Tuesday, December 12, 2006

theres an error in the last post. i thought i saw something i didnt. The word Berlioz said was "voisinage" which is, i gather, means neighboring (voisin = neighbor) so Berlioz actually said "i grew up neighboring this great city" which makes much more sense.

French is hard, it a good time to say this. Im not going to pretend im somehow knowledgeable about the language, i cant at all write it, not even close. Its pathetic... i could write, "my name is blah im from blah and i like to ride my bicycle ... blah" but thats about the highest level of language i can acheive. I can speak it with a mild degree of proficiency and a pretty decent accent, a lot better than most americans, at least. God i hate the american accent in french... its so freakin annoying. Oh, and i can understand it, which is important, and i can converse. The whole explaining-philosophical-concepts thing i havent quite gotten down, but i think i can get most of the day without that.

Uh, what else. Im going to portugal for the holidays, Porto to Lisbon and the south coast, but ill probably be back in nantes by the end of december. Then for the new year im headed off to paris. its been rather slow around here, these parts for the last week. Did the exams business... my mother is coming into town... No more classes for me, which is awesome.

And just another non-sequiter....A good joke i know:

IN Heaven - the chefs are italian, the police- british, the lovers- french, the mechanics - german and its all orginized by the swiss.

IN Hell- the chefs- british, the police- german, the lovers- swiss, the mechanics- french and its all orginized by the italians.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

So i went to Lyon last weekend. Nice town, the weather was great. I didnt go inside but i liked the design of the contemporary remodel of the opera house. (above)

The roman ruins and the museum for them were the highlight of my time there. The art museum came in second. Two fine museums... even if the design of the museum of roman ruins was evocative of a parking structure. really, the interior looks like the ramps of a concrete car park stuffed with ancient statues and mosaics. The town itself is elegant, the old town even reminded me a little of prague.

Berlioz had this to say about lyon...

"I was born in the visage (face) of this great city" (unless dans has another meaning here im missing out on)

Monday, November 20, 2006

For the last two weeks ive found a nitch here by playing for the warm up of a university modern/contemporary dance class. Its in a practice room in the theatre with the only real piano on campus that ive found, or that anyone knows of. The prof has been very nice, and they didnt find out until last week that i was american, just of a lot of silence and nodding and "d'accord"s and they couldnt hear my accent, but now ive said a few things and im sure its pretty clear. At least i dont have an "american" accent, just some weird borat-like one. I could be from anywhere...

The dance prof gives me wonderful instructions- all in french, so i have to pay attention. She seems to like some quasi-minimalist youngian long tones sustained by subtle tremolos, particularly in sustained open fifths with a minor sevenths several octaves above. its edgy enough and modern enough but not too out there, Im wondering if i should add more minimalist touches. Probably not, but the dancers have been very nice to me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


For the blackened lungs of addicted France
Where bums smoke filters flattened against the pavement


i was inspired by some recent poetry posted at tears of a clownsilly.

im only bitter because its hard to find fresh air. Much harder than you might think...

Theres a dog show going on here in town. I cant help but be reminded of the French poodle stereotype. I get the feeling that this is a country that takes the repulsive tradition of dog-breeding seriously, and certainly they don’t treat dogs very nicely.

Most dogs seem to be small here, which makes sense for such a high density country, but they treat them much more like an object for entertainment than a companion. Well, I know that the dog that lives with me back home is probably a great deal more intelligent, kind and humane than some of the bureaucrats in the “administration francais”, the stifling bureaucracy of this country where no one wants to help you or do their job. The canine keiser is quite a special dog.

Buts its ok, by the end of the year i will probably be like many others here, indifferent to all the nasty people who dont do their job.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Recently I went to Normandy with my group of other American students in a big bus. It took a long while. It was interesting to go back to these places I hadn’t seen for 8 years or so, and I ended up crying like a baby, but it was a good experience.

The museum of peace near Caen is a poignant and moving chronology of the history leading up to, during and after WWII. Im not very good with the subject of WWII, I usually cant hold up in one piece for too long when theres a lot of discussion on the subject. Thankfully the museum was not nearly as depressing as it could have been, and it was really well done. There was a fascinating german propaganda film, which was made using stock footage, on the subject of D-day, which clearly tried to portray the germans as victorious. None of the footage was actually from Normandy, of course.

Anyway, in the museum there were many interesting war artifacts one in particular was a page from shostakovich’s 7th symphony. The symphony even accompanied a film on the subject of the invasion of lenningrad.

Later there was another film which I watched in the theatre there which was sort of an amalgamation of a lot of war and peace images. The construction of the berlin wall, the rebellion in the Czech republic, the tearing down of the berlin wall, the war in Vietnam, images of the peace movement, of peace accords etc, etc. Anyway they used film from Koyyanisqatsi and Naqqoisqatsi in the film, it was fun to see footage I knew… but accompanied to much less interesting music.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The internet here is like the rest of france. I have to go great lengths out of my way to get it, have a laptop, and special plug, and then it still works half the time. In fact, at the moment, the internet doesn’t work at all, my ID for the WIFI no longer works, for reasons known to absolutely no one, and the people in charge of the WIFI are also stumpted and are completely unable to do anything about it. “sorry, nothing we can do” sure, im sure of that. Their own system has some bizarre error and theres nothing they can do about it. That shit pisses me off. Stuff breaks and nobody tries to fix it or nobody want to take the responsibility to work.
I remind them that I just bought a laptop so I could write emails to my family and communicate with family and friends on skype, only then they make an effort, otherwise they want to just get rid of me. “We’ll try to do something” so im going tomorrow to try, probably fruitlessly again, tomorrow to get these people to help me and let me use the WIFI again. I am grouchy because I expect 1st world functionality and am getting 3rd world service.

In fact, this country reminds me of a developing country, because nothing works, ever. Ever since I got back from spain nothing has worked, not the heat in the dorm, not the internet, not the postal service, not the kitchen on my floor (its been closed and locked) and my big toe may be infected.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Im in barcelona!

and this time blogger is in spanish!

I saw a gaudi today, it was sweet. Pictures later...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Arcade Fire- Neighborhood #3 (power out)

Ive been generally disappointed by this group. I guess I was expecting another animal collective. I was expecting more of an adventure and I ended up with a sort of bus tour, with a comfortable seat that looks out at interesting things through the safety glass of the rock tradition, things that you never quite get to. Nevertheless, they’re certainly not terrible, I would say good, in that I know they could go a long way, that they could get somewhere great. I find most of the neighborhoods songs to be kinda banal, particularly the theme to #2, though the work in its entirety has a cheeky appeal. Ive heard better work by this group, but nothing that much better.

Im going to Barcelona, the city of gaudi, today. Wont be back till thurs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I just bought a CD of Dutilleux for 7.90 euros (the same label of the Deprez CD). Not bad for a country where 22.00 is very normal price for a 60 minute CD of Bach or Beethoven classics (which you could probably download them on the internet for free, and legally too). The two works on the CD are the First Symphony and Timbres, Espace,Movement. Im not familiar with much of this composers work, but Ive liked both pieces ive heard by the musician. We shall see…

The other day I said “I need to diner” to a friend. When I try, im usually pretty good at franglish, but this was a spontaneous occurrence. I have no explanation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A friend of mine is writing a journal about her experiences here in Nantes. One of the most amusing and fitting descriptions i came across was #15 in her list of observations:

The university appears to have been designed by the bastard child of George Jetson and the inventor of concrete.

...and i believe this is true for many universities in france. For a country that pretty much invented the idea of a university, they dont seem to have many old ones sitting around... or any old ones outside of paris, that i know of. What this means is that the universites are on the fringe of the cities and all in garish 1950s modernism. There couldnt possible be a better way to harmonize with 17th, 18th,and 19th century neighbors than to design a perfect concrete and glass grid painted orange.

Dont get me wrong, i find a lot of contemporary archiecture to be pretty rad...but the only good to come out of the 50s in the design world were Le Corbu’s rochamp (which, although hideous, is also pretty damn cool) Mies' coolly minimalistic towers and pavillions and a few works by my favorite aalto, saarinen and the Sydney opera house. After that there have been some really cool exceptional works too, but in the real world (always have to think about the real world) common architecture sucked until the 90s, and still sucks quite a bit since then. Its gotten a lot better in the last 5 years, so I am hopeful.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

George Crumb – Black Angels- Departure (Kronos quartet)

Despite the severity of the opening passages there is lyricism at the musics core. Its bittersweet, terrifying, surreal and expressionistic…much more agitated and energetic than the rest of the Black Angles pieces.

