Monday, January 30, 2006


no comments... no responses... cant ever be a good sign. Well, for whatever crimes against the art i've committed... i apologize.

I was checking out some Sibelius recently- the incidental music to The Tempest, which, incidentally, im reading. Its great stuff -as all of sibelius' late work is. If i took a few passages from this piece you wouldnt know if you were listening to Britten or Prokofiev. This music constructs an atmosphere: moody, intense (often quite dissonant), surreal and perfectly fitting to a production of this very difficult play (which is, fittingly, atmospheric, moody, intense and surreal). This is inspired music, lyrical and expressive- full of ideas and interest. The music looks forward- not a concept commonly attached to Sibelius, but its true of his last pieces, which i believe are transcendent in a non-spiritual way- but they are in their own musical world.

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here!"

Friday, January 27, 2006


I always love feedback...and criticism is welcome, of course, so long as its more substantial than "i dont like".
M Keiser plays his well-loved piano.

I have finally made a recording this week, i did it earlier but didnt get it up on the web till now. Its a short improvisation, a little severe maybe, but still, very tonal and nothing avant-garde. If the piano sounds strange that'd be because its my very well-loved electric one i keep here in the dorm (all 88 keys with hammers!) . I hope i dont annoy my roommate too much with my noises . also... i used headphones with the volume turned up, placed next to the mic, so i couldnt really hear what i was doing so well. Also, i had to make sure the mic was on for the first sec so thats why im holding down the a for 5 seconds or so.

This, again, is not my best work, i could do better. Its just fun to do this, especially since its been so long that my actual mode of improvisation has changed. Also - i just recently (this week) found my old mic, so i figure i gotta put it to good use. There may be more of these posts, but if they get to be annoying just throw me a word and i'll stop.

- - - - -

And of course its mozarts B day, so i gotta say that. Other blogs have covered this ground many times already, but yes, we all love you wolfie, you've always been one of my favorites.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Bah! ...enough seriousness." In the wise words of my friend Noelle. I was reluctant to post the previous entry because i realized that if a reader is not in the mindset for it, in the emotional standing, those words i wrote probably sound cheap and pathetic. What i was attempting to express isn’t, of course, i just suck at writing, so it can only come out that way. How can someone write about tragedy without sounding pathetic or cliché? Like in music, the ability to express that in particular will impress me to no end.

- - - -

Skimming through my music i have hit up0n my favorite work by the bat-shit crazy Scriabin. Fragilité is an aptly named miniature masterpiece of late-romantic chromatically extended tonality . "its almost pretty" a friend of mine said about it. Indeed, its gorgeous, but half of its beauty lies in its ability to actually be what it expresses. This is fragile harmony, stretched so thin over chromatic framework that its about to fall apart, you can feel its weakness - the tonality is about to break but it never does. This brittle tonality manifests itself in the emotional effect of the piece. Im certainly impressed.

A few words

I am someone who is extrodinarily sensitive to this topic, so just thinking about this could may break me down to tears. Today, we cant forget, is Holocaust memorial day.

I cant really speak about it. Its emotionally draining to even expose myself to these thoughts and images. I feel stifled by what can only be expressed as an all- consuming sadness that truly causes me to cry. I feel there is nothing i can ever say or ever do that could mean something, that could mean anything in the face of such a void. I can only mourn, with painful authencity but without productivity.

You can find more information about this memorial day here.

I was correct, i couldnt even make it to the end of this post without falling apart.
I am one of those strange people who are utterly convinced that the some of the greatest (if not the greatest) piano music of the 20th century is represented by the middle and late works of Debussy...

The Etudes (1915), which im listening to today, are incredible in everyway. I have known these pieces for years and years but they're still fresh to my ears. They are timeless works- the first etude in particular, with its dark humor, warmth and brilliance, feels contemporary, as if born from post-minimalism. There is such richness and gorgeous music here,sharp irregularities and striking contrasts.

