Archive for the ‘On Music’ Category

I first met Pauline Oliveros over 35 years ago in the Main Gallery at CalArts in Valencia, California. The occasion was a performance of her piece “El Relecario de los Animals”. I was in undergraduate composition students in the school of music; she was an iconic, accordion playing, deep listening, female icon of new music.

I never became a huge fan of Pauline’s music. But, with respect to Pauline as a human being, I am a great admirer. 

First of all, as to her musicianship, Pauline was a consummate musician of the highest order. She was simply a fantastic accordionist. The thing, though, is not so much about her playing but about her listening. Pauline’s deep reverence for the simple act of listening was breathtaking. Her “Deep Listening” workshops change the lives of men and women around the world. Her tiny little book on that subject is full of exercises and practices that have tremendously enhanced my ability, not only to hear music but, to hear the world around me. I am profoundly grateful to Pauline for teaching me to listen. Although my wife, some of my friends, and my boss may well not understand that because I have a tendency to speak before listening, when it comes to hearing subtly I am extremly adept and I owe it all to Pauline. To the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I want to express my gratitude and thanks.

Pauline’s will to help others did not stop with listening. Her project to use computer technology for the betterment of human beings led to the creation of the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI). AUMI uses sound generation tools and a webcam to allowing users with very limited mobility to create music both alone and in groups. This project was not about ego, not about listening, and not about Financial gain. It was purely a selfless project to make better the lives of disabled people. It was, quite simply, a beautiful deeply moving humanitarian gesture. So, to the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I also want to express my admiration for your selfless love of people.

Pauline was born in 1932. She was a performer and composer as well as an accomplished philosopher. In the ‘60s, Pauline was among many of the most innovative musicians, like my mentor Mort Subotnick, at  San Francisco Tape Music Center. In the  ‘80s, she began her “Deep Listening” practice to which I am so indebted. 

Pauline was a constant collaborator with Stuart Dempster and many other amazing musicians. We sometimes think of Brian Eno as the guy who created ambient music.  But Pauline and Stuart are really the ones to create the first landmark recordings. 

Pauline has most recently been a Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was the Milhaud Artist-in-Residence at Mills College. In my time, her work at UCSD and her visits to CalArts gave me a remarkable exposure to a remarkable woman. So, to the, now bygone, spirit of Pauline Oliveros I finally want to express my thanks for your willingness to share your aesthetic with all of us whose lives you touched.

It’s funny, you know, that I never really got to know Pauline well when I was actively involved in the  new music composition community. My real “friendship” with her came later in my life, believe it or not, through Facebook. Pauline took time from her busy schedule to actually interact with me about my listening practice, to discuss AUMI, and to teach me much, probably, without even knowing it. 

That’s the way Pauline was. She gave so much to other people, even me. She will always have my gratitude and she will always be in my heart. I will miss her joy, her selfless devotion to humanity, and, her generosity in teaching us all the art of listening to the subtle beauty of our world.

Rest In Peace o’deepest of listeners.

Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Modern Music, On Music

Source: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)


Sunday, June 21, 2015 – 12:00pm – 10:00pm
The Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
NYC

“Portland, Oregon phenomenons Third Angle New Music bring new reverberations from young innovators including the New York premiere of Quartz by Australian composer Julian Day and a world premiere by LJ White”


Oregon New Music lovers… Non-Oregon New Music lovers… Fans of Matthew Dickman… Fans of Michael Dickman… Have you ever thought it would be cool to go to New York for the annual Bang On A Can Marathon? Well… the time has come!

Now you have the chance to join some really amazing Oregonian musicians, poets, and new music groupies as Lisa Volle, Ron Blessinger, and the awesome folks from Third Angle New Music head to The Big Apple for Third Angle’s first ever opportunity to play the marathon!

