Category: Uncategorized

Jeremy Denk: Think, Play, Love

Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity—along with busloads of elderly folks, school children, and members of eighth blackbird—to see the CSO under Michael Tilson Thomas accompany Jeremy Denk in Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto. If you are unfamiliar with Jeremy Denk, you should read his blog and buy his Ives CD. Not necessarily in that order.... Read more »

Composing pt 1: Improvisation

It has been said that improvisation is composition but sped up. And vice versa. Either making decisions realtime or freezing (musical) time to consider the options before choosing one. Maybe this is a fairy tale told to undergrads to get them over their fear of composition (not that their fear of improvisation is that much less)... Read more »

rvw: Ariadne at Lyric

Sometimes the play within a play is the play. Or, in the case of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, the opera within the opera. Let’s start with the play. Strauss’s 1912 opera was originally conceived as the postlude to a play, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière. It’s a play in which a middle class guy, the... Read more »

Infinite Possibility

Art used to be subservient to the morals of society, whether they be dictated by the gods, a church, an autocrat, or just generally accepted. Everything broke wide open after World War II; now it is even opener. It’s almost cliché, but now that we can do anything what do we do? Without a strong... Read more »

Minimalism: a process phase

In Steve Reich’s phase phase, the process is the product. When something happens, it’s new information to our brains. But when it happens 100 times exactly the same, it’s redundant. Our brains stop seeing the individual bits and are invited to see the gradual transformation of the bits. All music has this to greater or... Read more »

Beethoven, Kuma's Corner, and Ayn Rand: the cult of the individualist

Controversy struck over fried potatoes. Kuma’s Corner, a favorite heavy-metal burger bar among my non-vegetarian friends, switched their fries from frozen waffle fries to fresh, local, hand-cut fries. It was announced, it was a fact, and there was no apologizing. Yet, when complaints flooded in, to which almost any other business would release carefully worded... Read more »

Hipster Composers: Part II

Thank you to everyone for making last week’s Hipster Composers post so popular. I’m still not entirely able to define the criteria much better, but that won’t stop me from trying. It seems like the “hipster” composers are more concerned with style – [ “style is the absence of imagination” ] – while the nerd... Read more »

Modern Composition: The Long Tail

A total craftsman.
Like many of my favorite posts, this one stems from one of my favorite TED talks: Clay Shirky on institutions versus collaboration. While most of his examples are from the tech world, I think there are some important lessons to be gleaned by artists and arts organizations. In this post, though, I’ll focus on what I... Read more »

Hipster Composers

The Hipster Composer: an oxymoron, right? Hipsterism is all about surface–image, style, etc–while the Classical music tradition is all about substance–form, structure. But these elements are rarely in balance, and composers seem to slide toward one extreme or the other.  Recently, there’s been some accusations of hipster sensibilities in response to a feature in the... Read more »

rvw: MousicNOW 2/1/11

For an hour-and-a-quarter Monday night, the venerable Chicago Symphony presented an entire concert of newly composed music under the auspices of its MusicNOW series.  Curated by CSO composers-in-residence Mason Bates and Anna Clyne, the program featured Mouse on Mars, an avant-electronica duo from Germany and opened with a Martin Matalon’s score to  accompany Luis Buñuel’s Un... Read more »