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  • richardmitnick 12:58 PM on October 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NEWMUSICBOX, , The Autobiographical Impulse in Composition   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “The Autobiographical Impulse in Composition” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

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    Paul Elwood by Chipper Thompson

    October 4, 2018
    Paul Elwood

    As a banjo player and percussionist, I’ve long tried to combine the worlds of the contemporary music that I love with my background in bluegrass and Appalachian music. The fact is, I didn’t need to try so hard. No matter what an artist does, the choices are often subconscious, based on personal experience and background. This background dictates where we take our music.

    Early on, I planned to be a composer and not a performer; stage fright was my primary affliction. But I realized that many professional composers were also good performers, at least at some point in their careers. So, I decided that, if I was to be any good as a composer, I should strive to be a good performer. I began to practice with intensity on the banjo and, since I truly love the classical canon, orchestral percussion. It became my mission to play in order to feed my composition.

    One thing I work to teach student composers is that musicality is learned directly from performing, listening, and immersion in the literature. I’ve learned to work with others to craft a collective sound, to blend with them, and to listen. A performing composer learns how hard it is to perform, and a composer who performs will think of the musicians while composing.

    While I developed bluegrass chops on the banjo, I was also exploring the experimental aspects of playing the instrument. A banjo can be plucked, bowed, struck, rubbed, scraped, and prepared. I’ve worked in contexts of free improvisation, contemporary ensembles, and electronic music. I once improvised on a belay line on the side of a cliff in Tennessee and, as a student, played under John Cage. Style means very little when it comes to expression on an instrument. I found that the energy of performing bluegrass in a bar in Asheville, North Carolina, carried over to the next morning’s work at the drafting table, even if that work had nothing to do with the music I was playing the night before.

    Yet, those Appalachian and folk tunes began to creep into my music. One example of this is a composition of mine titled Stanley Kubrick’s Mountain Home, for soprano, chamber ensemble, and bluegrass band. While writing this piece, I became acquainted with the legendary bluegrass banjo player/fiddler/composer John Hartford, who I’d seen numerous times at festivals and whose recordings influence me as a performer to this day. I asked him to record several Appalachian fiddle tunes that I then transcribed and worked into the composition.

    An important evening in my life came in 1978 when I saw New Directions with trumpeter Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, drummer/pianist Jack DeJohnette, bassist Eddie Gomez, and guitarist John Abercrombie. The ensemble interacted freely around structured tunes. I walked out of that concert wanting to do something like that with a bluegrass band and said so to my brother, who observed: “Well, it wouldn’t be bluegrass then, would it?” No, I guess not.

    This concert coincided with improvisation sessions that my composition teacher at Wichita State University organized. Arthur S. Wolff placed a number of musicians in resonant spaces such as stairwells, tunnels, and atriums and recorded everything, often late at night. Many of us who were involved then still cite him as an early influence in our music. I brought this discipline to an experimental bluegrass band that I played with in the 1980s called the Sons of Rayon, and once I was accused of being self-indulgent for doing this on stage. In the ‘90s, I played a number of events with cellist Hank Roberts, known then for his work with the Bill Frisell Quartet. Our performances were structured around tunes that he composed with large sections of improvisation. I believe that I developed interactive skills and musicality through these numerous improv sessions and performances.

    In a strange circling around of fate, in May of 2011 I met percussionist Famoudou Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago in France. I quickly mobilized funds, musicians, and a recording studio and composed a number of tunes. The next month we recorded Nice Folks with some excellent French musicians who rendered lovely improvisations in and between my tunes.

    In 2012, I performed on banjo with composer Christian Wolff in Marseille. Wolff has long been a presence in contemporary music. When he was 17, he gave John Cage a book explaining the I-Ching, which became the basis for many of Cage’s chance pieces. He was one of the four New York School composers in the 1950s and 1960s with Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown, and he was often a lecturer at Darmstadt, which is where I first encountered him. The night I performed with him, I asked Christian to compose a solo banjo piece. The result is Banjo Player. It’s a hard piece and often non-idiomatic for the instrument. Wolff asks the performer to leap from the first to the 13th fret between quickly moving 16th notes; interesting counterpoint is written in widely separated registers, and a scordatura tuning is called for (which caused me to transcribe the entire composition into tablature). The difficulty of this piece may rest in the fact that Christian has composed for many virtuosic performers such as pianist David Tudor. He stretches the instrument without resorting to much in the way of extended techniques, though the piece extended and challenged my technique. There is a section that is very easy and folk-like. This ties in with study he made of early American hymnody at one time, which lead to some interesting monophonic compositions in the 1990s. He seems to have been constructing his music then from simple materials that, perhaps, a number of amateur musicians could play and which reflect his socialist politics.

    A work of art is autobiographical. Compositions can and, for me, should evolve directly out of performing experiences, which in turn may relate to travels and happenstance encounters. Our music reflects the artists we meet, the teachers we’ve had, the books we’ve read, the art we’ve looked at, and the music we’ve listened to. I look for compositional structure in abstract art, in a variety of novels and poems, in the music of other cultures, and in film. (Stanley Kubrick’s Mountain Home was initially based on the structure of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

    The music of Claude Vivier expresses his life as an adopted child, studies with Stockhausen, his development in spectral music, his travels in Asia, and his own fascination with sound. A Cage composition is a reflection of the influence of artist Marcel Duchamp, Arnold Schoenberg’s structures, the Zen teachings of Daisetsu Suzuki, and the poverty that he experienced in the 1930s. The sound world of his percussion pieces grew out of not having the funds to buy a lot of equipment, therefore Cage and Lou Harrison raided junk yards for sounds. The driving rhythms, colors, and themes of composer Gabriela Ortiz’s work express her Mexican heritage and her study of contemporary music and electronics. In Caroline Shaw’s compositions I hear wonderful vocal and string experimentation echoing the North Carolina folk music and Shape Note choirs she must have heard growing up.

    When I was 19, someone told me that rich experiences won’t come find us, but that we must make them happen. I took this to heart. We are born into situations that both feed and limit individual abilities and it is those limitations based on our past that determine our artistic output. In the act of creation, a personal story will assert itself, often in spite of ourselves. But we can feed that story through the people we meet, the concerts we organize, and the musicians we work with at home or abroad. And we can work very hard to become the artists that we wish to become based on the experiences we’ve been placed within and the situations—the stories—we’ve engineered.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 1:16 AM on October 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , George Tsontakis—Getting Out of My Introvertism, , NEWMUSICBOX   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “George Tsontakis—Getting Out of My Introvertism” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    October 1, 2018
    Frank J. Oteri
    Video presentations and photography by Molly Sheridan
    Transcription by Julia Lu

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    Back in the 1990s, it seemed like George Tsontakis was on a career path that most American composers would envy. He was signed by a major publisher, his music was performed by soloists, ensembles, and orchestras all over country, and most of his music was recorded. Then he received a significant music award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995 and a Guggenheim Fellowship the following year. The following decade, he was awarded the Charles Ives Living and the Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, which are among the two largest cash prizes available to composers.

    But rather than advancing along and building on all of these accolades, Tsontakis aspires to a hermetic existence in the middle of the woods and composes something only when someone commissions it and nothing at all if no one does.

    “If nobody asked me to write a piece, I wouldn’t compose,” he admitted when we sat with him on his back porch as hummingbirds and bees flittered around and chipmunks scurried by. “I’d be doing other things. I’m very happy to not compose. … One of the secrets to [my] life is that I only write what people ask for. … Multiple performances, you get that through websites or whatever. I don’t care. I’m not a promoter. I’m not even a person that wants pieces to be played all the time.”

    That’s not so say that Tsontakis is a serene, quiet person. Anything but! During the afternoon we spent with him he regaled us with endless anecdotes about his early years—acting in musical theater and almost being chosen for the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar, arguing with Stockhausen during a seminar in Italy, fending off becoming a furrier by telling his Greek father than he was a vegetarian, and then his father being proud of an early piece of his that Vincent Persichetti hated. Along the way, he also told tons of jokes and did impersonations of various musical luminaries—including his one-time teacher Roger Sessions. Often, it was difficult to get a word in edgewise!

    So much so, in fact, that it was somewhat hard to swallow that Tsontakis considers himself an introvert and that being socially active was an acquired skill.

    “I get in these moods where I don’t talk,” he explained. “I’m basically an extrovert when I’m with people, but when they leave I become completely introverted. It’s an interesting balance. I’m either a closet introvert or a closet extrovert. I don’t know!”

    A conversation with Frank J. Oteri outside Tsontakis’s home in Shokan, New York, September 12, 2018—12:30 p.m. Video presentation by Molly Sheridan.

    Frank J. Oteri: We’ve only just started rolling the camera, but we’ve been having a great conversation since you picked us up in Kingston, New York, over an hour ago. It’s hard to believe it’s taken so long for us to finally record a substantive discussion with you.
    “Every composer and every performer should have to act.”

    George Tsontakis: Well, you did ask me one time, but I don’t do many things like this. I’m very insular. I think it was after the Grawemeyer [Award] or the Ives [Living], but I wasn’t talking to anybody. I was composing. I get in these moods where I don’t talk. I’m basically an extrovert when I’m with people, but when they leave I become completely introverted. It’s an interesting balance. I’m either a closet introvert or a closet extrovert. I don’t know. You’ve got to come out when you do teaching. And I’m an actor; I act in plays. When you’re doing a play, you have to close yourself up. Acting really helped me to get out of my introvertism and at least pretend to enjoy people being here. Every composer and every performer should have to act. All these violinists are so serious.

    FJO: You already sort of half answered the question with which I wanted to begin our conversation. Before I ever visited Vienna, which was only five years ago, people would always be shocked that I hadn’t traveled there since it’s such an important center of musical activity, to which I’d invariably respond, so are Harare, Zimbabwe; Lima, Peru; Seoul, South Korea—which are all places I had been. As a composer in this country, you’ve attained an enviable degree of prominence—you’ve won several major awards, a large amount of your music continues to be performed and has been recorded. And yet, you’ve chosen not to live in any of the major urban musical capitals. I can see why. It’s idyllic, despite being off the beaten path. Still, it’s kind of a weird place to be doing what you do. Or so it seems to me. Maybe it’s not.

    GT: Well, it depends. I mean, if I lived in an urban area, it wouldn’t be Vienna. That’s a museum, as most of classical music is these days. If it’s not a contemporary music festival or concert, it’s museum stuff. This is the perfect place to be. Everybody else is in the wrong place as far as I’m concerned. But it depends on what your philosophy is. I’ve had 21-year-old students at Bard who have bigger Wikipedia pages than I do, because they’re reaching out and they’re trying to be in another place all the time. The urban area is now wireless, so you can be in the country and still be reaching out instead of looking in. But Bach hardly ever left Leipzig and he did pretty well. Either you depend on promoting yourself or you depend on your product to be the promotion of what you do. Of course, it helped that I had started off in a place like Juilliard. Having met people at Juilliard was a great thing. It helped for about ten years. You’ve got to get off the ground, and maybe you do have to have a connection with some populated area, where there are musicians. There’s nothing wrong with being with musicians. Even at Bard, where it’s a tiny microcosmos of an urban community, there are fantastic musicians. So I tell the composers, especially if they’re anti-social, you have to meet these performers, because these performers might be the ones that are going to do your works and request your works in the future.

    When I was in New York City, I’d be walking down Broadway, and it led to a commission. Somebody would say, “Hey George, you know, we’re thinking about you. Thinking about doing something.” The fact that we were in front of Zabars kicked it over to, “Yeah, let’s talk.” That was a big difference. So there are advantages. But as far as creative energy goes, “New York, New York” and the other urban areas have a lot of static electricity. You’re there walking around and you feel energy. But is it your energy? That’s the question. By retreating to this quiet place, I know where my energy ends and the other energies begin, or vice versa. So I don’t adopt any energies of the urban areas. You have to make all your energy here. It’s a more subtle energy, but it’s a dependable energy. And I love nature, too. You hear all these creatures? I feed birds. They inspire me as well. I have that in common with Messiaen. I love the birds, but I don’t know who they are.

    2

    FJO: But you actually grew up in New York City. You were born in Astoria.

    GT: That’s another thing. I don’t need it because I’ve been there. I’ve done the urban area. Back to my advice to young composers: “I finished undergrad, where do I go to grad school?” I’ll say, “Where did you go to undergrad?” “Well, I went to New York, Manhattan School of Music.” I say, “Well then, find a country place to go to for your master’s and doctorate maybe.” If they say, “I went to some country school in the middle of nowhere,” I’d say, “Find an urban school to go to because you need both to a degree.” It’s the diversity of learning about these different poles. There are some composers who will never leave the city. That’s you, Frank! Definitely, I can tell that already. In one hour, you’ve demonstrated all the urban tendencies. I think New York is one of the most provincial places I’ve ever seen. A friend who lives in Woodstock read a chapter at the Woodstock Library about those New Yorkers who only read three publications. And each one has New York in the title.

    FJO: I don’t do that.

    GT: No, I know. But he said, “Thank God for those people. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have anybody buying tickets!” New York is provincial that way. If a restaurant is not in The New York Times, you don’t go. But out here, you have to fend for yourself. I also want to mention that there’s a lot of stuff going on here. We’re only an hour and forty-five minutes from the George Washington Bridge. So, like the pollen, these New Yorkers come up here. They get off the Amtrak and we know what they’re doing, and they know what we’re doing.

    3

    FJO: [laughs] Okay, but I’m going to take you back to New York when you were growing up in the very tightly knit Greek community. I know that you had multiple interests, not just music; you were very deeply engrossed in theater. But how did you get exposed to all this stuff and when did things start to resonate with you?

    GT: I can tell you the day I became a composer. I didn’t spend that much time in Astoria. We moved to Long Island, to a school district that had good music. But my grandparents and I spent a lot of time in Astoria when I went to Queens College. So that was important. I had a dual cultural life. You know, Astoria is really Greece in a way, although I was just in Greece in April and May and when I speak Greek, they say, “George, you speak Greek, but it’s Astoria Greek.” Astoria’s a suburb of Greece. And those roots are very important for what I do.

    But I went to a good school on Long Island, and they handed me a violin when I was seven years old. So I studied violin and I knew a little about classical music. But when I was around 15 or 16, I got this new pair of headphones (they didn’t have good headphones until the ‘60s) and I listened to a Deutsche Grammophon recording of Stravinsky’s Firebird. It blew me away, because I hadn’t heard something like that live. Now, if you had told me that Igor Stravinsky was a Polish jazz composer, I would say cool man. I like his music. I didn’t know enough about music to know who Stravinsky was. Someone recommended a recording. I also heard in the same week Beethoven’s Opus 135. Blew me away, too. I listened to the Fine Arts Quartet. That week I decided to be a composer.

    I just said, “Between Beethoven and Stravinsky, I want to do that. Whatever that is.” It’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the chocolate and the peanut butter. You put it together; I want to do that. And I have been trying to do that. I added Debussy and Messiaen to the mix, but basically I wanted to do that.

    I argue this point with many composers, especially in Europe, who have had pressure put on them to be more progressive, more avant-garde, whatever it is, less tonal, whatever you call that. I say, “Try to remember when you decided to be a composer and why.” I decided to be a composer because of what I heard. I didn’t become a composer because of my compatriot Xenakis or Boulez or Karlheinz Stockhausen. I became a composer to emulate the music that I wanted to do. And I will take that music, and I’ll bring it forward in my own manner. I’ll decide on the colors. I call tonalities—dissonance or not dissonance—colors.

    FJO: It’s funny you say that because every composer has a different story about what triggered the desire to be a composer. I confess, although I had already been writing music, a really formative influence on me when I was in high school was actually discovering who Stockhausen was—his whole persona, as well as his music and all his crazy pronouncements. It really impressed me, and I wanted to figure out what he was doing.

    GT: Aha. I studied with him in Rome in an eighty-hour seminar over two months as I was studying with Donatoni. In Europe, you’d have these spontaneous things. I read in the paper: Stockhausen seminar. He had just finished Donnerstag aus Licht at La Scala. So there were about ten of us who were students in Stockhausen’s class. Paul Sperry, who I knew, was there. Stockhausen did this thing with these big rolls of paper. It was four feet and you unrolled it. He did all the staves in different colors. It was a typical Stockhausen happening. I was the skeptical American. I have cassette tapes of us arguing in English while the Italians are listening. But Donatoni and Stockhausen made me realize what I could do if I wanted to. So I didn’t make a choice out of ignorance. You wanted to learn what Stockhausen was doing. Well, I found out and I still didn’t want to do it. So I tell composers in Europe, or wherever they think we’re not modern enough, “Look, we can turn around tomorrow and do what you’re doing, and you could do what we’re doing. We made a choice.”

    That’s because we find, like my old friend George Rochberg did, the materials that you best communicate with, and that’s it. You know, you don’t become affected because of someone telling you that your materials aren’t modern enough. I give them the example that if in 1450 sackbuts and crumhorns started to play Lachenmann and then in 2018, two cats came along from Italy, Gabrieli and Monteverdi, and started doing their music, somebody would go, “Holy cow, I just heard the most modern music I ever heard. These guys are flipped out, man.” There’s no forwards and backwards in music. I’m so happy that, these days, young composers don’t seem to care.

    FJO: We’re now in an era where anything is possible. But it’s interesting to hear you say all this because there’s a piece of yours I’ve read about in a New York Times review by Tim Page. I’ve never heard it and wish I could. It’s a very early string quartet that is probably either number one or number two.

    GT: The Emerson one?

    FJO: Yes.

    GT: It’s very much like [Wolfgang] Rihm. It’s not 12-tone, but at least it has 12 tones. It still resonates for me. I know you know [the recording of] the third and fourth quartets on New World. The American [String Quartet] had a choice, to pair the fourth that I wrote for them with either my second or third quartet. The third is very tonal. And the second is completely out there—dissonant and dissonant—but there are some lyrical aspects, too. They voted. Two of them wanted to do number two and two of them wanted to do number three. And I would still love it, if the Emerson is listening out there, my buddies—would you want to bring back number two? I’d love to hear it. I’d love for someone to do that really well. You mentioned Tim Page?

    FJO: Yeah, I’ll read you the quote that got me: “This piece, which was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, under whose auspices Sunday’s concert was presented, proved a somber, knotty work in four movements, rather in the manner of Alban Berg. The composer writes that he attempted a ‘clear reaction to our times,’ and speaks of fears and frustrations. To this taste, Mr. Tsontakis lays on the angst a little thick.”

    GT: Very good telling. Tim’s a great guy, too. I remember “lays on the angst too thick.” Now I don’t have to lay it on at all, because I did it then. I remember Andrew Porter in The New Yorker wrote something similar. I don’t remember the quote, but something like: “It wasn’t to my taste.” or “It was a little bit over the top.”

    FJO: When I read negative reviews like this, it doesn’t turn me off the piece; often it makes me want to listen even more! But what stuck with me in that Tim Page review was his reference to your comment about the piece being “a clear reaction to our times.” You talked about Europeans thinking that their music is progressive and ours is not. I don’t think it can be reduced to binaries. But one of the things that I find so exciting about your music, and why I wanted to talk to you—particularly now, in this current zeitgeist—is that although I don’t think your music sounds anachronistic, I also don’t think it sounds like it’s of the present time. You seem completely oblivious to what is going on now, and it’s nice to be able to kind of get away from what’s going on, especially right now, through this music.

    GT: Well yeah, I mean, that’s the whole point. Any music that is specifically yours has a character that can’t be duplicated. It’s like a fingerprint or DNA. I learn a lot by teaching, and I’ve always said to my students, “Don’t try to be original.” Only two composers every century are original, and they’re usually French—Messiaen and Varèse or Berlioz and Debussy, the big revolutionaries. The rest of us kind of do mop up, we do what the others do. So I say, “Don’t try to be original, be specific. Be as specific as you can. Mold your music in your own specific way to your DNA, even if you start with C-major.”

