Originally recorded for Counterstream Radio in 2008, Diamanda Galás presents selections from “The Exorcist” (1973), “Squirm” (1976), “The Alligator People” (1959), “The Mechanic” (1972), “Blood of Dracula” (1957), “Sisters” (1973), and also the music of MaryAnne Amacher.
Montage: Great Film Composers and the Piano was a collaboration that was bound to happen one day given my years of living in Los Angeles and working with composers.
Paul Elwood confesses that he used to become jealous, mildly enraged, or depressed by the accomplishments of others until he realized how pointless it was to hold his own creative experiences up against those of others. “I’m composing every day, teaching, playing gigs, and staging concerts. Our successes are self-defined and they can’t be narrowly conceived….Forty years later, I’m still doing it. I consider that to be a successful career in spite of never winning (or being nominated for) a Pulitzer, never placing in the Walnut Valley National Banjo Competition, and never being named teacher of the year.”
The only way you fail at art is if you stop doing it. There’s no reason a composer can’t be a plumber or an electrician instead of a teacher. All you have to do is keep writing.
The idea for playing some joint recitals with Terry Riley was conceived in January 2017 when I met up with him at one of his solo concerts at Los Angeles’ Geffen Contemporary gallery. In an email shortly afterwards, he wrote, “It will be a challenge as you mostly play written music and I almost always improvise, but I am sure it will be great and hopefully fun for both of us.”
This week, Paul Elwood shares his essential composition tips.
Ben Weber was an enigma. He was a twelve tone composer whose lushly harmonic music is often described as tonal. He was a deeply serious, intellectual artist in the metaphysical mold of Schoenberg and Busoni. At the same time, he was famous in artistic circles for his impromptu, hilarious yet oddly poignant drag performances of opera performed for close friends at his West Village apartment.
Creating sound for a large outdoor installation had been a dream of Neil Leonard’s for years. But when the opportunity finally arrived, it was filled with a list of elements that couldn’t be tested in advance and were subject to change—even after he finished the music.
Steven Stucky died much too soon—and for so many of us, unacceptably—at the age of 66. The CD recording Garlands for Steven Stucky is a collection of short piano pieces written by Steve’s countless composer friends; they are 32 individual, deeply-felt relationships.
The fact is, if we’re really doing our jobs as artists, we don’t know what we’re doing. Yes, the work needs to be applied and the technique needs to be in place, but, if we’re truly doing our job, then a certain level of informed ignorance is intrinsic to the process.
Matthew Guerrieri dives deep into something particular about the early days of computer music in the United States. It got its start, quite literally, in the off-hour downtime of the military-industrial complex.
It could be said that Los Angeles has conspired, by countless means and for many decades, to make itself into as hospitable an environment for new music as possible.
New Music USA staff member Deborah Steinglass has assumed the role of Interim CEO (effective October 1, 2018) while the organization’s board of directors is involved in a nationwide search to find a new permanent President and CEO.
No matter what an artist does, the choices are often subconscious, based on personal experience and background. This background dictates where we take our music.
Although George Tsontakis has had a career that most American composers would envy, he aspires to a hermetic existence in the middle of the woods and composes something only when someone commissions it and nothing at all if no one does. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a strategy that has served him well.
Writing all of this down has been an opportunity to sort through some of the chaos of the last ten years or so. I’ve never really sat down and written about myself. I don’t generally find myself that interesting. After all, I already know how the story goes. But maybe I don’t. However, one of the things that I know is that everything that matters in my life is something I owe to other people.
On September 1, 2018, we lost a true musical giant, innovator, NEA Jazz Master, and a warrior for the elevation of African-American pride and culture.
Neil Leonard is drawn to exploring sound in unusual architectural spaces—locations he finds by accident, through recommendations from friends, and by searching for sites with peculiar histories. This week he takes us on a tour that spans many unusual sites—including a subterranean acoustical marvel located in Greece dating back to 1400 B.C. It was a recording experience that began with disorientation and nausea but eventually had a profound sonic impact.
You don’t get to just change one part of your life at once. That’s not what life is. Life is where you surf on a constantly shifting bed of earthquaking sand dunes and you try to grab what happiness you can as it floats by amidst the chaos. At this point, I can hardly go anywhere without running into a friendly face—whether it’s someone I know from the Internet, or someone from a video game music conference.
Neil Leonard sought to express something of the wonder he felt, not just experiencing new sounds on site, but also learning the context in which those sounds exist. It led him to deeply consider how these field recordings of diverse spaces could best be presented to create a purposeful meditation for the far-removed listener.
Vermont College of Fine Arts plays up the “low residency” aspect of its music composition MFA program. You study remotely with a grad advisor for six months, and then you reconvene on campus for a week-long combination of a conference and a festival. But the real value of the school isn’t in the semester format. It’s in the magic that happens in that one week.
Rather than pay fees to competitions that one is statistically unlikely to win, a composer’s efforts and money will be far better devoted to attending music conferences and new music concerts.
Town butchers singing traditional tavern songs? Cuban street criers advertising their wares with vocal shouts? Sometimes the naïve ear of a traveler, through curiosity or serendipity, can investigate sounds that have become commonplace to the local population. For sound artist, saxophonist, and composer Neil Leonard, his resulting sound installation work built around these observations functions as a kind of personal sonic cartography, documenting sites of social and political significance.
My own hardwired pragmatism steered me away from music and towards psychology. It wasn’t a decision borne of academic ambivalence. I had genuine interest in the field, and a powerful drive to help people. But I was ignoring another need.