Playlist: Sense Amid Senselessness

Our 24 hour news cycle can tend to bombard us information about tragic events. While this can be helpful, it can also become dispiriting and disconcerting.

After news of the shooting in Colorado was announced, I asked Sequenza 21 contributors and community members to share musical excerpts that they find consolatory when a tragedy such as this occurs. Some provided me with video clips via YouTube. Others supplied SoundCloud links to their own pieces, written to respond to the chaos that is all too prevalent in our society.

Contributors: Steve Layton, Judah Adashi, James Stephenson, Rob Deemer, Ken Ueno, Jonathan Palmer Lakeland, James Ilgenfritz, Jerry Bowles, and yours truly.

“Bonus” track:

Have a favorite you’d like to share? The comments section is open – but for musical selections, not OP/ED (plenty of other places for that right now!).

Reading List for Composers

In a similar vein to yesterday’s post, here is a reading list for composers. Once again, there are several omissions for the sake of manageability. But if an undergraduate student read all of these books and articles during his/her course of study, they would be in good shape for grad school entrance exams. (Forgive the inclusion of my Shapey article. This semester I’m using several of his pieces in score study sessions with students).

Suggested Reading

Adams, John Luther. Winter Music: Composing the North. Middletown, CT:

Wesleyan University Press, 2004.

Babbitt, Milton. Ed. by Stephen Dembski and Joseph Straus.

Words About Music. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Blatter, Albert. Instrumentation and Orchestration. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.

Brant, Henry. Textures and Timbres: an Orchestrator’s Handbook. New York:

Carl Fischer, 2009.

Cage, John. Silence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966.

Carey, Christian. “Mother Lode Issues: Shapey’s Worksheet and the Late Music.”

Perspectives of New Music vol. 47 no.2 (2009): 249-265.

Carter, Elliott. Ed. by Nicholas Hopkins and John F. Link. Harmony Book.

New York: Carl Fischer, 2002.

Cox, Christopher and Daniel Warner. Audio Culture. New York:

Continuum, 2004.

Duckworth, William. Talking Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1995.

Friedmann, Michael L. Ear Training for Twentieth-century Music. New Haven:

Yale University Press, 1990.

Hindemith, Paul. Elementary Training for Musicians. New York:

Associated Music, 1949.

Morris, Robert. “Compositional Tutorial.” (personal website, 2010):

Morris, Robert. “Compositional Spaces and Other Territories.”

Perspectives of New Music , Vol. 33, No. 1/2 (1995): 328-358.

Partch, Harry. Genesis of a Music. Boston: Da Capo (enlarged edition), 1979.

Schubert, Peter. Modal Counterpoint Renaissance Style. New York:

Oxford University Press (2nd Ed.), 2007.

Schubert, Peter and Christoph Neidhöfer. Baroque Counterpoint.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005.

Schwartz, Elliott and Barney Childs with Ed. Jim Fox. Contemporary Composers

On Contemporary Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998.

Shapey, Ralph. A Basic Course in Music Composition. King of Prussia, PA:

Theodore Presser, 2001.

Slonimksy, Nicolas. Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. New York:

Amsco Publications, 1986.

Straus, Joseph N. An Introduction to Post-tonal Theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice Hall (3rd Ed.), 2004.

Wuorinen, Charles. Simple Composition. New York: Longman, 1979.

Sixty Postwar Pieces to Study

Sixty Postwar Pieces to Study

Recently, a couple of the undergraduate composers in the program at Westminster Choir College asked me for lists of postwar pieces to study. Given the vocal and choral emphasis in our program, I’ve compiled the list below to provide a different vantage point. Hence the emphasis on instrumental music and a preponderance of post-tonal composers that they might not encounter when learning their own recital repertoire. Given a different student population, composers like Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, and Donnacha Dennehy could just as likely appear on a listening list such as this.

And, of course, it is frustrating what one must leave out to keep a list manageable in size. Note that I am not attempting to give them the “greatest hits” of the past sixty-five years. Instead I strove for a diversity of selections, both watershed masterworks and vibrantly interesting pieces that merit attention, even if they may not be the first ones that come to mind for the given composer. On a different day, we could come up with sixty different pieces: a composer must be prepared for a lifetime of listening, score study, and learning. Even after that, they must also be humbled by the fact that they will only get to a fraction of all the good stuff out there!

Let’s say that an undergraduate composer began working with this list or a similar one at the beginning of their junior year; listening to and, if possible, studying the score for one of these pieces every week. Between their own performance experiences, WCC’s theory and history courses, and this survey of recent works, by the time that they were ready to consider applying to graduate programs in their senior year, they would have a decent grounding in the repertoire.

