My former college professor Dean Guy’s disposition towards life galvanized my own resolve to become a composer. His attitude continues to impact me every day.
Composer John Harbison says that he is trying to “defeat the idea of style.” That is, he tries to approach every new composition with completely fresh ears and eyes, working with totally new musical material and strategies well apart from anything that preceded it. He possesses a deep understanding of music, but the richness of his music is also a byproduct of his broad interests beyond music—such as poetry and history—as well as his untiring curiosity about the world in which we live.
When it was obvious being a jazz musician was my calling (in many ways thanks to my understanding of the possibilities demonstrated by the Bill Evans trio), I moved to New York. Any chance I got, I went to see Paul Motian play. I always wanted to play music with my hero. When the moment came and I was ready, I contacted Paul with the help of bassist Ed Schuller, who had played with him on several occasions, and asked them to make a record with me.
A side effect of George Edwards’s sense of rectitude was his exaggerated abhorrence of self-promotion. Partly for this reason, his music has not reached a large public. The other reason is that the music is inherently complex and private. An oddity of his life and work is that his music scarcely ever manifests the manic humor and semi-suppressed aggression that were such integral features of his personality. Music was his refuge, his inner sanctum of order, beauty, and refined expression.
Ordinarily, the second draft is when I make the piece more of what the first draft suggests. This time, however, a piece of crucial information surfaced after the first draft was complete but before the second got swinging.
In the past two decades, I cannot think of a single instance of a musical style—whether experimental or otherwise—frightening the public. Where is the new version of punk and its associations with anarchistic youth running amok? Where is the experimental music that causes society to take notice, in order to condemn its nature? In today’s world, is it possible to create music that will frighten the world into taking notice? Or have we seen the end of music that scares people?
The headliners of the Umbrella Music Festival come out to play on the nights the music returns to its standard haunts. The performances on those three days focus on established local groups mixed in with visiting players who have had a profound influence on the Chicago improvised music scene.
Big rooms, slick clothes, and pricey intermission drink prices have their place, but I thought I should get out to shows organized by smaller, less tightly knit groups, where the filters are off and the experimentation is on. I also thought that I’d seen lots of fiddles and horns, so it might be worth finding a show where there’s more plugged in than the announcer’s microphone.
Even though there have been rumors that the major record labels will be discontinuing the production of physical recordings as early as next year, it’s difficult to imagine that there won’t always be a devoted market for the corporeal stuff. Over the weekend, I got rid of the couch in my living room to make room for more shelves for recordings.
Composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto has won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. This year’s award is $100,000.
I couldn’t believe how much sound Paul Motian got from the tiny set he used, but it was really hard to watch him. Sometimes I thought he was going to miss whatever drum or cymbal he was aiming at. Actually, I couldn’t tell what he was aiming at because his arms would float around until the very last instant that he decided what he was going to play.
The first day of the Umbrella Music Festival got under way with co-curator Dave Rempis describing Chicago as a “nexus of creative improvised music.” He went on to describe the city as “a resonant, nodal point that makes connections with players and listeners worldwide.” The music that followed reflected upon the vibrancy of the Chicago music scene, as well as the sonic communications that cross both genre boundaries and international borders.
Today, local enterprising young musicians inhabit a musical world almost totally free of the boundaries previously posed by genres and traditions, a world where contentious issues—formal attire, “alt-classical”—aren’t even issues anymore. They have sidestepped whole entire philosophical debates and simply decided to do what they wanted to do, which, of course, is what people in the Bay Area have been doing for a long time.
Today’s mainstream opera collects the resources of traditional opera—bel canto vocalism, the orchestra, rotating scenery—and yokes them to the movies, without whose world-spanning reach and glossy grasp they are at a steep and possibly terminal market disadvantage. Is this a problem or a solution?
For individual singers and choirs of all sizes and styles, special choral events, collaborations, and guest performances can bring a whole new range of experiences to choral musicians and take the choral repertoire to a vast new audience.
French and German accents can still be found across the Boston musical landscape—the Boston Symphony, under James Levine, seemed to double down on its Munch-era French specialization, while the Boston Lyric Opera, under new leadership, has been taking tentative steps into the realm of Regietheater. New music has always been more of a grab bag. But a couple of concerts this month at least took that old German-French axis as a starting point—though the music ended up in rather more cosmopolitan territory.
All of this has me wondering: What intellectual and artistic tools are necessary for composers? What abilities should all students of composition seek to master? I perceive this list as a starting point and am curious as to what tools you believe are necessary for the craft of composition.
For an album peppered with so many electronic sources, much of itsnotyouitsme’s Everybody’s Pain sounds surprisingly earthy and organic (as suggested by Allegrea Rosenberg’s striking cover art, which features roots and branches framed in a kind of pixelated, psychedelicized landscape). It’s a good fit for an album in which electronic sounds and processing are frequently used to conjure textures that seem almost more “alive” than the sound of traditional acoustic instruments.
Rob Deemer’s post last Friday about the seeming foolhardiness of writing for contrabass trombone struck a chord with me the moment I read it since I’m often incapable of compositional practicality. However, as the weekend progressed, that chord resounded again and again as I kept being confronted with the seemingly impossible—amazingly impractical pieces of music performed exceptionally well to huge, appreciative audiences.
The Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) has announced that Eric Guinivan and Elliot T. Cless are the winners of the 2011 SCI/ASCAP National Student Commissions. In addition to a paid commission (first prize is $1250, second prize is $750), the winners receive a premiere performance of their commissioned work at the SCI National Conference and a recording of the work in the SCI CD series (released by Navona).
“Why would you write anything for contrabass trombone?” I knew that such a decision on my part–to take time to create a work of art for such a rare instrument–flew in the face of today’s composer pragmatism that encourages writing for standard ensembles.
This was a hard week in terms of reading for the Big Band class I’ve been auditing at Rutgers University. Reading Stanley Crouch carving Miles Davis a new embouchure in “Play the Right Thing” made me want to start over as a fireman or a draftsman or a secret agent or a bounty hunter or anything that would keep me from having to read that.
This is the second year of the Composers Assistance Program – Recording. We’re very pleased to announce New Music USA’s support for fifteen exemplary recording projects. Download the Press Release for the full details, and if you’re interested in applying, stay tuned for next year’s deadline! This year’s deadline was July 14. Full Press Release… Read more »
Subito Music Corporation has announced that it has entered into an exclusive publishing agreement with composer/conductor Leanna Primiani.