December 21st, Saturday, 2 PM, Meet in the park at Spring Street and 6th Avenue. Event lasts less than an hour.
Please join me for the 2nd annual Make Music New York Winter Solstice participative performance of “Soho Gamelan Walk.”
This year we will play a Building in F. We will hand drum on the outside hollow cast-iron façade of a building that is in the “key of F.” So, bring an instrument with which you can improvise in F-major. Or use your voice. (Musicians: there is also a prominent B-natural in this chord of F)
Here’s a picture of it:
Check out this feature of Daniel Goode on MMNY.
“Composer Daniel Goode will lead participants, aided by a neighborhood map and suggested drumming rhythms, through a portion of Soho’s cast iron district. Using their hands, the group will drum on the hollow cast iron fronts of the “best” buildings. The piece ends when a select number of buildings have been turned into musical instruments.” MMNY Winter Feature!
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.
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.
July 2, 2011 4:01:06 PM EDT
Why should we care? Because some of us love the music. Some of us even commit that chauvinist crime of saying: “He’s the greatest Jewish composer” as if there were a contest out there. (He was reviled with anti-semitism in Vienna during his lifetime, especially around his directorship of the Vienna Court Opera). But two of the most progressive conductor’s, Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas (both Jewish), both of whom regarded Mahler as central to their lives, are just full of the usual clichés about him. Oh, like: that those wonderful and suggestive, disintegrating endings to his final works are “about death” or about his death. Well, maybe they are, but HE never said that. The latest slew of these interpretations came in a visually elegant public television program conceived by Tilson Thomas called “Keeping Score.” I won’t list instances here, maybe some other time. Actually the best one-liners came from the first clarinetist, Corey Bell, of the SF Symphony (featured in the film). He spoke about the “skin-of-your-teeth tonalities” in the Scherzo of the 7th Symphony, and of the “corners to hide out in.” Thomas does get off one perceptive analysis: tracing the use of the musical “turn” from Mahler’s first work, “Songs of a Wayfarer” to the final movements of his last two completed works. And the importance of the tone, A, in that early work and then in the climax of the first movement of his 10th Symphony.
A final shot of Thomas at Mahler’s grave in Grinzing, a suburb of Vienna, shows without comment, stones placed in the traditional Jewish manner on top of the Mahler’s gravestone. His remains were not allowed to be buried in the same cemetery as Beethoven and Schubert. “Those who love me will find me” he said. Thumbnail review.
February 25, 2012 5:04:40 PM EST
“American Mavericks” series. The usual suspects: Ives, Ruggles, Cage, Feldman, etc. plus whichever young(er) ones can be wedged in between those. So, then who are the un-mavericks? Copland? Or just other American composers not considered important nowadays, like Howard Hanson? I think “mavericks” are the American composers. I’ll be a little snarky and question John Adams as a “maverick.” LIke him or not (I like Shaker Loops), he seems more of a Copland/Hanson mix than a Cage/Ives kind of person.
“Who Changed Music Forever.” Well, not a claim I’d want to make about (again: like ’em or not) Mason Bates, David Del Tredici, Elliot Sharp, Jennifer Higdon, Missy Mazzoli. Martin Bresnick. Granted, maverick is a marketing term, and it’s been around for a long time to rope a bunch of composers together without otherwise branding them. But that was then (decade or so ago)… Ho hum now. And finally, every festival is political in that after the banner of great masters passes, others will be chosen by someone to fill in the ranks behind. The choosers are key to understanding this.
Thumbnail review of the brochure for Michael Tilson Thomas’s “American Mavericks,” March, 2012, New York.
April 26th, 20012
Robert Ashley says in a video on line that Broadway musicals are too musically symmetrical, are only in 4/4 or 3/4, and don’t deal with the rich language of diphthongs found in the English language. He’s being interviewed about his new opera—his term—The Old Man Lives in Concrete, currently at Roulette. But what he said could be about any of his recent music theater works, written for and performed by his trusted band of vocalists: Joan LaBarbara, Jacqueline Humbert, Sam Ashley (yes, it’s his son), and Tom Buckner. Besides the text (he calls it a libretto), the program credits him with composing the “electronic orchestra.” Tom Hamilton composed “Orchestra frames for the four singers,” and did the “Mixing and live electronics.” I’m tip-toeing carefully around these credits, because, in a certain sense, Bob Ashley, hasn’t composed a note, and yet, it’s all because of him. I’m struck primarily that the five monologues (he’s the fifth, “Bob (Observer)” never relate to each other, and unlike in earlier works, similar in style and forces, there are no longer the exquisitely timed choral ensembles of these five musician-actors. I miss those chanted, spoken choruses because they made for the ‘togetherness’ I think of as being an essence of opera. And they were wonders of ensemble performance.
