Thursday, December 29, 2005

Spam lovely spam

I have begun on my project to write music for my spam texts. I cant wait to see the look on the face of my composition instructor when i show him exactly what kind of songs i've been writing.


Its scored for a non-vibrato soprano, a reading part, a violin, cello, bass, guitar and piano.

The text in this passage reads: " Penis growth patches are here! no pills, no pumps, its the patch!"

I couldnt help but crack up while writing this. I hope someone finds this as amusing as i do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sign my guest map?

Please? I put it up recently and i checked today and there's no 0ne on it. This saddens the M. Keiser, who is very sensitive.

Speaking of which, have you seen/read this new bigfoot book by Graham Roumieu? Its pretty hilarious. I picked it up while shopping earlier this month at the suggestion of a stranger and i became a fan. I've been looking around his website and he has some very witty, amusing cartoons.

Its good stuff.

Monday, December 26, 2005

New music from Vincent Bergeron

Well, I received an unusual email from a Monsieur Vincent Bergeron recently. At first glance I thought it was more spam, so of course, I opened it and read away. It was not spam, but I was not disappointed. Vincent had sent me a link to a site which has his music on it, his email gave me some good background on his artistic intent and ideas. He does much of the work for me in writing this:

After the Casse-tête de l’Existence, i naturally wanted to continue in the same line (futuristic epic songs), but this time with an emphasis on melody and with a certain primal energy. Synthetic atmosphere and electroacoustics effects are still numerous, but were less important in the composition of this album. They are hiding behind a greater harmony and a cleaner chaos. I learned to select the best ideas. I do think i got a lot better at singing. The album works well to document the recent evolution of my voice : strange androgyny lately (a lot of female singers in my mind). Also, transitions between tracks was a new preoccupation. This time, the lyrics (some english this time) have precise meanings (fighting against nostalgia and in favor of the outsiders of this world) ; Vincent...Van Gogh is based on real facts in the painter’s life. Also, right now, i’m writing music with a vocal in mind. Sometimes, this vocal never appeared because of my personal preference for the instrumental. It happens two times : Machiavélisme Magnifique and Introversion Extravertie.

You can find the music I’m talking about here, but as Monsieur Bergeron said, "This music will remain free for a few months only..." so listen to it while you can. I have had problems on the site trying to open the files with my winamp but i am successful when opening the tracks by simply clicking on "mp3" and using QuickTime player to play the music. The following links will connect you to the music itself, which may take a moment to load.

I have been listening to his new album L’Art du Désarroi, and I have to say, I am impressed! This is very much collage-based experimental music mixed with electronica, classical - atonality and Messiaen (sort of), rock influences, maybe even minimalist influences, its all over the place and practically impossible to describe. Certainly this music will stretch your ears. What I can say simply, and without exaggeration is that is different from what I’m used to listening to.

This is intense music, sometimes harsh and biting, sometimes hitting on some surreal beauty. There is a constant stream of sounds, violins to drums to high and practically non-harmonic electronic frequencies. It takes a bit to get used to. The track the disk is named after, L’Art du Désarroi reminds me of another collage-based group: The books. There is something beautiful in this, but its hard to put one's finger on it.

The singing is a also a little harsh, with all due respect to Monsieur Bergeron, more lyricism can be attained by more on-pitch singing, but the near-sprechstimme adds to the surreal feel of the music. If more lyricism is not the goal, so be it, the instrumentation is beautiful too, frequently bordering on atonality, but beautiful in an expressionistic sense, if that makes sense.

The final track, most lyrical of all the pieces, Nostalgie-Euthanasie , utilizes a traditional descending diatonic on the piano along with the percussion, violins, woodwinds, some electronic sounds found in the other tracks. This music, like others on the disk, is built up into very thick layers resulting in very unusual and constantly shifting textures, but the first half of this track seems to be lighter than most of the others.

Overall, this music can be a little t0o heavy to listen to all at once, but it still very new to the ears. These tracks are all different but they all contain similar traits and a similar feel. Thank you again, Monsieur Bergeron for your fascinating music and your email!


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Im feeling a little strange today.

For the first time in my life I can't wait to get more spam email.

I plan on writing music, a song cycle - problem is, I need a text for these songs, but I know no poets and am allergic to most poetry. Another problem- I need a poet who would allow me to use their poetry. My approach has been to ask friends and acquaintances about their poetry but this has not resulted in anything usable. Why do so many people my age write banal poems about love and shit? I don’t get it, dont they know that good poetry isn’t about just fluffy, clichéd feelings and imagery? Either way, I was looking for poetry that dealt with some concept of the contemporary world, poetry that was meaningful and interesting.

So it dawned on me that I could use the texts from all that spam I keep deleating, day after day, in my email account. Now, through campus email, I am receiving some fucking bizarre spam mail, let me tell you, this aint your normal spam. Let me give you a sample from real emails I have received:

From: Paula Carr (this person probably doesn’t exist, i think they have a name generating machine)
Subject: You should read this:

said breakfast his attack was is to Bezdomny the start interrupted subject to an has sweetly heart please proof you late you Mikhail Ivan green unconvincing issues Now learned In it and anywhere there decides relegated seeing pause the stood Nisan wanted a this suit said breakfast his attack was is to Bezdomny the start interrupted subject to an has sweetly heart please proof you late you Mikhail Ivan green unconvincing issues Now learned In t and anywhere there decides relegated seeing pause the stood Nisan wanted a this suit...

it then just repeats this over and over again. Then another.

From: Omar Link
Subject: You should read this:

of the It will paces was gesture emigre thought his collected writing to a sight whispered powerful terrible later Frenchman truth oil the there the his suddenly Berlioz you Yes was as to hear Our about Library about you a the stranger the pleasure about of the It will paces was gesture emigre thought his collected writing to a sight whispered powerful terrible later Frenchman truth oil the there the his suddenly Berlioz you Yes was as to hear Our about Library about you a the stranger the pleasure about

Berlioz! a musical reference. haHA!

and I’ve received tons others which include quotes from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary. They dont cite it as such, but i remember the quotes, i read the book. Spammers aint clever enough to write this themselves (but apparently they are very cynical, no surprise there)

Sibil Schmidt
Subject: Penis Growth Patches are here!
No pills, no pumps - Its the Patch
Life would be tolerable but for its amusements. Truth -- An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody's heart. We must become the change we want to see.

and another...

Eveline Boyer
Subject: Male sexual enhancement formula
Fishing is a delusion entirely surrounded by liars in old clothes. The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post. Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. I think, therefore Descartes exists. While you're saving your face, you're losing your ass.

So, as you can see, this spam is a little... unusual. I figure I’m going to take bits here and there and arrange it into my text for the music. I may not have the singers actually sing this, but its interesting, and would work well for someone to recite it.

Is this a bad idea? either way, im excited for more spam mail, as crazy as that is. I've got a collection going on a word file of all the strange/good ones. What better statement of post-modernity can be made? ... bahahaha.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

ok, this is lame.

But i dont have much time for a real, thoughtful post, so im picking up another quiz, something i found from a musician's site.

Cb major - life is full of complecations,
commitments and organisation. You love to make
sure everything is just perfect, but sometimes
this can cause you to fall over your own feet.
A slightly unsociable key: why Cb major when
you could be the identical Bmajor? It has less

what key signature are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm unsocialble? not true. This is one random quiz.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The last tw0 days i've just been listening to Iridian Radio on the live 365 site. The adverts are annoying, banal, but it cant be worse than the radio, which plays nothing these days but re-hashed christmas carols and second-rate 18th-century music. Honestly, this is the exact thing i've wanted for a long time- some opportunity to hear more contemporary music, and this station is perfect, as contemporary music is all they play. I had never heard the other John Adams' work (J. Luther Adams) and im really impressed by what i've heard. Thank you again, moondial!

And i'd also like to thank villanefille for her very kind email. je l'apprécie!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Something Fiery

One of my favorite works by Prokofiev is his incredibly angsty "Fiery angel" Symphony #3 in c minor. The music is based off of an opera which he wrote, The Fiery Angel, which was never performed in his lifetime. Prokofiev arranged this symphony so he could bring the music to the concert hall.

This poor symphony, apparently it doesn’t receive much attention; people gravitate towards his 5th or 1st symphonies and ignore this incredibly dissonant masterpiece. There are these yearning, achingly beautiful melodies surrounded by thorny, hostile harmonies allowing for a startling contrast. The first movement is wonderfully vibrant and full of energy. My favorite passage happens towards the end where the orchestra beats out a beautiful melody over sharp dissonances and rapid syncopation, as if it were participating in some demonic bacchanal.