    It doesn’t matter what you do. There’s been proof of that. Look at a composer like Arvo Pärt or Gorecki or Valentin Silvestrov. They have nuanced their music in a way that nobody can duplicate. Benjamin Britten’s a great example, too. One of our problems is that we think of chronology—1800, 1900, 2000—and music progressing, whereas I think of it as different things going up. [gestures hands] Here’s Bach. Here’s Beethoven. Here’s Haydn over there. Here’s Messiaen. The higher you go with the lives of these composers, the more modern music is. It’s more modern because you can’t get there from going this way. So the late Beethoven quartets, those are all eternally modern. Or Gabrieli and Monteverdi—you can’t get there by imitating them. Chronology is not adding more and more dissonance, and being more and more abstract, scratching the instrument instead of sul ponticello. Eventually the violin is going to break in half from somebody trying affectations of texture! So be the life of a composer going up. You make your own pedestal. That’s why I can use whatever elements and it’s a personal dialogue in my language that I picked somewhere between Opus 135 and Stravinsky’s Firebird. Rite of Spring was on the flip side [of that LP], but I went for the Firebird even though kids viscerally like Rite of Spring. I think that’s how I discovered Debussy, because Firebird is Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov. Again, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Take Russian tunes instead of French tunes, and you use Debussy’s techniques that Stravinsky obviously did in Firebird, and you have a new music. So if I pick that up, and Beethoven’s late quartets, and I blend those in my mind, my concoction is what you’re talking about that you can’t understand where it comes from.

    FJO: So this is you as a teenager in the ‘60s. You were a weird kid.

    GT: We were all weird. We had a group of weird kids in our high school. We were listening to Bartók and other stuff. That’s the way we rebelled, by listening to contemporary music.

    FJO: Instead of listening to The Rolling Stones?

    GT: Well, I played in rock bands. I played keyboard and electric violin. We did stuff by Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears with Al Cooper. Those were the days, you know. And we did some Stones. I think that was really healthy to do. But don’t look for fame in the business we are in. It’s a very small, rarified world.

    4

    I don’t worry about anything. One of the reasons I can live where I do, and be disassociated to a degree with what else happens is because I’ve gotten myself down to a science in what I want to do. I’ve realized that the only time I have to compose is when I’m composing. I don’t have to have anything to do with music otherwise. I have enough listening experience, unless I want to keep up with the latest stuff. But all I have to do is sit and compose. If I sit and compose for two hours that day, I don’t have to talk about music for the rest of my time. I don’t have to live music. I don’t have to go to concerts. I don’t have to do anything. I think it would be wonderful if somebody did, but I don’t need that. So I can do that anywhere. I pack my bag, and I’ll go in the woods. It doesn’t matter where I do it because I don’t have to listen to it. I love Beethoven and I love listening to Debussy, but I don’t have to in order to compose.

    FJO: There are certain tools that you do need, though. Yes?

    GT: You definitely need tools, but you develop your own. All we have to do is compose when we want to compose. Being involved in music otherwise is an elective. I don’t need that elective. I’d rather be involved with other things in my life and do other things. And I think the broader the package that we make of ourselves, the more we will communicate—because nobody wants to just listen to the music of a composer who does nothing but be a composer. So I tell my students that. Enrich yourself. Do other things because you’ll never write a piece that’s larger than what you’ve created as a person. Where does the material come from? How do you write a piece that’s beyond you living in a box, or in NewMusicBox?

    FJO: Well, that’s where I live most of the time. But in terms of boxes, I know that you also build things.

    GT: I do carpentry. I love it. You have hobbies. Cage was a mushroom expert. What is that called?

    FJO: A mycologist.

    GT: A mycologist. Messiaen was an ornithologist, and others do things that are completely different than music. I like acting and woodworking.

    6

    FJO: I want to talk to you a bit more about acting because I know that when you were younger, you were being pulled in two different directions—acting vs. music. I’m curious about how your parents responded to all of this. Were they supportive?

    GT: They were very supportive. You know, they were Greek. My father was a furrier and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. I think I was persuasive because my energy just convinced them that I’m not going to be a furrier. Plus, I was a vegetarian. My father said, “You want to be in the fur business?” And I’d say, “Hey, I’m a vegetarian. You think I’m going to be cutting up 40 minks to make a coat? No way.” They respected it, because even young people make their pitch. They persuade, the way a composer persuades you through music. Of course, if you have stubborn parents, that’s harder to do. But I think my parents recognized that whatever I did, I could be good at it.

    I remember my father coming to my first Juilliard concert. “I’m going to Juilliard to hear my son’s piece.” It was a string quartet, number zero, and it was like Webern [sings]. He only listened to Greek music and American pop music, and yet he was so proud that people stood and clapped. Well, they didn’t stand, but they stood to leave after the concert. By the way, that’s the piece where Persichetti came up to me and said, “I liked your piece; I like the way it ended.” I knew he meant the fact that it ended. He was a wonderful man. I loved his sense of humor. Andrea Olmstead just came out with a book about Persichetti.

    FJO: I have to get that. Anyway, you said your father came to hear this Webernian thing you wrote and he was proud of you, even though he only listened to pop music and Greek music. Did he listen to Greek classical music—composers like Kalomiris, Riadis, or Skalkottas?

    GT: No, they knew no classical. Skalkottas? He didn’t know Beethoven. But my parents sang Greek songs. Or they’d sing “You Are My Sunshine” and harmonize in the car. They had good voices and they had a great musical sense. But you know, he just was not educated in those things. He went right from high school to World War II. He fought in Italy and got shot up. There was no time for classical. But they had an appreciation. They’d play Mantovani classics, you know.

    FJO: Now in terms of having an acting career, you almost got cast in the original Jesus Christ Superstar.

    GT: I don’t know how you found that out! I had generous hair. And a beard. I looked like Jesus. I was 20, I think, and the guys I was playing keyboards and violin with in a flaky summer gig rock band called The Mann Act got hired for the road tour of Jesus Christ Superstar so no more band. I asked the clarinetist Dave Hopkins, “So what am I gonna do?” He said, “Why don’t you try out for the open call for actors?” They were trying to cast it like Pasolini, who used people from the street in his movies. The auditions were in two days.

    So Dave’s girlfriend and I went to the Mark Hellinger Theater and stood on a huge line. When I finally got in, after several hours, I stood in the wings as some nut-job before me dressed up with St Pepper’s Nehru Jacket placed two incense things on each side of him on the floor and lit them as the directors were waiting impatiently. He started to sing, “My Sweet Lord” and by the time he sang “Krishna,” they said, “Thank you, goodbye.” I went next. I didn’t know the show, but I had learned a short recitative-like song. The pianist had to find the music in a pile. Right after I sang—no mike—Michael Shurtleff, the casting director stopped the auditions and called me to the seats. He asked if I could learn “Gethsemane” and return in a few days. The director was then Frank Corsaro, an opera director who I hadn’t heard of. The audition process became protracted and Shurtleff told me he wanted me for Peter the Apostle which he called a major role but it wasn’t, really, just on stage a lot with Jesus and the other eleven. I ended up auditioning six or seven times, but was knocked out after the dance part of the audition. I didn’t dance well. But then I was reinstated by Shurtleff. Eventually they changed directors and I auditioned two times for Tom O’Horgan of Hair fame. The plan to have Pasolini-like people off the street faded and they ended up with pros. Thank God! I would have been in theater, and I don’t think I would have liked it as much because you can’t get out to the woods. You’ve got to get to rehearsals. I wouldn’t have found my true self. It’s not that I couldn’t have been in something else besides music, but probably not something so extroverted.

    FJO: It’s quite a switch to go from singing Andrew Lloyd Weber to studying with Roger Sessions.

    GT: That’s true. But there was Queens College in between. I was at NYU in the School of the Arts for Drama. I didn’t last very long because I didn’t like acting classes. But I went back to my roots playing the violin and studied with Felix Galimir while I was at NYU. I ran out of money and I wanted to be independent, so I went to Queens College and studied with Hugo Weisgall, George Perle, and Leo Kraft. It was a very good school, and it was basically free. From there, I went to Sessions.

    I was very lucky because I knew Felix Greissle, who was Schoenberg’s son-in-law and Sessions’s publisher. I don’t think I would have gotten into Juilliard without Felix’s recommendation. I was Felix Greissle’s gardener in Manhasset. I did his shrubs. I brought music with me because I knew who he was. I’d be all dirty and I’d bring these sketches to Felix after I did his gardening, and he said, “This is good. Someday I will send you to Roger to study.” And his voice—if you know Schoenberg’s voice from the Kraft Columbia recordings, where Schoenberg says, “My painting is like my music and my music is like my painting.” It was frightening. Greissle had the same voice as Schoenberg. I wasn’t ready for Juilliard or Roger Sessions, but thanks to Greissle, I got in there and I went right to Roger Sessions.

    7

    FJO: But there’s a missing piece to this jigsaw puzzle. You had this epiphany on headphones listening to Firebird and then listening to Beethoven’s Opus 135. That’s before the Jesus Christ Superstar auditions.

    GT: Yeah, it’s before. I was 15. By Jesus Christ Superstar, I was like 20 years old.

    FJO: So at the time you had the epiphany about wanting to be a composer, had you written any music at all? That’s the missing piece.

    GT: Right. I was playing in the school orchestra…

    FJO: Playing violin?

    GT: Playing violin.

    FJO: Not viola yet?

    GT: Not viola. No. When you compose, you have to give up violin for viola. That’s the rule, because you can’t practice as much! But then in high school, I started composing. I started composing the last years in high school—funny, odd little pieces. That’s when I became interested. It was right after that. My high school teacher got mad at me because I stopped taking violin lessons. He was discouraging about my music; he made fun of it, in a way. It was very crude, but promising. But I continued and then I played in bands and wrote original tunes. We had a band doing Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago, so I wrote pieces for the band with brass. I guess it was pop. Then I started to compose more seriously and went to Queens, and—through Hugo Weisgall and Leo Kraft, and, as I mentioned, George Perle—I was on that track.

    8

    FJO: Did you know who any of those people were before when you went to study with them?

    GT: No. Well, I probably did when I investigated Queens and looked, but George Perle wasn’t George Perle, either. In those days, he was really not known very much at all. In fact, when I went to study with Donatoni, I mentioned that George Perle said hello. And he said, “George Perle, is he a composer?” He only knew George Perle as a theorist and someone that wrote about Berg.

    FJO: Was Sessions a name that you knew of as a composer when you got this recommendation to study with him?

    GT: Oh yes. I knew Sessions through Weisgall. So one step at a time, as soon I started seriously studying composition at Queens College. I also had Henry Weinberg, who was this Schoenberg freak. I learned a lot from him. And I spun off my own theories about fourths and whole-tone scales that I spun off a system I call heaven, which happens to be a hexachord of six fourths in a row. I think Henry Weinberg started that off in me. We analyzed The Book of the Hanging Gardens using his ideas. He was influential on me and Weinberg studied with Sessions. Weisgall studied with Sessions. Perle didn’t. But there were two people of great influence that wanted me to go to study with Roger Sessions. Fate had it that I met Greissle and that flipped it over the top. I don’t know what Carter thought of me at the Juilliard audition or Persichetti, but with Sessions something resonated. And, by the way, I stayed with Sessions for five years.

    FJO: Well, it’s interesting. Perle and Weisgall both used 12-tone techniques in their music and so did Sessions. But Persichetti and Carter both did not. So you were groomed and molded by people who were partial to the 12-tone method, but that’s not what you do.

    GT: But I think the lines are in there. They’re just not as angular. I have passages of music that sound 12-tone. When I studied with Sessions and I mentioned “atonal,” he’d go, “Well, after all, if it’s atonal, it means it just doesn’t make any sense.” Because he believed in tonality, no matter what. And he used the 12-tone system very tangentially. He did not really write pieces in 12-tone religiously or in a strict technique. And he believed that it has to sound tonal.

    FJO: As did Perle. His whole theory was based on the concept of a 12-tone tonality.

    GT: Like Sessions. So if I wrote something and it just didn’t make sense, that was atonal. So I never wrote atonal music. It’s just a matter of degrees between tonality and chromaticism; to write a really chromatic piece, you actually need more tonality. I can go from what is recognized as a very tonal space to a very—not dissonant, but—chromatic space seamlessly. It’s the stuff in between—the melting sort of thing in between—that is very interesting to me. I think Berg was the closest, something like Wozzeck.

    FJO: Or Lulu or the Violin Concerto even more so.

    GT: The Violin Concerto. Right. Is it tonal or not? You can’t tell. I know Schoenberg was not happy with Berg using triads in his music, but so what.

    FJO: I actually hear echoes of Berg in your second violin concerto, the Grawemeyer piece.

    GT: Oh, there’s a lot. There’s Ligeti, too, I think. I consider Ligeti a very fine engineer. I call a lot of the stuff that happens in Europe, which is textural, the school of engineering. A lot of the composers are working with new textures, but they’re not composing. They’re engineering stuff in a way that is wonderful, but to be more communicative, I think you have to take the engineering and—it’s like Pinocchio. Geppetto built Pinocchio. That to me is what the many texturalists are doing. But it takes a composer to breathe life into it. How does Pinocchio become alive?

    FJO: It’s interesting you say that because I find a lot of emotion in the later Ligeti, in particular the Violin Concerto, the Piano Concerto, and the Piano Etudes.

    GT: Well, there’s tension and release.

    FJO: And the Horn Trio is fascinating.

    GT: Well, there’s drama. But I think there’s a difference between drama and empathy. I remember when Jacob Druckman was coming out to Aspen, he created a new emotion. I called it a new emotion. It was fascinating. The word fascinating is an emotion now. And I do find Ligeti fascinating. But I’m not sure how—well, there’s a lot of Bach that’s not emotional either, yet it moves us in a way. It’s not overtly emotional. Because you are a contemporary music listener, you are so into the nuance of everything that things relative to what you listen to are emotional. But for the average listener, for the people? I mean, who are we going to reach? Are we aiming to be popular, eventually populist, or are we going to think that Xenakis’s music in two hundred years is going to be Beethoven? No.

    FJO: Well, I’m not so sure populism is a good thing, especially these days. And at the end of the day, it’s all subjective anyway.

    GT: I’m not saying you need a large listenership. There’ll be esoteric little portals, especially with the internet everywhere now. But how many are listening? We talked about birds before. An ornithologist will pee in their pants to see a certain type of warbler, but most people aren’t interested in that. This is a philosophy. We could debate it. You can write music for five people to get so excited about. It’s not for everybody, but to those five people, it’s the perfect thing.

    9

    FJO: So do you think then that there are specific musical gestures that—in and of themselves—could reach more people than other musical gestures can?

    GT: I think Rochberg mentioned that in his program notes for my quartets. He says DNA cells from the past give messages. In late Beethoven, there are little tonal cells that actually have content in them that evokes our emotions.

    FJO: Alright, I’m going to play devil’s advocate now. At this point in time, for the majority of people in the world, Beethoven is completely esoteric. In relative terms, only a handful of people listen to and understand his music.

    GT: That’s right.

    FJO: So if you really want to reach a broad audience, you should be writing stuff that sounds like Elton John.

    GT: Well, we have to differentiate between abstract music and song. We don’t teach young people to listen to abstract music—that is, music without words. If we’re going to have an enemy, why people don’t get into classical music, they’re brought up listening to just song. Song is fantastic. We all love song. Song form is the most popular thing. It’s the greatest thing we have, in a way. How long is song form? What are we competing against when we do a 15-minute Mahler movement? We’re competing with a song. How long is a song? Three minutes, right? No, a song is about 50 seconds long, repeated twice. People’s attention spans are very small, plus they have to have words. It’s very hard to make your point in 50 seconds, so it’s hard to write a good song. On the other hand, if we taught young people the abstraction of listening to music—jazz, classical, Kenny G., Yanni (oh, God forbid!)—any music without words, they will develop a cognitive ability to listen to abstractions, and they would start. Those who want to listen to Beethoven will listen to Beethoven. But just like teaching children to read, some of them are going to read trash, some of them are going read articles, some are only going to read their textbooks, and some will read Beowulf or Socrates. But we don’t even teach them the equivalent of reading. You can’t break out of a song.

    FJO: But two of those names you mentioned, Kenny G. and Yanni, have both been hugely popular doing instrumental music with no words.

    GT: Right. And does anyone go from that to Beethoven?

    FJO: Yeah, or another example I was thinking of when you were saying all of this is John Williams. He predominantly writes film scores, but it is abstract, instrumental music with no words. To a great many people, his music is more immediately identifiable and resonant than a late Beethoven string quartet ever would be.

    GT: Well, let me tell you a story. I mentioned how I got into classical music, but the other thing that really hit me before that was that I was in plays in high school. I played Tommy Albright in Brigadoon, which my mother always thought was my greatest achievement. You know, “Georgie had a piece commissioned by the Boston Symphony and had the Emerson Quartet play his music, but you should have seen him as Tommy Albright in Brigadoon in high school.” I didn’t know any classical music, but I loved musicals. Richard Rodgers is a genius. And I grew up with Oliver and My Fair Lady.

    Now what happened was eventually I started liking the overtures more than the other music. You hear Oklahoma, and that overture is fantastic music. I started saying that I really like the music without these dumb words sometimes, or whatever the words were. Now, we have to teach people to do that somehow. I don’t know if Yanni and Kenny G are going to convince them, because that’s a little bit simplistic. But Peter and the Wolf, they don’t speak while there’s music, the speaking is in between the music, so it’s a great way to do it. But you’re right. People listen to Philip Glass who never heard Mozart. That makes me question if that audience will go on to Mozart after that. I think in this day and age we’re just skipping classical music. People go from Philip Glass to world music or other sophisticated music.

    FJO: Well, why do they have to go to music of the past? Wouldn’t it be great if they could go to other living composers?

    GT: I don’t think they need the music of the past, except there are many good examples to teach people how to listen music without words from the past. Something like Pictures at an Exhibition, which was in Fantasia. I have friends from high school that got interested in classical music because of The Rite of Spring in Fantasia. You know, they saw the images. Nobody was speaking. No one was singing. But it’s not going to happen with just a couple. You have to teach people. In class, even young students concentrate. And when they have that concentration in the class, even if they hate the music they’re listening to, something happens subliminally. I remember I was fourth grade, and they played Mozart’s 40th symphony. I couldn’t stand it. It was so boring. I said, “Stop, I’ll confess!” you know? But if you choose the music well, even if they don’t like what they’re listening to, young people will learn that the cognitive idea of form is repetition. You hear something, then you hear it again in a varied form. Variation and repetition is our business. We’re not dependent on the words to tell the story. Maybe instead of 4%—in America maybe 4% listen to classical music—it would be 9%. That’s a lot of people. Leon Botstein at Bard says that classical music was always an elitist thing. In Vienna, you couldn’t get into the theater if you didn’t have the clothes to go to that elite theater. You’d probably hear Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony once in your lifetime, and you had to take a six-hour carriage ride to hear it once. So it was always a very small number of people. It was never a populist form.

    FJO: So then how is that different than the Helmut Lachenmann acolytes of this world who are writing music for a small coterie?

    GT: Yeah, but if in America let’s say 4% listen to classical music at all, only 2% of those listen to contemporary classical music. But there is a problem with the museum people, who are the older people that go to concerts. I’ll have a piece played by a symphony orchestra. I go to a lot of these concerts. Even at my age, I’m the youngest person there—it’s really crazy. And those people are there for the museum music. They’re not there to hear my piece. They’re tolerating my piece. The conductor, the musicians want to do a contemporary piece. They like my music, but the audience tolerates it.

    That brings us to the various audiences that a composer can aim to write for. One is that classical audience. One is the Emerson Quartet audience, where they have one contemporary piece, and they have Mozart, and then Death and the Maiden by Schubert on a program. Or there’s the contemporary music concerts, or festivals in Europe. I do admonish young composers that as they’re doing what they really want to do, they might have in mind where their music’s going to go, because unfortunately there’s nothing in the middle. It’s either you write for the contemporary music concert audience, which is that small, esoteric audience, or you write for the general population and they probably won’t like it. I’m sort of in between those. I have a few pieces that can be played on a contemporary music concert in London, but not at IRCAM. Meanwhile, the music’s played for the traditional audience. Neither one likes what I do. By the way, they said Roger Sessions was too modern for the public audience and not modern enough for the contemporary music field. There are many composers that are between those poles.

