Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound. Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.

He has been commissioned to write music for the Scorchio Electric String Quartet, ModernWorks! (funding from Meet the Composer/ Commissioning Music USA), the Auros Group for New Music, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, David Holzman, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the InterEnsemble of Padova, Italy. His work has also been featured on the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” series. Cornicello’s works have also been performed by the Chicago Civic Symphony, Parnassus, ALEA III, Composers Concordance, Madeleine Shapiro, Robert Black, among many other outstanding groups and solo performers. His music has been presented as part of the Darmstadt International Festival of New Music as well as the June in Buffalo Festival.

Cornicello’s Second String Quartet has been recorded by the Atlantic String Quartet; the Second Sonata for Piano by David Holzman (Centaur). More recently, his Post-Modern Waltz was recorded by Eric Moe for Albany Records. A portrait CD of Cornicello’s works is scheduled for 2006 release on Albany Records.

As a performer, he has conducted or played piano in his own works on numerous occasions. While a graduate student at Rutgers, he formed and directed the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music. More recently, Cornicello has begun performing on the laptop, using a variety of interfaces and the Max/MSP program. Those performances, mostly with EEE!, have had a notable impact on his music, as EEE!’s music ranges from hip-hop to experimental noise. EEE! is based at Eastern Connecticut State University, where Cornicello is an Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Lab.

Cornicello received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, and Martin Boykan. His teachers also include Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey, and Richard Beirach.

His current fields of interest include developing unusual interfaces for live computer music performances, as well as continuing to investigate resonance and spatialization. His recent and current projects (mostly for string instruments and electronics) have been exploring the latter two, and the series of experimental works ReZenant Garden, performed by EEE! have operated on all three areas of interest. Future projects will include works for instrumental groups or soloists and electronics, as well as turntablists.

Cornicello's works are published by C.F. Peters Corporation and APNM, and he is a member of BMI.

Thursday, August 06, 2009
One little quote

It's amazing, how sometimes one little quote can sum up an entire artistic movement. I came across this as I was reading "The Rest is Noise" - a line attributed to Schoenberg: "If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art."

I always wondered where Modernism's fear of populism (Aaron Copland aside!). I always thought that this attitude arose in the 1950s, in reaction to the growth of the whole pop music genre. (Obviously, there always was a pop genre, the level of activity and pubic attention was not always as it is today.) But, we see in Schoenberg's quote (apparently reacting to a 1906 performance of Strauss' Salome), that the anti-populist stance was first applied to new music in general. By extension, we get the idea that if it's getting rave reviews, it really can't be that good.
Strangely, this attitude persisted throughout most of the Modernist movement. Surely, the Early Moderns borrowed from jazz, but that fell by the wayside after WWII. (Okay, you have Carter talking about Lester Young's influence, but it's a veiled reference.) Even Babbitt's All Set is a view of jazz from afar - it still sounds like Babbitt.
When Minimalism emerged, the Modernists reacted to its steady pulse and hypnotic repetitions - and, it's references to popular music of the 1960s and 70s. Carter, by the way, has said some truly horrible things about Minimalism, and it actually made me lose a lot of respect for him. (I believe he pulled out the old "compare 'em to the Nazis" trick.) And, the whole Neo-Romantic movement was written off in many circles as crass commercialism.

Schoenberg's quote seems to have been twisted into a syllogism: If it is popular, then it must be inherently bad. Modernists will look upon any success as a sign of failure. Ross has a story about Schoenberg refusing to accept accolades for his Gurre-Lieder.

Of course, this seems to directly contradict current-day America's attitude, which is that if it is good, it will become popular, and you'll get a bucket full of money. Kyle Gann has a wonderful synopsis of this attitude in one of the essays in Music Downtown, where he argues that America gradually adopted the corporate model of the arts: a good product is one that makes money.

I'm not quite sure if Post-Modernism has totally divorced itself from that attitude. There are certainly many composers who have achieved success and popular acclaim (well, a limited populace, but you get the point), and are still respected by the community. Not many people snicker at Reich, for instance; then again, you'll see a resistance to Tan Dun. Then again, composers are much more likely to admit to being influenced any number of popular genres then they would have 20-30 years ago. Think about this: Donald Martino was a huge jazz fan. He was friends with Bill Evans, and could talk to you about people like Lennie Tristano; we even traded tapes! Yet, he more or less suppressed his jazz background for most of his career - towards the end, he released his jazz tunes, but under a pseudonym.