Latest Blogger Updates

What's New in the Composers Forum

CD Reviews


Latest Podcasts at

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 31, 2005
Evan Johnson On the Record: Julius Eastman's Unjust Malaise

Unjust Malaise
Stay on It; If You�re So Smart, Why Aren�t You Rich?; Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc; The Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc; Gay Guerrilla; Evil Nigger; Crazy Nigger; Spoken Introduction to Northwestern U concert

Julius Eastman
Various performers
New World Records 80638 (3 CDs)

Like just about everyone else who has heard the name Julius Eastman, I knew it only from the cover of an old Nonesuch LP of Peter Maxwell Davies� Eight Songs for a Mad King, on which Eastman appeared as the vocal soloist with Davies conducting his own Fires of London ensemble. Like just about everyone else, I imagine, I assumed on this evidence that Eastman was an upper-crust tweedy Oxbridge chap, a Choral Scholar perhaps, who had somehow got the bug and given up Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford for the breathtakingly, painfully virtuosic extended vocal techniques of that remarkable performance of Eight Songs.

I could have been persuaded that Eastman was in fact American; but to think that the voice on that Nonesuch recording was a black man, assertively gay when that was even more problematic than it is now, whose life followed a dramatically tragic arc from studies at Curtis (piano with Mieczyslaw Horszowski) and a tenure with the University at Buffalo�s Creative Associates program to crack addiction and nights in Tompkins Square Park, strains credulity. And yet there are the photos in the booklet to prove it.

Much has already been written in the insular new-music-blog world about this release on New World Records and its pivotal role in reasserting the importance of a composer whose work has largely been lost to history only fifteen years after his death. Such a project is worthy in any case, certainly, but possibly of interest only to specialists and libraries. What makes this release valuable, in the end, is that the music here is unique, concentrated, and undeniably powerful.

There are seven pieces here, three for four pianos (in this recording, although they can also be played by multiples of any instrument), two for wind-heavy mixed chamber ensembles, one for ten cellos, and one for solo voice. Although the three multiple-piano works are demonstrably cousins, constructed similarly and inhabiting similar textural universes, the other pieces forge a much more diverse path; all that links one to the next is an abiding interest in the passage of time on its own terms, non-hierarchical and non-teleological forms, and an infectious harmonic ear.

Stay on It, a twenty-four-minute piece for eight performers, is an aggressively repetitive work based on a pop-style chord progression, and much of the interest in the piece is how these two ingredients eventually destroy each other. First, the pop-ness of the repeated gesture is emptied out through brute force � it is repeated so often that the initial shock of harmonic and rhythmic recognition is buried; and after that burial, miraculously at nearly the very moment it is complete, the referentiality itself begins to decay. The rhythm breaks; notes are held too long, creating a vaguely pentatonic haze; repetitions go off kilter, wailing voices and saxophones take flight and look back only occasionally. They reassemble, fitfully, aperiodically, for retrospective glances at the original riff, but the original concentration is lost and the ensemble simply can�t keep focus.

The eventual dissolution is slow, irregular, fitful, regressing often to a state of relative order, but in the end inevitable. The end is unexpectedly gentle, almost beatific. It is true, as Kyle Gann points out in the informative liner notes (thankfully, the term �Downtown� appears only in passing), that this piece predates Reich�s Music for 18 Musicians, and is generally prophetic in its looser, more assimilative approach to minimalism, compared to the strict process orientation that was still occupying Philip Glass and Steve Reich at the date of Stay on It�s composition in 1973. More importantly, though, it is beautiful, powerful, unique and charming in its own right.

It is worth mentioning here the most frustrating thing about this set. From what precious little I have been able to learn about Eastman�s music, its notation is extremely imprecise and coordination usually approximate; it is not at all clear, in each piece, what is written, what is improvised, and what is spontaneous happenstance. I wish there had been more specific information in the notes about what exactly these players had in front of them on the music stand. Given the vexed circumstances surrounding this release and of Eastman�s works and estate more generally, though, this shortcoming is understandable.

