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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:
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

Saturday, April 15, 2006
I Ain't Never Gonna Quit, 'Cause Quittin' Just Ain't My Schtick

Things are hotting up on the mainstream downloading front. Warner Classics this week became the first major classical label to allow direct downloading from its web site. Alas, not yet if you live in the U.S. but it's a start. Both the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics began selling live recordings on iTunes at the end of March. Naxos reported that 17% of its total income for the first quarter came from digital services--up from 8% in all of 2005. DG Concerts and Decca Concerts are in negotiations to ultimately provide service for about 10 orchestras in the United States and abroad. And the number one bestseller at a super cool site called Magnatune this week is Bach Violin Concertos by the undeniably babelicious Lara St. John. Magnatune's tagline says it all: "We Are Not Evil."
I Work Hard for My Money

Not many composers have a success problem and Philip Glass is one of them. He is arguably the most famous American concert music composer, familiar enough to the better-informed elements of the populace to be satirized on South Park and recognized on the street--when he is not confused with Lou Reed. He is fantastically prolific, much in demand as a film composer and there are about a million CDs with his name on the label. He is the go-to guy for big "world music" collaborations.

All of this success has clearly had a negative impact on his reputation as a "serious" composer and caused a large segment of the plugged-in music community to underrate his importance as a pioneering voice in American music. Poll the top music critics for their favorites and Glass doesn't even make the top 20. He was conspiculously under-represented in the recent LA PHIL's minimalist jukebox festival.

As someone who has walked the ever-shifting border between what I did for for money and what I did for love, I believe this is unfair and smells of sour grapes. Sure, Glass has written a lot and some of it is self-cannibalizing. Not all of it is original or new. Writing music for films is a special craft that requires creating moods for someone else's vision. By nature, it is not personal but collaborative. Glass didn't wake up one morning and say I think I'll write some music about the Dali Lama and someone will use it in a film called Kundun.

But, to those who say "all Glass sounds alike," I would say: you're not listening. Because he can do so through his own publishing and recording empire Glass puts it all out there and leaves the judgement calls to listeners--some of whom (like many American "serious" music critics) have already made up their minds. Careful readers will wonder why I am defending Glass for commerical whoring when I recently savaged Daniel Bernard Roumain in these pages for aspiring to do the same thing. My answer is that Glass has paid his dues, taken his lumps, and continued to turn out some music that deserves to be taken seriously.

I refer the members of the jury to the just released Symphony No. 8 (Orange Mountain Music) with Dennis Russell Davies conducting the Bruckner Orchester Linz, which commissioned it. This is a big sprawling three-movement symphony that is filled with fresh ideas and un-Glass-like touches. With its big brass fanfares and stuttering rhythms, the first movement reminds me a lot of the Overture to Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride, the greatest Western theme never used (as far as I know) as a theme for a Western. Movements 2 is perhaps the most impassioned music that Glass has yet composed, filled with long stretches of quiet dissonance and haunting beauty. Movement 3 opens optimistically with a warm melody from the English horn but quickly turns dark and foreboding before ending quietly and enigmatically. Not with a bang but a whimper, as Mr. Eliott put it. Glass may be the composer you love to hate, but this is a serious work worthy of serious attention.
Fun With RSS Feeds

Steve Layton has been after me for weeks to put in a box somewhere that shows when one or another of our sterling team of bloggers has posted something new. If you look to your immediate left, you'll see that I finally got around to it. (Hey, I do have to make a living and, alas, this ain't it.) Now you don't have to click on all the blogger names or wait for me to flag something in a post to find out who's been active and who's been a slug...It would appear that everyone has been sluggish so far today although Rodney Lister has some great comments going under his most recent posts.

I hope you've been following Drew McManus' Take a Friend to Orchestra saga over at Adaptistration. Today's contributor is our old online friend Brian Sacawa. While you're there, don't miss Alex Shapiro's wise and witty contribution.

Drew also reports today that, the new orchestra musician focused website from the Orchestra Musician Forum and The Eastman School of Music, is now open for business.

No link for this since it was in today's Wall Street Journal (which charges for access) but it seems the University of Pennsylvania was looking for a few good tuba players for its marching band and weighed that skill heavily in its admissions process for this fall.
Private Shine Must Have Leave

Why did Copland and so many other populist American composers flirt with atonality during the early 1950s? Were they driven to abstraction by Pierre Boulez or Joe McCarthy? Was it one of those inexplicable fads--like deconstruction (and existentialism earlier)--that seem to spread like Volvos and Birkenstocks among the tenured set? Picking up on some excellent comments under his previous post, Rodney Lister takes a fresh look at an old mystery.

