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340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

Managing Editor:
David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
Lanier Sammons
Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
Christian Hertzog
(San Diego)
Jerry Zinser
(Los Angeles)

Web & Wiki Master:
Jeff Harrington

Latest Posts

Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, December 17, 2005
They've Got Ann!

James Newton Howard's music for the new King Kong film is decent enough but if you want the real deal, pick up Max Steiner's complete film score from the 1933 original movie, now available on Naxos, lovingly restored by John Morgan and performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra with William Stromberg. Gotta love that big ape.

Lawrence Dillon has some further thoughts on what's new and what's old. Endlessly fascinating topic; I mean, the thought that Bill Monroe and Charlie Parker were contemporaries and music innovators at the same time astounds me.

Interesting looking new music webzine called Mouvement Nouveau. Only problem is it is a monthly which is too infrequent to be viable on the internet. But, who asked me.

Anyone know of a music ensemble that blogs--either as a group or through a designated individual member? Can be old music or new music players. It's for a panel discussion at a big upcoming event in New York.

Which reminds me that we're going to have a blog-cleaning after January 1. Any individual bloggers who haven't posted anything in the last month come down. That means we'll have room for some new bloggers. Send me a note if you'd like to try it but don't volunteer unless you can update at least once a week. It just doesn't work otherwise.

Our best wishes to Terry Teachout who is going through a rough patch.

Now Playing: Paul Hindemith, Viola Concertos, Brett Dean, viola, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, CPO 999 492-2
The Morning After

We're resting on our laurels around S21 today (or maybe we're just goofing off) but it was great fun for me to meet Elodie, Jeff, and Ian last night for the first time in the "real" world, whatever that is these days, and chat with friends like Jeff James and Frank Oteri and meet a number of new folks, like the amazingly nice Jim Steinblatt of ASCAP. The ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards are given for music journalism which makes getting one especially meaningful for me. I was trained as a journalist and started out in adult life as a legitimate writer but got quickly seduced by the lure of corporate communications, marketing, and money--not necessarily in that order. Getting the award was like regaining a bit of my west virginity.

I'm not sure exactly what I said in accepting the award except the part about it being a high honor, indeed, for a little web site with no office, no staff, no budget, no business plan, no money and no prospect of making any. What I meant to say, and perhaps I did, is that thanks to all of you who come here daily and read and interact, Sequenza21 has become a really special online community for people who are passionate about new music. I thank you all for the pleasure and knowledge you bring to me daily...but I'm keeping the award for myself.
ASCAP Deems Taylor Award Ceremony

Some stalwarts of the Sequenza21 community who made it to this evening's 38th ASCAP Deems Taylor Award ceremony at Rose Hall. That's Ian Moss on the left, me with the award, Jeff Harrington, Elodie Lauten, with a display of a S21 web page, and David Salvage. Kudos to our friends Marvin Rosen and Mark Stryker, who also won awards, and Frank J. Oteri, who was the star of the show.
red fish blue fish Nov. 19

Steven Schick is, if not the finest percussion soloist in the world, certainly on the short list for that title. Ever since he came to University of California, San Diego to teach percussion, talented performers from around the globe have come to study with him. Some of you in New York and L.A. may have heard the UCSD percussion ensemble, red fish blue fish (the Suessian name is due to the fact that Dr. Suess's widow, Audrey Geisel, is a humongous donor to UCSD). When they're on the money, they're probably the most engaging and interesting San Diego ensemble. There's been a changing of the guard (or percussionists, more accurately) in the UCSD percussion program, and I got the sense that they were still trying to get to know each other. Either that, or they were underrehearsed, because I've heard earlier incarnations of the group play more tightly.

Here's an excerpt from my review of what they played. The complete review is available here.
Most people these days don't think of Carlos Chavez as a radical composer, yet it was the visionary Cage who asked Chavez to write a piece for Cage's percussion ensemble. The result, the Toccata for percussion, is one of Chavez's best-known works (along with the Sinfonia India).

Although it sounded old-fashioned next to works by Kagel, Anthony Davis, and Ignacio Baca-Lobera, the Toccata also took on the unmistakable aura of a masterpiece.

Like much of Chavez's music, it is lean and clear, but never simple-minded. Each of the three movements explores a particular timbre. In the first, it is drums: snares, toms, bass drum, and timpani, held together with drum rolls. In the second movement, metal sounds predominate: cymbal rolls (a parallel to the drum rolls of the first movement?), glockenspiel, gongs, tubular bells. The last movement returns to skins, adding the glockenspiel, as well as Latin American percussion such as claves and maracas.

It's ironic that even though the Toccata is one of Chavez's best-known works, he still has the reputation of being a stuffy conservative composer. Thanks to our proximity to Mexico, we hear a lot more of his music than most Americans, yet it tends to be the same handful of pieces. His other works deserve performances, and here's hoping that the San Diego classical music community rediscovers this essential 20th-century North American composer.

