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340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Jerry Bowles
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Managing Editor:
David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
Lanier Sammons
Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
Christian Hertzog
(San Diego)
Jerry Zinser
(Los Angeles)

Web & Wiki Master:
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Latest Posts

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
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


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, May 28, 2005
The GWB Just Before Sunset

Dear Galen:

It was good to see you at the BMOP concert earlier tonight [Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor, Jordan Hall, Boston--May 27--Takemitsu Tribute]and to talk briefly face to face. Since I didn't see you afterwards and wasn't able to compare notes, I should say that my overwhelming impression of Takemitsu's music for me is the same as that that I have to every Ligeti piece I encounter: that he was clearly such a good musician, and heard everything beautifully, and considered and thought out everything carefully and incredibly well: that he was just such a good composer. [second half: Takemitsu--Requiem (1957), Three Films Scores, November Steps(1967)] I was particularly impressed by the Requiem, which seemed so powerful and compelling. The films scores were appealingly slinky, lush, or however else one might want to describe them. It struck me that even though Takemitsu's notes for November Steps said "...a composer should not be occupied by such things as how one blends traditional Japanese instruments with an orchestra..." he certainly did a good and canny job of providing linking timbral elements between the shakuhachi and biwa and the western instruments. It seemed to me that the performances were really wonderful, matching the elegance and beauty of the writing with elegantly and luxuriously beautiful playing. One might have wished for something from the last 37 years of Takemitsu's life, but I suppose complaining about it would be churlish.

As I told you earlier, I thought that Ken Ueno's piece [Kaze-no-Oka "Hill of the Winds"--first performance, comissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard] was really strong and I liked it a lot. The beginning, which Ueno said in his notes "concentrates on transcribing the Japanese concert of sawari (roughly translates to beautiful noise or touch and speaks of the prioritization of sound in Japanese traditional music)"], full of thumps and plunks, microtones, and, most especially multiphonics from the contrabass clarinet and baritone saxophone, also did a good job of laying down the common elements with the shakuhachi and biwa, and made an imposing introduction to the extended section for the Japanese instruments (which can stand alone as an independent piece). Since, unlike you, I hadn't read the program notes beforehand, I kept waiting (with great anticipation) for the orchestra to come back in and wondering how he was going to do it. Just about the time I was losing interest, or beginning to do, they stopped and the piece was over, without the orchestra ever coming back in (disapointingly, as far as I was concerned). In his spoken introduction, he did say something about the music for the two instruments being a separate piece, but I'd (hopefully) imagined something like the Berio Sequenza/chemins, with the orchestra surrounding--in a number of senses--the soloists, but that's not the way it happened.

Tan Dun's Water Concerto had a very very strong beginning, I thought, and always demonstrated a great sensitivity to and ingenuity with timbre and instrumental writing, but, for me, it pretty soon began to seem awfully thin--it had everything one might want except substance (and actual music). It might have seemed quite good had it had a movie going on in front of it, since it was attractive and pretty lively. But it was also extremely unspecific. The playing, especially that of Robert Schultz, the soloist, was pretty fabulous, but watching even the most insteresting percussionist splashing around in water loses its interest before too long.

I'm sure you had different (maybe even wildly different) thoughts about the concert, and I'd be very interested in hearing them.

All best,

As ever,

Gone Fishing

When the spring came, even the relentless false spring, they heard again the cry of the great trout, which was strange because trout generally don�t say much. And so they headed out, toward the big mountains, with their fly rods and waders tucked in the trunk and the brown bag with the cheap, but celebratory, wine and the slightly past its prime brie bought at Fairway on a damp rainy day ten days ago when both the patrons and help were surlier than usual as they spoke of the spring that seemed never to come.

�Is it time,� I said. �Si,� my friend said. �Yes.�

And so, they began the journey. Two ancient thespians now living on separate coasts, they would drive north and west, toward the town of Roscoe in the Catskills where it was said the great trout fearlessly walk the streets in packs, standing upright like tiny silver bears, menacing townspeople with their small sharp teeth. It was a sight they wanted to see for themselves so they could call themselves men or whatever passes for men in the age of George Walker Bush...
A Little Global Warming, Please

Nobody asked me if it was okay but it's beginning to look like we traded weather with San Francisco. Absurdly cold and damp for almost June. But, I digress...In the wake of the Hyperion legal decision, Alex Ross has decided to become a composer. And why not? I just knocked out a little piece myself this morning called "Play That Funky Music, White Boy." Alex shows how it's done.

