Don’t Toy with the Noonday Demon

Much as I respect his work as a composer, I was upset by Keeril Makan’s post on the NY Times’ Score blog yesterday.

I’m not sure I buy Keeril’s suggestion that all composers battling with depression fear how it will impact their work if they are treated. In my discussion with creatives, I’ve come to learn that when you are in the grips of a major depressive episode, you may not be able to work at all. Indeed, those I know who are really dealing with depression don’t toy with it: they fear it as an unwelcome and unbidden visitor.

The notion that depression (or addiction) is a little seasoning to our creative juices is a pernicious one that has caused a lot of self-inflicted wounds by artists. Going after “dark moments” to spur your creativity, which is what is described in the article, is very different from experiencing brain chemistry gone haywire and completely out of your control. Having worked with blocked composers who deal with severe emotional issues, I can only hope that Mr. Makan doesn’t try and share this tidbit of “method acting” with his students.

I also steadfastly reject the notion that composers are inevitably reflecting their emotional life in their music. Some of Mozart’s most joyful works are written from the depths of mourning. It is a romantic notion, but it just doesn’t hold up for everyone. Keeril is free to explore his dark materials, but I’d urge other composers not to feel compelled to “emote all their notes.”

(Note: an abridged version of the commentary above appeared on the NYT blog here). 

 

New issue of StN Hits the Newsstands

After a year’s hiatus, Signal to Noise, the journal of improvised and experimental music, has released a print issue (#63 Spring 2012). It’s just hit newsstands and, if you can’t find it at your local bookseller/news vendor, is available via the magazine’s website.

Issue #63 includes a feature written by yours truly: an interview with free jazz saxophonist Tim Berne as well as many other articles and reviews (table of contents below). The hope going forward is that the magazine will publish twice yearly. StN is also maintaining a blog (I’ve been deputized as “blog master”), which you can check for regularly updated exclusive online content.

issue #63 | spring 2012
available 04.15.2012
featuring …
LOREN CONNORS
story: chad radford  photos: alexander richter
HOUSTON IMPROV
story: steve jansen  photos: pete gershon
TIM BERNE
story: christian carey  photos: michael galinsky
NONESUCH EXPLORER SERIES
story: william gibson
plus
HAPTIC
TIM BRADY
DAVID GAMPER R.I.P.
live reviews:
Edgefest in Ann Arbor by Lawrence Cosentino
Suoni Per Il Popolo by Lawrence Joseph
Anthony Braxton in New York by Clifford Allen
and
reviews of over 150 of the season’s key releases and reissues in CD / DVD / LP / download format


Guest blog: Fred Sherry on EC at 103 (plus a ticket giveaway)

Fred Sherry

Fred, I’m thinking of setting E.E. Cummings for tenor and chamber orchestra… That’s a wonderful idea, it goes along with your other settings of important American poets; which poems will you use?    Perhaps some of the early poems having to do with WWI.

Can you play these multi-stops:  C, G, C#, G#, E  and C, G, E#, D#, B, F#? I’ll try them out when I get home. [Later, on the telephone] Yes, they work.   Good, I’m putting them in my new Double Trio.

I’m working on a String Trio, do you think the viola can hold a high F-sharp for almost two bars?   What is the tempo?    Oh…it is half note = 60. (Knowing it will work, I answer) Let me try it out. Yes, the viola will be able to hold it.    Good, that’s the end of the piece!

Then the idea of the 103rd birthday concert for Elliott Carter came about. Last year, for his 102nd birthday, Charlie Neidich and the Camerata Notturna did a beautiful concert which included the Clarinet Concerto, Wind Rose and the slow movement of Carter’s Symphony No. 1. This year, I thought, let’s do all of Carter’s new music, most of which has not been heard in New York or anywhere. This concert is fated to succeed because of the music, and the people: Carol Archer, Nicholas Phan, Virgil Blackwell, Rolf Schulte, Gordon Gottlieb, and many more.

Elliott will be hearing five of his pieces for the first time. THIS IS GOING TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTY!

-Fred Sherry

_______________________________________________________________________

Elliott Carter’s 103rd Birthday Concert will be at the 92nd Street Y (Uptown; Kaufman Concert Hall) on December 8 at 8 PM (three days early, but we’ll give ‘em that!)

Ticket information can be found here.

Better yet, courtesy of 92nd Street Y and Boosey & Hawkes, Sequenza 21 is offering two pairs of tickets to the concert.

Here’s how to enter: send a short missive about Elliott Carter – your favorite piece, something about his music that interests you, etc. – to my email address: s21managingeditor@gmail.com

I will use a Cageian, rather than Carterian, method of selecting the winners (hint: put names in hat: draw out two).

