Author Archives: Isaac Schankler

After Einstein

Isaac Schankler

There is a peculiar way in which Einstein on the Beach resists critical discourse, but it’s worth trying to figure out what might give this work its strange power. Because it is strangely affecting, maybe even transformative.

You Used to Like Terrible Music

Isaac Schankler

I’m going to admit what is probably my deepest, darkest musical secret. Of all the potentially career-ending things I’ve said online, this may potentially be the worst. Here we go…

The Medium

Isaac Schankler

It might be a good idea to imagine a new middle ground between artist and audience, a new medium. But it’s hard to imagine who will occupy that role. Who will advocate for our music, if not us?

On Lying To My Students

Music on blackboard

I think we have a duty beyond simply teaching the material. We must also justify it and show how the knowledge we’re imparting is vital, interesting, and beautiful. Yet while music theory, and the fascinatingly intricate way it interacts with actual music, is all three of these things, four-part voice leading exercises are often none of these things.

Space Age Synths

Isaac Schankler

Almost 35 years ago, Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach album first came out. It’s hard to know exactly why this particular combination of Baroque music and synthesizers became such a popular phenomenon, but to me it seems inextricably connected to a certain optimism about the future. But as society became more concerned with earthly things, the fashion for space age classical synth covers faded. Now they seem a bit like majestic old ruins, simultaneous evidence of great talent and great folly.

Stockhausen and Terror

Nicholas Isherwood

Sculptor Richard Serra condemned Stockhausen’s infamous remarks on the September 11 attacks for what he saw as “the aestheticization of terror.” But violence and terror are already thoroughly aestheticized–in music, movies, books, television, video games, and so on. After the fact, others have come to find a kernel of meaning in Stockhausen’s oddly detached musings.

Two Strains

Sometimes it seems like there are two competing strains of experimentalism in new music. In my mind they should be allied, since they both hang out around the same fringes, but more often than not they studiously ignore each other.

On Repetition

Repetitive music often gets maligned as background noise, encouraging passive listening, but it can also encourage the listener to actually confront the musical materials they’re faced with.

Listening to the Unknown

If you’ve read a few of my posts you may have noticed a common refrain of “context matters.” So I decided I would test out this hypothesis in a live setting and see if my cherished beliefs would hold true.