Should you be in Montreal tonight, don't miss the world premiere of Jacob Sudol's biggest piece to date--Time Fixtures, for eleven players and live electronics. If you're not in Montreal, stop over at his blog and wish him well.
Musical Terrorism

Just when you think you're heard everything.
The Devil's Fiddler

I'm a sucker for gypsy violinists. I know, I know. It's like confessing that you have a secret fondness for The Carpenters or Steve and Edie or Salieri. Most of us have experienced these colorful characters in red tablecloth territory--dubious, mustachioed Hungo-romanians hovering over your table, desperate to impart romance into your dull, grey life and maybe score a tip, or steal your date. But, after a few bottles of Sz�rkebar�t with a dinner of fogasszelet bakonyi m�dra and gundel palacsinta at a good restaurant like the Gay Hussar in London, it starts to sound like the music of the Gods. If Brahms, Liszt, and Bartok found it irresistible, who are we to blow against the wind?

All of which is preparatory to saying that Roby Lakatos, the reigning king of gypsy fiddlers, and his ensemble will be demonstrating their mysterious art at Zankel Hall on the evening of April 28.

Lakatos is the real deal--descended from Janos Bihari, the original king of gypsy violinist. He was introduced to music as a child and at age nine he made his public debut as first violin in a gypsy band. His musicianship evolved not only within his own family but also at the B�la Bart�k Conservatory of Budapest, where he won the first prize for classical violin in 1984. Between 1986 and 1996, he and his ensemble were resident at "Les At�liers de la grande Ille" in Brussels, their musical home throughout this period. He has collaborated with Vadim Repin and St�phane Grappelli, and, we're told, his playing was greatly admired by Sir Yehudi Menuhin, who always made a point of visiting the club in Brussels to hear Lakatos.

Here at the Casa Balaton, Mark Berry reports on a new Naxos release, Redline Tango: Music for Wind Band, performed by the University of Kansas Ensemble.
El pueblo unido

Last night I was listening to NPR, and heard this report on protestors in Atlanta demonstrating against the proposed immigration legislation:

". . .A sea of marchers in white shirts winding through neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city. Many carried American flags and chanted as they marched. This chant (chanting in background) 'yes we can' was a popular one today, as was this one (interview subject:) 'El pueblo unido jam�s ser� vencido'" translated that means "the people united will never be defeated."'"
My thoughts went immediately to Frederic Rzewski, whose 36 piano variations on the original song by Sergio Ortega has become something of an icon of virtuosity and scale in the modern piano literature. Ortega composed "El pueblo unido" during a dinner party at his house in 1973, three months before Pinochet overthrew the Chilean government and he and the Unidad Popular were forced into exile. The first line, "El pueblo unido jam�s ser� vencido," was a popular protest chant at the time, and Ortega says that after hearing it chanted in the street "the text unfurled itself quickly and fell, like falling rocks, upon the melody." Rzewski was commissioned in 1975 by Ursula Oppens to write a companion piece for Beethoven's "Diabelli Variations," and he took it as an opportunity to work out his ideas of political music and to explore "form in which existing musical languages could be brought together." If you don't know the piece, you can hear Steve Drury's performance of the first section here.

Somehow I doubt that Condi and the Condettes will be adding "The People United" to their repertoire any time soon. But it seems to me incumbent on some Patriotic (tm) young composer to take inspiration from Rzewski and write a set of variations on John Ashcroft's 2002 hit ""Let The Eagle Soar."
The San Francisco Treat

The Independent today wonders why Anthony Tommasini abetted the White House its efforts to portray the warm, fuzzy, human side of Condoleezza Rice with his story in yesterday's New York Times about Madame Secretary's chamber music group. Rodney Lister doesn't disagree (about the fawning part) but kindly offers some suggestions for repertoire for Condi's group if they persist...Miracle of miracles--David Toub and Trevor Hunter have new reviews on the CD Reviews page...Who's got a fresh topic for the Composers Forum?
Sitting on a Rainbow

It's an old story--too many musicians, not enough gigs. The Los Angeles Times has a special report on the state of music education today. Check it out and come back and tell us what you think.

In the local blogs, Lawrence Dillon writes about a visit from string theory guru Brian Greene who apparently offended the true believers...Elodie Lauten wonders if less is more when it comes to dynamic markings...Is a work of art necessarily good just because it has "stood the test of time?" Rusty Banks isn't so sure.

Anybody want a batch of CDs that you'll promise to review and then won't?


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