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Richard Friedman, Oakland, CA, works at Sun Microsystems, is a Director of Other Minds, wrote his first computer program in 1962 for the IBM 650. It played dice. He is also a ham radio (AG6RF) operator, and he also takes a lot of photographs, composes music, and does a weekly radio program on KALW called Music From Other Minds.
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This Was ALL I KNOW - 2nd Edition

This edition of my blog, ALL I KNOW, is now closed.

The THIRD EDITION is now alive at: All I Know³

Art Forum on Stockhausen              March 8, 2008

 

Karlheinz Stockhausen 1969

 

Art Forum magazine has an excellent spread on Stockhausen, an homage on his leaving this planet in December. Some of the articles are available online, the rest in the March print edition.

The online article contains a lengthy discussion by Robin Maconie, author of a catalog of KS's works. Brief remembrances by Mort Subotnick and Bjork also appear.

I was surprised to read that Bjork considers KS's STIMMUNG to be her favorite work. It's one of mine too. You can hear part of Stimmung this week on Music From Other Minds. 


Music Robots              March 4, 2008

 

blueair.jpg

 

One of the really fascinating things we got to hear at the OM13 retreat (see entry below) was Elena Kats-Chernin's description of a group of music robots designed by Roland Olbeter. Elena composed a four minute riff for the instruments, Fast Blue Air. These are single-string devices with electronic pickups and speakers at the ends. The string is stretched across a finger board with frets and the mechanism applies pneumatically controlled "fingers", all under computer control. 

Robot electric guitars!

Click on the photo to go to You Tube and see the video. It's amazing.

The Del Sol Quartet will play a version of this, Fast Blue Village, at Saturday night's OM 13


Djerassi Days - OM13              March 4, 2008

 

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For the past three days we've been at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (DRAP) ranch in the San Mateo hills just south of San Francisco and due west from Silicon Valley. Unlike most music festivals where the composers and performers just arrive to play the gig and leave, the Other Minds festival encorporates a weekend retreat at the ranch where they can meet each other and discuss their work. 

 

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One of the composers, Dieter Schnebel, was unable to make the trip from Germany (he's 78), so we had him give his presentation via iChat video conferencing from Berlin. It worked great! This was the first time we attempted to do this. It opens all sorts of international possibilities. 

 

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German cellist Michael Bach will be performing works by Dieter Schnebel and John Cage using his unique curved bow. He gave a brief demonstration of its possibilities.

 

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Swedish electronic music/video composer Åke Parmerud talked about one of his interactive installation pieces, "Lost Angel". His "La vie mécanique" from 2004 will be shown on Thursday night (March 6).

 

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Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin's piano pieces will be performed by Lisa Moore in the festival.

 

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San Francisco composer Dan Becker's new work, Keeping Time, will be given its world premiere at the Friday night concert.  

 

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(Almost) all together, posing for their formal portait. Top row: Keeril Makan, Michael Bach, Elena Kats-Chernin, Dan Becker. Bottom: Jim Newman, founder of Other Minds, Charles Amirkhanian, Morton Subotnick, Wadada Leo Smith, Åke Parmerud

(Missing were Dieter Schnebel in Berlin, and Frances-Marie Uitti who was nursing a bad back in Berkeley.) 

This time the weather was exceptionally beautiful, and everyone had an exceptionally good time. We all learned a lot about each other's music and vision, and we had a chance to hear a lot of interesting pieces.

Concerts are next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in San Francisco. Information is at OtherMinds.org

Composer websites:

Ake Parmerud
Keeril Makan

Elena Kats-Chernin 
Wadada Leo Smith
Dan Becker 

Mort Subotnick

Michael Bach
Frances-Marie Uitti

Dieter Schnebel

 


Other Minds 13 at the Djerassi Ranch              March 3, 2008

 

DSC_3091_1.JPG

 

I'm at the Djerassi Artists Residency Ranch (djerassi.org) with all the composers who will be participating in Other Minds 13 next weekend.

In the picture above, taken yesterday, Wadada Leo Smith explains one of his compositions to everyone. Mort Subotnick is standing on the left. Keeril Makan, seated. Jim Newman, Michael Bach, Ake Parmerud, Catie and Dennis O'Leary, Leo, and Dan Becker, going left to right.

More presentations today and tomorrow.  


Cahill Plays Ornstein              March 1, 2008

Leo Ornstein 1918      Leo Ornstein

Last night, Berkeley pianist Sarah Cahill nearly concluded the month-long Berkeley Arts Festival series of concerts at the abandoned Gateway Computer store on Shattuck Avenue with a solo recital of fourteen pieces by Leo Ornstein (1893-2002). (I say "nearly" because there is one more concert tonight with another Berkeley pianist, Jerry Kuderna, and Argenta Walther, mezzo.)

Nearly all the performances were, essentially, world premieres, even though these works were written sometime between 1959 and 1980.

Ornstein, one of the mythic maverick composer/performers you've probably never heard of, arrived in New York City in 1907 and immediately enrolled in piano classes. He made his debut in 1910, demonstrating a fiery technique and onstage charisma that immediately branded him as an "ultra-futurist". By 1919 he was drawing crowds at his concerts like a rock star.

