Sunday, December 30, 2007

Roy Harris's Third Symphony

2007 was the centennial year for my native state, Oklahoma, and before it fades away, I wanted to mention a recent post by Robert Gable. Gable writes, that "I personally, subjectively, non-rationally prefer Harris' Symphony No. 3 to anything by Adams or Reich. Of course, numbers 2 thru 24 are all Adams and Reich (with #25 Lara Downes playing Harris' American Ballads)."

Gable talks about the work as if it's a guilty pleasure. I like it, too (there's a cheap recording easily available.)

Harris was an Oklahoma native, although I don't remember hearing anything about him when I lived there, even when I took a classical music appreciation class at the University of Oklahoma.

Harris biography here.
Editors -- Hands off Don Rosenberg!

I was very pleased when I saw that Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's excellent classical music critic, had a roundup in the Sunday PD on the year in classical music. I knew he'd have something trenchant to say about the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's dramatic year -- the Grammy Award it shared with local pianist Angelin Chang, its survival of the departure of board president Mark George, the exciting new season it has begun. (It's performing work by a bunch of local composers next year, including Michael Leese, Eric Gould, Chris Auerbach-Brown, Dennis Eberhard, Loris Chobanian and Monica Houghton.)

But the Rosenberg article doesn't say a word about any of this. It does mention CityMusic Cleveland, including its premiere of Margaret Brouwer's excellent violin concerto, which Rosenberg says "deserves to enter the standard repertoire."

No doubt Rosenberg mentioned the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in his original article, and and his editor chopped it out. Yeah, that's what happened!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ross releases his 'year's best' list

Critic Alex Ross has posted his 2007 "best of" list, including performances, recordings and his "Person of the Year." I was mostly interested in his recordings list. I've already bought three of the titles he lists -- the Lieberson, the Radiohead and the new recording of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cleveland Orchestra to premiere Ades piece

The Cleveland Orchestra, which has been criticized for failing to program new music, will give the U.S. premiere of a Thomas Ades work, Suite from "Powder Her Face," in a series of concerts on Jan. 17, 18 and 19. They are also playing two Stravinky pieces ("Firebird" and "Pulcinella" suites) and Mozart's 20th piano concerto. It's a nice program, and I'll be 

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lieberson album gets top rating

The late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's album, "Songs by Mahler, Handel and Lieberson" has been rated the best classical album of the year by The Week magazine, which cited reviews from a variety of sources. The album includes songs from her husband, modern composer Peter Lieberson, so this is a nice nod for modern music, although admittedly most of the album consists of Handel and Mahler. Alex Ross' book, THE REST OF NOISE, is rated one of the top nonfiction books of the year by the same magazine. Ross wrote earlier this year that the Lieberson album is "is almost certainly better than anything else you might be thinking of buying right now." The album is available cheap on Emusic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Worst holiday ever?

Alex Ross notes that Monday, Dec. 17, could well be celebrated as Worldwide Atonality Day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Live music from Cleveland released

Live performances of two Cleveland composers recently have become available. Amazon has begun carrying the newly-released CD "CityMusic Cleveland LIVE." It includes Margaret Brouwer's excellent new violin concerto. (It also has Stravinsky's "Danses Concertantes" and Mozart's 39th symphony.) It's just $10. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Quick has posted a performance by the Cleveland Chamber Collective of his String Quartet No. 1 in A. If you want to get enough of his other work to be able to burn a CD or put together an iPod playlist, look here. I like the Divertimento in C, which my wife calls "the frolicking bunny music." I'm hoping this nickname will catch on, as I like the idea of seeing CD covers that say QUICK: Divertimento in C ("Frolicking Bunny") and liner notes that solemnly note the nickname was not bestowed by the composer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

eighth blackbird to premier Rzewski at Oberlin

The band eighth blackbird reveals on its blog that it is commissioning a Frederic Rzewski work, to be premiered in New York but also at Oberlin College. (The only clue on when to mark your calendar: "next season.") In the meantime, the post links to a YouTube video of the composer's "Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues."
Duckworth's iOrpheus on YouTube

For those of you who couldn't make it to Australia a few months ago to see the performance of the William Duckworth and Nora Farrell opera iOrpheus, there's now a 10-minute film by Paul Davidson that includes interviews with the two creators and clips of the performance. You can see it here. For audio and video feeds of the work, go here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Free music on Classical Cat

I recently posted about Alex Ross' list of 12 top classical music works since 1980. For your convenience, here is the list again:

Steve Reich, Different Trains
John Adams, Nixon in China
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Offertorium
Gérard Grisey, Les Espaces acoustiques
Arvo Pärt, Da pacem domine
Louis Andriessen, De Stijl
Thomas Ades, Asyla
Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain
Michael Gordon, Decasia
Magnus Lindberg, Kraft
Osvaldo Golijov, St. Mark Passion

After my original posting, Cleveland composer Jeffrey Quick weighed in, "Should I admit that I've only heard of 83% of the composers and have only heard 41% of the pieces? This sounds like a fair musicological assessment of overall activity, but the fracturing of style also means a fracturing of audience, which means that many people only listen within their own subgenre. Not sure that's healthy, but it is what is."

Actually, I think Quick does rather well. I've only heard one of the pieces (8 percent), although I have heard of 75 percent of the composers and have listened to music by 42 percent of them.

He addresses an important question though: How does even the well-meaning listener "keep up"? It's not like we get much help from the radio, even from satellite radio.

With that in mind, I took a look at Classical Cat, a site that provides free downloads of performances of classical music.

I could not find ANY of the pieces Ross mentions. I did find work from two of the composers Ross mentions, Arvo Park and Louis Andriessen.
Alex Ross' Internet manifesto

"As the behemoth of mass culture breaks up into a melee of subcultures and niche markets, as the Internet weakens the media's stranglehold on cultural distribution, there is reason to think that classical music, and with it new music, can find fresh audiences in far-flung places."
-- THE REST IS NOISE, page 515

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More on Stockhausen

The New York Times weighs in with an obituary, while Jeffrey Quick offers a personal anecdote and calls Stockhausen the "Wagner of the 20th Century." Alex Ross comments here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

We're sure the duck whistle technique was good

At the Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed reviews the latest modern music recital by Gloria Cheng, one of my favorite pianists. She was "consistently compelling." (On a less serious note, she played a John Cage piece that compelled her to blow a duck whistle in a bowl of water.) It's a shame she doesn't issue more solo albums; only the people who live in LA get to hear most of her music. The Messiaen piece Swed mentions, however, is the highlight of her excellent Messiaen album, available at Emusic.
Stockhausen is dead

Influential German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is dead at age 79, multiple news sources are reporting.

I don't know his music well enough to make an intelligent comment, but I'll mention a recent issue. Some of the articles note Stockhausen's comments about the 9-11 hijackers. As I noted here, the composer's comments apparently were taken out of context.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

eighth blackbird nabs Grammy nomination

Former northern Ohio residents eight blackbird has nabbed two Grammy nominations for the band's latest album.

The group's album "Strange Imaginary Animals" has received a Grammy nomination for "Best Chamber Music Performance." And in related news, composer Jennifer Higdon's "Zaka," a track from the album, has been nominated for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition."

eighth blackbird formed while its members were attending Oberlin College, although I believe they are based in Illinois now. Oberlin provides good support for contemporary music, so it's nice for the school (and the Cleveland area) to see the nomination.