These works are quite deceptive; the technical difficulty can be substantial, though, like ballet, it always seems so simple and refined. There are all kinds of unusual things the pianist has to perform, patterns and tricks of all sorts that the pianist has get used to- there are all types of challenges, including a piece composed in a manner that essentially forces you to do Debussy's bidding - to play with only 8 fingers. This is radical stuff, Debussy produces un-heard of sounds out of the piano which are still quite new to the ears today- you don’t hear many pianos produce these sounds! There is lyricism, concentrated and fragmented musical ideas and intense emotions scattered about. In short, these etudes kick ass.

Did this man ever go wrong? really.... did he?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conceptualizing Webern.

Anablog has a post of Webern's Five Canons on Latin Texts, a set of some sparkling miniatures for soprano and a small ensemble. And while i was sitting there, impatiently waiting for one of the songs to load in another browser window i clicked to get the next song loading in yet another window to try to get things moving so i could listen to them in a row without waiting fruitlessly. Well, as i expected, they overlapped a little bit. By this point i was already done listening to the first song several times (which is probably about 30 seconds of music) so i heard the first song mixing with the second, and to my surprise what resulted was not a cacophony that one might expect, or a really irregular mish-mash of lines, but a surprisingly beautiful combination that seemed to heighten the Webern-ian feel. Two sopranos instead of one, engaging in different musical dialogues simultaneously, yet fitting together.


This works with Webern, any tonal composer im sure it wont. But this sudden overlap gave me the idea... i could open all 5 songs and play them simultaneously. I suggest you go to ANAblog and try this for yourself, what you'll get is some unusual, beautiful and somewhat intense combination that sounds like some sort of polyphonic Webern choir piece.

To keep the music going i loop the songs, i keep track of those five independent windows and watched the pieces get towards their end, and when this happened, i would start them again from the beginning. Because of small differences in the lengths of these pieces, there is not a strict pattern to the repetitions. I did this process for several minutes. If you listen closely you can hear each piece repeat, you can hear the musical material recycle, but because of the irregularities, there are different textures each time. this is similar to Reich's Phase technique, i suppose, but its applied to ready-made music. Its like Webern on Steroids. Its pretty fun.

Then, as a dramatic finish, i simply let all the pieces run their natural courses and gradually the voices diminish until only one is left and they end in Webern' s typically elegant and expressive manner, giving the piece(s) a punch.

So this could be someone's ready-made composition... a conceptual piece, i suppose. It could actually be any number of pieces, or in several movements, and it can constantly change. But i suggest you familiarize yourself with the pieces before you do this so you can recognize the lines before you play them all together. Its quite cool, the effect... and you can make the music go as long as you want.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I forget how utterly strange my music is to most other people. "what the fuck" people said to me recently while playing a bit of Einstein on the Beach. "1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3...." and even Different Trains (which i thought was so tame) gets looks. Not only that, but i feel i've become (or became, a while ago) jaded to the avant garde. Feels like nothing phases me these days and thats no fun. The last thing i heard which i can say truly "stretched my ears" in terms of un-heard sound combinations was Vincent Bergeron's pieces, and that wasnt even a radical departure from what im used to. But i shouldnt be so dramatic. ...moooore.. i want...

However, I have to thank again the wonderous for supplying me with many wonderful things to furnish my ears, and to Analog for letting me in on some Webern i didnt know (as well as other interesting pieces). Currently, there is a gorgeous and interesting flute piece on Cacophonous- Cold Blue Noodle by Jason Taylor, and i feel an obligation to give it a few kind words it deserves. Feels like an updated version of Debussy's Syrinx. Im not sure how those overtones are produced and it seems like it would be difficult, but wonderful all the same.

All right, enough of this procrastination!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

an age of complaisance

A professor of mine makes his thoughts and opinions clear to us. He made a point to express his view on student compliance and how my generation appears to me much more well-behaved than he likes or is comfortable with. We sit in our chairs and dont interrupt or ever contradict what he has to say. We barely participate at all.

This only re-enforces my mother's belief that we are in (a hopefully brief) period of complaisance. Knowing the behavior of people my age, i cannot pinpoint anyone any more rebellious than myself... and i aint anyone who stirs up anything radical, now am i?