The rest of the symphony keeps to the dark character set by the 0pening. The second movement opens peacefully with an elegant melody, but behind this gorgeous mask is something more sinister, something that is never seen in full. The third movement sounds something like Satan taking flight, the violins screeching in a flurry of chomaticism. A Sweet melody appears in the middle section and then its back to the violent, furious music of the beginning. This music, I’m sure, has served as fodder for Hollywood horror movies.

The final movement is the section that sounds straight out of Hitchcock, only more evil. The main melody reminds of the theme from Psycho, the violins at the top most part of their register and the brass pounding out harsh discords. I cant imagine how the 1920s audience reacted when they heard this symphony for the first time. This is some of the most angry "classical" music I’ve ever heard.


The subject of my post came from my image instead of the other-way-around. I painted this Delacroix-inspired work a few years back, and today, i was in part testing out my new scanner. Its shameless and very amateurish, but i enjoy it.

I just had to.

Hateful People, George Bush
Circle I Limbo

Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Oil Execs
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Sexist Bastards
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Dick Cheney, Scientologists
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Religious Fundementalists
Circle VII Burning Sands

Racists, Osama bin Laden
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Thomas Kinkade
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

From Lynn's page. I cant help it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is classical music, folks

There's a group of musicians in new york who call themselves the alarm will sound ensemble and they are doing everything i want to do... sort of. They have a myspace site where you can listen to 4 tracks of their making. There are two of Steve Reich's works on there that they've performed, the gorgeous tehillim and desert music- but my personal favorite is the track titled Cock ver 10, -Edit: its an aphex twin cover- thanks meg for the correction.

The instrumentation and approach endears me to them, i would love to be doing what they're doing. The only problem is that they got there first, the bastards. Personally, I think they emphasize the drums a little too much and some of the music itself isnt always to my liking per se- but, like i said, the concept is there exactly. The New York Times says- "the future of classical music", if that means anything to you.

There are several composers working in the group, and the instrumentation is too diverse to list, they list their influences as*:

Gyorgy Ligeti, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, John Adams, Harrison Birtwistle, Frank Zappa, Michael Gordon, J.S. Bach, Benedict Mason, Conlon Nancarrow, Jelly Roll Morton

Why Beethoven, Debussy and Stravinsky arnt there, i dont understand. Nonetheless, i really like what they're doing and i wish i could be in new y0rk to see them perform/meet them.

* this information and more is on the myspace site, so why im posting it is somewhat of a mystery to me.


Probably photoshopped, but still funny as hell.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have an audioclip!

So now you can listen to me bang away on my well-loved piano at home in a little piece i like to call Improvisation based on a simple decending triadic phrase.

Not very clever, but what can i say, it an honest title.

So its not of the best quality, and its certainly not my best improvisation- its longwinded, bombastic, lisztonian and far too traditional for my tastes, but its a year old and it was fun to play. thats all. So i enjoyed myself, i hope it doesnt cause much suffering on your end. I chose this file only because its one of the few files i have of my piano playing.

woo! this is fun! i might have to post more of these things. I am able to do this thanks (a big thanks) to

Criticism is welcome, as always. I know my playing can be sloppy, but its an improvisation, thats my excuse this time. ha.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Previous post!

...was written in a sleep deprived state- but with two finals now out of the way, i can once again write complete sentences!

I listened to a local band play tonight- A bass, voice and two guitars. The unusual combination of timbres that sometimes created a startling effect. The bass and a guitar in its upper register produces a really wonderful and rich sound. The instrumentation was awesome, but unfortunately, i enjoyed their playing much more when they were warming up.

That being said, i would like to re-state that i really really love Bach.

Thank you.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Original Position.

I remember my brother playing Mozart sonatas on the piano (and not the sonata facile either) at a young age (10 or so). One day, I remember, I decided I would sit down and actually listen to what he was doing. I enjoyed myself and started listening more often, eventually learning the melodies and humming along with them. This, and a smattering of Beethoven sonatas was my first real exposure to classical music. I, of course, found it necessary to imitate my brother. Eventually i worked up the gumption to just go up to the piano and started hitting notes like the 7 year old i was. I sat on the piano bench just trying to get a consonant, pleasing sound out of the piano (which, you can imagine, is really hard for a 7 year old). I think i did this several times before my mother finally asked me "do you want to take piano lessons?" and that’s when i started.

I think i was 8 years old, maybe 7- not sure, placing the date around 1993/94 (be warned: dates fascinate me). I played all those annoying children’s things, those stupid children’s music books with things like mary had a... ba ba black sheep, and dumb little cartoons to go along with the sheet music.

I have never been a person who enjoys being patronized, and i distinctly remember hating those children-music books because i felt they suggested that i was an idiot, they were pandering to adult assumptions of what children enjoy with banal cartoons and happy smiling 8th notes. (i may not have know how to express this hostility at the time, but i know i felt it) So i made little progress for a few years. I also had difficulty sight-reading, i hated it. But this changed with my exposure to Bach.

Bach! i was probably 10 or so when my teacher presented me with a minuet in G (after going past the advanced children’s books). I was thrilled, i knew the music! i liked it too! how different. I ate it up and in two weeks time i was on to a new Bach piece, a prelude. From there i progressed to another prelude, and another. Then i remember my teacher presented me with something novel and different all together- an arrangement of Sakura, cherry blossoms, that famous Japanese tune. I loved it! I wished for more music with an eastern sound, so my teacher presented me with "Chinese lanterns", which became a favorite in that period of my life. A little later i played my first Chopin prelude (e minor, which, i must say, i played with a lot of emotion for an 11 year old) (circa 1997) i was filled with enthusiasm. That music was dark, somber, melancholy, like nothing i had ever played, and certainly nothing like the always-cheerful Bach and Mozart pieces i knew up to that point. I fell in love with Chopin immediately.

Then more Chopin preludes (the easy ones, of course). I impressed my friends by playing with such drama and i loved the attention. I continued to play this and that for awhile... some Bartok, some more Bach, even a few Beethoven bagatelles. Anyway, after this i remember stuff more clearly, and here i am now- still playing...

People often ask me how long i've been playing and usually i just respond with "im not sure". 12 years almost? Thats what i think, could be wrong though.

Hope i didnt bored everyone to tears, just a little bit of dull personal history thats good for me to remember. I suppose that would make this a rather selfish post. .. eh.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Our darkening world.

I have been floating around- from one site to the next. In the process i have wandered upon some sites of my interest.

Contrary Motion - A site run by a music student in New York. Some good thoughts in there and i should like to add it to my list.
Felsenmusick - "The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader..." i can just let him write for me. Added bonus, this guy lives in Brooklyn. woot woot*
Music and Cats - Im not fond of cats, but the writing is about everything else im interested in- architecture, music, food, etc. Added bonus: they live on Queen Anne hill.
Botanizing - I always loved botany and biology. Fascinating stuff- and even if those two sciences arnt your thing, the owner of this blog, Larry Hufford writes on a diverse number of topics. The category "our darkening world" is a compilation of monstrously depressing posts about scientific illiteracy in America, as enlightening as frightening.

Now i come to the question- all these links im posting, are they detracting from themselves by their sheer volume? - i have no choice but to add these new ones to my list... and its true that my list of links is already long. too long? should i stop adding links? Its a tricky thing.
Maddox, that famous internet asshole, actually wrote a very good bit about blogs. "more links than anyone with a job or semblance of a social life has time to click on" Well, my friends don’t even kn0w i have a blog, im that sneaky/bad at it. But Maddox's insult-jokes have a base in legitimate criticism. How many links are too much? the ever wise Maddox says- "its not necessary to link to every site on the fucking internet, asshole"


I could continue to build categories to try and fit people's sites into them, i could imitate others and create a separate page just for links. I could do a number of things to try and rationalize my ever-expanding collection of links. Maybe i should cut out every blog that doesn’t link back to this site? Or maybe self-control is the only answer. Bad M. Keiser, Bad.

* again, i disgrace myself and the entire borough of Brooklyn.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

the avant-garde is old.

I should warn any readers that I’m not really convinced of arguments like this but thats not going to stop me from writing them out.

