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Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Music You Should Know" - Part 2

Read Part I here.

Delving into another group of composers/compositions, IMO, high-school-age composition students should familiarize themselves with, here are what I call Late 20th-century Modernists.

I expect a certain amount of controversy just over the categorization, as well as the inclusion/exclusion of certain names. Corigliano, Zappa, and Schnittke, for instance, could all be argued to be Post-Modernists, since their music to some extent is characterized by frequent use of pastiche, homage, or what-have-you, making overt reference to music of the past for a particular ironic effect (one of the hallmarks of Post-Modernism). However, I'd also say, arbitrarily I suppose, that their basic language is dissonant, atonal, frequently non-pulsitile, completely outside the common practice use of melodic devices/voice-leading with resolutions, and so forth, which is the criteria I'm using.

I'm also making a distinction between Modernists and what I'm calling Avant-gardists, which is indeed splitting hairs with more than a few (the late 20th century Avant-garde will be the next post). So Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, and others whose language is either directly or indirectly influenced by Cage, instead of the mid-century Modernists (Boulez, Babbitt), I'm lumping together as the Avant-garde.

At any rate, this list is a work-in-progress, but these guys are important! Listen and absorb.....

Listen to "Music You Should Know: Late 20th Century Modernists"

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vox Planetarium released on Wirrpang Records

I'm pleased to announce that my low-flutes-with-electronics piece Vox Planetarium, commissioned by Peter Sheridan, has just been released on Wirripang Records in Australia. The CD, entitled "Labyrinths of Lowness", was recorded by the Monash University Flute Ensemble from Melbourne, Australia.

I'm also pleased to announce that I'll be conducting the U.S. premiere of Vox Planetarium this August at the National Flute Convention in Washington DC, featuring Peter and a host of other world-class flutists.

To listen to excerpts from the disc, or to purchase a copy, visit Wirripang on the web.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Music You Should Know" – Part 1

I have several young private composition students I teach regularly, and then during the summer I work closely with a handful of students at the Csehy Summer School of Music. One thing I've consistently found is that these young students are for the most part completely unaware of what contemporary classical music sounds like, looks like, who's writing it, and who's playing it. Which is perplexing to me, since not only is discovering who the current composers and players are totally exciting, but also totally inspiring to the creative juices. Many students seem to think that new music in 2015 is basically what it was in 1955, which is like saying that pop music today sounds like it did 60 years ago—actually, nothing could be more different.

But another thing that is different these days is the immediate accessibility of new music: on You Tube, on Soundcloud, on Band Camp, on internet radio, or just on plain old blogs and web sites, compelling new music is really everywhere, if you just know to look for it. Even scores, which used to seem hidden away in some obscure, secret place like treasure maps, are profoundly available in a way that would have once seemed miraculous. Hearing new music, seeing new music, studying new music.... we live in an age of plenty.

So, in order to get these young people current with what's going on now — and what has gone on in the last 60 years — I'm putting together a series of You Tube playlists called "Music You Should Know", containing a bunch of videos of, you know. Each playlist will be defined by a (very) broad category to group things together in some kind of organized way. No doubt the very subjective act of categorization will be cause for some debate.... I hope it is! Getting students conversant enough with this music to develop points of view and questions is the whole point. I've had students become enthusiastic upon encountering things as different as Music for 18 Musicians on one hand, and Vox Balaenae on the other.

Playlist one is Minimalism & Post-Modernism (or PoMo for short). A very fun list to compile, and a good example of the wide range of music that can come in under a fairly wide umbrella: it has Arvo Pärt next to Michael Gordon, and Eliane Radigue next to Michael Nyman. Teasing out the connecting threads between these very different musics are part of what makes new music so much fun.

Listen to "Music You Should Know: Minimalism & Postmodernism"