    10

    FJO: But then I think there’s a third path, which is different from either trying to fit in with standard repertoire or being embraced by the more established contemporary music networks. You mentioned Philip Glass in passing. People like him, Steve Reich, or Meredith Monk, ensembles like the Kronos Quartet and entities like Bang on a Can have all found a way to galvanize a completely different audience which is none of those audiences.

    GT: And that’s fantastic. But a lot of those people are the ones that have never heard Mozart, too.

    FJO: Exactly.

    GT: And that’s fine. We need all the forces we can get. But what is the music? As long as that music has the sophistication of the great composers—I’m going to be in danger saying the great composers—but the sophistication of, say, a Messiaen, if they have that integrity, then they’re following a classical line. I think all you mentioned have a combination of music that does do that and music that has more of a pop end of it, too, an appeal, but the materials may not be as—I don’t know a better word than—sophisticated. And that doesn’t mean elite. World music, Greek music, I mean that is sophisticated within its own realm, but again, it’s song form and it’s limited. Jazz is very sophisticated music, but it’s not accessible. Jazz is accessible only to those people that come to it. But it’s all a question of whether there is a main classical line. I think only the future will decide that.

    FJO: I think it goes back to what you were saying earlier about how people continue to promulgate this idea that there’s this straight line from 1800 to 1900 to 2000, but in the year 2018 it’s very clear that there isn’t a linear progression.

    GT: Well, it depends. We have to decide what our genres are. With the contemporary music thing, any combination will work. You can have a xylophone and three piccolos. Whereas, if you’re talking about the classical line, about orchestral music, what do we do with that music? Andriessen said he would never write for orchestra, but he did eventually. So what do we do with the orchestra? Why isn’t the orchestra expanded? Why hasn’t it added saxophones or Chinese instruments for texture? It’s so museum-ish, that the orchestra is becoming a museum in itself. So it depends what we’re talking about. What are the lines we bring forward? Electronic music has dispelled a lot of that. But even if we stay on acoustic music, there are so many divisions.

    FJO: To bring this all back to your music, you’re obviously attracted to the orchestra. And you’re attracted to the string quartet. You’ve written eight of them.

    GT: Well that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because I write a quartet and another quartet likes it. The Network for New Music commissioned a piece about ten years ago, and I said, “What’s the combination?” “Whatever you like.” And I go, “Holy cow, I get to think on my own.” So I chose soprano sax, harp, piano, horn, whatever, this ideal thing. But when I sat down to write the piece, which became Gymnopedies, I said, “I hate this combination; what am I going to do with this?” It turned out that I liked the combination. But I write quartets because the next person commissions a quartet. I write orchestral music because it appeals to a conductor.

    FJO: But if you write a piece for a crazy combination, no matter how good it sounds, how many performances is it going to get after the premiere? Who has the resources to put such an ensemble together?

    GT: Well, my combination was more accessible than many combinations that people write for, weird things like accordions and kazoos. A lot of young composers are writing impractical works that way. But Gymnopedies has been played quite a bit. And I conduct it, too. If you think of the Pierrot plus percussion ensemble, it’s only a few more instruments, and instead of a clarinet, you have a soprano saxophone and a harp.

    FJO: Well, the Pierrot ensemble with or without percussion is an interesting phenomenon. The closest thing to it I can think of in earlier repertoire are some J.C. Bach quintets for flute, oboe, violin, cello, and harpsichord. It’s something that really did not become established as a common instrumental combination until the 20th century.

    GT: To a detriment, almost. But not only is the Pierrot ensemble reminiscent of a successful combination by Schoenberg, it’s also a low-budget orchestra in a way. It just doesn’t have the brass instruments. I have a piece that I wrote for Da Capo [Chamber Players] called Gravity. It’s with just the five, without the percussion.

    FJO: It’s much more typical though, for you to write for the same combinations that composers in the 19th century wrote for. An instrumental combination that you’ve returned to several times, that was very popular back then, is the piano quartet.

    GT: I’m writing a fourth one. It’s on the music stand over there.

    11

    FJO: Wow! This is very interesting to me, because despite how prominent this combination once was, there haven’t been a ton of them in recent times. There’s this great Stephen Hartke piece, Kingdom of the Sun

    GT: —Wonderful piece.

    FJO: There also aren’t a lot of ensembles that are commissioning new pieces. One I can think of is the Ames Piano Quartet in Iowa.

    GT: That’s who I’m writing for.

    FJO: Hah!

    GT: But Ida Kavafian’s group, OPUS ONE, commissioned No. 3. No. 2 was for the Broyhill Chamber Players. Brian Zeger commissioned it for the Cape and Islands Festival. No. 1 was commissioned by Larry Dutton and his wife, who have a piano quartet.

    FJO: So there are a handful of groups. But it’s another one of those things. You were talking about people who listen to certain contemporary music who don’t know Mozart and don’t listen to his music. If you described one of your pieces to these folks as a piano quartet, they’d assume it was for four pianos.

    GT: Right.

    FJO: It’s a wonderful combination, but it is not something that’s really part of contemporary music parlance very much these days. Still, it’s an area you have repeatedly mined. Which is why it was very interesting to hear you say earlier that the orchestra has not expanded to include saxophones or Chinese instruments. You don’t really throw things like Chinese instruments or, say, electric guitars into your pieces. You’ve made a very conscious effort to write for standard ensembles.

    GT: I have not written a piece since 1983 that wasn’t commissioned. I’m very lucky—knock on something here. Or maybe stop commissioning [me]. I’ve said it’s enough already. But no, I just do on-demand. If nobody asked me to write a piece, I wouldn’t compose. I’d be doing other things. I’m very happy to not compose. It’s been a great, great thing. Same thing with teaching. But one of the secrets to life is that I only write what people ask for. So what am I going to do? Network for New Music was the only one that said I could have my choice out of probably 80 pieces I’ve written. The others say, we’ve got a quartet; we want you to write this. So what am I writing now? I’ll tell you: the Piano Quartet No. 4 for the Ames Piano Quartet. They recorded my third and they did a beautiful job. For the Dallas Symphony, I wrote a piano concerto for Stephen Hough. They’re commissioning a piece from me for their co-concertmaster Gary Levinson. It wasn’t my choice, but I love orchestra.

    And I have the Albany Symphony; they’re commissioning a requiem. I’m very excited. It was going to be an orchestra piece; they got money from the New York State Council on the Arts. But my mom passed away in January, so I asked David [Alan Miller], “Can it please be a requiem? I’ll do it for the same money as common orchestra.” So that’s very exciting to me. Then a consortium commissioned Portraits by El Greco 2—Book 2. It’s a piece that I mentioned with slide projections of El Greco. It’s very personal to me because El Greco was from Crete, as I am from Crete, in Greece. But I didn’t ask; people ask me for pieces. In fact, for the El Greco piece, they asked for the same piece. Steve Copes, concertmaster of St. Paul, played [the first one] at the Colorado Music Festival and, I don’t know, maybe I said I’d be interested to do another one, so he asked me, “Can you do an El Greco sequel?”

    FJO: Well, this is the thing. You say you only compose on commission, but there are ways to maneuver that so that you write the pieces you want.

    GT: But not if they’re piano quartets.

    FJO: Sure, but I’m thinking of one of my all-time favorite pieces of yours. It was a piece that was created piecemeal, through various commissions for short pieces from four different orchestras. Yet you had this larger thing in your mind—the Four Symphonic Quartets, which is the symphony that you didn’t name a symphony.

    GT: That came about because I loved Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. I learned a lot from that. It took T.S. Eliot years to write that because he wasn’t old enough. When you hit 50, you can understand Four Quartets, because it’s a bit about dying and growing. You have to get to be a certain age. A 25-year-old can say, “Well, it’s cool,” but they don’t know what T.S. Eliot was talking about. So I got to that certain age where I started descending, when life starts biologically descending, even though you’re still excited about it.

    FJO: But were still in your 40s when you wrote those.

    GT: I wasn’t 50 yet. Okay, you’re right, I forgot. But I felt like I was descending anyway, and I started to understand T.S. Eliot. Roger Sessions wanted to write When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d when he was in his 20s, and he said he couldn’t. It wasn’t until the death of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. that his maturity enabled him to do that. He told a story about that. He said, he was like 60-years old and finally he could tell the story of Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. It’s a great example because he was in his 20s understanding how great it was, but not being able to explain it.

    And that’s what happened when the first commission came along from Ransom Wilson for the Tuscaloosa Symphony. I said I wanted to do something influenced by T.S. Eliot, so I named it Perpetual Angelus. Then the next commission came along, and I said, “Can I make it another one of the four quartets?” But you’re right, it was piecemeal. In the back of my mind I wanted to put those four pieces together, but who would commission an hour-long piece?

    FJO: It’s similar to the way David Del Tredici commissioned the various sections of the piece that is now An Alice Symphony. Then, after that, he composed so many other Alice-themed pieces.

    GT: Who knows whether David at the beginning said, “I’m going to engineer this whole series of Alice pieces,” or if he started with one and said, “I think I’ll do more of that.” Maybe my Portraits by El Greco will be book eight or nine. I’m going to run out of paintings I like by El Greco, but the impulse will be there. That’s interesting.

    FJO: Alright, even though you claim you don’t need or want another commission, what pieces would you want to write if anyone could commission you in the world?

    GT: Well, let’s say I quit composing, which I talk about to my friends. Then I’d get a lucrative commission. “It’s terrible,” I say. Then all my friends say, “Well, give it to me, I’ll write it.” But if I had the choice, I’d want to do acting or something else. I would still want to write the occasional piano piece. I’d like to write for a capella choir, canzones like Gabrieli or Monteverdi, and maybe some songs. I would do that on the side. I’m also a little bit upset after Ghost Variations. I think Sarabesque, which I wrote for Sarah Rothenberg might have been written after that, but no one’s asked me to write another piano piece. I’m pretty pissed off about that.

    FJO: But you’ve done some little ones.

    GT: Well, the Bagatelle was my first attempt to write a piano piece for Yefim Bronfman since Ghost Variations, which was for Bronfman, was due. So I wrote Ghost Variations and then the dedication piece for Sarah Rothenberg. But no one’s asked me and yet Ghost Variations is played all the time. And I’m going, “How come nobody wants any more piano music, including Stephen Hough?” Now Stephen Hough is composing his own music, he doesn’t want to learn any more new music!

    FJO: Well, he learned your concerto.

    GT: The Man of Sorrows and it was recorded with the Dallas Symphony on Hyperion.

    FJO: That’s one I haven’t heard yet.

    GT: Well, you should hear it. It’s 39-minutes long and no one wants to do it again.

    FJO: But you mentioned another piece of yours happening in Dallas.

    GT: A violin concerto for Gary Levinson. Yeah, that’s on the books, as soon as they get a new director.

    FJO: It’s interesting that you keep using the word concerto because except for the violin concertos, you avoid that word in the titles of your pieces. All the other pieces for soloist and orchestra have other names, like the piece I was calling your trumpet concerto, which has a lot of jazz inflections.

    GT: True Colors. You’re right. And Unforgettable is a two-violin concerto.

    FJO: That’s the George Soros piece. How did you get commissioned by George Soros?

    GT: Through Jennifer Chun and Angela Chun. They’re a wonderful violin team. Jennifer was dating George Soros for seven years. Jennifer was looking around for somebody [to write them a piece] through some sources, including Leon Botstein who’s a friend of George Soros. I think he recommended me. It was very similar to how they came upon me for an English horn concerto at the Boston Symphony where Rob Sheena was promised a concerto from James Levine and he went on a search for composers. Rob had looked for years for someone to write the concerto and it was like Goldilocks—this one’s not quite right and that one’s not quite right. I think David [Alan] Miller was a schoolmate of his and David recommended me and it resonated with Rob. It’s just a matter of taste. I’m not saying they chose me above these other composers. When it comes down to it, I don’t write for everybody. But I don’t write just for myself. As John Gardner wrote in Moral Fiction, I write for people like me. People who are like you are going to like your music better. Composition is also persuasion, so you’re writing for people like you and you’re trying to convince everybody else to become like you, which makes composing an amazing persuasive art.

    FJO: And that’s where you can throw in the esoteric things that you like and make them un-esoteric.

    GT: You can also introduce them to ideas and say I didn’t make it in that piece. I didn’t get that across. I’m going to try it again in the next piece. This is another problem we have—are you a first-listening composer? When I talk to young composers, I ask, “Are you going to write a first-listening piece, or are you going to write a piece that you need repetition to get?” You’re not going to read Eliot’s Four Quartets the first time and go, “Wow, it was really good.” No, you have to keep reading it over and over again. People don’t stand before a Cezanne and clap after seeing it for a few minutes. You have to come back.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t write a good first-listening piece. But a lot of young composers are persuaded to write that piece because probably that audience will never hear it again. Or no one will hear it again. You have to keep in mind that there is a world where you need to listen. Maybe I don’t listen enough times to really get Lachenmann. Or Ligeti. Maybe there is an emotion there if I gave it more of a chance. There is something to be said for that. And by the way, composers talk about awards, and of course I have a couple big, good money awards. I do believe that that’s also an aspect. I wouldn’t live for awards; the award is a by-product. But the interesting thing about awards though is that they [the judges] have to listen more than once. They listen many times. We talked about Tim Page. Tim told me for the Pulitzer they listen over and over again. What happens is that during that first round, the first-listening composer might be the one that everyone on the panel likes. Then they do the second round of listening, and that first-listening piece isn’t as interesting anymore. It moves back to number five. Maybe a piece like mine that just made the cut can move up. Those multiple-listening composers wear better for people listening over and over. Meanwhile, the easy listening ones are going backwards.

    I know with the Grawemeyer, they listen to pieces a hundred times. The lay panel at the end that decides the final, they listen to it so many times that they must go crazy: “I thought I liked that piece, but I listened to it five times.” So if we had any parallel to that where we could get people to listen over and over—we do; it’s called recordings.

    11

    FJO: It’s interesting that you bring up the Pulitzer, because I read somewhere that you refused to have your music submitted to the Pulitzer.

    GT: I will not sign for it. You have to sign, and I won’t do it. It’s just a personal thing. There’s some great people who have. To me, it’s too facile. When I had to call Aaron Kernis a few days afterwards for something else, and I congratulated him, I said, “You know, Aaron, this is going to facilitate introductions at parties; you have this label.” And he laughed. I don’t like that label. I think it’s overdone. I think there’s nothing wrong with it, but I would not like to have a label that stuck on me that’s more important than being a composer. If I were a journalist, I would probably want it. But as a composer, I don’t want that label, because I wouldn’t believe in it as much as the people that would hoo and haw about it. It’s a little bit like my mother saying Georgie was fantastic in Brigadoon in high school. And I’d go, “Mom, I’m beyond that.” So it’s a personal thing. I wouldn’t stop someone. I don’t think the young composers care that much about things like that, but back in the day, when it was very important, everybody was thinking maybe I’ll be so good I’ll get a Pulitzer Prize. I don’t have to worry about that.

    I came in from my lesson after it was announced that Roger Sessions, who was 80 years old, got the prize. And I said, “Mr. Sessions, congratulations on the Pulitzer Prize.” And he said, “Oh thank you, George.” I said, “You must be excited.” And he said, “Well, they called me at home, and when I got off the phone, my wife says, ‘Who was it?’ ‘Apparently, my Concerto for Orchestra won the Pulitzer Prize.’ And she said, ‘How much is it?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s a thousand dollars.’ And she said, ‘Oh, goodie. Now we can have an extra egg for breakfast every morning.’” They were not impressed.

    The other thing is that this Astoria thing comes back. I do consider myself a Greek composer, too. They do a lot of my music in Greece. I’m going to start a multi-year residency with the Athens Megaron in January. The Megaron is like the Lincoln Center of Greece—beautiful buildings and auditoriums. I’m an American composer, for sure, and I love being an American, but I feel international at the same time. I think the Pulitzer defines somebody as more American than I want to be, except in spirit.

    12

    FJO: But of course, now the Pulitzer’s completely opened up. It’s not only—

    GT: —Classical. In fact, yeah, who won it, what kind of musician?

    FJO: This year it was awarded to Kendrick Lamar, who is a rapper.

    GT: Right, that’s amazing. I guess it’s fine, but it’s like the MacArthur. Remember when they gave out MacArthurs to Ralph Shapey and George Perle and John Harbison. Now they’re giving it to young people. They can use the money. And giving it to George Perle when he was 75 is not going to help his career. But I think that’s the way of the world now, maybe to a fault in a way.

    This is the question: is the quality still there? I’m not questioning it, but I am questioning it! What is the meaning of this? We talked about the artist colonies. It’s not only classical composers, it’s somebody in rock or jazz. Well, jazz has always been accepted and I love it; jazz is a powerful idiom. But everything is becoming “whoever has talent should be supported” basically. The MacArthur has really been looking for more esoteric people that do something that someone else doesn’t do. And looking for a contradictory profile or something like that, not just somebody who’s great at whatever.

    The field is opening up and that only makes more competition. It’ll be a big melting pot of what happens. But I go back to the point, as long as the sophistication is there, it’s okay with me. The skills and craft that a composer or an artist has are serious stuff. It doesn’t have to be serious, but it’s a serious commodity that I think we have to keep up with. Again, one could argue that writing a good jingle is a hard thing to do. Geniuses have to write jingles. When I have composition class, the first piece I teach is “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks. It’s only two notes and there’s diminution like Beethoven when they go [sings]: “You really got me. You really got me. You really got me.”

    It’s an amazing piece of music. And how many could write a piece of music that economical? But is it Debussy? Well, there’s a DNA like Debussy, but other characteristics are not expanded in a sophisticated way.

    The spark of creativity has unlimited value. So is that as sophisticated as anything? Yeah, in its own, minute way. But with classical music, it’s the expansion of that idea—that seed, that spark of creativity, that genius—through time. That’s one of the things that makes classical music, even contemporary classical music, different than other music. Usually the lack of words and the expansive movement of it; it’s not a small form.

    FJO: This could be a much larger discussion, which I’d love to have. But I think, unfortunately, that we’re running out of time here. So a final area, for now at least. You’ve been offering advice to younger composers throughout this conversation. In the 20th century when you came to be you, you did all of these things the way one should in the 20th century. You studied with some very prominent teachers. You were signed by a major publisher, there were all these recordings of your music out there, and you won some huge awards. But in the 21st century, things are very different.

    GT: Extremely.

    FJO: People get attention for their music in very different ways now. But you don’t have a personal website. You don’t use social media. You don’t do any of the things that composers do to put themselves in people’s faces. And you live here, so you can’t run into somebody outside of Zabar’s and get a commission!

    GT: It shows what you can do if you just write the music. I think that’s the answer. Of course, I had the benefit of becoming known before you needed a website. So maybe I’m going on fumes here. Maybe I was lucky to get elevated and have not many people know what I do, but enough that I get to write the next piece. As I always say, I’m only interested in who’s going to ask for the next piece, and maybe who’s going to record it. Those are the only two things I need. Multiple performances, you get that through websites or whatever. I don’t care. I’m not a promoter. I’m not even a person that wants pieces to be played all the time. I just want to know what the next piece I’m going to write is. If it has to be piano quartet number five, it might have to be. Whatever. That’s why I can live here. If you live minimally, and you just do the thing you’re supposed to do, you don’t need all the other stuff. But yeah, I tell my students, “I don’t do Your Face, My Ass. I don’t do any of that stuff! If there was a site, LeaveMeAlone.com, I’d join that immediately.” But I’m lucky to be able to do that.

    At a lesson once, I said, “Mr. Sessions, I think I should do go back and do species counterpoint.” He said, “Well, you can George. After all, counterpoint is confidence.” That’s all it was to him. You’re not going to write like that, but it’s confidence in your composing. And faith is a very important thing if you want to go it alone and be independent.