What is the point of innovation if it proves useless to later artists (for artistic or practical matters)? John Cage's 4'33" is a good example of where innovation is useless to later artists. Any type of silence-gesture can not be developed any further. A 13'12" or 1'29" would do nothing to elaborate, expand our understanding of this particular expression, and by definition these pieces would be pure imitation (unless you perceive differences in the length of a piece as furthering artistic expression). Does innovation without any practicality or applicability, innovation that never can be utilized, can that ever be valuable?


If an innovation in the 20th century proves itself as un-used, unexplored, and unknown by more mainstream artistic currents, if the avant-garde explorations are neglected well into the future, lost, forgotten, unimportant to artistic practices, it was in vain. It must cease to be innovative and end as being meaningless exploration. Afterall, how can innovation be that which is never or can never be adopted?

just a few thoughts.

And all of western civilization
The sun may rise in the east
At least it settles in the final location
It’s understood that hollywood
Sells californication.

Living in the suburbs has really left me sympathetic to this music, to these images and ideas.
Especially these days, and for my age group- images and clichés of California are so important and popular (think, The OC, Laguna Beach, MTV in general) This Red Hot Chili Peppers song may not be the highest artistic achievement of the 21st century, but it is important- it gives voice to a kind of post-modernist california-philia, something which i think Baudrilliard expressed to a much greater degree decades ago.

The endless, zone-less sprawl of suburbia is part of this californication (a term which i believe was first used by the city of Portland in their wise (if belated) attempts at zoning restrictions)- the companies, the cars, the asphalt parking lots and strip malls, the social organizations even to the mannerisms and tastes of a generation, shaped by Hollywood’s self-marketing and self-aggrandizement. Has Hollywood culture ran through so many ideas that the only thing left is to start glamorizing the world just outside their production rooms? Its sunny and warm, there are those beautiful palm trees and botox faces galore- why not?

excuse my writing, i blame it on the mango rum and the late hour.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The aspens!*

Over at Utopian Turtle Top, John Shaw as created a charming, if out-of tune piece, based off of those the letter by Scooter Libby to the journalist Judy Miller -who you know fr0m the Plame Scandal and all that business. I am quite fond of the music - though, with all due respect for Mr. Shaw, more steady voice may lead to more appealing results.

If the voice were everything, Bob Dylan wouldnt exist. None the less, its hard for me to give you an idea of the music without turning to comparisons (which wont do justice to it). The music is lyrical, dreamy, very short, 1:38 short, to be precise, and the melodic line sounds vaguely turn-of-the-century French, with chromatic inflections and lush harmonies. The music expresses a yearning- and of course there are those wonderful and unexpected enharmonic shifts.

Its also quite humorous- the text doesnt exactly lend itself to singing in all places, but thats the joy.

But i save the best for last- Here is where you can listen to the music and These are the lyrics.

Could it be possible that this piece and my own work (Trent Lott's Porch)** represent some new, politically-infused Seattle-school? I will leave that decision for Mr. Shaw.

* i like exclaimation marks in titles!
** yes, i know its shameless self-promotion.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I just finished a wonderful article written by James Wolcott of Vanity Fair- and who would have guessed that Vanity Fair would have such wonderful writing- on par with anything in the Atlantic monthly, which my house has been subscribing to for years. I’m a fan already, and mother is as well, so its probable the she'll cancel her subscription to the ever-increasing blandness and popishness that is Newsweek (which hasn’t written a really good article in a long while) What waste Newsweek is sometimes, just re-hashing the news, not intense inspection- i rarely find anything interesting in there, except their weekly collection of political cartoons and outrageous quotes, that’s always fun, but its too general to really dive in deep to anything at all.

The article was on the subject of the republican's plans for the downfall of PBS, and there were many wonderful points made, but one thing that stuck out to me was the inherent problem with the conservative's argument of "elitism" in PBS, and this very well extends to their argument for taking funding out of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA for now).

Why are the NEA and media sources like PBS perceived as "elitist"? (aside from pure political bias)- well, its simply because both assume that the public needs to know or see certain things, things which they do not know at the moment- they are elitist because the gesture is that there are certain people who understand what is good for the public, whether the public realizes it or not.

But why is that inherently a flawed argument? if we were to condemn all that assumes the reader's or viewers ignorance on some subject, what’s the point of books that reveal disturbing facts about history, or current events? they're giving the public information that they surely don’t want to know, so certainly that elitist as well. Or for that matter, any news coverage of horrible events, natural disasters, the events in Iraq, tsunamis, the events in France, whatever. Wouldn’t the public be happier if they didn’t hear of these things? isn’t it elitist to assume that its good for the public to know about things people just don’t want to know about?

I certainly didn’t want to know about Bill Clinton's sex life in the Oval office, and I’m sure many in the public had no desire to learn of those things as well. Hm. Well, then, I guess that leaves me no choice but to condemn the republican investigation and subsequent scandal as elitist in principal. Well, fuck then- i guess that argument doesnt work.

My mother is convinced that we're in a period in which much of the public simply does not want to know about what’s happening in the world- Like Galileo with the Pope who refused to look through the telescope, people simply choose to be ignorant rather than allow themselves information that could disrupt their secure world-view.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Recently, at an upper-end restaurant in a rather yuppie area, i experienced ageism.

My friends and I were treated poorly for no reason other than our age. The service was terrible, the food was bland and overpriced, and the waiters and waitresses seemed to want nothing to do with us, so it took forever simply to get bread and vinegar, to get our food and to get a properly composed check. Meanwhile, the waiters were paying lavish attention (and friendlier service) to tables of 30-somethings that were next to us. We may be somewhat poor college students, but there is no reason why we should be treated as less important by the staff of this restaurant.

There were five of us, and none of us were rowdy or loud, none of us demanding or rude, and by the end we all felt discriminated against. I felt it necessary to write a little note explaining why we gave them a $1.10 tip for a nearly $70 meal. In hindsight i might have come of a little harsh, but how else would they learn from their mistakes?

Dismiss it.

Some may have dismissed my previous post as ludicr0us in its content- "you can not sum up a composer's entire artistic achievement in two words" they might want to say.


Come on, people, im having fun. And while it aint legitimate criticism of a composer, two words like "the suck" can clearly and aptly express my emotional reaction to a composer's works. I am aware, as im sure other bloggers are, that this is not substantial or particularly meaningful way to discuss an artist's work.

Yes, it serves to provoke others, but you know what? provoking a reaction can be healthy- it can inspire thought and reflection, both good things. Im not saying launching controversy bombs is a proper method of posting all the time, but neither is stifling seriousness. Besides, i like getting comments.

Furthermore, the argument that "it shows the writer's ignorance" is based off of flawed logic, making the writer of such an argument look rather ignorant themselves. In such circumstances, the proponent of this argument is perceiving themselves to be in the absolute right, as if there is no argument or reasoning for them which could explain why the writer likes or dislikes a composer. The writer is perceived as ignorant for liking or disliking such and such artist, rather than being perceived as ignorant for constructing a bad or uninformed argument. If, when questioned, the poster shows no logical basis for their dislike for a composer, or that they show a lack of understanding of that artist's work, then yes, you can deem them ignorant if you want, but in these circumstances, that assumption only underline's your own problems.

And Goddamnit! People need to stop insulting Mr. Tchiakovsky! Please, if you insist upon damning him as a composer, give me a good argument for it- or- if you think you can write better music- please, be my guest and write me something better than the 4th symphony and/or his nutcracker and/or The Sleeping Beauty, and/or the 5th, 6th symphonies and/or violin concerto and/or The Seasons and/or Eugene Onegin and/or String Quartet in D and/or the String Serenade . I will pay handsomely.

thank you and goodnight.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Everybody's doing it!

