Scott MacClelland reports "Metamorphosis" to be played at the always interesting Cabrillo Music Festival. His work will be played at Mission San Juan Bautista, a sometimes hot but always compelling venue (also the site of the conclusion to Vertigo).
WGBH's Art of the States streams the harsh and beautiful "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion" by James Tenney. Quoting the percussionist William Winant:
[Sonic Youth] and I decided to do work by contemporary avant garde composers that we could all learn together. I chose most of the pieces and had Lee Ranaldo contact some of the composers and collect scores from the various publishers. I knew I'd have to find things that would work with these specific people and their instruments, either as a solo, quartet, quintet, or sextet. I chose graphic scores with open instrumentation and varying degrees of indeterminacy written into them. Plus, between myself, Jim O'Rourke and the composers who were at the session -- Takehisa Kosugi and Christian Wolff -- we were able to explain how the compositions were supposed to work.
See aworks on Steve Reich and James Tenney at the Bang on a Can Festival.
Great interview of Carter by Geoffrey Norris of the Telegraph. Norris mentions "Boston Concerto" will be heard at the Londomn Proms. But the interview is really Carter attacking minimalism, and maybe, at 96, being the last living modernist...
With his own music driven by change and diversity, what is his view of the popular trend of minimalism? "It's death," says Carter. "If you write one bar and then repeat it over again, the music ceases to have anything to do with the composer, from my point of view, anyway. It means a person's stopped living. It doesn't have anything to do with music.
"Well, it obviously does, because some people think it's very good. But I don't understand that. I think that one of the big problems we live with is that that kind of repetition is everywhere, in advertising, in public address systems, and in politicians always saying the same thing. We live in a minimalist world, I feel. That's what I think. Those other people can think what they think."
This is so contrary to the "Philip Glass/zen/let people have their own experience" aesthetic. It's the New York equivalent of the old LA Schoenberg/Stravinsky dichotomy.
Having listened closely to Carter's "Changes", for solo guitar this morning and now coincidentally tonight, minimalism's greatest achievement, Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians", albeit as background music, what's the verdict?
Ahh, to be alive 50 years from now to see how it all turns out...
Here's a proxy for Glass versus Carter with a "folksy" George Crumb substituting for Glass.
Here's the "masterpiece" scorecard in the American Record Guide review by Allen Gimbel of John Adam's Earbox, a 10-disk retrospective released by Nonesuch.
-John's Book of Alleged Dances
-The Wound Dresser
-Two Fanfares for Orchestra
-Nixon in China
-The Death of Klinghoffer
-The Chairman Dances
-Christian Zeal and Activity
-Common Tones in Simple Time
-arrangements of four Charles Ives songs
-Grand Pianola Music
-I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Saw the Sky
Andrew Clark in the Financial Times describes the east/west fusion of "The Song and Dance of Tears." Then, he comments on nationalism:
It would be foolish to draw conclusions from this swathe of new music in New York, other than that American orchestras, arts patrons and audiences are dazzled by the Chinese-American phenomenon, and that its exponents have started, like Reich and Glass, to repeat themselves. When all is said and done, nationality should not influence our judgment. There is good music, and there is mediocre and bad music: these are the only distinctions that count.
But in the overload of possible music to listen to and focus on, using a nationalism "filter" before making distinctions between good and bad, is useful.
Steve Greenlee and June Wulff write in the Boston Globe
The twisted and delicate balance between pop culture and coolness has tipped the wrong way and made it fashionable to dislike composer Philip Glass. His chiming Grammy-nominated score for ''The Hours'' was roundly derided last year, yet we find it (and just about all of his other scores, including ''Koyaanisqatsi'') mesmerizing.
Ok, maybe "Koyaanisqatsi" is mesmerizing, but just about all of his other scores?
Kyle Gann discusses memorability and simplicity and quality (and the lack thereof in most music by Eliott Carter and Pierre Boulez).
And it wasn't just listening. In the '70s every young composer analyzed Carter's Second String Quartet, and I was no exception. I started with loads of enthusiasm, but increasingly found the ideas unmusical: especially that the tritones were all in the viola, the perfect fifths all in the second violin (or whatever - I disremember the details), which isn't something one can hear in a polyphonic texture. It's a stupid idea, really. And as fanatical as I am about tempo contrasts, Carter's seemed mechanical and musically unmotivated. I came to think that Carter had invested a lot of time in overly literal aspects of music that didn't appeal to the ear. As I'm always reminding my students, art isn't about reality, it's about appearances.
I'll suggest Koyaanisqatsi is an example of music better in the moment than upon later reflection. Which then raises the question of whether or not remembering the film while listening to the music enhances the experience? The music has poignance and some sense of foreboding. Would it have even that if one hasn't seen the film or known the premise of the story?
Choosing the woodblock is not pure happenstance either. It is the lead driver that pulls me into John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine. The piece has thrust and excitement and pulls away from the concept that minimalism has to be restrictive, diminishing, or exclusionary. Short Ride is explosive and includes as much as possible in as short amount of time as possible, but in the end, it is still minimalism. And that woodblock follows you through nearly the entire piece!
The inaugural Music@Menlo chamber music festival will have one concert (August 17 and in Palo Alto on August 18) focusing on contemporary music, including John Harbison's "November 19, 1828" for piano and string trio (1988). Other works:
- Fancy on a Bach Air for solo cello (1997). John Corigliano.
- Four Movements for Piano Trio (1990). Bright Sheng.
- "Yiddishbuk" Inscriptions for string quartet (1992). Osvaldo Golijov.
- Aftermath for medium voice, violin, cello, and piano (2002). Ned Rorem.
Performers include Gilbert Kalish, Wu Han, Jorja Fleezanis, Ani Kavafian, Geraldine Walther, Carter Brey, David Finckel, the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Nathaniel Webster.