph; then there was a delicious fifteen-second transition in which I slowly realized it was a painting. I went in to enquire; I thought I couldn't justify buying it, but I bought the gallery's postcard of it; I stole the artist's jpg of it (above) off her website and put it on my computer desktop; I went back later to see it again. And finally … [Read more...]

2017 Minimalist Conference Options Being Considered

The next conference of the Society for Minimalist Music will occur September 24-26 at the University of Turku and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. Once again we will be discussing where the following conference will be in 2017, again in the U.S. this time (we alternate between Europe and America). We are not without ideas and offers, but we would like to have some solid alternatives to vote among, and it's not at all too early to begin preparations. As I've written before, it is difficult to find a school here with enough music … [Read more...]

We Are at War

John Halle is the most politically savvy composer I know: For while some of us want to avert our eyes, the left always recognized that the war by the rich against the poor is a war just as much as any other.  An economic war does not involve missiles, antipersonnel weapons and M-16s. Its weapons are state enforced privatization schemes, debt swaps and interest rate manipulation.  Rather than puncture wounds, severed limbs and  the casualties take the form of thousands of unnecessary deaths due to [in]adequately staffed and supplied hospitals, … [Read more...]

The Ten Sections of Hawthorne


My Concord Sonata book is the most ambitious thing I've ever done, and one of my proudest achievements, but it seems to bear the mark of Cain. It will indeed be published, but according to the schedule it will appear in fall of 2016. Having waited ten months since I turned in the manuscript, I have fifteen months to go, by which time I can't imagine I'm going to care anymore. Anything could happen by then. I want to make the information I have public and move on, and so I might as well blog the remaining best parts of the book. The world has … [Read more...]