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September 2009
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For Halloween: War of the Worlds by actors from Star Trek


From LA Theatre Works:  Based on a book by H. G. Wells, the fantastic, infamous radio thriller The War of the Worlds, originally performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater of the Air, is here performed by former cast members of Star Trek.  Bonus, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.

I'm about halfway through the Wells, and it's wonderful fun, perfect for a Halloween afternoon.  (If you click the "Add to iTunes" link on the right side of the show page, it will subscribe you to the podcast and download this episode, if you want to save it for later.)

Extra bonus from the always outstanding Radiolab, their comprehensive look at the panic caused by the original Mercury Theater of the Air broadcast and an examination of the psychology around mass panic.  Really, really interesting, and free to listen or download:

An examination of the power of mass media to create panic. In Radio Lab's very first live hour, we take a deep dive into one of the most controversial moments in broadcasting history - Orson Welles' 1938 radio play about Martians invading New Jersey. And we ask: Why did it fool people then? And why has it continued to fool people since? From Santiago, Chile to Buffalo, New York to a particularly disastrous evening in Quito, Ecuador.

In C Remixed!

The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, a small college new music group, has been gaining attention since their founding in 2006.  Their new project is very cool, they recorded Terry Riley's In C and then asked a bunch of notable (mostly younger) composers to remix their recording.  Here is the story, and here are the results.

And in case you're not convinced to go and check it out yet, here are the remixers:

Featuring remixes by Jad Abumrad, Masonic (Mason Bates), Jack Dangers, Dennis DeSantis, R. Luke DuBois, Mikael Karlsson/Rob Stephenson, Zoë Keating, Phil Kline, Kleerup, Glenn Kotche, David Lang, Michael Lowenstern, DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Nico Muhly, Todd Reynolds, and Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR).

RadiOM's endless archive of wonderful stuff

For decades, Other Minds has been one of California's great new music organizations, and their archives at RadiOM provide huge, delightful amounts of listening from all of their concerts, interviews, etc. over the years.  From their description:

Here you will find recordings of OM's past music festivals and concert productions, selected recordings of new music sent to us by composers from around the world, and selections from 4000 hours of audiotape recordings from the KPFA Radio Music Department collection transferred to Other Minds in 2000. The KFPA tapes contain live conversations, interviews, and performances with many of the innovative musicians who created 20th Century new music. Check our site weekly for new additions. At least five new programs are made available each month.

You can listen to concerts, interviews, explore their other finds, or listen to lectures.  Have fun!

joe's last (re)mix: free score & parts + an awesome remix/composition contest!

The Loose Filter Project's newest endeavor is up, please check it out: joe's last (re)mix.  Featuring the groundbreaking work for band, joe's last mix by Tanner Menard, you can download a FREE score (and parts!), recordings, participate in a remix composition contest, and find out more about this terrific piece.  Details on the contest here, and the main page is here.

Is Dudamel really so good? Some comparative listening

With all the super duper hype and excitement surrounding the arrival of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, there have been both enthusiastic endorsements of his work and callous dismissals.

I thought it would be interesting to listen to a few snippets of the L.A. Phil's recent performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 under Dudamel, alongside matching clips from two other performances.  But to really make it interesting, I've picked what are widely considered two of the finest performances of this piece available: a classic live recording of the Bavarian Radio Symphony led by Rafael Kubelik (1979), and a late recording from Leonard Bernstein, leading the Royal Concertgebouw (1987). 

First, an excerpt from the first movement:

Kubelik, clip 1

Bernstein, clip 1

Dudamel, clip 1

Continue reading "Is Dudamel really so good? Some comparative listening" »

The Oral History of American Music

From Yale University, the Oral History of American Music Project is an amazing resource of primary and secondary source recordings of and about American musicians:

Would you like to hear Aaron Copland describe how "Appalachian Spring" was named? or John Cage on mushrooms and musical form? or Lou Harrison on the influence of Balinese Gamelan on American music? or--almost any significant composer of the last 100 years on a multitude of subjects?--then OHAM is the place to be! About 1800 audio and video recordings make up this unique and valuable collection at Yale University.


Oral History of American Music (OHAM) is the only ongoing project in the field of music dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs in the voices of the creative musicians of our century. It is a special kind of history, one that captures sights and sounds and recreates the spontaneity of a moment in time. The sound of a voice is an immediate link to the past--gestures, speech patterns, laughter--these are vivid reminders of the unique qualities of a personality, and they reflect the atmosphere of his or her time and place in history.

