Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mumma on Mumma and More



I've been reading the new collection of composer Gordon Mumma's writings, edited by Michelle Fillion, Cybersonic Arts: Adventures in American New Music (UI Press.)  It covers territory most widely associated with Mumma's career: at the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music in Ann Arbor, with the ONCE Festival, the Sonic Arts Group/Union, and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with colleagues including Ashley, Tudor, Cage, and Oliveros, but also his less familar but equally important engagement with a geographically wider American Music is well-represented here. The volume includes more explicit writings about his own compositional work for both electronic and "acoustic" instrumental resources than has been previously available.  Mumma has a precise and engaging writing style with a very distinct sense of balance between the explicit and the open or (provocatively) unresolved, whether the matter concerns notes, personalities, politics, or something larger we might venture to call a distinctive aesthetics.  (Balance, I have found, is a central concern in his music, whether playfully pushing analog circuitry in or (more productively) out of balance be it by the sounds of a horn or the movements of dances in a real space or working with pitches which seem to be arguing stubbornly against their own axes of symmetry (and in the various-sized -Mographs series for piano(s), tectonically so.)  Fillion's introductory materials are clear, usefully giving context to the writings but also suggesting wider lines of inquiry. I'm biased here — Mumma was/is my teacher, I publish some of his works at MaterialPress.com — but I can recommend this book without

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