Part of a Targeted Audience for Once


At Robert Carl's urging I finally read Richard Powers's novel Orfeo. He told me it was a lifelike novel about a composer, but it's more than that: I think just to understand the novel you'd have to be a composer, or at least an inveterate new-music fan, because the contemporary music references fly thick and fast. One whole long scene takes place within a played recording of Steve Reich's Proverb. The protagonist, Richard Els, is a composition professor who studied at the University of Illinois in the 1960s, and actual people I knew like Ben … [Read more...]

In My Lefty Dreams

I actually dreamed this morning that Obama's secret drone program was really a minimalist sound installation, a kind of soft Phill Niblock piece coming from concealed loudspeakers. … [Read more...]

Virtual Ashley Playground

Robert Ashley

University of Illinois Press doesn't allow musical examples in their books (scares off too many prospective buyers, I guess), and so, like so many musicological authors these days, I'm putting my musical examples for Robert Ashley on the internet. I've started a Robert Ashley Web Page on which you can see excerpts from Ashley's scores, hear some brief audio examples, and see a little analysis. Five pages are up now, covering passages from the Piano Sonata of 1959, Perfect Lives, eL/Aficionado, Outcome Inevitable, and Celestial Excursions. I'll … [Read more...]

Calling All Minimalismologists

I'm figuring out how to manage the Society for Minimalist Music web page. It's now got information for applying to the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music, which takes place in Kansas City September 2-6, 2009, as well as the specifics of the one-day conference at Goldsmiths coming up in London this September 13. Sorry information heretofore has been so... minimal. … [Read more...]

An Embarrassment of Too Many Pianos

My music has two performances this weekend. The first is a multiple-piano concert Friday, April 11, at 8 at the College of Fine Arts Concert Hall at Boston University. Pianists Rodney Lister, David Kopp, and Ketty Nez will play my 1981 piece Long Night, in an intriguing-looking program that also includes Arthur Berger's Polyphony, Ingolf Dahl's The Fancy Blue Devil's Breakdown, and Rodney's own Detour.  Saturday evening at 7:30, Kate Ryder is giving a recital of toy piano works at the Space Enterprise Festival in London, at 269 Westferry Road. … [Read more...]

Zuni Totalism

Below is the complete transcription of part of a Zuni Buffalo Dance from Robert Cogan's and Pozzi Escot's 1976 book Sonic Design, one of the best books of musical analysis ever written. (Though long out of print, you can still get print-to-order copies on the web.) This is the book which introduced me to the practice of switching back and forth among different tempos in Southwest American Indian music. Combined with the rhythmic theory I already knew from Henry Cowell's New Musical Resources, it elicited in me an interest in meters with … [Read more...]

Sins of My Youth Revisited

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. - Ralph Waldo EmersonSorry for being remiss lately in my role as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of classical music - it's been more than a week since I've said anything my followers need distance themselves from - but I've been preoccupied with something peculiar. One of the things that has surprised me most in the last seven years is what a nurturing presence my early music has for me. I seem to go through a pattern. Of course, like … [Read more...]

Truth Be Damned

Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on inside. And on and on. The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs … [Read more...]