Tuesday, September 27, 2005

McIntire, plus 59 other composers...

60x60 is a recent concert series conceived by composer Rob Voisey, wherein 60 electroacoustic pieces (each one sixty seconds or less in length) by 60 different composers are played. A large clock with a sweep second hand is started at the beginning of the hour; with each passing minute, a new piece begins. My submission "Nearly Hidden" was accepted for the Midwest regional series and will be presented on concerts at Lewis University (September 30th) and Electronic Music Midwest (on Friday, October 21st at KCKCC). (Also, UMKC colleagues Jay C. Batzner, Travis Elrott and Pui-shan Cheung will have pieces on the same program.) McIntire will be a particular nuisance at EMM, where he's also giving a paper on Barry Truax's landmark piece 'Riverrun,' and furthermore is presenting his 'Landscape of Retrieval,' a work which has inspired at least one audience member to walk out of the concert hall at each of its prior presentations. Test your nerve! See if YOU can take it! You're all invited to come to the concerts. And you can read more about it here:


and here:


I heard a 60x60 concert last February at the Spark Festival in Minneapolis and I thought it was a fantastic idea; it was a standout event for me at this conference. Rob Voisey does a tremendous job in arranging the sequence of pieces on these programs, and the overall effect is very unified and does not have the fragmented, incoherent quality that you'd expect would be the natural outcome of placing 60 short pieces by 60 different people in a row. I think that this concept is a great way to introduce audiences to electroacoustic music, and it shows the range of stylistic expession in the genre in a very concentrated fashion. It also avoids the danger of listener fatigue, too. I mean, the whole thing is only an hour long, and if you don't like MY piece, just wait a minute...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I am Wozzeck...

...which is probably somewhat alarming news for my wife. (Wozzeck is an expressionist opera by Alban Berg about a soldier who is driven to the brink of madness by his superiors, and ultimately kills his lover Marie, and finally himself. A disturbing masterpiece.) I would have expected that I'd be the Chamber Concerto, the work of Berg's that I admire most of all, for its bizarre merging of intellectual rigor with intense sensuality. (I'm still reeling from a live performance that I heard at Eastman in the 1980s, and I've owned about a dozen different recordings of it, plus the score.) Still, Wozzeck ain't bad. And there have been some times when I sure FEEL like Wozzeck. So, okay.

And if you're wondering which piece by Alban Berg YOU most resemble, you'll have to take a brief test to find out. Best of luck if you turn out to be Lulu... Click below:


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pondering Per Nørgård

This semester will include (amongst the zillion other things I'm doing) a project studying the music of Per Nørgård. His music is not well-known in this country, for reasons unknown. He's composed a vast amount of music, and at a very high standard of quality. Part of his neglect may have to do with the fact that he's Danish, and was never very well-connected to the power-base of new music in the 1950s and 60s. Also, his music is decidedly eclectic in its influences, and while he investigated many of the usual post-war avant-garde techniques, he never really bought into any of them completely. He instead came up with his own process, called the Infinity Series, which is a sort of "musical DNA" that allows a composer a tremendous amount of flexible control over pitch relationships, while retaining an organic consistency that is remarkable. I've started using this in a couple of my own pieces, and I find that there's a world to be discovered within. Nørgård used this process exclusively for about twenty years before venturing into new territories, but it remains an important facet to his craft.

I am currently studying a choral work for 8-voice choir and 8 instruments called 'Singe die Gärten, Mein Herz,' a stunning setting of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke It's unutterably beautiful in a number of ways, and Nørgård later used the piece as the climactic focal point of his Third Symphony. The piece projects a glowing resonance throughout its 11-minute duration and I was thrilled to learn from reading the score that Nørgård specifies that the work be performed in "well-temperament," an older tuning that has fallen into dis-use, but which is much more "in tune" than is today's equal temperament. As someone who has been interested in other tuning systems for a while, I am positive that this aspect is one of the factors that unconsciously drew me to the piece. If this sounds intriguing to you, I recommend a CD of Nørgård's choral music that is currently available on DaCapo. Otherwise, stay tuned for more updates as I delve deeper into this music.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Ear playing 'October Sequences'