While listening to music, its always rewarding experience to hear something that sounds fresh and new, some of the music I love the most is that which opens up new possibilities or pushes instruments beyond my expectation or knowledge. That excitement of hearing new effects, sounds that you’ve never heard before, that is what keeps me enthralled with contemporary music. A big thanks again to Mr. Crumb, his work is most definitely appreciated.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For someone who would bang around on a piano twice, three times (6 times) daily, this part of france is a frustrating place to live. The university here does not have a music school or pianos to offer. The only ive found the entire stay here, an electric in a crowded university cafe (where i am pretty much obligated to play something inoffensive, and certainly anything contemporary is off limits) Is broken, and has been for weeks, leaving me even more frustrated with this place. There is an interesting phenomenon in france- the instruments are more expensive, the cds are more expensive, even the sheet music is more pricey... and it appears that many french families, as i understand it, go across the boarder to belgium or germany, or italy and spain to find cheaper instruments, cheaper violins and pianos. What causes the higher prices is beyond me.... but it appears that for a country that places composers on a pedestal... they dont really seem to have a fondness for making music. Its also worth noting that this blog business is currently compromised by the lack of reliable internet access...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lully- 1eme air des espagnols - sarabande- Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670)

For about the first 20 seconds of this track you have no idea where to place this music. Is it modern? Contemporary? It begins with a yet-to-be identified percussion instrument(s) which sounds somewhere between a prepared piano and a tambourine. A guitar joins in playing sweetly and quietly. A solo violin enters, singing above the already rich and elegantly woven lines of the guitar. Finally, after another 10 seconds or so, we, the confused listener, can identify the period with some degree of certainty. The French baroque- made audible by the harmonic movement and f;orid ornamentation – later it becomes more obvious by the ensemble of baroque violins and harpsichord. The lyricism is hypnotic, it charms the ear in a way Lully never does, the rhythms are modern and complex- a fascinating piece that seems to float out of the 17th century perfectly intact, un-aged or dated.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Its steve reich's birthday

My father's is coming up soon too.

Well, i suppose today is a better day than just any other to express my love of steve reich's music. (if that made any sense at all) No muscian has gone from such extremes of austerity to lushness, from simplicity to complexity that i can think off, and he did it all brilliantly and flawlessly. I wouldnt hesitate to call him the greatest around these days, i cant wait to hear the pearl variations, i thought that You are var. were beautiful and well done. No other musician has opened my ears as many times as he has with eath succeeding piece. From Its gonna Rain to piano phase, to Drumming, to 6 pianos to 18 musicians, to music for large ensemble, to the cave and to Different Trains, each one of these and then some have been for me an aural revolution and i couldnt thank him enough for it. His music opened up a totally different world that wouldnt have existed without him. I greatly, greatly appreciate the work of this man.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In this picture: mozart, bach, chopin, meyerbeer and whole bunch of now-obscure composers that obviously appealed to Charles Garnier. They're all golden and shiny too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I am once again sick.

and i hate, with a burning passion, all things that are viral in this world.

Debussy is comforting me today. I have always loved those languid and unresolving augmented chords in Nuages, but they seem all the more poignant in times when everything sucks and your head hurts. I couldnt really do much but sit with a fever and listen to debussy....i couldnt read because my headache, so the music was all i had for comfort, but it worked well. I hear that my two favorites, the above mentioned mr. D and his friend mr. R, are not as favored here in france as they are elsewhere. I think the academics still prefer d'indy, franck and saint saens.

pretty sad. Also, there are no pianos here, making m. keiser very grouchy. Pianos make me a happier person, and i'd have to audition to get into the conservatory to take a class to get to a piano (which i dont want to do anyway) but i cant do that because id have to learn or relearn something on a non-existant piano, thus i'd have to have a piano to get a piano. No piano, so, life sucks.

Friday, September 22, 2006

correction: the line from berio's symphonia is "i must have said this before since i say it now" which is said, of course, two times. the first time false, the second time true. "well so there is an audience!" and what would post-modernism be if it didnt address the audience directly.

It is disappointing to report from this land of berlioz and boulez that the modernist "grande homme" mentality towards art and classical music is still very strong here. classical music is much higher here, much loftier, much worse off. I heard a new piece of "contemporary" music here recently. Some violin concerto, which could have easily been written in 1940. extended tonality, passages of atonality, vaguely romantic and absolutely, fucking academic. Cadenzas et al.


It was built, still under that old modernist assumption that a lack of repetition forces the audience do more thinking, that its much more high-minded to minimalize the repetition of note patterns, of which only the opposite is true. it was built with the idea that there was something more to be said in a 300 year old formula and a 200 year old orchestra.... There is not.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I must have said it before if i say it now

....that I fucking love berio's Symphonia. The energetic movements that frame the work leave me speachless, literally. i have no idea what to write right now.

Alex Ross mentioned in his lecture that this work, particularly the collage-music middle movement, is a great example of post-modernism in music. That post-modern tendency towards quotation for reference and disorientation- and the playfulness of it, is pomo-infused, but it is more than pomo, and at the same time, beyond definition. By the way, there is a waiter here in nantes who looks amazingly similar to the new yorker-lecturer himself. i can only say this with a small degree of certainty since i have met alex ross.

but Berio puts my poor spam songs to shame. Oh my poor, languishing spam songs. they sit there in the states, neglected, unfinished and unperformed. I really want to hear the first one performed before i die. Just the part about penis enlargement patches, thats all, thats all. its not much to ask of a soprano, right?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Im In nantes

... and blogger is currently in french. I spent the last two days on the coast in Bretagne and built a pretty sweet sandcastle. Pictures may come at some point, but probably not too soon. Had fun with friends. it was actually pretty strange, right now and earlier this week when i met up with the "nantais" group (read: american students) because i havent been surrounded by so much english since i left the states. I have a nice dorm room, single person with a bathroom, but internet access is not often available in the building and certainly not available in my room. It was very warm here the first few days. French food IS better -the French seem to have higher food standards. My laptop monitor has not faired so well on this trip, and i have to buy a seperate monitor to hook it up... meaning, i have no idea when i can post pictures again. France is a beautiful country and Nantes is quite attractive.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Im in paris

...and already missing the french alps. Granted, paris is wonderful. I tried to go into the madeline where saint-saens played the organ, but no...closed. I dont like saint-saens that much anyway. I've discovered that St. Etienne and St. Eustache are my favorite churches in this city. Notre dame is FILLED with tourists while other, equally beautiful structures remain untouristy. Yesterday i spent most of the time in the Louvre, where i saw delecroix's portrait of chopin. I passed by the opera where there are golden busts of haydn, bach, mozart, meyerbeer and a whole lot of composers who i've never heard of. Old and forgotten opera composers, i assume. When i was in grenoble i saw a large bronze statue of Berlioz. They seem to put these men on rather lofty pedistals. Or they did, probably not anymore... which is probably for the best. I love the music of bach, berlioz and others but im not a fan of western cultures habit of deifying musicians and artists. Sure they did great work, but the man who developed a faster-growing speicies of rice, he saved untold numbers from starvation. The engineers of the world who developed and built our actual infrastructure, our sewers and our bridges. These people are more worthy of praise in my opinion. Sure art humanizes- but there are practicalities that are overlooked here, always overlooked. How many famous engineers can you name? how many famous inventors? I dont like deifying on either side, im just saying that there is no injustice in the lower cultural standing of these composers. Dont get me started on pop-culture. Why celbrities make more money than nurses baffles me.

am i going to make enemies this way?

sorry no pictures, im using a different computer, one currently without pictures.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Improvisation on a broken piano string

I recorded this a while ago (obviously before i left) and it was because one of my favorite notes, a low A string broke on my piano. Well, when life gives you lemons.... I FINALLY got it hosted (no thanks to ourmedia, which seems to be having technical problems and a nasty habit of completely wasting my time. Anyway, it was fun to play, hopefully when i get back i can get it fixed. There are actually two broken strings. The A flat plays sustained without pedal. I tried to eploit this here as well- and the sonority has changed, but i doubt that comes though in my shitty recordings. Anyway, more pictures of france!

Chateau Querais, Les Hautes-Alpes and Aix again.

Aix-En-Provence et plus des images des les Hautes-Alpes


Aix's cathedral interior...

After Le corbusier?

Embrun's square and Cathedral

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

French Alps

No, this is not a postcard, yes its real and
I took this

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Embrun 2

Im currently re-discovering late beatles while touring and hiking around (and speaking french) This is the nerdiest thing to admit, ever, but the reason why i decided to learn french was because my favorite piano music was french, and written with elaborate french descriptions. "comme un cloche qui sonne lointain"err... something like that (like a bell that rings far away) and titles like "reflets dans l'eau" Ultimately, you could say, Debussy's and Ravels music drove me here, but that was the reason for starting, not continuing my studies.

