Our regular listen to and look at living, breathing composers and performers that you may not know yet, but I know you should… And can, right here and now, since they’re nice enough to offer so much good listening online:

Two pals-in-a-pod:

Alex Temple (b. 1983 — US)

Alex TempleI started composing when I was 11, on a family trip to Italy. My earliest influence was Bach, and after that, Hindemith, Prokofiev and Bartók. When I was 15 I discovered rock (by means of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am The Walrus”), and when I was 17 I discovered the experimental rock underground (by means of The Olivia Tremor Control, Kukl, Mr. Bungle and Thinking Plague). Those two discoveries got me interested in combining ideas from the scored-music world and ideas from the rock world, and since then I’ve been exploring various ways of bringing disparate materials together — not just rock and scored music, but really anything. I got my BA at Yale in 2005, and am currently working towards my MA at the University of Michigan, where I’m studying with Erik Santos.

Alex’s work is bright and fun, even in the slightly darker moments. There’s a kind of stream-of-consciousness to his music, where every few phrases may call up another style or bit of the past. Like listening to an excellent after-hours lounge pianist wandering through whatever flits through their mind, it all hangs together; just go along for the ride you’ll do fine.

Lainie Fefferman (US)

Lainie FeffermanLainie and Alex were at Yale together, and they share a lot of the same anything-goes spirit. She received her BA in music from Yale in 2004, studying with John Halle, Matthew Suttor, and Kathryn Alexander. She also snagged a second BA in Near-Eastern languages and civilizations, specializing in the religious chant traditions of the middle east. She studied Torah cantillation with Rebecca Boggs and Quranic chanting with Dr. Abd al Hamid. If I’ve got it right, she’s currently teaching at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn.

Lainie’s music has a bit more of the purely “classical” focus, though that can just as easily mean the chromatic line or a bit of minimalist burble. Like Alex, there’s no problem as well if electric guitar, drum kit or laptop drop by. The musical play comes with some high concepts as underpinning — not surprising when your dad (Charles Fefferman) is one of the country’s most renowned mathematicians — but those concepts get out of the way once the music starts.

14 thoughts on “Steve’s click picks #25”
  1. Good links, Chris, there’s a couple I hadn’t seen yet. (Sorry, it looks like your post showed up late because it had multiple links and had to be moderator-approved.)

    And Timo, you’re spot on about what people should be doing with these posts; head to those websites and get this stuff in your ears!

  2. Everyone should know Alex and Lainie, they are awesome. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of knowing them over the years and also playing some of their music. Everybody should stop making self-referential chatter about this column, and start listening to and talking about Alex and Lainie’s musics. That is all.

  3. Wow, it’s yale day on s21. I knew both of these fine folks (as did Ian M.). glad to see that they are still at it!

  4. I think it’s too easy to forget that Steve is indeed providing a valuable service and that these represent (often obscure) composers he has found who a) he likes and b) provide free downloads of their music. Of course this won’t necessarily be representative of the population as a whole, and if someone wants to do a bunch of postings featuring specific “demographics,” then go ahead. But that is not what Steve is aiming to do, as best I can tell (and I think he summed it up pretty well in his previous comment)

  5. The plain fact that I like the music (along with the fact that you can hear it right here and now) is exactly why I think what they’re doing has merit and deserves to be touted. Using some other criteria would definitely be a different kind of post.

    The conditions I set mean that there are many, many composers I admire and would love to feature but, because they don’t sufficient audio online I won’t do them. It also means that there are all kinds of composers who, while often wonderful people and with lots of listening, just don’t engage me.

    No one should ever expect the “click pick” posts to be reviews; they’re personal recommendations (see “click picks #1” again for my spiel on that).

  6. Try this – Paul Steven Ray and Guillermo Brown are doing music that mixes electronics, theater, video and even opera in very creative ways. Latasha is a writer who creates (in my opinion) some really wild soundscapes for her poetry. She’s performing soon at The Kitchen. Matana I found out about through James Darcy’s Secret Society website as she has an ongoing project inspired by her family history that seems to be a mix of contemporary jazz, chamber music and theater. I haven’t heard her music but it is very well received here in NYC.

    More later if I have time this weekend…peace. CB


  7. Steve –

    It’s your post and your criteria. I honestly thought you weren’t selecting people because you liked their music – rather, you thought what they were doing had merit and deserved to be touted via this site.

    Back atcha, Friday or Saturday…


  8. Zeno –

    I found that link you posted a couple weeks ago thinking about this topic.

    I can post some names later this week when I have more time. I’ll draw from the pool of people I listen to and / or work with in my own musical projects. With MySpace all you really need is one name and boom – a hundred more are there for you to check out.

    It’s been an ugly week in the news re: race and this country’s inability to deal with something so mundane as the color of ones skin. Nice to know I’m not alone…


  9. Sure Chris! I know some, but pass along your names & I’ll see. But remember that:

    1) I don’t feature anyone “just because” of race, age, gender, country, education, resources, awards, medium, etc… And never just because they asked. Their music just has to interest and impress me, period.

    2) They have to freely offer a reasonable amount of online listening; full-to-complete recordings with enough sound and performance quality that I — or anyone else who visits — feel like we’ve really heard what this person is about musically.

  10. I think that Steve has been doing a very fine and interesting job; but I agree with Chris Becker that it would perhaps be nice to see demographics represented in Steve’s Column that matched those of our workplaces (for those of us who have urban workplaces).

    Here is a list of African American composers and classical musicians compiled by musicologist William J. Zick, which he says includes many contemporary African American composers; as well as some from the past. There are many names here who I don’t know, but hope that others reading regularly here do know:


    I’d also be curious to see the names of the living composers being championed today by such fine African American conductors as James DePriest, Julius Williams, Michael Morgan, and John McLaughlin Williams. (It just now struck me why Mr. John M. Williams, like John Luther Adams, regularly uses his middle name.)

    Finally, Mark Berry of the Naxos blog over to the right, informed me a fortnight ago that later in 2007 Naxos will be releasing a new disc of music by Hannibal Lokumbe, including his “Dear Mrs. Parks.”

    Again, thanks to both Steve and Chris for their work and commenting on this issue. I’ll be interested in reading the names –and hearing some of the music — of the names that Steve and Chris introduce here.

  11. Steve,

    Can you please tout some African American composers in this weekly post of yours? This is just a suggestion. I am not trying to be antagonistic. I’d just like to see the demographic open up a little bit.

    In our century, there are so many great people doing music that easily defys catagorization – and I applaud your work thus far. And I hope this suggestion isn’t seen as being anything other than a genuine desire to open up this site to an even broader range of cultural backgrounds.

    If you need a list of names, please let me know.



  12. I took an upper level math class with Robert Fefferman at Chicago around 1980 (Charles had been a full professor there but left for Princeton before I arrived). Very small world—Bob is also a great mathematician in his own right. Good to see there’s music in their gene pool as well!

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