The next work on the first disc is rather puzzlingly titled If You�re So Smart, Why Aren�t You Rich? An excellent question, but less interesting than the piece itself, which is altogether remarkable in a way totally different from Stay on It. This is a wild piece that obstinately resists comprehension from the opening moments: a slow ascending chromatic scale played by a trumpet, up to the virtual ceiling of its performable range, followed by silences and repetitions of that high note before another trumpet finally enters two and a half minutes later, unstably reflecting the same pitch. The entrancing, aggressive puzzlement continues for more than twenty additional minutes, as more slow chromatic scales coalesce into massive Xenakis-esque brass masses interrupted by chime interludes and asymmetrically set off, a little more than halfway through, by a surprising and simply weird violin solo. (Some apparent distortion in the source recording during this passage unintentionally serves to heighten the effect.) It is this piece, more than any other on this collection, that makes it clear why Eastman was a musical outsider. Full of incident but impossible to assimilate, immune to prediction but not in retrospect unpredictable, utterly resistant to any expectations of form or proportion that we as listeners cannot avoid attempting to impose upon it, If You�re So Smart, Why Aren�t You Rich? is for me the most astonishingly uncompromising and resolutely singular music in this set. It�s not minimalist; it�s not pre-post-minimalist (as Stay on It might be described); it�s not anything, because it�s not like any other piece I�ve ever heard. (Gann, in the liner notes, links this piece to Petr Kotik�s improvisations with the SEM Ensemble, in which Eastman briefly took part.) It is simply and completely remarkable, extreme in its avoidance of anything predictable about the usage of motive or the structuring of time. If You�re So Smart is the best music here, and it is unforgettable.

Eastman�s own vocal prowess is on display in only one work here, and a very different work it is from the hysterical violence of Eight Songs for a Mad King. Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc, for solo voice, is as strongly repetitive as Stay on It and the multiple-piano pieces, but this repetition is different. In most of Eastman�s works here, obsessive repetition seems to be the symptom of superabundant energy that resists a syntactical frame, compulsive and uncontrollable and thus unarticulatable. The repetitions in Prelude are a wholly different phenomenon. Here they themselves contain the manic energy, which is always present on the margins � thanks largely to Eastman�s captivating performance � but is painfully restrained by the calm, slow litany of saints, almost chanted on a decorated descending D-minor arpeggio, each eventually exhorting the title martyr to �speak boldly when they question you.� This haunting work is repetitive because without that restraint � and we are allowed a glimpse, toward the end, of what lies behind it � the strength of the motivating impulse would destroy whatever coherence was imposed on it. Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc is, within its extremely tight constraints, perfect, and to hear Eastman sing it is a haunting and intense experience.

The Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc itself, a twenty-minute piece for ten cellos, comes next; the connection between this work and its Prelude are difficult to discern, aside from some passingly audible similarities in gesture, especially at the start and the end. It is a matter of harmony, perhaps, with chromatically inflected triads being the hovering background for both pieces, but compared to the Prelude, The Holy Presence of Joan D�Arc comes across as a bit diluted even as the musical surface is more active and more aggressive. The ten cellos produce an attractive surface web of mutually dissonant melodic threads above an everpresent fast pulse that occasionally scales a ladder of diatonic thirds, but the result has neither the involving concentration of the Prelude nor the aggressive energy of the first two pieces. The end, though, is stunning � a gently rocking figure, the material most reminiscent of the Prelude, generates a haze of held tones that diffract the figure�s harmony in a beautiful intervallic expansion before the return of the chugging motive that has determined the course of most of the piece. Although that motive eventually reconquers, the haze remains until the close.

The three multiple-piano pieces in this release have gotten most of the attention during this set�s brief existence, not least because of their aggressive titles (Gay Guerrilla, Evil Nigger, Crazy Nigger). Eastman gives an unexpectedly eloquent if occasionally inscrutable defense of these titles, an explanation of what they signify and why they are necessary, in introductory remarks (preserved on this recording) to the Northwestern University concert from which these performances were taken.

To my ear, though, these pieces are among the less memorable parts of a very memorable release. They possess an undeniable energy, and show a keenly intuitive ear for harmony and proportion; the textures and incredibly complex timbres (these pounded repeated notes in multiple pianos will pick up and mercilessly amplify any momentary lapse in the art of the most gifted piano tuner!) haunt the ear; but somehow these pieces seem to lack the wit and the absolutely fundamental inventiveness of (particularly) Stay on It and If You�re So Smart, Why Aren�t You Rich?

