Perceptions of Success

Rob Deemer

Over the past several years, there have been a number of composers, performers, and ensembles that have caught the attention of those in the media. It would be very easy to infer that their music must not only be of high quality but of superior quality when compared with the work of those who are not being noticed…and therein lies the rub.

Thoughts of Mainstream

Butch's Blues

The struggle of jazz artists to be recognized for their artistic merit is worth examination. My own sense is that the argument has always boiled down to two issues: one’s skin color and one’s economic status. Paradoxically, popular music has been generally understood to be artistically inferior to “creative” music, even though it makes much more money. Over the course of its history, jazz moved from novelty, to popular, to “creative.”

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.

Never the Same Twice

What makes attending a premiere performance the most exciting concert event that you can experience is the fact that you don’t know what you are going to hear until the music is played. Which is why it ultimately makes no sense when people claim not to like new music.

9/11 – Jazz

Every year since 2005, E. J. Decker has produced Heart of Jazz, an assemblage of thirty to forty jazz singers and instrumentalists who get together to honor the memory of those lost in the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Until now, no documentation has existed for these performances. [Video content included.]

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.

For Even the “Most Stupid Persons”

Beethoven had always been something of a bête noir for me. Most of his themes seemed insipid, little more than arpeggiated triads and scales. And mind you, I have loved In C, Einstein on the Beach, and pretty much all of minimalism since the first hearing!

The Smithsonian Institute Blues

Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology, the latest edition of the seminal collection originally released forty years ago, has the most democratic profile of any of its antecedents, but there are still some questionable inclusions and omissions as well as some curious musical pronouncements in the set’s accompanying annotations, e.g. should Ornette Coleman be called a microtonalist?

Solidarity Revisited

The relationship between composer and performer has become increasingly symbiotic over the past three decades. Given that fact, it is curious why one of the largest organizations of musicians in the country would decide to pursue such a negative line of questioning with its membership.

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.

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