I’ve been uploading my old reviews on my blog. Today’s upload is a review I did for a new music festival at the University of California, San Diego in 1995: concerts by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. This may seem totally run of the mill to New Yorkers and younger composers, but it was heresy at the hallowed halls of modernism at the UCSD Music Dept. At the time, Paul Dresher was probably the most successful, acclaimed alumnus of the dept.–and this was the first time he had been asked to perform there since his graduation. (he had been invited to do a performance of Slow Fire a few years before this–for the UCSD Theater Dept.!) Following the Bang On A Can All-Stars concert, Roger Reynolds was rumored to have apologized to his composition students for their concert, and swore they would never come back to the Music Dept. (Looks like he kept his promise!) So what caused all the fuss? You can read about it here.

4 thoughts on “BOAC All-stars and Paul Dresher Ensemble, 1995”
  1. I would say at the very least that Roger’s attitudes towards especially minimalism (I would say perhaps less so post-minimalism) have softened. He taught a class on long-form art (including theater and film as well as music) that covered quite a bit of minimalist music, including Reich and Feldman. And there are quite a few composers in the program now writing varieties of post-whatever music. I would actually make the claim that Roger’s relationship with Steve Schick is at the heart of a lot of this; Steve, of course, has a long history with BOAC and others, and I think Roger’s admiration for Steve has a lot to do with his embrace of certain elements of that kind of music. I’ve heard Roger say very complimentary things about Reich and Feldman, and moderately complimentary things about Adams. (I think Glass remains beyond the pale, however.)

    And for whatever it’s worth, Paul Dresher was short-listed for a composition job at UCSD a few years ago by a committee chaired by Roger.

  2. My source reported that Roger Reynolds was speaking about Bang On a Can.

    As for Paul Dresher, it does not follow that just because Roger Reynolds composed a work for his ensemble, that Roger had any respect for the man’s music when he did so.

    I have no idea what Reynolds thinks about Paul Dresher now. I can report what he thought of Dresher back in 1985. At the time, I was an eager young composer who had just arrived in San Diego, in the first year doctoral student composition class taught by Roger Reynolds. I played my most recently completed work, a passacaglia for organ which could be described as “Glass-like,.” largely in C major with a brief digression into the Neapolitan before cadencing on a repeated C major seventh chord. When my tape was finished, the first words out of Roger’s mouth were, “I don’t see how you were admitted into this program if you’re writing music like that.” After a brief tirade against minimalism, he concluded by warning me that “Paul Dresher tried minimalism here–and it didn’t wash!”

    You went through the program much later than I did. If Roger had anything complimentary to say to you or your classmates about Paul Dresher, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, or John Adams, I’d be curious to hear it. There are many professors at UCSD who respect the achievements of these composers, but in my experience, Roger Reynolds had nothing but unkind words for minimalism and most postminimalism (with the exception of Robert Ashley, if you can call his operas postminimal).

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