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Jerry Bowles
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David Salvage

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

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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, March 18, 2006
Tech & Techno at Zankel Hall

The idea of melding electronics with traditional orchestral instruments is not exactly new or earthshaking but opportunities to actually hear such "hybrid" music performed by a large, professional orchestra are few and far between. New concert music of any kind is a tough sale and finding an orchestra that will take a chance on music written for a limited audience by relatively unknown composers is about as hard as finding a willing hunting partner for Dick Cheney. Throw in electronica, with the potential to create loud, screechy, electronic burps and other rude noises and you could have an audience consisting solely of the composers' proud parents and friends.

That's why the American Composers Orchestra is so indispensible. Under music director Steven Sloane, the ACO fearlessly goes where others do not dare and--just as important--it can reliably fill a small hall like Zankel with sympathetic listeners for adventuresome programs.

Last night was "Tech & Techo" night with four--count 'em--world premieres of ACO commissions. A fifth piece--Mason Bates' Omnivorous Furniture, which made its New York debut--was the only piece not specifically created for occasion. As Frank J. Oteri, who apparently never sleeps, explains here, the ACO ventured full-force into this territory with its Orchestral Tech initiative in 2001--an event greatly overshadowed by the WTC disaster a month earlier.

Overall, it was a strong, convincing program. The crowd-pleaser of the evening was Neil Rolnick's iFiddle Concerto, played by the amazing Todd Reynolds, who showed incredible dexterity in manipulating the more or less hidden electronic plumbing without missing a single virtuostic turn on the violin. Reynolds is a jazzy player who eats syncopation for lunch and Rolnick's score provided him with the opportunity to gorge himself silly. The piece is conventional in pitting the soloist against the orchestra but the greybeards (it�s ironic that many of the best players of new music in town are fifty- and sixty-somethings) in the ACO more than held their own.

Justin Messina's Abandon was a perfect opener; light on the electronics, subtle on the rhythms, arrmed with a couple of complex competing themes, vividly decorated with fast notes from the vibraphone and piano. Mason Bates' Omnivorous Furniture had some gorgeous string writing although it went on a bit too long and, in places, sounded like Mancini on steroids and in, others, like Mancini on quaaludes. My personal favorite of the evening was Edmund Campion�s stunningly nuanced Practice which showed the Dallas-born composer�s deep French roots, especially his study at IRCAM and with Gerard Grisey. It make a strong case that spectralism is one of the most promising avenues for this type of music. And, who knew you get such musical bang out of a triangle?

The final piece on the program was Call Them All: Fantasy Projections for Film, Laptop, and Orchestra by Skokie, Illinois-native Daniel Bernard Roumain, aka DBR, described in press releases as a "charismatic Haitian-American composer and classical violinist." Roumain�s piece was �multimedia� in the sense that it included a video by Janet Wong featuring Bill T. Jones as narrator with DJ Scientific on-stage adding real time �club scene sounds� to the orchestral texture of Roumain�s music. None of these elements were particularly related to each other or especially compelling on their own. Roumain�s music�which appeared to be more of an arrangement of a familiar spiritual than something original--sounded as if it were lifted from the Randy Newman �Good Ol� Boys� orchestration fake book. Wong�s film reminded me of mercifully lost Super 8 masterpieces that artist friends of mine were making in illegal Soho lofts 40 years ago. DJ Scientific was apparently there for street cred, ghettos being in short supply in Skokie.

Bill T. Jones is a compelling dancer but his film �memories��of favorite trees and overpasses and of disposing of a skunk and being poor in upstate New York�were pointless, ordinary and unrelated to the stereotypical �black� experience that Roumain�s music was trying so desperately to evoke. The whole exercise felt like a shiny new Bottega Veneta briefcase, filled with old celebrity photos, cornbread crumbs and stale shuck and jive.
You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

In a comment over on the Naxos Blog, our amigo Frank J. Oteri lobbied for Naxos to release the complete piano music of Harald Saeverud in the U.S. Mark Berry points out that it's already available here--through One of the many paradigm-shifting things about the web is that it makes music distribution truly global and adds an enormous number of nonconventional sources to the standard "record" company pipeline. For example, the LA Phil is making its much-buzzed minimalist jukebox concerts available on iTunes. Anastasia Tsioulcas had an excellent article on downloading called "Classical Takes the Digial Leap" but, I just checked and it's no longer up on the web. (Update: Anastasia just put it back up--for a limited time. Pounce.)