    13

    One quick metaphor. The other day I was in my old Honda Accord. It’s got a big hatchback window, and this huge bee was trying to get through the glass. I opened all the doors. I took paper, I tried to shoo him away, but he kept going right back to that glass. It was a great metaphor, but this glass ceiling was not necessary if the damn bee would just go out the door. I tell young composers, “Open up your horizons and go through the doors!” So maybe that bee is like trying to appeal to the contemporary music crowd, this limited milieu; whereas, there are so many performers and so many orchestras that would be happy to do their stuff. You’ve got to broaden your horizons. Or you’ve got to hope that glass disappears and suddenly you’re free. I think my life has been a combination of those two things. I haven’t depended on the unusual channels for where my music is going to go. So that’s going out the doors of the car. And yet I still have faith that that glass thing will open up. And sometimes it does. I think it’s a matter of knowing what you’re supposed to do in life and having faith that eventually you get a break and that glass will open up occasionally.

    It’s a hard path to go on. But it’s worked somehow. So many events in my life were serendipity. Like meeting Felix Greissle, who led me to Sessions because I was a gardener. Also for young composers, you should accept any work you get. I know some composers, “I’m not going to go for that commission; I’m not going to get paid for that.” Take it. Keep in motion. And that leads to other things. No job is too small.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 3:20 PM on September 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: a life of music, I am grateful for Dr. Paul Dickinson. A lover of 20th-century classical music he showed me the wonders of Messiaen Nancarrow and Berio, I am grateful to my mother father sister and wife for reminding me that the only one keeping me out of music was myself, I rail against the weird American myth of the “self-made man.”, I’m an enthusiastic evangelist for telling the people in your life that you love them, I’m grateful to the Army of Kind Strangers band – Dolan Terrence Logan Sam Allison Michael Perry Rachel Malcolm Barrett Jimmy Trent Kaleb Tyler Ethan Doug Lance Robert Kayla Jatrice Matthew Nathan, Michael Garrett Steele, NEWMUSICBOX, Once I realized the only thing keeping me from creative work was me I finally accepted the support that had always been there   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “It’s All People. And It’s All Connected” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1
    A jam session at the MAGFest video game music festival. We set up in the lobby of the Gaylord and started playing music from Tetris and Zelda.

    September 27, 2018

    Previously in this space:

    1. I talked about a dangerously irresponsible workplace and my escape from it to a life of music, from Boston to Arkansas to Austin.

    2. I talked about Vermont College of Fine Arts, a school that profoundly shaped who I am in ways that I can barely begin to describe. (I tried valiantly to do so, regardless.)

    3. I talked about the burgeoning scene surrounding video game music (as well as covers and arrangements thereof) and the way that I fell into that world.

    And now I’m stepping back and looking at the thread tying everything together. Writing all of this down has been an opportunity to sort through some of the chaos of the last ten years or so. It’s funny. I’ve written humor columns, product reviews, how-tos, and plenty of ad copy. I’ve never really sat down and written about myself. I don’t generally find myself that interesting. After all, I already know how the story goes.

    But maybe I don’t. This has given me a lot of perspective on my own life. And with that in mind, I’d like to talk about where I am now. But first I’d like to retrace my steps slightly, with an emphasis on the people that I knew, and the ways that they were interconnected.

    2
    Jazz band, first time through UCA. My one tenuous connection to the world of music at that time in my life. Photo by Rodney Steele

    One of the things that I already knew–and had already made a point of appreciating as often as possible–is that everything that matters in my life is something I owe to other people. I’m an enthusiastic evangelist for telling the people in your life that you love them. I rail against the weird American myth of the “self-made man.” And yet I am humbled anew when I review these articles and think about how much of my life comes down to the other people in it.

    When I was working at the psych hospital, a handful of the people around me kept me from losing my own mind. (Mental health workers do break down, you know. We used to joke about whether we’d get an employee discount if we had to be committed ourselves.) My supervisor on the night shift did a lot to keep me sane. And the mental health supervisor on the women’s trauma ward, where I worked most of my shifts, was and remains an inspiration to me. Every now and then we check in. She’s in a completely different field of medicine, with new credentials, and a beautiful family. Seeing her current fulfillment compared to where we used to be means everything to me.

    I am grateful to my mother, father, sister, and wife, for reminding me that the only one keeping me out of music was myself. They encouraged me from youth through college, and on into my adult life. Once I realized the only thing keeping me from creative work was me, I finally accepted the support that had always been there. I try now to honor their love with my effort. I am grateful to Kerri, a college friend from Arkansas. She became a psychiatrist in a nearby town. Her perspective on what mental health could be pulled me out of the gaslighting and downtrodden attitude that the hospital had filled me with and made me realize that the problem wasn’t “I can’t hack it.” The problem was that I was in a toxic environment masquerading as a therapeutic milieu.

    I am grateful for Dr. Jackie Lamar, the noted saxophone professor who spent her career at the University of Central Arkansas to shepherd the program that her father had built there. When I shot her a “Hey, remember me?” email out of the blue, she welcomed me into her program with open arms. She helped me navigate my second undergraduate degree program and get out quickly, with my sanity intact. The entire time I was there, she begged me to do something more practical than composition. She steered me towards other avenues within music. I told her that I was through compromising with myself, and declined. But I never stopped appreciating the fact that she was looking out for me.

    I am grateful for Dr. Paul Dickinson. A lover of 20th-century classical music, he showed me the wonders of Messiaen, Nancarrow, and Berio. Nearly every piece was introduced with, “This is the greatest piece ever written.” Despite his leanings, he taught me how to make my best music, instead of his. I am grateful for Dr. Stefanie Dickinson, who taught me ear training and advanced theory during the time Paul taught my private lessons. They are two of the finest musicians and people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

    I am grateful to Jared Vincenti, a friend and filmmaker from Boston who jumped at the chance to let me compose for him for his master’s thesis film and for an entire web series. I am grateful to Amanda, a mezzo-soprano (turned airplane mechanic, turned airport administrator) who befriended and encouraged me. Likewise, Holly, a bassoon player, immediately became a good friend and confidant when I felt bad about the fact that I was in college with my little sister’s class. Years later, one of my Vermont College of Fine Arts pieces was programmed at Queens College, and I stayed on her sofa in Brooklyn to take in the performance.

    I’m grateful to the Army of Kind Strangers band – Dolan, Terrence, Logan, Sam, Allison, Michael, Perry, Rachel, Malcolm, Barrett, Jimmy, Trent, Kaleb, Tyler, Ethan, Doug, Lance, Robert, Kayla, Jatrice, Matthew, Nathaniel, Brittany, Bailey, Anthony, Sean, Dylan, Morgan, Connor, Josh, Yuezhi, and Andrew (who played trumpet and recorded it all). Every one of these people took time they didn’t have to, on my account. All I had to give them was pizza and friendship, and they gladly and warmly gave of their time. Every hour we spent in a classroom with all the desks shoved off to one side recording represented at least 12 hours, collectively that they all could have been doing anything else.

    Dr. Dickinson gave me the flyer that led me to the Vermont College of Fine Arts. There, Sarah Madru tried like hell to talk me into coming. She patched me through to Rick Baitz, then the faculty chair, who talked with me for hours as I sorted my feelings through. All of this is in line with the tone set by program director Carol Beatty, herself a good friend at this point.

    All of this is beautiful and terrifying to me. Some of my closest friends, and literally dozens of other people that I love dearly, are in my life because one professor handed me a mailer, because he knew I’d been frustrated with my graduate school search. Without that friendship, I wouldn’t have had any of these others. And without any of these others, I can’t imagine a terrible lot going on in my life to be thrilled with.

    Rick served as my first advisor, but all of my advisors have given me career advice and friendly counsel above and beyond their role through the school. Ravi Krishnaswami gave me my first big break composing. I landed an advertising jingle for a popular sci-fi video game series. The jingle wound up in the game itself, and the company has used it elsewhere at every opportunity. We’ve also done some songwriting together just for us, and it’s been immensely rewarding. Another mentor, Don DiNicola, has allowed me to collaborate on a number of projects now. I’ve done everything for him from script editing to voiceover work.

    My wife Maegan first introduced me to Lauren, then her coworker at the ad department of a liberal arts school. Lauren introduced me to Sebastian as he was forming Materia, a tribute album that grew into an entire record label for video game covers and original soundtracks. Through that platform, I met – this sounds like an exaggeration – several dozen of my favorite people. If I start naming them, I’ll leave people out. I think it best not to try. But I’ve had tearful, heartful conversations now with people from Seattle to New York. Not to mention Scotland, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, and Sweden. Any time we travel for work or for vacation, I have friends I can call to meet up and break bread with. That is a priceless, precious gift. And when life throws me a curveball and I find myself on the road unexpectedly, it’s an incredible comfort.

    Not all of my video game music (VGM) friends are far-flung, though. I met Sirenstar, Nate Chambers, not to mention Lauren’s bandmates, and the two other VGM bands, in town. Later another Materia friend and collaborator, Bonnie, had recently gone freelance and was mulling a move to town. We helped show her around while she figured out whether this move was really the life change she wanted. Since then, all of us have collaborated on a number of things. Nate and I have scored a game together, and pitched at least three more. We’re flying out to speak at a conference in October about some neat work we did with carefully composed music that can randomize itself for hours (based on minutes of music) before you hear the same thing twice.

    It all circles back around to the people you know. I’ve made constant, conscious effort to let the people in my life know how much I love them. And I’ve certainly tried to be there for them. You don’t ever want to wind up with your own back against the wall, but when I found myself there, they gathered and lifted me back up in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

    1
    Margie and my rotating band at VCFA, One Touch Relief, in February 2016. Zachary Kohlmeier, Amanda Laven, Thomas Avery, myself, Jesse Mitchell, Torrey Richards, and Margie Halloran.

    When I lost my job in April, I called my graduate advisors. I called my friends from the VGM scene and from grad school. I called family. And people came together in an incredible way. Bonnie, now settled in Austin, sent me freelance work editing her voiceover for a computer game until I got back on my feet. Ravi, Rick, and Don all talked me through my options as I strove to discern whether I wanted to pursue freelance work or another office job. Nate’s wife, also a dear friend, wound up helping me find the job that I have now. She added me to a local Facebook group for digital jobs. I found a copywriting gig that I immediately fell in love with. I get to write, so I’m doing creative work to pay the bills. It’s remote, so I can spend time composing instead of dealing with Austin traffic. I adore my coworkers and the environment. And none of that would have happened without Ange’s help. (And Nate’s before her, and Lauren’s before him, and so on, because this is how life works.)

    Through Materia, I found a software program that lets you write music using sampled sounds from old video game consoles – the original Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc. A month or two later, a grad school friend needed retro video game-style music for a film he was working on. I was able to contribute, using the tools I picked up in this other sphere of my life.

    Last year, my friend Sirenstar sang in Houston for a show with noted game composer Akira Yamaoka. This year, when the same concert series was looking for a saxophonist to accompany composer Darren Korb, she threw my name out and got me the gig. I got to spend a delightful day watching a fantastic composer practice harmonies with one of his most trusted collaborators, before accompanying them onstage. It was an absolute delight.

    With each successive friendship, with each new opportunity, I am acutely aware of the way that each relationship shaped the prior one. Without people encouraging me to escape Boston, none of this would have happened. Without Mae, I wouldn’t have met Lauren, and in turn Sirenstar, and never would have played the Darren Korb show. I keep these things with me because each moment is filled with their spirit. Every opportunity is a chance to honor those connections more deeply with my actions.

    Some of the connections have surprised me. In Chicago, a school friend and a video game music composer friend have known each other since grad school days. In Toronto, a friend leads a big-band swing group that covers Nintendo music. She knows another one of my grad school buddies.

    I try to continue the cycle. A game composer asks if anyone plays any Indian or Middle Eastern string instruments other than sitar. I hook him up with an oud player that I met in grad school. I don’t know how that worked out, but I at least made the connection, because so many people have made connections for me. Another Materia member is a game music journalist, and mentions wanting to interview the composer behind the songs the street musicians sing in the Dishonored series. Well, that’s my buddy Ravi. I set them up on Facebook and before I know it, the interview is out.

    One Materia album honors a game wherein you have three days to stop the moon from crashing into the Earth. The game’s atmosphere dabbles more than a bit in existential terror and omnipresent despair. One of my grad school friends wrote his thesis on the game’s themes. Not the musical themes, mind. The music was original. He was mining the emotional themes. He wrote a multi-movement suite where the music spanned fixed media, an early music ensemble, choir, and more, all exploring the internal turmoil of one of the game’s tertiary characters. I had to bring him onto the tribute album. He’s now a beloved member of the community, and he’s having the time of his life there.

    The point of all this meandering is that it all comes down to the relationships we forge. I don’t say that in a disingenuous way. I’m not out to “get” anything from anybody. It’s simply that I *am* nothing without the people around me. That was true when I was in high school. It was true when I was at the psych hospital. And it’s true now. We are the links in the chains that tether us to a life worth living. The world is enormous and terrifying. Any sense that we can wrench from our unfeeling universe is going to be a group effort.

    Be kind. Help each other up. Don’t close the door behind you. Say yes to everything. Nurture. Be brave enough to walk in empathy. And for the love of everything you hold holy, tell your friends you love them.

    1

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 4:50 PM on September 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , New Ideas on Old themes, , NEWMUSICBOX, Sound Architecture and Necromancy   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Sound, Architecture, and Necromancy” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    September 25, 2018
    Neil Leonard

    1

    From the time I took up the saxophone as a teenager, I have been fascinated by exploring sound in unusual architectural spaces. When I finish playing a note in the Church of San Bartholomeo in southern Italy, notes are sustained by the sanctuary’s pristine reverb, which exaggerates the intensity of selected harmonics and creates the illusion that the size of the saxophone has grown to fill the space. The room performs as we listen to the decaying resonances.

    2
    Matera Panorama

    I find architectural spaces by accident, through recommendations from friends, and by searching for sites with peculiar histories. One of the most enticing discoveries happened when I traveled to the city of Matera, in southern Italy, to vacation after working on a sound installation for the 55th Venice Biennial. Matera has been populated since Paleolithic times and, over the ages, homes, churches, and now spas have been carved into the calcareous rock hillside, known as the Sassi di Matera. This cave village was used by Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini as the setting for ancient Jerusalem in his masterpiece The Gospel According to St. Matthew. The primeval looking nocturnal skyline of the Sassi flashes on the screen in Metallica’s music video Spit Out the Bone.

    Arriving in Matera to enjoy a couple of days as a tourist, I was introduced to caves with ancient frescoes, and a contemporary art space comprising a network of cave galleries. For me, vacation had to wait as impromptu recording in the caves began. The recording site that I was drawn to experiment in was an ancient church, carved in the side of the Sassi, with interconnected rooms were the saxophone could resonate in multiple chambers simultaneously. I used these recordings to start a collaborative piece with Amnon Wolman, Security Vehicles Only, published by XI Records. Productive as the Sassi recordings were, I left Matera wondering what it would have been like if I’d had a week to explore the caves, place mics in multiple chambers, and compose music to highlight the resonances of these spaces.

    By contrast, I have walked away from recording in architectural settings, feeling over-prepared and underwhelmed by the building’s resonances. A pilgrimage to the Necromanteion of Ephyra, in Greece, was one such experience. Accompanied by Greek professor and audio engineer Nassos Vynios, I traveled to the Necromanteion hoping to record an acoustical marvel. The original temple, established in 1400 B.C., was a structure used by a Chythonic cult which sought to communicate with their ancestors using what we vaguely understood to be a completely unique acoustical phenomena. In modern times, visitors report hearing disembodied voices on site. Without much more to go on, we obtained the permissions to record at Necromanteion and eventually drove four hours from Athens to Ephyra.

    3
    All photos of Nekromanteio by Spiros Raptis

    We arrived armed with my saxophone, a 360-degree Ambisonic microphone, and battery-powered Bluetooth speaker to play sine wave sweeps in the space so that we could record their impulse response, or “ring.” Later we would turn these impulse responses into computer-generated reverb simulation. Upon arrival, Spiros Raptis, the custodian filled in more details.

    The site is perched on a hill with a panoramic view of wetlands where the three rivers canonically associated with Hades converge, the Acheron (“River of woe”), Pyriphlegethon (“Flaming with fire”), and Cocytus (“River of wailing”). In ancient times, the hill was an island that appeared to rise above the surrounding mist. Originally, the site was dedicated to Gaia (Earth)—a Chthonic, or subterranean, Goddess that required nocturnal ritual sacrifice. Visitors wishing to speak to the dead spent days on a preparatory diet of pork, rye bread, and oysters and consumed narcotic compounds prior to entering the subterranean chamber, later called the Temple of Hades and Persephone. Worshipers came from far and wide, and a complex comprising a cluster of hostels, shopping bazaars, and brothels eventual grew to accommodate them.

    In 1958, the Necromanteion was rediscovered by archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris during his search to find a site described in Homer’s Odyssey and Herodotus’s Histories. Dakaris proposed that the subterranean chamber was the setting for Odysseus’s visits to consult the blind seer, Tiresias, who advised him on how to return to his home in Ithaca. It is also speculated that Homer himself visited the Necromanteion.

    4

    The original subterranean chamber was renovated around 400 B.C. and is now a 50 x 13-foot stone room, flanked by 15 arches carved from porous stone. A recent theory suggests that the renovated chamber might actually have functioned as a cistern or as underground storage for a farmhouse in the Hellenistic period. Panagiotis Karabatsos and Vasilis Zafranas from the Acoustics Laboratory of the Department of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki don’t agree. They studied the space for twelve years and concluded that the Necromanteion was constructed to create an intense psychoacoustic phenomenon, analogous to the anechoic chambers found in modern acoustical laboratories such as Nokia Bell Labs or MIT Lincoln Laboratories in the United States.

    Before entry, Spiros warned us that it is difficult to spend more than a few minutes in the chamber without feeling like one is losing their mind. On that note, we unpacked our gear and descended two stories of scaffolding to the chamber. Within minutes, both Nassos and I felt increasingly disoriented. The utter silence, darkness, and sense of being underground induced a mix of nausea, claustrophobia, and maybe even vertigo. I did not hear the reported voices talking to me, but Nassos and I were both eager to escape back to the sunlight, fresh air, and ambient noise above ground as fast as we could.

    Post-nausea and doubtful how this experiment would play out, we went back down into the underground chamber. I picked up my saxophone and played, thinking of the pilgrims who visited the site over the years and—to my surprise—I found I could play for thirty minutes without pause. Neither Nassos, Spiros, or myself experience any of the symptoms we suffered at first. Next, we recorded computer-generated sine glissandi, from 20 to 22k hertz. The sine sweeps produced dramatic panning effects as the Necromanteion played ventriloquist, mysteriously displacing the source of the sound.

    6
    7
    Neil Leonard and Nassos Vynios recoding in Necromanteion (Oracle of the Dead) of Ephyra, Greece, 2018

    In much the same way I surveyed Matanzas in the previous blog post, Nassos and I surveyed ancient Greek architectural sites looking for unique acoustical phenomena. We made a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. In his 42-foot high, cone-shaped tomb, with curved walls resembling half a football, we experienced incredible slap-back delays. We visited the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and saw the Hymn to Apollo, one of the oldest musical scores in Western civilization. We explored the Epidarus Theater, the canonical masterwork of ancient acoustical design often depicted in textbooks on acoustics.

    For both of us, the Necromanteion, with its awe-inspiring folkloric history and strange acoustics, was perhaps the most impactful site we experienced. We caught a glimpse of the illusion, created out of terrifying silence, to invoke the world of the dead. It was a space where reverberations and other sonic traces of the world of the living disappear and a world void of light and sound extended infinitely.

    Other notable experiments with sound and architecture include recording in the Wright Brother’s Wind Tunnel operated by the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Casa da Música, in Portugal, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. In each case, my approach was shaped by both the sound of the space, researching the history of the site, and listening to the local’s perception of the importance of the architecture and social usage of the space.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 11:02 AM on September 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Austin’s surprisingly robust video game music scene-rock bands who plug guitars into giant amps in bars and play video game music, Digital audio workstations, I did all of my film scoring work using sheet music, I’d never written music without a film to score, , NEWMUSICBOX, Surfing on a Constantly Shifting Bed of Earthquaking Sand Dunes, The Video Games Live orchestra   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Surfing on a Constantly Shifting Bed of Earthquaking Sand Dunes” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1
    On stage with The Returners. (Photo by Greg Fisher)

    September 20, 2018
    Michael Garrett Steele

    Last week, I talked about going to a school that changed my life. The thing is, you don’t get to just change one part of your life at once. That’s not what life is. Life is where you surf on a constantly shifting bed of earthquaking sand dunes and you try to grab what happiness you can as it floats by amidst the chaos.

