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San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ Project TenFourteen

The gulf between pop music and “serious” or “new music” can be a big one, and the first concert of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players 2014-15 season TenFourteen set this in high relief. Put another way, the pleasure principle tends to be the guiding light in pop music which isn’t always the case with […]

Your Body is Not a Shark

Sometimes a phone interview is the way to go, even if you live in the same town. And so it was on a rainy Friday afternoon this past December that San Francisco-based composer and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and I “sat down” for a chat about her latest music theatre collaboration Your Body Is Not A […]

The Speed of Light

What becomes a legend most? Well, in the case of two legends–director/designer Robert Wilson and composer Philip Glass, an international tour of their first and most famous of their five collaborations, EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH (1975-76 ), which began in Ann Arbor, Michigan in January ’12, goes on to  Amsterdam in Jan’ 13., and ends […]

Love And Death – San Francisco Ballet Tours Eshima’s RAkU

Meeting someone out of cyberspace can be fun. And so it was after a flurry of e- mails that San Francisco  Opera and San Francisco Ballet double bassist and composer Shinji Eshima and I met on a brisk April Sunday just before his 2 pm curtain for its Balanchine Masterworks Program, to talk about his […]

Stand and Deliver

Life is competitive and composers are as competitive as anyone else–sometimes even more so. This thought came forcibly to mind when I heard two of the three composers–Stefan Cwik and Neil Rolnick (the third, Philip Glass, wasn’t even mentioned)–discussing their pieces with New Music Ensemble artistic director and conductor Nicole Paiment minutes before she and […]

Close Encounters of the Tragic Kind

People love tragedy, at least, in the literary sense, and Mozart and Schubert’s early deaths were certainly tragic. The death of the talented gay and black composer Julius Eastman (1940-1990) has many of the same elements of classic tragedy. With Eastman, who was also apparently self destructive in both his professional and private life, those […]

Separation Anxiety

We in the West like to think that music is a series of narrative events about me.  How did I, the composer or performer, feel today? Was I happy or sad? It’s more or less high drama all the time and the romantic tradition is, of course, all about the individual.  In the East things […]

Be Sure to Let ‘em Catch the Brooklyn Rider

Nothing stays the same for very long these days, especially in NY. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Brooklyn Rider’s first violinist Johnny Gandelsman and I meet at 11th and University Place–once Dean and De Luca, but now Argo Tea Cafe. Gandelsman approaches and we slip into the cool of the cafe on a […]

Glass x 2

We like to think that concert music is something other than sound we hear with others in a room. Of course it is, but music is a physical fact we encounter first hand and try to wrap our minds around later. The large and attentive audience at Philip Glass’ San Francisco Performance’s program of his […]

No Exit

Life is about conflict, and so is opera. And what could be a more dramatic subject than the French Revolution when keeping your head wasn’t an abstract issue, but a life and death one. Francis Poulenc‘s 3-act grand opera Dialogues des Carmelites (1953-56) was acclaimed as a masterpiece at its 1957 La Scala premiere, and […]