Author Archives: Colin Holter

No Reservations

I promise I’m not trying to pick on David Patrick Stearns. “Outwardly,” he writes in his philly.com review of the American premiere of James Dillon’s multi-night extended work, “Nine Rivers would seem to be music that can be fathomed only by an ultra-intelligent few and enjoyed by no one,” just before acknowledging, startled, that such an impression isn’t borne out by the experience of Dillon’s music itself.

The Unimaginable Otherwise

Every so often—sometimes in lessons, sometimes in the classroom, sometimes in casual conversations about classical music—somebody will remark that this or that characteristic of a musical work “had to be” the way that it appears in the score: in other words, that internal, immanent musical criteria necessitated certain compositional decisions down the line. It’s a cool thing to say, but it’s not a particularly true thing to say.

Why Commemorative Concerts?

there’s only one affect that musical commemorations of 9/11 are allowed to convey, namely a kind of reverent solemnity. Who can object to that? There’s only one way to feel about 9/11 if you’re an American. That’s precisely why the notion of a commemorative concert seems wrong to me: Art, at the most basic level, is about different ways of feeling about things.

Come On Irene

It feels so strange to be writing a post for NewMusicBox from the site’s geographic home of New York, but that’s just what I’m doing today: I’m in town for the dry part of the weekend to catch a performance of my string quartet by the excellent Locrian Chamber Players. It was exactly the experience I’d hoped for.

Only On the Internet

File this one under “only on the internet”: My Better Half and I were looking over a textbook she’ll be using next semester. We noted that this book instructs students to analyze cadential 6-4 chords as tonic chords in second inversion, a gravely misguided message which—according to our core beliefs and values—hurts America: The cadential 6-4 is a dominant chord with a double suspension; its root is V, not I. That’s just how ordinary Minnesotans like us see things.

Come Together

It’s one of those things that doesn’t occur to you until it does: For a bunch of musicians, my musician friends and I don’t often make music together. Maybe it’s a symptom of the academic specialization I noted last week; when we think of collaboration, it’s typically in a cross-disciplinary context. But a few opportunities for collaboration among composers (rather than between composers and choreographers or sculptors or whatever) in my circle are beginning to coalesce, and it’s a development that I find very exciting.

The Composer As Generalist

As the coming school year lumbers over the horizon, I’ve been giving some thought to the future of composition as an academic discipline. The current dicey economic climate—and the growing attitude in the public sphere that educational institutions should operate by the same principles that private businesses obey—certainly don’t seem to bode well for music programs.

Measuring Morality

Now that the initial furor over Nonesuch’s cover for the upcoming Steve Reich/Kronos release WTC 9/11 has dissipated, I want to point out something about the brouhaha that should be clear but seems not to be: The album cover suits Reich’s recent music perfectly, but it’s impossible to prove empirically that either is immoral.

Sounds Heard: Christopher Shultis—Devisadero

Although Chris Shultis’s career as a musician and scholar has been long and multifaceted, his colleague Richard Hermann pointed out to me that he is, in a sense, a young composer: It was not until the late 1980s that Shultis (b. 1957), initially a percussionist, began to write music full-time.

The Value of Popular Music

Given the generational asymmetry that characterizes the consumption and imprinting, so to speak, of pop music—which I imagine we could quantify if we had the right market data in front of us—it shouldn’t be surprising that a rock musician’s early material holds a special value to fans who associate that music with late adolescence and early adulthood.