Daniel Goode

Composer & Performer

Bells and Cells in Tully Hall Atrium, February 22nd

February 24, 2011 12:08:47 AM EST

It can’t be the first audience-does-cell phones in a high art chamber music event, but was my first, and it’s got to be one of the best. Nathan Davis, the new percussionist/ composer with ICE, was commissioned to compose for the recently opened atrium on street level at Lincoln Center—a glassy, high-frequency resonant, flashy, bar-friendly entrance to the concert hall. On entering we were each given a a card saying “Please unsilence your phone. When you hear bells, dial the number on the reverse and enter any one of the access codes…” Circulating the space was like being in a forest of chirping industrial insects. It reminded me of those burbling short wave radio sounds that accompanied global communications before the internet and cell phones. With flute, piccolo, clarinet, 12 spatially traveling players of crotales and triangles, the composer above us on a glassed in balcony adding more percussion and a huge gong agung—it was a lovely twenty-five minutes. Cap your ear and you got another, filtered composition. Walking among the speakerphones, I greet a friend, listen to what her cell is broadcasting, drink a coffee…..

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Buckner’s, the Only “inter-racial” New Music Audience

March 11, 2011 9:57:52 PM EST

That’s because, since he came to NY from SF (Arch Records was his great new music label in SF), he started performing (baritone), commissioning and premiering Black artists from the AACM (George Lewis just did that big book on them, “A Power Greater Than Itself”—hope Musicworks reviewed it). They came and so did their audience. Unique in NY. Roscoe Mitchell, the talented wind player/composer was represented from that original AACM group at Buckner’s Interpretations Series, March 10th. Peter Garland, Michael Byron, and Fred Ho were the others on the program. Joseph Kubera pianoed. Sold out house in Soho. Tom Buckner is the “George Soros” of new music. He puts his money where his mouth is: into progressive causes. More power to them both. All the pieces were interesting, urgent vocal/instrumental essays. Peter Kotik’s Buckminster Fuller/Gertrude Stein setting was from 1971. Peter Garland’s “Smokey the Bear Sutra” setting of Gary Snyder was from 2007, clangorous, conch shells, bass drum, singer, marimba, smokin’ in a minimalist way of layering. Michael Byron’s Anne Tardos setting (“Pure of Heart”) was brand new.

Notice there were no women composers on the program. There were a couple in the audience. It’s still a mystery why that bulge of women composers that came in the ’70’s seems to have disappeared into business as usual. Something to explore. Maybe it’s less true in Canada then the U.S.—hot from NY

Byron and Polansky, Maximalist Piano Music at Interpretations in Soho

March 17, 2011 11:51:10 PM EDT

Maybe it is or is not Kyle Gann’s definition of maximalist. But intensity of piano composition, played brilliantly by Kubera and Nonken, could qualify. Both composers winged into the air as Minimalism was fading into the sunset while flaccid Post Modernism rose in the East. They each took some major ideas from high minimalism: Polansky is one of the most versatile algorithmic composers, often using his own software inventions. Byron started out with some idiosyncratic “spacey” non-pulse related clouds of sounds and has become a rigorous modal moto perpetuo composer of a non-down beat variety. In fact in both Larry Polansky’s Three Pieces for Two Pianos and Michael Byron’s Book of Horizons (for piano solo) met in a kindred world of non-pulsed, two (or more in Polansky)-part counterpoint, rhapsodic, stretching toward but never reaching a cadential moment. They’ve been friends since they met in Toronto in the mid-1970’s. Christian Wolff’s Exercise 20 (Acres of Clams) was also played brilliantly by Nonkin and Kubera. Piano in a world of Internet and virtuality? Think again about what’s important. The object, the piano object, the former center of classical music composition, is back, never left, always inspiring new work. Larry links up to Jim Tenney. Michael seems sui generis to me, but at one time was part of the California minimalist scene, as was Peter Garland and a host of others, a master of it was Harold Budd. Sunset seems a fitting atmospheric, a tonal, sometimes romantic use of harmony put in new repetitive structures, not at all formalist, as was Steve Reich. And on and on. Try an adjective, or an analytic: “not-New York.” That was then.