And while we're speaking of the distinguished gentleman from the New Yorker (who wrote something nice about Pierre Boulez in the current issue), I think Frank J. Oteri is trying to get a new round of Boulez-bashing going over in the Composers Forum. Feel free to pilez vous on.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Elodie Lauten wants to know if tech is still cool and to what degree does equipment design the project...Tom Myron has a new poem and that's something the world can always use more of.

Wait. I think I have a new song..."I was born in a crossfire hurricane...raised by a pitted toothless hag." Wow, this is easy.
Playing Favorites

Here are the "favorite" contemporary composers of North American music critics, according to the MCANA/NAJP Music Critics Survey. Let us examine the list together, shall we?

The biggest surprise, of course, is no Philip Glass. My take is that this is a bit of reverse snobbism of the he's-so-popular-he-can't-possibly-be-serious variety or perhaps a bit of groupthink that says it's not cool to pick the most obvious. In any event, Glass is better than most of the folks on this list and should have been there.

Rorem has been getting some 80th (thanks, Ian) birthday programming this year which probably accounts for his showing but, basically, he's a lightweight. Corigliano? Must be the Red Violin thing. Not to cause domestic disharmony, but Mark Adamo is much better. Argento surprises me because he is very good and not that well-known.

Gorecki? One hit wonder. Dutilleux? I'm willing to bet that not one of the people who named him have ever heard a performance of a single work of his live. Tower and Zwilich may be deserving but they are suspiciously politically correct.

Any list of top living composers that doesn't include Osvaldo Golijov and Aulis Sallinen is baloney in my view. But, hey it's fun to talk about.
Stop Presses! (Part II)

The discussion of our Stop Presses post on the North American critics survey refuses to die down, with Frank J. Oteri and Willa Conrad, who was involved in the study, being the latest to check in. Since that post is about to slide off the bottom of the front page and into the archives, I've pulled the last two comments and reprinted them here so we can start a new thread.
Despite "Jim"'s dissent above, I thought David Toub's comment above about Glass and Berg were totally on target.

As for Glass being cited as "some sort of 'let's namecheck a living American composer that doesn't use serialism' joke," I for one was not laughing. When I was in high school, Lulu and Einstein on the Beach were the two works that convinced me that an experience emanating from an opera house could be as visceral as any coming from the world of musical theatre, punk rock and every other non-classical music experience coming at me at the time. Not gold 'ole Verdi and Wagner or The Merry Widow. Eeegads, poor Kyle! I had to wait a few years for the revival of Einstein at BAM a few years later to confirm the effectiveness of Glass's music as part of a larger stage totality after only imagining that total experience from the essays and photos accompanying my four Tomato LPs, but first I saw the opening night of the American premiere of Satyagraha which already confirmed my belief in Glass as a pre-eminent operatic composer. I later sought out Wozzeck and had an equally powerful epiphany that was both theatrical and musical. So, for me, too, Glass and Berg led the way.

In the years since, I've fallen in love with operatic works ranging from Zimmermann's serial Die Soldaten to Adams's post-minimalist Death of Klinghoffer. Much as I wallow in the theory underlying both minimalism and serialism, and, for that matter, loads of other -isms, what happens on a stage requires a much more immediate reckoning. And no specific stylistic vocabulary authomatically disqualifies or qualifies anyone from creating effective operatic music as all of these works attest. After my extremely revelatory encounters with James Tenney a couple of weeks ago (the results of which are soon to be published on NewMusicBox), I keep wondering why we minimalists and serialists can't share the same playground once and for all!
Frank J. Oteri
Frank has a lot more to say over at his own blog.
To Kyle, Alex and others:
Just wanted to add to your very lively conversation off the critics survey report; you'll find a COMPLETE list of how each of 54 living and 52 historical composers were ranked; the picture is much more complicated than the discussion so far would indicate.

