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.

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