Latest Blogger Updates

What's New in the Composers Forum

CD Reviews


Latest Podcasts at

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

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

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:
Jeff Harrington

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

Friday, February 03, 2006
Talking Flannery O' Connor Blues

One of the things you have to decide as you stumble headlong into the sunset years is whether you're going to be a good corpse or a bad corpse. When your number is called, is it nobler to just roll over and play...well, dead and assume that other people will sort it all out or should you try to control from beyond the grave? I know I'm only 62 but I have a streak of southern morbidity that causes me to consider various scenarios in which this website is here but I am unable to perform my duties. (I have just watched helplessly as a good friend of mine here in the building retreated to that special mental room that nobody else can get into.)

So, here are some questions I would like to raise for the consideration of the group:

1) Should Sequenza21 become a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization?
2) Should I simply designate David S. and Galen and Ian and maybe a couple of others to figure out if the site is worth keeping and what form it should take when the time comes?
3) Who will play Janacek's Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 From the Street at my memorial service?
Another Brick in the Wall

Orpheus will perform the world premiere of Marc Mellits's Brick tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall, one of the goodies that comes with being selected by the Cheswatyr New Music Initiative, a partnership among the American Music Center, the Cheswatyr Foundation, NPR, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and WNYC Radio to commission, perform, and broadcast new works by American composers.

One of the great things about the Cheswatyr program is that it is not simply a one-night stand. Orpheus has committed to 15 repeat performances of Brick around the U.S. and Europe in the spring. WNYC (93.9 FM) will air the Carnegie premiere live and re-broadcast it three times over the next few years. NPR's nationally distributed programs "Performance Today" and "Symphony Cast" have both agreed to re-broadcast the piece, reaching as many as 220 member stations. Memo to Marc: I will fix the spelling of your name on the Composers page one of these days.

Some dissertation post-partum from Jay C. Batzner... Blackdogred revisits the burning question: "twee vs fey."

Now Playing: Scherzoid, Evening Songs, When I Woke, Yet Another Set To Mark-Anthony Turnage, London Symphony Orchestra. LSO. Too funky and jazzy to be just another Boulez/Knussen clone, Turnage (currently resident in Chicago) is Britain's most original young composer and that includes the much more heralded Thomas Ades.
Going-Nowhere Music Hits the Bigtime

As many of you are by now aware, the LA Phil and John Adams are teaming up to present a two week series from March 18th to April 2nd which they have entitled "Minimalist Jukebox." The programs include such classics as Terry Riley's "In C," Steve Reich's "Tehelim," John Adams's "Harmonielehre," and scenes from Philip Glass's "Akhnaten," and a multitude of other lesser known works and composers. The final days of the festival include lectures and panel discssions. It's really a pity that the City of Angels is so far away from my home in the frozen Northeast.

But after the initial flush of enthusiasm, one is left to consider a less cheery subject. In the press package for the 2005/2006 Season, John Adams is quoted as saying �The works of the Minimalists have given a jump start to concert music and have brought composers and their audiences together again in a way not experienced since the 19th century. It�s only fitting that the Los Angeles Philharmonic should be the first American orchestra to realize this and to celebrate it.� First, I'm not sure that the Boston Modern Orchestra Project didn't beat them to the punch with their Minimalism concert last year, but aside from that, "In C" was written in 1965, "Music for 18 Musicians" was premiered in 1974, "Einstein on the Beach" is from 1976 -- and this "first" is happening in 2006? Seriously, people, that's pathetic.

So Bravo to BMOP and the LA Phil, but I leave you with this thought: these two orchestras have each put together programs of all Minimalist music -- BMOP called theirs "Minimalism" and the LA Phil called theirs "Minimalist Jukebox." What do you call a concert of, say, all Serialist music? It's just a concert.
My Disc of the Year, so far

Pierluigi Billone: ME A AN / ITI KE MI. ensemble recherche. Stradivarius STR 33716.

I am not a good enough writer just to tell you how good a disc this is, so let me tell you about my weekly routine.

I live in Providence with my wife, but I am still nominally a doctoral candidate at SUNY Buffalo, so while school is in session I drive up there once a week to teach for a day. It�s a lovely drive on the Mass Pike and the New York Thruway; the scenery is pretty, the roads are great, and there�s hardly ever any significant traffic, but it is a long trip � about seven hours each way.

