I wrote this tune in Poland in 2004 as a memorial piece for Steve Lacy. But these days I’m working with it in different ways, preparing for a recording with my band, etc. Here’s a short excerpt of a more-or-less unconventional treatment :)
Well hello, world! Sorry it’s been awhile! I’ve been away from my blog for too long, but this should give you an idea of what I’m up to these days:
Life in Taiwan has been exciting, exuberant, amazing, bustling, and has been rewarding in a way that no other place could ever be in this short time since I’ve been here!
More on all this later. For now, it’s nice to see you guys again! :)
Some recordings from recent appearances in Taipei with pianist Andrew Page:
There is No Greater Love
I Mean You
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Nostalgia in Times Square
Now here’s a musician I really connect with! Playing with Andrew is both great fun and a real journey. He’s willing to take a deep plunge into familiar territory and work towards something new and fresh with each passing chorus. I can’t help but have a great time!
For two gents bred in the Midwestern U.S. (we’re both from St. Louis, as it turns out!) and who turned out to be musicians in the far East, it’s a healthy reminder of a tradition that began on our own stomping ground: that modernism in jazz is just as much about joy and enjoying life as anything that came before.
Everything that is freely improvised, serially-composed or otherwise atonal about modern music suffers from that awful Germanic myth of pain and struggle. While that’s certainly part of our musical tradition, something beautiful began in Chicago with Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, and others: use modernism’s devices to put humor at center instead of something abstract, nebulous and disconcerting. The same loss of meaning in life can simultaneously be expressed through struggle or sheer ridiculousness.
Gee, isn’t that nice?
Since the late 60′s this attention on humor has steadily developed; now you can find its practitioners on each coast and all over the globe, so our recordings here are only a small sample! Still, being abroad certainly has its way of reminding you where you’re from :)
I’m thrilled to report that the paper I’ve coauthored with Robert Kohn and Janne E. Irvine on Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia has been accepted for publication in Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory at Penn State. We’re all very excited!
After many collaborations, emails, and a whole lot of study(!), we’re now editing a final draft. My trusty copy of the Sinfonia score has seen the light of day all around the Taipei coffee shops, especially my favorites in ShiDa, and soon it will get a well-deserved rest :) Our work centers on the intermingling of various ideological trends in modernism and structuralism as well as presence of Lacanian schizophrenia within Berio’s masterpiece. As we’re nearing completion, I’ll have more to share soon… !!
Zhongxiao Dunhua (2009, for electronics)
It’s been almost a month since I came to Taipei. Obviously a lot has happened since my last post! I’m really enjoying it here. So much is going on, but with all the stimulation only now am I finding time to react creatively to what I’m seeing!
Any newcomer here will learn the city from the MRT stops first. The piece above is named after the intersection of Zhongxiao and Dunhua roads, where there is a very large MRT stop. Zhongxiao has its own MRT “blue” line; it cuts across the entire city and is lined with all kinds of commerce and interesting people. It’s always very crowded, except late on a Sunday night after your gig:
What can I say? I had the cab driver drop me off here so I could snap a photo for you to see, but all I got was this empty street! It’s the opposite of what normally goes on here. Nothing compares to the awesome sprawl of this street. It just keeps going, and only more places, people and avenues reveal themselves along the way. It’s overwhelming and exciting, and it reminded me of this line from a poem by Borges:
¡Qué lindo atestiguarte, calle de siempre, ya que miraron tan pocas cosas mis días! (How lovely it is to attest to you, street of forever, since my own days have witnessed so few things!)
Hope you enjoy it!
I’d say the Inauguration went off without a hitch, wouldn’t you? History making: yes. Astonishing numbers of people: check. Moving speech from qualified + tactful new leader: shazam! Old money gone ASAP, or as fast as the wheel chair could carry him out: done. Tragically we all had to learn about Ted Kennedy’s fall, but there was little turbulence on top of that. Still, maybe I’m the only one who’s bothered by this:
(Man, I tried so hard not to be any kind of musical elitist on this blog, but here is where I’ve completely lost it; this really frosts my cake.)
I had my hopes up for the scheduled inaugural performance by Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill, slated and first leaked back in December by The Detroit News and just after brought to wider attention by Alex Ross. We weren’t sure what to expect, only the performance of a work for violin, cello, clarinet and piano… hmm, there aren’t too many pieces meeting those specs. :::gasp::: Could it be?? Certainly it could. Yes we can! Yes it could! It would have been entirely appropriate at the sight of this historic event for a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s (dare I say timeless?) Quartet For The End of Time, and anyone reading Alex Ross’ blog would have agreed.
Could there potentially be a piece of music, anything really, more moving than this? Apparently so. Aaron Copland, popularly known as a homosexual and a communist but who’s music has been the locus of Americana and popularized by many Republican campaign tickets, was our star composer of the day. I say this lovingly because I enjoy Copland’s ballet music as much as the next guy, I certainly don’t mind his own politics for which he came under attack, and also because we owe Copland’s name to any arrangement of “Simple Gifts.” Not even John Williams will be remembered for his craptastic “arrangement” heard around the globe today.
I have this mental image of John Williams receiving the commission, thinking “Oh yea, this one’ll be easy!” and, completely aware that almost no composing will be necessary for the piece, immediately farming out the arranging to a few novice minions in his army of Hollywood orchestrators. ”How far ahead of schedule are we on music for Harry Potter XXXVII? Good! Hey Boopsie! Lombordozzi! Anastasio! You look like you got nothin’a do. Get over here and do this commission for the government. Take ya five minutes.”
There should be a futures market on the lifespan of John Williams vs. Randy Newman. Here are two composers we could stand to hear less of at MacWorld Expos and really really important historic events. Yes, I know it helped to choose the music of a “populist” composer and get another real live “populist” composer to do the arrangement for our amazing musicians, but that’s just it: our musicians were capable of so much more and could have played an absolutely vital and appropriate piece with such a bigger message! Instead, we got the same old “Where’s the Beef” act. Despite the let down, there’s still plenty of hope and change in the days ahead – and nicely enough for those of us in the arts.
As someone who works in sheet music, I’m sure I’ll be seeing my copy of John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts for violin, cello, clarinet and piano on New Issue any day now, and I will proudly and properly christen it by use as toilet paper. It will still sell and make as much money, if not more, as his Olympic Fanfare and Theme. Oy.