Author Archives: Dean Suzuki

View From the West: Roger Woodward&#8212A Stranger in a Strange Land

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki The university where I teach, San Francisco State University, is like so many state universities across the nation. The mission of the university is to educate a very large portion of the college age demographic. Not an elite school, either in terms of prestige or finances, the standards for entry […]

View From the West: Beating Up on Drum Machines

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki I hate drum machines. This is purely subjective and I’m sure that there are many whose opinions on the matter, pro and con, are intense and inflamed, but I, for one, hate drum machines. Why is it that some composers are using those annoying drum pads? A number of my […]

View From the West: How Do We Judge New Music?

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki In a way, I will be preaching to the choir in this column. On the other hand, the point raised is one worth considering or, perhaps more accurately, reconsidering. That which is new, unfamiliar, or outside of the realm what we are comfortable with, that which we do not understand, […]

A View from the West: Invented Instruments—Paul Dresher’s Sound Stage

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki Last month I offered a broad survey of sound sculptures, invented instruments, their creators, and role in modern music. In this column, I will take a closer look at a single work focusing on newly invented instruments: Paul Dresher‘s Sound Stage—an interdisciplinary music theater piece performed by Zeitgeist, the new […]

View From the West: Experimental Instruments and Sound Sculpture

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki Newly invented instruments offer a world of possibilities to composers. There may be a limited number of possibilities in terms of sound production (percussion, vibrating strings, or columns of air, and the like), but the potential forms and sonorous possibilities are virtually limitless. More than a handful of composers, sculptors, […]

View from the West: New Venues for New Music

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki As we all know, some styles of new music, including minimalism and post-minimalism, rock, and jazz-inflected styles, appeal to a cross-over audience, yet producers, promoters, and performers, for the most part, have not figured out how to market, promote, and especially present the music to either a larger or more […]

View from the West: Improvise? What Do You Mean I Have to Improvise?

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki What happened to the practice of improvisation? It had been, to varying degrees, an integral part of the Western classical tradition for centuries, but sometime in the 19th century it fell by the wayside. Picking up the pieces has been difficult and problematic at best, or not even on the […]

View from the West: Hey! Lighten Up!

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki Why is it that humor seems to be absent in the contemporary arts, including music? Art can be political, if not politically correct. It can wax philosophic. Art is used to make social commentary and advocate for social change. It is often self-important, if not self-inflated, whether introspective or bombastic. […]

View from the West: Sacred Music Anyone?

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki In recent years, there has been a tiny revival of sacred music, though not necessarily liturgical music. Yet composers today, for the most part, continue to ignore a genre of music that has a long-standing and rich heritage in Western culture. Clearly, we are living in a post-Christian culture that […]

View from the West: The Decline of Radio

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki No matter how you slice it, new music is a tough sell. Composers young and old have a difficult time getting commissions and having their works performed. With limited budgets, concerts are often not well publicized and, as an inevitable result, are poorly attended. How then are composers and new […]