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(cross posted to my own blog)

I just submitted the following comment to the Nonesuch Records blog in reference to Steve Reich’s unfortunate decision to change the cover art for his forthcoming recording WTC 9/11.

I’m a composer and recently blogged about wtc 9/11 on my Web site and reviewed it for Sequenza 21. I think that the cover is perhaps not what I would have chosen, but that said, who cares? It’s a cover. There are no bodies, in close up, falling from one of the towers (although that would certainly have made a more powerful statement than the current cover with the plane and the WTC). Just as with Different Trains, there are no images of bodies being piled up. I don’t think SR should have changed the cover, any more than I thought the Islamic cultural center a few blocks away should be moved. If some people are disturbed by the cover, so be it. They probably wouldn’t listen to the piece anyway. And Nonesuch might realize that the controversy, such as it is, might spur others to listen to the piece and purchase the album. I think it’s ridiculous, just like the objections to the John Adams opera about Leon Klinghoffer.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60’s, I had a LP set of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 that had the photo of a poor Russian boy on the cover. Given that we were in the midst of a cold war and nuclear tensions, I don’t recall anyone complaining that he/she was offended or disturbed by the cover. I also had a recording of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony with a distorted, Munch-like photo of an old Jewish woman who one could imaging is being burned. Again, no controversy. Nor should there have been.

WTC 9/11, if you read my review and even worse, my blog post, is not my favorite piece by SR, whom I’ve met several times (I interviewed him 2-3 times in the early 80’s for my college radio program at the U of Chicago) and who had an important influence on the direction of my own music. But that’s my point-it’s the music that matters. Not the album cover. I am disappointed that the cover art is being changed. Artists should not bow to convention, even if the art in question is disturbing. Guernica is disturbing. Should we replace that too?

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I’m halfway through the concert of Feldman’s String Quartet #2 performed by the FLUX Quartet here in Philly. My blog post is here.

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This was inspired by Alvin Lucier’s classic and still awesome work I am sitting in a room.

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According to the FB post of composer Lanie Fefferman, Patelson’s Music Store in NYC is closing as of 4/18. I’m assuming this is not a faux rumor, and if I’m creating a false run on Patelson’s inventory, I apologize. Anyway, many of us grew up in a time where including a trip to Patelson’s, even if just for browsing scores, was de rigeur anytime we were in Manhattan. I’d go there all the time from NJ, and back in the 70’s and early 80’s, it wasn’t too expensive to purchase a score or two, some violin music, some notation paper and even some LPs.

Times change—the last time I was there scores were several times more expensive than anything I bought growing up. And there was very little in the way of contemporary music. Good luck trying to find much of anything by someone from the Downtown scene. Even music by Ginastera, Dallapiccola, Shapey and others usually was elusive. I do recall seeing a (very expensive) score by John Adams there on my last visit. But that’s it in terms of his oeuvre.

So is this a bad thing, the closing of Patelson’s? In many ways it is, since I still have some nostalgic interest in the place. And it’s hard for me to imagine growing up without access to new scores, notation paper, etc. However, in all honesty, Patelson’s hasn’t been on my radar for quite some time. As mentioned, the scores were now far out of my price range (although that’s not Patelson’s fault, but the fault of publishers and intellectual property restrictions), and the inventory wasn’t where my musical interests lay anymore. A lot of things are now available online. For pianists, it’s even very possible to use a computer and wireless pedals (as Hugh Sung is developing and distributing) to load PDFs of scores purchased online and turn pages without a human page turner.

The loss of Patelson’s was inevitable. And I have mixed feelings. What’s your take on this?

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To paraphrase the last part of Watson and Crick’s seminal (no pun intended) 1953 paper on the x-ray crystallographic structure of DNA, I wonder if this might have some relevance to our situation…

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Lukas Foss died yesterday at age 86. I didn’t know his music that well (I had heard Phorion), but still have his great performance of Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with the composer conducting. He apparently even dabbled in minimalism, which I’d love to hear. A lot of the older guard seems to be passing away this year.

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The composer Jorge Liderman died Sunday morning after reportedly jumping in front of an oncoming BART train in the Berkeley, CA area. I had initially heard of him after coming across his name on a bulletin board in the early 80’s at the U of Chicago, and when I saw the news item about his untimely death at the age of 50, it caught my attention. Of Argentine descent, Liderman was being increasingly performed, although I regret that I actually never have heard a note of his music. The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation. (Update: a newer and fuller article from the San Francisco Chronicle.)

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CNN: Internet Radio Broadcasters Dealt Setback

Full story here.


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Just read this on, one of the best political blogs out there if you’re a leftist radical like me. In any case, the Copyright Royalty Board is essentially moving forward with a plan to increase the royalty fees for playing music over the Web. All you folks out there who are for strict intellectual property protections and copyright, get ready to potentially lose your favorite Web radio programs. They’ll all be gone unless they are willing to pay through the nose in order to provide more money to the record companies (and remember, for all the pro-IP arguments out there, the reality is that the majority of the fees tend to go to the record companies, not the composers or performers).

What can be done? Probably not much, but signing a petition takes little time and effort so please go here and sign on. As C&L correctly point out, it will perhaps take a politician or two to take this on and reverse the momentum. But the more people who sign, the better—it can’t hurt.

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A YouTube video of Reich’s seminal Clapping Music accomplished via juggling (Thanks to MySpace friend James Combs for pointing me to it). Imagine what they could do with 4’33” orDrumming?

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