Maybe the problem is that people feel there isnt much to fight for these days. Sure there's gay rights, but it seems many people are either just too homophobic or backwards to fight for the rights of gay people (though most polls show a much greater tolerance towards gays in my generation... take that religious right!). But my intense anger towards anti-gay rights and gay-intolerance will have to be saved for another non-musical post.

Ahem, music, ahem.

Musically, im afraid of an oncoming backwardness, a cynicism towards what a musician can say in a thoroughly contemporary manner, a musical complaisance towards history, if you will. Maybe us classical musicians have learned to respect our predecessors so much that to musically go beyond where they would may feel insulting to those composers we love, who wants to contradict Mozarts edicts or Brahms' pronouncements? But i ask- whats wrong with drums and strong beats? thats all it takes these days to be contemporary, after all. You can keep your consonant harmonies and melodies, you just need to contempify a little. Its painfully easy to be (post)modern.

It occurs to me that in the same way social critics connect minimalists to the rise of post-modernism in the 70s and to the repetitiveness of modern advertisement and media, i could criticize Travener, who i just wrote about, for representing some kind of back-to-the-dark-ages religious/social mentality which we can sense in the evangelicalism of Pat Robertson and more explicitly in the likes of Jerry Falwell (who openly wants public schools to close and an American theocracy), which i could then connect to the rise of fundamentalism in the late 20th century. Likewise, my mother has been concerned that many Americans have simply been choosing to be ignorant (about iraq is what she is specifically referencing), this all mixes together in the mind of the academic to represent some sort of coherent(!) movement towards ignorance, artistic "traditionalism", complaisance and fundamentalist religion.

Oh it works well.

But i just need to make it a little more convincing. Does a period of complaisance sound like a good title to you? too grand? If i wrote this paper, that might be what i call it. But the better question remains... was that in anyway coherant?

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!

300 years old today! horray! Franklin was one of those few men who have been almost universally admired in life and death. He was a great enlightenment thinker, a great humanist, a great diplomat, and it was Franklin who helped create a positive p0liticial relationship with france, consequently helping to win the revolutionary war. Horray for Benjamin Franklin!

Monday, January 16, 2006


I bought a CD of John Tavener's music recently. It was only 5 bucks, so it wasn’t a waste. Unfortunately, I am hostile to this music- it feels derivative rather than individual. Now, this may in part a result of the sounds the choir produces, the harmonies are different, but not dramatically.

Its beautiful music, no doubt, but it feels the same, it sounds very similar. Am i wrong in seeing his music as imitation? am i wrong in being hostile to the music because of the blatant similarities? Its a tough question. But i think what annoys me the most is the gimmicky feel of it, that it somehow seems un-authentic or that it even undermines the artistic validity of pärt's works by nature of its imitation. At the same time i am contradicted by my strong sense of what artistic freedom is, and an ironic individualism - that Travener should feel free to compose in any way he feels, if that means imitating pärt or doing something else entirely- and that the artists of many other generations utilized the languages similar to others in order to extend the possibilities of expression. It can be argued that Travener is taking an ancient language and making it new- producing something timeless. I find this to be a hallmark-card argument, but still, there is more here than can be dismissed easily.

This music also sounds similar to the music in Halo, which, oddly enough, has beautiful music that works very well with its "hyper-tech" theme.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

philip glass' wise remark

Philip Glass said something wonderful in an interview i listened to recently- and it was advice to young composers. No matter what you think of his music (i dont always have the nicest things to say, either) the statements rung true for any composer, and more importantly, true for any artist.

young composers often ask him "how do you find your own voice?" and glass' reply came in the interview: "its not about finding a voice, but trying to get rid of it!" (or something to that effect) This holds true whether your a "neo-romantic" or a purely electronic artist, you will have a "style" already, even if its copying bach or beethoven, or varese and cage, you will have a manner of saying something, and the goal is not to do the same thing until it becomes trademark, but to rebel against yourself and your musical inclinations in order to develop a greater musical vocabulary and range. It seems that a degree of self-rebellion is probably the healthiest thing for a contemporary composer, but thats my speculation.