Steven Schick performed the snare drum and marimba parts in Toccata. It was unconducted, as was every work on the program. Perhaps a conductor could have kept the ensemble together more. One of the advantage of a university ensemble like red fish blue fish is that they can spend more rehearsal hours than would be practical with paid musicians, but one of the disadvantages is the turnover of players. This year's incarnation of red fish blue fish is less tight than previous formations.

The other highlight of the concert came with Anthony Davis's RHYTHM MAX, scored for 2 vibraphones, 2 marimbas, xylophone, glockenspiel, drum set, and congas. The work consisted of a series of appealing musical loops, which added and subtracted notes to create intriguing (and no doubt treacherous to perform) musical cross patterns. If you weren't familiar with Davis's concert music, you may have heard the influence of sub-Saharan drumming and xylophone music, Steve Reich, and gamelan music; in other words, it was a typical Davis work. Many virtuosic passages for the mallet instruments sounded improvised, but according to Davis, the only improvising was a long drum solo (solo in the sense of the drummer took the foreground, not in the sense of everyone dropping out) and "two bars in the vibraphone." I believe this performance was a local premiere, so I have no way of knowing if there were mistakes or not, but it sure sounded as if the players tore up their parts, slam-dunking this complicated work.

Less successful was Fase II by Ignacio Baca-Lobera, a UCSD alumnus. When Baca-Lobera was a student there, his works often mirrored the high modernist idiom of his teacher, Brian Ferneyhough. If Fase II is any indication of what Baca-Lobera is up to these days, he has mellowed out and developed a more listener-friendly language than the musical labyrinths that Ferneyhough constructs. Fase II is
scored for four percussionists, playing more or less the same instruments: bass drums, toms, wood blocks, and clanging metal instruments (I couldn't see what they were, but they looked and sounded like sections of metal pipe).

The four players were dispersed at the left and right sides of the audience, with some separation between the two players on each side. There may have been some spatial aspects to the work that weren't audible to me, as I was sitting in front of all 4
percussionists; but the separation did help clarify the individual parts.

The work began in a sharp rhythmic unison, and frequently continued with all four players together. The initial rhythm was fairly clear, unlike the kind of formidably complex rhythms some of Ferneyhough's students indulge in. But at times, each player would go their own rhythmic way, creating a gradually denser thicket of sound. Some of these sections were reminiscent of Xenakis in their approximation of complex natural sounds like rainfall or a field of crickets chirping; at times, these sections went on a little too long for my taste. While there were attractive
moments--superballs exciting drum heads into a chorus of moans, or furious tremolos on the pipes which crescendoed at different rates, producing a surround-sound effect--as a whole the work didn't quite congeal.

Baca-Lobera wrote in a program note that the rhythmic relations between the four players are more important than the color of the ensemble, but what caught the listener's ear most were the progressions from one type of timbre to the next: wood, skins, metal, rubbed skins, etc. In this case, the overall shape of the work, revealed by these timbral changes, was a lot easier to perceive than the rhythmic development.

The first half of the concert was devoted to Dressur, a half-hour piece for three percussionists by Mauricio Kagel. UCSD is about the only place in San Diego where you might catch a performance of Kagel's music, especially the works involving theatrical elements. Out of a generation of Europeans such as Boulez, Nono, Stockhausen, and Xenakis, composers who explored systematizing composition to create new musical edifices, Kagel is the odd man out. Rather than building strange new structures, Kagel tears them down, or else he constructs doomed forms out of faint or corrupt materials. Unlike his overly rational contemporaries, Kagel thrived (and still does) on the irrational.

Kagel's music is always about something other than the actual notes you hear. Dressur, composed in 1977, is an example of what Kagel calls "instrumental theater." In such works, the spectacle of the performance, usually incorporating purely dramatic gestures, is just as important, if not more so, than the music itself. Exactly what transpired on stage in Dressur is open to debate.

Most of the instruments and sound-producing devices (it's difficult to think of nuts in
a mortar and pestle as an instrument) were made of wood or other plant materials such as coconut shells or dried gourds (the mortar and pestle were wooden). So on one level Dressur is a catalog of ways to produce sounds from materials derived from plants: marimba, ratchets, rattles, wood blocks, castanets, bamboo wind chimes, anklung, bull roarer, and so on. On top of this is a cryptic plot acted out by the musicians.

