Just as Harry Partch called himself a “philosophic music man seduced into carpentry,” I’m a composer who’s been seduced into musicology – because you can’t be a visible composer in an invisible scene, and no one else was writing well about the scene I came from.
I’ve been teaching music theory, history, and composition at Bard College since 1997, and I was the new-music critic for the Village Voice from 1986 to 2005. I’ve published seven books: The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (Cambridge University Press, 1995), American Music in the Twentieth Century (Schirmer Books, 1997), Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice (U. of CA Press, 2006), No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33” (University of California Press, 2010), Robert Ashley (U. of Illinois Press, 2012), Charles Ives’s Concord: Essays after a Sonata (U. of Illinois Press, 2017), and The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician (U. of Illinois Press, 2019). I also wrote the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition of Cage’s Silence. With composer David McIntire, I directed the Second International Conference on Minimalist Music. I am a founding member of the Society for Minimalist Music and Vice-President of the Charles Ives Society.
Much of my music can be heard and seen at kylegann.com. About a third of my music is microtonal, in just intonation, using the notation of my teacher Ben Johnston. I’ve performed my one-man opera Custer and Sitting Bull more than 35 times, from Brisbane to Moscow; Cinderella’s Bad Magic, my opera with librettist Jeff Sichel, premiered in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Orkest de Volharding in Amsterdam commissioned my piano concerto Sunken City (a New Orleans memorial), and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir commissioned my Transcendental Sonnets. My CDs are on the New Albion, New World, Cold Blue, Lovely Music, Mode, Other Minds, Meyer Media, New Tone, Innova, Microfest, Vous Ne Revez Pas Encore, Brilliant Classics, and Monroe Street labels. I’ve lived my entire life immersed in and involved with classical music, and started making the transition to postclassical many years ago.