Wait a minute. 1919?

Right. Ornstein died in 2002 at the age of 109 !

Part of his mythic stature, besides his advanced age, is that he gave up performing altogether in the 1930's and opened a music school in Philadelphia with his wife. He continued composing, producing some 1800 pages of piano music in total, but most if it he stashed away in a drawer, apparently not interested in public performance. 

Sometime around the 1970's, various composers and musicologists started wondering what ever happened to Ornstein? There was quite a lot of interest then in a number of elder maverick composers who seemed to have faded out after the second world war: Cowell, Nancarrow, McPhee, Antheil,...

Charles Amirkhanian found the Ornsteins living in a trailer park in Texas, having retired there from Philadelphia. And since the 90's, their son Severo has been organizing, editing, and printing  Leo's scores. Many are now available as free PDF downloads from www.LeoOrnstein.net.

Since then a number of his pieces have seen performance and recording. But still just a small number.

Last night Sarah Cahill played the three Fantasy Pieces from 1961, A Morning in the Woods (1971), and two of the Three Tales, (Rendezvous at the Lake, and A Fantasy) from 1977, as well as six of Ornstein's Sixteen Metaphores (#1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 16) composed between 1959 and the mid 60's, and ending with Solitude (1978) and To a Grecian Urn (undated).

These pieces and others will appear on a CD Sarah is preparing of Ornstein's piano music. 

Unfortunately, only a handful of avid Berkeley Arts Festival followers managed to attend the concert. If you weren't there you really missed something.

Much of the music references the period of Ravel, Scriabin, and Debussy, but in a more advanced way. I even heard touches of Koechlin and, as Sarah pointed out in her introductions, Gershwin. A kind of perfumed elegance and expressiveness bordering on the atonal but never quite there.

I would really like to hear these pieces again. Especially the Metaphores. They seem improvisatory, and may have, in fact, been transcribed improvisations.

This was a great way to (almost) end the Berkeley Arts Festival. Sarah has a wonderful way of pulling some wonderful pieces out of the shadows of obscurity. One hopes that more pianists will discover Ornstein's music just for the thrill of it.

Last night's performances were wonderfully intimate and beautifully performed on the exquisite Grotrian 9 1/2 foot grand piano lent for the occasion by the J-B Piano Company of San Rafael.  


I Am A Label              February 21, 2008

Today I discovered that I am now a topic label on a widely-read music blog, On An Overgrown Path.

That really made my day!

It pays to comment on blogs, which I routinely do, perhaps to the annoyance of some bloggers.

But, as I descend into curmudgeonhood, it seems to be a necessity. 


More Quotes              February 20, 2008

These are electric times. Everything I read seems like something worth quoting, or shouting out loud to whomever will listen.

Here's is an excerpt from Maureen Dowd's column in the NY Times a few days ago:

Voters try to figure out who they trust to have life-and-death power over them, but there’s so much theatricality and artifice in campaigns you can get a false impression of who someone is.

And you never know who they will become once they move into the insular, heady womb of the White House — or how they will be buffeted by the caprice of history, and the randomness of crises.

At the very moment when politicians should be on top of the world, embraced by the voters, enhanced by the toys and levers of power, their gremlins surface. They inevitably get hit with trouble that they never could have imagined or prepared for, and that can trigger self-doubt and self-destruction and self-pity.

Why didn’t J. F. K. simply toss out the C.I.A. plan developed under Eisenhower to send 1,200 exiles to overthrow a popular Cuban leader with a force of 200,000? He felt the need to prove himself.

Why did L. B. J. ignore his own solid political instincts to listen to Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk about Vietnam — falling under their stupid sway because they had been J. F. K.’s advisers?

Nixon, driven by the same pathology of envy about Kennedy and other golden boys, conspired in a political crime while coasting to re-election.

Why did W. let Cheney and Rummy lead him into hubristic disaster? He, too, needed to prove himself — and outdo Daddy. How could the “compassionate conservative” bike through Katrina?

The self-destructive impulses that consumed Bill Clinton detracted from his policy achievements and distracted him from achieving all he could have.

The press tends to swallow campaign narratives of sin and redemption, hard lessons learned.

After giving up drinking and becoming Texas governor, W. had supposedly changed from an arrogant, obdurate, Daddy-competing loser to a genial, bipartisan, mature winner. As it turned out, a total makeover is not possible after 40.

Hillary’s narrative echoes W.’s: After the scalding partisanship of the ’90s, she became a senator and turned the other cheek, working on legislation with Republicans who had pursued the impeachment case against her husband. She has supposedly learned from her White House mistakes on health care, Travelgate and legal issues, from her battles with the right and the press. She knows now that being obstructionist and secretive don’t work.

An appealing arc, but is it true? Her campaign shake-up showed that she continues to rank loyalty and secrecy above competence and ingenuity. She is still so guarded that she began answering questions from the press and voters only after she lost Iowa.

All of us have known big shots who keep a check on their real feelings and dark tendencies until they get the top job. Then they throw off the restraints and revert to their worst instincts, bullying others and insulating themselves with sycophants.

Hillary could be ready on Day 1 — to make up her Enemies List and banish Overkill Bill to a cubbyhole in the Old Executive Office Building. But it’s Day 2 that I’m really worried about.