Of course, I always take along a pile of CDs of just about every description; Monteverdi, Brahms, Finnissy, Liars, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Randy Newman, Bruckner. I use the trip as a chance to listen to music that I would otherwise never have the time or energy to sit through.

After a long day of teaching followed immediately by a seven-hour commute, though, I�m wiped. As soon as I pull into the driveway I turn off the car, collect my bags, and head in to find my wife, cats, and warm bed. I have never, in all the fifteen or so trips I�ve made since last September, seen fit to delay the homecoming for a single second; recently, I turned off John Eliot Gardiner�s recording of Monteverdi�s Orfeo, one of my favorite recordings of anything ever, halfway through the last number after listening to it all the way through for the previous two-plus hours. No disc has ever made me even think about sitting in the cold, dark car at 12:30 AM after a 17-hour day when I could be in bed, except for this Stradivarius CD of Pierluigi Billone.

Billone is a forty-something Italian composer who has a strong interest in the prelinguistic; many of his pieces, including the two on this disc, are titled with transliterations of Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions. The jaw-dropper here, the masterpiece, is ME A AN, a 35-minute work for textless male voice, two bass clarinets, viola, cello, bass and percussion (here members of ensemble recherche). This is violent, loud, aggressive, extreme, dramatic closed-fists sort of music; but it�s also heartbreaking. The wordless vocal writing reminds me most, in isolation, of Kurtag�s Holderlin-Fragmente, but the rest of the sonic universe here could not be more different; the delicacy and fine lines of Kurtag�s instrumental writing are replaced by metallic rendings, squeakings and screams.

The other half of the record is ITI KE MI, for solo viola, restrung and beaten to within an inch of its life by new-music viola star Barbara Maurer. It�s also violent to the point of saturation, gripping in its absolute unwillingness to let up and a strong atmosphere of ill will towards the instrument. In any other context, ITI KE MI would be the standout work; here it has to be satisfied with a close second.

This disc is absolutely unforgettable. If you are at all interested in ear-splitting, painfully dramatic music of the contemporary European sort, you have no excuse not to buy it; if you�re not, buy it for a friend who is, borrow it, and then succumb to the temptation to buy a copy for yourself.
Islands in the Stream

Slovak Radio is broadcasting three works by Meira Warshauer--Ahavah (Love), Shacharit (Morning Service) and Like Streams in the Desert--live from Bratislava at 1 PM EST today. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can listen by going to Slovak Radio and following the livestream link. Meira is keeping a blog of her journey here at S21...On Saturday, February 4, at 8 pm our buddy Brian Sacawa will be performing some "Hybrid Grooves" at the Philadelphia Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square. On the program is the premiere of "Collage No. 1 (Bits of Bowie) by Philadelphia composers Richard Belcastro.

Jennifer Stock of Soundbook One is curating an evening of electronic sound art at 8 pm on February 12 at Galapagos. The program will feature electroacoustic works + tape pieces by Paul Lansky, Ingram Marshall, Luke DuBois, and three emerging Yale composers, including our regular contributor Ian Moss and his Capital M crew. Details on the program and how to find Galapagos (go the third sea turtle and hang a right) here.

This Just In: Michael Gordon and Bill Morrison will be presenting an evening of works with the TACTUS Ensemble, led conductor Patti Monson, this Saturday, February 4, 8pm at Merkin Concert Hall

On the program will be Gotham, a piece for 35 musicians and 30 minutes of trippy film, with the musicians positioned behind a stage-wide scrim onto which Morrison's films will be projected.

Gordon and Morrison will also debut a new work, Who By Water. The title comes from a passage in the Rosh Hashanah service: "On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed...Who shall live, and Who shall die...Who by water, and Who by fire..."

Morrison says "Who By Water uses deteriorating archival footage to inspire the viewer to reflect upon his or her own fate, as those of the people captured by the film have already been sealed."

