Thursday, September 20, 2012

Discography of Drones (selected, incomplete)

A while back a discussion emerged on Twitter about composers who wrote drone pieces. My name was mentioned as a likely source of information, which was probably a mistake. But I am interested in drone-based works, and herewith share a few recordings that I have found worthwhile. It is by no means complete in any sense. And many (if not most) artists on this list, like Niblock, Palestine and Radigue, have far more recordings available than I have mentioned here. But it might get you started.

See a glaring omission? Please add your own suggestions in the comments.


 Rhys Chatham:    A Crimson Grail (Table of the Elements, Nonesuch)
                              Guitar Trio Is My Life (Radium, Table of the Elements)

Tony Conrad:       Early Minimalism Vol. 1 (Table of the Elements)
                             Slapping Pythagoras (Table of the Elements)

David First:          Privacy Issues (droneworks 1996-2009) (XI)

Henry Flynt:        C Tune (Locust Music)

Fripp & Eno:       No Pussyfooting (DGM)
                            Evening Star (DGM)

Jon Hassell:         Vernal Equinox (Lovely Music)

Catherine Christer Hennix: The Electric Harpsichord (die Schachtel)

Alvin Lucier:        Music On a Long Thin Wire (Lovely Music)

Phill Niblock:       Young Person's Guide to Phill Niblock (Blast First)
                              Four Full Flutes (XI)

Charlemagne Palestine:   From Etudes to Cataclysms (Sub Rosa)
                                         Strumming Music (Sub Rosa)
                                         Schlingen-Blangen (New World)

Eliane Radigue:              Adnos I-III (Table of the Elements)
                                       Triptych (Important Records)
                                       Trilogie de la Mort (XI) Vice-versa (Important Records)

La Monte Young:          Second Dream of the High-Tension Step-Down
                                      Transformer (Gramavision)

Friday, September 14, 2012

William Duckworth (1943-2012)

It's been one of the greatest honors of my musical life to have helped produce a disc of William Duckworth's magnificent piano work, The Time Curve Preludes. I didn't ever meet him and only exchanged a few emails with him over years, but his music had an incalculable effect on my life and work. I listened, studied his scores, read his books. It seemed inevitable that our paths would cross at some point, but circumstances never aligned and Bill succumbed to pancreatic cancer this week.

Many postings have already been made and I will not attempt to expand upon them further. Kyle Gann knew him well and wrote a lovely tribute in the wake of his passing. My friend and fellow irritable hedgehog, Andy Lee has posted a moving tribute here.

If you did a formal survey of "most influential composers" Bill's name would probably not appear very high on the list. His music didn't have the cache needed to snare the big prizes. But literally ALL of my musical colleagues know and admire his work. We composers seldom agree on much, but Bill's music garnered incredibly broad enthusiasm. The web has been flooded with testimonials of his marvelous teaching and celebrations of his work. A subtler, but perhaps more telling sort of "influence." I, for one, am eternally grateful for his presence.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Clarification

John Cage was a COMPOSER.

NOT a "musical philosopher."

NOT a "conceptual artist."

NOT a "charlatan."

He wrote things down and musicians made, and continue to make, sounds based on those inscriptions. This is what composers have done, and continue to do. The delight felt by musicians and listeners at these made sounds has not been unanimous, but it has been substantial and continual. Any philosophical discussion arising from Cage's work has been merely an ancillary public service.

Please resume your own sound-making activities at this time.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Critics: We Need Them

[Update update: On December 18th, 2014, the New York Times fired Kozinn. I've edited a few spots to reflect that, and removed the old link to a failed petition to reinstate him.]

[Update: I changed the wording in the opening paragraph to more accurately reflect the change in Kozinn's status at the Times, and added the link at the bottom.]

News broke today that Allan Kozinn was being relegated to the post of "general cultural reporter" at the New York Times, a backwater assignment. The reasons are murky, but it certainly has nothing to do with the quality of his work. This is of a piece with much of our cultural landscape today: the publishing industry is in crisis, and so once-key positions at major newspapers are cleared to make way for, what exactly? As a composer, producer, and occasional member of various arts boards, I cannot but wonder at the wisdom of such a move. I wonder more at what it says about the state of arts journalism. Kozinn is an exceptionally able critic, at ease with contemporary music, historic performance practice and a recognized authority on the Beatles. Try finding any two of those qualifications in another writer.

Virgil Thomson's first review for the New York Herald-Tribune (entitled "Age Without Honor") quoted his friend, the painter Maurice Grosser, as saying "I understand now why the Philharmonic is not a part of New York's intellectual life." I understand now why it is becoming less necessary to open the New York Times arts section with any regularity. With the side-lining firing of Allan Kozinn, the Times moves ever closer to irrelevancy.

Criticism is perhaps the most underrated of all the journalistic pursuits. Everyone thinks they can do it, and very few can. Frequently critics are all tarred with the same broad brush, being labelled as disgruntled wannabes. But the best critics offer something valuable: perspective. A good critic's writing will give you new insight into a concert you attended; it will help you understand the importance of a concert you missed. And over time, the accumulated work of a worthy critic (even one with whom you regularly disagree) will leave a permanent impact on a community. The measure of Allan Kozinn's writing can be felt in the outrage and indignation that is spreading across the internet. Composers, musicians and music-lovers rightly see that a crucial ally is being stricken from their midst.

A critic without bias is a critic not worth reading. Bias is essential. But not incompatible with being fair-minded. Virgil Thomson, George Bernard Shaw, Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann were biased, opinionated critics. They had values and they fought for them. They were not always right, but they were nearly always perceptive. Which is why we can still learn things from their criticism, about their age and the artists that inhabited it. With Kozinn's sidelining (emblematic of a wide-spread and disturbing trend), I fear the art of our own age will be that much more opaque—to ourselves and our descendants.