Ironically, Glass' music is often criticize for its terrible sameness- "it all sounds the same" kind of thing, and in the last 30 years how far has he deviated from his origins? not very far at all. His chord progressions can be horrifyingly hackneyed. "its the philip glass chord progression!" you might say to yourself when listening to anything he's written in the last 20 years. He seems to use it in all music after the mid 80s.... major on the tonic, chromatic shift down to minor, back to an inversion of the maj0r chord, then to the...what do you call it... arg, theory terminology slipping away from me, the "dominant" for the minor (i like to think of it as this, hopefully you know what the hell im talking about) and then back to the relative minor, and then back to the major on the tonic, and again and again and again. In only slight variations this appears in dozens of pieces and operas and on and on and on. Minimalism still exists- not in his music, but in his musical output as-a-whole.

Glass realizes this. He said in the interview that he's been trying to escape his own compositional processes, and when faced with the reality of the sameness of his output- "its humbling" he says..... I'd say. He openly admits that he's failed at escaping his style. I cant see how it would be that difficult, as a rather undisciplined musician, i'd comment that its probably the triumph of technique over imagination- which makes sense given his training under Boulanger.

I couldn’t help the criticism, i really couldn’t, but i have a lot of very nice things to say too, i swear. Either way, his commentary is still illuminating and i appreciate what he has to say.... i just wish i'd reflect more in his art.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jolly Jolly Ego -The Dirty Projectors - 2005

Sweet and melancholy- yet glichy and playfully irreverent. A strong contrast is constructed between the repetitive (but never monotonous), elegantly modal-minor progression the choir sings (whew) and the glichy electronic collage of xylophones, a rude interruption of a trombone(?) and the near-falsetto singing of Dave Longstreth. All the while an orchestra of sweet oboes and clarinets reinforces the plaintive mood with a series of beautiful chords and a yearning melody.

This is spacious music, there are substantial breaks between the instruments, yet it moves coherently along with the help of a very slow drum beat. It only lasts 5:33, but it explores a greater range of expression than expected in that time frame. This is music is heavily electronically altered- there are very deliberate cuts and sudden breaks that might surprise those not expecting it and it lends a very.... different feeling to the music.All in all it works together very well, a beautiful and startling combination.

im such an amateur

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A little political detour

I have, in part, unleashed a minor firestorm of political debate on the Fredosphere (contradiction in terms? hardly). I left some rather angry comments after reading a painfully misguided essay by a mr. Mark Steyn which can be read HERE.This essay is subtitled "The real reason the West is in danger of extinction. ", if that alone does not give you the tip that this is going to be a flurry of stupidity, i dont know what to say. Mr. Steyn's histrionics and bombast does nothing but inflame my hostility. here i will post my angry comments for reference:

Im not afraid to say it- that was a terrible essay. His entire construction relies on so many stupid assumptions- assumptions which are baseless and, at best, insulting. excuse me, Mr. Steyn, Islam is not the enemy, secularism is not the enemy. He can continue his xenophobia all he wants, he can intellectualize it and water it down by expressing it in beautiful language, but at its core its still the same bullshit... "Western civilization"? please. This is the same type of chicken-little rhetoric/shit that nazis and arian-race f---ers talk about (no, seriously, it is). He should take a lesson from that fact, come to terms with his insane assumptions and shut the hell up. Provocative, yes, moronic? certainly.
Then i post again, to further express myself:

oh, and the question he pushes "the extinction of western civilization" is, like he rest of his essay, bullshit. What is western civilization, i ask you (or Steyn, really)? Is it the institutions and governments we have today? because if it is, then certainly it wasn’t western civilization 200 years ago, or even 100 years ago in europe or America. So what is it? If we say western civilization is ideas- concepts about life - then i fail to see how that will die out. There is no solidity in "western civilization" its not defined as a thing or one trait, and there never was. In reality, we exist in an entirely different culture than 100 years ago, and i think its safe for steyn to assume culture will again be different in 100 years, but its moronic to assume that somehow represents the "death" of western civilization. As far as im concerned the greatest threat "western civilization" was the book burning and zealous anti-humanism and anti-rationalism of the nazi period. Then it is ironic and somewhat terrifying that he uses similar rhetoric.