You have to go to Yale to have access to everything, but you can get audio excerpts and a few excellent podcasts here.  I recommend starting with this podcast about Charles Ives, featuring clips of interviews with friends, family, and colleagues.  It's an excellent listen (several more podcasts available for download here).

Recordings from a hundred years ago

From the Department of Special Collections at the University of California, Santa Barbara: the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.  From the site:

Cylinder recordings, the first commercially produced sound recordings, are a snapshot of musical and popular culture in the decades around the turn of the 20th century. They have long held the fascination of collectors and have presented challenges for playback and preservation by archives and collectors alike.

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the UCSB Libraries have created a digital collection of nearly 8,000 cylinder recordings held by the Department of Special Collections. In an effort to bring these recordings to a wider audience, they can be freely downloaded or streamed online.

A few samples: From 1908, The Indestructible Band; from 1918, the Frisco Jazz Band; some fiddle music; some hymns; or some orchestra.

Great FREE concert webcast tomorrow!!

The University of Texas Wind Ensemble, and their fantastic conductor Jerry Junkin, are offering a delightful program this Sunday, 10/25 at 4:00pm CDT.  To listen, go here and navigate to the specific concert.  The program is:

John Mackey, Aurora Awakes
Mason Bates, Rusty Air in Carolina
Stravinsky, Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, Anton Nel, piano
Donald Grantham, Symphony for Wind and Percussion

All composers (except for Stravinsky, obviously) will be in attendance!  Jerry's description of the concert is below the fold:

Continue reading "Great FREE concert webcast tomorrow!!" »

Through Monday: Two free Dudamel / LA Phil concerts!

Classical Archives, in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is offering FREE online streams of two of Gustavo Dudamel's concerts with the orchestra:

Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra

I was at the Symphonie Fantastique performance last spring, and it's fantastic.  Oh, and if you haven't clicked around Classical Archives before, highly recommended! Remember: those free streams are only up until Monday, 10/26!

ClassicalTV: performing arts online

Offering a whole bunch of great content, ClassicalTV is a fun place to go and watch and listen.

To get you started, how about renowned Strauss specialist Erich Leinsdorf conducting Strauss, or percussionist Evelyn Glennie in concert, or Ingo Metzmacher conducting Ensemble Modern playing John Cage, or maybe Penderecki conducting his seventh symphony, or perhaps Benjamin Zander giving a conducting masterclass....


Chicago Symphony actually looking forward

Looks like Muti and management in Chicago are getting things moving in a very interesting direction:

Mason Bates and Anna Clyne have been named co-composers-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Beginning in September 2010 and continuing for two seasons, their activities will include curating the CSO's contemporary music series, MusicNOW, and acting as advocates within the Chicago community to further the understanding and appreciation of all music.

You can hear Clyne's music here, and Bates' music here

Excellent choices, both.  I'd also like to point out that the Loose Filter Project had the good sense to collaborate with Mason in 2007, you can hear our interview with him here.  (Be on the lookout for a podcast about his piece for pipe organ and laptop, Digital Loom, soon.)

Tip jar music: make more money by letting customers name their price?

2D BOY, makers of the excellent game World of Goo, decided--after seeing ridiculously high rates of piracy of their game--to let customers decide how much they would pay for it instead of fixing a price.  One week later they had made $100,000--a year after the game's release. 

Even more interesting, they published the results of this experiment on their blog, with a complete summary of the data hereThis follows on the heels of Radiohead's wildly successful similar experiment in 2007 with their album In Rainbows, a practice informally known as tip jar music.

The success of these experiments bodes well for a future where artists can share their work freely and still make a living at it. 


American music is different

From 1997, a terrific interview with the brilliant Richard Crawford, musicologist extraordinaire.  Though the questions are often loaded with the kind of bias we deplore here at LF, it's always enlightening to hear Crawford discuss his ideas about music in the United States.

I am particularly enamored of his conceptualization of American music-making as happening in three spheres:  the classical, which seeks transcendence; the popular, which seeks accessibility in the present day; and the traditional (or folk), which seeks continuity, a maintenance of tradition.  And of course, the undeniable conclusion: "For me, it's been the popular sphere and its need to appeal to a present-day audience that has defined the center of American musical life." 

Regardless of whether that thought comforts or terrifies you, he is among our most cogent and lucid scholars of American music.  His significant work is America's Musical Life: A History, of course highly recommended.

Superhuman prowess on TWO pianos, and why phase music is awesome

Peter Aidu playing Piano Phase by Steve Reich, on two pianos. (It was written for two people.)