Anyway, im currently debating on if i should just let this become a temporary travel blog. You, my 3 or 4 viewers wouldnt mind, right? if i just rambled on and posted a ton of pictures for a few weeks? Once i get settled in nantes normal programming should resume.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Currently in Embrun, France, Dans les Hautes Alpes. C'est tres beau. Pictures will come soon.

Music related? i heard a man on a french horn playing an endless loop of Schubert's Ave Maria outside the Basillica en Marseille... and i also bought Feldman's 1st string quartet (the not-as-insanely long one) during my layover in dallas. Im also currently enjoying my fairly new CD of Cage's prepared piano pieces. I love the prepared piano, what a fucking brilliant move on cage's part (the only problem, which really isnt much of one in certain respects, is the lack of standardization for the prepared piano). The music is great too, he really did a great job writing for the instrument.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My flight from Phoneix to London has been canceled (as of this morning?) (i was supposed to leave today), thanks to the fuck-tard managment at British air (well, and other things). There are people on the other side waiting for me in marseille, but what do they care, im just another number. Im convinced they are unreasonable and im not just an angry young american, there are brits too who are pissed.

It currently looks like im going to go to dallas for a 12 hour layover. then to paris, then the tgv to marseille, fuck british air and london, im not going there at all. Where im going to sleep and eat in this plan is unknown to me.

i want those 24 (or however number of people who planned that shit) dead. I want them to suffer, i want their heads on a spike, because in reality, those bastards who profanities cant even come close to describe are the real fuck-ups in humanity- the ones responsible for this. irrationally angry? well, sure.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Images, book 1

Metropolitan is the name of both this building and my piece. I had mentioned earlier that i was thinking about writing music in paraline form, well, this is in (somewhat warped) perspective. If anyone tries to tell me that my music is non-musical because it fulfills a notational standard (an image on paper) first and the actual musical substance second, bullshit i say. Mine is no less musical than seralism- because serialism's values are the same- the notational demands are there first and the music is fitted into the frame. Image precedes experience.

anyway, the most common question has been "is it actually playable? does it sound good?" Well, depends on your notion of "good"... and yes, its playable, hence the A's and B's and the Part 1,2,3,4. There are only two bars but they can be played in any order the performers want and in any combination that the performers like. There is no prescribed instrumentation, its just whatever instruments can play the notes.

Most importantly, its also a gift for a non-musical friend. Its her favorite building in New York.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The return of Bartok the String Quartets

So i was harsh on them earlier, but i've been listening quite a lot to numbers 3-6.

I have come to prefer 3 and 5, 5 in particular has some lovely passages- the scherzo in SQ#5 in particular brings some color and light to what are otherwise fairly grim scenes, i love the vitality in these two quartets, while SQ#6 seems so bleak and desolate (as do the slow movements in other SQs), i love music with real vigor, energy. I love the plucked glissandi in SQ#3 and the occasional outbursts of visceral dissonances. I wish i could share this music with someone with strong ears, theres some very good stuff here. Bartok often appears to really be interested in sonority in a very modern (read: contemporary) way, and this surprises me for some reason. There are those passages where the musical material seems preoccupied with giving the listener something they're unprepared to hear... something they have not heard before and something interesting in a purely aural sense.

SQ 4 has not impressed me yet. I didn’t find much of interest, but i should give it another fair listen.

All and all Bartok is difficult to listen to in that his musical material is rarely revisited and the variations (or development) spun off the opening material are often difficult to follow. His harmonies often lack enough contrast to bring warmth or color, but sometimes flow into a certain monotony in black and gray. The dissonance is great, but it is rarely intense to the point of becoming visceral or passionate, or even surprising or interesting. This is bartok at his worst, but like i said, at his best he really hits it off, he brings some really great ideas to the string quartet form.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

8 DAYS (practically)

luntil i leave this continent. I will be boarding a plane on the morning of the 14th and head to... phoenix. BUT! after phoenix i will fly to LONDON! in ENGLAND... and then board another plane and fly to... marseille, france.

I will be spending the next 11 months in the french nation of france and i will be studying France's french language. It should be interesting.

We have figured out that its currently cheaper for me to go study at a university in france than it is to study at a public university as an in-state student here. That is ridiculous, but it is a fact. 800 bucks gets me a semister of dorm and classes... plus they're brand new dorms built with single occupancy rooms.

and france has better food.

So i expect i will enjoy my trip. If i dont, i'll deal with it and enjoy the fact that im not sharing nation-space with the republican party.

au revoir

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Debussy! Clowns!

what do clowns have to do with this stargazer version of Debussy's Arabesque #1? Fuck i dont know but i laughed harder than i have all month. Its also somewhat disturbing.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Redding, California

My cousin is camping this weekend at henry cowell state park. I find this of interest.

As we drove through Barstow and i couldnt help but think of Partch, though i know none of his music. Im back on the towards greener scenery and not-so-hot places. Last week driving down it was 117 (!!!!!) in Napa California as we went down. We stayed at my cousin's in San Jose- 108 degrees and they didnt have air conditioning- i slept in a 95+ house.

It was interesting.

Baker, California took the cake though, 119 and it felt like it was burning your eyes in the shade. Las vegas was less impressive at a measly 113. Napa was hotter. NAPA.

anyway thats all old news. Its now more normal these days, exept it smells like burning trees outside and theres a grey smoke haze in the night sky. Ah well, we're leaving tomorrow at 6 AM.

Good bye, palm trees.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Im currently staying at the Riviera on the strip. Well, what it lacks in style it makes up for flashing lights... lots of flashing lights and gold-tinted mirrors. Its a dated piece of property- there are little, what would you call them, light up adverts on the walls which clearly havent changed since about 1982- big hair and all.

Downstairs there is the endless appeggios of the c major chord. c-e-g-c-e-g-c-e-g-c, many chromatic scales added with the clinking of the trays the sound of dozens of conversations- its ready-made musique-concrete, and something i cant help but enjoy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hot weather?

Here?!? well, we get it every year. usually three or four days of 90 degree weather. Well, we already had 2 in june, and theres two more headed our way. It was weird stepping out of the movie theatre tonight. it being 10:30 and more than 70 degrees. This is seattle we're talking about.

Well, anyway, im headed south as of tomorrow, Portland is my first stop, Predicted to be in the 100s(!!!) this weekend. 100+ degrees in the rose city?!? holy shit.

then to redding california (111 degrees) and then to Palo Alto ( 85/84 few- a cooloff!) and then to Las fucking Vegas (106+?) ...and i'll be there for a week.

Im hoping to enjoy all this.

anyway, the message is- i'll be back later.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

history and classical music are so bound up together its sometimes hard to think of the music without the context, which is perfectly fine most of the time. The problem i find is that the genre is so tied to some perceived tradition, and old forms for the music, that its being crushed by conservatism. I will admit, writing a sonata in B minor is a temping thing to do. It sounds so... lofty, so elegant it just rolls off the tongue- "excuse me sir, I must play my piano concerto #3 right now, or would you prefer my symphony concertante in A?" But these things are not so lofty. There is no implicit connection between calling a piece a symphony and it being anyway connected to good music. I wrote 3 piano sonatas by the time i was 15 (4 movements et all!). This is nothing to be proud of, either. Sure it sounds impressive (moreso to non-musical people) but the music was so shitty, the quality was so impossibly low that any other idiot could have pounded out something more interesting. This shouldnt show as much that i had any kind of talent, but that writing a sonata or a symphony or whatever else can be incredibly brainless, we just unconsciousness associate the name with quality, so likewise composers name their music after something associated with quality. Its essentially a shallower and less offensive kind of historicism, a historicism of forms rather than of content.

We should learn from history rather than try to repeat it, right? but still classical muscians are imitating historical models, repeating historical musical languages and instrumentation rather than learning from them. I love bach as much as the next classically-trained dude but im not going to sit around and write suites for harpsichord, no matter how atonal, minimal, post-minimal or contemporary my language is... why? (wouldnt it make a cute little reference of how far we've gone?) no...because its still keeping with history, imitating history rather than examining and utilizing the ideas in history.

Thats my incoherent rant for the day, and sometimes i just have to rant.

Monday, July 17, 2006

July Improvisation

And to think, i did this without that low A.

My A string an octave below middle A broke the other day. This saddens me, who am much fond of both the key of A major and of this particular note in this particular section of the piano. The music of this improv starts off ok but then sort of sputters out, which often happens with improvs.

You can hear my unadulterated influence from john adams towards the end. Im not particularly happy with it, either, but whatever, it doesnt last that long.

the link is here

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Strokes - Soma

Unpretentious, simple, even plain. There is an elegance in its lyricism, even a classicism in its clear and modest forms. It doesnt sprawl, it gets straight to the point.

