The Tom Johnson Paradox

While Tom Johnson doesn’t necessarily expect his music to be understood, he hopes that people will put forth the effort to at least grasp a fragment of it. It is essentially a gesture of trust: here is an offering, and you can take it or leave it.

Games Played: Proteus

Ed Key’s visual design only tells half the story. David Kanaga’s sound design—or “music design” as he calls it—is incredibly dynamic and layered, with samples culled from an overwhelming number of sources.

Signal to Noise

I promised myself I wouldn’t take the bait dangled by Dan Asia’s screed against John Cage, but it’s turning out to be hard to resist. So instead I’ll try to write about it in the most oblique way I can without being too obtuse.

There’s an App for That: The Orchestra

The Orchestra iPad app is one of the most persuasive arguments for the Western canon’s vitality and endurance that I’ve encountered, and it does so entirely in subtext, without any grandiose, pompous pronouncements.

Toward a New Grammar of Game Music

In a recent article at Gamasutra, Andrew High asks the question, “Is game music all it can be?” While I agree with his general premise—that music in video games can do so much more than it’s currently doing—I found the article to be frustratingly incomplete, and I’d like to articulate why.

A Matter of Taste

After the news of Elliott Carter’s passing earlier this week, I was quite moved by the outpouring of tributes to the composer that I encountered through social media. It says something about Carter’s musical imagination that even those who professed to dislike his work had a favorite piece by him. This got me thinking about the limits of what we can do as composers to advocate for our own music.

In Defense of Extended Techniques

I guess extended techniques have kind of a bad reputation these days. They don’t make a piece better, the argument goes. Instead they distract from other, more important musical parameters like melody and harmony. They’re a crutch that composers fall back on when they’re out of ideas.

Pushing Through

Somehow I don’t think I’m the only artist in the era of late-stage capitalism to experience infrequent bouts of mild-to-moderate depression. I hesitate to do this because it’s such a fraught topic, but I wanted to write about the art of composing while depressed.