At the Fredösphere, there is a post which clearly evaluates the artistic merit of various composers. "A concise history of Western music", thats the preface. Lynn, at A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance, made her contrabution. (*which expanded the language in this particular idiom)

Im sorry, i really cant resist. so here i g0:

Handel - Mostly Yawn, has good moments.
Telemann- sucks
Vivaldi - mostly Yawn, has good moments
Bach- (in agreement with Lynn) indescribably awesome
Johann Josef Fux - ???
Haydn -Mildly annoying, has good parts.
Mozart - very cool
Beethoven - indescribably awesome
Schubert - cool
Mendelssohn - cool
Berlioz - cool-ish
Chopin - very cool
Schumann - cool. Sometimes yawn
Brahms - usually yawn, sometimes very cool
Wagner - pretty cool some of the time. hilarious the rest.
Verdi - seems cool
Mussorgsky -very cool
Tchiakovsky -very cool (hey now, dont you be insulting mr T)
Debussy - very cool
Rachmaninoff - ehh... kinda cool.
Sibelius - very cool
Stravinsky - very cool
Janacek- very co0l
Schönberg - rarely cool, mostly sucks
Ravel - very cool
Berg - very cool
Webern - sucks
Shostakovich - cool
Prokofiev - very cool
Poulenc - sometimes cool, kinda sucks
Havergal Brian - ???
Messiaen - mostly cool, sometimes sucks
Boulez - sucks (except for that one cello piece)

I could go on into other living composers, but i shan't, t'would not be good behavior, (yeah, like saying Webern sucks is)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is there a complaint department?

"you are finally convinced
that you inhabit the same banal world
as everyone,
everyone has found it too." **

I hate every time I hear someone playing painfully saccharine music downstairs on the grand. Music of seemingly endless and empty fifths piled on top of each other in enharmonic but perfectly consonant chord progressions. It sounds similar to a lot videogame music (or some contemporary church music)-

musical platitudes! hackneyed chords!
Do you know what im talking about- or am i just babbling on about nonsense?

...After waiting patiently for a pianist to stop the torture, i feel an urgent need to simply run up to the piano and pound out some minor seconds, but i must restrain myself.

- - - - -

round 2 of the Midterms (yes, two midterms) are over, and im slouching towards turkey day- but t0 be honest, im not particularly fond of turkeys, or of thanksgiving. I believe its my least favorite holiday.

I have received the honors of mention from Bart Collins at The Well Tempered Blog. im quite surprised and flattered. He's always run a great site, one of the earliest music blogs i read (which is to say i didnt start reading till April or so of this year)


**from A Labor more Restful by the Dirty projectors

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I am Distrustful.

...Of any "neo" movements in contemporary art. "Tradition" scares me- and, shockingly, i agree with Boulez:

"No, I do not believe in tradition, I believe in history," he says in a different tone. "The lessons you get from history are your own lessons, you are teaching yourself. Tradition is simply the mannerism of people who came before you. Tradition is passive, history is active." (Sorce!)

- - - - - - - - -

And just so you dont attack me - a word on other "neo"s -

Stravinsky's "Neo-classicism", for the most part, is very much modernist classicism, rather than the other way around. Its re-interpreting ideas rather than style(usually), and when he uses classical mannerisms, its usually quite brief and referential- as if he was beating it into you just what he's up to.

Likewise, Samuel Barber's (or Copland's) "Neo-romanticism" isnt so much looking back to a style, but rather looking to further its range and expressive possibilities. Could one of Barber's earliest and most conventional works, the Overture to the School for Scandal, been produced in the "romantic age" ? Hell no. Its starts off with a sharp bitonality that even Strauss wouldn't have touched.

I have little or no experience with the popular "neo-romantic" pieces written in the last 30 years (aside from those pieces by Glass and Adams that many have sometimes labeled as such) and this may be a good thing. It scares me that contemporary composers could be sinking into something backwards - the gesture seems nihilistic- as if to suggest that all that is artistically viable has been exhausted. What a horribly cynical and close-minded idea!

There are those in the art-history world who will argue that nothing artistic can be truly out of place, that there can be no such thing as an artistic anachronism. Artists are conscious of their times, no doubt, and even if they choose not to reflect that in their art, they're still expressing something. Artistic "anarchronisms" make a statement about the artist and their relationship to their modern world. Likewise, periods of great "anachronism", such as the victorian periods in architecture (which endlessly re-hashed and re-invented medieval architectural language) express a great deal about the society and culture of the times. (the industrial revolution, romanticism, etc).

Pardon my endless quotations around words, but i need to express in some way an idea without suggesting to you that i believe it. Its laziness, you might say, and you'd be correct.

im getting dizzy and tired. Its hard for me to re-read this.



I was honored by vilain fille's recent post which mentioned this site. She says its "chewey", a good thing i hope, but i can only ask- is my blog chewey? and if so, what does that mean?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

this mad blog-share buisiness

Thats me!

Have any of you ever heard of this thing before? Its rather strange, theres stock in this lil' blog o' mine. I've been operating it since late august and its all ready "worth"... uh... $1,921.98
What crazy equations they're using to evaluate the price of this place i dont know. You can "buy" a stock of my blog for around $15, and some nice person, who's japanese, already owns 80% of my stock. Oh yes, they too have a blog poetically titled night rain in winter. I like it already, but its unfortunately written in japanese.

Since i know practically no japanese, im at a loss- but it looks like it'd be good! Should i add it to my linkses? im not sure, i mean, i barely know anything about it, and i dont speak japanese. Part of the purpose of my links are so I can navigate to different music blogs of my interest (so i dont have to keep a ginormous list of blogs on my favorites list) What do you think?

I have been feeling rather lonely recently. No comments? i feel like Lynn from A Sweet, Familiar dissonance did recently (i cant find the particular post on her site, otherwise i'd link directly to that post) Either way, it seems like im alone again (my stock even went down recently!)

But Lynn also linked to another interesting money + blog website (again, fictitious) How much is my blog worth?

Mine? $5,645.40.

Somehow it comes up with that calculation very quickly. I cant possibly see how it's worth that much, but hey, i'll take it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blo-blo-blo-blo-gs have a have a kind of mystery.

"What in the hell inspired M. Keiser to write that last post?" You may have asked, or probably not, but the answer is simple, my friends- i read other people's blogs (god i hate the word, i cringe while typing it) and then feel the desperate need to say something about something else entirely.

Here is a new link- and it looks to be a wonderful addition to the music bl-- community, Tim Risher's Reflection Field
Its a new blog (like mine?), and he has some nice things to say about some new music (my last post was in part due to his mentioning Music in 12 parts. )

and another site- Because Someone Had To (changed names recently) - which is apparently written by a Julliard student who's my age. (woot college!)** and he wrote a very amusing bit about bassoons. "your bassoon that sounds like glorified flatulence". I always liked the sound of bassoons, but i see his point. I've been speaking alot about creating new sounds, maybe theres a new musical instrument to be explored there

ok, enough of my lameness. I shall retire to bed. Its been an awful week, fucked-up-miserable. But hey, lifes not always a tea party.

**i feel it necessary to embarrass myself with each post i make. This is todays addition.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Music in 12 Parts - Part 1 - Philip Glass

My favorite piece by Glass is not the entire Music in 12 parts, but just this one movement, the first movement.

This particular portion of Music in 12 parts doesn’t particularly sound like Glass (or at least, the self-imposed stereotype of his music) - where are those oh-so-characteristic four-square arpeggios? none to be found. Here we have a delicate, rocking syncopation and a striking lyricism, yearning for a resolution that will never be, shifting between tones gracefully and endlessly, an expressive and beautiful monotony. This is minimalism i can get lost in!

What frustrates me about Glass is that his music sometimes touches on the sublime without ever reaching it, like a tangent point- it just touches- never diving for the center. There are several pieces where he almost has expressive perfection- but it slips away- the 5th movement of his 5th String Quartet, the opening of Glassworks. Countless other places.

Maybe thats what fascinates me about his works, they're sometimes so close to ideal.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Just keep the gears moving.

Its been a rather rough few days for me, and i honestly don’t know what to say or do when confronted by the things I’ve recently been confronted with. Its limbo, but I’ve got to keep moving, keep myself distracted so not to let emotion catch up with me.

But on another note, I’ve recently connected to a site ( that archives all the music you've listened to recently. Its pretty interesting, and it will show you your musical "neighbors"- those who share musical tastes in common with you.

This is my page on the site, and its interesting- I don’t even remember listening to the all of the music that’s played. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, (if you have an old computer for example) as you have to download the program and it will drain some of your system resources while your playing music on your computer, and could slow down your internet if your connection isn’t terribly fast. But it works for me, and my lovely laptop is good and new. I’m no computer genius, so this is just my modest understanding of the situation.

However, you can now peek in on whatever it is I’m listening to at the moment (which I think is pretty cool, and I’m often surprised by what I see on there!), ... it will show what I’ve heard recently, and what I’m just playing over and over again. (in my defense, the music I’ve listened to a multitude of times is the music i find important to, well, my own musical development) AH enough of this pretentious-speak...

back to writing about Kant- who i love, but hate to write about.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

God bless you, Domenico Scarlatti

While i could easily spend the rest of my blogging career prattling on about the wonders of Prokudin-Gorskii's photos, i wont. I've chosen to prattle about music instead.

