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I left my quarter tone marimba in San Francisco

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to write an article for NewMusicBox about the SF new music scene. For the next few weeks I dutifly pounded the pavement (and Bay Bridge), met a lot of very cool folks, and heard some fantastic new music. The article, published last week (link below), centered around the remarkable Magik*Magik Orchestra, then branched out from there in a 6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon kind of way to explore the musical endeavors of several young musicians. It's a snapshop of a very cool scene.

Shake It To the Ground: SF Musicians Re-envision Classic(al) Career Paths

Special thanks goes out to Annie Phillips, who put me in contact with many of the musicians interviewed, and to Magik*Magik, Nonsemble 6, and the guys at The Living Earth Show for allowing me to attend their rehearsals.


The Living Earth Show in their fuzzy-walled rehearsal cave.


Yes, Jesus Loves Me - Free Ives Download

UPDATE: Well, the free download is no longer available, but you can hear Hilary performing some of the tunes found in the sonatas, as well as some Bach, courtesy of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts.

Hilary Hahn on Tiny Desk

NYC's Q2 is commemorating Ives' birthday by offering a free download - today only! - of Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa's recording of Ives' Violin Sonata No. 4 'Children's Day at Camp Meeting. Great performance.


Brooklyn Phil Fall Preview

UPDATE: the audio is off the air, unfortunately. Mos Def's performance of Rzewski's Coming Together, was really something. Here's a different recording of the piece.

Frederic Rzewski - Coming Together

In case you missed it, here's the Brooklyn Phil's Fall Preview Concert featuring music by Mos Def, Frederic Rzewski, Lev Zhurbin, David T. Little and Corey Dargel. It's only up for a few more days.


OPERA REMIX is here! Tonight!

Tonight at the State Theater in Modesto, California: Opera Remix, from Townsend Opera.  You can read all about it on the Remix webpage, but this event is a major foray into the real world for the Loose Filter philosophy (disclosure: I'm Creative Consultant for this project with the opera any similarities are not coincidental at all).

Here's a clip from the reading rehearsal last night with orchestra only, playing Jonathan Newman's setting of Here Comes the Sun:


Enjoy a couple more rehearsal clips here (of Summertime and Baba O'Riley) from a playlist that includes gems from Mozart, Puccini, Gershwin, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Pink Floyd, and more.  Keep an eye on the Opera Remix website if this catches your interest, there will be much more video of the event itself posted there soon!

I'll also soon be posting here, in installments, a user-friendly version of the research paper that started things rolling on this extremely innovative project from a wonderful regional opera company.  Stay tuned.

Can I get a recording of that?

Really thought-provoking post from Nico Muhly on the difficulty many composers have acquiring recordings of their own works, and how having access to those recordings can be an extremely valuable learning experience. The discussion continues in the comment thread, and it is worth a read.

I remember a composer actually having to email me and ask me to return promo CD because he didn't have permission from the orchestra that performed one of the pieces to distribute it.


Best of LFP: John Adams Chamber Symphony, a listening guide

Stuart's 2006 guide to this John Adams classic is one of our all-time most popular posts.

Listening Guide: John Adams' Chamber Symphony, an eclectic delight.

Best of LFP: Performing Zappa

In April 2006 I conducted Frank Zappa's Be-Bop Tango with the Meadows Wind Ensemble at my alma mater, SMU. I was already a big Zappa fan, but my respect and admiration for his music only deepened as I delved into the score.

Zappa Wrangling

Best of LFP: American Eclectic, or why I conduct mostly bands

Stuart's great essay describes how the needs and nature of our classical music institutions, and not our audiences or the music itself, have come to disproportionately and unconsciously influence thinking in the field. He suggests reframing the discussion and posits that the wind band is an ideal medium to do so.

American Eclectic, or why I conduct mostly bands

Best of LFP: The Sound World of Oscar Bettison

This is a post I wrote about Oscar Bettison's fantastic piece Gauze Vespers. If you like what you hear, check out Neolithic Airs. Click the link below to read the original post.

Ear Tease: The Sound World of Oscar Bettison


Best of LFP: In conversation with Mason Bates

In 2007 Stuart and I recorded a podcast with the outstanding young composer Mason Bates. He talkes, among other things, about how he came to combine classical and electronic idioms, the role of texture in electronica, the similarities between DJs and church organists, and how audiences and musicians responded to his first electroacoustic works.

In Conversation with Mason Bates

Stuart, Mason, and Dustin after the State Theater Concert in March, 2007. Photo by Kyle M. Peterson


Rapture is one of Anna Clyne's very cool electroacoustic pieces. Clyne is currently co-Composer in Residence with the Chicago Symphony.

Rapture by annaclyne

Allowing other folks to embed your music on their sites is a savy move.

