All I Know³
Information, transmission, modulation, and noise – 3rd Edition

A Sweeter Music

Sarah CahillThis Sunday afternoon we had the great treat to hear Sarah Cahill perform some of the solo piano pieces she has been commissioning from composers — music for peace in a time of war and violence. She calls it A Sweeter Music project.

(Read the »Cal Performances notice of this concert, which includes a video interview and the program notes. )

The program had music by Peter Garland, Larry Polansky, Fred Rzewski, Yoko Ono, Jerome Kitzke, Preben Antonsen, Mamoru Fujieda, and Terry Riley, and many were world premieres.

An added treat were video visualizations of these pieces by John Sanborn, projected on three large screens behind the piano.

Joshua Kosman reviewed the concert for the S.F. Chronicle, and I don’t think I could do a better job. (»Read Kosman’s review.) So I won’t try.

The two pieces I admired the most were Jerome Kitzke’s There Is A Field, and Mamoru Fujieda’s The Olive Branch Speaks.

Kitzke chose three poems by Walt Whitman, and one by Rumi that gives the piece its title, and these are spoken by the pianist while playing. The nine sections and the poems balance themselves between visions of war and of peace and nature.

Sanborn’s visuals were Matthew Brady photos of the Civil War. Stark and disturbing images. Kitzke’s score and Cahill’s vocalizations, war hoops, and poetic reading made for a strong bit of theater. The visuals turned theater into documentary.

Mamoru Fujieda’s The Olive Branch Speaks on the second half of the program was quite a contrast. Quiet melodic patterns and dreamy chords are apparently all derived from data Fujieda collects by measuring the changes in electric potential generated by living plants in his apartment. Another one of those pieces, in two movements, that could have gone on forever and I wouldn’t have minded.

What really struck me about this concert was the incredibly wide range of musical language. Like Yoko Ono’s Toning, where the instructions (no score) to the performer are: “Repeat the ascent from C to high C several times while you let the sound vibrate inside you. “  Sounding like a piano tuner at work, the effect was to give pause to what we demand ourselves to believe is Music and to take the time to really experience what music, at its very core, really is .. just single notes in a regular sequence.

The other works on the program varied from simple melodies to rough and ready two fisted affairs that would have made Ives (and Carter) proud. I was disappointed with the excerpts from Peter Garland’s After the Wars, but maybe  I need to hear it again or maybe the whole thing.  Or maybe, as the first on the program, I was expecting something else.

But any concert that Sarah gives is going to challenge as well as please. We are so glad to have in our presence someone so devoted to the performance and promotion of music by living composers.

I must admit that I did find the visuals distracting. Being BOTH a visual as well as an aural person, I found both sides of my brain fighting for attention. I wanted very much to pay attention to the music, but the visual side of my brain was having a field day trying to identify all the imagery being thrown at me. This may be why I didn’t quite grasp the Garland piece at first.

My own opinion is that mixing visuals with music only works if the two were conceived together. I have the same opinion about dance. So maybe it would have been better (at least for my split brain) if only one or two pieces had video accompaniament, not (nearly) all of them.

But that’s just me.

Still, as always, every concert that Sarah Cahill gives is a real treat, this one included.

Garden Of Memory – New Music Circus

Monday (June 21, Summer Solstice) at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland , the 15th annual new music circus will happen.

Garden of Memory 2010 is always a lot of fun and has some amazing performers .. some of the best names in new music in the Bay Area.

Today’s NY Times had a piece about it, and one of its founders Sarah Cahill.

Sarah Cahill

Sarah Cahill, New Music’s Tireless Advocate

When she is at the keyboard, Sarah Cahill exudes self-confidence. At a recent recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with David Latulippe, a flutist, Ms. Cahill dashed off challenging works by Arvo Part and Terry Riley with an easy flamboyance that matched her bright orange dress.

But during the curtain call, another side of Ms. Cahill’s personality came through. With an awkward bow and a shy smile, she looked more like a student playing in public for the first time than a seasoned world-class performer.

Ms. Cahill has such a gentle demeanor that it can be hard to grasp the magnitude of her impact on the contemporary music scene — not only as a pianist but also as a champion of contemporary composers, a prolific events producer and an influential broadcaster of classical music.

Composers like Pauline Oliveros and Frederic Rzewski have dedicated works to her. John Adams wrote his 1977 piano piece “China Gates” for Ms. Cahill when she was just 17. (more…)

Sarah Does New York City

Sarah Cahill - NY TimesBerkeley’s national treasure, pianist Sarah Cahill, wowed ‘em in New York City last week, together with Carl Stone.

Here’s the NY Times review:

August 4, 2010

Laptop and Piano, Dispelling Traditions

Tune in to any pop radio station today, and the ubiquity of electronic music is evident in the Auto-Tune vocals and programmed beats of even the most banal hit single. Listen closely, and you realize that gifted pop producers routinely turn out sophisticated orchestrations that surpass the reckonings of avant-garde prophets like Busoni, Varèse and Stockhausen.

But within the classical mainstream, where physical exertion and virtuoso skill have never lost their primacy, electronic music retains an alien quality. Could any computer jockey hunched over a laptop, peering intently but otherwise inscrutable, produce sounds as rich and relatable as those of a performer busily (and visibly) working on a piano?

Creating music of charm, quirk and sublimity with a computer is no more unlikely a notion than making it on a ponderous wooden coffin with ivory keys, felt hammers and taut metal wires. Both contraptions express the imaginations of their programmers and operators: a point made during related performances by the pianist Sarah Cahill and the electronic composer Carl Stone on Tuesday night at the Stone, an austere East Village new-music laboratory.

Ms. Cahill, an eloquent and indefatigable new-music advocate from the San Francisco area, offered an appealing range of concise works during her set. Some were part of “A Sweeter Music,” her continuing project created in response to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All had an approachability that neatly sidestepped notions of avant-garde formidability.

The cascading arpeggios of Eve Beglarian’s “Night Psalm,” based on a 16th-century antiphon from Augsburg Cathedral in Germany, had a plain-spoken, hymnlike radiance and zeal. Annie Gosfield’s “Five Characters Walk Into a Bar,” inspired by the five-character codes used by the Danish Resistance during World War II, wrangled knotty five-note clusters with an improviser’s sense of spontaneity and propulsion.

Five-note cells also popped up in selections from Mamoru Fujieda’s placid “Begonia in My Life,” music derived from biofeedback signals provided by the plant of the title. Ms. Cahill handled the fearsome polyrhythms of Guy Klucevsek’s rollicking “Don’t Let the Boogie Man Get You” with impressive ease, and sang as she played in three gemlike miniatures from Larry Polansky’s “B’midbar.” Terry Riley’s “Fandango on the Heaven Ladder” was a buoyantly cheeky conclusion.

…Read the Whole Thing


Richard Friedman lives in Oakland, CA, is a freelance tech writer/editor, web designer, photographer, 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.
He is not Kinky.

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I started All I Know in June 2004 using Pivot, and
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