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All We Are Saying is Give Peace a Chance

Kevin Gallagher, guitarist and founder of Electric Kompany, writes: 

I noticed in your Jacob TV piece that there was hardly any mention of the fact that Electric Kompany is doing a world premiere of White Flag (for rock quartet and tape) based on sounds from the Iraq war starring the voices of Bill O’Reilly and George W Bush at the Whitney Museum at Altria on Friday, May 4 at 8pm.
Needless to say, I was pretty upset that they aren’t stressing this piece to the press. It’s rare enough to have a world premiere for rock quartet at the Whitney, never mind to have it tied to the biggest news story for the past 5 years.
I don’t know if the Whitney is scared of it (possible), but I want people to know what we’re about to do. It’s a good piece and we’re going to play the hell out of it. If you could please make sure people know about the premier, I would be very appreciative. Thank you for your help.


Comment from Lisa
Time: April 5, 2007, 9:33 pm

Wow, these guys are fucking great!!! Just ignore their pretentious dismissal of the hordes of brilliant composers who play their own music.

“There still is a tremendous lack of modern music written for modern instruments – in our case – the electric guitar, keyboards, drum set, and electric bass.”


Comment from Judd
Time: April 5, 2007, 11:24 pm

I don’t know how tongue-in-cheek that remark is, but if you’re being serious, I actually think it’s a lot more pretentious to assume that Kevin, et al, are “dismissing” non-notated composers, or whatever we want to call most musicians who play their own music, in that mission statement. You’re taking their quote out of context; they are specifically identifying a particular tradition – the Western classical tradition, with its distinction between “composer” and “performer” – and discussing its modern incarnation. Then they are rightly noting that most of the music written in that tradition is not written for rock band. I don’t see any hint of pretense in that, unless you take the leap to presume that they are privileging this tradition, which I don’t believe they are.

If you want to challenge the performer/composer distinction, that’s fine, but it is a viable distinction to make within the Western classical tradition in its current state. And within that tradition, they are filling a particular void – and filling it well, I think.

Comment from Judd
Time: April 5, 2007, 11:27 pm

That said, I’ll grant that the use of the word “serious” in the call for scores is somewhat problematic, and veers towards the dismissive quality you’re describing, Lisa.

Comment from Lisa
Time: April 6, 2007, 12:31 am

I don’t know much about classical music but didn’t most of the great composers spend allot of time performing their own music?

Ultimately Electronic Kompany is saying: “The main creator of the music you are hearing is not performing on this concert or recording.”

I just think they sound too damn good to have to use that as a selling point. But I’m sure it’s a dilemma for them. It is the language that gets grants, residencies, awards, etc. but it probably turns off the kinds of audiences that adore music like Lightingbolt, Hella, Marnie Stern, Deerhoof, etc.

Comment from aleba
Time: April 6, 2007, 1:05 am

i’d like to weigh in on this, since kevin is now publicly taking the whitney and its promotional forces to task. to set the record straight: our press release does indeed highlight “white flag” and the iraq connection, as well as the fact that it’s a world premiere and that it’s for rock quartet. however, the main story here is the composer. the size and scope of this festival is quite significant, featuring 13 other rocking pieces that are stories unto themselves and that will be performed by a host of musicians over the course of 3 evenings.

Comment from kevin gallagher
Time: April 6, 2007, 9:03 am

i simply asked for sequenza to mention it – not to turn this into a discussion of my group or the premiere. this quote from my email was put on this site without my permission. i now ask politely for sequenza to remove this.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: April 6, 2007, 9:54 am

Lighten up Kevin (& everyone else). Nobody’s really quibbling with anything in your email quote, but rather with a bit of your website spiel. In fact, all sides of the quibble are saying you guys rock supremely!

Comment from Ian Moss
Time: April 6, 2007, 10:26 am

Cut Kevin some slack, he’s just trying to drum up some attention for this premiere. His group is excellent (I’ve seen them several times) and I’m sure it will be a great show.

As for the website language, the way I read it is that it’s “talking” to a classical audience — it uses that language and positions itself using assumptions that classical people would make. This strikes me as a very intentional decision, and one that I don’t see much point in questioning. It’s only pretentious insofar as classical music itself is pretentious…and god knows we’ve been over that one before.

Comment from Limor
Time: April 7, 2007, 1:39 pm

I can’t honestly say that hearing JacobTV’s music for the first time was as life-altering as hearing reich’s Music for 18 Musicians was (well, after that experience, I left my husband, quit playing classical piano and went on a 10-year music-bender–more on that over drinks some day), but it came durn close. My head was pretty much blown open. and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why nobody knew him. then I found out some people did: like Kevin (I love you Kevin, let’s talk about boundaries one day), Margaret Lancaster, Prism Sax Quartet boys, and a few others. The other thing I discovered is that he’s not known in the US because he’s not known in the US. that’s all it is. it seems nobody will just f$%^ing book his music becuase there’s no precedent: nobody’s done it and the Arbiter of All Things, my beloved Press Corps, hasn’t written about him.
that’s when it hit me: hey isn’t the Whitney “the artists’ Museum”? well, heck then, why do a concert? let’s blow this thing open and do a 3-day festival, oh and let’s make it FREE!
So see you there, and let me know if, after the concert, you decide to leave your spouse.
and keep the good conversation going. I admit I am a happy lurker…