Goebbels (H.) Does Gertrude (S.) at the New Tully Hall this Eve

March 19, 2011 1:40:25 AM EDT

Estonian conductor Anu Tali’s platinum ponytail over her musician’s-black uniform beating a metronomic 4/4: was mesmerizing. Heiner G. said in an interview that he knows he’ll always be confused with Joseph G., Hitler’s minister of propaganda. So he’s inoculated himself from this by setting passionate cantorial singing, sampled in his Sampler Suite, from Surrogate Cities. It began with a lighting blast on a male bass drum player smacking the instrument, two handed, with giant switches. It did take the breath away. Was the piece, as a whole, brilliant imagination or crap with brilliant lighting?… He “micromanages” the lighting according to one orchestra member. The whole stage dramatically changes its illumination at apt musical moments. In the Stein piece, it is in the score that the downstage part of the orchestra is all women (dressed in solid colors), who recite on mic and also play the orchestral instruments, while at the back are the men players dressed in black, who never recite. Stein’s World War II text, “Wars I have seen” was Goebbels 2007 hommage to her 1943 observations of everyday life in her adopted France. A friend in the audience, a holocaust survivor, was revolted by Stein’s line that “you could always get butter.” He said butter was unobtainable, and he only tasted peanut butter after the war. He fried it with an egg; called Stein “superficial.” I suggested that maybe in southern France she had a neighbor with a cow. Butter was next door. Spectacular playing by the London Sinfonietta, and a newer ensemble, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The latter (women) did the Stein aided by the men from the Sinfonietta. Not like American, Canadian, or even most European music said another friend. Orchestra as theater. Not since Fellini’s hilarious, “Orchestra Rehearsal.” But Goebbels is suitably serious, even “Germanic.” And NOT boring. Interesting that both orchestras were 20th Century versions of the 16th-17 century “broken consort.” (Approx. one of each instrument.) The festival of the new hall ends, demonstrates that the social redesign of this high-art temple is successful: the new Tully Hall is fun for mingling, and for listening to music. Some eating and drinking too. Thumbnail review. Spring means music overload.

Roi Reviews: more H. Goebbels

March 19, 2011 10:50:53 PM EDT

3/18/11 Tully performance

Orchestra qua Theater. But why? It is (they’re) the medium, not the message. I have a feeling that he’s spinning his wheels waiting for a suitable text or libretto to come along. His wheels are well oiled. The Surrogate Cities raised that question most. But in the G. Stein, it was so over-the-top all the time. But the Stein is so intentionally flat. A mismatch spiritually. Still, along with cantorial music samples, he is associating himself with Jews, and with lesbians. Well inoculated. I thank him for that.

He doesn’t need more than an acoustically thin “broken consort” (or the Schoenberg kammersymphonie/radio orchestra) sized orchestra because he adds a mesmerizing layer of sampled invariably THICK drone-ish, or rhythmic texture which distances and interprets the chamber orchestra’s sounds. These drones and samples become electronic hooks themselves—that’s possible now, ever since techno, and before that, electronic music and radio. H.G. has beautiful white hair and a large frame dressed in musician’s black. I complimented him on giving new life to the “broken consort” (he even had a theorbo in the mix). At first he looked puzzled, but then got it, and thanked me for coming.

The chamber orchestra is being re-contextualized with lighting and concrete sounds. And you hear right away not to focus on the instrumental orchestration, melody, etc. But what are all the bells and whistles focusing you on? They were beautiful bells and whistles. The new Tully sound system and lighting were spectacular. So resources count. At times I thought of it as an “uptown Richard Foreman.” Instead of a mad cacophony of actual bells and whistles in Foreman, we had smooth, elegant textures of fabulous instrumentalists doing difficult imaginative music. Flashing lights and breathtaking cuts.

Music for Merce CD Party

March 22, 2011 6:40:25 PM EDT

10 disks from New World Records of composers for the Cunningham Dance Co. In the audience or on stage were those still alive. Wonderful artists. To single out is to ignore. 2 concerts-worth. Kosugi’s incredibly intense mouth sounds, hand filtered, and later an ear-splitting oscillator piece that was thrilling, if dangerous. Gordon Mumma’s elegant short piano pieces, he played beautifully, presided professorially, dressed the part. Christian Wolff, calm and steady at the piano. (We were told that he composed his first piece for the Company when he was 18). A beautiful sax sound from Matana Roberts, not part of the cohort on the disks. Only criticism, is that all the original pieces were composed for dance. Only one film clip was shown, at the head, but the electric nature of the music and image when combined really eclipsed the rest of day and evening concerts as experience, though not as to accomplishment.

Monodramas @ NYC Opera, 4/8/11

April 9, 2011 11:03:36 AM EDT

Zorn, Schoenberg, Feldman (interesting that all three are Jewish). I hope the NYC Opera prospers in its Lincoln Center home, refurbished courtesy of David H. Koch, billionaire buster of Wisconsin unions. In every way, the “David H. Koch Theater” is just as ugly as its former, named New York State Theater, but he gave it an extra aisle in the orchestra. These are not really operas, but female vocal one-act arias. Big trouble in directorial concept: gratuitous staging and choreography—the wheels grinding away with shiny descending cubes, ascending bodies, comic-book balloon flats for elaborate projections (Zorn opera), but without binding force on the music. Zorn’s La Machine De L’Etre, an hommage to Artaud, sounded like the early non-triadic score of Schoenberg’s. Amazing how in 1909 during Mahler’s last symphonic composing, Schoenberg had a whole vocabulary of orchestrated, free and easy colorful non-tonalism. Feldman’s 1976, minimalist Neither, setting a Beckett text, sung on high notes by Cyndia Sieden was also over-staged, tainting the music with its pretentious stage-craft. Funny how Feldman ended up being more of a committed minimalist than those famous brand-makers we all know so well.