I can't agree with her more. I too am worried about Day 2. And Day 3.... Time may be running out.

The entire article is here.


The Current Danger              February 20, 2008

Those with the power to elect our presidents and congressmen -- and many who themselves get elected -- believe that dinosaurs lived two by two upon Noah's ark, that light from distant galaxies was created en route to the earth, and that the first members of our species were fashioned out of dirt and divine breath, in a garden with a talking snake, by the hand of an invisible God. 

Among developed nations, America stands alone in these convictions. Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one's friends.

       -- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation 


All We Need Is (Spare) Change              February 13, 2008

Robert Reich's OpEd piece in today's NY Times is perhaps the clearest explanation of where the economy here is headed. There's no obfuscation of what's really happening, and much of what he says aligns well with the experiences of most of us who aren't among the rich.

WE’RE sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.

The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living and for businesses to adjust to a smaller economy, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power — and not just temporarily.

Much of the current debate is irrelevant. Even with more tax breaks for business like accelerated depreciation, companies won’t invest in more factories or equipment when demand is dropping for products and services across the board, as it is now. And temporary fixes like a stimulus package that would give households a one-time cash infusion won’t get consumers back to the malls, because consumers know the assistance is temporary. The problems most consumers face are permanent, so they are likely to pocket the extra money instead of spending it.

... 

 

Read the whole article at the NY Times website


No Big Bang Last Night              February 10, 2008

 

Bang on a Can All-Stars

I have to say that last night's appearance at the Yerba Buena Theater in San Francisco of the Bang on a Can All-Stars from New York City was a bit of a disappointment.

That's not to say that it wasn't a joy to see such really accomplished musicians, led by clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn, playing at their best. But the choice of what to play was the real disappointment of the evening..

Why is it that groups coming to the Bay Area from points East or Europe think they need to dumb-down their programs for the local audience?

In New York and other places the All-Stars champion really challenging works and music they commission themselves. And while last night they did play at least one piece by each of their founding members, David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe, they weren't anything we hadn't heard before (Cheating, Lying, Stealing; I Buried Paul; Big Beautiful Dark & Scary, resp.), the rest of the program, with Don Byron and Iva Bittova, would have been more fitting at a jazz nightclub like Yoshi's.

Why not play selections from Michael Gordon's new Van Gogh, or The Carbon-Copy Building by the composers collective?  Or some of the many works that they've commissioned from other composers over the years.

Instead, I think they tried to play it safe. Which is disappointing.

I've heard better from Don Byron, and the Bittova pieces all appear on her album Elida (Cantaloupe Music, 2005). 

Ok. It's expensive to go on tour. All that equipment, hotels, transportation. So better make sure to fill the hall. 

In fact, the hall was not full .. maybe 3/4. At $45/ticket, that's not surprising. (I thought the Yerba Buena Center was supposed to be affordable.) 

I couldn't attend the Marathon event held earlier that day in the Forum. It was free. But one friend, whose opinions I tend to align with mostly, was equally disappointed.

Bottom line: "So Mr Grumpy Pants, how was the concert?" -- It COULD have been better.

PS: I saw both Joshua Kosman of the Chronicle and Jason Serinus of the SF Classical Voice in the audience. It will be interesting to read their reviews.

PPS: Here is Jason's review. And here is Kosman'sCompare and contrast. 


Get Ready for Other Minds 13              February 6, 2008

 

 

Other Minds Festival 13
Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California St., at Presidio
March 6-7-8, 2008
Full Schedule of Concerts  • Order tickets here.

The composers:

Composers

and performers
Anthony Brown (percussion), Del Sol String Quartet, Lisa Moore (piano), David Shively (percussion), Kathy Supové (piano), and the Adorno Ensemble.

Presented in association with the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and the Eugene and Elinor Friend Center for the Arts at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Thursday, March 6, 2008
7:00 pm Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF

Dieter Schnebel:
Mit Diesen Händen
(excerpts - 1992)                           
Michael Bach, voice and cello with BACH.bow

Åke Parmerud:
La Vie Mécanique (2004)
pre-recorded media

Elena Kats-Chernin:
Purple Prelude
(1996)  
Tast-En (1991)    
Lisa Moore, piano

INTERMISSION

Frances-Marie Uitti:
Rap't
(2007)                           
Uitti, cello with two bows and electronics
U.S. premiere

Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith:
Taif: Prayer in the Garden of The Hijaz
(2007)

Smith, trumpet; Anthony Brown, percussion; Del Sol String Quartet
World Premiere, commissioned by Other Minds

 

Friday, March 7, 2008
7:00 pm Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF

Åke Parmerud:
Dreaming in Darkness (2005)
pre-recorded media                    

Michael Bach Bachtischa:                                         
18-7-92 (1992)
Michael Bach, cello with BACH.bow
& pre-recorded media
U.S. premiere

John Cage & Michael Bach Bachtischa:
One
13 (1992)
Michael Bach, cello with BACH.bow & pre-recorded media
U.S. premiere

INTERMISSION

Dieter Schnebel:                                        
Quintessenz (1993)
Poem für 4 Köpfe
from Zeichen-Sprache (1987–89)
Other Minds Ensemble

Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith:
Moths, Flames, and the Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees
(1996)

Adorno Ensemble

Dan Becker:
Keeping Time
(2008)

Adorno Ensemble
World Premiere, commissioned by Other Minds

 

Saturday, March 8, 2008
7:00 pm Panel Discussion, 8:00 pm Concert, Kanbar Hall, JCCSF

Keeril Makan:
Resonance Alloy (2007)                   
David Shively, percussion
World Premiere, commissioned by Other Minds
Static Rising (2004)
David Shively, percussion; Del Sol String Quartet

Elena Kats-Chernin:
Russian Rag
(1996/2007)  
Fast Blue Village (2007)    
Kats-Chernin, piano; Del Sol String Quartet
Eliza Aria (2002)
Kats-Chernin, piano

INTERMISSION

Dan Becker:
Revolution
(2004)

Kathleen Supové, prepared disklavier with pre-recorded media

Morton Subotnick:
The Other Piano
(2007)

Kathleen Supové, piano; Subotnick, live electronics


The Jorge Liderman Premiere in S.F.              February 4, 2008

Tonight's San Francisco Contemporary Music Players concert at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco was a complete success, even tho it seemed everything was working against it.

First, the scheduled baritone in David Sheinfeld's Dear Theo came down with the flu, as did his replacement. So at the last minute two solo pieces were substituted.

And then the composer of the world premiere on the program commits suicide (apparently) on his way to a rehearsal the day before. (See previous postings.)

Still, the concert went on, and we were glad.

It sold out.

The SFCMP music director, David Milnes, began by talking from the stage about the difficulties they faced with a rampant flu, and the last minute decision to substitute two solo works from their performer's repertory

But then he also expressed the shock they all felt when they got the word Sunday, while waiting for Jorge Liderman to arrive at the final rehearsal, that he wouldn't be coming. They had all be working very closely with him for weeks, with no indication that this would end so tragically. Milnes added that even his piece, Furthermore..., is lively and optimistic, with no hint of melancholy. It all left everyone wondering how this could have happened.

But, the concert would go on:

  • Indigenous Instruments (1989) by Steven Mackey
    flute/piccolo/alto flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano
  • Intermedio all Ciaconna (1986) by Brian Ferneyhough
    Graeme Jennings, violin
  • from Le Livre des claviers (1987) by Philippe Manoury
    Christopher Froh, vibraphone
  • Bass Clarinet and Percussion (1981) by Morton Feldman
    Carey Bell, bass clarinet; William Winant and Christoper Froh, percussion.
  • Furthermore... (2006) by Jorge Liderman
    World Premiere with Carla Kihlstedt violin; flute, clarinet, harp, percussion, piano, cello, double bass

And it was one of the most engaging and exciting SFCMP concerts I've been to in years!

Mackey's piece was lively and fun. He intended it as "vernacular music from a culture that doesn't actually exist", a thought-experiment gone wild. 

And altho I don't really like a lot of Ferneyhough's music, this Ciaconna, played impressively by Graeme Jennings (ex Arditti Quartet, now living in San Francisco), was a real tour de force. Quite spectacular.

As was Manoury's vibraphone solo. (What is it about French composers and vibraphones and xylophones?) The prominent technique here was to sound many notes in a chord or run across the bars and then dampen them one by one. Vibrant it was.

I hadn't heard the Feldman piece before, altho it has been recorded a few times, most recently on Mode 119. It was beautifully played, even tho the stillness was betrayed by coughs from the audience and the occasional ambulance siren outside. 

But it was the Liderman piece that I think everyone was waiting for. And it was spectacular. Sort of a chamber violin concerto, it reminded me alot of Milhaud's jazzy Pan-American chamber pieces. Sunny, lyrical, and full of surprises. Carla Kihlstedt nailed it with a full and sensuous tone. And it even had a cadenza! It was great and I hope they record it! The ensemble began with a moment of silence.

But of course the tragedy was that now Liderman's work is closed, done. There won't be any new pieces.  How can this be? 

Still, congratulations to the SFCMP!  

 

Here's Kosman's review in the SF Chron


Lunchtime Piano              February 4, 2008

 

Jerry Kuderna and Sarah Cahill

 

Today's lunchtime concert by Jerry Kuderna, part of this month's Berkeley Arts Festival being held at an abandoned storefront in downtown Berkeley, was deeply saddened by the news of the death of local composer Jorge Liderman (see item below).

Jerry Kuderna had been planning a program of American music, but scrapped it all and played Schubert, Schoenberg, and Debussy instead.

Some in the audience knew Jorge and had even spoken to him very recently about the world premiere happening tonight in San Francisco.

Schubert seemed just the right choice. 

And here's another photo


Berkeley Composer Jorge Liderman an Apparent Suicide              February 4, 2008

Jorge Liderman

 

 

 

 

It was a big shock to open the paper this morning and read that Berkeley composer Jorge Liderman apparently jumped in front of a BART train Sunday.

I was hoping to see him tonight at the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players concert with the world premier of his Furthermore... for violinist Carla Kihlstedt. 