Additional Cleveland note: Higdon's work has been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, and one of her better-known works, "blue cathedral," was released on Cleveland's Telarc record label (as part of an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra album, "The Rainbow Body.")

As of Thursday night, neither eighth blackbird nor Higdon had bothered to mention the nomination on their Web sites. Hey guys, try to control your excitement. (Addendum: There's now a blog entry on the eighth blackbird site about it. Their producer also was nominated, so there are actually three Grammy nominations in connection with their album. See also Lisa Kaplan's comment that she posted to this blog entry.)

Full list of classical Grammy nominees here.

Addendum: The Oberlin news keeps on coming. Phillip Bush spots a famous musician on the Oberlin faculty in a Geico commercial.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Stravinsky on YouTube

Composer and musician Elaine Fine discovers that YouTube has videos of the Joffrey Ballet performing Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and the Bolshoi Ballet doing "Petrushka" and shares the news (and the links!) with the rest of us. I've been a Stravinsky fan all my life, and I've never seen "The Rite of Spring" performed. You don't get too many performances of it in Oklahoma. Via the essential New Music ReBlog.
Ligeti, Schnittke at Oberlin

Works by Gyorgy Ligeti, Alfred Schnittke and the ever-popular TBA will be offered when the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Conservatory Hall. Details here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Robert Gable's minimalism discoveries

Robert Gable, who combines a nose for news with a work ethic that puts me to shame, alertly spots a new recording of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" which has cropped up on Emusic.
Gable's minireview: "West Michigan rocks. Well, at least the Grand Valley State New Music Ensemble does."

Gable also discovered that Pandora is supporting classical music and has created a new John Adams radio station.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Believe the hype

I've been reading Alex Ross' excellent new book, THE REST IS NOISE.

Has anyone noticed what a surprising and pleasant phenomena this book has become? A classical music critic writes a rather long book about 20th century classical music, a title that seems aimed directly at me and perhaps 100 other readers, and it appears on the bestseller lists. I was going to go see Alex Ross' lecture in Cleveland Friday night, but when I tried to get tickets, more than a week before his date, they were sold out. (Damn, he practically has a moral obligation to link to my blog now!)

By becoming a best selling author, not to mention a lecturer who apparently inspires mob scenes, Ross appears to have at least temporarily won the argument over whether classical music is deceased. Let's see of Greg "Classical Music Is Dead" Sandow hits the bestseller list with his new book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rosenberg likes Lindberg

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's classical music critic, Don Rosenberg, reviews a stack of new classical music CDs and has some kind words for one of my favorite modern composers, Magnus Lindberg. Reviewing violinist Lisa Batiashvili's "Sibelius, Lindberg: Violin Concertos," he awards an A, and says she does justice both to Sibelius great work and to the other Finn's composition. "Magnus Lindberg's creation is almost a 21st-century extension of Sibelius' aesthetic, but with ample individual color," he writes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

An American sampler

The other day, I needed to use up a few dollars on a Best Buy gift card, so I filled in a hole in my record collection by getting a budget classical recording of two Beethoven violin sonatas, the "Spring" and the "Kreutzer."

When it arrived in the mail, it turned out to be a label I was unfamiliar with, Universal Classics. And although it was cheap, it had name performers -- Yehudi Menuhin on violin and Wilhelm Kempff on piano. Universal Classics, it seems draws its cheap recordings by reissuing performances from the Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips labels.

Naturally, I wondered if any modern classical music was made available by the label. As it turns out, there was a recording available -- one called "American Masters" with Barber's "Adagio for Strings," Roy Harris' "Symphony No. 3" and William Schuman's "Symphony No. 3," all conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Not a bad start, and if Universal Classics issued more 20th century music, it could make modern music much more available.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony 2008 dates announced

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has announced five concerts dates for January through May of 2008; details here. Among other pieces, they'll be doing "Promotheus Wept" by Dennis Eberhard (probably Cleveland's best-regarded composer when he died in 2005) and a new Margaret Brouwer piece.

Friday, November 09, 2007

New Quick piece to debut

Cleveland area composer Jeffrey Quick's new String Quartet in A will debut in a free show at 8 p.m. Sunday Nov. 18th at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at Coventry and Fairhill in Cleveland, Quick announces in his music blog (he has launched a separate blog for political musings.) New Sounds Outpost, a site devoted to the Cleveland new music scene, explains that the Cleveland Chamber Collective also will do work by four other Cleveland-area composers, viz. Loris Chobanian, Stephen Griebling, Robert Rollin and Katherine Louise O'Connell.

I haven't heard the new Quick, but after hearing some of his other works I harbor the dark suspicion that it will prove to be unfashionably melodic. I'm also worried I won't get to hear it, as I'm already committed to go out of town the weekend after next.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alex Ross' Top 12

The new Alex Ross book about 20th century classical music, THE REST OF NOISE, is attracting a lot of interesting attention. The book makes the cover of the New York Times Book Review, with Geoff Dyer's review concluding, "THE REST IS NOISE is a great achievement. Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand 'more seeingly' in front of certain paintings. Ross enables us to listen more hearingly."

At, Jason Kottke interviews Ross. The interview concludes with Ross' list of 12 top works since 1980. They are:

Steve Reich, Different Trains
John Adams, Nixon in China
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Offertorium
Gérard Grisey, Les Espaces acoustiques
Arvo Pärt, Da pacem domine
Louis Andriessen, De Stijl
Thomas Ades, Asyla
Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain
Michael Gordon, Decasia
Magnus Lindberg, Kraft
Osvaldo Golijov, St. Mark Passion

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony: Other looks

Jeffrey Quick, Cleveland area composer and blogger, has posted his own review of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's opening concert on Sunday. He liked the Michael Reese piece: "This is a piece that could grow legs, especially with world events being what they are."

Update: Review from Donald Rosenberg of the Plain Dealer. He liked the Reese piece too -- I've outvoted 2-1 so far -- but likes the Cage less well than I did. "The overall effect conveyed Cage's intriguing notion of collected sounds, but the tedium level was high," he writes.

Correction: Composer's name is Michael Leese. See posting below for link to more information.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony opens season

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony, my favorite local band, opened its season Sunday afternoon with a typically interesting concert at Kulas Hall on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

I liked three of the four pieces. The opener, "In Memoriam David Lelchook: Four the Victims of War," was, I confess, not my cup of tea. It written in memory of an American killed by a Hezbollah rocket attack in Israel, and commissioned by Lelchook's sister, Judith Lelchook, who sat in the audience while the piece was played. The composer, Michael Leese, bounded on stage to take a bow when the piece finished.

John Adams' "Chamber Symphony" was more complex than the composer's usual fare. The three-movement fast-slow-fast piece really held my attention and I'm determined to track down a recording of it.

After an intermission came a performance of John Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis."

I'd call it an unusual piece, but what would a usual piece from John Cage be? The program notes say it was written by placing a piece of paper over an astronomical map, with the notes marked to correspond with the position of the stars. Peter Laki's program notes add, "A performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1964 turned into a scandal as orchestra members openly made fun of the music and audience members walked out in droves."