Standing on the subway platform, I heard a sound reminiscent of the high, heterophonic, bell-like string tones towards the end of the final piece: the Feldman. What was it? Oh, yes, the sound of each individual subway rider as the turnstile acknowledges their card swipe. Doppler effects bringing microtonal resonances to our ears.

Thumbnail review.

Christian Marclay

April 17, 2011 12:57:29 PM EDT

Zaidie Smith’s luminous review in a recent NY Review of Books of his apparently amazing 24-hour film, The Clock (which I missed) didn’t make one very important distinction. In showing clips of films with the narrative moment fixed on the clock time shown, Marclay must of course erase the critical tension imparted to that film-moment by its maker. But that’s why we can call Christian Marclay “post-modern.” According to the reviewer, however, there was a huge increase in audience excitement as The Clock approached the film’s midnight hour. Thumbnail review of a review.

Another Listen? for Mahler Messiaen

April 28, 2011 2:44:57 PM EDT

NY Phil. sounded ravishing in the Mahler 5th. In such HD liveness, it’s overwhelming, though the last, the 5th movement is superfluous. Olivier M. is the most “mahlerian” of modern French composers, but Couleurs de la cité is not one of those scores. Piano with clarinets, brass, percussion (with very fast 4-player mallet unisons!) is cluster-heterophony, and is mostly high frequency, though the 2 tuned gongs are midrange and ho-hum, and two tamtams for noise a la Varese, also ho-hum. Intimate, still in an orchestral setting even when loud. Emanuel Ax: pf. Was the downstage clarinetist playing a D- or C-Clarinet? And besides tubular bells and gongs, what was the third percussionist playing? And if Alan Gilbert had conducted this open dress rehearsal straight through, what satisfying? gestalt would have emerged of the Couleurs. I’m arguing for my going back for a performance tomorrow, because sometimes after a musical even I’m all questions and few answers. Another reason: I’ll get choked-up now and then during the 4 Mahler movements, but that’s an expectation, not a certainty. Ax playing Debussy Estampes for piano alone? is this a programmed encore? Questions, kvetches, or kvestions?

Peter Garland, Solo Piano @ the Stone

May 12, 2011 10:45:22 PM EDT

Last night, two sets, all his music but for Terry Jennings’ “Winter Sun” (1966), and Michael Byron’s “Song of the Lifting Up of the Head” (1972). Peter, anti-establishment from a very establishment Maine family, transposed to Cal Arts in 1971, was part of the important Southern California minimalist school, mentored by Harold Budd, so gracefully and fully a minimalist himself. David Mahler, Tom Nixon, Jim Fox were some of the others, as a group more “minimalist” —if that has meaning—than anyone else except, arguably, La Monte Young or Philip Corner on the East Coast. Probably “more minimalist” doesn’t have much meaning, let’s scratch it. The Stone is a hard-to-cool, windowless storefront tucked into corner of the Lower East Side, paid for by John Zorn, and curated by a constantly changing bunch. This month it’s been Steve Peters. Next monty it’s Paul Tai of New World Records. Garland was also important in the 70’s and 80’s for his periodical, “Soundings” (subsidized by philanthropist, Betty Freeman) which published a host of important compositions and composers (full disclosure: one piece of mine was published there). With Byron’s “Pieces,” and the trail-blazing 60’s “Source,” these must be remembered as the era of hard-copy, beautifully looking bound objects, continuing a small but crucial tradition going back to Cowell’s “New Music Editions” of the 30’s. Remember these hand-held, caressable things, oh, you Internet mavens of the 21st Century! Unrepeatable, unscanable. So the music was uncompromising, beautiful, simple, resonant, even redolent of a time of ideological fresh air blowing out the dust of a tired Modernism. In the third movement of four commissioned by Sarah Cahill, titled as a whole “After the Wars” (2007-08), Peter hid the attacks of the melody note under a full chord, building up long phrases of such timbrally unique “after-tones”—soft, little magic lights-in-sound, an antidote to the car horns, the drunken catcalls, bangings of all kinds which leak into the avant sound world of the Stone. Thumbnail review.