And what wonderful music im listening to! Scarlatti is another one of those countless underrated composers. His "Sonatas" are incredible, absolutely timeless and glittering. Within them are all different shades of emotion, unusual combinations and shifts, and ideas everywhere. These are rich works, filled with thoughts and daring (his harmonies can be quite advanced, and especially adventurous considering the period)

Is this late Haydn? Early-ish Beethoven? its almost impossible to tell in parts, truly ahead of its time. Through all this has a liveliness, the music at times hits a poignancy and depth that is unmatched in much of the keyboard music of the period. Homophony mixes freely with light counterpoint, clearly laying the ground for classicism and beyond. Listen to such beauties as his Sonata K 380, such delicacy and sweetness that could have easily been written in 1840 and still sounded modern.

Sonata K. 531 sounds like Shumann, no joke, i just finished listening to Kriesleriana and the resemblance is startling, while K 493 sounds like a Haydn Sonata, and Scarlatti's early work is clearly rooted in the baroque tradition. So you've got it all, all in on measly set of... eh... 550 works for keyboard.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A brief Cul-De-Sac.

If heaven doesnt look like this, im not going. when this photo was taken... recently? 10 maybe 20 years ago?

I usually try to stay on the music thing here, but sometimes my mind is on other things, like early russian color photography. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was a master of this, and the results of his work are astounding, like the image you can clearly see above- photographed around 1910.

1910!!! oh the insanity! is that not incredible? it just blows my mind to see these gorgeous, full color, life-like photos of a russia 100 years ago. Prokudin-Gorskii used a very interesting technique to do this, in which monocolor prints were laid on top of eachother- thus resulting in color. This man set out to document the entire russian empire (with help from the Czar himself) in those fateful years before WWI.

Here is one page with his amazing photographs, and another. I guess whats so shocking to me, is that its so real- Im used to seeing these black and white photos, which always give me a sense of artistic un-reality, but to see such vivid images of a truely lost world.... holy shit.

I suppose my russo-philia, my love of history and architecture are at work here. This may not be so amazing to others... i dont know.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Philip Glass- Hydrogen Jukebox (1990)

Bizzare, funny, strange in every way, fun, entertaining, interesting, boring, annoying, refreshing, insightful, silly, expressive.

I've been indulging in more minimalism than usual (calculus has something to do with this), and if im going to go about making a stupid attempt to summerize what is said by this music, i figure i should do so in a thoroughly repetitive and austere manner. Would Glass be proud?

"Allah sent me here!" Allen Ginsberg proclaims, narrating portions of the text, in between the choir steps in and wails away, accompanied by synthesizers and drums. There are echos of dance music, popular music, jazz and certainly the spectre of the 80s. oh, those 80s.

The music is in two parts and 16 songs. Its odd to hear a baritone sing "cocksucker", but at the same time, its surprisingly beautiful. Theres lyricism here, and maybe a touch of banality. And though i've already used that term "minimalism" im not afraid to contradict it- as this music isnt minimalism proper, its minimalistic, assuredly, but it aint no Einstein on the Beach.

But i've gotta say, all this vibrato in contemporary music detracts from the music's ability to reflect the contemporary world. Heavy, operatic vibrato sounds nothing short of old, outdated and ugly.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A quick defence for Mr. Tchaikovsky.

Why do some many people in academia love to attack poor Tchaikovsky? Because he's popular? because he's emotional? I don’t get it. Recently i read an attack on his symphonies and was, more or less, offended.

Stravinsky and I shared a similar upbringing - in terms of Tchaikovsky- the first ballet i ever saw, when i was very young- 5 or 6, was Tchaikovsky. From then on it was a sort of tradition every year or so to go with my mother to the Nutcracker. I loved the music then, i love it now. I share Stravinsky's admiration.

His music has ideas. Its passionately expressive music, and the emotion is hightened by his melodic inventiveness and lyrical brilliance. Really, could you dream up a melody more sublime than those found in his Symphonies or Ballets?

A while back I read Tchaikovsky's letters (all 400 pages of them), and it turns out (surprise surprise!) that he valued the melody as a core expressive element in music. I cant argue with that, and seeing that was his aims, can you fault him? If we value music in terms of its expressiveness, in terms of its musical ideas what is to stop us from admiring his works?

He certainly wasn’t a perfect composer, but no one is. Tchaikovsky may not have constructed his symphonies in proper symphonic form and all that crap, but maybe its because he wasn’t primarily interested in traditional compositional formats.

I've overheard some attack him for "sounding like a cheesy movie". Come on, he died long before the art of hack-- I meaning writing music scores came into practice. Its not his fault that he proved popular with Hollywood.

His last 3- the 4th 5th and 6th symphonies are masterpieces, no question. if you doubt this, if you think you can do better, please, get back to me.

Im still chuckling over my picture. Is that vanity?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

From an article by Ross Simonini, words from a member of the group Animal Collective :

"...As far as the boundaries and the future of avant-garde, I have no idea. I don’t think the people who reach that next step are thinking about it either. That process of searching out new boundaries to push in order to be the next avant-garde seems too academic for me. People should just do what they want to do, and if it happens to be something that pushes the boundaries, then that’s sweet. If you are just trying to do something to be different, but feel no personal attachment to what you are creating, then that’s a shame. If it’s not something you would respond to on a deeper level, why would anyone else respond to it?

RS: What about your own boundaries? As musicians who create new sounds, what are the limitations you find yourself fighting against? What are your musical crutches?

GEOLOGIST: I would say the only boundaries we fight against are ourselves and our past. But it’s not too hard. We consciously try and move beyond what we’ve done before
....." (source!)

Animal Collective has gained some popularity recently- for good reason. While their music is usually too harmonically static for me to love it, the sounds they're producing are marvelous and inventive. "deconstructed rock/altern" is the term i read earlier, which is a thoroughly shitty term- it fails to express the degree of diversity in the sounds and harmonies, or even give an idea of how rich their textures are. There are folk elements, electronica, rock elements and experiments everywhere. There's a constant stream of sounds, often in thick layers, this music is vertical in an non-harmonic manner. This can be problematic, as they dont have much in the way of dynamics.

But they've got it. Aggressive songs like Grass and even Leaf House are at the avant-garde end of the music spectrum. They're pushing, and its really interesting.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Amusante Part Deux.

So i couldnt resist showing this glaucoma song to my friend last night, so tonight she sends me this link to a new website she and a friend have just created just for this song. (super linkie)

and yes, its a ferret.

I have wonderful friends, and luckly, friends with the same fucked up sense of humor as myself.

today hath brought me much joy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Via The Rest is Noise... THIS made me laugh as i havent in weeks. Its just that music in combination with the little heads floating around in the corner that i find hysterical.

Am i going to hell for laughing at this? eh...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Oh the Existential Absurdity!

"A post on a web blog without comments is like a child who's parents forget to pick him up from school." (source)


Its a little like writing music for no one to play, something im far too familiar with.

In other news, I am currently tuned to the music of a group(?) entitled The Dirty Projectors. They're skilled, skilled musicians. This is genre-bending goodness that needs to be heard. The song Warholian Wigs reminds me of a slightly warped Steve Reich. Its beautiful, haunting, interesting and experimental, mixing violins, woodwinds, cellos, xylophones with electronics and percussion, but in the most unusual of ways.

But it works, it works so well, and what music to stimulate your ideas! Its refreshing and intelligent. This too may be a new favorite.

Im a picky listener, but this is good stuff.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Break on through the other side.

I do not hate popular music- Far from it, and i dont deny popular musical value just because its popular music. The problem is- theres a lot of shit to sift through in order to find the gems, or even the occasional important pebble. I believe all musics can have value.

Over the course of the evening, from room to room and car to apartment i've listen to Classic Rock, to Mozart, to hard Rap, and back to 70s rock. From each bit i've heard something valuable.


....Blah blah blah, i cant write, blah blah blah....

Nirvana. Listen to those lyrical, almost bartokian tritones. Its music, its not as "sophisticated", and by that term i mean, its actual musical language- the harmonies, rhythms, melodic content, is not complex, but its rough and expressive. Again, i wouldnt necessarily place it above those Bartok String Quartets, but i wouldnt dismiss it so quickly either!