Others posted legitimate comments - more moderate than my own.

Tangaleo Lentil Smith responded...

To m. keiser: 1. What are Steyn's stupid assumptions? Please list them.2. Agree with you on Western Civ. Not sure what the definition of that is supposed to be.3. I wonder what bin ladens definition of Western Civ. is. Just curious.

Steyns stupid assumptions are numerous and disguised. I am forcing myself to write this post. Subjecting myself to moronic essays of the right-wing is not my cup of tea, im not a mental masochist. Its wonderful to know that there are some people out there who enjoy that sort of thing, so they can refute them intelligently for the rest of us. Nevertheless, i have written this short list of the dangerous assumptions made in (just!) the begining of the essay. I very well may be missing things.

#1) In the future, most Western European countries will disappear.
This kind of crystal-ball prediction irritates the hell out of me, ooooo... the future! there will be flying cars too and vengeful HAL computers, did he fail to mention that? Also- language is a constant barrier. Worst of all, he treats this hypothetical as a fact.
#2)We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones.
Steyn makes an arbitrary, ideologically-infused distinction between "primary" and "secondary" governmental functions (basically conservative vs. liberal, but disguised as "primary and "secondary"). Thats not the purpose of this essay, and its moronic in the first place to try and make this dichotomy.
#3) the secular social-democratic state wont be able to sustain itself: Steyn makes the assumption that secular social-democratic states requires a continually increasing population in order to sustain themselves and that a secular society simply wont produce enough babies. Do we know this to be true? cite an example of a secular social-government that collapsed because of a lack of babies. Dont have one? thats a shame... because we dont know of it ever happening. Its a moronic assumption.
#4) Religion is required for population increase- because only religious people produce enough babies. I think this pretty much speaks for itself. Yes, some religions encourage babies (Mormons, ( Catholics?)) but that is still a moronic assumption.
#5)"Islamism is the enemy" - He says Islam is a problem for cultures all over the world. I was so baffled by this quote that i was pretty much unable to give a coherent response. If you believe this assumption, you're already very, very lost. Radical Islam is a problem, yes, but do you really believe that most Muslims are fundamentalist wack-jobs? Just a tangent- from personal experience, the Muslims i know (*many) preach about love and would want nothing more than to get rid of those Islamic extremists who give their religion the horrible name.
#6) "western civilization" is more than just a really abstract phrase, but a very real tangible thing: its as if he believes “western civilization” is some coherent thing tied to governments and religions and society, which is simply logically flawed if he considers anything before WWI western civilization. If he believes governments/society/religion is what defines "western civilization", like i said earlier, then Rome was not part of western civilization (different society structure and behavior, different language, different religion, different government) neither was Greece, or the Middle ages, or the Enlightenment period or even the 19th century. They all had radically different societies. The fact is, "western civilization" is a empty phrase, devoid of much meaning at all.
#7)The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism will cause the collapse of western civilization: Multiculturalism and secularism will cause the collapse of "western civilization"?! now are we starting to sound like nazi/neo-nazi propaganda? It has that ring to it, doesnt it? This is so absurd that i cant really express myself. Im stifled by the sheer stupidity of this assumption and shocked by its unabashed xenophobia. This assumption is founded on an all-pervasive conservative-ideology/dogma which is itself a construction of unexplainable assumptions.