Or maybe you can stay home and kill yourself.
Tyranny: My Role in Its Elimination

The Grammy Awards are one week from today and it will surprise no one to learn that Naxos leads the pack in nominations. Mark Berry has the story...Elodie Lauten has returned from Paris and has a funny report on the quaint customs of her former countrymen...Christina Fong bemoans the Clear Channelization of NPR...Meira Warshauer checks in again from Bratislava...Lawrence Dillon takes a percussionist to class...Blackdogred recommends more splendid indie...My analysis of the State of the Union address--which I didn't watch--is here. You'll notice I never send those people over here.
More on The Honda Ad

The Honda Civic "Choir" ad that has everyone buzzing (including CH below) was produced by Wieden + Kennedy agency in London. The conductor is trumpet player and composer Steven Sidwell. This site has the most information I've seen about its making, including a link to a documentary.
My new favorite jingle

I never thought I'd hear commercial music that is as cool as this! Click "Watch."

And on an off-topic note, I can't believe how the British Honda Civic is 10 times cooler than what they sell in America....
Leo Ornstein�s Piano Quintet - Up Close and Personal

I've been wanting to hear this smashing piece live for years, ever since hearing the New World CD featuring Janice Weber on piano, an experience that changed my musical life forever. When I heard that Weber was doing it with the Ives Quartet at three concerts in the Bay Area in late January, I decided to fly out there from Philadelphia for the occasion. It turned out to be even a little more exciting than I had anticipated.

Leo Ornstein (1893-2002), of course, was the enfant terrible of the nineteen-teens decade, with his piano music that combined full-fisted cluster technique with a Rachmaninovian sensibility well before the emergence of Henry Cowell and before anyone had heard what Charles Ives was doing. The notoriety of pieces like Wild Man's Dance and Suicide in an Airplane (based on a true story involving a biplane - of course now it always needs a disclaimer) brought people to his concerts, where they also heard the first United States performances of Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Scriabin and Bart�k, among others. As you can read in Carol Oja's Making Music Modern and in a forthcoming full-length biography of Ornstein, Leo was the poster-child for the most radical new music of the era.

Op.31 Violin Sonata represented, in his mind, the farthest he could go, �beyond which lay madness.� In the late teens and early 1920s, his white-hot musical style gradually cooled down, rather like a liquid mixture begins to clarify as its various components separate out. But the star metaphor is also apt: as a supernova cools, it is compacted to an extremely high density. The harmonic language of his 1927 Piano Quintet is almost black-hole dense. Imagine The Rite of Spring compressed into five instruments. Most harmony starts with simple chords and adds notes to color the harmony. In this piece, though you can analyze it that way, it seems like Ornstein started with the total chromatic and selectively removed pitches to create harmonic fields that govern the work. It is dense, but also tense ... and immense. The tension barely lets up through three movements and nearly 40 minutes. And the fast music is incredibly fast. The score is 252 pages long!

Which brings me to my close-up. Although I went as a listener, I ended up being Janice Weber�s page-turner at two of the concerts. This piece is the ultimate workout for a page-turner because some of them go by in as little as two seconds. You don�t sit down. And you have to know the piece well, because the tempo changes frequently and the rhythms are additive and syncopated. The piano writing is Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Cowell combined on up to four staves. (Or, alternatively, a mash-up of the Bart�k First and Second Piano Concertos.) The pianist is silent for only four bars in the first movement, six in the second and one in the third.

Janice Weber�s performance, on the CD and in these concerts, is one of the best matches of pianist to piece that I�ve ever heard, or heard about. She can do loud without harshness, sweep and schwung without sloppiness, softness to silence, and bravura to perfection. And being just two feet away from her hands, I can testify to it better than any critic who has ever written about a pianist�s performance from the audience. It was all I could do to keep myself standing still up there.

The Ives Quartet was fantastic�in the Ornstein as well as in the Beethoven third Rasumovsky Quartet that preceded it (!) on the program. (The fugal finale was taken at warp speed with complete accuracy and unity and a surprising expressive range for notes going by at perhaps 10 per second.) Ornstein�s string writing in the Quintet is frequently in rhythmic unison against the piano, and other times heterophonically diverse. The Ives were laser-coherent, able to cut through the diamond-dense piano writing with utter precision. And they also captured the very Hebraic character of the slower melodies that surface throughout the work. (Funny, they didn�t look Jewish.) I wish their Saturday performance had been recorded�it was every bit as good as the superlative CD performance with Weber and the Lydian Quartet.