Also, appropo to hearing new music in orchestral vs. chamber and other venues: note the survey also provides the following stats: About half the stories filed by critics are reviews, and of those, 72% tend to focus on the works of historical composers. Match this to the statistic that 76% of critics surveyed indicated covering orchestral music as one of the three favorite things they like to cover BUT, only 25-29% indicated new music ensembles or contemporary opera were on their top three list of favorite types to cover.

Just one critic in six says that at least half their reviews deal with works of living composers.

The appropriate question to consider, I think, is: Is this preference for orchestral music (which by definition means less exposure to new music) created by the critics, or a situation they are forced into by editors who prefer institutional coverage?

How much power do critics really have to change the forums and formats of what they write about - or, are they just generally so comfortable with the traditional review/preview, with orchestral emphasis, coverage that they've become lazy?

Interested in your thoughts.
Willa Conrad
Discovered - the online Arnold Schoenberg jukebox!

On An Overgrown Path has come up with something of a scoop in its post Discovered - the online Arnold Schoenberg jukebox. This ever resourceful blog has linked to sixty classical radio stations worldwide that stream their output on the internet. And in researching the story they've come up with some real gems including several majoring in contemporary classical. But the real scoop is the online jukebox of the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna. This is a serious resource, and early reports are of some little known works there by Schoenberg that are well worth investigating. On An Overgrown Path has the story and all the links.
Last Night in L.A. - Liebersons and Friends

The L.A. Phil gave a fairly rare recognition to Peter Lieberson in last night�s New Music Group concert: they invited the composer to be conductor and to select whatever music he wanted, his own and from others, for the concert. They even gave him outside resources when necessary. (There was one restriction, understood or stated; the music had to be for small orchestra or chamber groups.) So we were given a nice concert of four works by Lieberson, two with the performers for whom the works were written, supplemented by three works by British composers who, Lieberson felt, might be less known to the Los Angeles audience.

The concert was dedicated to one of these, his good friend Oliver Knussen, composer and conductor, who is in hospital recuperating from an operation (and who had to cancel his upcoming participation in the Ojai Festival because of that). The other two, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Julian Anderson, once studied with Knussen and have had their compositions conducted by him. The concert began with Turnage�s Snapshots (2002), written to celebrate Knussen�s 50th birthday, and this provided a nice, bright set of sounds and colors. Then a slightly reduced chamber orchestra of Phil musicians gave Knussen�s Two Organa (1995), two studies in sonority and resonance. Then Anderson�s Alhambra Fantasy (2000), an interesting study in textures. The first half closed with Lieberson�s Piano Quintet (2002), written for his friend Peter Serkin with the Orion Quartet; this is a virtuosic work of shifting moods, and it was very well played, Gloria Cheng joining four strings of the Phil.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson re-opened the concert after intermission singing another of her husband�s gifts to her, Rilke Songs (2001), accompanied by friend/accompanist Robert Tweten. One of the good features of Disney Hall is the ability to lower screens from the ceiling to provide projected surtitles, so we didn�t have the interruptions of rustling program books as patrons tried to follow the words, letting us instead just concentrate and absorb the atmosphere of sound. This was followed by Free and Easy Wanderer (1998) which was dedicated to Knussen when it was written for the London Sinfonietta, a light, mercurial work. The concert concluded with his Horn Concerto (1999) with William Purvis, for whom the work was written for performance with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, as soloist. This concerto provides a real showpiece (and challenge) for the horn in its short 15 minutes. Purvis got a winner and gave us one.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Alex Ross has some good words to say about Pierre Boulez on the occasion of his 80th birthday...Here at home, Brian Sacawa has some praise for one of his teachers, Yusef Lateef...We're waiting for someone to come up with a new topic over in the Composers Forum. Are you out there Larry, Cary, Corey or Rodney? Or anyone else, for that matter.
Midday Update

In response to Jeffrey Biegel's plaintive "Why Bother" post this morning about making art in a post-9/11 world, Tom Myron relates a frightening personal experience. Don't miss it.
Last Night in L.A. - Liebersons Triumphant

Last night was the L.A. Phil�s third performance of Neruda Songs (it premiered Friday), a joint comission with the Boston Symphony, based on five love sonnets by Pablo Neruda composed by Peter Lieberson for his wife Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and sung by her.

