New York Youth Symphony & Yale Glee Club5.15.13
Wild Shore Festival for New Music5.11.13
Scale 9 by Sean Friar
Indigenous Instruments (III.) by Steven Mackey
Make Prayers to the Raven by John Luther Adams
Lieux Retrouvés: I. Les Eaux (Places Revisited: I. The Waters) by Thomas Adès
lend/lease by David Lang
A Portrait of the Cosmic Hamlet by Conrad Winslow
7 Dunham Show2.19.13
Merry Christmas, all!
This work renders the collision and joining of sustained organ chords with deep-layered, polyrhythmic sound effects. Many of the rhythms in the piece—some resembling idling engines—were developed using MIDI-generating software and Euclidean geometry.Ragged Motors
A Proper Tour3.24.12
Marcia had the remarkable foresight to buy this place as a young teacher when the UWS wasn’t so much old Jews as pink cadillacs and needles. The place was a legit boarding house in which who knows what went down, and there remains one ancient permit on a door:
The whole experience is a little like inhabiting a model Victorian apartment at the American Wing at the Met; like, exactly where you’d expect a composer to reside. But there’s also Marcia’s son, Gothic Hangman, an influential goth/surrealist artist; you get a couple glimpses of the house on his episode of MTV’s True Life. And Marcia’s husband, Stephen, who collects Everything and places little duckies and crystals Just So, and listens to Libertarian radio on the stoop unceasingly. And Marcia’s Indian rubble/Asian masks/19th century American political documents, which give you night terrors, and fascinate you, and turn luggage moving into a taxing ceremony. And no running water in the kitchenette on my floor. Or A/C.
To give you a better sense of the whole thing, I made a little video tour of the house. It begins with the carved faces of the original occupants from 1887 on the front stoop and ends in my room. The music is a Sciarrino Capriccio, somehow capturing my dreamiest arrivals home.
Harmony is Jenga3.21.12
If the Archer quote is true, you can test for the absence of drama. It sort of works: if you’re certain about how the piece will unfold, you don’t feel the need to experience it; if you cannot anticipate anything, you get lost. Incidentally, getting lost is the sometimes goal for particular artists, but maybe that’s not drama.
Not a rule; useful, maybe.
What might have been a winsome piece of minimalism is now a postmodern absurdity. For the seeker of juxtaposition, there are many dazzling possibilities better than this gaudy approach. Robert Bringhurst, my favorite typographer-poet, addresses the subject from his camp:
Consistency is one of the forms of beauty. Contrast is another. A fine page, even a fine book, can be set from beginning to end in one type in one size. It can also teem with variety, like an equatorial forest or a modern city.
Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style, 102.
Hence an obsessively-focused study works as well as a diverse sampler, though each has separate requirements. If the point is to illuminate variety, pick a complementary frame. If the focus is narrow, seek the forceful, dogged border.
Tawdry framing abounds in music, too, in concert programming and multi-movement works alike. Imagine, as an extreme example, Orff’s weepy earnest, “O Fortuna” and Bernstein’s satirical bloody, “Auto da fé” framing John Adams’ sublime “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians” from the Death of Klinghoffer. I wince as I embed this monstrosity:
Speaking of consistent tone, look at what I got when I searched Google with the above image (you can do this by dragging an image onto Google):
Playing at Jeopardy11.30.11
Other artists avoid it, preferring to make a big mess, sort out the trash, and come up with the work, relevant questions in hand. Call it the teleological approach, exemplified by directors such as Peter Sellars. David Lynch employs a similar, though tidier, process. Here he talks about making Inland Empire, not a commission, but a project likewise filled with budgetary and personnel constraints:
DL: I had a script [for Inland Empire], but not a finished script. So I would script a scene and then go shoot that scene, then write another scene and go and shoot that scene, not knowing if there was going to be anything more than just that scene, or those scenes. There was no improvisation at all. Improvisation means you don’t know what you’re doing, and you go out and try to get a bunch of people to do some stuff. Inland Empire was all scripted, scene by scene, but there was no indication of a feature film. Each scene was specific, had to be a certain way. Then, after five or six scenes, another whole bunch of things started coming, revealing the possibility of a feature.
David Lynch, interviewed in Reverse Shot
I absolutely cannot do this, but neither can I torture myself for weeks without working with materials. I like the crossword-y challenge of “finding the cause” for a work, but I go back and forth between experimenting, improvising, writing; and thinking about the big shapes. Either way, the deadline forces one’s hand and one’s muse, so it must always ride shotgun with the commission.
Prose and Witches11.5.11
The function of typography, as I understand it, is neither to further the power of witches nor to bolster the defences of those, like this unfortunate parliamentarian, who live in terror of being tempted and deceived. The satisfactions of the craft come from elucidating, and perhaps even ennobling, the text, not from deluding the unwary reader by applying scents, paints and iron stays to empty prose. But humble texts, such as classified ads or the telephone directory, may profit as much as anything else from a good typographical bath and a change of clothes. And many a book, like many a warrior or dancer or priest of either sex, may look well with some paint on its face, or with a bone in its nose.
May we all aspire to such prose, filled with surprise, dashing with the momentum and grace of a skier. And, the kicker:
Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation, full of endless opportunities for insight or obtuseness…Typography at its best is a slow performing art, worthy of the same informed appreciation that we sometimes give to musical performances, and capable of giving similar nourishment and pleasure in return.
Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted to say about great performances and their power to reveal great compositions?
Stay Alert to Threat7.13.10
The threat level is at orange
today; And I have back pains;
And you are a sinner;
And we are going to die soon;
Do not leave your bags.
unrequited love, diminishing prospects, cantankerous
mother, philandering husband, expensive diesel, culture-deep
irascible worry; I am going
to that great big place
in the sky where
the threat level is at green
always; And you can give
your bag to a stranger.
I Was Featured6.29.10
Pinning Music—and some interview questions. Check it out!
Pat Robertson, courtesy of Dragon Speech6.18.10
Got Robertson says don’t see the doctor
Brady James five pray to Pat
Robertson, and all your health
problems be solved. He will be built
Brady James thought
bubbles good dog blue
tooth people read the Bible
Lee and I created this while waiting to walk through the fantastical Big Bambú at the Met. I have no idea what we originally said. I think these are lyrics to a Rick James song.