On Tuesday night, I attended a performance by Mantra Percussion of Michael Gordon’s new work Timber. I entered the Apple store on Broadway feeling slightly harried, with a million different things on my mind, and an hour later I left feeling as if all that junk in my head had been emptied out and replaced with a wonderful sense of peacefulness.
The artist collective called Ecosono is devoted to melding experimental sound art and environmental preservation, in an effort to highlight ecological awareness through innovative musical creations. Their new DVD, Agents Against Agency, documents nine multimedia projects exploring the interconnections between musical expression in dialog with the surrounding environment, both natural and manmade.
This question about whether to start up a blog has come up so many times over the past few weeks that it seems it should be addressed. With so many websites now being built using the Wordpress platform, it’s a natural question that arises from the dynamic nature of the format. I wish there were a clear-cut, yes or no answer, but the reality is that there isn’t one!
Whether it is an orchestral work or a composition for chamber ensemble, Pierre Jalbert professes his affection for musical forms both large and small, and especially enjoys the back-and-forth of creating a work for large forces immediately followed by a smaller one. His compositions, which are vibrant and tautly constructed with thoughtfulness and precision often contrast slow music suggesting a sense of “suspended time” with fast, highly syncopated material that propels the work forward.
Last night at around 10 p.m. I felt like I was totally out of steam and was starting to get ready for bed when I thought, “No. You didn’t sit down with this composition at all today—spend at least a few minutes with it before turning in and you’ll feel better.” Well, I more than felt better; a few minutes turned into two hours, and that little bit of time revealed the breakthrough from “I’m pretty sure I know where this is going…?” To “I definitely know where this is going!”
For rock bands, going on tour and playing the “standard repertoire” of hit songs is a non-negotiable part of the job. They may say it’s kind of boring and doing new things is a lot more fun and interesting, but performing favorite songs for adoring fans is what pays the bills. Although composers may not have binding contracts, keeping work alive is a crucial part of the venture for us as well.
Composer Arlene Sierra is the closest thing to a “musical entomologist” that we will probably find in the world of contemporary music. The first word that comes to my mind when listening to her music is “spin,” and the accompanying visual is that of a spider weaving an intricate web with speed and dexterity, into which a myriad of other tiny creatures unsuspectingly wind themselves up.
The speed at which computers and music gear in general become obsolete makes me wonder increasingly about the compositions out there that have been created for very specific equipment that no longer exists. The act of keeping everything current and updated is a big part of composer “life maintenance.”