I appreciate this.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Philip Glass/David Bowie/Aphex Twin - Heroes symphony re-mix (1997)

PWS made a post recently mentioning an "ideal" music. He was writing about debussy, and if you know me, i live off the stuff. Basically anything he wrote after 1888 sends me into a quivering mess on the floor in fetal-position bliss. His late music leaves me speechless in its gorgeousness, but all this talk of an ideal, well, debussy's late music is certainly one, but another ideal of mine is this piece, aphex twin's collaboration with glass and bowie. Third times a charm- or an absolutely fucking masterpiece, its a work that leaves me just as speechless and blissful as debussy. This is my modern ideal, this is the kind of music i wish to write someday- or at least, music that achieves this effect or result for me.

This is postmodernism in its most hypnotic, frantic, lush and contemporary. Imagine some film like a further-technofied koyyanisqatsi, fragmented and expressionistic, accompanying this music- I can think of nothing that would be a better art to express the hypnotic, mechanical and frenzied pace of urban life (the orginal qatsi music pales in comparison). This is a dark beauty, full of menace and propulsion, full of energy and agony, hope and despair- all those emotions expected in some19th century romantic symphony, but rapped up in a five minute intense minimalistic/maximalistic piece. There are those echoes and emotions welling up into waves, cresting into points of great tension, almost seems as if musique concrete had a singing love child with philip glass.

While other works of aphex twin have impressed me, none have left me so happy, so enthralled with the sounds of a kind of music i'd never heard before.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

isnt this sad?

But at least i dont invest actual meaning in this.

I lost *one* incoming link and look what happens.

Im still torn as to what to do with myself. I am usually forcing myself to update this page and thats no good, leaving me more eager to publish another blurb than create something well-crafted. As Plaible recently noted, many blogs have slowed down or have quieted down recently (maybe its a summer thing?). but instead f going on open hiatus, I've done the worse thing by continuing to post when i feel i have little to say (and often my motivation is to push the ugly writing i scribbled out at 2 AM the night before to the bottom of the page)

"but theres always something to say about music" i say to myself. Yes, but theres not always something interesting to say about music.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Animal Collective - Infant dressing table

one of this groups most individual and daring works and also one of their most haunting and beautiful, i have been deeply impressed by their endless ability to achieve great diversity while preserving quality of content.

The music begins quietly but builds over 6 minutes- eventually swelling to one large melancholy echo, built around tones repeated often four times (give or take), static harmony and highly irregular (but not dominant) percussion. The voices act as instruments rather than messengers, instruments that are explored for their possibilities. And just as it built up, its fades away, slowly but steadily. This is music i can get lost in.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Golijov - Ayre

This is challenging music. Not in the sense that its difficult to listen to, not challenging in the way of Schoenberg,Stockhausen or early Glass and Reich, but challenging in that it seems to defy what might otherwise seem as weaknesses in contemporary music- the obvious borrowings, blatant allusions and juxtapositions that leave no room for subtlety... its not going to warm up to many, but its important to note that the contrasts here are so delineated that they can not be a mistake-this is intentional. The crass obviousness of the middle eastern 'sound' or the christian 'sound' are placed right next to each other to only deepen the division between the different musics that supposedly "meld", appearing as part of golijov's intent, yet there gesture seems a suggestion a real unity despite radically disparate pieces. The conception of the juxtapositions are what are important here.. and the postmodern obsession with signage rather than suggestion or individualistic style.

The music flies in the face of a number of conventions. The third movement in particular, with its obvious techno influences, defies the definition of that bullshit category of "classical music" (as if to bring the point home, a famous mozart soprano is singing in a most unorthodox and most un-mozartean way) and that is a triumph in this regard- a confrontational, in-your-face attitude that i really appreciate.

the music also defies the idea of mixing that we may expect from any kind of art-music endeavor. It feels more like a pastiche without the -iche, so to speak. a work of clearly intentional seriousness that denies us the privilege of hearing one coherent musical language. Instead we get several, and the result is less than comforting.

Banal? somewhat. interesting? yes. But before anyone can simply condemn this work we as a self-respecting art judge have to see what the intent of the musician was... and Was it to blend the music into some unity? NO. clearly, obviously not.
Was it to fulfill our expectations? nope, not that either.

As i said, this is difficult music.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Political Cul-de-sac #4

I am outraged.

Once again republicans in congress have shown their ideologically infused disregard for the minimum wage. They once again shot down an attempt to raise it. Why? Why on earth does republican ideology say the minimum wage is bad or raising it is harmful? The argument i hear is about business and particularly small business- that raising the minimum wage will decrease jobs and be difficult on small business owners.

Firstly this is not going to be a wide-spread truth no matter how dramatic your scenario- secondly- what state has the highest minimum wage in the county? Mine. Washington state, which has more jobs across the board and a much stronger economy than most of the US states... and there very well may be this relationship between the minimum wage and a stronger economy (or there damn well should be according to republican logic (see below))

Reganomics (see: republican ideology economics) claims as its primary principal the notion that when people have more money, they spend more, they then boost the economy and increase job opportunities. This is the logic and reasoning behind all those tax cuts and those recent ones the republicans passed earlier in Bush's career. Ok, we will just assume this is true. So how does the minimum wage hurt the economy again? small business ...what? so...

When people earn more, they spend more (earn more = have more money) so....
By the republicans own logic- by the their own founding economic principal ( people having more money = people spending more= better economy) i have just justified an increase in minimum wage and contradicted their own argument against the minimum wage using their own time honored logic.

I dont feel the need to expand on this, as its pretty basic connect the dots here. The republicans are simply following a confused and literally self-contradicting economic-ideology, without realizing it, they have just turned their backs on the reason(ing) for tax cuts- something they all seem to hold so near and dear.

But, fuck, this makes it seem like its all just a sham.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Michael Gordon- Instrumental.

I've been just mundaning my way through summer, so far. Sleep, eat, work (in some form), look at computer, repeat, but at least i've had the escape of good music. There is a close-to-sublime beauty in those strings.

My mother recently bought Meredith Monk's Dolman Music, Steve Reich's 1977 recording of music for 6 pianos and some Golijov. I only suggested it and to my surprise she went ahead and got them on amazon. Im waiting eagarly for their arrival.

Friday, June 23, 2006

bothered by historicism

I believe that the vast majority of classically trained musicians, or musicians who have an understanding of the music, are required to one degree or another to understand the historical context of the music- without it they couldnt possibly play chopin like chopin or bach like bach. Classically trained musicians, then, are to one degree or another, rooted to the past- they understand that they work with is relatively old material, they have to.

Many musicians have a kind of historical anchor- the music that impassioned them or brought them to the history and to the training. For example, my anchor is in the music of Debussy (and later Ravel). That music was my first love so to speak* and it later brought me to listening to mozart and beethoven and bach, but it was through Debussy that my musical foundations were set. Im sure this is true for many others- and like a moored boat i can never float too far away from my anchor in the material i was trained with. Stravinsky felt the same way and explained it to his critics- he never abandoned his foundations in russian rimsky training, he applied it in new ways and with new musical materials, but his background was still there, sometimes more obscured, sometimes less.

So if this is true, if that a musicians training will stick through disparate styles and that one may find it very difficult simply to uproot themselves from their training, then what value is there in historicism at all? If we as musicians already know that history, if we've explored it and have it as our anchor, why would one sink into a historical** style as a mode of expression? is there a fear of de-valuing the history or disrespecting the music? of defying the artists that we respect so highly? That clearly cant be the case so long as we keep the training in one form or another- it'll always be there. We can even take up that old french tradition of writing homages (i was always partial to this) just to show our respect to that history.

And thats just one argument against historicism ( and not a particularly strong one, either). Im just waiting for the time to write some sprawling thing on my other argument about historical relevance and its continuing importance and blah blah blah. One problem though is that the postmodern argument of "incredulity towards metanarritives and blah blah blah" might be used to prop-up historicism, but only weakly (in my opinion). Maybe i just need to read more lyotard...

... Or maybe I need to just stop being an ass.

*i knew beethoven and bach and mozart, even shumann and others vaguely at that point through my brother's piano playing, and i liked that music, but it didnt excite my imagination like the Debussy on first hearing.

** i dont CARE how many college professors at harvard and oxford write and say "an historical" thats bullshit by me. In english H is not a vowel, hence the hhhhhhh sound we produce when we say the word (if the h in historical were silent, then by all means, but its not). This tendency appears to be an imitation of French (where h's are often muet), and as an almost soon-t0-be-francophone i find that kind of imitation really, really pathetic.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I've decided im going to write a piece, or series of pieces that relate to the paraline drawing technique. Im not exactly sure how to go about this, my main idea is to write music that will itself be in paraline form- i've also toyed with the idea of writing music that will create an architectural image, rather than just some abstract space-drawing. I think the second of these is a better idea, maybe both though, who knows. its a project i have for the summer.

