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

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

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David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

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Evan Johnson
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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
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Well, That Was Fun
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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, July 22, 2006
The New Date

Hey Folks.

I thought I’d step in to announce that the date for the Sequenza21 concert this Fall has been successfully moved to November 20th at 7:30. So you can leave those Thanksgiving plans intact. The venue remains the same.

Composers and performers: there are still a few weeks left in our open call for scores and participation. Click on the graphic to the left to get details.

Update: Hi, Jerry, here. Thought this might be a good time to announce that David and Becky Starobin, the nice folks who run the indispensible Bridge Records, have signed on as our official sponsor and are giving us a $1,000 to pay for programs and recording the concert and creating some CDs and so on. We'd like to raise another $1,000 to actually pay performers and maybe have a pre-concert kegger. If you'd like to chip in, send me a note.
Tom Johnson's Symmetrical Universe

Tom Johnson: Symmetries

Samuel Vriezen and Dante Oei, piano

Karnatic Lab Records KLR 010

Tom Johnson, born in the United States in 1939 but long resident in France, has done a bit of everything. Aside from his long tenure as critic for the Village Voice (a book of his collected columns is available, for free, on his website), he has spent a creative career exploring the boundaries of arbitrary musical limitation in all of its various guises. Some of the products of this exploration are relatively well known: Failing: a very difficult piece for string bass, in which a solo bassist must play a very difficult piece for string bass while delivering a text about how very difficult that piece for string bass is, especially when you must play it while delivering a text; and the Four-Note Opera, which likewise is exactly what it sounds like.

One persistent stream in Johnson’s large oeuvre is a world of pieces constructed according to maximally rational principles. There are self-similar melodies, rational melodies, tilings, and catalogues, all thoroughly and proudly artificial constructs whose musical results emerge unbidden and unexpected and thus somehow miraculous. And then there are those pieces that exist within other sorts of strictures, less mathematical, less precisely structural, but just as unintuitive, just as anti-musical.

The Symmetries on this CD, for example, are a series of 49 tiny pieces, most lasting under a minute and none much over, each of which is a “transcription” of a different drawing made with a music typewriter and consisting entirely of musical symbols – notes of various “durations”, ties, slurs, beams, trills, tremolos, and so forth. The drawings, which are reprinted in the booklet, are all of course symmetrical: some only around a central vertical axis, others also rotationally or horizontally. There are diamonds, pyramids, columns, curves, and constellations. None was originally created with any sort of “musical” idea in mind.

And yet what we have here is a resolutely literal sonic representation of these non-musical creations for piano four hands. (Only the pitches are under any subjective control – the pitch universe of each piece is internally consistent and generally very simple, using a minimum of intervallic diversity, but there is no consistent “mapping.”) The result is a delightful tour in miniature of what surprises await a musical explorer like Johnson, guided only by an acute sense of possibility, who resolves to circumvent any intuitive or traditional definitions of what constitutes “musical” form. For some of the little forms here are startling in both their delightfulness and their unexpectedness. A quick florid gesture gives way to a thirty-second-long trill, only to be repeated verbatim – a completed form. Registers expand and contract, once only or maybe twice – more completed forms. These forty-nine little forms are all completed, partly by their universally shared symmetry about the center of their respective timespans, partly by a sense of quirky inevitability, and partly by fiat.

In Symmetries, in other words, Johnson does for form and gesture what Alvin Lucier has made a career of doing for sound: taking it out of context, alienating it, and then discovering what possibilities dwell where you least expect to find them. The performers, Sequenza21 irregular Samuel Vriezen and frequent collaborator Dante Oei, have a choice here. They can play it as straight as possible, perhaps, attempting to highlight the essentially “objective” (a code word for non-“musical”) process behind these little pieces; or they can take what they are given and try to make sense of it, to make music of it. Wisely, Vriezen and Oei do neither a priori. On the one hand, where music lurks, there they find music. In one piece, for example, a keyboard-spanning G minor chord is transformed through stepwise motion of one voice at a time through a series of differently voiced seventh chords to B-flat major and then, symmetrically, back again; a classical gesture, a Schubertian gesture almost, that the duo pianists treat with the understated lyricism it deserves. Mostly, though, these tiny worlds have something aggressively alien about them – the long trill framed by ornamental bookends mentioned above is a prime example – and where there are edges, Vriezen and Oei do not attempt to smooth them.

