Hatin’ on Nickelback

Why so much vitriol directed at Nickelback, who are merely one of many easy targets in today’s commercially dominated, creatively deficient Top 40 wasteland? Patrick Carney’s original screed—which references people beginning to accept that what is most successful is rarely what is most exciting and unique—underscores a loss of faith in the very foundations of rock as subversive sexual and political expression.

Developing an Act

If I were allotted only a single question to ask any composer about their music, I’d make sure to ask the question that most consistently seems to reveal a composer’s fundamental character, namely: What is your attitude toward revision?

Old Habits

I initially approached composing for electronic media with the same habits acquired through years of notated composition for traditional instruments, which yielded mostly disastrous results. As of the new year, I’m starting an electroacoustic work that is giving me the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned since my first hesitant foray into electronic music.

Games Played: IV-V-I

With the holidays upon us, many of us musical types have been doing some last-minute shopping, racking our brains to think of any gift that is sufficiently cooler than a treble clef paperweight. So it seems like a good time to bring up IV-V-I, a new harmony-based card game created and designed by composer and educator Rafael Hernandez.

Guerilla Tactics

What is the Trojan horse that draws us into the intuitive world of art, and makes for an understanding greater than rational apprehension alone can provide for? It’s the raw, sensual nature of the experience itself, which remains stubbornly indivisible, unique, and present.

What, Me Boring?

Boredom has as much to do with what we bring to an experience as with that experience itself. This is a great point from which to begin a consideration of boredom, which has less to do with some quality inherent in the music at hand than with a certain relationship (or perhaps lack of relationship) between the listener and the music.

Giving Thanks

My former college professor Dean Guy’s disposition towards life galvanized my own resolve to become a composer. His attitude continues to impact me every day.

Sounds Heard: itsnotyouitsme—Everybody’s Pain Is Magnificent

For an album peppered with so many electronic sources, much of itsnotyouitsme’s Everybody’s Pain sounds surprisingly earthy and organic (as suggested by Allegrea Rosenberg’s striking cover art, which features roots and branches framed in a kind of pixelated, psychedelicized landscape). It’s a good fit for an album in which electronic sounds and processing are frequently used to conjure textures that seem almost more “alive” than the sound of traditional acoustic instruments.

East Meets West

Two recent events at Washington, D.C.’s Freer Gallery of Art (which houses a portion of the Smithsonian’s collection of Asian art) have juxtaposed Western and Asian culture via concert programs of (mostly) contemporary music. In October, the Lark Quartet and koto player Yumi Kurosawa presented the quartet version of Daron Hagen’s koto concerto, Genji, and last week another concert at the Freer Gallery featured other recent works presented by Music from Copland House and Music from China.

The Hand-Off

Even in cases where I have met frequently with performers during the composition of a piece, something about the medium of notated music seems to necessitate a certain amount of reclusion. The other athletes wait anxiously by the first checkpoint, crossing their fingers and hoping that the composer is on time while they remain unable to do a whole lot until the composer shows up.