Now i have no problem with this, but i thought of possible objections that musicians might have- that its music thats relies so heavily on the visual aspect of notation and isnt that a preoccupation with creating images rather than creating music? isnt it non-musical?

my response:

Well, no more non-musical than serialism. A drawing is just giving you the perimeters for the notes to go, just as a tone row does- they both rely on some sort of notational structure first and then musical (aural) attributes secondly- not to say serialism doesn’t deal with musical attributes, of course it does, but it is just as pre-occupied with the visual as i would be if i drew, say, the spire of the Chrysler building in musical notes.

so why didnt a school of visual-musical artists who draw in notes not develop along side serialism? The value structure is the same for both- fulfilling the notational criteria is primary, everything else is secondary- so im really not sure why composers didnt adopt this idea. Probably because the extra-musical value here is too explicit, it could seem banal or trivializing to music (as if it doesnt with the serialist meathod!)ah well.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Beauty in crude recordings?

well, maybe not beauty, but hopefully its not too boring. I just recorded myself playing on top of a recording of me playing on top a recording of an improvisation.* I like the results. Its in a very free cannon structure dominated by one 3 note theme.

*here is the first recording which is the basis of the whole thing.

Anyway, im just glad to be home!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of mr. Ligeti. His music has left a deep impression on me and i truely respect his contribution to the art- the world is richer today because of his work. I can only hope that my kind of respect will also be expressed by the broader music world.

Ligeti's open-minded and natural individualism reminds us that some of the greatest artists cannot always be boxed into a simple ism, and that the very nature(s) of isms, as a historical-artistic concept, are always open to suspect.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


June improv-

This was frustrating. I played a much better improvisation before recording this one only to find out the thing wasnt actually recording, but, patron saint of mediocrity that i am*, i am presenting this second and sub-par improvisation without hesistation.

*if you dont get this obvious reference, someone should throw a shoe at you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Implicit assumptions in instrumentation

One of the things i dont understand is why we are still carrying around some implicit assumptions about classical music- in particular the public and musicians assumption that there are "classical" instruments and "popular" or "non-classical" instruments. This is pure and utter bullshit. There are instruments which were historically used in "classical music", yes, but we must keep in mind, when new instruments arose in the old days, they were embraced, not wholly rejected, as the developments and changes in the possibility of instrumentation from the 1930s-on have been. Looking at Monteverdi, Haydn, at Beethoven and Berlioz will teach us that new instruments were not subject to such suspicion or rejection in the past, why are we still rejecting these new developments in electronics, amplification, in drums, of electric guitars and basses and all that into the orchestra? (when we're really turning our back on historical precedents, not preserving them) There is no reason but empty-headed conservatism, that preservation of some "tradition" that never existed- If papa haydn can reform the orchestra, i think we can do it now.

This is a problem we could easily trace back to the 19th century and the standardization of the orchestra, but even then we see some substantial changes... from the introduction of the harp with berlioz to the tuba of wagner and the invention of the saxophone, rimsky korsakov and even Saint Saens' and tchaikovsky's experimented with new instrumentation. There was some new stuff going on too, though not widely spread- but there were not as new, or radically new instruments to embrace, and the standardized orchestra at that time was still a fairly new. There were many attempts to bring in some new instruments in the 20th century by many composers- but nothing has been able to become standard. Why? because the institution of the orchestra had already grown too conservative and resistant to dissonant modern music.

The freshness of the instrumentation of the standard orchestra is gone. We're still sitting around trying to get new sounds out of an old ensemble (Adams? Del Tredici? Philip Glass?!?) - this multi-foliated instrument of the orchestra has existed relatively unchanged since the mid-19th century, and as far as i can tell, this is an example of bend or break. Since musicians or orchestras (and composers!!) have been resistant to change, the natural result is an ever-increasing obscurity. Jazz may also fall into this trap in the next few decades (or already has?) and get swallowed by a conservatism that would have appalled the earlier masters of the genre.

As far as i can tell, ensembles like Philip Glass' and Reich's were on the right path back in the 70s. Michael Gordon and Gollijov are on it now. They got it right. The old instruments of the ancient oboe, the clarinet, the piano, the violin, Does anyone in their right mind suspect that they're going to actually disappear from use in the next century? anything’s possible, but its highly unlikely, so what is this fear of change? why the lack of warmth to new instruments? Are they that threatening?

When i was younger i used to believe in some platonic "purity of form" or "uniformity" of sound- that it didnt matter what instruments the chord was playing it, it was still the same, the same music. That concept, i realized, along with all those other platonic assumptions we're still collectively carrying around in our culture, is complete bullshit. Music does not operate or exist in some perfect platonic form in the ethos beyond perception (which is in part, as far as im concerned the implicit assumption of all 12 tone music)* it is essentially determined by its instrumentation and performance, by its perception. The same tone row on an electric guitar and on a piano are two different musics, they are not the same. Analyze the sound waves- do an electric guitar and a piano produce the same waves of sound? no, they are different- and that means that the essential (not the incidental) part of the music is altered- meaning its not some trivial detail of "mere instrumentation". To think otherwise is to buy into that concept of Platonic " perfect forms" in music.

So its sink or swim (ok, maybe not that dramatic) as far as i can tell. If you have any rational argument for why we shouldn’t embrace new technology in the classical establishment, im all ears- but as it is, i see no reason for it- just a lack of reflection and clear thinking, (and maybe its the historical aspect that draws people to the genre in the first place?).


*i have just crushed the theory behind 12 tone music. **

**ok, maybe thats a bit presumptuous.....Maybe.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Whitney Music Box - var. 11 "minute waltz" -60 keys in 60 seconds.

Check this out

This is brilliant stuff, gorgeous stuff (well, more visually stunning than anything), its a graphic with music determined by the spinning visuals- with 13 variations total.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Koyaanisqatsi Pinball

Wouldn’t that kick ass?

I can just see it- that severe KOYAANISQATSI lettering on the top of the back board. Push in some quarters and you’d hear that ominous basso-profundo voice uttering the title accompanied by clips of the score. There could be all those sections, the cloudscape, the grid, pruit igoe, all of that, each one could light up and play a clip when hit. The grid in particular would give the pinball-maker the chance to do some fancy lighting tricks with the board (think of the time-lapse footage of those intersections) and with cloudscape drawings of clouds could light up. There could even be an airplane section for vessels or a collapsing building with igoe (in lighting of course).

Remember in the film there are those shots of kids playing games in an old fashioned arcade, it could a chance to be a sort of self-referential thing, it’s an absolutely perfect subject for pinball, dark and mysterious, and so much of it deals with this exact kind of fast-paced insanity.

I guess this is my idée fixe for the month.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I have corrupted

...the soft and moldable minds of fellow dorm-dwellers

with my strange musics.


While stravinsky didnt fly so well, Philip Glass certainly has. I wasnt really expecting that (but if you're used to techno, i suppose it makes sense)

Its hell week now. I have an absurd amount to be doing, i have not been as good a student as i should be, and i dont have time for much to update (nor much to say).

on a cheerful note, Today, while i was playing some strange contemporary music down stairs, a woman glared at me while walking past, her hands over her ears in a threatening gesture. What can i say? i was both concerned and amused. I mean, i really really wasnt playing loud (i swear) i was being careful not to get past (f), and usually staying in mf or mp. She either had-
A) something wrong with her
B) something wrong with her ears
C) hated the music.

probably all three, i think. (am i being egotistical?)

But now i've really got to run.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


I showed some friends of mine the rite of spring recently. They both were unsure how they felt about it. The dissonances were jarring, they complained. I explained why dissonance should not be a problem, but that doesn’t change much.

I've been listening to 60 second clips of Meredith monk's Atlas. While parts seem kinda incongruent- it appears at least, in from what i can read in 60 seconds,as a beautiful work (sometimes extraordinarily so). I wish i could get a better listen, i'd imagine i'd like it quite a bit.

I've always felt (i remember years ago thinking this and complaining to my mom about it) that opera was only good when it was fully abstracted or when it was as close to dramatic theatre as possible- that the stilted half way point between theatre and abstract musicality (thats basically a result of the classical/romantic tradition) was just a marginalization of either the music or the plot (usually the plot/dialogue/development) and was generally ineffective as both elements.
Abstraction, in my mind, was the only solution. I hate hearing these tacky dialogue being sung, as more of a necessity to keep a story moving then as something really prized An opera with the text as poetry could work, as it avoids the banality that can result from a truncated dialogue/plot format, but then again, writing as poetry requires a degree of abstraction

On the other end of the spectrum i now believe that spoken text as the basis in an opera could express any of the nuance of theatre (or even more with the addition/juxtaposition of music) and not cheapen the music. The music could certainly act in some relationship to the text being read, but it would be difficult to do this without sounding trite- Problem: what would make it more than just incidental music for a play?