Could Dressur be viewed as a marimba performer attempting to play a recital, but interrupted by the other two musicians? It begins with a marimba solo in a steady stream of eighth notes at a moderate tempo--such a direct rhythm already sets Kagel apart from the European contemporaries noted above. The marimba is center stage, and during this solo (performed by Ross Karre), the musicians to either side of him play what can only be heard as interruptions having nothing to do with Karre's solo. Justin Dehart, stage left, violently and repeatedly slammed a chair on the floor, while Fabio Oliveira, stage right, smacked coconut shells against a table, neither one having anything to do with the marimba's solo.

As if that weren't annoying enough to Karre, Dehart picked up his chair, walked over to the marimba, and threatened to strike Karre with it; Oliveira upstaged Karre (well, technically he was downstage, but you know what I mean) by removing his shirt and pounding his chest and stomach with the coconut shells. This self-punishment was even more attention-getting due to Oliveira's corpulence; just the sight of Oliveira removing his shirt was enough to cause audience members to giggle.
The finale of Dressur consists of a virtuosic flurry of notes played by Karre on the
marimba, capped by a final chord, at which point Karre throws his mallets down and storms off the stage as if in disgust.

However, the interrupted marimba scenario doesn't explain why Karre participates in the non-marimba antics with the other two musicians, a series of inexplicable actions such as one of them crossing the stage, bent over, clutching wind chimes to his chest; another crossing the stage from one kneeling position to the next, his outstretched hands brandishing anklungs as if in participating in some obscure ceremony. The height of this absurdity consisted of Oliveira donning sabots, not only on his feet but also on his hands, and performing a flamenco routine on a wooden platform (and in case you missed the flamenco reference, all three shouted "Olé!" at the end of his dance).

For me, the biggest problem with all this is in its half-assed theatricality, and it's an issue with all of Kagel's theatrical works. Most musicians are not good actors (maybe that says something about the musicianship of most pop singers who effortlessly make the transition from singing to film). None of these three gentlemen had a convincing stage presence. I couldn't help but wonder what Dressur would be like with three dramatic percussionists, say, Steven Schick, Evelyn Glennie, and Morris Palter; or with three good actors who had rudimentary musical skills. Does Kagel demand more theatricality from his musicians? If so, this performance couldn't be considered good. Or does Kagel anticipate that musicians aren't actors, and the resulting hokiness is an important aspect of the performance? I'd like to believe the former, but Kagel is so po-mo, I wouldn't be surprised if the latter was what he intended.

There's plenty to complain about the state of the arts in America's seventh largest city, but the one field in which San Diego excels is theater. Any San Diegan who goes to the Playhouse, Old Globe, Rep, or any of the smaller theaters on even the least frequent basis experiences good theater. There's no reason to expect theater-savvy audiences to put up with dramatic incompetence in a music production, a ballet production, or even a San Diego Opera show when there's such a wealth of resources here (it never ceases to amaze me how local opera audiences will gush over an SDO set or special effect that would be laughed at if encountered at the Playhouse or the Old Globe).

Dressur did have its merits. There aren't too many pieces of new music that can hold your interest for thirty minutes, let alone any percussion trios. Some of the performance techniques were striking (such as playing gourds floating in water).

I won't soon forget Oliveira smacking his flabby pecs and abdomen with coconut shells, striking himself so hard that he left bright red rings around his nipples. However, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
In case you missed it the first time, my entire review can be read here.

Watch a free video of red fish blue fish performing Steve Reich's Drumming here. (Give yourself an hour!)

Shoobee Bop Bop

The first in a two-part series of concerts called composer=performer: plugged & unplugged is tonight at 8 pm Symphony Space and it features clarinetist Derek Bermel, flutist Valerie Coleman (of Imani Winds) and pianist Beata Moon, who will perform their own compositions.
Electric guitarist John King, vocalist Joan La Barbara and electro-violinist Todd Reynolds (of Ethel) will perform their compositions in part two on January 19. It's happening at Peter Norton (love that virus protection, Peter) Symphony Space, Leonard Nimoy Thalia (love those ears, Leonard), 2537 Broadway at 95th Street.

Alas, I won't be there. I'll be recovering from a champagne headache from the reception following the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award ceremony at Rose Hall where yours truly will be accepting the Internet Award for Sequenza21 on behalf of all of you folks who have made this a great little community for music creators and lovers. Thanks for all the good vibrations.

Now playing: Gurrelieder, Arnold Schoenberg, Choeurs et Orchestra de la Nouvelle Association Symphonique de Paris, Rene Leibowitz, conductor. LYS (Picked up in a bargain bin, better than Simon's version)

Mid-Day Update: I see that our buddy Brian Sacawa is about to introduce one of New York's most annoying traditions to the fair city of Tucson. That's right, this Sunday, Brian will be leading a chorus of "boombox carolers" through the streets of Tucson, each playing Phil Kline's "Unsilent Night." There goes the neighborhood.

