Daniel Goode

Composer & Performer

Memorial for Elaine Summers (1925-2015) at Niblock’s, NYC

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tonight at 9
224 centre
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Phill Niblock’s email to me. The memorial was just like any other Experimental Intermedia event. The sound was too loud for my left ear. My right ear was less complaining. The audience members, some young, some not so, seemed dazed in the pleasant trance of the avant-garde. Friends gathered beforehand in Phill’s kitchen, sipping wine, eating seitan, talking occasionally. I spoke separately to one or two people about how important Elaine was to me. They seemed glad to hear it.

Elaine’s dance loft at 537 Broadway, 5th floor was where I did my first solo concert. Was it 1973? ’75? I’ll have to check. The faded flyer pops up every so often among other papers. I think the concert started at 8:30—before the standardized 8 PM had taken effect. Elaine was like an open door, encouraging me to come in, to make a piece, have an audience. Nothing like that had come my way in the New York of my birth. (Had that happened to me earlier, I might not have exiled myself from New York for ten years after graduate school.) I took her movement class, Kinetic Awareness: the body is important, pay attention! I did.

So it’s all the more amazing to me that after all the years until now, the night of her memorial, I had never seen a film of hers, though I knew she was a filmmaker as well as dancer and choreographer. She didn’t push them. She didn’t push herself. So un-New York. It takes people not born in NY to make the city humane.

Five of her films were shown, the longest was seventeen minutes. Jerky hand-held camera in most, muted colors. A video by someone else in which she appears is mainly about Malcolm Goldstein—the shamanic violin improviser whose bright red hair, long red side-burns, pearly white skull punctuated his manic closed-eyed playing. Action-painting, but on a violin, and on the roof of her loft building. TV ariels and pipes, nearby buildings panned—hard not to say ugly. But they are, and no music can change that.

“Judson Fragments” was an interesting cross-cutting of dance moments, dancers in street clothes walking towards and away from each other (I think I recognized Simone Forti), other odd collaged images, somehow reminding me of Alain Resnais’s  “Last Year at Marienbad.” Not surprising. Both are in the same time capsule.

What do I come away with from the films? The grittiness, materiality of New York, not gussied up. An object is an object, neither beautiful nor ugly. Perfect fantasies of special effects are not yet in fashion. One can relax in this. Take a deep breath. Thank you, Elaine!

Thumbnail Review No. 44

Nielsen, McGill, the NY Phil, and the Future

Such delicacy in the large orchestra which, incidentally, had two harps in the Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, and was then chamber-sized for the Carl Nielsen Clarinet Concerto, beautifully performed by the NY Phil’s Anthony McGill in this January’s New York Philharmonic concert. It has fiendishly difficult cadenzas, and I’ve just only “played at it,”  His playing was exquisite, delicate, very straight, and more like a clarinet solo emerging from the orchestra’s wind section than a front-and-center concerto style. Though I’d never heard a live performance of it before, I hear the concerto in a more raucous style than McGill’s Mozartian sound. Nevertheless his is a valid interpretation and Nielsen is a refreshing composer—one without rhetoric who found a way of threading through 19th century symphony style into 20th century modernism, while holding on to poignant, sometimes witty, always expressive sound. Often this concerto shaped itself into treble-bass two-part counterpoint with occasional hectic fast figuration in the strings which became a texture within that frame. Shifting harmonic implications. A satisfying piece!

