Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Paul Bailey threw me a meme

Total volume of music on your computer? ca 10 gb audio files, lots of midi or scores
Last CD you bought? Some oud music from Thrace
Song currently playing? Gendhing Gadhung Mlathi (central Javanese)
Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me? (1) Ives: The River (2) Cage: The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (3) Purcell: Dido's Lament (4) Schumann/Heine: Im wunderschöne Monat Mai (5) Dylan: All Along the Watchtower; runners-up: Anon.: The Rose of Allendale, Mozart: Catalogue Aria, Issac: Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen, Leedy: Sinfoniae Sacrae

Friday, June 17, 2005

Landmarks (5)

Boudiwijn Buckinx: 1001 Sonates (BBWV 1988.09) for violin and piano. (In this series of Landmarks, I promise that this will be an exception in that I have not heard the piece in its entirety. I have heard about 100 of them, via a cassette on loan from Hauke Harder.) In these Sonates, some for the duo, and some for each soloist, Buckinx works simultaneously at the extremes of the miniature (most of the Sonates are brief) and the epic (the total duration is 24 hours). An individual Sonate may be urgent in character, but it might be nestled in a group of similar Sonates, giving the sequence a paradoxical sense of leisure. There is no detailed system or preplanning to the 1001; the pieces tend instead to group, regroup, recall, anticipate in an approach that is tactical, following intuitive, local logics that get tested out, thrown about, consumed, and then suddenly the atmosphere changes: we go someplace else, but everything remains the same. Sort of like traveling through Belgium, if you know what I mean.

(Perhaps as remarkable as the fact that Buckinx composed 1001 Sonates is the fact that they have been played, complete, several times, and there are really listeners out there who have heard the work, complete, more than once.)

I believe that Buckinx wisely takes advantage of being Belgian -- he's in debt neither to German insistance, structure, dialectic nor to French affect, taste, and style. There is more than a little surrealist flavor to his music, and Belgian surrealism (with the poles being Magritte and Ghelderode) at that, but I'm not expert enough to say anything more profound than that. He has the luxury to afford a sense of humor, and his individual hues of light and dark distinguish that particular humor from that of others.

Buckinx has also composed Nine Unfinished Symphonies. I profoundly regret not having heard these.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Orlando he dead

Sometimes the internet is a wonderful place. Composer Paul Bailey has just put up an mp3 of Doug Hein's Orlando he dead, one of my favorite pieces from the repertoire of the legendary Cartesian Memorial Reunion Orchestra (a semi-situationist, semi-electric chamber ensemble in the grand style of LA in the 80's). Hein's piece is one of the few vocal works in the Cartesian 's repertoire, with the only lyric I know of that meaningfully includes both Orlando di Lasso and Mama Cass. It's also one of the very few genuinely funny works of recent modern music. But more importantly, it's an example of exquisite counterpoint and near-counterpoint and fake renaissancery.

The history and diversity of west coast experimental and mimimal music is not as well known as it should be. The composition classes at SF State and UCB that included La Monte Young and Terry Riley also included composers like Loren Rush, Pauline Oliveros, and Douglas Leedy. Somewhat older figures like Robert Erickson and Richard Maxfield were very influential: Erickson taught generations of composers from Oliveros to Paul Dresher, Maxfield took over Cage's New School course in New York. There were also the Source magazine folk in Davis. In Southern California, Harold Budd and Barney Childs would be the forward line in the Cold Blue school, there was Cal Arts, and Lloyd Rodgers, a student of Castelnuovo-Tedesco and John Vincent at UCLA as well as a good friend of Leedy and Roy Harris, would be the founder of the feast known as the Cartesians, and as far as I understand it, Paul Bailey's own ensemble stands in this lineage. And finally, Kraig Grady's musical messages from Anaphoria Island celebrate broad swathes of the west coast aesthetic.

I know Douglas Leedy the best of all of these composers, unlike his classmates Young and Riley, Leedy's background was essentially that of a classical musician. He was an early advocate of synthesizers, but he soon made significant turns to early and ancient western music and studied Karnactic vocal music in Madras. I hope to write more soon about Leedy's music, one of the real alternative paths in the minimalist landscape.