Adams on Son of Chamber Symphony

John Adams talks about Son of Chamber Symphony via the London Sinfonietta's YouTube page. As a bonus, here's Stuart's great Listening Guide to Adams' original Chamber Symphony, one of Loose Filter's all-time most popular posts.

Good Programs: Brahms Unbound at the LA Phil

Gustavo Dudamel conducted some very cool programs with the LA Phil as part of its recent Brahms Unbound festival. I've always found it difficult to build really compelling programs around Brahms' symphonies because they are so thematically, harmonically, rhythmically, and texturally rich that not many works are both different enough to compliment them and strong enough stand on their own. The Dude does a nice job, though. Here are two concerts that I think worked particularly well.

Continue reading "Good Programs: Brahms Unbound at the LA Phil" »

Filter bubbles - pt. 2

In a previous post I talked about the filter bubble I've created for myself in terms of my classical music world view, and resolved to search out other voices that would add to a mostly one-sided discussion. It's been tough because there aren't many folks outside the classical music world writing about it, but here are a few interesting perspectives.

MetaFilter - classical music is not a big discussion topic on the blue, but a few posts have generated some great discussions and sobering perspectives. For example, from this thread:

Great orchestra sounds incredible, and is an experience not to be missed; no doubt. But am I sad that a member of the orchestra gets paid only $40k for their part time work doing something that they love, which is about what the average full time American makes? Not exactly. Is it right to think that Joe Cellist is a truly fundamental piece of any given local music scene? No. - felix


Continue reading "Filter bubbles - pt. 2" »

Good Programs: Ligeti, Glass, and Greenwood

Last weekend the Wordless Music Orchestra gave the US premiere of Jonny Greenwood's Doghouse for orchestra and string trio. Also on the program was Philip Glass' Symphony No. 4 "Heroes" and Gyorgi Ligeti's Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments. I'd pay money to hear that. Here are live recordings from the show.

Philip Glass - Symphony No 4. "Heroes"

Gyorgi Ligeti - Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments

Jonny Greenwood - Doghouse


Continue reading "Good Programs: Ligeti, Glass, and Greenwood" »

Wise words from Colin Davis


The less ego you have, the more influence you have as a conductor. And the result is that you can concentrate on the only things that really matter: the music and the people who are playing it. You are of no account whatever. But if you can help people to feel free to play as well as they can, that's as good as it gets.

Astute observations from conductor Sir Colin Davis. I've always enjoyed his readings of the Sibelius symphonies, No. 7 in particular, and his recording of the epic Elgar Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn is wonderful as well. You can read more from and about Sir Colin here and here. Photo by Jennifer Taylor.

"It has indulged...a narcissistic avant-garde speaking in languages that repel the average committed listener..."

Bernard Holland pithily dissects the two basic sets of problems facing American orchestras, in a very perceptive article from 2003:

The free-enterprise system, which worked so admirably to bring the American city its new wealth, transferred poorly to the performing arts. [...] With good management, it is supposed, money and listeners will come rolling in -- again, a symptom masquerading as a cause. Orchestras are not sick because they have bad management. They have bad management because they are sick. Failing industries do not attract top employees.

[...] As for disappearing audiences, no amount of managing will solve that one. Classical music has only itself to blame. It has indulged the creation of a narcissistic avant-garde speaking in languages that repel the average committed listener in even our most sophisticated American cities.

[...] Fleeing audiences are one more symptom, the cause being a public art that has been abandoned by its avant-garde and uses up its given natural resources with profligacy. Audiences are not to blame. They are smarter than Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt want to think they are.

Definitely worth a read and some reflection....

John Cage Quote of the Day 6

i think one of the things that distinguishes music from the other arts is that music often requires other people the performance of music is a public occasion or a social occasion this brings it about that the performance of a piece of music can be a metaphor of society of how we want society to be though we are not now living in a society which we consider good we could make a piece of music in which we would be willing to live

from I-VI (Cage's Charles Elliot Norton lectures at Harvard in 1988-89)

What's wrong with classical music, part 8 billion and oh hell I lost count....

The perenniel topic of "what's WRONG with classical music??" surfaces again in a thoughtful blog post over at 3QuarksDaily.  I agree and disagree with much of what Colin Eatock mentions in that piece (and am frustrated by some of the common misperceptions perpetuated in it), but it's excellent discussion fodder and it generated a  fairly interesting conversation in this thread over on Metafilter.  Food for thought.

If you haven't heard, Alex Ross has another fabulous new book out

Alex Ross hits another one out of the park (at least that's my opinion about 1/3 of the way through, and I don't see things falling off) with his new book Listen To This.  What's really fantastic about the book, aside from all of the great specifics, is the general philosophical approach to musical art that Ross takes in his commentary, explanation, discovery, etc.--he simply loves music, all of it, and makes no a priori distinctions about what can or can't be good.

Excellent overview from the New Yorker here.

There is even a FREE online audio guide on his website.

Read this, soon.