Here's a rash prediction: record stores and movie theaters are going away and they're never coming back. Adapt or die.
Sofia Does Philadelphia

I had been anticipating the Philadelphia Orchestra�s premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina�s Feast During a Plague for some time. The Orchestra had never performed any of Gubaidulina�s work � I had heard that her music was rarely performed in general � and, conducted by Simon Rattle, the Friday, February 17th concert seemed one of the more significant events of Philadelphia�s new music season.

Halfway through the program notes before the concert began, my curiosity was piqued by the description of Gubaidulina�s unapologetic religiousness. �I can�t make a single musical decision except with the goal of making a connection to God,� she commented. The sweep of her composition seemed to confirm this visionary approach; sections of the orchestra moved as one and traded dramatic gestures. One phrase leaping from the lower strings to harp and piano sent shivers up my spine.

Suddenly, (Spoiler warning!) over the loudspeakers exploded a blast of techno so noisy and generic that I believed a terrible mistake had occurred. I was vicariously embarrassed for the Kimmel Center and imagined that somewhere, someone was getting fired. The techno disappeared and returned on and off several times, playing in chunks of maybe a minute each, for most of the latter third of the piece. Rattle was unfazed. He kept a fierce hold over the orchestra, which could not be heard over the thud of the electronica. I gripped my chair.

Feast concluded with orchestration unsullied or �bedeviled by the mysterious intruder. It was triumphant. Audience members leapt their feet in what I imagined to be an expression of sympathetic solidarity. But perhaps I was wrong. As I soon discovered, the program helpfully prepares a dedicated reader, �Then there is an intervention from a new sound source�.[T]he piece moves as a dialogue between the orchestra, in scurrying and melodic strains, against the music from beyond.�

And so what to make of this music from beyond? It was difficult to imagine that Gubaidulina was asking us to regard the techno as a traditional element of her composition, as one among several aesthetic elements. I began to consider the source of her work, one of four �little tragedies� by beloved Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, and, in fact, a significantly modified translation of a poem by a Scottish contemporary of Pushkin�s, John Wilson.

The scene features a group of revelers who have come together during an outbreak of the plague. One of their frequent companions has just died. Two prostitutes belong to the group, one of whom, Mary, sings a folk ballad about a woman who wishes that, if she dies of the plague, her lover, �Watch, but watch you from afar off/ When they bear her corpse away!� The second prostitute, Louisa, ridicules Mary but, at the sight of a passing wagon carrying the dead, faints.

The play�s main character, the �Chairman� Walsingham, remarks, �The cruel are weaker than the tender.� The central drama of this short play, however, is his own hard-heartedness and refused salvation. He sings a song that he himself has composed in honor of the plague, �All, all that threatens to destroy/ Fills mortal hearts with secret joy�And blest is he who can attain/ That ecstasy in storm and strife!� Gubaidulina�s piece is dedicated to Rattle�was she testing his capacity for ecstasy in the storm and strife of conducting over the top of bad techno?

Does Gubaidulina suggest that techno is a plague, that though we may strive to protect ourselves from what we cannot make peace with, it will reach us and those we love, even as we try to shut ourselves in the pleasures of what we understand? Is techno here Gubaidulina�s �wholly other�?

At the conclusion of Pushkin�s scene, a priest enters and reminds the Chairman first of his dead mother, then of his dead wife, trying to tie the nihilistic main character back to his society and conscience, might also, paradoxically, be represented by the �music from beyond.� At the mention of his wife, the Chairman exclaims, �Swear to me, lifting your pale/ And withered hand to Heaven, to leave/ That name forever silenced in the grave!� Similarly, the dialogue between the techno and orchestra prompts from the latter, ��a vociferous outburst�followed by a barrage of percussion against wide string chords.� Do we respond to the rude awakening of our connection to what we would like to remain separate from ourselves prompt a rejection as bold as the Chairman�s? At the priest�s departure, Walsingham falls into �deep contemplation,� overshadowed by the priest�s interruption, though unable to follow him. What of our own ambivalence?