I'd met Jorge a number of times, and had him on my KPFA radio program many years ago when he first arrived at the UC Berkeley music department. And I've featured his music on Music From Other Minds on KALW. 

This is a terrible shock.  He was 50 years old.


Sarah Cahill Plays Shattuck Avenue              February 3, 2008

 

 

Last night, in an abandoned storefront on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley (previously a Gateway Computer store and pictured above via Google, the second floor was also home to radio station KPFA for three decades), pianist Sarah Cahill initiated the latest installment of the peripatetic Berkeley Arts Festival with a concert that featured the music of Peter Garland, Stephen Blumberg, Mamoru Fujieda, Colin McPhee, Kyle Gann, and Terry Riley.

Starting around 1990 as part of the Berkeley Store Gallery, the Berkeley Arts Festival has been turning empty store fronts on Shattuck Avenue into performance spaces and exhibition halls for a month or two each year, largely due to the support of local commercial property owners, the City of Berkeley, and many art patrons, volunteers, and artists, and all under the direction of the indefatigable Bonnie Hughes.

The nice thing about these concerts is the informality of it all. Like being in someone's home, the performers and audience feel comfortable enough to talk about the music and sit close. The wonderful Grotrian grand piano looked beautiful in the center of the room, and the audience of about 50 of us sat in three rows in a semicircle around it, facing the windows onto the street. It was wonderful to hear, for example, Colin McPhee's Balinese transcriptions while watching the lights from the Shattuck Avenue Cinema across the street and people with umbrellas walking along the sidewalk.

And since Sarah knows all the composers on the program, she was able to speak about the music first-hand. Which added even more to the intimacy in the room. 

By the way, I highly recommend Sarah's new CD on New Albion of Kyle Gann's Private Dances, which includes On Reading Emerson, performed last night.  


Yet Another Classical Music Reviewer Leaves              January 31, 2008

Yet another classical music reviewer at a Bay Area newspaper has been removed for budgetary reasons.

Sigh.

Georgia Rowe at the Contra Costa Times here. 


Gann on Feldman              January 30, 2008

Kyle Gann gave a talk on Morton Feldman's music at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend and he's posted it on his blog, which you can read here.  As one would expect from Mr Gann, it is worth reading. Read the comments too!

Messiaen on a Rainy Sunday              January 27, 2008

VingtRegards-1.jpg

Rarely one gets the opportunity to experience something truly wonderful, mesmerizing, and overwhelming in public. But that's what happened this afternoon at Hertz Hall on Berkeley campus, when Christopher Taylor performed Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus .. from memory. 

Now, I'm sure others have performed this seemingly impossible task, but this was a first for me. I've attended a good number of performances, and even once saw Yvonne Loriod perform it in New York City many years ago. But always with the score and the required page turner. To play it, all two hours plus, from memory still seems to me, a non-pianist, flatly impossible. 

I have a copy of the score, and it's one of those objects that I deeply revere. I also have many recordings of the piece and have spent many hours following along while listening. And I am certain that there is no way a mere human could enter all that information into their brain and still be able to live. And yet, there it was. I am still in a curious state of mind, as if I had just seen someone fly, or walk on water. 

Chris Taylor is an incredible pianist. That is a known fact. We saw him at Other Minds 12 in December 2006 performing with the Feinsmith Quartet, and he was back with them last October. And in November 2005 he managed another incredible performance, this time with György Ligeti's complete Piano Etudes. His performance today, which got a (well deserved) lengthy standing ovation, was truly amazing.

Of course, I brought my score and followed along. This only heightened my amazement. So many many notes. I've read that pianists mention how well these complex and fast chords fit the hand -- so to an experienced player it's not quite as hard as it looks in the score. But the score is also without time signatures to indicate how many beats per bar are to be counted (e.g. four quarter notes per bar, or 5 eighth notes, etc.) And in many cases the number of beats varies while the bar lines only indicate phrasings. This makes it easier to notate odd rhythms without having to force all the beats to add up nicely at the bar line. But seeing rapidly changing bars with 12, 15, 9, 11, and 17 eighth notes with complex counter rhythms seems impossible to play even with the music in front of you. 
 
Of course, playing anything from memory is risky, and committing 2 hours to memory is bound to result in some sticky spots in live performance. And there seemed to be a couple such sticky spots this afternoon, but that could also have been my getting lost in the rapid pace of the music. I did notice that he tended to arpeggiate chords often where no arpeggios were indicated. Nonetheless, the acheivement was spectacular.
 
I walked out of the hall and into the rainy Berkeley streets with the feeling that I had just been levitated and brought back to Earth. Now that's the sign of a great concert! 
 
I hope Chris gets a chance to record and release a CD of his performance of this work. There are already many many recordings. My three current favorites are Yvonne Loriod's mono 1956 recording (of course) originally released on Adés (Paris) in 1987,  Pierre-Laurent Aimard's 2000 Teldec release, and local pianist Jacqueline Chew's 2004 recording. Together they demonstrate, perhaps, Trois Regards du Vingt Regards. Of these, the Aimard is the best recorded sound and most exciting, altho I think he takes some liberties with the tempos. But there are many many others and probably more to come. I wish I could listen to them all. 
 
