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Dec 07

Fall 2010 Issue

Vol. 1, No. 2 Cover

On the Cover:
Cage Variations (Noise), digitally-altered (prepared) photograph, by David Alexander
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Live Event Reviews

Dec 09

The Nose

an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich based on a story by Nikolai Gogol,
directed by William Kentridge,
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, Spring 2010.

The Nose, Act One The whole project started with Gogol, out of whose overcoat, according to Dostoyevsky, all other modern Russian literature emerged. He wrote his story “The Nose “ in the mid-1830s, a period when Russia was firmly under Tsarist rule, when wealthy and even moderately comfortable people owned serfs, and when finely drawn class distinctions between the various levels of the civil service and the army dominated metropolitan life. In his Kafkaesque tale, a “Collegiate Assessor of the eighth rank” named Kovalyov, who pretentiously calls himself a Major, wakes up one morning to discover that he is missing his nose. He is distressed, of course, but mainly because of the effect this marked irregularity will have on his social ascent, so he desperately seeks to get his nose back by trying to place an ad for it in the newspapers, complaining heatedly to the police, and engaging in other useless activities.
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Dec 09

Fighting the Power and Sounding Good Doing It

De Staat
Ensemble ACJW, Carnegie Hall, May 10, 2010

Louis Andriessen Is there an uglier or more vulgar piece of music than Louis Andriessen’s De Staat? Is there a piece of musical agitprop more relentlessly aestheto-political, more astutely tuned to all that is “wrong” in Plato? Is there a work that says more about itself—and, about music qua music—with such turgid grit, occupying such a relentlessly untamed space. Is there another work written in the last five decades that makes an audience member question their relationship to music? Is there another work in the canon written in the recent past that so clearly says, to all listening: ladies and gentlemen of the Western World, take up your instruments and fight!
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Dec 06

Pauline Oliveros Receives the Schuman Prize

All the vibes were good for the celebration of Pauline Oliveros’ life and works on the occasion of her receiving the William Schuman prize of Columbia University’s School of the Arts at the Miller Theatre, Saturday March 27, 2010. There could not be a more fitting recipient of a prize named for a composer who felt that the humanity of music and the musician were endangered by the closed door approach to much of the training and practice of music in America.
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Dec 06

Orfeo in Idaho

The New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor: Two Modern Settings of Orpheus and Eurydice with Richard Stoltzman, clarinet, the Artemis Chamber Ensemble, David Arnold, baritone, Wendy Baker, soprano and Nathan, Bahny, narrator; Peter Norton Symphony Space, February 13, 2010
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Dec 06

Adventures in Words and Music

What is music? Music by itself cannot answer. But the question is not addressed to music. Indeed music cannot listen. We who listen can answer; we must, we do answer, by words–and by our various ways of combining words and music. Unlike the birds and crickets who make in every generation the wordless music encoded in their genes, we are responsible for music, for the meaning of music, and for the constant renewal of meaningful music. Endowed with freedom to explore all sound, we make some sound into words and music. When we are lucky, we make some music out of our words, out of our freedom, out of our very perplexities….

These words by the musicologist William Austin, concluding an essay opening a volume on “Words and Music,” published in 1971 by Harvard in honor of the popular music appreciation professor G. Wallace Woodworth, are worth pondering, as we search for meaning, and responsibility, in music. Continue reading ‘Adventures in Words and Music’

Recording Reviews

Apr 18

Americans in Rome

Music by Fellows of the American Academy in Rome, Donald Berman, Artistic Director, 4 Discs, Bridge Records 9271A/D 2008.

Americans in Rome CD cover The first thing that struck me was the homogeneous style. These composers are not the pioneering visionaries you’d expect from an American disc. You’ll find no Conlon Nancarrow, La Monte Young, Kenneth Gaburo, Morton Feldman or Philip Glass. Instead you’ll find what Kyle Gann terms “midtown” composers – those still working within a tradition acceptable to mainstream ticket and CD buyers of classical music. The craftsmen on these discs reap the rewards of a musical system which lauds those who put out well-packaged and highly skilled music appealing enough to woo the average concert-goer who wants “something more” than another rendition of Mahler but is still put off by a premiere of Milton Babbitt. Bridge’s Americans in Rome marks the history and success of this institutional sponsorship (Problem: how to create good music without pandering). I juggled the first eighteen tracks on disc A (vocal music), without reading the copious notes beforehand, to see if I could pick out the composers. I couldn’t. They all sounded alike. But this is understandable. Samuel Barber and his partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, had already worked out the lingua franca of this type of American art song music which would appeal to a middle-brow audience and it stuck – all the way to third generation Robert Beaser.
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Book Reviews

Dec 09

Robert Carl: Terry Riley’s In C

Oxford University Press, 2010

Terry Riley\'s In C Book Cover Terry Riley’s In C (1964) is widely regarded as the seminal work in the minimalist canon. Its score is lean: one page of music and about a page and a half of performance advice. The music is a sequence of 53 modules: numbered linear fragments ranging in scope from a single note to an extended phrase (there’s exactly one of these, Module 35); most are short, oscillating sixteenth note patterns.
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