Note: All quotations of �A Feast During the Plague,� by Alexander Pushkin, from Alexander Pushkin: The Little Tragedies, translated, with critical essays, by Nancy K. Anderson (Yale University Press, � 2000).
Name That Composer

Tom Myron is having a Name That Composer contest. Winner gets an unspecified prize...Lawrence Dillon reviews percusssionist/composer J.B. Smith...Jay C. Batzner is about to under that cruel and unusual form of academic torture known as "defending your dissertation"...And Blackdogred's hero Stephin Merrit proves he's no Patti Lupone.
All the Young Dudes

Here's something that will make all you 20-somethings feel about as ancient as I do most days. Matthew Cmiel, the 17-year-old winner of a 2005 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award and of first place in the 2005 National Federation of Music Clubs Young Composer Competition, has formed a band called Formerly Known As Classical and they will present their first concert on March 28 at Temple United Methodist Church, 65 Beverly Street (at Shields Street) in San Francisco.

Here's the really annoying part--the program is titled Since We Were Born, which in this case means written since 1988 when the oldest of these cute little devils was born.

The program consists of John Adams� piano duo Halleluiah Junction, Terry Riley�s Cancion Desiertos for violin and guitar, David Conte�s Of A Summer Evening for guitar duo, Osvaldo Golijov�s The Last Round for string chamber orchestra, as well as pieces by the group�s resident composers. Preben Antonsen, also winner of a 2005 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award and a 2005 BMI Student Composer Award, will present Nicklecurve for violin and piano. Cmiel will present his Sonata for Lou Harrison for violin and piano.

Good work, Matthew. Looks like a terrific way to meet chicks.
Gutbucket: Messiaen-ic Punk

Gutbucket's Sludge Test is the latest salvo in the war against genre barriers. Accordingly, the Cantaloupe Music-released disc doesn�t make a reviewer�s job easy, but here�s my attempt at encapsulation: imagine jazz approached from metal on one side and contemporary classical, primarily of the Downtown variety, on the other. And now imagine that after the ensuing crash, klezmer, noise, Primus, and Roxy Music�s first album pull up in the next lane to rubberneck. Got it?

The group, consisting of sax, guitar, and rhythm section, looks like a quartet, plays like a band, and doesn�t quite sound like either. Head melodies and solos might make an occasional appearance, but they're not what the music is about. Likewise, rock energy is at the heart of what Gutbucket does, but it�s not the whole story. The group�s sectional approach to composition, which juxtaposes as much as it joins, is where the meat is. Tracks like �Money Management for a Better Life� and �Punkass Rumbledink� are onslaughts of riffs, licks, crashes, and squeals. �Circadian Mindfuck� and �Throsp%� offer glimpses of calm, but eventually refuse to give in. �Disciplining the Fugitive� and �Where Have You Gone, Mr. Squeegeeman?� are engaging rides through some of Sludgefest�s most lyrical, most frenzied, and most subdued (well, comparatively) moments. Then, there�s the concluding Messiaen cover. Yes, that�s right, Messiaen � in particular, �Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes� from Quatuor pour la fin du temps. Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, the piece fits in perfectly once adapted for Gutbucket�s instrumentation.

I should warn listeners, however, that Gutbucket probably isn�t for everybody. As their naming conventions suggest, there�s something crass about the music; they�re loud, dissonant, and unapologetic. Accordingly, how I�d really like to see the labeling dilemma end is with these guys christened the New Punk. There�s a lot more to offend your parents with on Sludge Test than can be found on the collected discographies of today�s preened, major label �punk� bands. There�s a lot more to be excited about too.

A quick note for those of you who�d like to see take the test in person and live in New York, Gutbucket are playing a CD release on March 15th at Northsix in Brooklyn and at the Whitney on the 24th with labelmates Ethel.
A New Dynamic From Indiana

The nice folks at the Music Department at Indiana University Southeast have passed along a copy of the first release on their new record label, New Dynamic Records, and it's an outstanding launch to what promises to be an important new music venture.

