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Jerry Bowles
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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

Friday, February 17, 2006
Odd Couples

Struck up a conversation last night with a nice gentleman outside Zankel Hall who was photographing the billboard for the Alarm Will Sound concert. He was pointing out the "Sold Out" sign to his wife who appeared to be a little skeptical. Turned out they were AWS founder and conductor Alan Pierson's parents who had come down from Rochester for the occasion. Dad was beaming and told me that Alan was conducting Steve Reich in Dublin tomorrow. Mom looked like she was wondering whatever happened to the kid that majored in physics at MIT and developed a new algorithm for modeling planetary system dynamics. The program, by the way, focused on "Odd Couples" and was terrific. I don't have time to write a decent review today but I'll get to it over the weekend.

Jay C. Batzner is thinking of starting a support group for people looking for academic positions...and Evan Johnson has a excellent review of a new Charles Wuorinen disk from Naxos.
Depends On What You Mean by "Contemporary"

Anthony Cornicello is back and he wonders how Tanglewood can have a "contemporary music concert" when two of the three featured composers are dead and the live one is over 100...Rusty Banks wonders if the fact that American Idol beat the Olympics in the ratings means that American prefer music to sports...Lawrence Dillon has some splendid followup thoughts to our ongoing discussion of funding the arts...Tom Myron has DSCH looking over his shoulder.
Gubaidulina Premiere: Bosch Meets Techno

Just got back from a terrific concert: Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra (our local musical wet dream) with the world premiere of "Feast During a Plague," a symphonic poem based on a short scenario by Pushkin set in a tavern during ... well, a plague. It's not a literal setting, we were informed in the program notes by Paul Griffiths. (Who then went on with more than a page of blow-by-blow description, which is so useless: trying to follow it is like trying to drive in a strange landscape with arbitrary and wayward blinders and color-tint lenses on.)

For the first 15 minutes or so, it's an exquisitely composed and orchestrated evocation of decay -- which Gubaidulina, in an excellent Inquirer profile by David Patrick Stearns, describes as "the disease [which, unlike in the middle ages] isn't one you catch and then cure. The disease now takes over the souls of people. That's much more serious. I'm not sure how much Americans sense that." (But with her, you don't feel like you're being reflexively hectored by a nattering Euro-nabob.) Much of the material is based on major and minor seconds and glissandi, but it's paced and passed around the orchestra with such deftness that it's like looking at a Bosch painting: it's so queasy-looking, but precisely rendered, and the detail work is what makes you acutely uneasy. I've never heard this kind of writing brought off with such precision.

And props to Rattle and the musicians for realizing it so extraordinarily well -- except for the horn section, who was entrusted with a Mahler 3rd-worthy opening solo and MUFFED IT, and most of their other featured writing, as badly as they did last season in the Mahler 3rd. Are these really the best we can get?

But the big surprise comes at about the 15 minute mark. The program notes neatly refer to it as "an intervention from a new sound source." It's about 10 seconds of prerecorded techno (drums only, unpitched) which cuts in and out like a door opening and closing on a rave in the next room. The volume is about equal to that of the orchestra, which is nevertheless still audible underneath. At first this didn't seem to work for me, but after a few minutes the orchestral writing started to close in on it the way that the human body surrounds and encapsulates a foreign body (such as, say, buckshot). It was eerie, but not in the theremin sense. I felt short of breath, like a mild panic state that comes on when you realize something awful has just happened. How all of this came together in the notes of the score to produce this effect is beyond me. I'd need to listen to it many more times, which I hope I get the opportunity to do, preferably with these musicians. Is it too much to hope that the orchestra's live recording program with Ondine, which seems to be playing it quite safe so far, might give us this?

The second half of this one-time combination was the Walton First Symphony, which Stearns raved about when the orchestra played it on last week's concerts, and I can only agree. (The Gubaidulina, premiered tonight, will be played in thie coming weekend's series paired with something more conventional.) This is the kind of piece that was made for Rattle, and which our Philly Orchestra can bring off like a twelve-cylinder Maserati (or whatever the world's best car is these days).

One thing I noticed tonight that I've seen before, and which someone should work on: from the ground level one sees mostly string players. Except for the respective first chair players, most of the faces and bodies I could see looked like anderoids. The first chair players sat forward, with vivid arm and hand movements that surely focused their playing, and a look of alacrity on their faces. The others sat mostly motionless, one guy reclining like he was waiting for someone to feed him grapes, with expressionless faces and minimal movement. They seemed so disengaged. Even during the ample applause for both pieces, the first-chair people were smiling and enjoying the audience's good wishes, whereas most of the others looked bored or, in some cases, distressed. Someone should show them a picture of how they look. It's a bit of a downer. But they did sound good.

PS - This isn't the first time that Rattle and the Philadelphians rocked my world. Back in 1993 (when I still lived next door to Jerry), at Carnegie Hall, they did a Mahler Ninth for the ages. It was the performance I'd been waiting for, and which I'd bought about seven recordings in search of. One of the best concerts of my life.
What Did Christopher Rouse Know and When Did He Know It?

One of the things that always amazes people of little musical intelligence like myself about people of exceptional musical intelligence is how early in life the...let's call it "gift"--seems to manifest itself. If you buy into Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, and I do, you realize genius-level musicians are born, not made, and that their understanding of what they are meant to do with their lives is formed much earlier than it is in the other forms of intelligence.