Delicacy was again the quality, in the Tchaikovsky suite from Swan Lake. The solo violin and harp movement, the violin and cello and harp movement, for example. Then, unexpectedly the full orchestra tutti brass-laced chords. What a sudden voluptuous, extravagant sound!… Thrilled.
The “future of the orchestra,” my concern. Ever since I started playing and listening to Indonesian gamelan music, a “national” music, I’ve reflected on our own, Western “gamelan”—the symphony orchestra, suddenly valuing it more because it is a unique sound in world music: nothing else like it. I wonder about its ability to negotiate the poly-stylistics of all the music around us which competes for our attention, and especially that of young people. Everything is “niched.” But symphony is not low-overhead, unlike gamelan, punk bands, or  myself!… Also gamelan can use relatively inexperienced, or untrained musicians who can count. Only amateur choruses can do that with professional orchestras. Think symphony and then think doctor’s and lawyer’s training. And think ticket prices. Third tier, row DD was $55 and the back wall was just behind me. Binoculars were glued to my face because I like to watch orchestration. [Clear throat: Ahem.] Binoculars were glued to my face, but not only because I like to “watch” the orchestration. I couldn’t tell without them where the second violins and violas were placed. I’m not sure even now. I was “living to the back.” (Talk to your Jewish ancestors or friends about this phrase).
Though Ravel and Nielsen are firmly 20th century composers, their roots were in the 19th, and the 19th century is still the basis of the symphony orchestra’s repertoire. The kaleidoscopic variety of sound, even its wonderful excess come from that century. What of the future? The Flexible Orchestra is my commentary on the symphony orchestra, and my attempt to secure its future by trying different palettes, all firmly orchestral. But more will have to be done, imaginatively done, I suspect. And composers will have to do it. With some help. Think: copyist, parts editing, revision and recording. Think arts and market capitalism. I did. I am.
Thumbnail Review #43
All thumbnail reviews are at danielgoode.com

Soho Gamelan Walk, Winter 2014

Winter Solstice, Make Music New York

Video by Dana McCurdy

Also see WSJ feature on Daniel Goode and the Soho Gamelan Walk (Click Here).

Pina Bausch’s “Kontakthof”- a reaction not a review

Too long by a lot, yet magisterial, a spectacle, with twenty-three dancers on stage much of the time. Women in ballroom solid color dresses danced either in heels or barefoot. Men were in ugly charcoal black or grey suits over white shirts with ties. Music hall, tango-ish numbers on scratchy low fidelity recordings, in German, dancers often speaking, in English, sometimes screaming, insufferable repetition of “darling” by one, overuse of the same recorded songs became finally a good move, supplemented by the “Third Man” theme, and a music-hall kind of recording of Sibelius’s “Valse Triste.”

Yes, “kontakt,” lots of it: from curiosity, sensuality, hostility, mixtures of all, sometimes very fast transitions from one to the other, very heterosexual. Sense of discomfort, awkwardness was an affect of the dancers, a theme of the choreographer. A lot of this piece appeared in Wim Wenders wonderful documentary of the Tanztheater of Pina Bausch (who died in 2009). Typical of the company’s easy-going approach to time was a line-up of all the dancers sitting in a row facing the audience each telling some personal story softly in their own language while another took the mic from to each one of all twenty-two, letting each story fall where it may in the middle. “Heavenly length?” An issue worth pursuing. In spite of the speaking, singing, screaming, no attempt to have a sculpted vocal theater like Meredith Monk’s.

Big age range, it seems, in the dancers. Lots over forty and beyond.

The appropriation of everyday movements into dance is familiar to us, and I’m guessing this piece is from the ’70’s or so when this was happening here too. It must have been shocking to a staid German audience of the time. Yet even now, some images were frightening: a female dancer being felt, felt up, slapped, lifted, manipulated by a large group of the men dancers. With my binoculars I was able to see that it was not a smile on her face, but an open-mouthed crying. Not funny. Yet a lot of the piece was mildly parodistic, and just plain pleasant. Especially the large rings of dancers walking in time over the generous whole of the Howard Gilman Opera House at BAM.

Thumbnail Review #42

An Open Letter: To CEO, Laura Walker of WNYC

Laura Walker, CEO                                                            October 12, 2014
WNYC
160 Varick Street
NY NY 10012

A BIT OF ANTI-INTELLECTUAL MIDDLE-BROW CORPORATISM AT WNYC

~an open letter to CEO, Laura Walker of WNYC.