Most important to this post is the idea that we can glean from Rock music, and i see no reason why not to. Its a field 0f musics and languages which we can explore in our own terms. Why treat is different, than, say, Folk Music? Bartok explored all that business in the early 20th century, whats to say that we dont have a new folk music today? Its possible to create an art that is a reflection of the times, but also something beyond mere style, expressing something more universal. Its possible.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I should be writing about John S Mill...

But i'd rather write an essay about Ned Rorem and the song's i've just finished listening to.

My first question is, why hasnt he been marginalized yet? This music is lyrical, emotional and fairly "conventional"... its ripe for marginalization. I mean, why should we care about mid-late 20th century composers who arnt serialists or minimalists or avant-gardists? What "relevance" do they have?

Its really surprising to me, then, that i've heard his name and its not been dismissed in the same breath as "neo-romantic" or "sentimental", or, worse yet, "conservative". We have dismissed the achievements in Samuel Barber, so why not Rorem (who's music sounds very similar, actually) ..? Its beautiful stuff, this rorem music. He's got some really wonderful songs.

Poor Barber, a misunderstood and much maligned (thats right, maligned) composer. Have you heard his Knoxville: Summer of 1915? or for that matter, his sublime, his masterpiece for winds- Summer Music? ...i will leave my words for Barber another day. Back to essay writing...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Aesthetics Part 2

.......apologies in advance.

Art in Definition... part deux.

Art is expression... But does that mean all expression is art? This is the trickiest of all questions, and there are many, many different opinions on what is and isn’t art. But if we accept this most liberal, most generalized idea, then everything can be treated as an art- these words, language itself, gestures of any kinds and ideas of all kinds. There are many working artists who see this as the only definition of art, so consequentially, everything we say and do is an art.

The 20th century has been practically nothing but a series of avant-garde artists who've attempted, in one way or another, to undermine society's pre-conceived notions of what art is. There were the first abstractionists and atonalists who abandoned the notion of representation and tonality as the definition of visual arts and music, later there were conceptualists of all sorts who denied that paint or color or form were necessary in visual art or that harmonic tones are necessary in music. There are tons of examples of this, as this is at the very core of what it is to be avant-garde.

I have not finished my thoughts on the definition of art, but as it is, it reads: Art is deliberately organized expression- so all those phone conversations and hand gestures you make while eating, are out - they aint art, but if you plan it out, it is.

Now what is also necessary is that given that definition, we need to make sure we don’t continue to associate art with anything "high" or "low". Those boundaries don’t exist... yet (or will they ever?) who knows...

"Its all Subjective"

In art, my greatest enemy is the phrase "its all subjective". This cliché has been passed from one person to the next and is nothing short of a mental cop-out.

If art is all subjective, and therefore there is no rational basis for judging art, then a pile of vomit in an art gallery would be just as important as the mona lisa, that is to say, there would be nothing that makes the mona lisa better in any way than a pile of vomit.

This is, essentially, nihilistic. This concept gives no justification for any type of analyzation, because in the end, there are no "good" or "bad" ideas, those terms are based in subjectivity. This thought is rooted in the idea that there is no "objective reality"- an idea which may be true, and thus there is no "objective good" (that is, something good beyond the human mind frame and society), but it does not mean what is "good" does not exist- it exists as a necessary social and mental construction. To deny this is to say that there is nothing "wrong" with anything at all, or any behavior or ideas, which means that you've clearly fallen into nihilism.

So whats the answer? I think we can all agree that intelligence and thoughtfulness are inherently good qualities (actually, the nihilist will deny this too) and there are rational arguments laying around somewhere for why intelligence is important, but i think its rather pointless to do that now, so lets move on.

A Basis for Criticism.

Does an artist value thoughtfulness and intelligence in their art? This is the primary question in judging a work. If we value it ourselves, we can continue, if we dont, we're a dumbshit nihilist who shouldn’t be reading this (or anything for that matter).

Does an artist value expression or not? (expression being the core to all that is art) Does the artist value art at all (including their own)? or do they not? This is the basis of what we can call our criteria for judging a work of art. Artists most likely value something, whether its looking cool and stylish or expressing some form of internal existential crisis, if they didn’t value anything, again, they'd be a ...dumbshit nihilist.

Generally in art, we don’t have to question an artist's intent as being intelligent, as we make the sometimes dangerous assumption that the artists we're dealing with are intelligent human beings and consequently, they value intelligence. But obviously this is sometimes not the case (Brittany spears, anyone?)**.

A criteria, as i said before, is a method of understanding the values of an artist, and in debate the debater has a criteria they're working in, and values which they consequently uphold as part of that criteria. Art is very similar to debate in this manner. They are both to be judged on some criteria, implicit or explicit, and, just like in a debate, you can attack an artist's criteria for (probably not) valuing something.

So there you go- the first, and probably strongest method of criticism: the analyzation of an artist's art-values and a criticism of those particular values. This means that it doesn’t matter on the date or the genre in order to critique something.

**Im not saying that Brittany spears isn’t intelligent, im just saying that she clearly doesn’t value intelligence very highly in her art...(if at all).

Ok, so there’s some more crap for today. Its kinda patched together from older texts and stuff i just wrote, so there may be some confusion, but hopefully its not too awful. As always, feel free to criticize away. God knows i need it.

Aesthetics Part 1

I wrote earlier i would write up something about my aesthetics, so this is part 1 in a series on the issue. I will be drawing off of a lot of things i've already written. feel free to criticize.

Art is Expression.

No matter how you look at it, this art thing is some kind of expression. This may be really obvious to some, but contentious to others. A non-statement is the total antithesis of art, and no matter how close we try to come to expressing in art a concept of non-expression, we will fail, as any attempt to not-express something is also a statement of some sort.

The minimalist, Donald Judd, has tried to undermine the traditional notion of art as an expression by placing randomly colored block "sculptures" in no particular order- installed and placed, not my the artist, Judd, but by other people. But in doing this he makes a statement, a gesture about what is to be an artist- thereby making his art a form of expression, despite how cryptic the message may be to the viewer.

As i've said before, Aesthetics is a ladder of values, the most important concepts on the top, and others of lesser importance below them. In the complex world of a real-life art movement, there are many values that the artist will hold, not just one, but typically there will be one that stands out as the most important.

During different periods in the history in art there have been various opinions on what is important and relevant to art. The question of values have been answered differently by different art-movements, and so we can not approach all art the same way.

I wrote this bit below to explain to someone this concept- my intention was to show the core value of an art movement:

Classicism: The Main concept is that art as the expression of a harmony between forms

Romanticism: Art as the expression of the individual

Realism: Art as the expression of the times, the period, era.

Etc. And then you have many debates on the matter, but the fact is, that the idea of art as expression is a universally accepted axiom, whereas "art as the expression of a harmony between forms" is not. Think of that as the starting point.

It is also important to note that i do not find genres or "styles" from different periods to be the end-all of what any art is. The genre should inform, but not determine, the way in which we look at a work of art. Far to frequently i see critics who just write of some genre as an all encompassing whole- how some artist fits into the definition of the movement(s) associated to them - and not treating an art movement like what it really is- a generalization we've made to organize thought.


Its 3:41 in the morning, i should probably be sleeping. Sorry if this is more boring than usual (or more poorly written). I get to blame it on the hour of day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

John Adams Dances

I am currently tuned to Adams' The Chairman Dances.
If this music doesn’t make you want to dance, I don’t know what will. The irregular accents complemented with a very steady and danceable beat- A classical version of techno music. But can you picture a classical music audience dancing? they didn’t seem afraid of it in Holst's time when spirited dancing broke out during a performance of Jupiter.

no no, we're far too dignified to dance.

Adams overrated? I have heard some mumble these words, but I see no truth in it. What's overrated are super-icons like Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Madonna and, gasp, the Beatles. In fact, practically by definition, popular music is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Beatles just fine, but they sound like shit when compared to the likes of Beethoven and Bach, or, for that matter, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

Adams, Phillip Glass and Reich may be pomo superstars, but they are barely known outside of the classical music world. This begs a question to Adam's critics- how could he be truly overrated in this world when people like Paris Hilton are famous? He's far more worthy of fame and a handsome income than most anyone else who's ever achieved musical popularity. He may not be the greatest composer in America, but just be happy that a contemporary composer has actually achieved a degree of public recognition.