Two of the pieces in the multiple-piano set, Gay Guerrilla and Evil Nigger, are under half an hour in length. Gay Guerrilla begins in a gentle cloud of repeated D�s and A�s which, inevitably, expands slowly, to include F and B, and then G, and then E, and so on. Eastman has a sure touch in the imperceptible adjustment of harmony and texture by changing register, frequency and dynamics of each of these pitches, and the piece proceeds from there. Somehow, the Morse-code rhythmic patterning that was just a shimmer at the start begins to assert its driving identity; the harmonies continue to change, the textures come in waves, and the Lutheran chorale melody �Ein feste Burg� appears unexpectedly in the bass before the piece fades upwards into the ether. Gay Guerrilla is a well-made piece, certainly ahead of its time, boasting many beautiful moments and a sure musical intuition. That having been said, it does lack the last ounce of urgency present in the mixed-ensemble works.

Evil Nigger is a different story. The notes and the repetitions come hard and fast here; as in Stay on It, a pop-inflected motive (complete with Eastman�s counting-in shouts, audible on the background, of �one-two-three-four�) serves as a linchpin for a rapid-fire, dissonant assault that has few other recognizable landmarks. In another context, these gently �off� harmonies would be ethereal and soothing, which only increases the effectiveness of the shattering, bruising energy of forty fingers furiously pounding that permeates every second of the performance. The ending of Evil Nigger could, on the basis of the small sample presented here, justly be called �Eastmanian�, for it is as unexpected as it is apt; the accumulated energy suddenly lifts, and a slow-moving swarm of single notes with no discernable harmonic or textural relationship to each other or to what came before acts as a brick wall against which the battering ram of the previous twenty minutes violently splinters.

The last multiple-piano work, Crazy Nigger, lasts almost an hour in this performance. Morton Feldman famously declared that �up to one hour you think about form, but after an hour and a half it's scale,� but Eastman seems to place that fence a little sooner, because the use of time in Crazy Nigger is different than that of the shorter pieces. Gay Guerrilla has rhythmic motives, and Evil Nigger has its basic phrase, but in Crazy Nigger little melodic bits come and go over an undifferentiated background of repeated pitches, always played in several octaves simultaneously. For the first half hour of the piece there is no durable reference point other than sheer regular repetition, and the difference in result is precisely that between scale and form. We do not hear sections or contrasts; we hear the passage of time, the accumulation of memory and precedent and little else. This is not to say that there are no large-scale divisions � there are, mostly articulated by large, sudden shifts in dynamics. But when they occur, they are always surprising, unexpected, somehow foreign, and soon forgotten � at least until the piece nears its end, when the contrasts come more rapidly and more fundamentally. As always, it seems, with Eastman, the end is beautiful and unusually effective; the twists and turns begin to come quickly as the forty-minute mark approaches, as the repetition that has been our constant companion asserts itself in more diverse phenomena, and the dissolution of the close comes less as relief than as transfiguration.

A lot has been written about this recording � as far as I can tell, universally in praise. That, along with the distracting drama of Eastman�s life story and the circumstances of the production of this release, is enough to make anyone skeptical; but, for the most part, the praise is warranted. This is an important release not only because of its musico-historical utility, but � primarily � because it would really have been a shame for this music not to be heard by more people, a fate that until now seemed inevitable. There are a few weak spots � particularly The Holy Presence of Jean D�Arc � but the first of the three discs, containing Stay on It, If You�re So Smart, Why Aren�t You Rich? and Prelude to the Holy Presence of Jean d�Arc, is a particularly special experience, and the whole thing is urgently recommended.
K�chel This.

I'm looking forward to the year of Mozart with the same degree of fervor with which I view another three years of the Bush administration, which is to say you don't need to drag out the "happy" part of "Happy New Year" on my account. Dumping a Mozart celebration onto the world after five years of the most depressing run of nasty events in most of our lifetimes seems excessive punishment but, fortunately, I suppose, most Americans won't even know about it. There is something to be said for being fat and stupid and nobody does it better than we do.

But, I rant. Stephanie Lubkowski is back with a report on her first semester at NEC and Blackdogred has some pointers to the best downloads of 2006. I have a review of the new Julius Eastman from Evan Johnson that I'll post here after my afternoon nap.