Tom Johnson’s “objective” pieces can be beguiling, fascinating, and at the same time virtually impossible to listen to – his Chord Catalogue, an hour-long piece that simply presents all eight thousand-plus possible chords between middle C and the C an octave above in ascending order by number of notes, is a case in point. Symmetries, by contrast, serves as an ideal starting point for exploration of the “rationalist” in Tom Johnson: the charm jostling fiercely with aggressive purity on display here is easily consumed in forty-nine bites, a series of pithy introductions to a delightful universe. This is a wonderful record, in the literal sense.
Musical 911

Dear Sequenza folks,

I'm greatly enjoying your site -- thank you for all your work, and congrats on the success it's brought.

I'm wondering if anyone in the office can recommend a teacher in the New York metro area (I'm in Rockland County) who can help me with my notation and performance of fantastically complicated rhythms...

Do you know a teacher who can tap out with ease the funky beats of Le Marteau Sans Maitre?

Thank you kindly,
Jim Birnbaum
Okay, "office," if you're the person for the job, leave a note below and I'll send you Jim's particulars.
Cold Meals

Just when you were beginning to think the Ruth Schonthalathon was getting a tad overblown because the initial news was, perhaps, a bit underblown and some of us boys were playing defensive catchup, along comes good old Arnold Rosner to remind us why we love cranky composers--no matter how many X chromosones they have.
Jenny Lin’s Eleven Fingers at Arium

Sequestered as I am these days communing with Richard Taruskin and checking my email with needless frequency, it was great to come up for air last night for a glass of wine, hors d’oeuvres, and (best of all) Jenny Lin sharing some selections from her new CD, The Eleventh Finger. The host venue was a new place on Little West 12th Street called “Arium,” which seems to be taking a page from Tenri in presenting new music in an informal setting surrounded by contemporary art. The program consisted of two Ligeti Etudes (Nos. 16 and 18), Randy Nordschow’s “Detail of Beethoven’s Hair,” James Tenney’s “Chromatic Canon for piano and tape,” and Elliott Sharp’s “Suberrebus for piano and computer processing.” The concept behind the CD is to share pieces that expand the techniques of the piano, music that seems impossible to play with only ten fingers. Indeed, Lin has titled her CD perfectly: while all of the pieces evoke a certain magnified pianism, all ultimately leave the traditional role of the pianist in tact. In other words, eleven fingers will do just fine for this program – any more would be too much.

The standout on the program – in both good and bad ways – was Nordschow’s “Detail.” Whereas the Ligeti, Tenney, and the Sharp generally introduce new pitch material gradually, Nordschow’s work is dense and filled with rhythmic and textural contrast. Flippant riffs and growling, skittery passage-work punctuate a struggling melodic line, and yet the material is not so stubborn and thorny as to not allow momentary serenity or the dwelling on a trill. I was really enjoying myself, but then the piece suddenly ended. The Tenney and Sharp compositions complement one another nicely. Tenney’s is an obstinately mid-register minimalist canon that takes us from a perfect fifth on B-flat, through more elusive, chromatic sonorities, to a fifth on D – up a major third. The tape part, which the pianist pre-records (the piece was originally for two pianos), provides subtle timbrel shading, but this trick of piano unison doubling in music of such textural homogeneity began and ended for me with Piano Phase: for my ears – solidly constructed as Tenney’s piece is – it isn’t enough to sustain my interest. Sharp’s work, in which the electronics are applied live, is more successful. Opening with a lavishly arranged semitone E-F, the live sampling (courtesy of Mr. Sharp) finds its way quietly in between the piano's “cracks” as it were and lends beautiful micro-tonal ambience. The piece, which winds its way back to E, is a great example of elegantly utilized technology.