And what’s this crazy business about putting “an” before a word like “handsome“? that’s crap. Its a consonant, not a vowel, no matter how British your h’s may be.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Jean Sibelius - Symphony No.6

Again, no one ever told me about this masterpiece, I had to discover it on my own. This symphony, in my opinion, is Sibelius' greatest achievement. I know the 5th, the 2nd, the 4th, the 7th, Tapiola, other works, but this has always remained my favorite work. Its odd to me that the 6th is rarely commented on or given the attention that is showered upon Tapiola and the 5th (or even the 7th!)

The work is sunny, it is cheerful- but with a subtle melancholy so distinct to Sibelius' late work. The harmonies are rich, vigorous. Here he isn’t afraid of dissonance and breaking the rules. Here we have a unique, a truly original and independent musical voice, fresh and universal in its language.

Common in any discussion of Sibelius is the term "organic" unity- applied in particular to the symphonies. There is no doubt in my mind that this common phrase touches the truth. Its hard to describe his sprawling (yet distinct and organized) structures- it moves from one idea to the next (when at his best) flawlessly and logically, just as Beethoven might. There are shifts, sudden, yet fitting, and the movements have a cyclical feel- a massive epic that turns and shifts about... eventually returning to the main idea, the main concept of the movement. The best example is in the sublime first movement in his 3rd symphony which is nothing short of miraculous, but you'll find it in all of his best symphonies. Timothy L. Jackson and Veijo Murtomäki in their Sibelius Studies described the music as being in "rotational form".

I have seen writers describe the later works of Sibelius as "austere" -yet this work is a wonderful counter-example to that claim. The harmonies, rich and full of variety, the incredible lyricism- emotion pours out of the melodic lines. This not emotionalism in the typical romantic or modern modes, but a powerfully sincere - a deeply felt kind of emotion that really hits on the profound.

Sublime, the last two movements in particular, sublime. Sibelius, not Brahms, is the only worthy successor to Beethoven in the symphonic form.

Sibelius held up these same values that Beethoven clearly held- emotional sincerity, individualism, universality.

Thats the heap of praise I give Sibelius. If you have criticisms of this work (or my post) I wont cry. As always please speak your mind.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Today i bought Bartok

and then i listened to the Gurrelieder.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that the Gurrelieder was so... hypnotically beautiful? My god. This is something else... I downloaded the complete work yesterday so this is the first time I’ve ever listened to it. Wow, i mean, at first listening i already know Gurrelieder is going to be on the favorites list. I knew Schoenberg was capable of beauty, but not this. The term eargasm works well enough.

In other news I bought the complete Bartok's string quartets.

I’m finding it hard so far to get too excited. They're supposed to be great, but there are a number of string quartets i find to be exceptional that I’ve heard already- ( those by Janacek, Ravel, Borodin, and of course, Beethoven) so Bartok already has a lot of competition, and standing next to those works it may be difficult to be great in my book.

Im afraid for Mr. Bartok. Is he up to his longwinded-ness again? I cant be sure. A quick listen to the 4th and 5th didn’t offer me many musical ideas to really appreciate, it just sort of went on and on from dissonance to dissonance without giving me too much flavor. I was left licking my lips for any residual interest... but found little. I cant contemn these quartets though, not at all, they need a good listening still. Maybe they'll get one after i listen to my dear Gurrelieder .

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Speaking of Post-modernism

Read my post first, but here's a Post-modern essay for you.

This is awesome. Now i cant ruin it... but just read through the essay, skim it if you must, but at least get a sense of what its saying, then when you've had enough, scroll down to the bottom and read the rest.

i hope you enjoy.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Philip Glass- Music in a Similar Motion (1969)

I have discovered that real minimalism, that is, the works of the late 60s up to the mid 70s, is very good to listen to while reading math. It can be, in a way, zone-out music, making my calculus text book look god-damned fascinating.

When i was younger i used to hate minimalism, bu justt now im really starting to appreciate it. It occurred to me that minimalism is akin to Chinese water torture, slowly driving everyone, participants and performers alike, insane. There may still be truth in this, after all, it almost making me enjoy reading math.

Minimalism is gestural, that is to say, not substantive. There isn’t meant to adhere to the traditional notion of musical material and ideas, so its about as close to conceptualism as you get. (this rejection of traditional "substance" is probably the aspect of minimalism that causes the greatest controversy.)

This music is about an entire abstract thing, rather than the music itself. Glass's early music values the concept behind the work over the work itself- that is, the idea of the way the music is takes complete control.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Irrelevant picture in an irrelevant post!

I hate calculus....

I have homework.... and any post on this blog of mine is me putting-off what i should be doing. Calculus, for example.

I've included this picture from my recent trip to New York. (don’t mind its irrelevance to the post) (and at least the picture has something to do with music!)

So this thought hits me today, a concept of some mundane pathos, if such a thing can exist. Its not something I’ve ever seen or heard expressed in art, and hell, its not really anything i've heard anyone else ever talk about (maybe for good reason) ... I suppose to explain what i mean, i should explain why this thought jumped into my head.

I was waiting for salmon today in the cafeteria (it was quality fish, believe it or not, and a quality lunch). It was late lunch so there were only a few people there. The salmon looked great- an enormous plate covered in orange peals and spices that the woman working there had clearly laid out with great care, and i was the first person to get any. No one else was waiting in line, and the area in the cafeteria was sort of tucked away from what most people see. The woman serving the fish had a depressed look on her face. She seemed to realize the great waste of all this wonderful salmon she had prepared. It was nearly 2- the lunch crowd was practically gone, and she'd have to pack it up by 2:30 or 3 and there would have been nothing left. Where would all that go?

So, wasted food, mundane, eh? Yet there is a sincere pathos (maybe that words a tad bit too strong) there... as this food was the product of one woman's careful work, a work that could not be appreciated by those it was aimed for. (Well, i appreciated it!) still, enough fish to serve dozens, and only one person enjoys it.

In the Myth of Sisyphus (a wonderful work!) Albert Camus wrote- "All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born of a street corner or in a restaurants revolving doors. So it is with absurdity." This is not a great thought or deed, but it is certainly attached to that existentialist notion of the absurd. That is, A thing which has had every bit of its supposed purpose undermined by circumstances. From this absurdity, i say, comes my (or rather the salmon woman's) mundane pathos.

Thats my bullshit for the day. Hopefully it will have some value to someone (or maybe comedic value) or maybe im just hyper-sensitive and all this is true bathos.


Monday, September 26, 2005

For Arvo Pärt

My newest favorite composer ( it takes a while for someone to be added to the list).

I have a fascination with the expression of spirituality. Its the concept of some noble, heavenly transcendence and all that. (i dont at all buy into that sillyness, but we can all dream) Mr. Pärt's music is surreal, as all spirituality is, and maybe that’s what I love about this type of religious expression. The organ section from The Beatitudes is sublime and this lil' painting o' mine i dedicate to the writer of such a thing. I can only hope it expresses what a second of that music says.

Homage à Pärt.

And im just glad that i can once again upload images onto my blog (blogger had a malfunction for a little while)... so im also exploiting this returned ability.

The other day I played out on the piano some fifths on the lower register of the (and E and B) and then mixed an irregular but quiet rhythm with the tones an octave above middle C- with the shift between the minor thirds B+D and A#+C#. I was just playing around, but there was a subtle yearning from those tones, I said to myself- what does that sound like? and then i realized Mr Arvo had left his mark on me. Funny how a composers style will pop up so suddenly.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Post-Wagnerian Radiohead

As I type I am listening to moody chromaticism- suspended chords in tonal ambiguity. This band's song Sail to the Moon is excellent music, (and this is coming from someone who values harmonic progressions higher than anything else in music). During the piece there is this perfect chromatic shift, exquisite, expressive and worthy of an early Schoenberg. The lyrics fit the tone of the music (or the other way around, i suppose). But lyrics are secondary- and the music is a combination of half-diminished and augmented chords, even hinting at the whole-tone scale. Truly ethereal and beautiful.

I’m currently listening to the uplifting tones of the song We suck young blood. More monotonous, less interesting in terms of musical ideas, but more experimental- still- there’s that moody chromaticism otherwise unheard-of in popular music. It makes them sound "dark" as my friend puts it. Chromaticism is still an easy method of constructing interesting chordal combinations, and this isn’t Bach, it isn’t Beethoven, but its still very good, and worthy of serious listening.