But wait! There’s more! The piece that we have commissioned for the event is based on poems by Matthew and Michael Dickman and we’re takin’ the lads with us. This is an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to support Third Angle, BOAC, and the Dickman twins all at once. For information on how you can join Team 3A in NYC, send me an email.

Can’t go to NY but still want to make some Oregonian dreams come true? Just want to help a couple wonderful poets get to THE CITY? Fear not! There are myriad opportunities to help financially.Email and I’ll hook you up with a lovely lady who’d love to find a way for you to help.

Seriously… come with us or help how you can. The Third Angle New Music Ensemble Board will love ya for it!

I remember once telling my old tabla teacher, Taranath Rao, that I had wrestled in high school. I recall being quite surprised to find out that he too was a youth wrestler! I’ll never know whether I could have out-wrestled guruji; but I surely know that it would take me another hundred lifetimes to become even one thousandth the tabla player that he was.

I also surely know that I was very blessed that a man in the direct lineage of the Farukkhabad Gharana of tabla masters would be willing to take, as a student, a 20-year-old composer of electro-acoustic music who had neither the tenacity nor the aptitude to become an accomplished hand-drummer. The fact is, I began studying with Taranath because I “wanted to learn something non-Western” and because my friend Amy (who was an accomplished percussionist) was going to study tabla – and I thought Amy was cute.

Over the years that I knew Taranath, he became far more that just a path to “something non-Western” and a reason to hang out with Amy. He became one of the great influences on my life. This is not because I would ever become a particularly good drummer but, rather, because knowing him led me to both my interests in India and to a realization about what a truly joyful human being could be and how precious it was to know one.

Taranath Rao was born one hundred years ago today, March 6, 1915, in Mangalore India. His uncle, A. K. Rao, was an accomplished Indian violinist and his own father, Ramarao Hattiangady, was a percussionist and an actor. Because of these family members, Taranath received some very early exposure to musical genius. Taranath first studied tabla with Vishnu Goakar. He learned mridangam from his own father.  Ultimately Taranath studied with Shamshuddin Khan, who he first met while on tour with the great master Abdul Kareem Khan. There is an old story about Shamshuddin Khan that says his hands were so light, and his drumming so effortless, that anyone sitting behind him could not even tell when his hands were moving and when not. Clearly my guru learned this lesson well; sadly, I did not.

Taranath moved to Bombay around 1932 to study art. Shamshuddin Kahn didn’t have time to take on new students so, first, Taranath studied with pakawaj master Subbarao Ankolekar who also player tabla in the style of Delhi gharana. It was not until almost 7 years later that, in 1939, Shamshuddin Khan could make time for Taranath. He had found his guru.

Though having begun to master the Delhi gharana, his discipleship under Shamshuddin led him to another stylistic lineage. Through a history that I honestly do not know well, my guru Taranath, is directly in the discipleship lineage of the fathers of the Farukkhabad and Lucknow Gharanas.

I studied with Taranath from 1979 or 1980 through 1982. He taught me a tremendous amount about drumming and about the theory of North Indian rhythm. He also taught me about joy, love, and humor.

We used to joke with Taranath because he had difficulty pronouncing the letters W and V in English. He once told us how important rhythm is to Indian music by saying that “Music contains rhythm like the waves are in the ocean.” We kept asking him to repeat the word “waves” as if we did not understand. Finally he said” “WAVES! WAVES!… V-A-V-E-S!” He was just awesome!

Taranath had some physical problems by the time I knew him. That is actually what brought him to the US. He could no longer play 5 or 6 hour-long concerts. He could still, however, perform at a world-class level for our American-style 2 hours shows. Because he did not drive, one of his students would typically pick him up and bring him to school. Of course, that left us open to a variety of alternative plans. One of these was to show up, as a group, to pick him up. This could result in quite a wonderful dining experience when we would, just by the stroke of luck, be invited to dinner.

