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Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
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Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, April 23, 2005
Gyorgy de Transylvania is Number Two

All this "Pierre de France is Number One" business reminds me of a great story about Gyorgy Ligeti. In 1993, Ligeti came to Boston for a week long festival of his works at New England Conservatory. This is the story approximately as I remember hearing it from composer and NEC faculty member John Heiss, who coordinated the visit and prepared the festival:

The day Ligeti arrived he, his assistant, John Heiss, and Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe went to lunch together. Dyer asked Ligeti how he felt about being called "the world's greatest living composer" in NEC's publicity materials. Ligeti said "I am not the greatest composer, I'm only the eighth greatest at best." Then he changed the subject. A little while later he said "Well, maybe the seventh greatest." More conversation about other things, and then "Perhaps the sixth greatest." You see where this is going. Through the rest of the meal he went through fifth, fourth, and third, and then at the end as they were preparing to leave he said "I am probably the second greatest." Richard Dyer asked "well, who is the first?" Ligeti said "all of my colleagues."

Dyer recounts the story somewhat differently in his article in the Globe, which he titles "Boston welcomes 'second greatest' living composer."

"Last Wednesday, Ligeti came to lunch with his administrative assistant, Dr. Louise Duchesneau, and John Heiss, coordinator of the residency and festival . . . He professed modest embarrassment at some Conservatory publicity proclaiming him the "world's greatest living composer." "Just call me the second greatest," he said. "Then they will ask me who the greatest is, and I will answer, 'All my colleagues.' " (The Boston Globe, March 7, 1993)

Either way, it's a cute response. And while I don't know about first or second greatest, Ligeti is clearly in the top tier.
No Cat Picture Friday

Jeffrey Biegel is a concert pianist today but he was deaf until he was three. Nice feel-good story...Elodie Lauten lists some upcoming "mostly men" concerts...Don't miss the Non-Zero (Brian Sacawa, saxophones & Timothy Feeney, percussion) concert tomorrow night at 8 at the Tenri Cultural Institute, 43A West 13th Street (between 5th & 6th Ave.) Elodie will be pleased to learn they're doing a piece by Hillary Zipper, among the mostly male lineup...And, what can I say but velcro tap-dancing.
Pierre de France (Continue)

We have received another electronic communications from Jean-Fran�ois Grancher who is unhappy with us for various reasons, not least of which is the fact that I mistook his apparently well-known nom de plume--Voya Toncitch--for the name of a translator. I regret the mistake and promise to do penance by listening to two hours of Charles Wuorinen music at the next available opportunity. Here is Monsieur Grancher's reponse in full:

From a certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher who apparently lives in Malta and has time on his hands

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is to inform you that a certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher is the legal name of Voya Toncitch who never stated that he had translated his article into English. A certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher writes in French, English and Portuguese and signs his musicological essays Voya Toncitch and his articles published in the newspapers Jean-Fran�ois Grancher. He has no Web site. A Google search "voya toncitch" would be more appropriate, because you received the article from Voya Toncitch.

The French word of Greek origin �pigone (noun) and �pigonal,e (adjective) is present in the English literature since the Shakespeare era (written with or without accent) as well as other French words, like: nom de plume, ensemble, f�te (always written with accent), �lite (with or without accent)� and d�lit d�opinion (a certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher, who apparently lives in Malta and had time on his hands, committed according to your readers).

As to their comments, which range from a disgustingly pretentious lesson of zoological anatomy inspired by a crass ignorance to the typical anti-French hysteria inspired ignoble gibberish in backveld-English and some totally out of place ridiculous and odious comparisons, you certainly know why you published them. They think that you should not have published my article. Mr. Boulez�s detractors would be pleased if you deleted it. Please, do not hesitate to discard it. It is already published in USA and Portugal. A certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher who lives in Malta and has time on his hands is wondering whether he is becoming of Sequenza21. However, he remains grateful to you, because you embellished the title of his article and transformed it into "Pierre de France is Number One"

A certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher who apparently lives in Malta and has time on his hands and who will never more disturb you thinks that your comment between the title and the text of his article is somehow irreverent towards the greatest living musician of our time.


A certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher who lives in Malta and APPARENTLY has time on his hands
Honestly, I feel terrible and I sincerely hope Monsieur Grancher does not follow through on his threat not to share his thoughts with us from time to time.
Quintet of the Americas; Merkin Concert Hall, NYC

Composing for Wind Quintet is probably one of the hardest tasks a composer could be assigned. A common practice group, the Wind Quintet, i.e. flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn, is an amalgam of somewhat disparate entities of ranges and timbers whose forces must somehow be combined and shaped into some semblance of sonic order; or not. Some composers are happy just to embrace and celebrate diversity (and chaos) and let them be the wild and different things they are.

Last Tuesday evening, in Merkin Concert Hall, the Quintet of the Americas performed works by 5 composers: Elliot Schwartz, Laura Kaminsky, Jon Deak, Carl Maultsby, and Robert Paterson, all present by the way to talk a little about their pieces after the intermission.

For this evening I formally recused myself from critiquing the concert. I had had a long day of standing on my feet and rushing about helping people pick out the right Elgar cello concerto and Bach musical offering and whatnot and was tired when I got to the hall. Trying to liven myself up helped some but not enough to be fully present and give it my inspired concentration. Having said that, the general feeling that I got was that these pieces were competent and displayed some solid writing but did they really tame the beast or celebrate its wildness? Good question.

Jon Deak�s �Bremen Town Musicians� composed in 1985, awakened my mood. It�s a rather wild story of an old donkey who is about to meet his fate as his master has decided that the donkey would better serve being served; i.e. reduced to soup bones and glue. The donkey decides to avoid becoming the first course and runs away to the town of Bremen to earn his living as a musician. The story is told with words, by the musicians, and by vocal passages interpreted by their instruments. �Take that! You good for nothing!� it starts; then the phrase [Take that!] is played on an instrument mimicking that rhythm and accent. There is the potential for at least a few good jokes and ironies in this story told by wind quintet. Please muse about them at will. The piece captures, with wry wit and excursionist passages, the amusing ability to poke fun at itself.

Another highlight of the evening was Carl Maultsby�s, �The Journey�, which was the only work to incorporate additional musicians (percussion instruments). It displayed solid writing with the percussion serving as its featured voice. The piece wove nicely layered poly-rhythms and percussive textures into the fabric of the African pentatonic wandering rhythms. In this the Quintet was not sent out on the expedition and was mostly at home to serve as the subtext of The Journey�s travel log.

Elliot Schwartz�s �Rows Garden� was snatches of 12 tone �rows� from the compositions of the second Viennese school of composition; Berg, Webren, Schoenberg.

Laura Kamknsky�s "Cadenza Variations for Woodwind Quintet� brought home an interesting insight. Most of the instruments of the wind quintet are used as solo instruments in ensembles and in the orchestra. Horn being the exception and the one used mostly but not entirely in supportive roles.

The last piece of the evening, the premiere of Robert Paterson�s �Wind Quintet�, was a fun romp and evoked an awakening of, well, of me I guess; finally.

The Quintet of the Americas is a fine, fine wind quintet and played with polish and professionalism. They are an ensemble playing together, listening to and working with each other to bring something new to their performances and to the challenging genre of wind quintet music.

Quintet of the Americas:
Sato Moughalian, flute; Matthew Sullivan, oboe; Edward R. Gilmore, clarinet; Barbara Oldham, horn; Laura Koepke, bassoon
Guest artists:
Eric Halvarson, drums; Jack Mansager and John Hadfield, percussion
Honoring James Tenney

James Tenney is not as famous as many of his friends and mostly late teachers but he is a giant to his many admirers in the contemporary music community. When Kyle Gann (actually Kyle says not quite--see comments) asked John Cage in 1989 whom he would study with if he were young today, his answer was, "James Tenney."

Tenney was a pioneer in the field of electronic and computer music, working with Max Mathews and others at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition. He studied with--or was friends with--such luminaries as Edgard Varese, Carl Ruggles, John Cage, and Harry Partch. He had close affiliations with several filmmakers, appearing in Carolee Schneemann�s influential film Fuses (1967) and composing music for works by Schneemann and Stan Brakhage. He participated in the earliest experiments with musical Minimalism as a composer and performer, including original membership in both the Philip Glass and Steve Reich Ensembles. As co-organizer, conductor, and pianist for the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble, he played a role in introducing the music of Ives, Cage, Feldman, Ruggles, Varese, and others to a wider audience.

Tenney has also had a long career in teaching having been on the faculties of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, the University of California at Santa Cruz and York University in Toronto where he was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1994. He is currently holds the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at CalArts. His important writings include History of Consonance and Dissonance and Meta-Hodos (a theory of musical perception grounded on gestalt psychology).