Blackdogred was so blown away by Jack Reilly's Bill Evans post that he's now looking for piano teacher for himself in the Washington, D.C. area. Any ideas? He'd also like to know what a D-D-Sch chord is.
Old Music, New Music

When does music stop being "new music" and become old or classical? Fascinating question raised by Frank J. Oteri over at the NewMusicBox. My answer would be that some music is born old and some music is always new...The Boston Globe reports that Donald Martino had a heart attack after a diabetic episode while on a Caribbean cruise...Steve Smith is still feeling ambivalent toward "Tragedy" but is inclined to think it works a lot better than the consensus would have it. Having now seen it, I'm with Steve. In addition to demonstrating how truly awful "Gatsby" and "Streetcar" really were, "Tragedy" is an extremely effective piece of musical theater and one that I believe will have legs.

Check out Jack Reilly's amazing analysis of a Bill Evans piece. We're talking Nitty Gritty, folks.

Now playing: Dolmen Music, Meredith Monk, ECM 1197
A Postcard From New York

Talking About My Generation

Just listening to Coyote. Poor, doomed Jaco pounding out a mean bass line. If there is a cooler song then Joni wrote it, too. Maybe A Case of You or maybe that one with "knit you a sweater, write you a love letter."

We coulda been contenders.

Blackdogred has some useful advice for protecting your children from over-zealous piano teachers and soccer coaches...Jack Reilly dissects a Bill Evans masterpiece...Elodie Lauten writes about a most unusual flutist--Andrew Bolotowsky.

THIS JUST IN: counter)induction is playing some music by Columbia Composers tonight at 8 pm at the Yamaha Piano Salon, 689 Fifth Ave, 3rd floor (at 54th St.), including a piece by our homie Lanier Sammons who has a new piece incorporating electronic elements and a camera turned on the audience. That's what it says in his e-mail.
Zankel Dispatch

It was nice last night to chill out with the Cygnus Ensemble at Zankel. Cygnus, along with their many friends, paid tribute to composer Dina Kosten. Kosten, whose music was new to me, writes relatively dissonant music of thin, delicate textures. On the program were several small-scale chamber works, among which the �Quartet for Strings, Bowed and Plucked� was the highlight. Journalistic integrity compels me to admit that Kosten�s �Wordplay,� for unaccompanied mezzo-soprano, was the low-light. (CONtent/conTENT � get it??) Cygnus is one of the perennially bright stars in the new music firmament, and savvy concert-goers will want to keep them on the radar screen. They�ll play a Babbitt tribute at Merkin in April.
Picks to Click

Lawrence Dillon writes of the durable stillness of Kenneth Frazelle...Tom Myron makes friends with David Darling...Kyle Gann has a question over in the Composers Forum.

The massive Sibelius web site now has an English version. It opened on December 7, the day before the Great Finn's 140th anniversary.

On a sad note, NewMusicBox has an obituary of Stephen "Lucky" Mosko who died at 58.
Happy Birthday to Elliott Carter

Today is Elliott Carter's 97th birthday. Alan Theisen has a tribute...Everette Minchew reveals what he learned from Tori Amos...Meant to mention this earlier but Marc Geelhoed has his top 10 (11, actually) CDs of the 2005 up. I forgot the Pauline Viardot-Garcia CD or it would have made my list too.
It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas

Sick of "Hark, the Harelipped Angel Sings?" (That's how we sang it in my grade school.) "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" make you want to hurl? Be of good cheer, my friends. There's lot of wonderful choral music out there to please the sophisticated palette while still convincing the neighbors that you're a proper Jesus-loving American patriot.

Seven Last Words From the Cross
James MacMillan
Britten Sinfonia
Stephen Layton

A work of redemptive beauty, brilliantly performed by Stephen Layton's chamber choir Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia. A reminder of what Christmas is supposed to be about.

A Tribute
Arvo P�rt
Conductor: Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi

A tribute to Arvo P�rt on his 70th birthday--no Clapton appearance, sorry--is comprised of some of his finest and most popular works: The Berliner Messes, Magnificat, "Which Was the Son of..." and others. It also has a world-premiere recording of "Dopo la vittoria" (Following the Victory).

Paradisi Gloria
Frank Martin
M�nchner Rundfunkorchester
Profil - G Haenssler

A kind of greatest hits package by the finest writer of choral music of the 20th century.

Arnold Schoenberg
Accentus, ensemble intercontemporain

Not all choral and not the least bit religious but Schoenberg wrote beautifully for voice and the acapella group Accentus sings several of his shorter pieces heavenly.

Figure Humaine
Francis Poulenc
German RIAS-Kammerchor
Harmonia Mundi

This one isn't religious either but it's a tribute to the resiliancy of the human spirit. The title piece is based on Paul Eluard's poem Libert� and was published clandestinely in France in 1943 during the German occupation. Poulenc is Martin's main rival for choral champ.


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