Archive for August, 2006

This article was posted some time ago, but I feel it is timely at this very moment, so I am posting it again with some minor changes.

Elimination is very popular right now, in the media, as well as in real life. A large number of the popular television shows focus on the process of elimination of a set of candidates, a set of Donald Trump potential employees, a set of aspiring singers auditioning for the top spot, a set of so-called ‘survivors’ whose game is to decide every so often on who will be eliminated. Other popular television shows focus on crime, starting with the eliminated victim, and continue on to how to eliminate the perpetrator from society.

The elimination rituals are unforgiving. Whoever is best at following a set of rules and at getting rid of the competition by whatever means wins. They reflects the realms that are most valued in our society: the world of sports competition and the world of business competition. Whether these should be applied to the arts and entertainment however, is questionable. Over-emphasizing competition caters to negative feelings of selfishness, jealousy and greed. It does not offer an ideal or ethic, but only the survival of the fittest. The elimination rituals are a throw back to primitive human sacrifice.

In real life, the elimination ritual is part of a workplace where a good job performance is no guarantee of continued employment, where chaotic decisions and irrational situations brought about by abuse of power or hostile take-overs are the rule rather than the exception.

For composers, the elimination takes place at every funding organization, based on cronyism, politics, or narrow focus. Eliminated from the world of commissions, the shrinking job market also eliminates us because of prohibitive requirements or various forms of unrecognized discrimination.

I wonder whether the war has something to do with it. During war time, guys seem to get all the breaks, while the skirts get shorter and the fashions sillier. After all, wars are a process of elimination. But right here, in America, there is another war: the war against culture. I live with the sense that my very survival as a human being is threatened, not to mention my creative survival as a composer. When I came to New York in the early seventies with one suitcase and $50 in my pocket, I though I found the cultural Mecca of the time. Unfortunately, from the mid-eighties to the present, the culture has continually declined. I have made my home here, and I am not about to go back to Europe – I could only go through this kind of drastic change once in my lifetime. And here I stay, watching us, the creators, being slowly eliminated in this giant but apocryphal cultural genocide.

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Dear readers, where art thou? For you, I prepared a detailed listing of my previous blogs – in case you need to find a piece on a particular subject in the archive, this will save you time. They are organized in four categories: cultural viewpoint, composing, feminism and event-related.

This little clean-up was prompted by my upcoming talk on Composing in Context at the NYU Composer Forum, coming up on September 26 at 7 PM (it is of course free, and all are welcome). The Composer Forum takes place at the Pless Building Black Box Theater, University Place and Washington Square Park. Please note that I will not selfishly talk only about my music but instead focus on synergies with other 21st century composers!

Guest speakers on this season’s NYU Composer Forum include:
Dr. Jason Eckard (NYU faculty) Tuesday, September 5
Dr. Pedro da Silva (NYU Faculty) Tuesday, September 12
Herschel Garfein Tuesday, September 19
Elodie Lauten Tuesday, September 26
Mark Adamo Tuesday, October 24

ARCHIVES:

1. CULTURAL VIEWPOINT
I blog therefore I am 6/4/06
On not being a critic 3/21/05
Ethics of Blogging 8/3/05
Moved by art 3/12/06
Downtown in deep cover 2/26/06
To Sell Or Not To Sell 2/11/06
The Future of the Music Business 2/5/06
Impressions d’Afrique 2/1/06
The Tao of Duh 12/30/05
Paris flashes 10/17/05
Get poor and survive trying 10/30/05
Success revisited 6/20/05
Wolfganging Uptown 5/13/05
Underground Nostalgia:
Beautiful Ugly 2/28/05
Underground Economics 3/26/05
Music Underground’s Oldie Top 13 5/6/05
A scandal rocks the East Village 8/4/06
Subculture 7/11/05
Not for Sale 7/7/05
Passion or prejudice 6/13/05
Elimination Rituals 7/20/05
The myth of stress 5/19/05
The Cult of Tech 5/24/05

2. COMPOSING
Titles, subtext and content 6/30/06
Oh no, not another paradigm shift 7/17/06
Cents on the value 4/30/06
Contrast versus stasis 4/8/06
Non-Linear Models 6/6/05
Refracting Reality 7/18/05
State Your Purpose 11/14/05
The Spontaneous Creation Paradox 3/15/05

Chi and the art of orchestral maintenance 2/20/06
The taming of the orchestra 11/26/05
Orchestral Maneuvers 6/2/05

Misinterpretations of 4’33? 12/4/05
Music in the 21st Century 10/2/05
Context Composition Serial 9/27/05

Style Is Out 8/29/05
The end of stylistic dominance 4/2/05

Masterminds of absurdity 5/13/05
Exploding music:
do and don’ts of the musical anarchist 5/6/05
Ten reasons to stop composing 4/18/05
Composers Anonymous 9/2/05

3. FEMINISM
This diva is 93 3/27/06
Chat with Martha Mooke 3/18/06
In praise of women
you’ ve never heard of 2/20/06
Women in March 2/19/06
Big Time Woman at NYCO 11/19/05
DMP’s Socialist Uptown 11/14/05
Few and far between 10/24/05