This letter is a protest at your cancelling the free-wheeling, exciting Socratic tria-logue of “Gabfest Radio” and its replacement with a DOA humdrum digest of free-market anecdotes called “Market Place Weekend.”

If this were not part of a pattern, I might not have noticed it. But it is: you like digest call-ins with pre-screened questions to humdrum programs like the “DR Show,” “ On Point,” the one mentioned above, and many others.

You don’t like: intellectually brilliant formats like your former show from California public radio, “To the Point”, or as I said, the—let me add younger generation of intellectuals demonstrated in Gabfest Radio.

You’re going to tell me that all those things I like are available on podcasts. Oh, phooey! You know that radio is Power and Community at a single click. That’s why you’re in radio, Ms. CEO Walker, and not just some obscure blogger out there in the ether.

I won’t go back and repeat my praise for the cancelled “To the Point” or start an extended analysis of the trenchant, raw, live interactional show, “Gabfest Radio.”

I’ll just mark this place. And put this up on my blog, danielgoode.com where anyone can comment. You are invited to do so, and I’ll be back on your case right away!

Daniel Goode
167 Spring Street #3
NY NY 10012

P.S. At this very moment I am in receipt of a fundraising letter from you. Very funny!

Take Back the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center—Now!

Take Back the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center—Now! And good riddance to the Met Museum’s Koch Plaza, too.

These places belong to the people, not to the extremist right-wing plutocrat, Koch. Our civic cultural institutions made a bargain with the devil in taking his money for the display of his name. We find this disgusting. We should leave flyers to this effect whenever we visit.

We should express our opinion vigorously to any functionary of either institution. And we should all put a statement to this effect on all our websites.

So for renaming, how about: “The New York Theater.” And for the plaza, how about:

“The Fountains of New York.” But whatever names, not the notorious money man’s.

Waves of Noise at the Climate Change March, Sept. 21st

But first, my favorite signs around me as we marched, leisurely, I have to say, pleasantly, were:

“There is no PLAN-et B”
“Shower together—Save water”
“Extinction is forever”
“Their greed crushes our spirit” (a sad looking young man in a baseball cap wore this T-shirt)
“Save the Humans” (spoken by a bunch of endangered animals, pictured)

We were still about a couple hundred yards from the head of the march at Columbus Circle at 1 PM when a mighty noise was scheduled to happen. Later I learned why it started a little early: there was to be a minute of silence before the giant noise made by everyone. And as surely as people can hardly be silent for long, that minute was cut short, so the big noise started about a minute or so before 1 PM. But it was a wonderful sound wafting over Columbus Circle to where we stood south of the front-most part of the marchers.

Later, when we had joined, and more than once, and mysteriously—why did it happen? a large mostly vocal noise swept up from behind us. We joined, and it subsided. It was thrilling each time. Ann and I had loud metal rattles from India, and a couple of mouth whistles. Some drums with a “sol-do” (up) tonality were happening near us, fun to play along with. We got quite tired by 42nd St. and took the subway home. Struck up conversations with others on the subway that never would have happened on a normal day.

I heard that at Wall Street civil disobedience today (the day after), the “people’s mike” technique was used to forward information to the protesters. (That’s this fabulous innovation of Occupy Wall Street in which succeeding rows or clumps of people repeat the message to the next group and on and on as necessary to reach the whole crowd.)

The estimate was of 311,000 people at the Sunday march.

Thumbnail Review #41

Gustav Mahler: After Nine

Two young composers influenced by Mahler’s 9th Symphony were performed:  by the Argento Chamber Ensemble, playing Matthew Ricketts’s After Nine: Fantasia on Mahler; and by the JACK Quartet, playing Taylor Brook’s Arrithmia——as a prelude to the Argento’s September 15th performance of the Mahler Symphony No. 9 (see my Thumb Nail Review #39.)

