Deadlines.

I should be composing right now.

There is a looming deadline for a new chamber piece. It is self imposed, so it’s not a “finish it or there’s no performance” deadline.

I have found that I work better with some sort of deadline. I have created some of my best works with impending doom lurking overhead. It forces me to stop procrastinating, to quit playing SimCity, or posting on S21.

If there isn’t a deadline imposed on the piece, I have found that it will live in composition limbo for ages. I have one of those works that lives in limbo right now.
Perhaps I will finish it one day.

Maybe I will work on it next.

Well I must be off to the trenches.

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If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all

I am curious to know what all of my fellow composers here at Sequenza21 think of unfavorable reviews.

Have you received unfavorable reviews?
Do you respond?
Do you read your reviews?

I have had people describe my music as noise. I enjoy that my music can get a strong reaction from a listener. It wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for, but you can’t have everything. Then I always thank the person for attending the concert.

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American radicals.

Why is American music history filled with such compositional oddballs like Cowell, Antheil, Ornstein and A. P. Heinrich to name a few? The United States seems to have a long tradition of eccentric composers; In the 19th century, we had Gottschalk and A. P. Heinrich and in the 20th century, we had Cowell, Ornstein, Partch, Carter, Antheil, Cage, Earle Brown, and others.

Each of these composers came along and had totally new ideas and definitions of music. Cowell wreaked havoc upon the guts of pianos, Nancarrow gave up on performers, Cage gave performers incredible freedom. It seems to me, that the musical history of various European countries does not seem to have the large number of musical oddities that we have had here.
Am I wrong about this?

What is it in America that has created and encouraged all of these unique voices in music?

Is it the American pioneer spirit, but carried over into music?

Is it something in the water?

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Lucia Dlugoszewski

Lucia Dlugoszewski was a composer, poet and choreographer known for experimental works.
As you can tell by her name she is from Michigan.
Recently I was browsingthe Art of the States site and came across a solo trumpet work by Lucia Dlugoszewski titled, “Space is a Diamond.”

This work blew me away. I never thought I could love a work for solo trumpet.

Sadly, she passed away in 2000.

Now I must buy her recordings.

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Nothing really….just mildly amusing.

Everyone meet Milton Rabbit.
He belongs to my good friend, Sam.
As I am sure all of you have guessed
his namesake is the great plink-plonk composer, Milton Babbitt

…..it has been a while since anyone has posted an animal pic.

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Damn Them.

I was reading my daily NYTimes art pages when I came across two articles.

Decline in Listeners Worries Orchestras by Anne Midgette
and A View of Classical Music in America as Lofty and Dead a book review by Greg Sandow.

Ms. Midgette’s article discuss a common problem orchestras are facing everywhere – shrinking audiences.

I don’t know why people are not attending orchestra concerts, but I stay away from them like the plague. The programming is boring. I refuse to hear another concert of Beethoven’s 9th or Schumann’s 3rd or Mozart’s 40th (even thought it is one of my favorite works). Do you know why? Because there are approximately 8,274,396 recordings of each of those works available at your local Tower Records. I know that approximately 2,645,941 of those Beethoven recordings suck but they are out there and available for anyone to buy and listen to whenever. There are amazing recordings of those works available and you can listen to them anytime you wish. So why then would you go to hear your local city orchestra hack its way through a mediocre performance of Beethoven’s 9th?
Perhaps some people enjoy having their ears bleed as the local Symphony slashes its way through Mozart with the gracefulness of Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Perhaps most of the people going to those concerts are there just for the social aspect of going to the symphony. I know that is the case for a lot of subscribers to the University of Southern Mississippi’s Symphony Orchestra season.

Most orchestras seem to be stuck on a loop. There are symphony cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak every couple years then a series of concerti, usually piano concerti – Beethoven’s Emperor, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff 2nd. It always seems to be the same thing over and over again.

I don’t go to orchestra concerts because they are boring and I very rarely hear anything outside of a very narrow repertoire list.

———————–

Now Greg Sandow reviewed Mr. Horowitz’s book, CLASSICAL MUSIC IN AMERICA-A History of Its Rise and Fall. Now it pisses me off that every few seconds I hear another person like Mr. Horowitz announcing to the world that classical music is dead! It’s inescapable. When did it become the favorite past time of music critics to announce on a regular basis that classical music is dead. (I am not complaining about Mr. Sandow, just Mr. Horowitz’s book.)

Well I have a newsflash for music critics everywhere – Classical music is dead! It died 200 freaking years ago! 200 years ago! 200 years ago!
Music critics should just let go. It will be okay. Just because classical music has ended that does not mean that art-music was sucked into a black hole never to be seen again leaving all music critics on the unemployment line!

Unfortunately the term did not die with the classical period. (I know it was a term applied later by historians and such. So don’t whine about that.)
The music that is being written now by Carter, Reich, Ligeti or any of the Sequenza21 composers is not classical music. It is art-music or new music or whatever term people decide to use. I am sure historians and critics will give a us a term for it in 100 years!

I also have another problem with Horowitz’s book. I recently heard a discussion of his book on NPR. The book seems to discuss heavily the influence of Dvorak and herald him as if he was the beginning of American Music.

I hate how so many people feel this way.