In 1965, American composer Steve Reich began experimenting with a specific kind of process music, using a technique he called phase-shifting.  As the name implies, Reich--using two cassette tape decks--would play a loop of the same material on both machines at the same time.  The machines ran at slightly different speeds, so the loop would gradually move out of phase with itself, creating some fascinating effects.  The two pieces notable for this technique are It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966).

As Reich wrote in his seminal 1968 essay "Music as a Gradual Process":

I do not mean the process of composition, but rather pieces of music that are, literally, processes.

Continue reading "Superhuman prowess on TWO pianos, and why phase music is awesome" »

What the flow of time implies about the universe

A short, clear conversation with Caltech physicist Sean M. Carroll, about what he thinks the forward flow of time implies about the nature of the universe.  A sample:

Our experience of time depends upon the growth of entropy. You can't imagine a person looking around and saying, "Time is flowing in the wrong direction," because your sense of time is due to entropy increasing. . . . This feeling that we're moving through time has to do with the fact that as we live, we feed on entropy. . . . Time exists without entropy, but entropy is what gives time its special character.

(Of course, I keep posting these interesting science tidbits because I've found that being a musician makes me curious about the world and everything in it.  I hope you enjoy them.)

Nurturing creativity

Another excellent TED talk, this one on nurturing creativity:

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Recommended conceptual-shift reading for musicians

The Institute of Musical Perception is the online home of Marianne Ploger and Keith Hill's work in musical perception.  Both are extremely brilliant musicians, and I can attest first-hand to the transformative nature of Marianne's teaching, having studied with her for two years.

I recommend just reading through the site when you have time, but definitely read their main essay The Craft of Musical Communication.  As they say about the essay:

As you read the two sections of our essay make sure you read them in order from the first to the last. Each section builds on and depends on the one previous. It is jam packed with ideas that may be challenging to wade through, but we can assure you, you won't find the effort unrewarded.

Part one is here, part two is here.  If you find something else particularly interesting, please share in the comments.

Also, Ploger's personal site is here.  I heartily encourage any performer to read her Causes of Error article.  Great stuff.

Reimagining the format, alt-classical musicians are going mainstream

From Anne Midgette, an excellent article in today's Washington Post:

Once upon a time, young conservatory musicians wanted to grow up to play as soloists with major orchestras. Today, many of them are forming bands instead.

The ensembles of the new alt-classical world are poised somewhere within the Venn-diagram intersection of traditional classical music and contemporary culture. It's hard to define exactly what kind of music they play.

Of course, this is the kind of thing that the Loose Filter Project is all about, and it's exciting to see more and more musical artists forging their own creative paths.  My only complaint is the term "alt-classical."  Aside from sounding stupid, it's industry, genre-based nomenclature, and so I reject it etymologically as well.

I think it's just the new face of concert music, it in many ways is orthogonal to the industry of "classical music," and thus isn't some kind of alternative sub-genre.  It's a whole new thing, because what ensembles like those discussed in the article are doing isn't just changing the mode of presentation of the music, or even just combining highly eclectic programming with new modes; they are changing the music itself, because of cross-pollination, fusion, improvisation, and the like.

This is the new face of concert music.

(hat tip to Miller for the link!)

It's changing more than just the mode of presentation

Perceptive (as usual) comment from Greg Sandow, on how embracing new technologies and means of reaching audiences will also change the culture of arts institutions:

That's how, increasingly, we decide on purchases, by reading user reviews of products we're considering. And that, says the Times, is how students are deciding where to go to college.

What does this mean for classical music?

It means that you can't use new technologies -- or at least not use them to their full potential -- without embracing the new culture.

You can't do what you want by doing something else

An excellent message for creative workers:

There are lots of people who wanted to do one thing but then got "practical" and did something else first. The idea was that they'd be successful and sock away money doing the practical thing, and after that they could go back to the thing they loved. Bronson was sure that, among the hundreds of people that he interviewed, someone would actually have been successful with this strategy. It sounds so reasonable, after all.

But he encountered exactly zero people who pulled it off. Everyone who tried got sucked into the "practical" career and were never able to extract themselves from it. Too comfortable, too many expectations from friends and family, too easy just to keep doing what you're doing.

Go and listen to this concert RIGHT NOW

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic on 8 October 2009, in his opening concert as music director.  I'll have a longer entry up about this concert over the weekend, but it's a tremendously exciting listen.  Go here to hear for yourself.

The program is a new piece by John Adams, City Noir, and Gustav Mahler's First Symphony.  The Mahler is easily one of the most exciting, engaging readings of any symphony I've ever heard, ever.  More soon!