The piece went over better Sunday. Although it was originally written for a full orchestra, the CCS used just seven players; two were in the balcony, two were onstage, and the rest were in other parts of the auditorium. The conductor, CCS Music Director Steven Smith, led the piece by turning his back to the audience and holding his arms straight out, using his arms to mimic the hands of stopwatch; when his arms came together at the top after several minutes, the piece was over.

Smith invited the audience members to get up and walk around if we wanted to hear how the music sounded. Quite a few people, particularly in the balcony, accepted the invitation, including your humble correspondent. Some of the musicians also briefly exited the auditorium as they played.

The finale was a piece called "Big Band" by Elizabeth Joan Kelly. The piece debuted at the CCS' annual concert devoted to the work of young composers, and the orchestra liked it so much it decided to perform it at a regular concert. Kelly, a Margaret Brouwer protege who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music this year, was the audience and also came onstage to take a bow.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Brouwer piece to be performed

Cleveland homegirl composer Margaret Brouwer's "Century's Song," a new work composed in honor of Dover, Ohio's bicentennial, will be performed Saturday at the Tuscarawas Philharmonic's season opener Saturday at Dover High School, the Dover-New Philadelphia "Times Reporter" says.

The newspaper's piece quotes the orchestra's conductor as explaining, "I think of the piece as a kind of musical portrait of Ohio. The middle section is a sweet melody that evokes 19th century parlor music and the opening is a ringing celebration while the concluding march draws on the folk music tradition of Ohio. It's a blend of folk tradition and classical sophistication -- a fitting salute to the ongoing cultural energies in Dover and Tuscarawas County in general."
Cleveland Chamber Symphony plays Sunday

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has announced its program for the free concert it is performing at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct.7, at the Kulas Musical Arts Building, 96 Front Street in Berea, Ohio. There will be a new work by Michael Leese, "In Memoriam David Lelchook: For the Victims of War," along with "Chamber Symphony" by John Adams, "Big Band" by Elizabeth Joan Kelly and "Atlas Eclipticalis" by John Cage. As usual, it sounds like an interesting set. (Lelchook was an Israeli farmer, an emigrant from America, killed by a Hezbollah rocket fired from Lebanon.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Finding music at

I'm a big fan of the music and book swapping sites on the Internet, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how often I've been able to find modern classical music CDs at SwapaCD. My latest find is a CD of Robert Kurka's "Symphony No. 2," with three other pieces, recorded by Grant Park Orchestra, Carlos Kalmar, conductor, on the Cedille Records label.

Kurka, who was probably not avante-garde enough to generate much ink but who wrote very likeable music, was only 35 when he died. I discovered his music years ago, when I attended a percussion recital at Cameron University in Oklahoma and heard a performance of his marimba concerto. I really enjoyed the piece, but I was told then that no recording is available, and I still haven't been able to find one. Oops, I just ran a search, and I found one on the Internet, by Vida Chenoweth, available for $25. That's a lot for a CD that lists only 20 minutes of music; I'll have to decide whether to get it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rosenberg calls out Cleveland Orchestra's stale programming

Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has drawn attention to the Cleveland Orchestra's lack of new music from living composers.

In a Sunday piece highlighting the orchestra's new season, Rosenberg finds much to recommend but notes that no world premieres are scheduled. He adds,

"Another woeful shortage is in American music. The composers chosen for this season are esteemed, obvious and mostly dead: John Adams (alive and well), Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives. Many other Americans deserve a place on a program at Severance Hall, such as these composers, to name a handful, who still breathe and write music you'll want to hear: William Bolcom, Margaret Brouwer, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Leon Kirchner, Paul Moravec, Steve Reich, Christopher Rouse, Joan Tower and Yehudi Wyner."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony sets full concert season

While the Cleveland Chamber Symphony has not yet announced a full season on its Web site, musicians in the Grammy-award winning group, which concentrates on modern classical music, have been given a tentative concert schedule. Aside the from a previously announced date on Oct. 7, musicians have been asked to mark their calendars for March 30, April 23, April 25 (in cooperation with Tri-C JazzFest, certainly an intriguing gig) and a Young and Emerging Composers date on May 7. Meanwhile, the orchestra has announced an Oct. 10 benefit event featuring hot-looking Grammy-toting pianist Angelin Chang.
Progressive rock a bridge to classical?

After my last post, I got a comment from Dr. Andrew Colyer, who is involved with the project, which aims to offer "progressive classical music for progressive rock fans." It looks interesting, so I've added it to the blogroll.

Dr. Colyer's project raises an interesting point: What kinds of popular music would lead a listener to become interested in classical music? When I was growing up, my Dad played Beethoven and Mozart on the stereo, but he wasn't interested in modern sounds. My interest in modern classical music began with Stravinsky, and as far as I can remember, my interest in Stravinsky stemmed from listening to Yes. "Yessongs," the band's landmark live album, includes a recording of the last few minutes of the "Firebird Suite." There's also a moment on the album where Jon Anderson sings a few notes without words. I later realized he was singing the opening notes for "The Rite of Spring." I only wish I had run across a rock band in the 1970s who would have led me to Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Progressive rock, years later

Back when I was in high school, in the 1970s -- before rap, before alternative rock, even before New Wave and punk -- the music the intelligent kids listened to was called "progressive rock." My friends and I liked bands such as Yes, Genesis, Kansas, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and so on.

It's hard to know what to think of it now. Rock critics unanimously hate progressive rock, so it's easy to overrate the stuff, on the ground that rock critics are a bunch of useless, pretentious idiots. I've just started driving a car with a CD player, and I listened to Kansas on the hour-long commute to work this morning. A lot of it sounded kind of screechy and bombastic. I tried putting Emerson, Lake and Palmer on my Slacker radio station, and eventually deleted the band when I noticed that I disliked every ELP track they played.

But when I listen to the "Live At Montreaux" Yes album I downloaded recently from Emusic, I think it sounds pretty darn good. Genesis and solo Peter Gabriel still sounds good to me, too. I read an interview with Phil Collins back in the heyday of progressive rock, and when they asked him about those groups, he said the only band he liked was Yes. Maybe he was on to something.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New album features Margaret Brouwer concerto

CityMusic Cleveland, an orchestra which presents free performances of classical music in the Cleveland area, has announced it plans to issue a live album featuring the new violin concerto written by Cleveland composer Margaret Brouwer. (They don't say exactly when the CD will be issued, but apparently it's coming out in the next few weeks.) The disc also will include music by Stravinsky and Mozart. I thought the piece was one of Brouwer's best and I plan to pick up the CD when it becomes available.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony returns

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony, which focuses on modern classical music, has announced that its first concert of the new season will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 7 at Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea (e.g. in the music building, in downtown Berea). This is serious mark-your-calendar stuff -- the performance is free, but the CCS is also very good and coming off a Grammy Award earlier this year.

The CCS web site promises that more details of the upcoming concert season will be announced soon.