What do we know about a group called the Clogs, who will be playing at the Bowery Ballroom on January 22.
David Salvage Reviewed at Free Albums Galore

The S21/NNM Wiki Listening Room gets a little exposure. David's Pieces for Violin, Cello and Piano is currently being featured at Free Albums Galore. This is a site/blog that promotes legal and legitimate online album releases on a regular basis, treating online albums as if they were bought through stores. I've never seen them review a single 'song' before. The guy that does the reviews, Luke, seems to have a real interest in contemporary music. He reviewed my album Espace a couple of months ago.

If there was any doubt that putting up a page at the Wiki and adding an MP3 to the Listening Room generates attention that should be dispelled by now. The Wiki is currently getting about 60,000 hits a month. And I've got a few plans for the Listening Room, that should make browser based listening through the Wiki even more compelling. Forrest from the Folktunes wiki has developed a plugin that lets you make the listening experience a lot nicer and I'll be integrating that into our wiki as soon as he gets back from vacation.

And I'd like to make a brief mention of a new project of mine, for any S21 composers that have new MP3's. It's called and is a tagged MP3 aggregator. The intention is that there be an RSS newsfeed that will list new contemporary music MP3's and that that can be transformed into podcasts, RSS feeds and auto-generated blog listings. hosts these feeds and is also a blog. Please use it only for new MP3's , though. And If none of this last paragraph makes sense, check out the site and read the howto top article. It's not that hard to announce your new tunes/non-tunes/anti-tunes.
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

The little woman and I will be preambulating six blocks north to see Die Fledermaus at the Met for what seems like the 400th time but is probably only our ninth or tenth. We started going there because it is easy walking distance and the chances of getting a taxi in New York on New Year's Eve are about as good as the possibility of peace spontaneously breaking out in the Middle East. We generally leave after Count Orlovsky's party at which Thomas Hampson is likely to show up and sing "Man of La Mancha" and other Met "stars" sing favorite crowd pleasers from Broadway and Italian opera. It's moderately diverting but I wish now we had booked Angela Gheorghiu at the Philharmonic instead. What are your plans?

Arnie the puppy dog (or maybe Corey Dargel) has some thoughts about teaching music theory and history in the Composers Forum...Elodie Lauten reveals a secret location where you can hear Patti Smith and Philip Glass perform this Sunday...Alan Theisen has a validiction for 2005...Jacob Sudol recalls the best of Montreal concerts for the year...and Blackdogred has more on radio station KEXP.
No. 100 With a Bullet

Mark Stryker has a swell profile of Sean Hickey in the Detroit Free Press today that reveals, among other things, that selling 119 copies of a CD in a single week will get you onto the Billboard Top 100 Classical charts. At Naxos prices, that's a bargain.

Seth Gordon reports Derek Bailey, the legendary improv guitarist, died a few days ago. There's three hours of Bailey music posted here on WFMU.

Pretty quiet here on the eastern front. Evan has a review of Alvin Lucier's latest below and Jack Reilly has been doing some thinking out loud.
Evan Johnson On the Record: Inside Alvin Lucier's Space

In Memoriam Stuart Marshall, 40 Rooms, In Memoriam Jon Higgins, Letters, Q, A Tribute to James Tenney, Bar Lazy J, Fideliotrio, Wind Shadows
Alvin Lucier
The Barton Workshop
New World 80628-2 (2 CDs)

Alvin Lucier�s music uniquely requires space. Not just those pieces that explicitly invoke it � through spatialization, overt resonance, or even echolocation � but all of his indescribably ear-bending music, with its impossibly close tunings and persistent timbres that burrow and swim in your head and occupy the air in all of its thick three-dimensionality. I had the rare privilege of seeing several pieces by Lucier performed live at the 2005 June in Buffalo festival, and it is difficult to imagine the shimmeringly transcendent experience being repeatable on record, even with a far better audio setup than mine. With that caveat, though, this is a brilliant collection of first recordings of nine works spanning the last twenty years, several of them written for the Barton Workshop.