In short, he is one of those legendary "downtowners" who is more heard-about than heard.

The unsinkable pianist and Tenney admirer Jenny Lin decided to do something about that and she's organized two evening-length programs of newly composed and innovative early work to honor him during his 70th year. The first of these will be on May 8 at East Village venue The Project Room and will include a rare performance of Tenney's Postal Pieces (1965-71). Written during a brief tenure in the earliest days at CalArts, Postal Pieces is a series of eleven works printed on postcards. The second will be on May 11 at The Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria and will include a performance of Forms I�IV as well as two world premieres. Jenny has pulled together a diverse roster of intrepid local musicians to work collaboratively on the programs, including SoHo-scene originals DownTown Ensemble and the polymath composer/instrumentalist Elliott Sharp as well as younger groups like Flux Quartet, TILT brass band, and Ne(x)tworks.

Tenney will participate in both concerts.
Last Night in LA--Music for Piano

Thomas Schultz played at Zipper Hall for PianoSpheres last night in a concert which went from high to high. Most of Shultz� concerts combine 19th century works with contemporary music; his upcoming June concert in Weill Hall, for example, is programmed to combine Schubert and Liszt with Rzewski and Stockhausen. Last night was all contemporary, a set of challenging works to which Tom Schultz brought a sense of melody and line as well as absolute technical mastery.

The first half of the concert was uncompromisingly atonal, starting with Stockhausen�s �Klavierst�ck IX� (1961), one of the more dramatic of the composer�s Piano Pieces. This was followed by a work written for Schultz, �Touch� (2002) by Christian Wolff. Wolff is notable for the following statement: "One day I said to myself that it would be better to get rid of all that--melody, rhythm, harmony, etc. This was not a negative thought and did not mean that it was necessary to avoid them, but rather that, while doing something else, they would appear spontaneously. We had to liberate ourselves from the direct and peremptory consequence of intention and effect, because the intention would always be our own and would be circumscribed, when so many other forces are evidently in action in the final effect."

Of course it certain hands, only the first sentence might be given. As an aid, Schultz told the audience that we should listen to �Touch� as if we were on a leisurely walk, observing one thing, then another. I think this helped, but �Touch� is still a difficult work to understand.

After intermission, Schultz performed two works written for him by Hyo-shin Na, �Rain Study� (1999) and �Walking, Walking� (2003). Both works have basic themes derived from folk songs, the first Korean, the second Chilean. �Rain Study� presented images of a hard, cold rain which gradually eased and softened, a moody piece. �Walking, Walking� was performed by Schultz last year at Weill Hall; it conveys many moods, analogous to reactions and thoughts while on a long, varied walk. Both works by Na are lovely as well as interesting, rewarding as well as challenging.

The concert closed with �Piano Piece #4� (1977) by Frederic Rzewski (1977). This work is especially an exploration of the sonorities of a piano, including pitches from open strings in sympathetic vibration following loud chords. There are many interior melodies growing out of slight changes in repeated chords. Unfortunately for me, I dislike the qualities of the Fazioli piano in Zipper Hall; I felt it might be good for student pianists, with a bright tone and an easy touch, but it produces tubby bass notes and harsh high treble. In the preceding pieces, Schultz� pianism overcame the flaws in sound, but in the Rzewski it couldn�t be done.

Elodie Lauten's 10 Reasons to Stop Composing post has drawn a lot of passionate comment over on the Composers Forum page...We have an S21 first--part one of a time travel short story by the bright young pianist Jeffrey Biegel in which he imagines meeting Beethoven. Sure hope Jeff speaks German...And Lawrence Dillon reports that three S21 composer/bloggers have pieces being performed in Kiev tonight. We're on a kleb.
The Creep Fogs In

Is the Milan outcast Riccardo Muti headed for the city of big shoulders? AP reports he's been offered the Chicago Symphony post being vacated by Daniel Barenboim next year.
Boulez/IRCAM Residence at Manhattan School of Music April 18-22

Whilst the Boulez battle rages below, the man himself is in town this week leading Manhattan School of Music students in open rehearsals and concerts of his music. There are events every night, and the final concert features performances of Anthemes II and '...explosante fixe...' Check it out.
A piano cycle in progress, and a classical podcast

Florida audiences in St. Petersburg and Boca Raton have heard in the past few days parts of a new cycle of piano pieces by composer Thomas L. McKinley, a theory/composition professor at Lynn University.