I exchanged e-mails recently with a CCS insider who assures me that the orchestra is in good shape in its ongoing rebuilding, has received several grants, and expects to get more soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cleveland composers' new concert season

The Cleveland Composers Guild has posted its schedule of free concerts for 2007-2008; the first concert will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 23, a Sunday, at Drinko Hall at Cleveland State University and will feature pieces by Eric Charnofsky (scroll down this page for bio), Stephen Stanziano, Larry Baker, Amy Kaplan, Margaret Griebling-Haigh and Monica Houghton. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out what's happening with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, whose Web site hasn't been updated for a few months.
Join the Australian performance of iOrpheus

As the Friday performance of William Duckworth's iOrpheus in Brisbane, Australia, looms (Thursday night in North America), the composer has posted instructions on how folks from around the world can contribute sounds to the production.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Duckworth's use of mobile phones touted

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation runs an article about how composer William Duckworth is inviting mobile phone users to participate in the iOrpheus performance in Brisbane on August 31. Nice quote from Duckworth: "Everybody's a musician, it's just kind of been trained out of us. We're just trying to get it all back to where people aren't afraid to participate."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cleveland Piano Competition

The Cleveland International Piano Competition starts this week, Donald Rosenberg reports in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The entire competition, lasting more than a week, will be covered live by WCLV, which streams its broadcasts on the Internet. My schedule won't allow me to attend much of it, but I'm going to try to record some of it from the radio. One welcome bit of news from Rosenberg's report: "For the first time this year, contestants must play a 20th- or 21st-century work during rounds one or two. Only semifinalists were required to explore this repertoire in previous years." More information from official site.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Vintage Cleveland jazz photographs online

WCPN's "Jazz from the North Coast" program hosted by Dan Polletta ran a nice Joe Mosbrook feature on Monday night on Frank Kuchirchuk, a veteran photographer I "discovered" at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky. A photo gallery of 10 of Frank's pictures of classic jazz artists in Cleveland is available at WCPN's web site.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Duckworth songs to be performed in Oregon

The annual Yachats Music Festival will be held July 13-15 in Yachats, Oregon, featuring music from everyone from Mozart to Chick Corea to Henry Cowell. The program will include a performance of some of William Duckworth's songs by baritone Thomas Buckner.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cleveland area composer Lewis Nielson gets ink

The Cleveland Plain Dealer runs a profile of Oberlin prof and composer Lewis Nielson. I was a little surprised the article makes no attempt to describe Nielson's music or list his influences. There is also no discography in the article, and I couldn't find any of his work when I searched Emusic. (After much Googling around, I did finally find a Craig Hultgren album on Emusic, that has one of Nielson's pieces, "Valentine Mechanique.") The official faculty site does list some recordings, although Nielson doesn't list the record labels or explain how to acquire them. There are also no sound samples, although Nielson carefully lists his awards. Hey dude, post some streaming music so we can hear it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Down under Duckworth's new Web site

American composer William Duckworth, bundled up against the Australian summer cold but on fire with new ideas as usual, has arrived in Australia for his "public opera" performance of iOrpheus, scheduled for August 31 in Brisbane. It's the latest version of the opera he wrote with Nora Farrell. Details on the new web site. Online participation is supposed to be available for those who us who can't make it to Australia, but details have not been announced yet. Copies of iOrpheus (MP3 files and video files) may be downloaded from Cathedral, the main Duckworth-Farrell Internet site.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The modern Prokofiev

Lately, I've been kind of obsessed with the music of Sergei Prokofiev, and I've been trying to explore his more modernist side.

A few weeks ago, I posted thusly at the message board of "I noticed reading one of the interviews on this site that many Prokofiev fanatics like the Second Symphony, and I also noticed that 'Rough Guide to Classical Music' referred to the "extreme dissonance" of the second. That sounded promising, so I downloaded a copy from Emusic (the Naxos one, with Theodore Kuchar conducting) and I loved it! I like a lot of the same stuff everyone else likes, such as 'Lt. Kije' and the third piano concerto, but can anyone suggest some other Prokofiev works that are 'modern' or 'out there'?

I got several responses, the most useful from a fellow who posts as morgold and signed his note "Andrew."

He wrote, "I'd say Prokofiev's most modernist works are: (in no particular order)

"Symphony #3; The Fiery Angel; The Gambler; Pas D'Acier; Seven, They Are Seven; Five Sarcasms, for piano; Scythian Suite; Tocatta, op. 11; The Buffoon, op. 21

"Prokofiev also has a number of 'moderately' modernist works, though not quite on the same level as the 2nd or 3rd Symphonies. These would include:

"Quintet, op. 39; Symphonic Song, op. 57; Piano Concertos #2 and #5; The Love for 3 Oranges (the complete opera, not the symphonic suite); Piano Sonatas #6 and #7; Symphony #6; Visions Fugitives, for piano.

"You may also like the Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution; though it is not dissonant like the 2nd Symphony, it is the loudest piece of music Prokofiev ever wrote. If you're interested in modern (though not strictly "modernist") music, you should also check out the opera Semyon Kotko (with Gergiev conducting) and the very dark First Violin Sonata, op. 80."

I've been using his handy list as a downloading guide.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Gramley's reissued 'Deconstruction'

My copy of percussionist Joseph Gramley's "American Deconstruction" CD arrived over the weekend, and I got a chance to listen to it a couple of times. I bought it to obtain a recording of a William Duckworth piece, "Meditation Preludes." It's the longest selection on the album, clocking in at 11:05, but I discovered the whole album is rather good. The CD, reissued a few months ago, has five pieces, all by modern American composers. It's a really varied set -- the Duckworth is subtle and quiet (as befits the title, I guess), "The Anvil Chorus" by David Lang is rather noisier, and there's a fascinating piece by Steve Reich, "Nagoya Marimbas." There are also pieces by Paul Smadbeck and Dave Hollinden, composers previously unknown to me. The album held my interest throughout.
The album is not available on Amazon. The only way I know to buy it is through Gramley's web site.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cleveland jazz history remembered

This afternoon, my wife and I went to a program at the East Cleveland Public Library devoted to the jazz photography of Frank Kuchirchuk, a retired photographer at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky who took many photographs of jazz greats during the early 1950s in Cleveland. Cleveland jazz historian Joe Mosbrook provided much of the commentary as Kuchirchuk's photographs were displayed on a screen. I was pleased the event drew a big turnout, as I had helped library director Greg Reese get together with Kuchirchuk. The Plain Dealer helped with a nice advance on the show.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rosenberg: There's plenty of recordings to listen to

As part of a roundup of new recordings of the music of Brahms, Cleveland Plain Dealer classical music critic Don Rosenberg jumps into the debate pitting Alex Ross against Greg Sandow and Norman Lebrecht over whether the classical music recording industry is declining. Rosenberg writes, " The classical recording industry can't possibly be in trouble. Compact discs keep piling up, like sonic mountains. Most of them stay put in their plastic wrappers, nonetheless ready for listeners eager to hear everything from ancient music to Pulitzer Prize winners."

It would be nice for Rosenberg to go beyond anecdotal evidence and offer a few statistics. On the other hand, Rosenberg makes the often-overlooked point that listeners matter, and that there is plenty of new classical music to listen to, regardless of how musicians and record companies are faring.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Emusic tip from Alex Ross

Alex Ross recommends a BBC reissue of a 1998 recital by the late singer Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, saying, "I ran out of adjectives to describe Lieberson's singing some time before she died last year, so I'll just say this: the disc is almost certainly better than anything else you might be thinking of buying right now." The album has just become available as another cheap download from Emusic. Lots of Mahler and Handel, but also four songs by modern composer Peter Lieberson.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A jazzy 'Rhapsody in Blue'

My wife and I just went to see a Saturday night performance in Dover, Ohio, of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic, which found a fresh way to present Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." The piano soloist was Cleveland jazz musician Jackie Warren. My friend Phil, principal bassoonist with the orchestra, introduced me before the show to the conductor, Eric Benjamin. After Phil explained that "Rhapsody in Blue" is one of my favorite pieces, Benjamin remarked that while a performance of "Rhapsody" usually features a classical pianist playing a jazz-influenced piece, his concert would feature a jazz pianist. Indeed, Warren played well with the orchestra and obviously knew the score but brought her own improvisations to the piano parts. She showed off her chops with an encore performance of "Our Love is Here to Stay."