Elaborate, eloquent…but still: talking heads, these monologues. And yet, not talking to each other. Could other monologues by Ashley be substituted without changing the nature of the work? Would “Bob (Observer)” then have to have other observations? When is a libretto a collage? I think in this case. John Cage’s Europera is an in-your-face collage of all things European and operatic. But Ashley has always been different from Cage in my mind. His texts, taken singly, are stories, told in the first person. They seem to be different characters with different energies and texture. But they are not part of one overall story. Some synergy is lost by this, and the whole tended to lose me. Is Bob Ashley now a composer of texts in which the music kind of goes on anyway? He’s made a music machine that spins out his ruminative sentences. That should be a real accomplishment. But:
Suddenly, I wanted something more: the very subtle (or was it my imagined ‘more’?) way that certain pitch inflections of a reciter seemed to appear in the electronic mix accompanying them—spoke to me, but, I thought: why not more of this, it would be beautiful, engaging. One wants to fall in love at the opera. Or at least hear some singing. I felt impatient with the restraint expressed in the music. I wanted a re-write so that these fabulously expressive performers would stand up, go out in front of their desks and stand lights, and then belt out something together…or even not together!
I saw the first half of the show, and wandered out into the rich, damp Spring of seedy, Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, wondering what an opera is and why I care.
May 4, 2012 6:41:29 PM EDT
Good to hear from you, Micheline. We should talk some time about what’s happening in New York. Actually, I’m not sure “what’s happening in NY.” I try, but come up with issues, venues, and generations, and of course, economics just as often as a name or a piece of music I like or don’t like. I’ll never forget hearing Phil Glass’s Music in 12 Parts (one or two of them) in his Bleecker St. loft, with the four loud speakers at the four corners, the listeners in a circle next, and the musicians, mostly, but not all amplified, in the center of that circle. Must have been early 70’s. So, everything’s good about that Phil Glass, and really nothing bad at all. It’s just that the brand, Phil Glass or another brand, is what rules new classical music. I have a problem with this! Because of what that means in practice. And the cover of the Musicworks with that familiar brand, in face form, well: is he going to be like Elliott Carter?—every 5 years (Carter’s about 103) it’s time for another round of THE birthday festival. That jumped out at me while I was writing to the circulation department with which I’ve had some lively correspondence now and then. I decided because of that “threat” (the 5-year festival threat), that I would only celebrate my prime number birthdays. Next one’s 79. This does not a brand make!
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write.
I received your e-mail concerning our choice to cover Philip Glass from our Operation and Circulation Manager, Andrea Warren.
As you know, we endeavour to cover Canadian and international artists at various points in the development of their crafts.
Last issue we made the decision to cover Glass in light of the major remounting of Einstein on the Beach—a seminal piece in 20th-century opera.
We regularly cover U.S. and international artists both known and well known between our covers.
Recent profiles include:
Nico Muhly (U.S.)
Clint Conley (U.S.)
STEIM and Michel Waisvisz (The Netherlands)
Tristan Perich (U.S.)
Miquel Azguime and Casa da Musica (Portugal)
Jörg Piringer (Austria)
Nadine Byrne, Mattias Petersson, and Henrik Rylander (Sweden)
Elodie Lauten (U.S.)
Yannis Kyriakides (The Netherlands/Cyprus)
Avatar Orchestra Metaverse (worldwide/internet)
We hope that this puts our recent coverage of Philip Glass in context of what we do.
Editor, Musicworks Magazine
May 11, 2012 12:39:53 PM EDT
Steven Beck performed the complete solo piano music of Carter this May 5th at the New Spectrum Foundation on 23rd Street, NYC. It was about an hour and a half of very technically demanding music which he played with panache and complete conviction. He was a pleasure.
The music was either soft-ish, loud, or very loud. It was either very fast or slow. You could cut a swatch of it at any time from his continuing career (he’s 103) and it would sort of sound the same—similar. (I’ve thought that of Philip Glass, too, on the other end of the spectrum of style). Punkt. Period. That’s all. Nothing more to say. Nada.
Well, there’s a little more: Most of the music makes an auditory impression of cantus fermi. There is a long, accented series of tones, “elaborated on” by very fast sprinkles of notes in between and around. Both layers are non-tonal. It’s amazing how few gestures he uses, but also, how tedious to hear them over and over again.
I am, admittedly, looking through blurry glasses which can only discern general shapes and qualities. I’m not sure I want to focus in.
It’s catty, but fun to say that Carter’s Little [Liver] Pills must work, because the family invention has given their composer-son a century plus of life and creativity. Thumbnail review.