Author Archives: Isaac Schankler

Invisible Cities: Choose Your Own Opera

Christopher Cerrone’s Invisible Cities

At LA’s Union Station last Sunday, I saw composer Christopher Cerrone’s opera based on Calvino’s novel, also called Invisible Cities. The production managed to be at once extravagant and subtle, with the audience listening to the live performance on wireless headphones while wandering freely through an actual, historically scenic train station.

Fear of Simplicity

Isaac Schankler

Maybe simplicity is complicated because the difference between a simple idea that is banal and a simple idea that has depth can be extremely subtle. Maybe we can’t tell, at first, which is which. But then, why should this be any different than complexity?

Cage’s (More Than) Ten Thousand Things

Ten Thousand Things

A new release of Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things (I Ching Edition) is an incredibly clear demonstration of the unexpected and delightful confluences that result from chance-based procedures, and in many ways, I can think of no better introduction to his music.

Gloriously Messy Lodging: Zappa’s 200 Motels

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels in LA

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels is a glorious mess. In some ways this makes it the perfect thing to put on to celebrate the 10th anniversary of LA’s Walt Disney Hall and its already turbulent history. As for the score itself, it is—how should I put this?—spectacularly over-orchestrated, bordering on near-cacophony with unsettling frequency. I mean this as a good thing.

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.