Final pet peeve in music for theatre/film/opera/whatever is the use of minor chords for sad/angry situations or major harmonies for things perceived as more cheerful. Not only is this practice banal, its useless. What is the point of filling in all the space between listener and the actions on stage? To express a rigid concept of what is happy and sad devoid of the nuance of interpretation? Its the space between the two that allows a listener an ability to perceive the drama in a consciously different and personal manner, not shoving something down someone’s throat as if they were too inattentive or stupid to get it themselves.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

you guys are awesome

Just a little note/link to the wonderful temporary re-blog set up by the hard-working folks at anablog.

I have... no time. I shouldn’t even be typing it as its cutting in on my sleep-schedule.

Koyaanisqatsi was good- personally not mind-blowing, not revolutionary, surprisingly (visually)minimalistic in its emphasis on (visual) repetition (but i guess thats the point). I really did enjoy it, the music fit perfectly (though i thought there were many passages that were just a little too slow for me), the film gave me a different perspective of the kind of workings of the urban/industrial/manufacturing world.

Like anything minimalistic, at its best it left me in a giddy dizziness, disorienting and with a sense of awe. At its worst, it left me audibly yawning.
Some parts i wish the music were a little more diverse (organic, the grid). The film itself could be spectacularly beautiful and even moving in its coldness, in its objective "portraiture" of both individuals and the crowd.

I have many things to say, but i gotta get up early. Best be off.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

So i have just rented Koyaanisqatsi from my university library and have decided to post a few words. I have heard the music many times but have never seen the film. There is a real sense of drama in the music even without the video, but i am expecting that with it will be even more potent. The music is epic in a way, and, as far as im concerned, it is the ultimate in post-modernernity- that searing severe repetition, strict tonality and hypnotic persistence, a reflection of the contemporary urban world.

I have also read a great deal about the film, so hopefully my expectations will be met.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The beauty of misinterpretation

I have recently read criticism of stravinsky's ragtime, which will now send me on a half-intelligble tirade. I do not have the time to flesh-0ut this argument into something that might otherwise be convincing, but i dont mind publishing half-baked goodness. (its not like im getting any publicity here)

I understand the criticism, but it all seems to be based on the premise that mis-interpretation, mis-copying or whatever, is necessarily bad and cheap. Is this really the case? Whats the justification for a position like this? sometimes imitation can cheap- helplessly and pathetically cheap. For example, there are certain post-modern pseudo-historicist tendencies that makes me cringe:

(This is cheapafying classicism, an affectation that is not legitimately re-interpreting, but seems to mock more than anything else.)

There is a great evolutionary value in re-or mis- interpretation. Romanesque and consequently Gothic cathedrals would not exist otherwise. Nor would Roman architecture at all. Nor would greek for that matter (egypt). Historically, this is how arts developed and changed, how they evolved over time- through changes in perception, and most importantly, through imitation and those minor idiosyncrasies that always arise in the act of imitation.

Russian Churches, for example- Their distinctive style came from centuries-old of mis-interpretations of byzentine chuches. Without this mis-interpretation we would have never had the incredible beauty of St. Basil's in Moscow

This stylistic progression may have taken nearly 800 years, but damn does it end with a bang. (and doubtless would have continued to evolve had the renaissance not come to russia afterwards)

Stravinsky certainly understood the value of mis-interpretation, and no doubt, expected there to be a difference between his ragtime and those being played in america (when wrote the piece he had never actually heard american ragtime played, after all) So what is the gesture? Simply put, stravinsky found a way to create a new sound, based on rag sources but ultimately stravinsky.

So why do we allow for those implicit assumptions that deem both imitation and mis-interpretation as necessarily an aethetic cop-out or hack-work when this is clearly not the case? its essentially the dogma of modernism still slipping into our perceptions and argumentation.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Radiohead - There There (The bony King of Nowhere) (2003)

This is beautiful music. haunting, hypnotic, delicately lyrical, worthy of more attention than i can give it.

That shockingly mundane straightjacket form of popular music (Verse, Chorus, Verse, Choru... blah blah) has been rejected in favor of the non-popular, roughly AB type format. There is a warmth in the material that belies the title and a languidness that defies the steady beat.

I've been having nightmares about not finishing my homework (I think I have anxiety issues). So i need to get on that.

[unfinished] Sonata for Organ - Arnold Schoenberg (1941)

This has been mentioned many times over, but the Arnold Schoenberg Jukebox is an amazing, amazing resource for all things Schoenberg. Where else could i listen to 30 second fragments of an organ sonata back to back with his masterpieces?

I have always preferred Schoenberg’s pre-serialist works (though a handful of his serialist piano works have sparked my interest) This particular organ work is a fascinating little piece. It works, for whatever reason, the seralism fits quite well on an organ.

My main complaint with Schoenberg is that he seemed to believe that music without repetition was somehow more intellectual or interesting. He got that all wrong, im afraid. Without the re-occurring material i get bored, loose interest. Cognition is recognition, right?( or am i being dogmatic?) Either way, recycling some material will actually excite the brain into action, rather than lull it into daydreaming. From empirical observation, im sure of this much.
But what is the use of arguing against a dead man?

Either way, some great stuff to be had.... If only he had written more non-serial piano music and tonal neo-classicism (ie. the suite in g) ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Flying German

So no one can tell me what the music is in the chase me ladies video?

I've been listening (or have listened would be more accurate) to Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet (or if you prefer, Helikopter-Streichquartett). I think it goes without saying that this is a piece played entirely in helicopters.

Im not sure how i feel about it. Im highly amused, the music is ok but the concept is hilarious. I think im partial to Kontakte.

Its too damned long. I couldn’t download the entire quartet because i already am running low on disc space. 30+ minutes per movement? come on. There is nothing that can be said that cant be said in half that time. Take a lesson from webern or beethoven, not mahler.

now through hear-say i understand that Stockhausen has a fascination with defying gravity and wanted to express this in the music (hence the helicopters). He had done this decades ago when he suspended musicians up on ropes in the theatre. Apparently the musicians had difficulty playing their instruments while suspended in mid-air. Even heard reports of these musicians being unable to control being swung around above the stage.

I think this deserves re-visiting ....fertile grounds for something pythonesque.

But someone can fact-check that. I should, but im lazy and i think its too rich to want to dispel the story with fact. Besides, im the executer of this blog and what executive relies on facts?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

i met alex ross.

the lecture was great. I got to see an interesting arts space i didnt know existed until recently. Great spot, great stuff. I really did like the Golijov he played, fantastic.

I also had never actually heard Salome or Shoenbergs 5 pieces for orchestra... so i was pretty happy (since i wasnt really expecting to hear much that i wasnt familiar with*)

Tonight i have been invited to improvise some music for a friend of mine's film. It should be interesting. We'll see how it goes. If i get my way i'll be doing this "scary music" in a mode that im currently working in... but Katrina may not approve. I dont want to pound out cliche dimished chords and minor and all that. I think a wealth of low trembling 5ths piled on eachother should do the trick without sounding too trite.


* not to sound pompous, but i am familiar with most of the really important 20th century pieces.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Chase me ladies has posted a hillarious* video that he made while staying at a hotel near the airport in chicago. Anyone care to identify the music? i dont know it at all and it makes me feel rather stupid.

Im also going to the Alex Ross lecture tonight. Its my little bus adventure for the evening.

God i hate the bus system.

*keep in mind this is british humor, so it may not make you laugh as much as i laughed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tchaikovsky - Sleeping Beauty - (1888-89)

Saturday (the day after The Books ) i went to a performance of Tchiakovsky's Sleeping Beauty. There were far too many intermissions and the first act was almost unbearable. Too many bleedin fairies. Oh man, it was hard to tolerate. There wasn’t so much tchaikovsky in the first act as there was French ballet music. "So 19th century!" my mother said. funny, since i'd described it just that way minutes before. It was dated and annoying. If Tchaikovsky were alive i'd tell him to "RE WRITE THE FIRST ACT" Hell, i'd do it for him.

The following three acts were brilliant but essentially limp (and the slow conducting didn’t help) I kept waiting for some tchaikovskian sudden burst of passion, but it never came- it was all rather tame. At the same time, in all that fairly conventional music there were these wonderful harmonic surprises. These little twists that essentially sets the music out from the background. It says subtly "this is not normal 19th century music" ...but it is! but it isn’t!