Friday, September 23, 2005

An Online Alban Berg Quiz.

Tears of a Clownsilly has an online quiz on Alban Berg- "what major work of Alban Berg are you?"

Berg, that expressive genius, i wish i had a complete recording of Wozzeck... i only have fragments of it. ( i would also argue that he isn't treated properly by text books.) Anyway, its good stuff, that quiz and Berg's music.

Oh no.

So I showed my father this blog. A mistake-
and what was the first thing he said?

"you're not using proper punctuation and capitalization, why?"

Because I’m lazy and I don’t feel like it. I get my point across, and I write casually, is that a sin against the language? are you offended by it? I suppose some are, some aren’t. But even
Shakespeare spelt things a little funny. I'm not as casual right now as i am, say, during an instant message chat. lol. Besides, im capable of writing a formal college essay, and boring the living daylights out of everyone, but i refuse to do that here, today i write for fun.

But back to my point- I may not be the best writer in the world, and i may not be a great grammarian, but language is about ideas, so everything else is secondary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ahhh... College

Its that time of year again, and i will be very busy with all this college business for a little while, until i get situated (then, i expect, with this being a challenging quarter, that i wont have as much free time) But i will try to keep things active and moving. Apologies in advance.

But the good of this is that i will once again have a wealth of concerts to attend. I do compose here and there, and hopefully, if all works out, i could even get one of my longer works performed- an exciting prospect.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mozart for me.

When i am ill, when i am grouchy because of my illness and generally feeling shitty- i like to turn to dear Mozart.

Last Christmas i had a miserable case of food poisoning, and nothing could make me feel better...not even a sip of water for a miserable stomach. No, only Mozart. I listened to the String quartets and piano sonatas. His perfection, his tonic beauty and balance- it was only comfort i could get for the nearly three days of laying on a couch.

Today is a Mozart day. I play it on the piano, i listen to it now, on my laptop. He is comfort in uncomfortable times. It rests in the purity of his tonality, his harmonic/melodic balance. We hear those terms always applied to Mozart: "purity", "perfection", and before i understood tonality this made no sense to me, it just sounded like frivolous 18th century happy-music. I still refuse to give Mozart all the praise some give him, but i wont ever claim he isn’t of enormous value to my life... no matter how grouchy I am.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

For Kicks.

This needs some explanation. Recently Alex Ross made a post about George Bush's infamous statements about Trent Lott's porch and a little bit about his posing with a guitar. George apparently wanted to pose with a G chord, but messed it up, and instead he was positioned on the notes G, G#, A, B, C, and D ( Thank you JD Considine!).

Now this produces a wonderfully ugly chord, which, no doubt, our dear leader intended. I thought it fitting today, after reading this post, and reflecting on the powerful leadership of dear leader, to make a little ditty out of this (though not my usual fare), so this afternoon i did just that. The rest is on the back of this page, and i wont trouble you with that.

A word about the piece. I imagine a warm summer Mississippi day with Dubya on the guitar- on... you guessed it, Trent Lott's porch.

As always, feel free to comment. Im not easily offended.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Unstuffing Classical Music.

Or as I like to call it, reverse-taxidermy. Something clearly needed in the classical music scene, unless we want to preserve the music like a misguided owner preserves their dead dog. Its all so stuffy, no excitement- and the greatest thrill outside of the music is the occasional cough in the audience. Every once in a while you'll get a real hacker, and all you can do is wait in anticipation for them to be ok again. No dancing in the aisles, no boos or hisses, rare are the cheers, just smugness.

But I digress. There’s a real problem with all this, and that is the expectations of the audience. Many who show up for classical music concerts, I don’t doubt, are not there because of some sincere love for the art, but because its so high-class to go. Dress up all fancy and parade around, listen to the old masters in complete silence and seriousness. They like it stuffy, that’s what they're there for, if it didn’t have the reputation, they wouldn’t be there.

So we're a little stuck then, as these misguided fellows probably have some money in their pockets and purses. The orchestra cant change it up, the taxidermists would cry foul and maybe revoke their memberships and all that, so what do orchestras do? they appeal to these people. They accept the image as there remains no financial alternative.

But i propose that we give our orchestras two faces: The old, lifeless face to appeal to our wealthy taxidermists- and a fresh, invigorating concert- maybe with, *gasp*, new music as part of the repertoire: 20th century to contemporary. This is the only pragmatic(?) solution i cant come up with. I wouldn’t mind opinions on this one (and i love opinions).

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the orchestra leaders really love it stuffy, and obviously these generalities wont apply everywhere.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Hovhaness business.

"To me, atonality is against nature. There is a centre to everything that exists. The planets have the sun, the moon [has] the earth. The reason I like Oriental music is because everything has a firm centre. All music with a centre is tonal. Music without a centre is fine for a minute or two, but it soon sounds all the same"

So I may be critical, but i agree with the man who wrote those words ( minus those celestial and mystical connotations). It is against nature, yes, but that does not deny atonality artistic merit. What does it in for me is the dogma... that and.... it all sounds the same. (sometimes)

But i'll save my rant against atonality for another day... a day when im a little more comfortable with making audacious claims. Hovhaness at least realized the problem with his enormous output- the issue of quality. "I write too much, far too much (55 symphonies). This is my insanity, and new music is not published" He ended up writing 12 more symphonies. Why he chose to write so much is beyond me. He clearly understood the problem, but worked and worked all the same.

"My purpose is to create music not for snobs, but for all people, music which is beautiful and healing. To attempt what old Chinese painters called 'spirit resonance' in melody and sound."

It would not be a stretch to see this as a post-modern attitude, or see his works as anticipating post-modernism. His facination with the east links him to other west-coast american composers, Cage and Harrison, and several critics have already written that he anticipated minimalism and new-age as well as the latter-day mysticism of pomos like Arvo Part. He even played with Indian ragas before Glass and others made it fashionable. Good for him, i say.

Mr. Hovhaness?

So i have some fondness for Hovhaness in concept, and his mystic mountain symphony is a gem, but its hard to have true artistic sympathies for someone who clearly valued quantity over quality. A phrase (is it from dostoyevsky? i dont remember) came to mind when listening on the radio to one of his lesser known works: Of noble birth, but impoverished from the begining. That pretty much sums up to me several, if not most of his compositions. His works are still being discovered, it seems, so another jewel may pop up.

Im currently exploring his website, and listening to his cello concerto, which isnt bad, really. A little campy, maybe, in its blatent, beating-out of "eastern" scales. But overall, its a solid work. Its not really compelling until the end of the long, sprawling work. Its clear he didnt have the traditional approach to melodic content, an original approach that, again, works once you see it loop back as it does in the end- though it seemed to take forever to get there!

I still dont know how i feel about all this mystic talk and eastern philosophical connections. (the same goes for you, Mr. Cage, and dont think i dont see you in the corner, Henry Cowell) Seems, again, more of a pretence, a whim, than an authentic profession of eastern ideas. Meh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I saw the Daily show yesterday with Brain Willaims. Its frightening to hear what he had to say abut New Orleans. Bodies were just floating around, apparently, but the authorities were refusing to allow the media to show images of them. Mr. Willaims seemed sincerely upset, infuriated even, by the situation in New Orleans. For good reason.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Seriously! PDQ. Bach!

I was going to write some sprawling post about how the avant-garde poses problems and how the rest of the world tries to figure them out or accept them, but then PDQ Bach came on. And it occurs to me, isn’t the last refuge for the avant-garde- humor? Seems no one in the classical establishment can take humor seriously, yet all self-respecting music historians and critics take john cage's four minutes of silence seriously.

Works like PDQ's Shleptet (a work of far more substance than Cage's) are enjoyed and even celebrated, yet i have not heard of another person who sees the great art in it. Why cant we agree that Peter Schikele's works are of importance? I thought post-modernists were supposed to undermine the concept of high art, but here we are, still treating humor like second-class (so to speak). So just what is so unart-ful about humor?

We accept the dadaists in visual arts and literature. What irony! they set out to destroy the establishment and make fun of it, but since the art world takes them seriously as great precursors of modernist avant-garde conceptualism, their works (or anti-works) are now placed in major art museums . It reminds me of that quote of Camus- "All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State." And so it is with art.

And back to the Schikele business. PDQ Bach's oeuvre are some of the greatest post-modernist works- some of the greatest compositions and constructions in the last 50 years. I dare say it. And why not? There is no logical reason that we should not take humor seriously.