In its own way, Lucier�s work is a powerful antidote to all aesthetic and stylistic debates. It returns us to the reason that music exists in the first place, the reason it is compelling to the human consciousness: the inherent affective power of the conjunction of two tones. Confronted with the surprising power of these disarmingly simple environments, everything else seems superfluous. All but two of the pieces on this two-CD set involve the slow, almost methodical exploration of small intervals through juxtaposition and transformation; the process may be objective, arithmetic and unambiguous, but the results are beautiful in the extreme. They remind us that beauty can be uncomfortable and alien, and that it can emerge in the most unexpected places.

It is too easy to describe a Lucier piece in words � so easy that it might seem unnecessary to listen. (Perhaps we should call this situation the �Cage Effect� in honor of the tiresomely endless debate over 4�33�; Lucier�s I Am Sitting in a Room, which is easily characterized as a simple experiment in feedback recording but whose aesthetic impact is indescribable, is perhaps the most dramatic example.) A pair of memorial pieces, In Memoriam Stuart Marshall and In Memoriam Jon Higgins, confront a soloist (bass clarinet in Marshall, B flat clarinet in Higgins) with a single sine tone; in the first piece it stays constant, while in the second it rises continuously and almost imperceptibly across the entire range of the clarinet over the piece�s twenty-minute duration. In the first piece, the clarinetist (here the superhuman John Anderson) produces a series of 43 small intervals in relation to the constant sine tone; in the second, he is responsible for a series of tones that intersect the slanting line of the rising electronic glissando, producing a continually changing pattern of strikingly perceptible beatings.

And that is all. A scientific experiment or acoustical demonstration rather than music, perhaps. A concept piece, interesting to ponder but unnecessary to sit through. It may seem so; but the results, particularly In Memoriam Jon Higgins, are devastating in their affective impact, and they will stay with you for a long time. Lucier played an excerpt from Higgins at a lecture at June in Buffalo, and when he switched it off I was taken aback by the power of my own desire to hear the rest � I knew I liked the piece, but I didn�t know I loved it until it was wrenched away.

Not all of the pieces in this set share the ascetic concentration of the In Memoriam pieces. Letters, a bagatelle for Lucier at six minutes, is a quintet whose score consists entirely of a musical transcription of the lines and curves described by the letters in a short message of greeting to a festival organizer (�HELLO BJORN CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 100TH CONCERT��). The pitches are almost all C, E flat, F#, or A, with curvy glissandi interposed as required; the result is light and witty, almost silly, but still possessed of the meditative focus that is Lucier�s fingerprint. 40 Rooms, by contrast, is a product of Lucier�s relatively recent interest in the possibilities of detaching and recontextualizing local acoustic environments with computer technology. The musical material is quite different here, with as many notes played in a few minutes as can probably be found on the entire rest of the pieces on this recording; but, as the booklet thought-provokingly point out, the notes here are absolutely immaterial. The focus of 40 Rooms is on the acoustical properties of each of these notes from each of these particular physical instruments, in their unique patterns of decay, resonance, and bloom, as the instrumentalists are digitally placed in a series of artificial resonant environments.

There are nine pieces on these discs, and sitting through even one can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating; this is not a record to be listened to in the space of two-plus hours, then, but it could make for an amazing weekend.

Lucier is one of the American greats, and as unrecordable as his work may be, this is a major release, one of the records of the year for sure. Kudos all around � to the Barton Workshop for their absolute mastery of the unique demands of these scores, to New World Records for the enterprising commercial venture, and to Lucier himself for reminding us why music is worth our time in the first place.
Dog Years

It was a dog of a year, Elodie Lauten writes. Go read her lament and then come back here and tell us what the highs and lows of your year were--musical or otherwise. (Hey, it's a slow week and a perfect time for navel-gazing)...One of the high spots of Jack Reilly's year was discovering that there are these things called blogs. (That's short for web log, Jack.)

Which reminds me that Alex Shapiro, Drew McManus and I have been asked to do a session called "Blogging (or how to build an audience without leaving home)" at the Chamber Music America National Conference on the morning of January 13. Come by and help us out if you're attending or, if you're not, give us some advice. I'm particularly interested in hearing about the possibilities the web offers beyond blogging which, frankly, requires more attention than most people are willing to give it in order to work.

Which reminds me that on January 3, any individual blogs that haven't been updated in the past month go into my inactive file and the link disappears from the main page.