As usual, Lin’s playing left me little to do but cheer from the sidelines. There are probably any number of pianists in New York as good as she is. But Lin’s nose for interesting repertoire and her fantastic gift for programming give her enormous advantages over many pianists of equal technical proficiency.

P.S. The Eleventh Finger also contains works by Arthur Kampela, Stefano Gervasoni, and Claude Vivier.
Looking for a Little Ear-Busting Music?

Ah, yes, the wonder of the intertubes. Check out musiclens, a free German music search engine, that lets you search by volume (ear-busting to silent), tempo, size (solo to orchestra), purpose (listening, driving, dancing), sex (yes or no...just kidding), age, color, mood (angry or smile) and time of day. Limited selection of classical but an interesting Bjork/Brodsky Quartet collaboration.

Then, there are the "social" music search sites. (Social means the listeners/web site viewers organize the music into categories (tags) and recommend favorites to others which are then ranked according to popularity by software algorithims). Particularly interesting is Pandora, home of the Music Genome Project. is also worth a visit.

The Ruth Schonthal postmortem juggernaut marches on. Allan Kozinn weighs in this morning with an obituary in the New York Times and Lowell Liebermann has a remembrance at NewMusicBox.
Hot Enough for You?

Tim Rutherford-Johnson has updated his Contemporary Classical on YouTube post and added some new stuff. Who else knows where there's good stuff on the web?
The Schonthal Imprint

Much bigger ripples on her death in Europe. I received the following note this morning from Sabine Kemna of the music publishing operation Furore Verlag, printed here verbatim. - JLZ
I am writing to you to tell you that - in contrast to the US - the death of Ruth Schonthal has been a subject of discussion all over Europe. All big newspapers in Germany like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Welt, Süddeutsche, Hamburger Abendblatt, Berliner Morgenpost and so on have published the news - some of them have published bigger obituaries.

The second biggest TV station in Germany Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) has reported about her death in the theatre channel, the biggest German press agency has informed about her death in a very extensive article which has been published in many smaller newspapers, the bigger new music magazines will report about it, and a lot of German cultural online magazines have published the news (,,,,,, the biggest cultural radio station Deutschlandradio will report today.

In Austria the Standard (a big newspaper) and ORF (the biggest TV and radio station) have reported the news and an obituary, in the Netherlands nearly all newspapers have reported, in Switzerland the Online magazine codex flores has made an obituary and Martin Anderson will publish an article about Ruth Schonthal in The Independent (London).

These are only small examples, just to tell you that here in Europe there is no lack of attention but a big echo on the death of Ruth Schonthal.
What Global Warming Monday?

This is not official yet but we may be able to improve on the date for the Sequenza21 concert in November. The night before Thanksgiving has proven to be less than ideal for many would-be participants so an effort is underway to find a better night when we're not competing with the blowing up of the Macy balloons. Stay tuned for further details.

Apropos of the concert and Judith Lang Zaimont's post below, we have had very few submissions for the concert from women composers. Let's get on it, gals.

Michael Torke will be Marvin Rosen's guest on "Classical Discoveries" this Wednesday morning, July 19 from 8:30 until 11:00 am Eastern Time. You can listen on line at
They're queueing up for classical music ...

New technology and changing tastes may mean serious music is struggling to find a live audience, but in London they were queueing up for classical music as the 2006 Proms season got under way on Friday. A quarter of a million tickets will be sold for the 2006 season, and On An Overgrown Path was there at the First Night. Just click over to BBC Proms - summer in the city for an exclusive photo report, plus the inside track on what gives this extraordinary music festival such audience appeal.
Photo copyright On An Overgrown Path. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


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