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.
Boston University is currently reviewing their financial stake in the program and its future—both as part of the larger university and as directly connected to Tanglewood itself. But cutting BUTI or relocating it from its current campus would be a sad erasure of a rich legacy that stretches back forty-five years and encompasses the early careers of many prominent musicians.
The Ostrava Days, an intense biennial in the Eastern end of the Czech Republic, has long been known for stretching into long nights across August. But this year seemed especially expansive: there were performances of Philip Glass’s four-hour Music in 12 Parts and Petr Kotik’s nearly six-hour Many Many Women before the official opening night.
In our contemporary music landscape, long-term collaborations can be logistically and financially difficult to achieve. Two weeks ago, I visited violinist Austin Wulliman and composer/bassoonist Katherine Young in their studio and was intrigued to see them working together in an entirely new context.
When considering new directions in music education, examining how students are taught is important, but so to is developing ways to reach students who otherwise might not have the opportunity at all. Through El Sistema, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan musicians have been educated over the past three decades; El Sistema USA is now providing ensemble music lessons to thousands of underserved students throughout the US as well.
For Iron Composer, an aural takeoff on the famed Japanese television cooking show, five finalist composers were each assigned a different form of audience participation as a “secret ingredient” and then were given a studio, an ensemble (a brass trio of double bell trumpet, horn, and trombone), and only five hours to compose a new work.
Born and raised in Austin, Travis Weller came up playing violin and listening to all sorts of music, eventually gravitating to sounds and instruments that were well outside the norm. We’ve talked about composition, performance, and curation, but I’d never taken the time to speak with him about the instruments he builds. To remedy that, we sat down and talked about three of his creations: The Owl, The Skiffs, and The Steel Bells.
The conference is among the old guard of summer composer institutes and will celebrate its 70th anniversary next summer. Headed by Mario Davidovsky for nearly 40 years, the primary goal of the conference is to provide emerging composers with an opportunity to work with some of the best players from New York and Boston and to have their works performed and professionally recorded.