The Tuscarawas Philharmonic, which performs at Dover High School, has been in continuous existence since 1935.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Duckworth's '20 Sounds'

I've been reading William Duckworth's "20/20: 20 New Sounds of the 20th Century." It amounts to a useful education on modern music, featuring Duckworth's usual erudition and clear writing.

When I checked this book out the library, I couldn't wait to see which works made the list; I sat down in the library and looked at the book for a few minutes before leaving the building.

Here's the list:

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Claude Debussy
Maple Leaf Rag, Scott Joplin
The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky
Pierrot Lunaire, Arnold Schoernberg
The Concord Sonata, Charles Ives
Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin
Bolero, Maurice Ravel
Quartet for the End of Time, Olivier Messiaen
Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland
Sonatas and Interludes, John Cage
Mysterious Mountain, Alan Hovhaness
In C, Terry Riley
Drumming, Steve Reich
I Am Sitting in a Room, Alvin Lucier
4th String Quartet, Ben Johnston
Einstein on the Beach, Philip Glass
Perfect Lives, Robert Ashley
O Superman, Laurie Anderson
Miserere, Arvo Part
Atlas, Meredith Monk

Duckworth explains in his introduction that while he polled other composers to help him compile the list, at the end of the day he had to choose works which meant a lot to him personally. Most of the works are excerpted in a companion CD. The list seems to be rather weighted toward Americans and toward experimental composers.

I like much of the music on the list, although I was disappointed Schoernberg was included. I suppose we are stuck with him. My biggest disappointment, however, was that nothing by Prokofiev made the list.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The best 'virtual iPod'

Thanks to an anonymous tipster who was kind enough to post a comment here a few days ago, I've found the best "virtual iPod" site yet. MediaMaster allows unlimited storage of music files (at least for now, while it's in beta test stage) and then plays the songs on a music player that's built into the site. The site requires Flash, but it doesn't seem to be specific to any particular operating system; I've used it with a Windows XP computer, a Macintosh laptop and an old laptop running SAM Linux from a live CD. More about the site here, in a column I wrote for my old newspaper back in Oklahoma. My only fear is how much money will be charged for the site when the free beta test period ends.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A few more words on Naxos

Part of the reason I like Naxos so much is the steps the label has taken to make its music available to everyone.

Naxos' decision to license its recordings to Emusic is a wonderful development for listeners; it makes an enormous amount of classical music available for purchase for a modest price. (Emusic has many other independent labels which put out classical music, of course, but getting Naxos was a big deal). And I've noticed a few months ago that the Cleveland Public Library is offering downloads of classical music. The downloads expire after a certain amount of time, but they offer an alternative way to borrow music. And it turns out those downloads also are Naxos recordings.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I have been following the debate among Greg Sandow and Alex Ross and Norman Lebrecht about the financial health of the classical music industry, and it's interesting. We should all hope that classical musicians can make a living, and that the companies which issue classical music recordings can make money. But what I really care most about is how listeners are doing.

Because of downloading sites such as Emusic, and CD swapping sites such as, it's much easier for a person without much money to put together a pretty good classical music collection. Whatever is happening to the classical music industry, listeners are doing better than ever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tiresome critic disses Naxos

Supersnob critic Norman Lebrecht is busy demonstrating once again that even when he's probably right, he's insufferable. Lebrecht, the kind of fellow who disses Mozart to generate attention, has jumped into the ongoing debate over whether the classical music recording industry is alive and well or headed for the edge of a cliff.

It's been an interesting debate. Alex Ross points out that claims that classical music recordings are vanishing are nothing new, while Lebrecht argues to the contrary, concluding that "The truth is out there - in the idle studios, in the shut-down record stores, in the shrinking space for classical debate in mainstream media." Greg Sandow agrees with Lebrecht.

In his blog post, Lebrecht takes a gratuitous slap at the Naxos record label, writing, "Naxos, based in Hong Kong, is the only label to maintain consistent classical output, but it does so without artist promotion, denying the element of interpretative individuality which has fuelled the history and tradition of classical recording."

I guess Naxos isn't allowed to find new ways to stay alive. The label has been a good friend to fans of modern music, issuing lots of music by living composers which simply isn't available elsewhere, including good recordings of William Bolcom and Margaret Brouwer.

Several folks post objections to Lebrecht's comments, including conductor John McLaughlin Williams: "Naxos doesn't need artist promotion to sell records, because it sells repertoire, not star appeal, and thankfully so, as all that gets you is another Beethoven 9th. Your third posit (...denying the element of interpretative individuality...) is an opinion you could not possibly take if you've really listened to more than several of the recordings. Can you really quantify that? Unlike those of us who are actually recording, I think you may be too hung up upon the concept of an historical classical recording tradition. I'm not."
Making MediaMax work

To follow up my last post, after I complained to MediaMax that the site doesn't work, I got some helpful, thoughful replies. A couple of suggestions: Converting my MP3 files to lower bit rates (which would make the file sizes smaller and bring them in under MediaMax's maximum 10 MB size) and converting the files to more efficient formats. I'll try the suggestions.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Trying out the virtual iPods

I've been checking out Web sites which function as a kind of virtual iPod. MediaMax and XDrive both allow free storage of MP3 music files. Both sites all0w the users to stream the files to any computer with a fast Internet connection.

MediaMax allows users to store a whopping 25 gigabytes of music, a great service. But there's a big bummer for classical music listeners: You can't stream or download any file larger than 10 MB. This is no big deal for, say, country and western fans, but many pieces within classical compositions exceed the limit. So for the kind of music I favor, MediaMax is not very useful. I also could not figure out how to get playlists on the site to work.

XDrive offers 5 GB of free storage -- puny compared to MediaMax, but still quite a bit of music. And the site seems to work really well. You can stream the music to your computer and user your own media player. Or you can open the file on XDrive's site, and XDrive will supply a media player of its own. (This function does not always seem to work; perhaps there are problems when the site is busy.) There is no limit I've been able to detect on the size of the file -- I played Terry Riley's "In C" from the site the other day -- and it's reasonably easy to put together functional playlists at the site.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Duckworth piece slated for New York City performance

The New York Times reports:

THOMAS BUCKNER (Thursday) The baritone Thomas Buckner, here presented by the World Music Institute as part of the Interpretations series (which he curates), has long been a champion of avant-garde music. He will perform new works for voice and various instruments, including William Duckworth’s “Their Song” for baritone and piano. Petr Kotik conducts the New York premiere of Christian Wolff’s “37 Haiku” for baritone, oboe, horn, viola and cello, and the world premiere of “A People’s History” by R. Chris Dahlgren for baritone, flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, celeste, violin and cello. At 8 p.m., Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street, Manhattan, (212) 501-3330,; $10; $7 for students. (Vivien Schweitzer)