    Or something.

    Here’s the recap:

    1. It starts with a bad job in Boston, and me hightailing it back to Arkansas to pursue music after a lifetime of pushing it away.

    2. Then it moves to a grad school in Vermont that fundamentally, completely blew my existence apart and reassembled it in the best way possible.

    Going back to undergrad was meant to refocus my attention towards music study. But after getting my second degree from my Arkansas alma mater, I sort of backslid a little bit on the creative front. I didn’t know much about recording. I’d grown a lot in my theory knowledge, but it wasn’t enough to compete in the modern media scoring landscape. I eventually just took a sales job for a tech company out of a need to stay afloat. That turned into an administrative job, contracted through the state. Once again, I’d wandered away from music. But there was one upside to the gig. For exactly one week a month, I had an enormous pile of work to do. For the other three weeks, my job was to frantically look busy – and I wasn’t allowed to take work off of anybody else’s plate. It wasn’t great, but nobody tried to stab me at work, either. And after my first gig, working in inpatient psych, that was sort of my metric for what a “good job” looked like. I never got stabbed, and I never took work home with me. In my mind, it was sort of a dream gig for a grad student. I could research and listen quietly at my desk in the off weeks. And whatever else happened, I knew I’d get out on time to go home and write. And that wouldn’t be too bad, right?

    But I was starting to get mired again. I felt depressed about not advancing any further musically. And ironically, that depression was about to pull me into chickening out of grad school. So, despite not having any prospects of my own lined up, I jumped at the chance to change things up when my wife Mae told me she’d landed a job in Austin, Texas. It was a job similar to the one she had—working in the marketing office of a small liberal arts school. But there was more room for advancement, and an exciting environment. We packed up and took off.

    So everything was in chaos at once. When I traveled out for my first week-long grad school residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, we were subletting a one-bedroom apartment filled with cardboard boxes that we weren’t even bothering to unpack. While I was at school, I was dealing with all of the glorious chaos mentioned in my previous post—constant workshops, concerts, masterclasses, lectures, and more. But I was simultaneously fielding emails, texts, photos, and forms as my wife tried to find us a place to live.

    When I came back, I started plugging along on my grad school work—and on our bills. I got work as a temp. That was a beautifully surreal stretch of time. Temping, I worked in a jewelry warehouse. I worked in a printing shop. I worked front desk jobs and go-fer gigs at an ad agency and a title company, and I directed traffic at football games. Whatever non-sequitur direction life took me on a given day, I came back home and tried to figure out new ways to write music. In the past, I’d always been a dots-on-lines person. But if I was going to be serious about scoring for media, I had to learn to write pieces that could exist self-contained in software.

    A lot of modern composition happens in programs called digital audio workstations. (You can say DAW, if you’re short on time). There are a few of them (Logic, Cakewalk, ProTools, Reaper), but they share common functions as well as a lot of complexities that I was going to have to figure out.

    As an undergrad, I did all of my film scoring work using sheet music. Frankly, it always went over better than I deserved. Scoring film demands precision. Programs like Logic will lay the movie out with the music under it, so that you can minutely adjust the way that every piece fits together. I didn’t have that. I had a stopwatch and a quick finger on the pause button of the films I was scoring. Somehow, it always worked out. I scored three student shorts that way. I’d write the music out on a student version of Finale from 2003, and I’d record it with my classmates. I blared a click track in my ear and became known for my wildly animated conducting. We recorded it all live, in classrooms that weren’t built for it at all, and we made it work as best we could. Looking back, I’m proud of what we did for a group of people feeling our way through the dark. We built a community around it. One director called the band my “army of kind strangers,” and the name stuck. It reminded me of how incredibly fortunate I was to be taking these steps, and working with these people.

    But my experience was fairly limited. I’d never written music without a film to score, or at least a story to tell in my own mind. (The academics refer to that as “programmatic music.”) And I’d never really used a DAW. I struggled along at both. In grad school I was given assignments to analyze, understand, and rescore—everyone from Bernard Herrmann to Tan Dun. I used gosh-awful MIDI instruments because it’s what I could afford and I had to keep going. Meanwhile, I wrote a non-programmatic piece and realized it was maybe my most complete summation of everything I loved. It had late-Romantic French sax quartet schmaltz, as well as nods to Japanese video game score harmonies and Stax Records vibes. It also had a fully realized form. (Scoring gives you a lot of opportunities to weasel out of doing that.)

    Meanwhile, my wife was getting to know her co-workers. Completely coincidentally, one of her new friends at the marketing office, Lauren, was heavily involved with Austin’s surprisingly robust video game music scene.

    When I say that, I don’t mean “composers who write music for video games,” though there is certainly a healthy number of those, many of whom I’m delighted to now call my friends. But in this case, I mean “rock bands who plug guitars into giant amps in bars and play video game music.” If you’ve never seen this happen, it’s incredible. Most of this music was written for computer playback. As the composers were writing wild arpeggios in parallel 3rds and 6ths, they weren’t actually counting on human hands ever playing this music. But people do it. They go to the woodshed and they learn these impossible melodies the way an aspiring sax player will work over a Charlie Parker solo. But at least Parker knew what suited his hands. This is like playing Parker melodies on a trombone.


    The Video Games Live orchestra, which features a few of my buds
    1hr 39 min

    Our friend Lauren’s band is called The Returners. They’re not the only band that does this in Austin. There’s also Gimmick!, Descendants of Erdrick, and a few others here and there. If you live in a city of any size at all, there’s probably at least one band doing this near you. (Or a string quartet, or a group of improvisatory jazz and new music nerds.) But it’s pretty unusual to have a whole web of them like we do in Austin.

    Every now and then, The Returners would need a vocalist for a piece, and I’d get to join them onstage. We played everything from writers’ retreats to bars to enormous video game conventions. But as fun as it was, it was just a portent of what we were about to get into.

    One day, Lauren sent me a message. Her friend Sebastian was doing a large-scale, licensed tribute album to a landmark Final Fantasy game. She wondered if I wanted to put a track together. I’d never done much arrangement, but I jumped at the chance. Older video game scores are ripe for re-interpretation. There are some fantastic musical ideas happening, but owing to the restrictions of the technology, there’s a lot of room to arrange and interpret. Some tracks are clearly emulating an orchestra or a jazz band. Some are more of a Rorschach test. All of them feed into a cover music scene infused with a vibrant, buzzing, anarchic fervor for a broad body of often-haunting, widely overlooked music. For my part of the album, I took one of the most gorgeous, haunting melodies that Nobuo Uematsu ever wrote, and turned it into a gleefully shambling P.D.Q. Bach-esque monstrosity full of Otamatone, whistling, and bassoon reeds.


    In case you’re curious to hear an Otamatone, this is Mklachu’s Otamatone cover of “Rainbow Road” from the console game Mario Kart: Double Dash!

    It was a blast, and the album took off in a way we weren’t expecting. That tribute album blossomed into a full-on record label called Materia Collective. They continue to release community-driven tribute albums on a regular basis, but they also put out original game scores now as well. It was a blast to get in on the ground floor. But most important (at least for me) are the friendships I’ve made through the organization and the scene at large. That’s grown to include not only performers, but composers, as well. Like any scene, there’s a lot of overlap in roles. It’s not at all uncommon for people to become favored session musicians for scoring after making a name for themselves as fan arrangers and performers.

    My most recent track for Materia includes a trumpet player from Chicago, a bassist from Connecticut, a guitar player from Portugal, and a flutist from Brazil. (Many of them are composers to some extent in their own rights.) At this point, I can hardly go anywhere without running into a friendly face—whether it’s someone I know from the Internet, or someone from a video game music conference. (I’ve been to two of them and can still scarcely believe such a wondrously niche thing exists on the scale that it does.) That interconnectedness is perhaps what defines the scene.

    In fact, it led me around the world and right back home. Several of my closest friends from the group are actually people from right here in Austin! They’ve become confidants, friends, and frequent collaborators. Some of my favorite music and greatest opportunities have spun out of it.

    4
    Stephen Robert Froeber, Brian Diamond, and myself at a game music festival. Froeber is currently in Germany and Diamond is an Irishman living in Scotland. We met up in National Harbor, Maryland.
    No photo credit.

    Our ability to write and record music around the globe relies on our ability to produce and deliver polished recordings, wherever we may be. Between my newfound technical acumen and the increasingly confident voice for orchestration I picked up at VCFA, I have been able to find—and have become an effective member of—a community of people as wildly committed to my most esoteric passion as I am. And the more I enmesh myself into all of my various spheres, the more they start overlapping. One of my VCFA friends is from Toronto. I asked him once, as a joke, whether he knew a game music friend who leads a jazz band in Toronto. It turned out he did. A Chicago VGM friend and a Chicago VCFA friend went to school together. And so it goes. The larger my world gets, the smaller it is. These convergences and connections are endlessly beautiful to me, and I feel more at home in more places than I ever dreamed that I would. I’ve even gotten to be the person to *make* those connections once or twice.

    Both of these musical worlds thrive on connection. VCFA, with its emphasis on distance learning with modern tools, and the video game music community, made of far-flung, passionate devotees who grew up embracing technology. In the end, I owe just about everything I have to these groups of people, and the connections that I’ve made among them.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 12:14 PM on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A helpful strategy in weaving disparate sounds into one cohesive map was to play with connections made during audio transitions, Documenta installation, Finally, I had to question how to place myself in the map, Neil Leonard, , NEWMUSICBOX, Sonic Cartography II: Questions of Scale   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Sonic Cartography II: Questions of Scale” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    September 18, 2018
    Neil Leonard

    1
    Recording sunrise animal chatter in the Ciénega Zapata, the largest bio reserve in the Caribbean

    The last blog entry looked at ways a foreigner can find the pulse of a city and help focus local listening, re-evaluation, and discussion. After creating works that grew out of single keynote sounds, new questions arose for me. How could one create a sound map of an entire province? How literal and comprehensive would that map need to be? How could recordings of diverse acoustical spaces exist in a gallery? A commission from Documenta 14 to create Matanzas Sound Map provided the opportunity to explore these questions.

    One approach I experimented with in making an audio piece that surveyed an entire province was to play with the scale of perceived acoustical space. Recordings of open landscape were used to create the illusion that an indoor sound installation expanded far beyond the gallery walls. We hear the close-up drone of insect chatter, scattered aviary calls marking territory in the wetlands at dawn, and a distant railroad bell. Listening to this rural audio space creates an illusion of being transported from the urban setting of the gallery and into a vast natural habitat. Changing the scale of the acoustical space can be disorienting and heighten visitors’ attention to what they hear.

    3
    Leonard recording recording with Ambisonic microphone in the Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs), the site where a Cuban American paramilitary group invaded the island in 1961.

    Later in the Documenta installation, after establishing this sense of vast space, listeners are transported to an urban soundscape where a former stevedore sings songs of the Abakua secret society, domino players erupt in outbursts as they argue the rules of the game, and a bartender tells of his mesmerizing dream of recreating a vintage 1945 tavern centered around a 78-rpm jukebox. There are no audible vanishing points in these spaces; the scale matches that of the gallery. Before we know it, our sense of place is redefined by the smaller space where the people who we hear seem to be within reach.

    A helpful strategy in weaving disparate sounds into one cohesive map was to play with connections made during audio transitions. In one instance, the chatter of the forest fades to musicians singing a song that traveled from the Cross River between Nigeria and Cameroon, through the transatlantic passage, to the ports of Havana and Matanzas. The stevedore’s connection to water is a trope in the group’s songs, and this trope informed my transitions between field recordings, chants, and songs.

    4
    Bata drummer playing the lead Iya drum, in the temple of Yemaya, in former plantation of Álava in the Matanzas province of Cuba

    Cross-fading between the sounds of humans, animals, insects, wind through the forest began to evoke for me the paintings of Cuban artist Manuel Mendive. Mendive’s images center on the sensual interaction of beings that are a mix of human, animal, and plant life. One figure may have the head of a bird and the body of a man. A tree might be nurturing people with its breasts and simultaneously being plucked of its fruit by a hovering bird. Without being aware of it at first, my work began to parallel Mendive’s paintings of folkloric myth and metaphor. People, animals, and landscape sounds were sonically blended and the assembly took a turn to become more of a dreamlike map of associations.

    Finally, I had to question how to place myself in the map. When an artist makes field recordings directed by his or her own interests and intuition, the results are shaped by those biases as much as the environment being sampled. I find myself up at dawn, waiting like a hunter for that one call of an elusive owl. My breathing is unusually slow as I wait, as motionless as possible to avoid startling the wildlife. The focus of my attention shifts to the distant traffic, waiting for it to stop, so I can wade into the ocean and record the most detailed sound of bubbles fizzing as a small wave breaks. My sensation of hearing is heightened as I suppress the desire to talk to my local guides.

    Additionally, in this age of anxiety around authenticity and appropriation, I questioned how to highlight my subjective experience, as “inauthentic” or out of place as it might be. I sought to express something of the wonder I felt, not just experiencing new sounds on site, but also learning the context in which those sounds exist. For example, in building the Matanzas Sound Map, I attempted to distill the feeling that arose as I walked through the former plantation of Álava, once owned by the Don Zulueta, the richest man in mid-19th-century Cuba. The sugar trade that provided sweetening and spirits for my native New England was being explained, and its songs, silences, and stories profoundly affected me as I dug deeper.

    I created sounds for that internal experience in the studio. These pensive saxophone vignettes moved slowly, like clouds passing through the installation. The aforementioned transitions from rural landscape to urban voices were followed by a section comprising saxophone and electronic sounds, recorded to reflect some of the stillness and wonder I felt on site.

    My multichannel sound/video installation The Other Map, excerpted for this post, demonstrates how recordings of nature, the human voice, and electronic recordings were sequenced to create a purposeful meditation on the sounds of Matanzas. Waves break gently in a rhythm suggestive of deep breathing. The voices of Andro Mella and Raphael Navaro follow, with extended silences I added between phrases to match the pacing of the waves. The excerpt ends with a saxophone and electronics vignette using the pacing of the ocean and meditative breathing. The video, shot on site, moves just as slowly and so appears to be digitally altered when in fact it, like the sound, is the result of weeks of extended observation and inquiry and noticing moments when reality appears to be an illusion.

    The sonic cartography in these pieces relied on surveying a province in a purposeful way, engaging locals to help me understand the site’s history and to guide me to places where the sounds could be collected. This is much different than simply taking photos and video clips with my cellphone and pastiching a work together. Hopefully, as with the pieces discussed in the previous blog post, these sound maps will promote a focus on the specific environments and social milieu that produce these fantastic sounds.

    6

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 3:01 PM on September 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NEWMUSICBOX, The Magic That Happens in a Week, Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier VT   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “The Magic That Happens in a Week” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1
    No photo caption or credit

    September 13, 2018
    Michael Garrett Steele

    When I first arrived at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier for a campus visit, I was just in time for the electronic music showcase. I’d had a long flight and a drive through unfamiliar country. I was a little weary, and a little wary. I’d been to a lot of electronic showcases and fixed-media installations over the course of looking for a grad school. They’d started bleeding into each other. And none of them made me feel like my voice had any place in the programs I was visiting.

    VCFA’s was something special, though. The works didn’t feel like student works. They were furious searches for answers to burning questions. In that sense then, they were student works – in the sincerest form of the word. I heard delicate soundscapes, interwoven with rotating samples of the composer’s family. I heard brutalist musique concrète. The whole thing closed with a meditative improvisation among some of the faculty. Jazz pianist Diane Moser performed in an emotional feedback loop as her sound was manipulated by Mike Early and John Mallia. It was unlike anything I’d heard before. And woven throughout this exploration of electronic art music was something else—there were snippets of video game music. There were synthesizer pieces from the ‘70s that students had pulled out of mothballs and retooled. There were straight-up techno dance pieces. And in the context of that breadth, a realization emerged – every single piece I heard that night was exactly what the composer wanted it to be. Nobody was following the dictate of an overbearing tutor or trying to impress a department head. They were following their muse, guided by folks who were equipping them to do it better every time. And the program was richer for it, in breadth and in depth. At a school that had room for me, even the musical styles that felt like a barrier to me were beautiful, because the only people composing in that space were the ones who were truly called into it.

    VCFA operates in week-long residencies, followed by six months of one-on-one mentoring with a faculty member. Because there’s so little time spent together, they go out of their way to make the most of it. Every minute is accounted for, between the lectures, workshops, showcases, and concerts. My visit was only for a couple of nights, but it felt like I was there for at least two weeks. The breadth of the lectures bore out the promise of the electronics showcase. I caught the film music showcase and an ensemble concert. After that concert, I stayed up talking with one of the student composers I’d met. As we talked and I packed, I realized we’d carried our conversation on until 5 in the morning, and it was time for my cab to take me to the airport. I flew home, with something like two dozen new Facebook friends in tow.

    2
    These are some of those friends…

    Those Facebook friends turned out to mean a great deal in the coming months. Even though I was on the fence about attending, I was welcomed into the community and talking to students daily. When the time came to make an admission decision, I had two offers on the table. The assistant program director called me – not to sell me on it, but to talk through my creative and financial anxieties.

    She, in turn, put me in touch with the faculty chair at the time, Rick Baitz. Rick talked to me for over an hour while he was stuck in New York traffic and I was stuck in Austin traffic. His advice was enthusiastic, if cryptically Zen. “Well, I think you should come. Unless you don’t want to come. But then you probably shouldn’t be listening to me. Listen to yourself.”

    In the end, I wound up listening to him. It was one of the most positive life changes I’ve ever made. Frankly, it still is. My time at VCFA is very much a going concern and a part of my daily life. I still collaborate with my VCFA fellows. I still work with them, and occasionally work for them. And two years after graduating, I still fly to Vermont every six months and take a long drive to be part of every residency.

    Vermont College of Fine Arts plays up the “low residency” aspect of the program. You study remotely with a grad advisor for six months, and then you reconvene on campus for a week-long combination of a conference and a festival. But the real value of the school isn’t in the semester format. It’s in the magic that happens in that one week.

    The residencies start to bleed together in my mind. They’re separated by time, and yet they’re timeless, and oddly recursive. As I walk through this week, most of the examples I think of are from the most recent residency, August 2018. It is the freshest one in my mind. But as I reach through my memories to think of all the things that the program can be—and has been, for me—I have reached for a few memories from earlier residencies stood out for me. The guest presenters and visiting performers change from residency to residency, and at least one priceless, life-changing memory seems to emerge from each one.

    That first evening I experienced there may have been the best introduction to the program I could have hoped for. I quickly found that the genre-agnostic approach I encountered was de rigueur for the program at large. It bore out in the lectures, as well. Andy Jaffe is the man who wrote the book on jazz harmony—quite literally. His pet topic is recontextualization through reharmonization. He’s the kind of speaker who, even if you can barely keep up with him, will leave you with a tiny piece of insight that you can apply anywhere. In a flash, he will immediately deepen your understanding and broaden your view. Andy insists repeatedly that there’s nothing mystical about jazz harmony. One of his core assertions is incredibly simple—the more tones you have in your chord, the more common tones you have to propel you wherever you want to go. If you’re a newcomer to the world of jazz—or even unengaged completely—that’s a tiny, but powerful idea. You can hang onto it, take it home, and mull it over as you work on your own music for six months. And Andy’s approach to harmony starts quietly bleeding into student work as they progress through the program.

    3
    An impromptu jam session involving VCFA students and faculty (including Andy Jaffe at the piano) as well as visiting musicians (including violinist Fung Chern Hwei)

    John Fitz Rogers speaks adeptly about principles of orchestration. This semester, his lecture is about controlling dynamic intensity artfully, by baking it into the structure of the piece itself rather than giving each part a dynamic marking. As he sifts through 300 years’ worth of examples, he casually opens windows of insight into a bottomless wealth of expertise. Even his basic thesis is one that is simultaneously core to orchestration and yet wildly underappreciated.