John Cage Quote of the Day 2

"There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time.  There is always something to see, something to hear.  In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.  For certain engineering purposes, it is desirable to have as silent a situation as possible.  Such a room is called an anechoic chamber, its six walls made of special material, a room without echoes.  I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard two sounds, one high and one low.  When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.  Until I die there will be sounds.  And they will continue following my death.  One need not fear about the future of music."

Excerpt from an address given at the MTNA convention in 1957.

Puckett on Rouse and some excellent listening, too

Joel Puckett is a friend who happens to be a very gifted composer, who also writes and teaches about other people's music wonderfully.  Recently he was asked to write a guest piece for the Baltimore Sun about a recent Christopher Rouse work, and it perfectly captures that sense of discovery and delightful surprise one can have hearing new musical works for the first time.  The whole very perceptive article is here--best bit:

As we walked down 65th street, we were collectively inspired by Rouse's willingness to push his expression. It would be very easy for him to sit back and write the same piece over and over for the rest of his life. Not that any of us were surprised that he is still a growing and restless artist, it was just dazzling to come face to face with such powerful evidence.

And don't take my word for it that Joel is a terrific composer--here he is working with the U.S. Marine Band (one of the great concert ensembles in the world, truly), in a rehearsal of his piece It Perched for Vespers Nine:


Band music on the radio

Scott Stewart at Emory University does a terrific summer radio series featuring works for band and wind ensemble on WABE in Atlanta.  Entering its fourth year, SUMMER WINDS is well worth a listen--and the first show is TONIGHT, so tune in here at 9:00 Eastern time to hear some goooood music.  The show will run on Tuesday nights from July 20 to August 31.

Also, if you do give the show and listen and enjoy, please be sure to give the station some positive feedback here so that they know this show is desired and enjoyed!

Why band music matters

From Steve Layton at the always excellent Sequenza 21, a great essay about the modern American wind band and its (earned but unrecognized) place in concert musical life, in the form of a review of several recordings.  A taste:

I had a teacher who once said that the sound of a symphony orchestra was one of the great achievements of Western civilization. Whether that’s true or not is open for debate, but there seems to be no question that the survival of orchestras in small to medium markets in the United States is in doubt. There are also artistic questions about the viability of the model that makes a symphony orchestra the center of a town’s musical life. Wind music, whose players are more plentiful than string players, and whose audiences tend to be more open to new music and new artistic situations, can assume a more central role than it has in most places now.

All of the pieces are in place, then, for bands to play an important role in the revitalization (or continued growth, depending on how you see the current situation) of concert music in the United States. What may be needed are artists, presenters, and patrons with the will and the imagination to re-invent musical life in their cities and towns.

Laptop composer

No, not that kind of laptop composer, just a bit of Sunday fun instead.  Sound of Hamburg lets you compose music with Hamburg's citizens using a live video feed.  Choose from five different locations, each one featuring different music and a different way to compose.  If you'd rather play producer instead, Incredibox lets you create your own beats by combining different percussion and vocal sounds.  Enjoy! [via Smashing Magazine]

Good programs: Wind Ensemble jukebox

Jack Delaney, conductor of the Meadows Wind Ensemble (and a mentor of mine), is going to let the audience pick which pieces they want to hear on the next MWE concert (via Art and Seek).  It's a novel experiment that will immediately engage the audience, and connect them to the players and the music in a new way.  Also impressive are Delaney's comments regarding the need to change the concert experience.

"You know, we can stay in the ivory tower and be snobs and say that all those people that don't come to our shows don't get it.  That's arrogant and stupid.  The presenters have a responsibility to meet people where they are.  And where they are is really, really sophisticated, really, really bright, technologically savvy and looking for a relevant experience.  They're not looking for the same kind of concert experience that their parents and grandparents went to."

This kind of thinking is rare in academia (as rare as the arrogance Delaney mentions is prevalent), which is tragic because when today's music students graduate they will enter a world where concert music is largely irrelevant.  Why shouldn't they be equipped with, or at the very least exposed to, the tools and ideas needed to tackle that problem?

"It seems the wind ensemble’s image needs a makeover."

From Listen magazine, an excellent article on the creative surge happening in the wind band world: Beyond the Halftime Show: The American wind ensemble is quietly building a canon.

As the article quotes John Corigliano:

The repertoire of band music is largely contemporary. As a result, the audiences expect and look forward to new works. Listening in an environment largely ignored by the press, they learn to trust their own ears and respond directly to what they hear. Most important of all, concert bands devote large amounts of rehearsal time over a period of weeks — not days — to learning thoroughly the most challenging of scores.

So the appeal to composers is obvious.  If the medium continues to be more and more appealing to composers, well...where the composers go, so goes the musical culture.

(You can download Corigliano's absolutely fantastic symphony for band, Circus Maximus, here.  And it's only eight bucks.)