Tunes for the road

How do you listen to music when you are away for the weekend? As I type this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio, listening to The Ohio State University's radio station broadcast classical music. The radio is a Tivoli SongBook my wife bought me for my birthday. It's small enough to pack easily, but it is sensitive (handy for pulling in the local classical station, wherever I happen to be), has a good sound and has an input jack, so that I can plug my MP3 player into it. I'm sure I also could listen to Internet radio through the Wi-Fi in the hotel room and the laptop I'm using, plugging the laptop into the radio to take advantage of its superior sound.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brouwer concerto premieres

My wife and I just got back from a Sunday night performance at Rocky River Presbyterian Church of CityMusic Cleveland, the last of a series of five concerts premiering Margaret Brouwer's new violin concerto (they also did Stravinsky's "Danses Concertantes" and Mozart's 39th symphony). I thought the Brouwer piece was really good, maybe her best so far. The use of percussion in the piece was interesting; during the first movement, the percussion played an instrument I didn't recognize, which Brouwer explained is a "Chinese opera gong." A press release has claimed the piece had elements of trip hop; that sounded strange to me, but sure enough, in the second movement the percussionist played a rhythm on the drums as the violin soloist played, and it did sound a bit like Portishead. Brouwer says a recording of the piece will become available later; more details when I have them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brouwer piece premieres this week

Margaret Brouwer's new violin concerto is being premiered in a series of free concerts in the Cleveland area. I interviewed Brouwer for an article about the concert which ran in FunCoast, the Sandusky Register's weekly arts magazine. The article is available here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Boston Globe lauds Duckworth piece

The Boston Globe reviews a concert by Boston Secession, a professional choral group, and finds much to like in a performance of portions of William Duckworth's "Southern Harmony." Reviewer Matthew Guerreri writes, "After intermission came American shape-note singing: four traditional hymns -- the audience joining in on "Rock of Ages" -- followed by eight movements (out of 20) from William Duckworth's brilliant 1980-81 deconstruction of that repertoire, "Southern Harmony" (amazingly, a Boston premiere). Unlike traditional minimalism, with its process-centered surface, this music hides its complex workings deep within diatonic, vaguely repetitive textures. "Consolation" is transformed into gentle waves of notes; the familiar tune of "Wondrous Love" is layered and stacked in an uncanny recall of Renaissance style. In "Rock of Ages," pulsing "la-la" patterns are reminiscent of a doo-wop backing track loosed from its record. Initially tentative, the performers settled in with ease."
Leroy Jenkins dies

Jazz Times posts an obiituary on the death last month of free jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins, 74, and notes that he had worked with many modern classical ensembles. "Jenkins earned grants and commissions to compose for chamber ensemble, orchestra, dance and theater. Such illustrious outfits as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, the Dessoff Choirs, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and the New Music Consort performed many of these pieces."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Start over? Maybe the future is now

Alex Ross has an arresting quote from Joshua Roman, principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony: "I would love to see the classical-music industry crumble, just absolutely fall to bits. Because I think then we'd have to start over. We'd have to say, well, what is it? What is classical music? Is it this concert hall, is it these tuxedos? No, it's this music. And then we could start over from the beginning, build it up, find people who like the music. Like rock and roll started, like the punk movement started."

I assume that if the industry crumbles, big city orchestras would tend to look more like Cleveland's CityMusic and Cleveland Chamber Symphony, excellent musicians who play part time and need day jobs to live on, rather than groups like the Cleveland Orchestra, which has musicians who can actually make a living with the gig. So I suppose if Greg Sandow is right and the big orchestras are about to die off, folks like Roman are out of a job. On the other hand, as a listener, I very much like the intimate concert experience I get when I go to hear the Cleveland Chamber Symphony play at venues like the Baldwin-Wallace College auditorium. When I go to see the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, my wife and I can only afford the balcony seats, far away from the performers. Speaking as a listener, if Sandow turns out to be right, I think life would go on. In any event, the kind of grassroots groups Roman seems to be talking about are already here in Cleveland.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two shows in Cleveland

There are two noteworthy free concerts in Cleveland in the next couple of weeks for modern music fans. Cleveland Chamber Symphony will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at Westlake United Methodist Church in Westlake (a western suburb of Cleveland.) Then on March 28 through April 1, CityMusic Cleveland will play a series of concerts featuring a new violin concerto by composer Margaret Brouwer. (The program also has Stravinsky and Mozart). More details on the calendar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Duckworth live in Boston, northern California

Composer William Duckworth gets live performances on opposite coasts for two of his signature pieces, "Southern Harmony" and "The Time Curve Preludes."

"Southern Harmony" will be performed 8 p.m. Friday (March 16) at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, by Boston Secession; Arvo Part, Gavin Bryars and Ruth Lomon also are featured on the program. More info here. The promotional postcard has a photograph of four women who are easy on the eyes, next to a headline announcing the name of the show, "Surprised by Beauty."

Then at 8 p.m. March 24 on the opposite coast -- Arcata, Calif., on the campus of Humboldt State University, not far from the Oregon border -- pianist Robert Elfline performs "The Time Curve Preludes." (Well, nine out of 24, according to the program.) Duckworth shares the show with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Janacek and Cowell.

Both Duckworth pieces are available from Emusic.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New radio station launches

The American Music Center has apparently figured out that Internet radio is one of the few ways for living composers to at least have a chance to obtain listeners. It has launched a new radio station, Counterstream Radio, focusing on modern American composers. Here's the key quote from the official statement: "Mixing the work of composers such as Elliott Carter, John Cage, Bill Frisell, Kid 606, Abbey Lincoln, Milton Babbitt, Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, Laurie Anderson, and hundreds more, the station streams influential music of many pedigrees 24 hours a day." It officially launches March 16 but seems to be working fine now. The station is hosted by the Live365 folks. (News tip via the fine folks at Sequenza21 and New Music ReBlog).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New hope for Linux users

I recently installed Linux on a castoff old laptop computer. Linux is a great way to turn an old machine into something useful and it can be downloaded free from the Internet. I recommend Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

But there's a downside. Linux folks are ideologically predisposed against the proprietary MP3 format the rest of the world uses, and I discovered I couldn't tune in to most Internet radio stations. By default, most Linux distributions support Ogg Vorbis, a free software alternative to MP3 and Windows Media file formats.

There is apparently some difficult, geeky Unix command stuff I could learn to enable MP3 support, but I found another way to get Internet radio: A site which provides a directory of radio stations using Ogg Vorbis streams. The directory includes several classical radio stations, including Cleveland's WCLV. I clicked, and soon a WCLV broadcast was coming from the speakers of my old computer.
A musician and his birds

My article on Cleveland Chamber Symphony musician John Stavash has run in Funcoast, the weekly entertainment supplement of the Sandusky Register newspaper. Read the article to see why Stavash is holding two birds on his hands.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Where's the audience? Blame the music, composer says

Composer Jeff Harrington, in a comment responding to this Sequenza 21 item about a new CD featured at Starbucks, tackles the vexing question of why there's so few listeners for modern classical music and argues that it's the music's fault.

"It’s us who have to prove our case! Not the audience. Audiences don’t have to prove shit. Music should be adored, obsessed over, manically disputed and acclaimed. It doesn’t need marketing if it really excites people.

"It is our music that is at fault. Not our marketing."