Contest is open until Sunday at noon. I will announce the winners on Monday morning. Those entries that are particularly eloquent and non-trollish will be published on the site.

Those Carterians outside of New York  or unable to make the show – take heart. We will also be having a second giveaway – signed Carter memorabilia! Check back here later this week for details.

More Press for Sequenza 21 Concert

What a fun picture of Timo Andres

Thomas Deneuville has posted a thoughtful and detailed review at I Care if You Listen.

He was kind enough to mention Wily Overture, my new piece for ACME. So, for the “virtual clipping file”…

Wily Overture by Christian Carey opened the concert but also introduced the complete ensemble to the audience (it was indeed the only piece on the program written for the full ensemble). Written for string quartet, piano and percussions, the overture displayed a complex affect somewhere between a martial address, and a welcoming invitation. The angular lines, the luscious strings and the clever use of brushes on the drums were very effective.”

Likewise, Chris McGovern has posted his own in depth write-up at his blog The Glass.

He mentioned Wily Overture as well: “The highlights of this program for me were … A) The world premiere of Christian Carey’s Wily Overture, taking on an unusually orchestral feel with the addition of a snare drum…”

Thanks to both for attending and taking the time to share their observations!

File Under ? Early Summer 2011 Playlist

Thus far, 2011 has been an excellent year for releases of new music. Some formats that many folks thought to be those of yesteryear – 7” singles, 12” vinyl LPs, and even (shudder) cassettes – continue their resurgence.

Vinyl has long been touted by audiophiles; but why cassettes? Nostalgia? Perhaps. But it may also be due to an abiding interest in collecting audio artifacts, as well as a burgeoning taste for lo-fi DIY. Either way, I wish that my car was equipped with a cassette deck, as I’ve enjoyed several new ones at home. This playlist includes several of the discs (both compact and vinyl), tapes, and digital releases that have been in heavy rotation during the beginning of summer 2011. I’m listing whole releases, rather than individual cuts. Check back later in the summer for a proper mixtape.

n  Mark Templeton, Scotch Hearts (cassette SLG022)

n  Neon Marshmallow 2011 Festival Comp (Neon Marshmallow cassette)

n  Feelies, Here Before (Bar None digital)

n  Colin L. Orchestra, Infinite Ease/Good Good (Northern Spy CD)

n  V/A, Clandestine Comp. Series Vol. 1 (Northern Spy cassette)

n  Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds CD)

n  Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM CD)

n  Arlene Sierra, Volume 1 (Bridge CD)

n  Matthew Shipp, The Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear 2xCD)

n  Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)

n  Chris Thile and Daves, Sleep with One Eye Open (Nonesuch CD)

n  Radiohead, The King of Limbs (TBD vinyl LP)

n  John Adams, Son of Chamber Symphony and String Quartet (Nonesuch CD)

n  Seda Roeder, Listening to Istanbul (self-released CD)

n  Sophia Knapp, Nothing to Lose (Drag City 7” vinyl)

n  Devotchka, 100 Lovers (Anti CD)

n  Amy Briggs, Tangos for Piano (Ravello CD)

n  Chiara String Quartet and Matmos, Jefferson Friedman: Quartets (New Amsterdam CD)

n  Battles, The Gloss Drop (Warp CD)

n  Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Matador LP)

n  New England Conservatory, American Music for Percussion, Vol. 1&2 (Naxos CDs)

n  Anti-Social Music, Is the Future is Everything (Peacock CD)

n  Orchestra 2001, To the Point (Innova CD)

n  Vicky Chow, Ryan Francis Works for Piano (Tzadik CD)

n  Brian Eno, Drums between the Bells (Warp digital)

n  International Street Cannibals and others, Ballets and Solos (Composer Concordance CD)

NY Phil adds more Social Media




Despite there already being many musical highlights since Alan Gilbert joined the orchestra as music director, of late the NY Philharmonic has also had its share of successes offstage. Their PR office has steadily been increasing the orchestra’s presence on a variety of social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube among them. This no doubt in part helped to get out the word about their performances of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.

Their latest addition is a Tumblr account. Tumblr is a handy platform for sharing media heavy blog posts. In addition to my blog here, I maintain a Tumblr page for File Under ?, putting up videos and audio excerpts that often dovetail with what’s going on here at Sequenza 21.

One imagines a number of ways that the Philharmonic can employ Tumblr, providing one-stop shopping for various videos, audio excerpts, program notes, and press releases: materials that inform both audience members and press folks alike.

To give people an extra incentive to visit their Tumblr blog, the orchestra is entering all of the folks who “follow” the site by Nov. 1 in a ticket drawing. A lucky social media maven will win a pair of tickets to hear them at Avery Fisher Hall!