I was reminded of this yesterday at lunch in the Faculty Club at Wharton when one of the guys mentioned that he had been a childhood friend of Christopher Rouse and recalled an occasion when the two of them--who were about 10 years old at the time--had gone somewhere in Philadelphia to chat with the visiting Aaron Copland who bought them a Coke. At a time when most boys were collecting baseball cards, "Chip," as Rouse was known in those days, had a pen pal relationship with Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and many other leading musical figures of the day. He had a box full of letters from famous composers. Probably still does.

Here at the ranchero, we have a new blogger. Rusty Banks discovers that whereever you go, you're still there...Tom Myron has a Valentine's Card for Charles Fussell...Blackdogred digs the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow

Today is Valentine's Day but you might want to hold off on the celebration until Saturday night at 8 pm when the American Modern Ensemble presents its Love and Sensuality concert at Tenri Cultural Institute of New York. The program will consist of a few classics as well as rarely heard gems, including Love Songs by Leonard Bernstein, What Lips My Lips Have Kissed by David Del Tredici, Valentine by Jacob Druckman, and the Shiny Kiss by our own cunning little vixen Alex Shapiro. The AME will also perform the winning work its First Annual Composition Competition, The Secret of Your Heart by Karim Al-Zand. Paul Sperry will sing a selection of art songs by Daron Hagen, William Bolcolm, Tom Lehrer, Christopher Berg and a few others.

The press release promises there will be a special after-concert reception featuring gourmet chocolates and desserts, strawberries and champagne, as well as door prizes--AME Valentine Teddy Bears, thongs, boxers and more... Ah, to be young and sexually active.

I'm in Philadelphia today. Talk amongst yourselves.
AMC Loves Composers

The following mash note just appeared in my inbox:

Tomorrow, February 14, is Valentine's Day. Mindful of the plight of composers and new music types who will be staying at home tomorrow, the American Music Center is offering Sequenza 21 a Valentine's Day Membership Special. For the next two weeks, first-time members can join for only $45, ten dollars off the normal rate - and if you're a student or senior, it's only $25. That's right - this Valentine's Day, AMC is showing you the love!

PS - the double-secret membership code that we came up with just for you is SV45......xox AMC
Who Killed Downtown?

Did Bang on a Can kill downtown? Kyle Gann picks up on a comment that Mary Jane Leach left on Frank J. Oteri's Updown/Downtown post in the Composers Forum to the effect that the Bang on a Can festival "elbowed out what had been the real downtown scene." I don't have a dog in this one but my personal sense is that the Bangers have actually contributed a lot to the Downtown scene through their commissioning fund and through recordings of composers (including themselves) who could never crack the big labels. Should we resent them simply because they are clever marketers who have learned how to play the money and publicity game well?

In the blogs, Jay C. Batzner takes a look at his "orphans" and Alan Theisen dares to dream.

And David Toub has a terrific review of the new OgreOgress release morton feldman: complete violin/viola and piano works. Christina Fong (violin/viola), Paul Hersey (piano)
Last Night in L.A. - Thomas Ad�

Thomas Ad�s managed to begin getting press attention and public recognition when he was quite young, and it doesn�t seem quite fair that he seems to deserve the praise, or most of it, anyway. He is currently in residence with the Philharmonic, and yesterday he conducted the Phil in a full program featuring two of his compositions. He conducts well, and not just his own music, but leading the orchestra in persuasive performance of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. His music is stimulating, sometimes beautiful, sometimes exciting.

The first half of the program provided his Violin Concerto (�Concentric Paths�) (2005), a co-commission of the Phil in its U.S. premiere. The violinist was Anthony Marwood, for whom the work was written. The work is in three movements, fast-slow-fast, titled �Rings�, �Paths� and �Rounds�, respectively. The long, lyrical second movement seems the focus of the work, and it brings a singing melody into a completely contemporary work. The final movement has multiple rhythms in a shifting set of times; the movement ended abruptly, too soon, before I had grasped a working-out of the ideas. It felt truncated to me.

The major work of the concert was to present four scenes from his opera The Tempest (2004), and the performance was supported by four outstanding soloists who had sung their roles in Covent Garden or will do so this summer in Santa Fe when the opera is given its American premiere. Ad�s put together a pleasing suite from the opera, with scenes dealing with Prospero and his loss of control over Ariel and Miranda, culminating in the recognition of love between Ferdinand and Miranda. The music for Ariel provides a showcase for a coloratura soprano, and the song �Full Fathom Five� could become this century�s equivalent of a Queen of the Night aria as a soprano showpiece. The only problem is that the music is so high, and so rapid, that the lyrics are incomprehensible as all consonants vanish. Thank heavens that Disney Hall gives us surtitles so that we can read the lyrics, easily, while following the song --- and no rustling pages. The scenes between Miranda and Ferdinand showed off the composer�s lyric side. Based on yesterday, I�d really like to go to Santa Fe to hear the whole opera.

Rounding out the program were two other works of The Tempest. Tchaikovsky�s Tempest fantasia opened the concert. Much more interesting was the Sibelius Suite No. 2 from his stage music for The Tempest, nine extracts that are really interesting music from the mature composer.

Next week we hear Ad�s in a Green Umbrella concert that gives us a chronology of five of his smaller works. Even though we have heard the composer before, with Green Umbrella concerts and with the performance of Asyla at the Ojai Music Festival a few years ago, it�s really good to get exposure to a composer that the Phil�s residency program provides.
The Weather Outside is Frightful

What happens when you ask your students to produce an interdisciplinary work? Lots of interesting things, reports Lawrence Dillon...Elodie Lauten is still pondering the optimistic question--should you try to sell your stuff through the usual small and insanely competitive channels or give it away online? Alas, it seems to me, that really isn't a choice for many composers...Jeffry Biegel makes the LA Times.


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

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