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: http://cathedral.monroestreet.com/rss/ipo204.xml

Audio only: http://cathedral.monroestreet.com/rss/ipo203.xml

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.