I think Jeff has part of a point here -- no amount of marketing is going to create a mass audience for many modernist composers. But I still think composers such as Arvo Part and William Duckworth and Frederic Rzewski could attract many more listeners if only there was a way for people to be exposed to their music in the first place. How that will happen, I don't know.

Ah, yes, I commissioned that work....

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has found a method to allow even small donors to contribute to commissioning a new piece of music. The orchestra's Public Commissioning Initiative invites donors to contribute one or more measures of music for $25 a measure. "Contributors will receive a printed copy of their measure or measures and be invited to the gala premiere celebration." The money is being used to hire composer Marta Ptaszynska to create a new work that will be premiered in 2008.
We're gonna party like it's 1607

The current (March 9) issue of The Week magazine mentions that Italy celebrated the 400th birthday of the opera with a new staging of Monteverdi's "Orfeo," first staged in Mantua in 1607. "Orfeo" was a very early opera, not the first or the second, The Week explains, but "the first to be adopted by performers elsewhere." The Feb. 24 performance in Arizona of William Duckworth's "iPod Opera 2.0" (also based on the Orpheus myth), noted earlier in this blog, was timed to fall on the 400th anniversary of that first performance of "Orfeo." If you missed the earlier posting, information here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Violinist exits Cleveland Orchestra

The Plain Dealer reports that associate concertmaster Ellen dePasquale has resigned as the orchestra was preparing to create a new position that would change her rank behind concertmaster William Preucil from No. 2 to No. 3. The PD's story follows an article in Scene magazine, one of the local alternative weeklies, attacking Preucil for alleged abuse of power and nepotism. (The online version of the article has many gossipy comments added by readers.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quick! Download the MP3s

I got interested in Cleveland composer Jeffrey Quick when I heard his "Divertimento in C" on the radio. He's just posted MP3 files of the piece on his blog. If you like it, there are also podcasts of some of his other music available at the blog in the entries labeled "Podcasts."
La Monte Young: Where are the recordings?

I recently finished reading William Duckworth's "Talking Music," a collection of interviews with 17 American experimental composers such as John Cage, Lou Harrison, Philip Glass, Glenn Branca and so on.

For me, the heart of the book was a very long interview (the longest in the book) with La Monte Young (and his partner, Marian Zazeela). I admit I knew little about Young until I read the interview, but he's an amazing guy. He arguably invented minimalism with his "Trio for Strings" in 1958 (his friend Terry Riley has acknowledged Young's influence). He apparently presented the first series of loft concerts in Yoko Ono's New York loft in 1960. When he was quite young, he played jazz on the saxophone and had a jazz band in the 1950s that included prominent musicians such as drummer Billy Higgins. (He also defeated Eric Dolphy in a competition for a chair on the L.A. City College Dance Band.) His early group in New York City featured John Cale (from the Velvet Underground). He became very interested in Indian music years before George Harrison and the Beatles popularized Indian music in the western world.

So naturally, I wanted to hear this guy's music and started to look for it. Well, he's not available on iTunes or eMusic. Want to hear his recording "The Well Tuned Piano," apparently his signature work? $750 on Amazon. (Robert Gable at aworks searched for "five years" for a copy.) How about "Dorian Blues"? I think the "Just Stompin': Live at the Kitchen" album has it, but it's $52.

After so many years, this can't just be an oversight. There seems something old-fashioned about deliberately deciding that only rich people or people who live in a certain area will get to hear your music.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Duckworth's iPod Opera 2.0 completed

As promised, the Cathedral site released the 26th and final episode of William Duckworth and Nora Farrell's iPod Opera 2.0 podcast. There's a podcast for video episode and and a separate feed for MP3 files.

The podcast was created for Apple iPods; Apple folks can easily subscribe to it on iTunes.

But it's also easy for Windows computer owners to obtain the podcast. I got my copies of the files by right-clicking the podcast URLs at Cathedral and then pasting them in to Google Reader.

When I downloaded the final track, "The Moresca," I burned an audio CD of all of the tracks in order. Whether by accident or design, the entire 26 tracks fill up almost all of a homemade audio disk -- 78 minutes and 53 seconds of a CD disk limited to 80 minutes of music.

If you want to watch the video versions of the tracks on a Windows computer, you'll need to download a copy of Quicktime.

In other Duckworth news, one of the composer's solo albums, "Southern Harmony," has just become available on Emusic.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Messiaen's feathered fans

If you're into modern classical music, you've likely heard some of the works French composer Olivier Messiaen composed using melodies from birdcalls. But did you ever wonder how birds feel about Messiaen's pieces?

I interviewed longtime Cleveland Chamber Symphony clarinetist John Stavash for a newspaper story today, and I asked him about playing on Messiaen's Oiseaux "Exotiques (Exotic Birds)," which as I've written here just won a Grammy. According to the liner notes for the album, birdcalls from 47 different types of birds are featured in the piece.

Stavash told me that when he practiced the piece at home, his two pet birds, a cockatiel and a peach front conure, apparently were listening.

"As I was practicing, the birds were getting very excited," Stavash said. "Finally I got them out of the cage and plopped them on each knee and they listened to me while I practiced."

"They were enjoying it. I could tell the way they were acting."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cathedral live broadcast is Saturday

Cathedral, the music site/online artwork created by composer William Duckworth and graphic artist and software designer Nora Farrell, on Saturday will present a live concert over the Internet and also will reach a notable milestone.

The concert, a performance of the Cathedral Band, which features Duckworth, Farrell and other musicians, will be in Phoenix at 7 p.m. Saturday Mountain Standard Time. Video of the show will be webcast from the Cathedral site, and a "hear the webcast" link will activate on the site a few hours before the broadcast.

Also Saturday, the 26th (and final) episode of Duckworth and Farrell's iPod Opera 2.0 will be premiered at the concert and released at the Cathedral site. All 26 MP3 music files and MP4 video files will then be available at Cathedral as a feed subscription.

Cathedral maintains a e-mail list for announcements; here is the official e-mail on the concert which is supposed to go out today:

February 19, 2007

Hello All,

If you have been following The iPod Opera 2.0—The Myth of Orpheus, The Chronicler, and Eurydice—you know that the 26th and final podcast occurs this Saturday, February 24, 2007.

To celebrate, we’re going to Second Stage West in Phoenix for a live performance of Part II of the opera, Orpheus, The Myth Retold, with

William Duckworth-music

Nora Farrell-parallel worlds

DJ Tamara-digital mix

VJ Paris-live video

William Barton, didgeridoo

AJ Sabatini, as The Chronicler

and introducing the IAP iPod Continuo

If you are in Phoenix, the concert begins this Saturday night at 7:00 pm MST. If not, you can watch us live on the web at

As you may know, The iPod Opera 2.0 began a 2-year trilogy about the Orpheus myth that expands the experience from personal and in your ear, to in concert in Phoenix, to in public over 5 sq kms of the South Bank Parklands in Brisbane, Australia.

Below are the details of the journey. We hope you will be able to join us, either live or online.

Best wishes to all,

William Duckworth and Nora Farrell

* * *

The iPod Opera 2.0

* * *

Part 1

The Myth of Orpheus, The Chronicler, and Eurydice

Podcast at 2-week intervals: April 10, 2006 to February 24, 2007

Video and audio:

Audio only:

If you prefer, you can subscribe to the opera from the music category in the podcast section of iTunes.

