Author Archives: John Kennedy

Storm and Stress

Our traditions of composing and making music are hardly winding down—we are in a turbulent period and are finding our way, perpetually at the front edge of history, leading and not following.

The Power of Art vs. Power Politics

As a composer and presenter of music, I operate with the faith that the arts and ideas change people, transform them, and open them to greater sensitivity, tolerance, and humanity.

Never to be Taken for Granted

For most individual artists, the subject of grants and awards can touch sensitive nerves. Whether one retains a philosophical distance to the possibility of winning one, or gets knots in the stomach wondering if a grant will come, we are all subject to the psychology of validation that awards represent. Toiling at creative work in […]

Let the Games Begin

I don’t consider myself that old, but I’ve never got the bug for interactive video games. The games I’ve seen my young male relatives and friends playing, from the vantage of a disinterested voyeur, seem to me distasteful—filled with violence, misogyny, and adolescent fantasy which doesn’t float my boat. Before you call me a closed-minded […]

The Spirit of Percussion

It was in 1939 that John Cage declared, “Percussion music is revolution.” Fifty years later in 1989, he was asked to write a preface for a book about percussion, and it was here that he more thoroughly described a philosophy of percussion as something more than a family of instruments, but as a metaphor for […]

Art and Technique

I’ve always wished that contemporary music generated the same kind of critical discourse that the visual arts do. In fact, I find that I need to read visual art criticism to get a sense of the real artistic movements that are at play today, and while there may be musicians whose work is along some […]

Fanfare for the Uncommon Practice

I wonder if a discussion of a contemporary common practice will in not too many more years seem rather quaint and curious. The discussion of this on these pages is quite wonderful, and I think assists our self-knowledge both as individuals and as a community, but I tend to think it is a discussion whose […]

On the Nature of Music

The topic of music and nature is open to many perspectives, if only because the breadth of nature includes so much we still do not understand. When I was young I thought that my life’s work would be in the environmental sciences. Deeply influenced by Wendell Berry‘s 1969 book The Long-Legged House, which seems even […]

The Composer’s Work

I keep a New Yorker cartoon on the wall next to my desk: one Roman says to another, “I started out here on drums years ago, and I never dreamed I’d wind up in a policymaking position.” It is my reminder of the surprising turns that a life in music has afforded me. Without recounting […]