This piece should be done in LA and New York (and dare I hope Philadelphia?) as soon as possible. The Ives is based in Silicon Valley and the Lydian in Boston. In the meanwhile, by all means hear it on the CD. Fasten your seat belts first, and take a deep breath. It�s a wild ride.

Postscript: The composer�s son, Severo, took early retirement from his job as one of the creators of the technology that led to the PC and the Internet (my wording, not his) to edit his father�s works and typeset them on a computer. As a result, almost everything Leo wrote except the orchestral music is available on line in PDF format (scores and parts), downloadable for free at

Ornstein died in 2002 at age 108 or 109. His later music, almost all for piano, is stylistically diverse, moving comfortably between tonality and otherwise, held together by the supreme force of a creative intellect and shaped by two hands on a keyboard. (The Tarantelle is sonorously barbarous, but A Morning in the Woods is like Keith Jarrett�s most lyrical work.) His last work, the 30-minute Piano Sonata No. 8, was composed when he was 98 years old. It is
recorded by Marc-Andr� Hamelin on Hyperion as part of an all-Ornstein CD that overlaps very little with Janice Weber�s all-Ornstein CD on Naxos. Both are eminently worth having.
And concert composers/performers think they have it tough...

Few European free improvisers have been working as long as the British trombonist, Paul Rutherford. He has paid his free improv dues more than just about anyone else in the U.K. He played at University of California, San Diego last week in a brief but very engaging concert. After the set, I went up and had a brief chat with him. I expressed my happiness that he came to San Diego (as part of a tour of the Southwest and Pacific Coast), since he rarely comes to the States. He replied, "It's so nice to be paid."

I must have made an expression of incredulity, because he then lamented, "I only had two paying gigs in Britain last year."

Truly astounding. Can you imagine Birtwistle or Davies or any other distinguished British composer of their generation writing pieces without pay after a 40-year career?

As for the concert, here's an excerpt from my review:

The appearance by trombonist Paul Rutherford Wednesday evening at the UCSD Mandeville Recital Hall was especially welcome. Rutherford was one of the first free improvisers in England, forming the Spontaneous Music Ensemble with John Stevens and Trevor Watts in 1965. When most of the free improv crowd in San Diego were barely able to shake their baby rattles, Paul Rutherford and his contemporaries were bewildering or delighting European listeners. They made music that did not rely on existing compositions, that went so far as to avoid traditional harmonies, rhythms, exploring their instruments to incorporate any and all sounds into their music.

Rutherford rarely visits the U.S., and when he does, it's usually not the Southwest. Rutherford may not have the following of the late influential improviser Derek Bailey or the visionary saxophonist Peter Br�tzmann, but dammit, he was there at the beginning of the European improv scene, he's made almost 100 recordings since, and he's still out there playing rings around the youngsters.

He was joined for this gig by bassist Torsten M�ller (a generation younger than Rutherford), and by L.A. drummer Harris Eisenstadt (a generation younger than M�ller). You might expect Rutherford to step up to the front of this trio, but just as often Eisenstadt or M�ller would be the focus of your attention, and throughout the evening all three musicians collaborated in creating unified textures in which noone really stood out. At such moments the trio achieved that elusive goal of many free improvisers, a true musical collective.

Read the entire review here.
Hold That Note

Just because a composer writes a bunch of stuff on paper does that mean an orchestra should feel compelled to play it as written? An early morning provocation in the Composers Forum.

Blackdogred wonders what's up with the gratuitious trash talking of moderism in an article about Daniel Ginsberg's Roberto Sierra in the Washington Post...Tom Myron has a haiku for Mahler...Jay C. Batzner learns how to cage some free CDs.

Now Playing: Elektra Richard Strauss, WDR Sinfonieorchestra Koln, Semyon Bychkov, conductor. Profil/Hanssler. Stirring, with Deborah Polaski in splendid form as Elektra and Felicity Palmer a memorable Klytamnestra.
Surviving Rita

Much of the media coverage of last fall's disaster hurricane season focused on Katrina. But it was Rita that was the undoing of our regular contributor Robert Jordahl. Now that he's resettled, he sends us this account. JB

Let me tell you about this musician's Rita adventure.