And no iPod? No problem. You can also see the opera online at:

Incidentally, the final episode of the opera will be podcast on Saturday, February 24, 2007, 400 years to the day since Monteverdi first staged Orfeo.

Part 2

Orpheus: The Myth Retold

Second Stage West, Phoenix, Arizona

Saturday, February 24, 2007, 7:00 pm

We will celebrate the conclusion of the podcasts and the anniversary of Orfeo with a live performance and retelling of the myth at Second Stage West in Phoenix featuring VJ Paris, AJ Sabatini, DJ Tamara, William Barton, and an 8-voice iPod Continuo, plus Nora Farrell and me. For those of you not in the Phoenix area, a video feed will be available online at

Part 3


A Public Opera for South Bank Parklands

Brisbane Australia

Friday, August 31, 2007, time TBD

Finally, we will be mounting an outdoor version of the opera in the streets and promenades of South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, Australia on August 31, 2007. Comprising a Fanfare, 5 Acts, and 5 Ribbons of Sound, it will be performed on iPods, cellphones, and laptops, along with interactive installations and live performers. We expect several thousand people to take an active role, and thousands more to participate as observers. The opera will also be webcast live. Performers will include students from the Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University, as well as a number of surprise guests.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Our juicy scandal

Classical music has a new scandal, and believe it or not, it's almost as good as the astronaut with the diaper. Have you heard about Joyce Hatto? Despite struggling with terminal cancer, she was able somehow to record "the complete solo keyboard works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Prokofiev, not to mention virtually complete runs of Chopin and Liszt, as well as all of Brahms', Saint-Saäns', and Rachmaninoff's piano concertos," as Stereophile explains. Then again, maybe she got a little help from all of the other recordings of the same pieces her husband apparently stole for his record label. Hiperhip is all over this, including the wonderfully-named if mysterious "National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra" which shares co-credit with Hatto on one disc.

The piano lessons worked

One more photo related to the Grammy Award the Cleveland Chamber Symphony won for recording a Messiaen piece: Here is another photo of Angelin Chang, taken when she was getting piano lessons in France. The woman behind Chang is Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, her teacher. The old guy with the glasses? Olivier Messiaen.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a nice article Sunday on the Grammy. The paper's Chang interview is here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Cleveland guy, a Cleveland gal

Angelin Chang won a Grammy Award Sunday for "Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra" for a recording of Olivier Messiaen's "Oiseaux Exotiques" with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, conducted by John McLaughlin Williams. The Grammy goes to the soloist and the conductor, so it went to Chang (of Cleveland State University) and Williams (who lives in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb).

Here is a photo of Chang after she got her award.

I don't have a photo I can use of John McLaughlin Williams getting his Grammy, but here is a still. Isn't it annoying when someone takes a good picture?

Critic Alex Ross hailed the Grammy on his blog. Ross wrote, "Among various worthy people who won Grammys last night, I'd like to single out John McLaughlin Williams and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, who won for a recording (with pianist Angelin Chang) of Messiaen's Oiseaux exotiques. The Cleveland group recently sprang back to life after having been declared dead, and Williams is a long-time advocate of unsung composers. In 2003, he led a performance in Cleveland of Ervín Schulhoff's jazz oratorio HMS Royal Oak — a delightfully quirky piece that deserves to be on recording...."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy birthday, John Adams!

Alex Ross, the great classical music critic, wishes "Happy birthday to the great John Adams."

Adams is 60.

Listening to cassette tapes of "The Chairman Dances" and the "Nixon in China" highlights in the late 1980s helped me get interested in modern classical music.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hearing Red: The Zappa show

Red (an orchestra) seems to have figured out how to get lots of publicity for a modern music group -- collaborate with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on a program promoting a rock star's music. The orchestra is getting a wave of publicity for its Saturday show of the orchestral music of Frank Zappa, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer alone providing a ton of publicity, including this piece by the paper's rock critic and this one by the classical music critic. I've been quite jazzed by the coverage and I've been listening this week to one of my favorite Zappa albums, "Chunga's Revenge." Meanwhile, Alex Ross gives this shoutout to one of our other local orchestras.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

OUR Grammys: Cleveland musicians win

The Grammys are on TV as I write this, but I had to log on to the Internet to check the awards I cared about. Cleveland State University pianist Angelin Chang and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony have won the "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance With Orchestra" in the Classical Grammys, for Messiane's Oiseaux Exotiques (Exotic Birds), a track from "Cleveland Chamber Symphony: Music That Dares to Explore, Vol. 6." Complete Grammy Awards list here. Osvaldo Golijov won "Best Classical Contemporary Composition" for "Fountain of Tears," and a recording of the work won an opera Grammy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Katsumata performs Duckworth on YouTube

Japanese violinist Ritsu Katsumata has posted her performances at the Buffalo Biennial of Duckworth6: Sea of Dreams, her invention based on No. 6 of Duckworth's "Time Curve Preludes." The music will be featured on her album, "Voodoo Bach," which will be released in May. Take a moment to look at these videos and let her win you over.
Alex Ross: Glass, Menotti and evidence classical music lives

In the last few days, as I was mostly away from the computer, Alex Ross demonstrates why his blog is essential for everyone who listens to classical music. Within a few days, he touches on all of the major news, noting Philip Glass' 70th birthday, discussing the death of Gian Carlo Menotti ("He was a complex and inconsistent figure whose place in American opera history is nonetheless secure") and offering evidence classical music isn't quite dead, after all.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NPR embraces postminimalism!

Last week, I would have been happy to write "NPR embraces John Adams," but my consciousness has been raised. NPR has been running a series on their news shows called "Crossing the Divide," about how everyone should get along and make nice. My favorite part about the series was that NPR has been using a snippet from John Adams "The Chairman Dances" as a rather arresting theme song. Composer and critic Kyle Gann lists the piece as an example of postminimalism, and in a rather long post, explains why he applies the postminimalist label to quite a bit of modern music. The post has drawn plenty of comments, but see also composer Jeffrey Quick's observations.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cleveland Orchestra (finally) recording again

The Cleveland Orchestra will begin recording again after a seven-year absence reports Donald Rosenberg in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, although it's not clear yet when recordings will start coming out or whether the orchestra will release any music written by living composers. The first work, already recorded, isn't exactly a bold programming choice -- Beethoven's Ninth. The article says the orchestra doesn't have a record contract yet but is talking to Deutsche Grammophon and EMI Classics.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

O rare Ben Johnston

Composer Ben Johnston has become a hot item on the new music blogs. NewMusicBox has posted a long interview with Johnston conducted by Frank Oteri (curiously, you can't find the interview if you start at the home page) and reprints an essay, "How to Cook an Albatross." Johnston has a new book out, "Maximum Clarity and Other Writings on Music."

Words are fine, but my main interest in music, so I'd like to take the opportunity to recommend one of my latest purchases on Emusic, "Ben Johnston: Music for Piano" by pianist Phillip Bush. The combination of Johnston's just intonation tuning and melodies and Bush's playing makes for an album that's unusual but also very listenable. (If you like Thelonius Monk's "sweet and sour" melodies, you might find the album interesting.) I was encouraged to download a copy for myself by the rave reviews posted by other Emusic listeners; I agree with the fellow from London who called it " a most strange, beautiful and compelling sound."

Downloading the Emusic version means you don't get the liner notes, but see Bush's Ben Johnson blog posting.