Archive for the “Publications” Category

On July 22nd via his PostClassic blog, Kyle Gann published a post titled “One Less Critic,” more or less announcing his retirement from music criticism. Writing for nearly thirty years in a number of publications, notably the Village Voice and Chamber Music Magazine, Gann has been a thoughtful, often provoking, and even, occasionally, a polarizing figure in discourse about contemporary classical music. He’s also been active in a number of other activities, first and foremost as an imaginative composer, a professor at Bard College, and a musicologist who’s published articles and books on a wide range of composers, including minimalists, microtonalists, Conlon Nancarrow, and John Cage. His book on Robert Ashley will be published this fall.

In his blog post, Gann writes, “Criticism is a noble profession, or could be if we took it seriously enough and applied rigorous standards to it, but you get pigeonholed as a bystander, someone valued for your perspective on others rather than for your own potential contributions.”

He’s not the first composer/critic to voice these concerns. It’s fair to say that those who write about others’ music potentially imperil their own. One’s advancement in a career as a creative and/or performing artist often involves blunting their candor and, upon occasion, judiciously withholding their opinions, delicacies which a writer (at least, an honest writer) can ill afford.

Certainly, I haven’t always agreed with Gann’s assessment of the musical landscape. In 1997, I first read his essay on 12-tone composers in academia, in which he likened those in grad programs studying with Wuorinen and Carter to be a wasted generation of composers, like lemmings leaping to their (artistic) deaths. At that time, I was a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers: studying with Wuorinen and writing a dissertation on Carter! I didn’t transfer or change my topic.

That said, I respect Gann’s formidable intellect and, even when it stings a little, his candor.  I hope that during his “retirement” from criticism, he will find many new opportunities provided to him as a  composer. In the spirit of bygones being bygones, maybe some of them will be in collaboration with ensembles that, back in the day, got a rough review from him!

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open space

Some years back I stumbled across The Open Space website, a creation of Perspectives of New Music stalwart Benjamin Boretz. PoNM was one of those forbidding obstacles every composition student of the 60s, 70s and 80s had to traverse and come to terms with; a journal more like a fair-sized paperback book, seemingly filled with discussions of Babbitt, Boulez, Webern, Carter, terrifyingly dense theories of pitch-class, set theory & etc. — many of us felt like we budding composers were suddenly expected to be quantum physicists rather than simply artists… Yet tucked into many issues might also be some nugget from the likes of Roger Reynolds or J.K. Randall, that read more like pure poetry; conceptual play that seemed light-years removed from the normal run of PoNM article.

Being up there on the masthead most of the journal’s life, Boretz’s name seemed to put him firmly in the “uptown theory” group. But what our young eyes couldn’t see for the forest was that his influence was one of the main reasons those other, more intuitive and free-form articles were studded amongst the hard theory. Boretz the artist has always nurtured a deep interest in a more purely “humanistic” brand of musical thinking and creation, which only became more pronounced as the years have passed.

As a more personal outlet for these interests Boretz, along with fellow composers J.K Randall and Elaine Barkin, in 1999 began The Open Space. Not only to get their own works to a wider audience, but to offer a diverse group of contributors a place and publication to run parallel or even counter to the standard PoNM fare. A glance through the contents of current and back issues of The Open Space Magazine will show a nicely bewildering variety of both contributors and subjects.

While The Open Space has had a web presence for ten years, it’s really been an afterthought to the physical magazine, CDs & etc.  But that’s changing starting now: composer Dean Rosenthal is taking over the helm of  the semi-languishing The Open Space Webmagazine, a fully online and independent branch of the larger Open Space. In Dean’s own words, the webmagazine will be “devoted to interaction and community that extends the breadth and reach of our print journal. The web magazine is a forum for actualizing content like interactive web art, experimental video, articles including audio, video, or other supplements, and related endeavors to encourage a multivalent culture that is possible only beyond print.”

The call for submissions is out; to learn more you only need to e-mail Dean (contact@deanrosenthal.org) with your idea or to receive more information.

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S21 friend Peter Mueller passed along the good news that:

The Library of Congress has completed digitization of another batch of the compositional sketches of Elliott Carter.  These are now available on our web site.  This current release consists of the following material:

Pocahontas (18*)
Symphony No.1 (224)
Piano Sonata (20*)
Minotaur (108)
Emblems (192)
Woodwind Quintet (141)
Eight Etudes and a Fantasy (140)
Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harpsichord (51)
Variations for Orchestra (771)
Double Concerto (161*)

For technical reasons, these are not all complete yet.  Numbers in parens indicate page (image) counts; an asterisk indicates digitization is incomplete (more to come in future releases).

There will be either one or two more releases in the near future to complete this project. Comments are welcome.  Please email these directly to me at

ssod@loc.gov

Stephen Soderberg
Senior Specialist for Contemporary Music
Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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To paraphrase a comment I spotted once on Myspace, “We would have got you a card or something but we spent all of our money on booze, speed, and hookers”…  So let’s just do with this shout-out to NewMusicBox, the American Music Center, the whole unsung crew and of course the one-and-only Frank J. Oteri, for seeing this most vital and consistently important modern classical site through its first decade.

Before appearing May 1st, 1999 there had never, ever been such a resource for living composers, performers and their music-hungry audience. Ten years on, there’s still no equal. It’s our island and oasis; though we might visit a host of other wonderful and worthwhile sites, we must visit NewMusicBox. Perfectly perfect? No. Plenty important? Yes!  Here’s to the next ten, Frank.

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