4. EVENT-RELATED
Hollywood dominates the new opera scene 7/7/06
My night at the opera 12/18/05
The composer-director model 3/8/06
Operas in Progress 11/07/05

Micro Classics 3/4/06
New music of the spheres 7/28/05

Bolotowsky resuscitates a flute 8/21/06
Unusual Flutisms 12/13/05
Harp music makes a comeback 6/27/06
Uptown previews 8/14/06
Piano saga 4/14/06

New names in Brooklyn 2/11/06
SEM Ensemble free tonight 12/20/05
Handicap or advantage:
a talk with Petr Kotik 12/09/05

Choose your other music carefully 1/4/06
Plugged and Unplugged 12/30/05
The Scene according to NMC 10/9/05
LaMonte Still Young 9/11/05
Composing with data: a new form of art 10/31/05
Wild and wacky summer downtown 8/20/05
Mixed Bag at Miller 8/9/05
Carnegie Hall Revamped 8/1/05
ASO goes retro 6/27/05
Upcoming downtown & uptown 6/13/05
Under and Above Ground 2/15/05
Underground Snapshot January 05 2/1/05
A slighly slanted reading of the
Calendar for New Music 3/6/05

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On Sunday I was surprised and delighted by a most unusual flute duet. It was a discreet, unadvertised venue, in the intimate loft setting of the Spring Street art studio in Soho.

The flute, made of fine wood (and some metal) is a modern replica of the C. Delusse Baroque Bass Flute, crafted by Peter Noy. But it wouldn’t have seen the light of day if Andrew Bolotowsky had not ordered it five years ago… that’s how long it took for this neo-Baroque creation to emerge – a bass flute with a really wide range, and one that matches both male and female vocal ranges.

The sound, as played by the best flautist I know, was a surprise: a soft, whispering tone, almost oriental in color. The mysterious quality of this instrument is almost indescribable. It is like the design break-through of the muted color. It is a technical challenge to play this particular flute, as for instance having to play a C note as a C sharp, but the result was fresh and exciting, through a series of tunes by Purcell, Vivaldi, Couperin and others, arranged either for solo flute or flute and soprano – with the lyric voice of Mary Hurlbut, whose personal style combines the no-vibrato, clean, early music sound a la Sequentia, with full-blow operatic emotionality in other sections, making the Baroque material very exciting.

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The New York Philharmonic 2006-2007 season will present two premieres by women composers, both well-established within the mainstream. The premieres are: a vocal piece by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose music has been released worldwide on Warner Classics, ECM, Wergo and Sony Classical, and performed by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Dawn Upshaw; a commissioned trombone concerto by 1999 Pulitzer prize winner Melinda Wagner (who is currently writing a piece for the US Marine band). Other premieres by the Philharmonic include works Pulitzer prize and Grammy award winner Christopher Rouse, and Europeans Hans Werner Henze (b. 1926) and Daniel Bortz.

The Miller Theater Composer Portraits series will unfortunately not present any women composers in the upcoming season. The selected features are John Zorn with a work about witches and demons, the late jazz composer Julius Hemphill performed by Ursula Oppens and Ethel, Edgard Varèse, Frank Zappa, Steve Reich with his ultimate classic Music for 18 Musicians and Finnish composer Kimmo Hakola performed by Present Music.

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On July 28, a ruthless demolition crew broke all the stain glass windows of the Church of St Brigid at Avenue B and 9th Street, just across from Tompkins Square Park. Those particular stain glass windows were crafted in Bavaria in the 1880s. The neo-Gothic Catholic church was designed by architect Patrick Keely and built in 1848 by Irish immigrants. Last Saturday, Channel 7 news aired a segment showing a crowd of protestors in front of the church trying to stop the demolition. The New York Times published an informative article on the subject on Friday, July 28, Metro section, page B2, by Michael Luo.

The protestors include not only Catholic parishioners who are witnessing the disappearance of their local churches, one by one, lost to real estate development (Mary Help of Christians on 12th St and the Church of the Nativity on Second Avenue & Third Street are now closed); but also many East Village artists who oppose the destruction of a landmark work of architecture and what once was a classical music venue, and beyond that, an example of the unjust gentrification process that makes a neighborhood unaffordable to the very same artists who pioneered it and increased its value.

But it gets even worse: while the Catholic authorities claim that the church is ‘unsafe’, the parishioners have already donated $103,000.00 towards the necessary repairs, and the state program Sacred Sites Fund for Historic Preservation is available to cover 50% of the repair costs. Instead, the archdiocese is banking on the construction of a rental facility in place of the church, and has made no attempt to acknowledge the parishioners’ investment in the church. Furthermore, the supporters of the church have to raise more funds for a difficult legal battle. The demolition is now being temporarily held by order of Justice Kapnick. The freedom to practice one’s religion was once a pillar of the American democracy – but it no longer holds against the insatiable greed of those who hold the keys to the kingdom.

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