 
See Jason Serinus's review at SF Classical Voice

Lachenmann at Mills              January 26, 2008

Helmut LachenmannTonight's concert at Mills College in Oakland featuring the music of visiting Composer-In-Residence Helmut Lachenmann was a bit of a disappointment.

Lachenmann, now 73, has been active in Europe since the 1960's, and his music appears regularly at new music festivals around the world.

What was disappointing for me tonight was not being able to hear any of his recent music. All the pieces presented were from 20 to 45 years ago (1963-1988).

Needless to say, the concert at Mills seemed exceptionally well performed. This music is really difficult to pull off. Kudos to anyone willing to attempt it.

But by now the style seems really dry and, at least to me, devoid of any real life. It was like being at a play, a very physical and emotional drama, but in a language you didn't understand at all. For awhile it sounds intriguing, and then it gets a bit tedious. The actors were great and you can tell they were really into the performance; but the meaning of the whole thing remained a mystery.

It's hard to tell from the listener's seat what compositional processes were involved. And even tho much of it sounded as if it could have been improvised, it was clearly all written out in a complex notation. But one wonders what to make of it all.

Lachenmann employs a lot of non-traditional performance techniques in his music. And in that period of the 70's and 80's it seemed that every piece of new music tried to outdo each other by exploring new ways to play traditional acoustic instruments that no one else ever thought of. 

Two of the works tonight, his Gran Torso (1972) for string quartet, and Toccatina (1986) for solo violin, had significant sections that were practically inaudible (and I was in the third row). The players bowed on the wood parts of their instruments, producing whisper-like sounds while making big gestures with the bow and arm. It was as if someone suddenly turned off the sound but the players kept going. (I noticed too that they were torturing their poor bows.)

I was reminded of Nicolas Slonimsky's complaint: "The trouble with modern music is that there isn't enough of it." He was referring to those pieces of sparse pointillism and long silences that sound as if someone had taken a big eraser to the score and only left a random smattering of notes here and there. "Too few notes" Nicolas complained, "lets hear more music". 

I had the same feeling tonight. In Gran Torso, the quartet rarely played a conventional note.  Very ugly scraping sounds were contrasted with quiet ticking sounds made by tapping the bow handle against the strings, and glissandi effects made by running the bow up the strings (instead of across). But when this work was created, composers rushed to see how many unique and clever effects they could get out of these instruments, no matter if it made any sense to do so.

The works presented tonight made up a Grand Catalog of crazy things you can do with instruments. This gets pretty tedious quickly. I'm still left wondering what Lachenmann is composing today. (Most composers left the 80's behind them.)

Lachenmann's two piano pieces, Wiegenmusik (1963) and Ein Kinderspiel (1980) were a bit different. The first is a violent cascade of notes all over the keyboard, utilizing "after-sounds" .. those ghostlike sounds that echo in the body of the piano after the sustain pedal is released. (We heard a lot of those.) The second was much more minimal, hammering away at some of the "marginalized" piano sounds, like clusters of the highest notes that sound like metal clanking. I found these pieces much more interesting than the others. And, they were masterfully played by the composer.

The final work of the evening, Allegro Sostenuto (1988) for clarinet, piano, and cello, was difficult to like. Many of the unconventional sounds we had heard in the earlier pieces reappeared. And this one had a lot more notes, which would make Nicolas happy. Needless to say, this apparently difficult work was enthusiastically played by Matt Ingalls, no stranger to extended techniques on the clarinet, Christoper Jones, piano, and Geoffrey Gartner, whose dramatic frown throughout the piece made it seem he was having a serious punch-out with his cello.

Still, I found it really tedious, devoid of any sustaining interest beyond a few "nice sounds" here and there. There must have been some organizational thread holding it all together, but I couldn't find it.  

The venue at Mills, Lisser Hall, was chosen because the wonderful Mills College Concert Hall is under reconstruction. It worked well and the place was full, mostly of young people, which is always good to see. Only problem was the smell of garlic from a nearby kitchen, and the gentle sound of rain on the roof which was most apparent during those long inaudible sections of the quartet, which mixed with growling stomachs from the audience to make a nice aural patina that added a bit of reality to the proceedings.

The audience was extremely attentive and respectful, and Lachenmann did receive a standing ovation, which surprised some of us old-timers. It does seem that the local improviser-performers hold him in high esteem. Which itself is curious because none of his music is improvised.  I hope this same enthusiastic audience will show up at some of the other new music events coming up in the next couple of months. We all need audiences like this.

I was glad I went, if only to see up close someone I'd only heard about for 40 years. Unfortunately, there wasn't much there there.


Concerts of Interest (expanded)              January 19, 2008

Next couple of weeks are full with many interesting events:

Sat Jan 26: 4pm Pianist Christopher Taylor at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
Simons Auditorium, Chern Hall, 17 Gauss Way (Grizzly Peak & Centennial, Berkeley)

Christopher Taylor talks with David Benson, author of Music: A Mathematical Offering and Robert Osserman, Special Projects Director, MSRI. Go to http://www.msri.org/ for information and directions. (More information).

