Articles by Colin Holter
This is my last post. Rereading my very first post—March 15, 2006—I’m reminded just how much time has passed since I started making these weekly attempts to better understand contemporary music.
The problem of stock compositional “moves” weighs on my mind: What are the consequences of returning to a much-drawn-from personal well of musical ideas (at any level, from concrete material or sounds to formal or experiential shapes)?
Having written many semesters’ worth of unwarrantedly difficult music, I’ve lived many times over the student composer’s plight when it comes to locking down players in the absence of a carrot or a stick. But this time—a matter of weeks away from my Ph.D. defense—something in me put its earnest little foot down: I am never doing this again.
I’m not sure what prompted master of ceremonies Colin Hacklander to pursue Eagles #34 as a venue for experimental music, but I’m glad he did it. The only disappointment was that (except for in the bar, that great equalizer) there seemed to be virtually no overlap between the regulars and the new music listeners.
There is, in other words, no excuse to be careless with concerts—no excuse for unthoughtful programming, no excuse for allowing people to be noisy outside, no excuse for doing anything less than your utmost to make the concert experience competitive with anything else someone might be filling one’s night with.
In the handful of posts remaining to me, I’d like to examine some of the issues that my rounds in the ring as a NewMusicBoxer have clarified for me. For starters, let’s talk about the condition that got me into this gig in the first place. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on graduate school, and I’d like to share my conclusions with you now.
If it were just any old source of pop music criticism that had published a recent piece on the rise of “indie-classical” music, we in the contemporary music racket might throw up our hands and wonder what took them so long to make the observation that most other commentators twigged in 2010. But this isn’t just any source of pop music criticism: It’s Pitchfork.
Osvaldo Golijov did well for himself in a field whose upper echelon admits very few. The institutions who raised him up on their shoulders and offered him lavish paydays saw something in him, evidently, that they found value in. For better or worse, they wanted Golijov. But they didn’t get him, as it turns out.
If there’s one event that can unite the American new music community, such as it is, in shared admiration, it must be this year’s Cage centennial. I spoke with my continuing-ed class yesterday about Cage, in particular his under-discussed prewar music, and it was difficult for me to convey the magnitude of Cage’s contribution to music and musical thought.
We could call Cassidy’s approach—those proliferating and always-changing approaches, rather—”extreme,” but that would be unfairly reductive. A listen through The Crutch of Memory, whose pieces show not only Cassidy’s growth as a composer but also the surprising multivalence of his pieces’ deliberately unstable material, will quickly dispel that prejudice.