Unexpectedly, there is a Wagner influence in Sleeping Beauty - the use of leitmotifs as well as some pretty significant passages of chromatic harmonic movement. While this probably didn’t impress many in the audience today, at the time it was first presented im sure some of it sounded quite new.

The dancing was fine and all that. ... But damnit, parents should not dress their children up in princess costumes and have them parading around the opera house. There were a million little girls there, and thats all fine in itself (why not bring your sons as well? gender shouldn’t matter, right?) but that they were all dressed up like princesses.... that annoyed me. I know this sounds typical, but honestly- what kind of message does that send to the girls? what kind of values does that instill? As far as im concerned, taking on the role of pretty pretty princesses, helpless maidens and all that socially constructed garbage will do nothing but re-enforce gender social types and sexist behavioral expectations- inevitably constructing another barrier along the path of living authentically.


Ok, maybe im a little too socially radical (or ridiculous). Not like im going to try and force dress codes or force them to live authentically. My concern is with the message, not the clothing, of course.

But the Tchaikovsky... ahem. tchaikovsky. The ballet was good at being a 19th century ballet. The music is a little inconsistent, and generally too fluffy. But lyrical! brilliantly lyrical! I prefer the nutcracker as a ballet. (the nutcracker is more tchaikovsky, less french ballet) but overall it was a very enjoyable afternoon.

(though i preferred the books concert)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

i've been busy the last few days, is it obvious? classes have not exactly been very nice to me.

Friday night i attended a concert by The Books, which was enjoyable and cheap (6$). The books were, of course, brilliant. The musicians used a very glassian approach of playing a video while the music was played, which served as much an aesthetic choice as a practical one(since being a electronic collage-based group, only about half of the music can actually be played at all). They showed some really wonderful and beautiful film (and some hilarious film as well) and they also demonstrated some cello virtuosity with rapid harmonics and glissandos. Good stuff, entertaining as well as solidly intellectual.

The Books were preceded by a group from Canada named Piano- and their name doesn’t lie; their music generally ranged from mp to pp. It was sweet stuff- not saccharine, not cheesy, but generally sweet, gentle and restrained. Great, wonderful music for children, and i dont mean that in any derogatory way (in the same way Bernstein is great for kids, in my opinion) And in fact, it was music that cant really offend anyone- it could be quite pretty and even a touch melancholy- but despite this, it still maintained an intellectual element and could hold my interest. The harmonies were simple, but they often used interesting interlocking rhythms as well as peculiar instrumentation (alto sax, i believe, ukulele, drums, accordion and various little percussion instruments.) it was great, but my only complaint (which is the complaint with most bands) is that they need to diversify- it could get a little dull.all and all it was a well spent evening- good music and good jokes.

I just recently got my tickets to see alex ross in lecture at On the Boards.Im excited to see it, and if he is as good a lecturer as writer... and this contemporary arts venue... didn’t know about it, so i'm interested in seeing what they're up to.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

frozen music?

Some moroccan architecture for you:

I see some slow movement of Berlioz... maybe even Verdi when he's playing serious. Perhaps best yet - Debussy's Cathedrale engloutie

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I've been perusing Youtube.com recently (like many others right now). Its growing by leaps and bounds and its very interesting. Right now you can find many different music-related videos - from strange home videos involving stravinsky, bowling balls and model cars, to videos of new, Avant-garde minimalist opera. Not to mention the dozens of home videos and art-projects involving the music of philip glass.... you can watch parodies of koyyanisqatsi, babies listening to koyyanisqatsi, some video bloggers awkward reaction to 12 parts... on and on.

On the other end of the spectrum you can watch (and listen) to performances of debussy, ravel, beethoven, bach, etc, by students and professional musicians. Its a great resource if you're wanting a concert but dont have the time. I think i could spend far too much time on youtube.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Doors - Strange days (1967)

A hallucinatory piece accompanied by shotty, likely drug-induced lyrics- overwhelming the the listener in an echoing haze of minor-modal figurations. Haunting, elegant but ultimately coarse and visceral, a startling expression of a 1-dimensional existentialism. Its hard to imagine, compared to whats the most popular musics these days, that this was ever mainstream. Has mainstream music regressed in spirit or just moved away from drug-infused experimentation? Theres still great stuff being produced these days, dont get me wrong, and experimentation is still going on, of course, but if its not art-rock and not contemporary music, its all pretty lame and tame. Blogger Bart Collins posted about the "revenge of the dorks" in new main-stream music, and while i have a love-hate relationship with predictions and the generalizations of "trends", i think it agrees with the perceptions i've gotten from the current popular-music situation.

Friday, April 07, 2006

George Crumb - Dances of Ancient Earth

I really like George Crumb. Some part of his aesthetics really clicked with me immediately, which is rare for any kind of music. I get it, in a sense, i see it, where its going and i can appreciate it. Dances of Ancient Earth is part of his masterpiece Ancient Voices of Children, a wonderful and rich exploration of the possibilities of sound. Some of the songs in ancient voices are covered in a blanket of quiet (done explicitly to highlight the experience of some isolated pitches)- but this dance is quite energetic, and very audibly structural. Some of the other pieces of ancient voices can be a little too spacious for my tastes, sometimes, but often i find myself in the mood to listen to several of the "spacious" songs. This one is different, along several others (Music of the Starry Night (Makrokosmos III) etc) it will be on the anytime/anywhere playlist.

Despite the sometimes radical language, i still hear Debussy's spiritual influence- maybe thats why i can appreciate his music so easily. George Crumb has done all us music fans a favor by writing up his own descriptions of the piece on his website.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Take a hit, Philip Glass

Recently i was talking to a guy twice my age and somehow the topic of Koyaanisqatsi came up. "oh yeah," he said "we used to get high in the dorms and listen to Koyaanisqatsi"

Makes sense to me. Of all of the musics in the world to get high to, i think philip glass is a good one. On the other end of the spectrum, i think Bach could be just as good.

koooooooooooooooooooyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan iss qatsi.

are frenchmen with horns unpopular? i did think at least one person reading this thing would be amused/entertained.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Un peu de musique classique...

C'est Super!

This is pretty funny. It gets better as it goes along. Probably my favorite performance of vivaldi and strauss to date. Regardez!, c'est tres amusante.

I cant tell if its canadian french or france-french....eh well.

( you dont need to understand a word of French to get this)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


A friend of mine today asked me what avant-garde meant. i explained that it is when some art form tries to push or break explicit or implicit rules in the art, stuff that pushes boundries. I used Picasso as an example of Early 20th century avant garde and the impressionists before him as well as John Cage, who she was unfamiliar with. I used 4'33" as an example. "because non-statements are statements, and music is expression, and non-music is a statement" i think is what i said, or something to that effect.*

"Huh" she replied "I guess that makes sense" she seemed very accepting of the concept. "but i dont think i'd want to listen to four minutes of silence, i'd get bored"

same here, same here.


*i cant help but feel full of myself when i resort to quoting myself.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tears of a Clownsilly has the hope diamond of posts for the Debussy lover- an interview from 1910 published by the New York Times. What struck me in the article is the incredibly modern sound of debussy's words- the world couldnt have changed that much. He is straightforward, direct, there isnt a drop of pretension in what he says.

"you are quite right; my compositions are part of myself, almost like my own children. I hate to see them grow up, for then they have to leave me"

Tchaikovsky had the same kind of thing to say in his letters, i dont have the book handy otherwise i would have found the quote directly, but he even uses the same metaphor for his pieces, he too described the pain of handing his work over to the public and his subsequent insecurity that is accompanied by the public performance. There is more wisdom in this interview than quotation allows, if that makes any sense. Read it, its great insight to both composition, music and Debussy as a musician. There is a universal and timeless quality in what he says.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nice friends of mine have planned a little trip to keep me busy for the rest of spring break. Nowhere warmer, but i'll take it.

Well, this also means my time with the library cds is about at an end. This time around the Ades cd confirmed my previous summation of it- boring. Interesting sounds, interesting uses of the instruments, but nothing held my interest beyond that. and, no carols on this one - it was a lot of his earlier works, five elliot landscapes (i did like the bit about the mockingbird.) Catch, the first track on the disk was probably the most engaging, and had some beautiful moments and some fun parts, but i really wasnt taken by any of the other pieces, they all just blended together, indecipherable and nothing so new. The titles are great - Darkness visible, Still sorrowing, Under Hamelin Hill, Traced Overhead, but unfortunately, nothing really stood out about them. Its not that i dont like Ades, either, its just this disk doesnt have his best work on it.

The Walter Piston, on the other hand (Symphony #4) perhaps because i wasnt expecting so much, really pleased me. The symphony was energetic, interesting, mostly in the first half (the second half, not as much) but it sounded so incredibly american, its great. I wish i would have had time to give this mid-century tonal modernism more attention, but i had four CDs to cover.