The sonnets themselves are beautiful poetry (the opening line of the opening sonnet is �If your eyes were not the color of the moon�), and Lieberson has given them lovely settings. I can�t imagine Lorraine Hunt Lieberson ever giving a careless or thoughtless performance; she could elevate average music--if her taste allowed her to try the merely average--to the level of outstanding music. For a premiere of a love song to her from her husband, all of her technique and thought and artistry were in use.

With Hunt Lieberson working her special magic, is Neruda Songs the masterpiece it seemed? With another singer, on another afternoon, without Salonen shaping the orchestra and evoking the color of the music and the words, without the crystal sounds of Disney Hall � under such circumstances maybe this wouldn�t seem like a great piece. Perhaps people will criticize the work because it lacks the lushness and luxury of Ravel�s Scheherezade. Others might denigrate Neruda Songs because it isn�t Strauss� Last Songs.

As for me, I thought this was great music, the best of Lieberson�s career so far. This is certain to be recorded, and it�s a great shame that yesterday�s concert will not be the basis for the recording.

At twenty-five minutes, the Lieberson(s) work was able to stand alone in the program, constituting the first half of the concert. But what could follow Neruda Songs? The Phil decided to change gears completely so the second half was the massive Shostakovich Symphony 10. Salonen had some things to say about the work, taking longer than average for the piece; this became thrilling Shostakovich. I look forward to next season and the completion of the Shostakovich cycle with the three last symphonies.

Lucky us: more Liebersons tonight at the Phil�s New Music concert.
Bon Voyage!

Lawrence Dillon is off to Gay Paree for a premiere of his piano quartet What Happened or que pasa as we say here in Nuevo Jork...Lowell Leibermann is writing a piano concerto for Jeffrey Biegel who organized a consortium of orchestras to help fund and perform it. Jeffrey is exceptionally good at this sort of thing and if I were a composer I'd have him over to the house for a latte (and if I were an ambitious young instrumentalist, I'd "borrow" his business model)...Everette Minchew wants to know what you're listening to, which translates to what's on your i-Pod for you upscale types. Fun question. Why don't we all gather over on Everette's porch and leave some comments.
1984 - Live Webcast

On An Overgrown Path tells you how to listen to Maazel's controversial 1984 live over the internet this Wednesday (25th May). Full details of streamed and 'on demand' feeds are there in 1984 - you decide

Covent Garden's poster for Maazel's new opera, 1984
Practice, Man. Practice.

Had coffee yesterday with a couple of great kids from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Violinist Christina Fong, who blogs for us here and makes�along her husband, percussionist Glenn Freeman-- extraordinary recordings of obscure works by neglected composers on their own label�fiddles with the Grand Rapids Symphony which celebrated its 75th anniversary by renting Carnegie Hall last night.

Glenn, who is originally from Florida, and Christina, a Chicagoan, hooked up at the music school at Northwestern and moved to Grand Rapids after college. Both love new music and in 1998 they launched OgreOgress Productions to provide a showcase for their musical talents and record works that otherwise might not be available on disk. Since then they have turned out a series of outstanding new music recordings by Morton Feldman, Maria de Alvear, Alan Hovhaness, as well as five extraordinary CDs dedicated to John Cage's late period "Number Pieces� and three more Cage recordings scheduled over the next two years.

Their next release will be a 2-CD recording of Morton Feldman's complete works for violin, viola and piano which should be out by July. Send Glenn an e-mail and he�ll let you know. Long term, the kids (I�ll just call them, the kids) are planning to record three major and neglected violin pieces by Hovhaness with the Czech Philharmonic or the Czech something or other. (I�m old, leave me alone.) Glenn will leave us a note with details.

And speaking of leaving notes. There�s a terrific conversation between Alex Ross and Kyle Gann going on in the comments section of the next post down. Who knew we could afford these guys?

UPDATE: Glenn Freeman advises me that the "Czech something or other" is the Slovak Radio Symphony and the Hovhaness works they're recording are:
Op. 81: Janabar for violin, trumpet, piano & strings
Op. 93A: Talin (concerto) for viola & strings
Op. 228: Shambala (concerto)for violin, sitar & orchestra


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