    A trio of working media composers hold court to a steadily growing cadre of starry-eyed film-scoring hopefuls. Their advice is practical, rooted in their years of first-hand experience. Rick Baitz gives a survey course in conveying story information musically. He uses Little Miss Sunshine as an example of how you can lead a viewer to intuit things about your characters without needing to make them speak. In other years he’s shown a tense, ambiguous scene from a horror movie. A character is in a stranger’s home, looking for information on a serial killer. He’s either in grave danger, or he’s become hilariously paranoid. Rick shows us the original, and then uses several rescored versions to illustrate how much weight a good score can pull in setting the emotional tone of a scene. Horror is rich with emotional potential, and thrives on the discomfort of ambiguity. An expert composer can tip the scale on way or another to tip off a canny viewer, or to misdirect and surprise at a crucial moment.

    Ravi Krishnaswami gives canny lectures in music business and deciphering client needs. He also holds a workshop each semester during which students are asked to score an ad, integrating sound design into the music itself. Sometimes he deliberately gives the assignment out last-minute, for the sake of verisimilitude. This semester, Don DiNicola talked about the importance of collaboration in an age that increasingly demands musicians do everything themselves. People came away deeply moved, almost exuberant. DiNicola himself has been a music supervisor for television studios for years. His insight into navigating through various stakeholders and getting paid is almost as incisive as his musical instincts.

    4
    The VCFA community listens to a talk by the members of the Sirius Quartet at VCFA’s Alumni Hall during the summer 2018 residency (Photo by Jay Ericson, courtesy VCFA)

    Professors sit in on each other’s lectures as well, despite their time being at a premium. The collegial atmosphere is shaped profoundly by their curiosity and camaraderie, and by the cross-pollination of ideas. You’ll see the classically oriented professors sitting in on a lecture about the Futurists, given by a singer-songwriter with a wild new music streak. You’ll see the jazz cats turn up at the film scoring lectures with fresh insights about the way harmonic motion is driving a scene. That boundless insistence on the permeable nature of what we do is at the heart of the program.

    Similar convergences occur among the students. Some of my classmates were fresh out of college. Some had recently retired. One is a heart surgeon who had trimmed his hours to focus more on his lifelong music obsession. An avant-garde jazz composer from Chicago takes an evening away from lectures to listen to a discussion about her work on Swedish Public Radio. One of my childhood heroes in television scoring is here, trying to rediscover his own voice after years of being asked by studios to sound like other composers. And all of these people are thrown together. They encourage each other through difficult masterclass sessions. They learn each other’s songs for the weekend showcase. They gossip about John Zorn and recommend TV shows to each other at lunch.

    5
    I join another VCFA alum Margie Halloran for one of her songs along with Rev. TJ McGlinchey on guitar during the Singer-Songwriter Showcase. (Photo by Ravi Krishnaswami)

    Evenings are for showcases and concerts of student work. In addition to the electronic showcase, there are nights for film music and songwriting. All of those styles bleed into the ensemble concerts—ostensibly the meat of the residency experience. Groups like Talujon, Sirius Quartet, and Roomful of Teeth offer feedback and insight for several days before delivering their performances. They impart idiosyncratic notation tricks for their instruments. They give practical career advice. A common theme in their feedback is that it’s a performer’s market when it comes to new pieces. The performers here are all strong enough that they can play anything you throw at them. But they’re also honest enough to say, “If you want someone to actually play this thing beyond these walls, you need to tweak this, this, and this to make it manageable.”

    Sometimes ensembles take student work with them. My own percussion quartet was programmed by Michael Lipsey for his percussion students at Queens College. And even if the music doesn’t travel, the relationships do. Students from Florida couch-surf with students from California. Session musicians from New York make time to grab drinks when students from Texas come to visit.

    6
    David Cossin make some edits on his part during a rehearsal of the piece Julian Gerstin (pictured on the right) wrote for Talujon which was performed during VCFA’s summer 2018 music composition residency (Photo by Jay Ericson, courtesy VCFA)

    Those relationships are fostered by the evenings after the concert. The on-campus café supplies enough wine to get the conversation going, and before too long everyone wanders down the hill from the campus to the bars downtown. It’s in one of those bars that I won a minute of recording time from a Julliard instructor in a bet. Here I get lightly berated by a conservatory head for not being familiar enough with Biggie. Here a visiting music journalist breathlessly enthuses about a ‘50s pop singer from Hong Kong that I need to hear.

    Beyond encouraging breadth within the program, VCFA encourages people to explore their own full richness. The professor renowned for orchestration can go on a tangent about Led Zeppelin. A songwriting student can do a multi-movement piece for brass quintet. And the people on the periphery of each of these moments get to experience people who are living in holistic fulfillment of their best artistic selves.

    VCFA is a swirling vortex of bizarre, beautiful convergences, built on the idea that it’s all music. Maybe, in the end, everything is.

    7
    At the end of every residency there is a graduation ceremony for the people who have attended five residencies and have completed all of their work toward the degree. During the ceremony. For each of the graduates, one of the faculty members offers a personal statement and ceremony attendees also get to listen to recorded excerpts of each of the graduate’s musical compositions.

    See the full article here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NewMusicUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 9:13 PM on September 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NEWMUSICBOX,   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Sonic Cartography” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1
    Video stills from Bar Romeo and True Bread

    September 11, 2018
    Neil Leonard

    My recent sound installations include sonic maps documenting how global marketing impacts our listening. These pieces were made in collaboration with bartenders, biologists, street criers, and dockworkers. Sometimes my work focuses on a single sound encountered by chance. At other times, a site’s social and political significance inspires me to look for a collection of sounds that speak to the site’s history. The result has been a series of multichannel installations, comprising a plane of sound—including keynote voices, landscape recordings, and songs—that invite discussion of how social or economic change can be heard on site.

    Listening to the sounds of a new culture when traveling can provide amazing starting points for a piece. Away from home, curiosity, serendipity, and naïveté lead me to investigate sounds that have become commonplace to the locals. In Padua, Italy, I stumbled across Bar Romeo, a small tavern in the center of town where butchers, dressed in blood-stained smocks, sang fantastic a cappella songs, directed by a tailor who conducted with a prosecco flute for a baton. My local musicologist and composer friends had never heard of the bar, located less than a five-minute walk from their offices. These specialists assumed that the noise from radio and TV had all but decimated the practice of amateur singing bars. When I took them to Bar Romeo, they were astonished and were not able to fully decipher the thick dialect and coded lyrics of the antiquated tavern songs. When I asked the butchers if they would collaborate on a work, they answered, “We’ll make an entire opera!” In the end, it turned out to be a much smaller work, but the piece, conceived by the naïve ear of a traveler, sparked a discussion about the city’s disappearing tavern songs—a tradition that spanned back decades, if not centuries.

    2
    Still frame from Bar Romeo (2006) 1-channel video with sound. Neil Leonard (sound); Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (video).

    In Cuba, there is a rich tradition of popular songs about street criers (pregoneros). My father had a 78-rpm disk of Louis Armstrong singing Moisés Simons’s “El Manicero” (“Peanut Vendor”). I heard the recording when I was in elementary school and can still remember Armstrong singing “Mani!!!” then dropping the lyrics and brilliantly scat-singing in place of the original Spanish words. Simons’s lyrics feature the peanut vendor singing his pregón (cry), within the song that Simons composed for us to hear. The sheet music of “El Manicero” is reported to have sold more than a million copies. The tune helped launch the mid-20th century rumba craze in the U.S. Dozens of covers of the tune appeared on recordings. Groucho Marx whistled the tune in Duck Soup. Cary Grant sang it in Only Angels Have Wings and Judy Garland sang a bit of it in A Star is Born. Along with “Guantanamera,” “El Manicero” is one of the iconic pop songs of Cuba.

    Small businesses were illegal in Cuba through most of the revolutionary era, however, causing pregoneros to discreetly hawk their goods in silence. During the substantial time I spent in Cuba starting in 1986, I cannot remember hearing a single pregonero, until one day, in 2010, I saw a distinctively oversize man riding a large tricycle down the street in Matanzas City. He pedaled under the shade of an umbrella, chanting his pregónes to sell baguettes. I started recording immediately. Next came an exterminator selling a pesticide to kill “cockroaches, ants, and mother-in-laws.” The social soundscape of the entire island had changed the minute the law permitted small businesses to re-open and processions of pregoneros, theatrically pitching products, reemerged instantly across the entire island. As a foreigner, it was striking that the locals seemed to ignore the pregoneros. Local families were focused on finding a way to afford bread or other wares. Only a foreigner had the luxury of appreciating the carnivalesque antics of the pregoneros.

    10-channel sound installation with 2-channel video. Neil Leonard (sound and video).

    A subsequent performance piece, Llego Fefa, that I created in collaboration with Cuban visual artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Havana pregoneros, made the front page of Granma, Cuba’s only national newspaper. Under a lead article featuring a photo of Raúl Castro embracing Hugo Chávez, a smaller news piece on the 11 Havana Biennial declared that our work did much to restore dignity to this core ancestral tradition, which was ignored in favor of survival needs or dismissed as an accessory to what had been a black market crime.

    What I present as sonic cartography in these pieces is as much of a personal narrative, created as I survey and record a site. Back in the studio, as I assemble works, my feel for the site and associations help steer the process. I recall flinching upon hearing the almost inaudible flap of a bird’s wings darting inches above my head in an estuary at dawn. Or, struggling with my limited Italian, trying to ask a horse butcher about his songs. I remember the awe I experience upon hearing a stevedore singing songs of the docks for me from his living room sofa. My personal experience and biases are in the foreground and the work feels personal. The most satisfying moments then come as visitors hear the final map and share their own associations to the same materials. More than an accurate record of the site, the work is a dreamlike map of connections exploring our shared listening experience.

    See the full article here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NewMusicUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 2:43 PM on September 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Jane Ira Bloom, , NEWMUSICBOX, Valuing Choices Made in the Moment   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Jane Ira Bloom: Valuing Choices Made in the Moment” 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX

    1

    September 1, 2018
    Frank J. Oteri

    Video presentations and photography by Molly Sheridan
    Transcription by Julia Lu

    While thinking beyond musical genres is a hallmark of a great many of today’s musical creators, Jane Ira Bloom clearly maneuvers within a genre while at the same time subverting any attempt at making generalizations about her work. The primary mode of music-making she engages in is performing her own instrumental compositions on the soprano saxophone in the company of a small group of like-minded collaborative improvisers, and those compositions are clearly indebted to the jazz tradition. But there are important exceptions to just about every detail of that description that are key to defining who she is as a musician.

    She primarily performs her own musical creations, but just about every album she has ever recorded, as well as most of her live performances, also include at least one example of her own extremely personal interpretations of an American standard or a classic jazz composition. But while the American songbook has been an unending fount of inspiration for her improvisations and has even informed the ways she has constructed melodies in her own compositions, she has never featured a singer in any of her projects thus far. And, with the exception of her most recent recording, Wild Lines, which includes recitations of poetry by Emily Dickinson, all her performances are un-texted instrumentals. She performs almost exclusively on the soprano saxophone (there’s been a stray track here and there over the years of her on alto), but she began her musical studies on the piano, and the grand piano she keeps in her living room is the main instrument on which she composes. She has primarily performed with and composes for a small cadre of fellow travelers with whom she has worked for decades (e.g. Fred Hersch, Mark Dresser, Bobby Previte), but she has also written music for orchestra, wind band, dance and film, and has participated in improvisatory world music collaborations with Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen and South Indian vocalist and vina player Geetha Ramanathan Bennett (who died just a day after we recorded our talk with Jane Ira Bloom). Bloom acknowledges and embraces the jazz tradition, but for more than 30 years her saxophone improvisations have incorporated an electronic music component which she triggers in real time through the use of foot pedals, and sometimes the other musicians in her combos operate electronic devices as well.

    “I’m definitely a lateral thinker,” Bloom acknowledged when we visited her to talk about her various musical experiences and how they have shaped her aesthetics as a composer and a performer. “There’s no question in my mind that my strong background as a melodist, as someone who’s loved and studied melody in many forms, takes me wherever I go. I’m a saxophonist who’s very much interested in sound, and I’ve spent a long time working on a particular sound that I really invested a lot of thought in on the instrument I play—the soprano saxophone. And I’m interested in phrasing and breath. All those things travel with me wherever I go, and when I’m using the live electronics, that’s where they’re compelled from. It’s me; it’s not a black box. It’s not an idea. I’ve learned an awful lot from the Afro-American music tradition and the American songbook, as well as exposing myself to world musics and all kinds of contemporary classical music. … I know what’s authentic and real about who I am, and I take that with me wherever my imagination takes me.”

    In addition to the aforementioned 2017 Emily Dickinson-inspired album, Bloom’s imagination has led her to create a series of responses to abstract expressionist paintings by Jackson Pollock (“the freedom he was in touch with … is something that, as jazz musicians, we can tap into so easily”) as well as motion-inspired melodic improvisation (“I collaborated with choreographers who were much more cognizant of this quality … you could make sound change by moving”). Her use of real-time live electronic processing in her saxophone playing has been an ongoing component of her musical explorations. Her description of it makes it seem a lot simpler than it actually sounds:

    “Basically what I do with the electronics is I still play the saxophone, but I play through microphones that access electronic sounds that I blend and combine with my acoustic sound. And I trigger them using foot pedals, live and in the moment. Over the years, I’ve gotten skillful playing on one foot and tapping my toe on some pre-programmed settings that I’ve designed—on basically an old harmonizer and an old digital delay—and combining them in unusual ways. … I’ve spent some time trying to get the way I use them as an improviser as fluid as if it was a key on my saxophone. … It makes sense to me when the sounds appear and when they don’t, when I choose to use them and when I choose not to use them. It’s got to be fast. It’s got to be intuitive, because I’m using them very much in the moment of improvising.”

    Perhaps the most unusual place Bloom’s imagination has taken her was to work with the American space program, which happened, as she explained to us, as a result of an unsolicited letter to NASA that her friend, actor Brian Dennehy, suggested she should write.

    “I thought he was nuts,” she remembered. “But some time went by and I actually sat down and I wrote a letter in the dark—a letter in a bottle, right?—inquiring whether NASA had ever done any research on the future of the arts and space, in zero gravity environments. Something I was always fascinated with. Six months later, I get this envelope back, which has the NASA logo on the front of the envelope from a guy by the name of Robert Schulman, director of the NASA Art Program. … Bob and I corresponded for years. He was interested in jazz musicians—lucky me, you know. Eventually I posed the idea, how about NASA commissioning the first musician for the Art Program? And he loved the idea.”

    Dennehy’s “nutty” suggestion ultimately culminated in a 1989 concert at the Kennedy Space Center featuring the Brevard Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Fire and Imagination, an original work by Bloom scored for soprano saxophone, electronics, orchestra and “a whole bunch of ringers, the jazz musicians that were in the piece.” Although the work has yet to be performed in its original version since the premiere and has also never been commercially recorded (though some reworkings of that material surfaced on her landmark 1992 album Art and Aviation), Bloom’s association with NASA has had some unusual ripple effects. In 1998, an asteroid discovered on September 25, 1984 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of Lowell Observatory was named after her—6083 Janeirabloom!

    As for what her next project will be, she has no firm ideas and, as an adherent to valuing choices made in the moment, she seems to like it that way.

    A conversation with Frank J. Oteri in Bloom’s Manhattan apartment
    August 14, 2018—5:00 p.m.
    Video presentation by Molly Sheridan

    Frank J. Oteri: You do a variety of different things. You’re a composer, a saxophonist, and a bandleader. Is there one word that you gravitate toward more than any other to describe what you do? If you were to meet somebody randomly, say on an airplane, and that person asked what you did, what would you say?

    Jane Ira Bloom: Wow, nobody ever asked me that before! I’ve got to think about that. Usually I always call myself a saxophonist-composer, but I’m definitely a lateral thinker because I’ve always been interested in multi-disciplinary thinking. It’s an interesting question, but I haven’t got an immediate answer.

    FJO: That’s fine, but there’s a corollary to that, which is perhaps equally unanswerable. You have been inspired by so many different things—such as electronics and non-Western musical traditions—and you’ve even composed works for symphony orchestra and wind band, as well as collaborated with filmmakers and choreographers, but your music primarily exists within a rubric that, for lack of a better term, we call jazz. So if that same somebody asked about what kind of music you do, what would you say to that?

    JIB: I can’t come up with words. I think the world of my imagination goes wherever it goes and has been its own explanation for itself, whether I’m interested in dance, lighting, theater, film, movement, painting, or whatever grabs my attention. I’m just trying to keep myself interested. I think, as time has gone on, I’m just letting that process happen more fluidly than it did in the beginning when there were more careful definitions to the different areas where I worked, whether I’m working with world music musicians or with jazz or new music improvisers or in an environment that looks even slightly more classical. It’s just me being interested and still being curious. Maybe that’s why it’s not so easy for me to find the categorical word for what it is, but I can tell you how it feels.

    FJO: So how does it feel?

    JIB: It feels open. It feels like there are possibilities. It feels like I can’t always anticipate what’s going to happen next. I go through periods of time where I get interested in a topic and go down the rabbit hole. Then there are also fallow periods where I don’t know what’s coming next, and I start getting nervous. It’s a kind of ebb and flow.

    FJO: So are you okay with the word “jazz” to describe your music?

    JIB: Sure. Creative improvisation. We’re improvisers who make up musical ideas in the moment and value that—that’s the important thing. We value those choices. I guess the thing I’ve learned over time is that the more you’ve done it, the more environments and the more experience you’ve had doing it, sometimes you can make better choices.

    FJO: I would posit that in addition to what you said about valuing the choices that you arrive at in the moment, you also value the choices that other musicians make in the moment who are performing with you. That seems to be a very big part of it.

    JIB: Absolutely. I’m a completely collaborative animal.

    FJO: One of the reasons I wanted to begin our discussion by asking these questions is that one of the reasons we have these conversations on NewMusicBox is so that music creators have an opportunity to describe their music in their own words and it is not filtered through someone else’s ideas about them. In preparing for our talk, I was reading a lot of things that others have said about you and one thing that struck me, which I read in a few different places, was seeing you described as “an avant-garde jazz composer.” While there are certainly elements of what you do that are extraordinarily progressive and very innovative, I personally don’t think the term avant-garde accurately describes it since, no matter how out you go with some of these worlds, you’re always very clearly mindful of the tradition at the same time.

    JIB: Well, there’s no question in my mind that my strong background as a melodist, as someone who’s loved and studied melody in many forms, takes me wherever I go. I’m a saxophonist who’s very much interested in sound, and I’ve spent a long time working on a particular sound that I really invested a lot of thought in on the instrument I play—the soprano saxophone. And I’m interested in phrasing and breath. All those things travel with me wherever I go, and when I’m using the live electronics, that’s where they’re compelled from. It’s me; it’s not a black box. It’s not an idea. I’ve learned an awful lot from the Afro-American music tradition and the American songbook, as well as exposing myself to world musics and all kinds of contemporary classical music. But I don’t reflect a lot on what I call myself. I know what’s authentic and real about who I am, and I take that with me wherever my imagination takes me.

    FJO: One thing that definitely strikes me about your love for the jazz tradition and the American songbook is that although most of your recorded output is devoted to your own compositions, with the exception of your album Modern Drama, I can’t think of any recording of yours that doesn’t include at least one reinvention of either a song standard or a classic jazz composition.

    JIB: You’re absolutely right. I guess I can’t let go of that. And Sixteen Sunsets was a compilation of American songbook standards. It was my ballads album.

    FJO: So what motivates you to keep going back to that material?

    JIB: Those are primary sounds for me. That understanding about how melodies work comes from knowing that music on the most primary level. I didn’t learn it; I grew up listening to it. It’s in my bones. I know the lyrics to all the songs. So I think the knowledge of that music and that largely Jewish songwriting tradition—whether it comes from cantorial song or not—also follows me, and it informs me even when I’m writing. The kind of linear line-writing that you hear on many of my original compositions—they have this different kind of motion and flow, but it’s informed by the same kind of pearl stringing that I’ve learned from studying Harold Arlen or Richard Rodgers, their great melodies and why they work. That stuff still informs even the melodies that I write that don’t sound anything like that.