Marvin Rosen is doing two editions of Classical Discoveries next week that are totally devoted to new music. The first will be this Saturday morning, December 31 from 6:00 to 9:00 am (Eastern time) and will be totally devoted to composers 30 years old and younger. The second program will be next Wednesday morning, January 4th from 6:00 to 11:00 and will be totally devoted to music from the 21st century.
Both of these will be aired on WPRB from Princeton, NJ (103.3 FM) and can be listened on line at

Just noticed that Kyle Gann has awarded some of us titles over at his blog. Jeff Harrington is "official curmudgeon," I'm the "official instigator" and Lawrence Dillon is the "social conscience" of Sequenza21. I'd have to say that Kyle is our "spiritual guru."
Wilma delays, but doesn't stop, new music in South Florida

Just as the musical season was getting under way down here in South Florida, Hurricane Wilma came along (on Oct. 24) and gave us quite a beating. The storm temporarily derailed what was beginning to be rather an interesting season with plenty of new music on various programs.

Here's a brief look at some of them:

Festival Miami, the annual October music blowout at the University of Miami, featured a concert of 10 works by nine faculty members: Thomas Sleeper, Ferdinando De Sena, Dennis Kam, Colby Leider, Raul Murciano Jr., Robert Gower, Lansing McLoskey, Scott Stinson, and J.B. Floyd.

For me, the two most persuasive works were the Sonata (Ibis) for violin, violoncello, clarinet and piano, by Kam, and the Seven Miniatures for violin and piano by Sleeper, both composed this year.

Kam's piece, played by the Ibis Camerata for which it was written, is a tightly argued, serious work in one 12-minute movement that makes wide and satisfying use of its basic material. It's a contemporary take on old-fashioned sonata form, and it works beautifully, from the opening statement in the piano to the bluesy five-note motif that becomes a critical signpost throughout the piece.

Sleeper's Seven Miniatures, meanwhile, is a good example of how to say a lot in a small space. The short individual pieces include a lovely slow meditation built around a four-note motto (No. 3) and an aggressive, Bartokian finale (No. 7). Whirling, buzzing triplets in the violin dominate No. 2, while two repeated, dry pizzicato notes provide the nagging momentum for No. 5. There is a larger arc to the work as well, with miniatures 3 through 6 acting as a kind of slow movement. It's a fine piece, and one that deserves more hearings.

I also enjoyed De Sena's Directed Ambience, a serious, often sparse piece for solo harp. What stands out here is the thematic focus of the writing, which gives prominence to melodic lines and subtle chord changes rather than atmospheric effect. It's intimate music with something personal to say, and it says it well.

(I reviewed these pieces in two postings at my blog: Six of the pieces were for traditional forces; four were sound collages of one kind or another. Here's the link.)

Wilma disrupted two other new-music events: the Florida premiere of the Mass by David Maslanka (rescheduled for February) and the world premiere of the Symphony No. 2 by Roberto Sierra, which will now take place in April.

In the meantime, the New World Symphony (the orchestral academy steered by Michael Tilson Thomas) in Miami Beach opened its season with the Lichtenstein Trilogy of Kenji Bunch. The concert was sold out, but it was broadcast live on local public radio. I found Bunch's piece very accessible, cannily crafted, and colorfully orchestrated, but too beholden to its pop-culture sources. It makes an attractive concert piece, but it's too derivative to make a memorable statement (here's my full review).

Elsewhere, in a new, tiny concert series in Boca Raton, the principal cellist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Robert deMaine, presented a fascinating program in October of music by Bach, Hindemith, Cassado and deMaine himself.

The three �tudes-caprices deMaine performed are old-fashioned showpieces, but not in terms of melodic or harmonic language. They were composed in 1999 and collected under his Op. 31. No. 4 in D (Reveries) was a passionate exploration of harmonics, double stops and glissandi that was dominated by a climbing, soaring melody that often rose into the high registers.

No. 3 in G (Brasil) uses two Brazilian folk songs to memorable effect, the first a gorgeously harmonized, sweet, slow tune; the second a dazzling dance in which deMaine builds the tension with a recurring half-step twitch that allows the music to gather its breath before dashing out for another round.

DeMaine's other �tude-caprice (No. 12 in B-flat) was a set of three extravagant variations on The Star-Spangled Banner. I think the piece could have used another variation or two (perhaps make it a separate work, broken out from the rest of the etudes); as is, it's a delightfully showy number with built-in audience appeal.