The latter of the two scarcely seemed serious. The composer wrote: “What does Mahler have to do with a string quartet written in 2012? It may be the result of an ‘anything goes’ attitude on my part.” Yes, anything goes; and anything went…He claims the “melodic quotations promote a clear connection to Mahler’s symphony…” I couldn’t hear them, though maybe the recurring mi-re-do stood in for that (if you remember that the first movement is mostly mi-re, and very little do till the the last note). In any case the JACK Quartet hacked through the piece with great vigor, though it seemed to very little artistic effect from the composer.

The Ricketts piece was a sensitive timbral study that moved from pitch level to pitch level, staying, expanding, then moving on. I’m thinking that there is newish style of creating tonal puddles based on this format. Each puddle gives way to the next. Then the piece ends. In Mr. Ricketts’s case, the penultimate moment was a passionate, but quickly disappearing climactic moment, re-orchestrated, from the Mahler first movement. It couldn’t stay long, or it would have been Mahler. Just a swipe at it.

I’m ambivalent about putting these two young composers with short pieces before the gigantic Mahler symphony. A little unfair. At the end of the evening my head was filled to overflowing with “ear worms” from its four movements. Usually it’s days, if not weeks for these ear worms to subside. Not much room for anything else. These things rise up from the unconscious, or someplace in there, just to the level of singability, but of course can’t be sung, because the underlying pulsing harmony can only be thought. I’m not sure I like this ear worm thing, but I know I can’t control it. It has to die down at its own rate, and something else must replace it.

Now a little poem on varied repetition: Iterative, re-iterative, iteravia, via, vi…. Another meaning to repetition in music is this continuous varied-repetition of long, well-formed melodic sentences. (One of my mentors in composition idly mentioned, the great length of a musical sentence in Mahler, which surprised me coming from a indomitable modernist.) Well-formed, by the way, includes ellipses, contractions, interruptions as part of a whole sentence, not some abstract symmetrical balancing.

Did Mahler have (“suffer” from) ear worms? How would we know?The simplicity of the melodic phrases—the parts of his long melodies— seems to force him into a paroxysm of increasing intensities of varied repetitions in the melodies and their orchestral counterpoints. Because of the simplicity of the original, and the obsessional nature of the composer? Were his putative ear worms vernacular borrowings or originals that sound inspired by vernacularities? Whatever you think about this, you have to create a special category of the archetype Repetition to account for Mahler’s underlying insistence on a musical gesture—call them themes, melodies, motives, or sentences. It’s not like Bruckner’s or Wagner’s iterative-ness. Nor Terry Riley’s nor Steve Reich’s, nor my own. Something special! It digs into you. It’s another kind of trance. I can imagine hating it because you believe that restraint is an essential part of art. But the only restraint necessary is that required by the instruments playing, and, historically, this has changed, partly because of Mahler’s composing. And every new generation of composers.

(Just to correct: the Argento string section: was 4,4,3,2,1)

Thumbnail Review #40

Mahler’s 9th Rules – Even in a Chamber Version!

So, it was reduced forces like 2 horns instead of 4, 1 trumpet, 2 clarinets, 1 flute, etc., no lower brass, and strings: 3,3,3,2,1. No harp? It’s impossible without harp to do the 9th! But so cleverly, the piano and yes, that was an accordion, did amazing things to sound like all those missing instruments—the piano as harp was my favorite, but also its “lower brass” explosions were tasty. It was the Argento Chamber Ensemble conducted by Michel Galante. My friend and collaborator, Stephanie Griffin led the viola section and tipped me off to this September 15th New York premiere (of the chamber version)—seems to me it was a first—at the Advent Lutheran Church, Broadway and 93rd where they have a free Monday music series.

What worked amazingly was the completely adequate volume in the loud sections. It was overpowering where required. I sat close to minimize excess church reverb, but the direct sound was satisfyingly loud. (An aside: the emotional climax driven, formally clinched pushing-through (Durchbruch, or breakthrough—Adorno) must, of course, leverage the sheer phenomenon of acoustic volume, Must! Mahler is all about how to do climaxes right, and then what should follow.)