    2

    FJO: It’s interesting to hear you talk about melody and line and breath as I stare to my right at your beautiful old grand piano, which has manuscript paper on it and a bunch of pencils and an eraser stacked inside it. And I’m remembering reading somewhere that although you’ve been playing the saxophone since you were a child, your first instrument was actually the piano.

    JIB: A composer needs to know the piano, and I studied piano for a while. I started when I was very young. But I must have been 9 or 10 years old when I started studying saxophone in public school. Then it wasn’t long after I began studying that I started to study with this master teacher Joe Viola, when I was living outside Boston. Saxophone players know about this guy. He was a great woodwind virtuoso, and he had this special feeling for the saxophone. Why did I pick up the saxophone in the first place? I was in third grade and it was shiny, that’s why. But the soprano saxophone—I think when I heard that sound, I said, “Yeah, I like that!”

    FJO: Of course, the soprano saxophone has the most unusual history of the entire saxophone family in jazz. There isn’t this through line the way there is with alto players or tenor players. There was Sidney Bechet early on, but later a huge gap during the bop era. Then all of a sudden Steve Lacy appeared on the scene and soon after that John Coltrane takes up the soprano sax, but not as his primary instrument. And starting in the ‘70s, the soprano sax has had this other whole life as a smooth jazz instrument due to Grover Washington and, later on, Kenny G who is almost an exact contemporary of yours. But what you do sounds nothing like that. Going back to running into that random person talking to you at the airport, when you say that you play the soprano sax, I’m sure the first thing that person is going to say is, “Oh, like Kenny G?”

    JIB: Not any more. Actually, the latest thing people say is, “Do you play pool?” They see the soprano case, and it looks like a pool cue case. But it used to happen a while back, and the fact that people knew what a soprano saxophone looked like was pretty interesting—just on a general audience level. That’s certainly what Kenny G brought to the instrument, so thank you.

    I’ve always thought that if you’re the kind of person that’s interested in playing an instrument that doesn’t have too much of a stylistic lineage attached to it—unlike all the great saxophone players on the tenor and the alto—and that if you’re interested in doing something new, soprano is maybe not a bad choice. It suits me, for sure, that it has the history that it does and that I’ve been able to create a sound on it. I suppose you could think, not having been over-influenced by a whole stylistic lineage, to create a new sound on it.

    FJO: That’s a very inspiring thought, although you were not completely without influences. You mentioned Joe Viola.

    JIB: A primary influence, yeah.

    FJO: But since there isn’t this lineage in terms of who you grew up listening to and who you gravitated toward musically, it probably wasn’t other soprano players.

    JIB: No, not at all. I was listening to Sonny Rollins. I was listening to all kinds of things. I was listening to violin players, but especially trumpet players. And I was listening to vocalists. I was getting ideas from other places that I’ve attached to this instrument. I spent some time studying how people negotiated on a different instrument. For example, I’ve always loved the sense of struggle that’s in the trumpet. That’s what I’ve always loved about Booker Little and Miles Davis, so I’ve gleaned something from them. Same thing with Sonny Rollins. It’s not necessarily looking around for influences to imitate the notes that people play; it’s more getting a kinesthetic feel for where they were that informs me and what I do. I pick my own notes.

    FJO: Now in terms of picking those notes, you said that the piano is a necessary thing for composing.

    JIB: Yeah, there it is.

    FJO: So you compose your music at the piano, not at the saxophone, or do you do a little bit of both?

    JIB: Sometimes ideas come from the horn, too, so a little of both. But primarily I sit at the piano.

    3

    FJO: One of the most interesting comments we recorded in a conversation in the last few years was when we did a talk with Béla Fleck, who’s now writing for orchestra. He talked about how he came up with clarinet lines in the orchestration at the banjo. He composes from the banjo. He jots down ideas in banjo tablature and then someone else turns it into something that other players can read from.

    JIB: Cool. That’s so unique.

    FJO: I thought that your compositional process might have been somewhat similar, but then I learned you had a background in piano. When we walked in and saw the piano with all the manuscripts on it, I realized that the way you write music was completely different and that the piano plays a significant role in how you compose.

    JIB: Well, for the harmonic information that you hear on my original compositions, yeah. But let’s face it, I’m a line player. I’m a horn player, so I play the piano like a horn player. They inform each other, believe me.

    FJO: In terms of what informs your musical ideas, for almost a century people have come up through improvisatory music by woodshedding and apprenticing as a side person in other people’s ensembles. What’s amazing to me is that you really didn’t do that at all. You seem to have emerged fully formed. I’ve only heard two albums that you’re a side person on, and I think there are only three.

    JIB: There are a few.

    FJO: Well, the two that I am aware of are both really wonderful records, but you recorded them after you had already released recordings under your own name. The first one is this really odd record from pretty early on in your career, Frederick Hand’s Jazz Antiqua.

    JIB: Oh my goodness, yeah. This flute player, Keith Underwood, was a friend of mine from New Haven, from Yale. He was doing this work with Fred Hand, so when the call went out for soprano saxophone, I think Keith told Fred about me. That was a long time ago. I’m trying to think of some other ones. I apprenticed with vibes player David Friedman and recorded with him. I also recorded some albums, but it wasn’t at that early time, with vocalist Jay Clayton and did some guest appearances on some other people’s albums. But you’re right. Largely I had a different path.

    Coming out of New Haven in the ‘70s, I was around a fascinating community of new music improvisers and jazz musicians. I’ve read books about this. They now call this the New Haven Renaissance. If I listed all the musicians who were actually in New Haven at that one time in the ‘70s—it was this fascinating creative music community and everybody was inspiring everybody else. At that time, Wadada Leo Smith was in New Haven, and he was making albums on his own—LPs; there were no such things as CDs then. He had important music to document that he was playing, and there were no record companies that were getting Leo to record for them. So he was making his own albums and documenting his own music. Everybody got inspired by him: George Lewis, Gerry Hemingway, Pheeroan akLaff, myself, Mark Dresser, and Mark Helias—loads and loads of musicians were there, and it inspired all of us. I was inspired to start my own record company. It was like 1976. I had been playing duets with a bass player named Kent McLagan. We had important music that we were making. Why not document it? And I learned how to make a record and how to promote my own music. Trial by fire, I learned how to do it myself, by asking a lot of questions and making a lot of mistakes and figuring it out. They turned out to be my calling cards when I moved to New York City. That’s a really different path than going off to apprentice with some great. I have a few early stories. I remember I sat in once with Mercer Ellington. But I knew that wasn’t my path. It just wasn’t me, so I followed this different direction.

    FJO: I have to confess that I don’t know either of those first two records, aside from the little snippets from them that you posted on your website—one of which was a very intriguing gamelan-tinged piece.

    JIB: Oh, “Shan Dara.” That’s with David Friedman.

    FJO: I’d really love to hear the whole thing one day. But after these two completely self-produced and self-released albums, you recorded an album for a very highly respected independent label, Enja, with an unbelievable cast of characters. Two of the members of the quartet album you recorded had been part of the landmark Ornette Coleman Quartet—Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. And the other player was Fred Hersch, who went on to become a very important collaborator of yours. So how did this come together?

    JIB: Thank you Matthias Winckelmann, the head of Enja Records. He knew about me through David Friedman, the vibes player, because I’d been on tour with David. He said, “I’d like to make a record; who’d you like in your rhythm section?” I was given the chance to name my dream rhythm section. So wow, hell, I want to play with Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell! I want Fred Hersch playing piano with me! It was just me having my chance to pick the dream rhythm section of all time.

    FJO: So you didn’t know those people? You’d never worked with any of them before?

    JIB: I had met Blackwell and I had played with him in New Haven. And Fred and I had also done some playing together. I don’t think I had played with Charlie, but I knew I wanted to play with him.

    FJO: To stray a little bit from the chronology here, I find your history of making recordings to be somewhat emblematic of our times. You formed your own record label. After that, you recorded an album on this really prestigious independent label. Then you got picked up by one of the global Goliaths, Columbia/CBS, now Sony. You did two albums with them. Then you went back to do doing stuff on indies—a series of really important albums on Arabesque, a terrific label which no longer exists, and then a disc on ArtistShare. But your recent albums are back on your own label. So you made a full circle.

    JIB: Complete circle. But having all the skills as a producer from the get-go has been an asset throughout everything. I was the only self-producing jazz artist at CBS. I produced those albums myself. It was unheard of. But it was because I had the skills. At the time, George Butler was the A & R person at CBS. He knew I could do it. He had evidence. But isn’t it interesting—the full circle? I started off on Outline Records, went around the block, and now I’m just back doing what I always did on Outline Records. And, you know, it just has kind of worked. I’ve been making albums for so long now that I’ve been fortunate enough that even with an independent label, when I’m ready I can produce an album and it comes to the attention of people in the writing community and the jazz radio community and they look forward to it. I have a long-time history with people.

    And I work with a terrific team. Max Horowitz at Crossover Media has been working with me for over 15 years, and now my niece Amanda Bloom is working with him. So I’m not doing it by myself anymore. I’ve got good help. And I also work with Jim Eigo at Jazz Promo Services. These are people who are very, very helpful.

    FJO: I imagine the same has been true for how you’ve published your music. You’ve written several works for wind ensemble, as well as for orchestra, so you had to prepare scores and parts for all of these. Is there a place where people can go to get this material? I imagine it’s all self-published.

    JIB: Yeah, I’ve got them. All the scores and parts are sitting behind those two cabinets over there.

    4

    FJO: So you had a whole self-publishing operation, preparing performance materials, renting them out, etc.?

    JIB: Well, at that time I was getting grants and I got help from some great copyists to find my way through the orchestra. I remember a particularly wonderful copyist by the name of Randa Kirschbaum, who is the best there was and who helped me get through my orchestra experiences. That’s a whole other issue. But I didn’t find a continuation of that work that was easy for me at that time, and I was less successful about recording a large ensemble work. So the stuff that you hear is for smaller ensembles.

    FJO: It’s all very personal and very intimate; the exact opposite of orchestral music. You’ve mostly recorded quartets—you with piano, bass, and drums. But you also frequently feature unaccompanied soprano saxophone solos on many of your recordings and Early Americans, the recording you made just prior to your most recent one, is with a trio of just you, bass, and drums, no piano.

    JIB: Yeah, I’m just getting comfortable with that. I’ve been playing in a trio for years and years with Mark Helias and Bobby Previte, and finally the guys said, “Hey, Jane, it’s time to document this thing.” So we literally just went into the studio and did what we do. It was a long time coming, but you can feel how natural it is. And winning a Grammy for surround sound for that, I can’t tell you how it makes me smile on the inside, collaborating with the engineer Jim Anderson and my co-producer Darcy Proper. These were people who took me to a new place.

    FJO: So in your experience does winning a Grammy still have the ability to get significant attention for a recording? Does it increase sales? What role does it play at this point?

    JIB: Well, I did start getting more calls. It’s just more public awareness of my work, that’s all. There’s just something about the mystique of it. The fact that this jazz trio album won in a category of music against musics from all other kinds of disciplines was really a very satisfying moment for us. We didn’t expect it. There were all kinds of music, but it was about the surround sound technology and the music that made it happen.

    5

    FJO: Going back to talking about your earlier large ensemble music for a moment, creating music with a small ensemble of people you’ve worked with for a long time is such a stark contrast to how, especially, orchestra music gets rehearsed, performed, and—if you’re fortunate enough—recorded. It’s a very different experience to create music for a large group of people that you might never have met before to working with a small group of creative improvisers who you’ve known for years. You know what they can do and you have an idea about what they’re going to bring to your music, as opposed to when you’re dealing with a large ensemble, for whom you have to have everything worked out in advance and very clearly notated and with whom you’re lucky if you get two rehearsals.

    JIB: Oh believe me, I know. You spend several years writing a piece of music, you get a few hours of rehearsal, and boom. That was a startling realization. They’re completely different worlds, and the task and the skill of the colorist, the orchestrator—their knowledge of instruments and their combinations and the unique qualities that create sonic originality in the orchestra—is a skill like no other. I was dabbling. I was just taking my world and seeing where I could go in that playground. But the world that I largely work in is, as you say, more long-term collaborations with people who I’ve gotten to know over long periods of time.

    I tend to stay playing with people a lot longer than most. I think it’s because of what you’re talking about, that unconscious communication that develops among improvising musicians over long periods of time. Not that it shouldn’t be informed by new input and new ideas, because we’re all growing and are going in different directions at times, but I do truly value what’s very special about musicians who’ve known each other and played with each other for a long time—particularly when you go into the studio, which has its own set of issues. How do you get spontaneity and creativity and the unexpected to still happen in places where just about everything in the environment is trying to tell you the opposite of that? I tend to find my greatest excitement comes from playing with musicians who I know really well.

    FJO: That’s very different from that first non-self-released recording where you picked your dream team, and then they just showed up at the studio and you recorded an album with them.

    JIB: Yeah, I think I got together with Blackwell and Fred a couple of times, but I don’t think Charlie was ever there for any of the rehearsals!

    FJO: Now, for Modern Drama, was that an ensemble that had been touring or was that also put together just to make the recording?

    JIB: We’d been playing together some. It was a combination of some of my work with vibist David Friedman and some developing work over a long period of time with Fred Hersch, and at that time it was Ratzo Harris on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. That was an expression of things I was doing with live electronics, compositions that expressed that, and I wanted to document that and this very special chemistry with those people.

    FJO: It would be great to have you explain how you operate the electronics in a performance, but first, how did you first become interested in working with electronics and how did you learn about it?

    JIB: I always loved electronic sound—I’m talking early electronics, analog electronics. I’m talking about when the Moog synthesizer first hit and when some of the first composers integrated electronics into their music, like [Morton Subotnick’s] Silver Apples of the Moon. I can remember being in college and studying electronic music with Robert Moore, having our first hands-on sessions with these synthesizers that looked like refrigerators. There were lots of faders and dials. That’s how I learned about electronics. It was really old fashioned. So I have a predilection in my thinking toward this less digital and more analog approach to these Forbidden Planet kinds of sounds. That’s what appeals to me. So I worked with some specialists who helped me design what you would call an effects processing setup.

    Basically what I do with the electronics is I still play the saxophone, but I play through microphones that access electronic sounds that I blend and combine with my acoustic sound. And I trigger them using foot pedals, live and in the moment. Over the years, I’ve gotten skillful playing on one foot and tapping my toe on some pre-programmed settings that I’ve designed—on basically an old harmonizer and an old digital delay—and combining them in unusual ways. What you’re hearing on the recordings is balancing that electronic sound with the acoustic. It blends a little easier because I’m dealing with more analog kinds of electronic sounds. They’re not as cold and digital sounding as some can sound. I’ve spent some time trying to get the way I use them as an improviser as fluid as if it was a key on my saxophone. I wanted to have the breath that still compels my saxophone sound to the electronic sound. I still wanted to have the phrasing that’s behind who I am as a saxophonist. I’m still a saxophone player. That’s really what’s at the core of it. It’s just I hear this expanse of electronic sound that can open up from the acoustic. And that’s why I feel like it makes sense to me. It makes sense to me when the sounds appear and when they don’t, when I choose to use them and when I choose not to use them. It’s got to be fast. It’s got to be intuitive, because I’m using them very much in the moment of improvising. And it has to have a warmth and a breath that is still compelled from being a saxophone player.

    FJO: So in terms of it being in the moment, you’ve got these pre-set things, but you might decide to take it out of the recording studio into a live performance, let’s say, which comes with another whole set of baggage. How do you make sure the space can handle the balances with that?

    JIB: It’s always a balancing act.

    FJO: But it could be that the spirit moves you in a live setting and there are tons of electronics in some of them, or it could be that the spirit doesn’t move you and you’re completely acoustic. That decision happens in the moment.

    JIB: It does. And also the composer in me is thinking about a set of music that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and also hears when the ear needs to relax from being saturated with electronic sound, when things needs to thin out, just as an orchestrator would go from a thicker density to a thinner density. There’s a lot of skill to thinking about how you go from an acoustic to an electronic place in a piece that helps listeners’ ears not feel jarred. I have thought about that a lot. When you hear the electronics on the recordings, there’s a lot of extra help from Jim Anderson, now my almost life-long engineer. How we work, how we record the saxophone, how the electronics appear in the sonic picture, lots and lots of detailed thinking goes into making this thing that I’m talking about in a recorded fashion.

    6

    FJO: I wish I could have heard this material live, if it was done live, but one of my all-time favorite recordings of yours is Like Silver Like Song, which is the one record where you’re not the only person using electronics.

    JIB: Jamie Saft, what a foil. Mark Dresser. Bobby Previte. All master composers, by the way, in their own rights. And, interestingly enough, whether they’re playing acoustically or not, all are clearly influenced by electronic thinking in their sonic palette. It was another dream team. I love that recording, too. I treasure listening to the music that we made together.

    FJO: How did that material work live? Did it work live?

    JIB: It was easy. When the guys are on same page with you, it’s just fun.

    FJO: But in order to make it cohere in a live performance setting, did you have a live mixer with you on stage?

    JIB: I would have loved to have had an onstage mixer. But we were all composers balancing our instrumental contribution live somehow and doing the best we could. We played in all kinds of spaces. I remember once playing in the Rose Planetarium with Jamie and Mark. Somehow we make it work.

    FJO: To take it back to Modern Drama, there’s a lot of stuff on there that seems like it would be hard to replicate live.

    JIB: The only thing that would be hard to replicate was the gizmo designed by my friend Kent McLagan, a bassist whom I spent my early years performing with who is also a mechanical engineer and physicist. We designed this strain gauge attachment that we put on the bell of the soprano so that, based on how fast I was sweeping the bell of the horn, it would create a flurry of sound regeneration in the harmonizer. So I kind of hot-rodded my harmonizer to be controlled by this strain gauge—Kent called it a strain gauge; it was measuring velocity.

    FJO: So that’s the wacky sound on “Rapture of the Flat”?

    JIB: Yeah, and it appeared on many things. On “Over Stars,” a lot of the electronic, silvery, shimmering sounds that you hear, that’s the strain gauge of me swirling the soprano around.

    FJO: I’m a huge fan of “Rapture of the Flat” since it’s such a strange combination of things. It starts out with this kind of straight-ahead rock and roll riff, but then all of a sudden it becomes this insane, out-there electronic thing.

    JIB: It’s one of the pieces I dearly love listening to. I’ll never forget Fred Hersch playing the Hammond B3. That was a great time we had doing that. But the strain gauge wasn’t very portable. It looked like a piece of equipment out of War of the Worlds actually. But I still travel with the harmonizer and the digital delay. They look like antiques. And I have these foot pedals and stuff, it’s very old-fashioned, live-electronics effects processing. It’s not fancy, but I can still do it.

    FJO: Now when you say War of the Worlds, where my mind immediately goes is thinking about how you got connected to NASA.

    JIB: Wow, that’s a story. Flashback to me in the 1980s. Things were not going great with my career. I was having dinner with a friend of mine, the actor Brian Dennehy. And I said, “Brian, things just aren’t looking so good.” This is a true story. Brian said to me, “Well, what are you interested in?” And I said, “Well, I’ve always been interested in the space program. I’ve watched every launch since the Mercury days, and I’ve always been fascinated with space exploration.” He says, “Well, why don’t you write a letter to NASA?” I said, “What do you mean, write a letter to NASA?” “Just write a letter. Tell ‘em what you’re interested in.” I thought he was nuts.

    But some time went by and I actually sat down and I wrote a letter in the dark—a letter in a bottle, right?—inquiring whether NASA had ever done any research on the future of the arts and space, in zero gravity environments. Something I was always fascinated with. Six months later, I get this envelope back, which has the NASA logo on the front of the envelope from a guy by the name of Robert Schulman, director of the NASA Art Program. I didn’t even know what that was. I’d just basically written this letter saying I’m a jazz artist and I’ve been interested in exploring. Anyway, turns out a correspondence develops between me and Robert Schulman, and I learn about this organization that’s been in existence at NASA since the beginning of the space program called the NASA Art Program where they commission visual artists, famous ones, to experience what goes on with the space program and everything, from the launch, the landing, the deep space program, astronaut training. They invite artists to observe this, and from this, to create a work of art, a visual work of art that they would contribute to NASA’s Space Art Collection, which I didn’t even know existed.