Finally, Klavier Records, also of Boca Raton, released a disc this month featuring the last concert recorded by Alfred Reed, the veteran composer who died in September at 84. Many of us who've spent time playing in concert bands (I was in the horn section) venerated Reed; this July 2004 live concert recorded in Tokyo with Kawasaki's Senzoku Gakuen Symphonic Wind Orchestra is an impressive overview of Reed's work.

In addition to his gritty Third Symphony (1988), Reed conducts the Japanese ensemble in two works inspired by Shakespeare, two works with Spanish and Caribbean accents, and a wind band arrangement of his Joyeux Noel, written in 1998 for brass ensemble.

The disc is a good Christmas present for lovers of symphonic band music, which doesn't get the credit it deserves for the fundamental role it has played in American classical music.
Your Table is Ready, Mr. Camus

Okay, I'll say it. I hate Christmas. Discovering that Santa Claus really works for Wal-Mart and the whole thing is an elaborate con to move merchandise may only be the first in a series of lifelong disallusionments, but it's one that sticks, especially if your first few Christmases really were magical and filled with love. Nobody ever recovers from a happy childhood.

Like many Americans, we sought refuge from all the excess good cheer at our local metroplex, plunging headlong into the gloomy waters of Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck, which only served to remind me of how transient and fleeting are our small, individual triumphs over the march of evil and how the French are right when they say that the more things change the more they stay the same. No Santa Claus, madmen in Congress, and the CIA playing hit man for Big Oil. Merry Christmas, Mr. Cheney.

Oddly enough, my loss of faith in institutions has been equally matched by an enhanced appreciation for the people I know--in real life and here in the virtual world. The impulse to share common interests, to build communities, to believe that we can somehow touch each others'lives through music and words, is a reason to go on and hope that decency will ultimately prevail. My thanks to George Clooney for being the conscience of Hollywood and thanks to all of you for your good companionship over the past year.
Merry Cat-mas (Or Whatever You Say At Your House)


12/19/2004 - 12/25/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/08/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/15/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/22/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/29/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/05/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/12/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/19/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/26/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/05/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/12/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/19/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/26/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/02/2005 04/03/2005 - 04/09/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/16/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/23/2005 04/24/2005 - 04/30/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/07/2005 05/08/2005 - 05/14/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/21/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/28/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/04/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/11/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/18/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/25/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/02/2005 07/03/2005 - 07/09/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/16/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/23/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/30/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/06/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/13/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/20/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/27/2005 08/28/2005 - 09/03/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/10/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/17/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/24/2005 09/25/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/02/2005 - 10/08/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/15/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/22/2005 10/23/2005 - 10/29/2005 10/30/2005 - 11/05/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/12/2005 11/13/2005 - 11/19/2005 11/20/2005 - 11/26/2005 11/27/2005 - 12/03/2005 12/04/2005 - 12/10/2005 12/11/2005 - 12/17/2005 12/18/2005 - 12/24/2005 12/25/2005 - 12/31/2005 01/01/2006 - 01/07/2006 01/08/2006 - 01/14/2006 01/15/2006 - 01/21/2006 01/22/2006 - 01/28/2006 01/29/2006 - 02/04/2006 02/05/2006 - 02/11/2006 02/12/2006 - 02/18/2006 02/19/2006 - 02/25/2006 02/26/2006 - 03/04/2006 03/05/2006 - 03/11/2006 03/12/2006 - 03/18/2006 03/19/2006 - 03/25/2006 03/26/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/02/2006 - 04/08/2006 04/09/2006 - 04/15/2006 04/16/2006 - 04/22/2006 04/23/2006 - 04/29/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/06/2006 05/07/2006 - 05/13/2006 05/14/2006 - 05/20/2006 05/21/2006 - 05/27/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/03/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/10/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/17/2006 06/18/2006 - 06/24/2006 06/25/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/08/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/15/2006 07/16/2006 - 07/22/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/29/2006 07/30/2006 - 08/05/2006 08/06/2006 - 08/12/2006 08/13/2006 - 08/19/2006 08/20/2006 - 08/26/2006 08/27/2006 - 09/02/2006 09/03/2006 - 09/09/2006 09/10/2006 - 09/16/2006

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to this feed listing