Archive for September, 2005

John Adams’ and Peter Sellars’ new opera Dr. Atomic will open October 1st, 2005 at the San Francisco Opera. Philip Glass’ Symphony N. 6 “Plutonian Ode”, based on Allen Ginsberg’s poem calling for nuclear disarmament, will take place at BAM on November 2, 4, and 5. Something is in the air: a couple of months ago, Michael Andre gave me a libretto entitled ‘How I Blew Up The World’, a play he wrote some 20 years ago

2005 has been a year of natural disasters, starting with a tsunami in Asia and now a series of hurricanes close to home. This added to the proliferation of terrorism and a senseless war: it seems that after all, Nostradamus was correct, even if his predictions were over the top.

In times of emergency when mere survival becomes the only concern, composing can be viewed as a useless and self-indulgent pursuit, unless the issue of context is addressed. On the other hand, music is comforting and healing and people may need it even more in these circumstances. Although the kind of music that seems to appeal in times of disaster, judging by the post-disaster fundraisers, is mostly simple, commercial pop; the Red Cross (or Red Tape headquarters, I should say) uses a bum version of Bridge over Troubled Waters – it sounds like it is sung by a tone-deaf, alcoholic – for a commercial.

This opens a discussion of how a musical piece addresses context – meaning, real-world situations, versus fictional or abstract elements. This prompts me to re-examine the various elements that come into play when writing a new composition in the 21st century.

A diagram will appear in next week’s blog…

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The event of the month takes place at the MELA Foundation Dream House, 275 Church St, 3rd Floor, between Franklin & White St, on Saturdays, September 17 and 24 at 9PM: La Monte Young’s Trio for Strings, both versions, the original 1958 version, which was actually LaMonte’s last serial work – yes, for those who didn’t know, the ultimate pioneer of minimalist started out as a Webern-influenced serialist… and the new just intonation version revised in 1984, 2001 and 2005. There are certain works in the lifetime of a composer that are more meaningful and deserved to be revisited, and this is one of them. The performers are Garcia Ouzounian, violin and viola, Erik Ulman, violin and viola, Reynard Rott, cello, led by Charles Curtis, cello. This is one of those rare performances that are not to be missed. A few years back, I remember a performance of the ‘hold B and F# for a long time’ piece, and that was unforgettable.

Also note, the Dream House will be open for the 2005-06 season from 2PM to midnight Thursdays and Saturdays through June 17, 2006.

Completing this revisiting of early minimalism, a Robert Smithson (most well known for his provocative earthwork, the Spiral Jetty, 1970) event takes place on the water at the pier by Canal Street around 6PM… if you’re going to be in Tribeca on Saturday… it’s worth checking out.

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Following is an interesting development in Hurricane Karina rescue efforts addressing the issue of what to do with the animals. They are living beings too, and if you are able to adopt one, you will be saving a life.

This is a copy of the official message.
In response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrinayesterday, The Humane Society of the United States has launcheda massive relief effort to rescue animals and assist theircaregivers in the disaster areas. Their entire relief effort is funded by donations from peoplelike you and me, and they desperately need your support. Pleasemake an emergency contribution to the HSUS Disaster Relief Fundtoday. Your tax-deductible gift will be used exclusively fortheir disaster animal relief work. Click the link below to makeyour donation now.

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Another devastation, close to home. Make your donation to the Red Cross, however small. I had a friend in New Orleans and was on pins and needles until I heard that he had escaped early… because he listened to the mayor’s warning to evacuate. Does composing mean anything under these circumstances? All I hear is the sound of water and it’s not pretty.

There could very well be a need for a composers’ support group. Here are my
twelve steps of overcoming the dangerous addiction to composing:

1. Stop getting up at 5AM to compose before going to work.

2. Dry spells? Just extend them.

3. Remember you are too old to do it. It is just not healthy.

4. You are too young to do it, it will certainly get you in trouble.

5. You’re a woman. Unless you want to fight the same battles that were won twenty years ago and then lost, better go wash some dishes.

6. Instead of spending all you available cash on your next production, take a vacation.

7. You’re already famous, so don’t overdo it.

8. You aren’t famous, so don’t even think about it.

9. No one’s going to want that orchestral piece anyway. Go watch some TV.

10. How about that relationship you’ve given up for your music? Don’t mess up this one.

11. If you have a vision, put it on tape and bury it under 10 feet of rubble.

12. OR, just put it all on the internet.

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