Two pieces of the "five or six" McKinley said he hopes to finish by the summer in the collection he is calling Fantasy Pieces were played Sunday in Boca Raton by the pianist for whom they were written, Roberta Rust.

"Invocation," inspired by the repetitive chanting of Tibetan Buddhist ceremony, uses two repeated notes (B and E-flat) as signposts around which McKinley has written bursts of color: Fast, short complex runs, and a tasty series of spicy staccato chords that dissolve into single notes that vanish into silence while the drone of a single note continues to the end.

The second piece, "Fearful Symmetry," its title and structure inspired by William Blake's legendary tyger, offered a solemn, slow procession of unison notes several octaves apart in both hands, broken by hushed, small-chord commentaries from time to time.

Both pieces, well-played by Rust, had something of an attractive jazz flavor about them. Their concision in the working out of the basic ideas reminded me of Prokofiev's Visions fugitives; perhaps McKinley's Fantasy Pieces will prove useful for pianists wanting to offer contemporary character sketches on their programs.

I should also mention that Lynn University recently announced the launch of a podcast featuring free downloadable performances from its classical concert archive. Lynn claims it's the first one in the country they know of. A visit to the site will show that it's a work in progress, but I downloaded some decent renditions of songs by Faure, Bellini and Puccini and found the sound quality to be rather good.

One hopes the school will make its contemporary performances, such as the McKinley pieces, available soon.

Nashville Symphony conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn died this morning. Schermerhorn had surgery and was placed in intensive care Vanderbilt University Medical Center earlier this month after being diagnosed last month with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
iPod, uPod, We all Pod

Those clever devils at Cathedral have just launched The Memory Theater, an iPod opera. Serialized as 49 playlists between April 10, 2005 and February 24, 2007, The Memory Theater is a retelling of Cathedral's 5 moments through the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The Fanfare (Program 1) is available now, and the Prologue will begin on April 24.

And the cool thing is that you don't have to have an iPod to listen. Go to this overly complicated page and poke around for awhile and if you're lucky and hit the right buttons, sound will come out of your speakers. Check back every two weeks to hear the next program.

Elodie Lauten has a new piece today called Ten Reasons to Stop Composing. Make sure you've had your Zoloft before reading it...And Tom Myron lists some people who are not composers but have influenced his work.
Finally, Boy Babes

Well, this is progress, I suppose.
Pierre de France is Number One

We received the following electronic communication today from a certain Jean-Fran�ois Grancher (translated into English by Voya Toncitch). There was no further explanation. A Google search reveals only that Monsieur Grancher apparently lives in Malta and has time on his hands:
The French composer Pierre Boulez was 80-year old on 26th March.

Since 1945, Boulez rouses controversies, very often based on envy, and stirs up epigonal movements all over the world. Like Claude de France (Claude Debussy, 1862-1918), Pierre de France (1925) has numerous imitators and just a few disciples.

Boulez commenced his career in 1945 with "Twelve Notations for Piano". While inspired by Debussy�s spirit and hues and the symbolic poetry of St�phane Mallarm� (1842-1898), his Opus One unveils all creative abilities of an extraordinary talent and remains the first important work written for piano in the French music literature after World War II. Let us not forget that the composer was 20-year-old.

With his First Sonata for Piano, Boulez initiated in 1946 the European avant-garde movement and enriched the French music literature in this genus.

In 1948, Boulez composed his monumental Second Sonata for Piano, an absolute master-piece which remains not only the greatest piano work written after the war, but also the most important piano sonata written in 20-ieth Century.

Its imposing and complex architecture and its hermetic dramatic poetry confirm Boulez�s creative genius.

Between 1948 and 1997, Pierre Boulez composed a series of outstanding works. This year, he announced a work entitled "Anth�mes 3" for violin and orchestra.

Pierre de France is not only composer. He is a remarkable conductor too, unrivalled performer of works by Wagner, Debussy, Ravel, Bart�k, Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Strawinsky. He conducted orchestras in Paris, Berlin, The Hague, London, New York, Chicago, Cleveland�

Boulez wrote some interesting and pertinent pages on contemporary music. He taught composition and music analysis at Academy of Music in Basle and lectured during twenty years at the prestigious Coll�ge de France in Paris from 1975-1995.

The French master is laureate of two most important prizes for music, Gravenmayer in USA and Siemens in Germany.

Pierre de France is certainly the greatest living musician of our time.
And--this is a little known fact--Pierre is also a terrific tap dancer.


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