Oh, im fuming. I cant continue this right now. I honestly haven’t read the entire essay, i admit it, i just couldn’t continue to read this stuff, it was too painful to finish. I got over half way there and then i skimmed the rest. No nice language can cover up the true meaning here. The wall street journal should be ashamed of themselves. This is disgusting.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Lento E Largo - Symphony # 3 -Henryk Gorecki

How can one construct a sincere expression of mourning? It is one of the most difficult things to do, I expect. To compose an authentic expression of sadness and to be able to convey that authenticity to the listener- that will never cease to amaze me. 19th century diminished harmonies and loud minor chords aren’t going to do it these days, they're hackneyed, melodramatic and as insincere as any music can sound. It wasn’t clichéd in Chopin’s time, but today, thousands of movies later, it is.

still, quiet, sweet and expressive as hell. This is very simple, very elegantly sad music. Those lush chords in a very tight musical format- one could imagine Ravel's hand was in this... Speaking of which, Ravel was quite the master of understated emotion. Works like Petit Poucet from Ma mère l'oye or the Minuet from Le Tombeau de Couperin express so much sorrow in so few notes and with great simplicity, not unlike this particular movement. Here, Gorecki has constructed some genuinely tragic music, stripped of any histrionics or artificiality.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Im in love

...with the Bulgarian Women's choir. They performed a stirring sephardic lamenta that made me want to cry. This music is achingly beautiful, the choir produces warm and ethereal sounds that can cover all shades of emotion...and few things please M. Keiser more than traditional Jewish music- so all in all, this combination makes me very very happy.

I love it! so much beautiful and tuneful music to listen to, full of yearning, full of life and vigor and exuberance, music that seems to have floating into existence from another world, yet it feels very natural. These sounds gives me the desire to travel to Bulgaria... or the middle east? or Greece? or other slavic nations? certainly all of the above.

There is also something... avant-garde(?) about these sounds, voices used to create strong rhythms out of abstracted language, sudden changes in rhythms, there are moments of sprechstimme-like sounds along side cheerful yelps and cries, and there are those gorgeous, lush harmonies. My father was puzzled, pleasantly so, when i showed him this music, and keep in mind- my father is very conservative and does not generally take kindly to kinds of music he's unfamiliar with (then again the slavic aspect may have pleased him, he knows russia very well)

I know what i want for my birthday. take a listen to the clips at the amazon site.

apologies for the previous post. I wouldn’t have written it if the program hadnt said i looked like Puccini ( yay for double negatives)

Also- im back at college, so you know what that means... more drin.... i mean, less time to make posts (har har har). But im good at procrastinating, so we shall see.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Face Recognition stuff....

Via Oboeinsight

So i ran some pics through this little face recognition program they've got running and guess who i look like? (well, 62 % similarity, or something like that)....Giacomo Puccini! i look like a famous composer! (sort of? at least a computer thinks so)

Ah, i knew music ran in the family! But i ran about 5 photos of me through this device, the other times i got someone different and low numbers (ex 52%, 50%) ...clearly meaning i dont look like much. Ah, but who got the highest number? Penelope Cruz with 72% similarity. Now that can be a good thing or a very bad thing.

Maybe i should grow some facial hair.


This is a funny thing but it doesnt mean much at all.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

wonderfully cacophonous

How could i be so ignorant? i didnt realize existed till three days ago, but hey, its the new year- let me start off again fresh.

2006? madness. I remember in elementary school writing the date- 1991 -on my papers and getting upset because it had just become 1992 and i had to then erase my mistake.

Its amazing how John Cage's story from living room music sounds like modern beat box and late 80s rap. Weird, i wonder what the actual score looks like, as it could just be the current interpretation (doubtful). I do not deny that i am hostile to much of cage's approach, (pretty much anything post 4'33"), but this piece and his construction #2 shocked me simply because of their date- the internet tells me the year for both these pieces was 1940.


David W Barber wrote a wonderful bit in his wonderful book Bach, Beethoven and the Boys:

What is there to say about Cage's music? In keeping with his own philsophical approach as a composer, I could very well say nothing at all. "I have nothing to say " he says cryptically, "and i am saying it and that is poetry". Are you following this?

So, would it be fair in modern music to treat him as he treated the piano in 4'33"? He thought statements of non-statements were poetry, so if we say nothing about cage except "i have nothing to say about John Cage" then we've done his art justice, by his own definition. Does that strike you as wrong?

This is why people like me object to Cage's approach, there is nihilistic element in it that is much more than unsettling, a love of an artistic-nihilistic paradox... but im rambling and this argument is much more involved than i have energy for.

Another day.