Dvorak coming to America is a horribly romanticized story.
It goes as follows:
Dvorak hopped a boat from Bohemia headed to the wild untamed uncultured savage New World. Got a conducting job. Wrote some music. Told Americans that we needed a nationalist music and we should look to black spirituals and native American music for the inspiration. He spent his summer in corn fields in Iowa with three other Bohemian people. Wrote his Symphony No. 9 which some consider the beginning of “American Music.” And suddenly….VOILA! American Music LIVES! Because it was apparently a void before Dvorak arrived!

Was everyone asleep or suffering from a stroke when music history class talked about Billings, Beach, Gottschalk, Heinrich, McDowell or countless others! There was already a national American music alive and well.

Just because Dvorak writes a symphony and uses “Three blind mice” it becomes the model of American Music?

That’s insane and I don’t know why more people do not see it as an insult to our musical heritage!

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Lamentations

Everyday I get online and check my email along with various music sites. One of my frequent stops is Andante.com, but over the past week they have been the bearer of bad news. First they told me about the death of Seigfried Palm. He was an amazing cellist who commissioned extraordinary new works. Several years ago when I began to take interest in new music I heard a cello recital in college that featured a performance of Penderecki’s Capriccio for Seigfried Palm. I was amazed to discover that composers were creating such racket. I loved the piece. It was wild and exciting. So then I set out on a trek to find out who this Seigfried Palm person was. I was able to hear a few recordings and I was hooked from then on.

Now in the last day or so I find out about the deaths of Carlo Maria Guilini and David Diamond. I discovered Guilini during my conducting classes. He was great. He didn’t conduct the new music I like, but he was amazing with Mozart, Schubert and Brahms.

My first encounter with David Diamond, I think, was a recording that contained his 2nd and 4th symphonies and concerto for small orchestra. I noticed he was a terrific composer who was receiving less and less attention, which is a shame. Let the memorial concerts begin. More people should be exposed to his music.

There have been a number of musicians and composers that I admire who have passed away in recent years. In 2001, I took the news of the death of Xenakis rather hard. Then last year when Berio passed away there was another great loss in the musical world.

Sometimes I get kind of down hearing news of the passing of musicians I admire, but then there are musicians like fellow blogger Brian Sacawa and cellist Matt Haimovitz who are waiting to be heard. So now everyone should be poised to see the next wave of artists who are willing to step up to the plate and fill the voids left behind. This is what makes new music so exciting, there is always something else just waiting to be heard.

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Come on, Arlene.

Friday morning I had a little skirmish with my local public radio station, WMAH 90.3 of Biloxi, MS. It was all-request friday; as it is every friday on WMAH.

I decided to make a request, nothing crazy like Carter or Xenakis or Ligeti, just one nice little work. Five Pieces for String Quartet by Anton Webern.
It is one of my favorite pieces.
Perhaps I should have asked for anthrax or a dirty bomb.
WMAH does not play the likes of Webern or Berg or Schoenberg. They do not venture into that crazy realm of 100 year old music.

Request Friday always means….1812 Overture followed by Bolero followed by Chopin as performed by Van Cliburn followed by a piano transcription of an extremely uninteresting orchestral score or film score by Philip Glass and so on….

I am convinced they are trying to drive me crazy.
This is the summer of my discontent.

Apparently the Boston Red Sox have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than I do of hearing Webern on WMAH.

But things are looking up.
You are all invited to my home in Mississippi for a Hurricane party!

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What are you listening to?

I am curious as to what music the Sequenza21 gang and readers are listening to, so let me know what is in heavy rotation in your cd player.

Here is a list of Cds that are in my current rotation:

-Harrison Birtwistle
2cd set “The British Music Collection”
I have become a huge Birtwistle fan and have been listening
to the following works from the 2cd set quite a bit:
Secret Theatre for chamber orchestra
Earth Dances for orchestra
Panic for alto saxophone and orchestra

-Wolfgang Rihm
Jagden und Formen
Dominique My conducting the Ensemble Modern

-Elliott Carter
Concerto for Clarinet and various chamber works
Nouvel Ensemble Moderne
Conducted by Lorraine Vallaincourt

Popular music Cds also in my current rotation:

Björk – Medulla

Beck – Guero

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For Tom Myron.

Ligeti

After reading Tom Myron’s latest post, I now know that I am not the only one that dreams about meeting composers.

I recently had a dream that I was wandering through a forest in Germany searching for Gyorgy Ligeti’s house. (I don’t know why I thought Ligeti lived in the forest.) The forest seemed enchanting like the forests told of in fairy tales.
I found this stone path and followed it to a wonderful little house. Smoke was coming from the chimney and it smelled as if someone was baking goodies. I could hear music from the outside so I walked in. I guess I just invited myself in. (This is the only dream I have had where I am breaking and entering a composer’s home.) A woman greeted me as I walked in. I wandered from room to room looking for Ligeti. I found a vocal ensemble rehearsing a work I have never heard but there was no mistaking that it was the music of Ligeti. It kind of sounded like the Nonsense Madrigals. I walked through more rooms in the house. It was bustling with people; all getting ready for upcoming performances. The house was bursting at the seams with music. I entered another room where Ligeti’s Horn Trio was being rehearsed. I stood there for awhile listening to the musicians.
I never found Ligeti, but it was wonderful walking around in this enchanted house full of wonderful sounds.

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