In September, my wife Betty, grown sons Kevin and Bruce, our cat, and I left Lake Charles around two hours ahead of "Big Mama" herself. We drove east to a small town near Lafayette in order to hunker down with some friends of Kevin's. So far, so good. The next morning Bruce and I drove the 75 miles back to Lake Charles, which was now a ghost town.

Surprisingly, the police and Guard unit let us exit off of I-10 and we drove where our street had been. Huge trees lay like matchsticks across the entire length of the road, and we were forced to park at the head of the street and literally crawl over or around every tree. Reaching the house 3/4s of an hour later we saw that an enormous pine tree had fallen on the center of the house and another on the kitchen and carport. Inside, there was asbestos everywhere, so we decided that nothing could be accomplished until later. We drove back to Lafayette, loaded the cars and headed for Austin, which,at the time, seemed like the closest port in the storm. Once in Austin we contacted FEMA and arranged to live in a delayed stay hotel (free).

Well, I must confirm that FEMA doesn't partner with Hilton or the likes! We stayed in two rooms for 3 months. The second month was the most exciting- I took a fall and broke a hip. Fortunately, it healed quickly and I was soon my rambunctious self.

Last week we moved into an older house near Austin with some attached land, and, voila, the Jordahl ranch is born.

The major regret I have is professional. All my copies of published composition, cds, and tapes were lost--some 45 years of orchestral music, chamber works, ballets, a comic opera, masses, a cantata, keyboard works, and vocal and choral pieces. Most are still available in the McNeese State University Archives, so I don't feel totally wiped out

To be honest, I feel grateful that this happened in the last part of my life. I can still remember with pleasure major performances of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. And, there are the professional organizations I've been a part of.

All in all, I'd have to say it's been a great life.


12/19/2004 - 12/25/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/08/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/15/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/22/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/29/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/05/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/12/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/19/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/26/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/05/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/12/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/19/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/26/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/02/2005 04/03/2005 - 04/09/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/16/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/23/2005 04/24/2005 - 04/30/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/07/2005 05/08/2005 - 05/14/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/21/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/28/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/04/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/11/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/18/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/25/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/02/2005 07/03/2005 - 07/09/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/16/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/23/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/30/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/06/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/13/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/20/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/27/2005 08/28/2005 - 09/03/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/10/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/17/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/24/2005 09/25/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/02/2005 - 10/08/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/15/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/22/2005 10/23/2005 - 10/29/2005 10/30/2005 - 11/05/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/12/2005 11/13/2005 - 11/19/2005 11/20/2005 - 11/26/2005 11/27/2005 - 12/03/2005 12/04/2005 - 12/10/2005 12/11/2005 - 12/17/2005 12/18/2005 - 12/24/2005 12/25/2005 - 12/31/2005 01/01/2006 - 01/07/2006 01/08/2006 - 01/14/2006 01/15/2006 - 01/21/2006 01/22/2006 - 01/28/2006 01/29/2006 - 02/04/2006 02/05/2006 - 02/11/2006 02/12/2006 - 02/18/2006 02/19/2006 - 02/25/2006 02/26/2006 - 03/04/2006 03/05/2006 - 03/11/2006 03/12/2006 - 03/18/2006 03/19/2006 - 03/25/2006 03/26/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/02/2006 - 04/08/2006 04/09/2006 - 04/15/2006 04/16/2006 - 04/22/2006 04/23/2006 - 04/29/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/06/2006 05/07/2006 - 05/13/2006 05/14/2006 - 05/20/2006 05/21/2006 - 05/27/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/03/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/10/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/17/2006 06/18/2006 - 06/24/2006 06/25/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/08/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/15/2006 07/16/2006 - 07/22/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/29/2006 07/30/2006 - 08/05/2006 08/06/2006 - 08/12/2006 08/13/2006 - 08/19/2006 08/20/2006 - 08/26/2006 08/27/2006 - 09/02/2006 09/03/2006 - 09/09/2006 09/10/2006 - 09/16/2006

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to this feed listing