Sat Jan 26: 8pm Helmut Lachenmann at Mills College Lisser Hall (Oakland)
William Winant, percussion; Graeme Jennings, violin; Erik Ulman, violin; Ellen Ruth Rose, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, cello; Matt Ingalls, clarinet; Geoffrey Gartner, cello; Christopher Jones, piano
http://music.mills.edu/events

Sun Jan 27: 3p Christopher Taylor plays Messiaen's monumental "Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jesu"
www.calperfs.berkeley.edu/presents/season/2007/20th_century_and_beyond/ct.php

Sun Jan 27: 3pm San Francisco Chamber Orchestra - Mountain is Mountain, a World Premiere of a Concertino for Flute & String Orchestra by award-winning composer Yu-Hui Chang.
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley  www.sfchamberorchestra.org

Tu Jan 29: 8pm Del Sol Quartet - Coming Together
a collaboration with clarinetist Jeff Anderle and master didjeridu player Stephen Kent, featuring the quartet and the two guest musicians assembled into duet, quintet, and sextet, performing works by Derek Bermel, Peter Sculthorpe, Osvaldo Golijov, and a work by Arturo Salinas in which the musicians experiment as percussionists. These works reflect diverse influences, including American jazz, Asian folk melodies, Klezmer music, and Mexican rhythms. Berkeley Chamber Performances, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA http://www.delsolquartet.com/concert.html

Sat Feb 2: 8pm Sarah Cahill performs works by Terry Riley, Stephen Blumberg, Kyle Gann, and others. The new Arts Festival location is at 2213 Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Details at www.berkeleyartsfestival.com.

Mon Feb 4: 8pm Luciano Chessa presents Chronicle Hotel
a recital that includes the premiere of his brand-new Chronicle Hotel and other compositions of his for piano and Vietnamese dan bau, as well as piano works by Giuseppe Chiari, Theresa Wong, Ramon Sender, Gregory Moore, Sylvano Bussotti, Mark Menzies, Benjamin Piekut, and others. San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Concert Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102-6011 http://www.sfcm.edu/calendar/calendar.aspx?performanceID=1926

Mon Feb 4: 8pm SF Contemporary Music Players - Yerba Buena Center Forum - S.F.
Music by Steve Mackey, Morton Feldman, David Sheinfeld, Jorge Liderman  http://sfcmp.org 

Tues Feb 5: 8 PM Matt Davignon and Les Hutchins, Polly Moller & Co
1510 8th St Performance Space, 1510 8th Street, Oakland  Map
Matt Davignon and Les Hutchins will interweave their amazing electronic sounds at 8:00 p.m., followed by Polly Moller & Co., consisting of Polly Moller (flute, bass flute, & voice), Jim Carr (bass), Amar Chaudhary (electronica), and Bill Wolter (guitar). $10.00 info: www.bayimproviser.com/venuedetail.asp?venue_id=39

Sat Feb 9: 8p: Bang on a Can / Don Byron and Iva Bittova
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco http://www.ybca.org/tickets/production.aspx?performanceNumber=3149

 


 


Hiatus Ate Us              January 19, 2008

People ask "Where have you been? No blog entries lately... whats up? Are you OK?"

Well, January is hibernation month around here. Besides, see below.

And I've been somewhat pre-occupied, thinking about upgrading my 3 blogs (All I Know, All I've Seen, and Music From Other Minds) to Movable Type 4.1 from version 3.32. The upgrade is pretty hairy, judging by the comments on the MT Forum, and would require changing the database technology I currently use. Obvious fears about losing it all and having to either start over or try to recover four years of blogging. Yesterday I pretty much gave up on the idea. Even tho it is a bit flaky, it is working ok. I don't like the way MT3 uses categories, and the tools for managing the blog are missing some important features (like making batch changes to all or most entries, and better support for multiple categories per entry) that are frustrating. And I don't think moving to MT4 would fix any of that.

I also looked into B2Evolution, an open source blogging platform. I even installed it on my ISP's server and tried it out. It uses MySQL, and I immediately got some obscure php errors. A search of the B2Evo forums pointed at a solution, which had me editing some php files in the distro, not something you do lightly. That fixed the immediate problems but new ones popped up, so I trashed it all and gave in to sticking with MT3.32

My photo blog has gotten pretty big with nearly 400 entries now, and many categories. I may have to transform it into something else. But just thinking about it makes me nervous. So I've been staying away from all that.

Haven't touched the camera or the slide collection. It's a quiet time, just reading. (eg Naomi Klein's SHOCK DOCTRINE, which I recommend everyone read!) And, thanks to Netflix, we've been watching a lot of movies... catching up:

  • Volver ***
  • Eastern Promises ****
  • Black Book *********
  • Helvetica ***
  • Away From Her *****
  • La Vie en Rose *********
  • La Notte **
  • Le Amiche ***
  • The Passenger ***
  • The Dreamers ***

We liked them all. The stars indicate how much. Over the holiday break we did a Antonioni retrospective. Very strange to see them again after so many years. And, I renewed my admiration for Monica Vitti!

They tell me Spring will be soon.


Morty Feldman Would Be 82 today              January 11, 2008

Morton Feldman - NY Times 1985
 
Morton Feldman would be 82 today, January 12.
He died in 1987.
 