And then the Micheal Nyman. The disk as a whole (Time Will Pronounce) wasnt that interesting, but it did have a great beginning. The first piece, Self-laudatory hymn of Inanna and her omnipotence, was fresh, vigorous, energetic and beautiful. The instrumentation consisted of viols and a countertenor who sings well beyond the range of any male i know. The music struck me as a post-modern Henry Purcell piece, the vocal writing shows a remarkable and wonderful similarity to purcell, and the piece as a whole is compelling, sweet and lyrical, just as Purcell would have it. The rest of it the disk was ok, but not that great, the start of For John Cage was good, but it rambled on and on. Same for the other two, though the rhythmic and tonal evolution in The convertibility of lute strings was fun and i liked the contrast between the contemporary minimalistic feel of music and the ancient sound of the harpsichord.

I already explained my enjoyment of the Machaut mass. But yep, thats my little overview-review. I still cant believe some stuffy, pompous ass art critic criticized Marc Geelhoed for using the word "cool". The use has nothing to do with selling something, but it does have everything to do with expressing ones self. I know i had something more to say, but i honestly dont remember it. Ah well, another time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jerk friends canceled spring break plans on me, now im a bum with no where to go. My entire family is traveling somewhere right now except me... but i should be. There is no one around, even the dog's off somewhere, no joke. Debussy is my only consolation in this empty house. Why of all musics does debussy always make me happier?

Today i rented from our little library Machaut's Notre Dame Mass, which is an absolutely amazing work. I had heard parts of it, but not in full, until now. A masterpiece, really. I also checked out Ades' life story and other songs, i had rented it before, back in highschool, and i wasnt particularly impressed, a lot of interesting sounds but not much interest, that is my memory of it, who knows, perception could have, and very likely has, changed.

And the third CD is Walter Piston, some symphony. We'll see.

But right now, Debussy time. Tomorrow im going to see if i cant find a way to get somewhere warmer.

20 some seconds of me playing something. Figaro?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Im back in the suburbs!

Another improvisation, recorded in february.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Philip Glass - Einstein on the Beach - Night Train

My favorite section of Einstein, and i cant help but think, as i listen to this music and various other more purely minimalist music of Glass (particularly 12 parts) of the things im writing about in my classes. These things all bleed together, and its quite interesting.

Im currently employed writing a dull paper about one section of Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and all these things in it, the stories it contains and detailed descriptions of the changes that went along with scientific discoveries that overturned previous assumptions, how that relates in so many ways to artistic breakthroughs - The controversies, the inevitable conservatism and backlash that comes with breaking with the established system, the pattern just repeats and repeats, on and on. Sometimes the reactions are more violent and angry than others - Copernicus, Galileo, and some times they just end up with mere debates within science itself. Another pattern that repeats over and over again (from Copernicus all the way up) is that the discoveries of younger generations are nearly never accepted by the older generation, its amazing really how prevalent this pattern is.

Needless to say, Dalton's conclusions were widely attacked when first announced,
and Berthllot, in particular, was never convinced...

And the other thing which relates is directly to minimalism itself. Glass' works here reflect on Kuhn's notion of a paradigm shift. (he invented the phrase, now common, in this text) but i cant think of a better kind of musical equivalent. 12 parts in particular, there is an establish paradigm for the music, this one symmetrical concept that we hear and feel and through the repetitions learn very (sometimes too) well, it goes on and feels so absolute, unchanging and then suddenly that musical paradigm shift, a split second of confusion, of revolution where what we thought was so regular and symmetrical suddenly feels so irregular, and it feels as if the earth has just moved under us. Just as Kuhn says, the old paradigm is replaced by a new one, repeating, then once more we get to know this new paradigm and its symmetries soon become clear to us... and then another shift and another paradigm comes to replace the old, sometimes these shifts are more dramatic, sometimes less, but they are always perceptible. Its a kind of cycle that pushes the music forward, despite the stagnant harmonies and repetitive rhythms.

This is the history of art too, as made clear by this juicy bit about some minimalist-hating berkeley professor. The Death of civilization? they said that about stravinsky too. How flattering!

_ _ _ _

Its a great book dont get me wrong, its just not fun to write about.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What have i been doing recently? frantically and yet lazily trying to finish up the quarter. I took this picture of my desk on tuesday night (well... couldnt have been wednesday) while i was getting it ready for thursday (when it was due). I dont post this because im particularly proud of anything, but self-documentation can be fun.

So i've been busy, and after wednesday will be the beginings of fun time.

I should explain the drawing- you take an original drawing by piraneci(sp?) and the mddle section is cut out (piece of paper on the right) . Then you have to fill it in with whatever you want. Then you have to take your completed plan and draw the whole thing straight onto a board. It takes more time to do it well than you might imagine.

I have not gotten very far on my spam songs. Im pretty much done with the third song, but there are 4 more to be written. Maybe break will give me time to finish it up.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mode of reasoning

I try to restrain my political outbursts on this site (i think this will be my 3rd), as its not a political blog, but sometimes i read something that just pisses me off. For better or for worse, im a political animal...

The 101 most dangerous professors bit by David Horowitz is just a continuation of the conservative dogma. The assumption of the text, and the argument frequently put forth by republicans, is that its the institution of the university that is the problem, it’s the problem with our system, its infested with liberals who are corrupting the youth, thats why these universities are so liberal. Does this kind of argument sound familiar? it should.

This is the same kind of logic that is used for the marxist-lenninist-soviet philosophy * - there is nothing wrong with the people, its society that makes people bad and corrupts them, it’s the capitalist system, its the institution, not the people. This kind of argumentation is actually the root of all Marxist-communist thought. Not surprisingly, the soviets also ceaselessly criticized (and purged) those in high ranks at the universities, bourgeois, they said of them then. Well, Liberal they say now.

So it is then a massive orgasmic irony that the republican pundits use this (ill)logic, since they will explode at the very mention of communism, and they never hesitate to criticize communism for being founded on a misunderstand of social behavior - fails because of human nature. Well, thats funny, their argument fails because it uses the same reasoning. Why are professors usually liberal? Could it be because they’ve seen errors and endless contradictions in the logic of conservatives? No no… it’s the system, remember? The system!

* well, it started with Rousseau, but unlike Marx, Rousseau was a nice man.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Every now and again i get this urge to set up a mock-conservative website because i read these comments by conservative pundits, and they are so extreme and so ridiculous, so over-the-top insane that i feel like i too should promote conservative insanity, in my own way, of course. To think, we're at a point were anne coulter is a celebrity, david horowiz and rush limbaugh have an audience. I suppose the more bombasic the better, the more press and more money, and what is talk good for if it doesnt bring more money? I was trying to think of a title, but "put liberals in jail for anti-american terrorist slander!" was all i could come up with. The website would be about how the 1st amendment should be overruled because it was written "in a time when they didnt have websites and computers or terrorists and emails, so they couldnt have possibly known what the current world was like" sounds like a solid argument to me.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A short argument for melody.

i stand behind the claim that cognition is recognition, in some form or another. The argument goes into human cognitive theory and epistemology, which i dont want to get into because im pretty much ignorant of most of the subject, BUT if we accept this concept (sounds sound enough to me) then there are certain concepts relating to music, 20th century music, which should be mentioned.

The seralists will have a serious problem if they accept this claim. If the listener can not recognize something in the music, if the pattern can not be deciphered auditorily (since the medium of music is sound, not images), then it is failing to give the listener much intellectual material to work with, aside from pure sonic material. It makes perfect sense that most people, even many serious musicians, have trouble enjoying 12 tone music.

How can we really cognitize music that never gives us something to recognize? I once became thrilled in the middle of a Schoenberg concert because i recognized the tone row... briefly, then it went away and i never heard it again. I then fell back into a strange state boredom - interested in the sounds themselves and not interested in the music beyond that. The same is true often in the avant-garde, im fascinated by the sonic experiences but the musical material is often uninteresting. (the counter to this is that there is no division between musical material and sonic experiences, that they are one in the same)

In Berg its understandable, since he imprinted serialism with such passion, in Webern, even, understandable, since he discovered new possibilities in sound and a different mode of intensity and expression (however cryptic) all together. But still, to enjoy the webern and the berg to a greater extent i have to hear the music more than once. I will go Anablog and open one of those windows and listen to about 5 minutes of a 30 second Webern piece. Im not really comfortable leaving one before that
So it could turn out, surprisingly, that repetiton in some form actually increases intellectual stimulation for the listener instead of diminishing it, that for the listener, a chopin ballade may use more brain power than the most solidly intellectual piece of Boulez, more interest for our intellect than something that never repeats or is unrecognizable.