'October Sequences' performed 2 September 2005

On September 2nd, Kansas City's professonal new music group New Ear performed 'October Sequences,' a multi-media work that was a collaboration between myself (the electronic score) and my daughter Rachel (the video). Originally a tape piece, on this occasion I was asked if New Ear could do a version with their members playing along with the electronics. It seemed like a good idea, and ultimately improved the piece in many ways. (Thanks Paul!) This concert was a sneak preview of New Ear's regular season, and thus a loose assemblage of the sort of stuff that they play. And now, apparently, McIntire's music is lodged amongst "that sort of stuff." The concert was well-attended, in a funky old building that's currently an Oriental rug store. Speakers were set up on the sidewalk outside the store, so many folks were listening and watching from the outside. Aside from the somewhat noisy atmosphere, which made a lot of the players' nuances impossible to hear, the piece came off quite well. Rachel and I got a lot of positive feedback, and it was fun to present it together in public.

In the long genesis of 'October Sequences,' the music came first. The original sound material was realized and recorded back in the fall of '85, while I was an undergraduate at Nazareth College of Rochester. I used to go into the electronic studio there and fiddle with the synthesizer that was the centerpiece of the studio at that time (an EMS Synthi A "Putney," the same one that Brian Eno used in Roxy Music). I discovered that by feeding back certain frequencies through a tuned filter and reverb, I could get overtones to unfurl that would mix nicely with the original material. I would try and create settings and patches that would simply run on their own, without any intervention on my part, once I'd set the synth in motion. Each parameter would control every other parameter in some way, so a sort of organic interaction would ensue. Because of the inherent instability of the Putney's circuitry, things would not remain static. I always liked this material, but it seemed too bare and minimal to call it a piece, and I never figured out a way to use it in anything else. It sat for nearly twenty years. In the fall of 2003, I was digitizing some old electronic material from cassette, and listened again to the strange throbbing of the material. This time, a shape and a direction for a piece emerged and I put the final work together fairly quickly, without a lot of fuss. I did it all in Pro Tools Free, so that I could work at home. The audio quality is not pristine, but seems consistent with the '70s aesthetic that created the sounds in the first place.

After I'd finished this new version (the piece was always called 'October Sequences,' even back in '85), I liked what I'd done, but thought that it could use a visual component, something that rarely happens to me. So I mailed a cd to Rachel, to see what she could come up with. I had a vague suggestion for an image, which she realized very nicely, but it was inferior to the two visual realizations that she came up with herself. The one that was shown on September 2nd is called "Branches," a very slowed-down and abstracted shot of bare branches against the October sky. It's very slow-paced, but has a powerful dramatic profile that sneaks up on you. I like the fact that the video material completely mirrors the process of the music, with a beautiful final moment that (for me) compares to the ending of any film by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

McIntire composes himself...

Introducing another unnecessary blog...

Hello to the six or seven people who have enough time on their hands to read this. Thank you for visiting my blog. (If you arrived here by accident, you may want to refine those terms in whatever search engine you're using just a little bit...) The title of this blog cunningly conceals its subject matter in plain sight. Music is what I do, simply because I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I compose music and was trained on the clarinet, though I don't play it a whole lot these days. I also play the saxophone, though without the benefit of any training. I just bought the horns and tried to figure stuff out. This approach had its drawbacks, as well as an occasional advantage. For a few years (from 1987-1992) I played in the extraordinary music group The Colorblind James Experience. I played with this band on several albums, EPs, and BBC sessions, as well as three European tours and a whole lot of gigs throughout the Northeast United States.

This blog will provide an outlet for my current musical musings, as well as a place to preserve some of the history of CbJE, and other groups I played in, particularly The Hotheads and The Whitman McIntire Duo. New postings to arrrive real soon!