For any music's future, you don't go to the devices, you don't go to the procedures, you go to the attitude. And you do not find your own attitude; that's what you inherit. I'm not my own man. I'm a compilation of all the important people in my life. I once had a seven-hour conversation with Boulez; unknown to him, at affected my life. I admire his attitude. Varese's attitude. Wolpe's attitude. Cage's attitude. I spent one afternoon with Beckett; it will be with me forever. Not his work; not his commitment; not his marvellous face, but his attitude. (August 1980 - quoted in Morton Feldman Says, edited by Chris Villars, Hyphen Press, London 2006)
 
Happy birthday, Morty!   We miss you.
 
The Morton Feldman Page: http://www.cnvill.net/mfhome.htm 
 
The Speaking of Music Interview, January 1986 with Charles Amirkhanian: on RadiOM.org 
 

A Solar Spring? Cycle 24 is Here! Maybe.              January 7, 2008

Sunspot 981Looks like Solar Cycle 24 might just have begun. We have been at the bottom of a sunspot cycle for a good number of  years now, making ham radio communication very difficult (because long range propagation requires bouncing signals off the ionosphere, which needs the solar wind of ionized particles coming from sun spots to stay opaque enough to be usable in the 3-30MHz range.

If this is all true and the cycle has just begun with sunspot 10981, then in another year or so I may be able to dust off my transceiver and reconnect with my radio friends in Japan, Russia, and Europe.

These days turning on my radio brings in just noise from every direction. The occasional ham I do hear is usually somewhere in Texas running 500+ Watts. I can hear him sorta, but he'll never hear my measly 100W signal coming off my poor vertical antenna.

So I wait for the peak of Cycle 24, coming in 3 to 5 years from now, when, as they say, you can get long distance with just duct tape and bailing wire. 

All it takes is patience.

Cycle 23 

So, Springtime on old Sol. A good birthday present. Things are looking up.

Read more at: http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2008/01/07/100/


64              January 6, 2008

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

You'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride,
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

Every summer we can rent a cottage,
In the isle of wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera chuck & dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

When i'm sixty-four
 

It's that day again. My birthday (1/6/1944). Which means I've reached the magical 64 = 8*8, or 100 in octal. Very strange, considering.

The Beatles song was released in 1967, when I was 23. Looking ahead another 41 years seemed like two lifetimes. Now, it's here. Very strange.

We were planning to celebrate this weekend in a cabin on the coast some 100 miles north of San Francisco, but we never made it out the door. We were packed and ready to leave Friday morning until we heard that the San Rafael bridge was closed and there were major accidents all the way up route 101 due to the severe storm that bounced in from the Arctic. Then the rental agent up in Gualala called to say that the power was out and probably wouldn't come back til late that night or the following day. That's when we gave in and cancelled. A few minutes later the power at our house in Oakland went out and stayed out for 4 hours as it got colder and darker.

Bummed, we shuffled around in the darkness looking for candles and trying to stay warm. But just as were getting into the idea of living by candlelight the power came back. Still, we had to consider "Now what?".

It was quite a storm. Other places had it a lot worse than our 'hood. But the idea of negotiating up highway 1 in such a storm started to seem like an exceptionally bad idea. Most likely the road would be closed due to a fallen tree, boulder, or blown cow.

Which is the story of my birthdays since childhood, when I lived on Long Island (NY). Not only is it bad timing to have a birthday party so soon after Xmas, New Years, Hanukkah, but East Coast winters meant no one would be able to get their cars out of the driveway or down the streets to our house. So after around my tenth birthday when we waited for my friends to appear, table set, ice cream in the freezer and chocolate cake on the table only to have everyone's parents call to cancel, my mom said "That's it! No more January parties!". And from that point on I barely celebrated with my parents and brother, a big fat candle stuck into a Hostess cupcake. Later, we forgot about the whole thing.

Ever since I've been wary of birthdays. A couple of attempts at gatherings or trips up north were scratched in the past. About ten years ago we barely made it home from a stay in Bodega Bay when all the roads were washed out.

January can be a cruel month.

So this time we gave in, and postponed our paid-for trip to Sea Ranch until February, whenit should be Spring. That leaves me with the next two days to spend at home, having already announced vacation days at work.

Oh well. It could be worse.

1953 

1964 

1971 

Me, at 64

More Passings              January 5, 2008

Two more of our elders have left us. 

The NY Times notes the passing of Liam O'Gallagher

Liam O’Gallagher, an avant-garde sound artist, painter and teacher whose San Francisco studio became an early gathering place for Beat writers and poets in the 1950s, died Dec. 4 at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“Chinatown” (1960), a work by the artist Liam O’Gallagher. He was 90.

The obit mentions his “Border Dissolve in Audiospace” from 1970, a fuzzy, echoing recording in which directory operators are called and asked to look up various numbers. 

You can hear it here. It was produced in the studios of KPFA in Berkeley, and I did the engineering.  It's also available on an Other Minds re-issue here.

I still remember Liam being a remarkable person, even though I'd lost touch with him over the past 35+ years. 

Another is sound poet Henri Chopin,

Henri Chopin

who passed away on Wednesday in England at age 85.  Much of his work is available here.

Some recent videos are here


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