The new CD is called Influence and includes works by Joan Tower, Michael Torke, Perry Goldstein, Robert Gibson, and Lu Pei, that were "influenced" by an outside source. For example, Goldenstein's Motherless Child Variations is influenced by Lithuanian folksongs and Joan Tower's Petroushates display a light touch of Celtic sea shanties. (Okay, okay, I jest.)

The recording is a splendid introduction to the work of five contemporary composers, some of them the usual suspects, but also a couple of promising fresh faces. Lu Pei's 9/11-influenced Xian He Ge/Song of Consonance reveals a distinct and intriguing musical voice that makes you want to hear more. The performances--by the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, Eighth Blackbird Ensemble and the Amelia Piano Trio--are all first-rate and the sound quality is exceptional.

The record label is part of a larger initiative entitled The New Music Project, which "seeks to discover, perform, record, and distribute new music by both established and emerging composers of this century." It is run by Dr. Erich Stem, composer and assistant professor of music and instructor of music theory and composition, who says one of the goals of project is to make the label into an all-IU Southeast produced line of CD recordings that will combine the talents of faculty and student performers, recording engineers, graphic artists, designers, web developers, and business majors. They're off to a good start.
Ensembles, Anyone?

The following notice just appeared in my inbox from Ian Moss at AMC:

The 2006 edition of the American Music Center's Contemporary Music Ensembles Directory is now available exclusively on

For the first time, the directory features a fully searchable database that will be updated continually throughout the year. The directory contains descriptions and contact information for more than 700 ensembles and institutions throughout the United States and is more than double the size of the previous edition. Subscribers can search by name, city, state, postal code, ensemble type, or any combination thereof. The directory also contains tips for whether the ensemble prefers to receive scores, recordings, or both when reviewing material. This is a tremendously valuable resource for any composer looking to get his or her music into the hands of capable, enthusiastic performers!

Subscriptions cost $30 ($15 for current AMC members) and are good for one year. Anyone may subscribe here.
If You Knew Sushi Like I Know Sushi

True or false: if you don't make a living from selling your music you are not a composer, you are a hobbyist? Everette Minchew responds to Randy Nordschow's provocative article in NewMusicbox...Lawrence Dillon reports on a musical called The Dead, based on the last chapter of the Dubliners...Elodie Lauten knows where to find some terrfic artwork you can actually afford and...Blackdogred has discovered "Latin-Alternative"...Remember that bizarre scene from the news a couple of weeks ago of a cheerleader being carried off the floor on a stretcher, still waving her arms like a brave little robot? Rusty Banks has been having nightmares ever since.
Woke Up This Morning. Got Myself a Gun.

Everybody's favorite goombah is back tonight. I'm seriously pumped. I prefer my thugs on HBO instead of Washington (although it looks like we're stuck with both)...Speaking of tough guys, congrats to Syracuse for surviving four nights of rugby at Madison Square Garden to win the Big East title. One Villanova player was seriously injured in the semi-finals on Friday night, which is what happens when workers are forced to perform in totally unregulated environments. Big East referees are apparently under pressure from management to not call fouls because "it slows down the game." As if the 80/40 ratio of minutes of commercials to minutes of play really speeds things up and anyway the players are only "performers" and therefore expendable. Is there anything left that has not been corrupted?

James Levine is out for the season as a result of a nasty fall in Boston's Symphony Hall. The Met is scrambling for replacements. Get your resume over there stat.

Norah Jones and Richard Julian have a country band called the "Little Willies" that has a self-titled CD just out with some western swingclassics like Bob Wills "Roly Poly," along with some Big Willie's "Nightlife" and "I Gotta Get Drunk." It's not Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys by a long shot but it's fun and the band is anchored by a kick-ass guitar picker named Jim Compilongo, Master of the Telecaster, as he's known in the Bay Area. You can check out the entire first cut right here.

Bought and watched a DVD of Crash. Found it seriously underwhelming. Robert Altman's Short Cuts, based on some Raymond Carver short stories, was far better and covered much of the same territory.


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