What didn’t work in the chamber orchestra version was interesting. Not the missing instruments: and especially not-missing were all those piquant solos in Mahler’s full orchestra original, no problemo! No, rather it was the counterpoint—I really mean something more generic even than counterpoint, the counterbalancing of competing rhythmic channels—among the five string groups, especially the upper three. So much information, expressional verve, sheer thrill is in the way these bodies play against and with each other within the generous harmonic framework of the whole. But strings merged as one body all too often, and especially in loud tutti sections.

But the symphony as a successful artifact was all there, and wove its amazing web. And we thank Klaus Simon, a theorist commissioned by Universal Edition, Mahler’s publisher, for this brilliant feat. And for Michel Galante’s directing these fabulous musicians. A free concert on the Upper West Side is a dangerous demographic act if you want to attract people as young as these performers were. Yes, dangerous, because it was, movingly, a geriatric crowd with lots of walkers and wheelchairs in the aisles… We love our culture, and many of us, our Mahler! I’m thinking of images of those young string players biting down and into those forte attacks in those crucial places, because expression is a function of the gestures’ placement in music’s time experience, and in feeling’s time.

I loved the lilting regularity of the opening Andante, first movement. I once touted this quality of the piece to Ann as being the perfect long, long theme for “meditative walking” (yes: the meaning of the best andantes for me is meditative walking). But when I took her to a full orchestra performance, the conductor made so many stretchings, speedups and slowdowns of these opening bars and pages, that I had to look at her helpslessly and say, oh: I guess not. Anyway, Michel Galante understood the movement’s beginning in the right way for me. The unfolding of the long, long theme and its varied repetitions was hypnotic because of the regularity, and much more cumulatively affecting than those other ways of doing it.

Only the viciously contrapuntal Rondo Burleske third movement didn’t work that well. The fast clip meant that the final stretto section had to be too fast to hear much detail, becoming an exciting mess of sound, only, instead of a hilariously thrilling combining of all the ideas at once in a headlong race to the end.

Another review on the two new pieces by young composers influenced by Mahler’s 9th will come in another thumb nail review..

Thumbnail Review #39

Beauty, a Thumb-nail Review

I’m more convinced than ever, and long before today’s text from NASA (below), that we are hard-wired for finding beauty “in nature,” including, of course, the cosmos. Repeating patterns and symmetries bent by the complex processes of “nature” (including ours) is what we see all the time, even when we are just seeing our own retina. It just keeps happening. Of course it’s not the only kind of beauty we find, but it’s a start. And it’s as true of sound as it is of sight. Morton Feldman’s title, “Crippled Symmetries” puts an odd spin on it, but that piece and others of his testifies to the connection I’m making. Once, looking down from an airline on snow patterns scattered on a rectangular grid of Mid-Western farmland, I thought of the term: “collage of processes” to describe what I was seeing. That’s also a way of describing some kinds of composing. (Fractals is another part of what we see and hear. Let’s leave them for another time.)

“Explanation: Beautiful emission nebula NGC 6164 was created by a rare, hot, luminous O-type star, some 40 times as massive as the Sun. Seen at the center of the cosmic cloud, the star is a mere 3 to 4 million years old. In another three to four million years the massive star will end its life in a supernova explosion. Spanning around 4 light-years, the nebula itself has a bipolar symmetry. That makes it similar in appearance to more common and familiar planetary nebulae – the gaseous shrouds surrounding dying sun-like stars. Also like many planetary nebulae, NGC 6164 has been found to have an extensive, faint halo, revealed in this deep telescopic image of the region. Expanding into the surrounding interstellar medium, the material in the halo is likely from an earlier active phase of the O star. The gorgeous skyscape is a composite of extensive narrow-band image data…” [My emphases.]
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ for May 22nd, 2014.

The passage from NASA goes on to talk about “glowing atomic hydrogen gas in red and oxygen in blue hues” Glowing red and blue hues is an invitation to beauty.

Thumb-nail Review #38

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