    Bob and I corresponded for years. He was interested in jazz musicians—lucky me, you know. He started sending me all kinds of wonderful stuff, press releases and stuff from NASA. Eventually I posed the idea, how about NASA commissioning the first musician for the Art Program? And he loved the idea. That was the start of it. We had all kinds of corporate sponsors for this big concert to happen. I basically joined a NASA art team that came down to the Kennedy Space Center for the first launch after the Challenger accident. It was the space shuttle Discovery. I traveled with the artists and went to all the facilities, to the launch and the landing at Edwards Air Force Base. I went to a jet propulsion lab to see the deep space telemetry. It was a peak experience in my life, no question about it. And from that, I created a new work, which we premiered at the Kennedy Space Center.

    FJO: Now when you say NASA commissioned it, there was a concert, but then what happened? Did they send it into space? What was NASA’s role in it?

    JIB: Well, I can tell you about the concert. It was an experience like no other. It was this wonderful special NASA audience concert that was held at the Kennedy Space Center with the Brevard Symphony Orchestra. I brought down a whole bunch of ringers, the jazz musicians that were in the piece. In addition to the visual artists who were also there contributing to the evening, there were several astronauts who gave talks before the concert took place. I remember meeting Astronaut Robert Crippen and Astronaut John Young. I shook hands with a guy who went to the moon. It was a NASA evening that was documented; it was video-ed. Where did the piece ultimately land in NASA’s Space Art Collection? Wherever it goes. There’s a piece of my score that’s there, and there’s this video recording of the piece. But more importantly, it turned out to be an experience that’s informed almost all my musical thinking and writing since then. It was one of my first large orchestration experiences, and it was also a time when I was integrating live electronics and surround sound. So many concepts that were channeled into that experience are still with me in work that I’m exploring today. I cite that experience as incredibly pivotal in my thinking.

    FJO: And yet it has still never been released in the original format you conceived it.

    JIB: No, just the electronic trio piece that’s in the middle of it—a piece that I performed with Jerry Granelli on electro-acoustic percussion and Rufus Reid on bass and prepared electronic tape, and me on electronics—that’s called “Most Distant Galaxy.” That’s recorded on my album Art and Aviation. That was the second or third movement. I forget which.

    FJO: Although most of the pieces on Art and Aviation also have space-inspired names.

    JIB: Yeah, it was right around that time, but that’s the only one that’s directly material from that. Art and Aviation was a spin-off of the work that I did for NASA. I did a huge piece at Town Hall. Oh, I’ll never forget that one.

    FJO: I was at that concert. It was the first time I heard you perform live.

    JIB: Wow! Yeah, that was a fun one. That was the first time I integrated getting the brass section up in the balconies to do some surround sound effects.

    FJO: Now the other thing that’s on that record, which I find funny because it’s quite a contrast from all these space exploration-inspired things, is a piece called “I Believe Anita.”

    JIB: That piece was very important, and it’s important today. I still perform that piece, and I still believe her. Absolutely.

    FJO: Anita Hill was just in the news again recently. They were talking to her about how back then there were no hashtags. There was no #MeToo back then. A lot of people believed her, but it ultimately didn’t make a difference. Clarence Thomas still got nominated to the Supreme Court.

    JIB: Hard to believe, but I believe Anita.

    FJO: So when you play that piece now, how do you frame it?

    JIB: History. It’s bearing out history—sticking to your convictions and seeing how history plays things out.

    FJO: You were talking earlier about being a melodist. That’s another area I would love to talk about in greater detail with you because you developed this whole technique that you call motion-inspired melodies, which you’ve also described as painting with sound.

    JIB: On a detailed level, there’s always been an interest in melodic lines that have their own unique sense of motion flow—accelerando and deccelerando, groups of fives and eights and nines, not just chugging along in eighth notes and sixteenth notes. It’s been a characteristic of my melodic line writing for a long time. You can hear it in almost all—I can show it to you. It has informed so much. It comes from this sense of motion filled-ness, physical motion. I’ve always been interested both in my own body when I play and then translating that into sound and how that compels melodies in different ways, too. It’s all one thing.

    Intuitively, even before I even thought about it, I always moved a lot when I played. I didn’t know why I was doing it. I just felt things in my body when I play. As time went on, I collaborated with choreographers who were much more cognizant of this quality and interested in it and actually made me look at it in a much more concrete way, to think about what you could do, to look at it and think about it, and how you could make sound change by moving. It was really choreographers like Richard Bull—who did Improvisational Dance Ensemble—that got me really thinking about it. So much other compositional thought was generated from the movement, whether it was making melodies or being inspired by Jackson Pollock in the Chasing Paint album, trying to think of arcing sound in space the way Pollock moved a brush. I was always a visual thinker, so this was a real natural place for me to go, to think of sculpting sound with movement and then augmenting that with electronics and melodic line writing.

    FJO: Your first Pollock piece goes all the way back to your first combo album, and then it grew into this larger six-movement suite that’s on Chasing Paint.

    JIB: Yeah. I was always interested in Jackson Pollock. He spoke to me, I guess, as he’s spoken to many improvisers.

    FJO: A painting of his was even used for the cover of Ornette Coleman’s album Free Jazz.

    JIB: Absolutely. He speaks to improvisers.

    FJO: So, in terms of this arcing sound, do you encourage the other players in the group to also move around? If you’re sitting at a piano, that seems like it might be hard to do.

    JIB: Well, I don’t dictate. But I know there was a period of time when I was recording with Fred, I can remember one piece called “The Race (for Shirley Muldowney),” where we put some of the effects processing in the strings of the piano, so Fred was actually playing with effects processing in that piece. I can think of times where Bobby Previte—although he himself was not using any extended electronic sounds, his compositional thinking on the set is so compelled by visual thought. It’s just in his head.

    FJO: Yeah, well he’s created a whole cycle of pieces based on paintings by Joan Miró.

    JIB: Oh yeah. Right. I was on one of his Joan Miró pieces. I’m with like-minded collaborators. So again, I don’t dictate to people about that, but clearly there’s something in the air.

    FJO: So were your Pollock pieces inspired by specific paintings?

    JIB: Absolutely. And when we played the pieces, I made some really good color printouts, the best I could, so people had them on their stands. And then at one point, we did play at the Museum of Modern in Art in Houston, where we actually played in front of a Pollock. It was not one of the ones that I’d literally written a piece about, but it was right behind us. You could just turn around and look at it. And that was so cool.

    FJO: And the group you performed those pieces with was another dream team.

    JIB: Yeah. Fred, Mark Dresser, and Bobby Previte—wonderful quartet.

    FJO: There’s a real chemistry between the four of you.

    JIB: Absolutely. And sometimes it’s not what people think, that you put likeminded people together. Sometimes it’s the very unique characteristics of each of the players, and the strengths that they bring that are very different from one another. And those people had it. That’s what I remember about that quartet. I think very fondly about that collaboration now.

    FJO: You’ve recorded at least two albums with that exact lineup, and then others where there’s almost all of them.

    JIB: Yeah, it shifted a little bit. But we did the Red Quartets and then the Pollock album, Chasing Paint.

    FJO: Another thing that’s probably related to your being inspired by painting is that you are also a photographer. When did that start?

    JIB: High school. I was one of those people who spent a lot of time in the old days in the dark room sniffing chemicals. I just had a passion for black and white photography.

    FJO: Interestingly though, in terms of everything we were saying about the melody line and hearing something, having it be balanced and wanting it to be just right, is that it shows how mindful you are of the world around you—in the way that a photographer also usually is, but in a way that perhaps abstract expressionist painters aren’t as much. Their processes inform their work, and the work is what it is. So even though you’ve been inspired by Pollock, your aesthetic is very different from his. Or at least it seems to be.

    JIB: Who knows? He just speaks to me. The freedom he was in touch with, this motion in nature is something that, as jazz musicians, we can tap into so easily. I know so much about what he was talking about, that fractal nature of the movement of wind and moving grasses or branches or trees, and how that manifests visually in the natural world, and also feeling how that might be in sound. You don’t know how people inspire you. It’s not that you’re like them; it’s that they speak to you about something. Thank you, Jackson Pollock. That’s all I can say.

    7
    One of the many pieces of art that is hanging in Jane Ira Bloom’s apartment.

    FJO: Jumping to the present moment, when I first heard about this I thought it was so incongruous, yet it totally works. Another person who’s inspired you, another great American cultural icon, is Emily Dickinson. But I never would have made that connection.

    JIB: I think the first time I was exposed to her poetry was through The Belle of Amherst with Julie Harris on WGBH in Boston. It was a basically one-woman show about the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson. I think that’s where it began. It took a long time simmering, but I think I went to a lecture on Dickinson’s poetry given at the Philactetes Society. I’ve forgotten who the poet was who gave that lecture, but that’s what sparked it. I forget when that was. But then I started re-reading. Somehow I didn’t understand her, but I got her. I don’t know why. I don’t intellectually understand her, but there’s something about the way she used words that feels like the way jazz musicians abstract notes and ideas. That’s where I started from.

    FJO: And it’s so fascinating that you issued performances both with the words being recited and without them, so listeners can either hear it with the words or not. You can have two completely different experiences with it.

    JIB: Those fragments of the poetry inspire the music that you hear, where we go with it. But it’s a different approach to intersecting music and words than traditional settings of poems. I was not interested in that approach at all. It’s really a much more abstract relationship to her and to her poetry.

    FJO: You mentioned performing with Jay Clayton, but on your own music you’ve never worked with a singer.

    JIB: No, nor had I ever done anything with words. Never. This was the first time. And my husband is an actor and a director! But this was the first time that I actually did a collaboration with literature, and it was very meaningful to me.

    FJO: I find it somewhat strange that you’ve never included a singer in your music, especially after hearing all of the stuff that you’ve said about melody, as well as being inspired by the American Songbook. I could imagine a recording of you with a singer that would be as symbiotic as the album that John Coltrane recorded with Johnny Hartman, which really sounds like two singers—Hartman singing the words and Coltrane singing on his saxophone.

    JIB: That’s right. It may be in the future. In truth, I do think when I play ballads that I am singing those songs into the saxophone. But what collaboration might be in the future, who knows?

    FJO: Okay, so what would be a dream project that you’d love to do that you haven’t done yet?

    JIB: I just went this weekend to the MOMIX Dance Theatre. Years ago, I wrote some music for the dance company Pilobolus and one of the original dancers, Moses Pendleton, started this company called MOMIX, which is dedicated not only to dance but a high use of stagecraft in lighting and illusion, to create very magical looking effects on stage. I remember thinking when I left, “I wonder if I could get a grant to get together with a really powerful design team, lighting designers and stage production designers, people who do this kind of thing. How fascinating it might be to create the music that I create with this other kind of visual element—simultaneously. But we’d definitely have to get a grant for this one.” That’s the latest thing that occurred to me.

    8
    Along with all the music manuscript paper, Jane Ira Bloom also keeps a pocket-sized audio-recorder at her piano.

    FJO: One area that we didn’t touch on that we should are those fascinating world music collaborations that you did about ten years ago, which really took you in new directions. I actually heard a connection between those performances and your Early Americans trio album, where there’s finally no piano which means you can freely venture beyond the 12-tone equal-tempered scale and improvise on other modes. I did hear things that hinted at this terrain in several of the pieces on that album, like “Dangerous Times” or “Other Eyes,” which perhaps came from your experience in those world music collaborations.

    JIB: Well, I’ve always been interested in world musics. Not that I’ve studied any in great detail as some of my colleagues have, who have gone to different parts of the world to study shakuhachi or Indian music. But I’ve always had this open ear. It all started probably in the 1970s when I listened to the Nonesuch World Music Explorer series in the library. I used to listen to music from all over the world and let it into my musical thought. Over the years, I’ve collaborated with musicians who were more studied than I in traditional world musics, whether it’s Geetha Ramanathan Bennett and her husband Frank Bennett and being exposed to beautiful South and North Indian music, whether it has to do with the years listening to Asian music, the shakuhachi or the Chinese guqin, having experiences improvising with the master pipa player and improviser Min Xiao-Fen or Korean music, being exposed to it through my friend Jin Hi Kim. Again, it’s all learning by doing and being around the musicians themselves. And they themselves were interested in collaborating with jazz artists. I was improvising together with musicians who wanted to share vocabulary with me. That’s how it happened.

    FJO: It was so incredible hearing Geetha Ramanathan Bennett play “Cheek to Cheek” on one of those performances. That blew my mind.

    JIB: Wasn’t that amazing listening to “Cheek to Cheek“ on the veena, how she can handle the harmonic changes on a veena?

    FJO: That would be a great thing to take into the studio and record.

    JIB: I know. I still talk with Geetha every now and then. She’s out on the West Coast with Frank. We’re longtime friends and collaborators from 1970-something. Again, the collaborations that I really value are deep, long-term ones.

    FJO: So we’ve already planned at least three new projects for you, something with a singer, and a multi-media improvisation with music and lighting, and a cross-cultural recording.

    JIB: Thank you.

    8

    FJO: A last area I was curious about, because it’s been a part of your life for a very long time, is your teaching at the New School.

    JIB: I’ve been there 20 years.

    FJO: So what keeps you doing it? What inspires you?

    JIB: I’m the most reluctant educator there is, but what inspires me is I like being around young people. I like being around unfettered enthusiasm, the idealism, all of the energy. It fuels me. I give it back to them, but they give it to me.

    FJO: So what sort of projects do you do with them to get them thinking out of the box?

    JIB: There are several courses I’ve taught over the years to do just that. A class called “Linear Composition for Improvisers”—definitely getting improvisers into a composing mode and thinking outside of their comfort zones. I’ve taught the music of Ornette Coleman. I’ve taught a course on how to play ballads. Teaching young people how to play slow. I have a course that I designed that I teach with my husband called “Improvisatory Artist Lab” where we combine classical artists, jazz artists, and drama students, to do new creative work together. For them to learn about each other’s vocabularies, cross-disciplinary projects and thinking. There’s a course I designed taking young composers up to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, having them research a topic of their choice and then creating a new work of art that we perform at Lincoln Center at the end of the semester. All of it is pushing the boundaries.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 8:27 PM on August 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A residency that is very expensive compared to the general cost of living in its location-we categorically avoid - this is something you can apply to your own life what ever you do, Artist Residencies: All Costs Considered, , NEWMUSICBOX, small sacrifices are possible-"consume less" mindset, We apply to all kinds of artist residencies—those that provide stipends-those that provide in-kind accommodation-and those that ask modest fees., You can apply this-we don’t pay a phone bill-we rely on WiFi for communication and haven’t encountered any serious issues, You can prioritize your expeiences above all, Your financial side is an individualized process that takes into consideration your own priorities and personal goals.   

    From NEWMUSICBOX: “Artist Residencies: All Costs Considered” with some life lessons we can translate to our own lives 

    New Music USA


    From NEWMUSICBOX
    1

    August 30, 2018
    Passepartout Duo

    [This is a great essay. Even if you are not a musician traveler, you may find things here that you can use to enhance your life. I have used modifications to some of the comments to give us life lessons, whatever we do and wherever we are.]

    Perhaps the question we get most often from other artists and musicians is: “How do you make all of this financially feasible?” From our perspective, we’re more shocked so many artists and musicians make ends meet in cities where rent prices are high, and opportunities to stay out and spend money are ubiquitous. Here’s the best advice we can give on making it work: it might involve some small sacrifices along the way (translatable into a “consume less” mindset), but we’ve found our life moving from residency to residency to be inexpensive and artistically fulfilling.

    We apply to all kinds of artist residencies—those that provide stipends, those that provide in-kind accommodation, and those that ask modest fees. We’re not dismissive of any of these categories of opportunities, as we take into account every aspect of the financial situation. From the cost of the residency itself, travel to the location, and the general cost of living in the country, many factors weigh in. Occasionally, we’ll run into a residency that is very expensive compared to the general cost of living in its location. As we can’t justify for ourselves those expenses, these are the only residencies that we categorically avoid.

    One great resource for comparing the general cost of living for travelers is http://www.numbeo.com. The website provides continuously updated information about the cost of various items in any location, and lets you compare them to other cities. Using this, we can estimate how much we might spend on food and anything else we might need during our residency.

    Several factors will increase the affordability of a residency. Longer residencies are typically more affordable, as the cost to travel to and from a location might be the most expensive piece of the puzzle. But lately we’re more focused on longer residencies also because we leave more deeply connected to the communities we were a part of.

    It’s rare to find a residency that will pay for your travel; although there are plenty with stipends, we’ve only ever applied to one that provided travel. This is why planning residencies so that you’re moving the shortest distance is very advantageous. After being invited for one residency, consider applying to other interesting opportunities that are nearby, as traveling to those will be significantly cheaper. Beyond minimizing the distances, it goes without saying to consider all the travel options early in advance when prices are at their lowest.

    It is worth mentioning that we don’t pay a phone bill; when we need to make a call, we use a Skype credit that’s very cheap, international, and paid per minute with no monthly obligations. In all our travels, we rely on WiFi for communication, and haven’t encountered any serious issues.

    Possibly the most important factor is the time you give yourself in preparation for the residencies. If the residency is over a year away, it gives adequate time to find the cheapest travel options, to contact venues and universities for paid engagements, and to apply for grants.

    There are so many parts of this equation that are specific to our situation, from starting out right after graduating school with no serious dependencies tying us to any particular place, to being a couple that can always share accommodation and support each other in the more taxing and difficult stretches of our journey. In this way, the financial side is an individualized process, that takes into consideration your own priorities and personal goals.

    It seems to us that our ideas about a life spent traveling both access ideologies shared by many people in our generation, and take advantage of everything that technology and the internet has on offer in 2018. Perhaps we are early adopters of something that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago. Traveling has never been cheaper; it’s possible to work from anywhere in the world; and social media helps us share our music and keep in touch with others. At the same time, these choices we’re proposing address a lack of desire to own property, the unaffordability of housing, and a prioritization of sharing experiences above all.

    2

    In this way, artist residencies represent a small sliver of things in the world that are in no way property, and are only shared. Each resident comes in with the knowledge that this place where they live will soon be passed onto another artist. Like a family home being passed from one generation to the next, layers of experiences, art, and traces left behind accumulate into a rich tapestry of culture and life.

    It is a lifestyle that has led us to think about every aspect of modern living. We feel that travel proposes an alternative cartography—the map of one’s own life, that isn’t at all consistent with the map of the world. What you’ve done and where you’ve been defines you, and defines your art. At the moment, we are extremely happy to travel for music and to have met so many kind and interesting people along the way. We are lucky, and grateful for it, and hope that more people will take on opportunities of their own that help make their own worlds grow.

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    At NEWMUSICUSA, we see ourselves first and foremost as advocates. Our mission is to support and promote new music created in the United States. We do that in many ways, fostering connections, deepening knowledge, encouraging appreciation, and providing financial support. In recognition of the possibility and power inherent in the virtual world, we’ve worked to build a strong internet platform to serve our constituency. And that constituency is broad and diverse, from composers and performers to presenters and producers, casual listeners to die-hard fans. We’re truly committed to serving the WHOLE new music community.

    As we go about our work, we make a point of not defining too precisely what we mean by new music. To define is to limit. It’s a spectacular time for musical creativity in part because so much music is being made that isn’t bound by conventional limitations of style or genre or background. The music that we hear being created in such abundance all around us is definition enough. We simply want it to flourish.

    We’re fortunate to have as our legacy the history of previous decades of good works done by the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, the two great organizations that merged to form us in 2011. Their legacies have also brought a small financial endowment that mostly helps support our grantmaking. But we’re not a foundation. We depend decisively each year on the generosity of so many institutions and individuals around the country who are dedicated as we are to the advancement of new music and are devoted to supporting our work.

    New Music USA is part of an international community of advocates for the arts. We’re members of the Performing Arts Alliance, the International Association of Music Information Centres, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Those partnerships help us represent the interests of our constituents at every level.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
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