Articles by Frank Oteri
Frank J. Oteri, New Music USA's Composer Advocate and the Senior Editor of NewMusicBox, is an outspoken crusader for new music and the breaking down of barriers between genres. Frank’s own musical compositions reconcile structural concepts from minimalism and serialism and frequently explore microtonality.
I spent the entire weekend at the 2012 conference of Chamber Music America which culminated in honoring (with its highest honor, the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award) one of my mentors and a lifelong role model, American composer and music advocate John Duffy.
By the time of her death in 1953, Florence Price had completed over 300 pieces of music, among them the very first symphony by a black woman ever performed by a major symphony orchestra in the United States. Yet after her death, performances waned and, aside from a few of her spiritual arrangements being championed by Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price (no relation) who sang one at the White House in 1978, there was only a single disc devoted to her music which is now out of print. But now a new Albany CD devoted to Price attempts to right that wrong.
A plaque at the Palmer House describing its opulent ceiling declares: “Its sheer size alone qualifies it as a masterpiece.” If you give it much thought such a statement seems utterly ridiculous, and yet there’s a strange logic to it which—ultimately untrue though it may be—permeates the way so many people think about art and success.
David Borden’s formidable category-defying musical accomplishments are a direct precedent to today’s largely DIY contemporary music landscape. The skewed counterpoint and unexpected harmonic progressions in The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, his 3-hour magnum opus which he began composing 35 years ago, make it sound vibrant and fresh to this day, whatever instruments are ultimately used for its performance.
Well, it’s that time of the year again and, like many people I know, I’m scrambling at the last minute to find the right thing to give various members of my family. My favorite things in the world are books and recordings, so they are frequently my default gift ideas. But in this day and age, many people shun such things and they are also much more difficult to come by in shops.
The minute you can come up with a list of things that new music is and a list of things that it isn’t, especially in terms of what it should sound like, you circumscribe its possibilities and, in so doing, it ceases being new. The same is true with the future.
The Smile Sessions—a total of 144 tracks (in its most complete available form) from the 80 sessions recorded by The Beach Boys between 1966 and 1967 for the never-issued LP SMiLE—contains some of the most provocative musical ideas of the last half-century in any genre of music. But it has taken nearly 45 years for it to be officially released.
There’s nothing comparable to the experience of listening to a single-movement, extended-duration work. If you are able to focus on it without distraction, it completely takes over your life and makes you lose all sense of time and place. But you also experience sound and form in a different way even if you let your life go on as you’re listening.
The Recording Academy has announced the nominees for the 54th annual Grammy Awards. Among the composer contenders are John Adams, Robert Aldridge, Gabriela Lena Frank, Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck, Steven Mackey, and Eric Whitacre.
Even though there have been rumors that the major record labels will be discontinuing the production of physical recordings as early as next year, it’s difficult to imagine that there won’t always be a devoted market for the corporeal stuff. Over the weekend, I got rid of the couch in my living room to make room for more shelves for recordings.