1-     Adams, John C. Nixon in China (1987)

2-    Adams, John C. Chamber Symphony (1992)

3-    Adams, John Luther. Red Arc/Blue Veil (2002)

4-    Andriessen, Louis. La Passione (2002)

5-    Babbitt, Milton. Philomel (1964)

6-    Babbitt, Milton. Arie da Capo (1974)

7-    Berio, Luciano. Circles (1960)

8-    Birtwistle, Harrison. Secret Theatre (1984)

9-    Boulez, Pierre. Le marteau sans maître (rev. 1957)

10-  Boulez, Pierre. Répons (1984)

11-  Cage, John. Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948)

12-  Cage, John. Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958)

13-  Carter, Elliott. String Quartet No. 1 (1951)

14-  Carter, Elliott. String Quartet No. 5 (1995)

15- Chin, Unsuk. Akrostischen-Wortspiel (1993)

16- Crumb, George. Ancient Voices of Children (1970)

17- Czernowin, Chaya. String Quartet (1995)

18-  Davies, Peter Maxwell. Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969)

19-  Feldman, Morton. Rothko Chapel (1970)

20- Feldman, Morton. For Samuel Beckett (1987)

21-  Ferneyhough, Brian. Bone Alphabet (1991)

22- Ferneyhough, Brian. Terrain (1992)

23- Foss, Lukas. Echoi (1963)

24- Glass, Philip. Satyagraha (1980)

25- Grisey, Gérard. Les espaces acoustiques (1985)

26- Haas, Georg Friedrich. In Vain (2002)

27- Harrison, Lou. La Koro Sutro (1973)

28- Kurtág, György. Kafka-Fragmente (1986)

29- Kurtág, György. Stele (1994)

30- Knussen, Oliver. Where the Wild Things Are (1983)

31-  Lachenmann, Helmut. Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (1990)

32- Lang, David. Little Matchgirl Passion (2007)

33- Ligeti, Győrgy. Atmosphères (1961)

34- Ligeti, Győrgy. Violin Concerto (1993)

35- Lim, Liza. City of Falling Angels (2007)

36- Marshall, Ingram. September Canons (2003)

37- Messiaen. Olivier. Éclairs sur l’au-delà… (1991)

38- Monk, Meredith. Songs of Ascension (2008)

39- Nancarrow, Conlon. Three Canons for Ursula (1989)

40- Nono, Luigi. …sofferte onde serne… (1976)

41-  Pärt, Arvo. Fratres (1976)

42- Penderecki, Krzysztof. Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960)

43- Reich, Steve. Music for Eighteen Musicians (1976)

44- Reich, Steve. Different Trains (1988)

45- Riley, Terry. In C (1964)

46- Saariaho, Kaija. L’amour de loin (2000)

47- Scelsi, Giacinto. Prânam 2 (1973)

48- Sciarrino, Salvatore. Vento D’Ombra (2005)

49- Schoenberg, A Survivor from Warsaw (1947)

50- Shapey, Ralph. Millenium Designs (2000)

51-  Stravinsky, Igor. Variations (Aldous Huxley in Memoriam) (1964)

52- Stockhausen, Karlheinz, Kontakte (1960)

53- Takemitsu, Tōru. From me flows what you call Time (1990)

54- Turnage, Mark-Anthony. Blood on the Floor (1996)

55- Xenakis, Iannis. Pléïades (1978)

56- Xenakis, Iannis. Tetras (1983)

57- Varèse, Edgard. Poème électronique (1958)

58- Wolpe, Stefan. Quartet for Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone, Piano, & Percussion (1954)

59- Wuorinen, Charles. A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky (1975)

60- Young, LaMonte. The Well-Tuned Piano (1964-present)

Got a “Hurricane” playlist?

Hurricane evacuee Humphrey

Hurricane Irene approaches. We’ve got two extra guests this weekend: my Mom and Humphrey, her labrador retriever. They were evacuated from Long Island and are spending the weekend with us.

Waiting out a storm can be angst-producing and, eventually, boredom provoking – particularly without music.

So, File Under ? readers (the comments section is open and so are email, Twitter, Facebook, and G+), send us your “hurricane” listening lists – either in old-fashioned typewritten format or via the usual suspects (Spotify,, etc.). The guidelines are wide open. It can be a themed list or simply musical “comfort food.”

Stay safe everyone!

“Winner” – my entirely subjective favorite gets a prize. Hey, why should Irene have all the fun?