Once, on his birthday, Taranath received from his students, a 1/2 gallon bottle (I think) of Chevas Regal. This was an extra entertaining evening because we had not only the joy of Tabla lessons and dinner, but also the great Joy of watching Taranath’s wife (who we all called “Mami”) walk around offering up whiskey from that big bottle. What do I remember that made that so entertaining? Well… Guess what LETTER the word “Whisky” starts with? That right! “W“! Mami, like guruji, couldn’t pronounce the letter W! So, she walked around the room offering us “‘Ski?” “‘Ski?”, “‘Ski?”

Those were some fun times. But there is one memory that cemented the memory or Taranath in my mind, for life. Not long before guruji died I was in Los Angeles and went to visit CalArts, where I had studied with Taranath. This was either 1990 or 1991. I was walking the halls, giving my wife a tour, when I met Taranath with one of his newer (younger) students. I had not seen him in something like 7 or 8 years. When he saw me, he got the most priceless smile on his face. He nearly ran up to me and embraced me. He turned to his student and then back to me. With one of the most genuine smiles I have ever seen, the great Pandit Taranath Rao, direct descendant of the the leaders of the Farukkhabad and Lucknow Gharanas, looked at me and said “Look at you!” and turned to his student and said of me “HE was one of MY STUDENTS TOO!!!” Rarely in my life have I been so warmly embraced.

And so… on this 100th birthday of one of my favorite men of CalArts, I think of Taranath Rao with the same warmth and love that he last embraced me, those many years ago.

Jai Guru!

I think it’s a great day in the music world when a recording of Byzantine Chant makes it into the Billboard top-10. So, first I want to congratulate my pals at Cappella Romana for hitting #8 today on the classical chart with their recording “Good Friday in Jerusalem“! Perhaps it’s funny that a Jewish dude is happy about a recording of music for Good Friday. After all, the story from whence it came is not particularly kind to my people. Still, gorgeous music is gorgeous music no matter what tradition spawns it,

Good Friday in Jerusalem” is a magnificent recording. It is acoustically stunning and has a very solid foundation in scholarship. Singing early music is not simply a matter of reproducing pitches. It is very much the product of study and research, at least when done well. This I say because the techniques, intonation, vocal style, and performance practice is variable and subject to much speculation. You can’t just grab a page of neumes and chant away. Eastern Orthodox, more than most early music, takes a lot of research.

I remember being in music history classes in the 70s and the pride i felt in understanding the parts of the early Catholic Mass and the divine offices. But, the fact is, everyone with a degree in music has to study that. We think we know a lot about early Christian music but, guess what? We are not as smart as we may think. Indeed, we do study a lot of church music… WESTERN Church music! But, when I look back at my old music history text books, I see not more than a few pages on the other half of the early Christian world… EASTERN church music.

It is important to remember that, just like we Jews have both a European Ashkenazi Jewish civilization and a different but equally compelling Middle Eastern Sephardi tradition, the history of Christianity includes both Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. They are not the same and the Eastern tradition is not as well-known. But Eastern Orthodox music, with its microtonal tunings, sometimes less consonant interval relationships, foundations in both rhythmic and melodic “modes”. and characteristic drones, or “isons”, is at least as interesting as (arguably more interesting than) its western counterpart.

Cappella Romana’s “Good Friday in Jerusalem” is a superb example of just how lovely this music can be. It was recorded in a Church at Stanford and engineered by some clearly acoustically savvy members of Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). It was created, structured, and directed by UBC Musicologist and CR Artistic Director Alexander Lingas, And it was sung by a very talented subset of a very talented and multifaceted vocal ensemble. In short, it is one of the best recordings of Byzantine church music you’ll find.

Definitely worth a listen. Personally, I want to see them get their Grammy! Check it out.

I have to start by saying that I would never, ever, encourage a singer to do anything that risks vocal cord damage. So, if a singer has strep throat and even a sore throat, canceling a show could be the most professional thing you can do. But, Monday night I saw that as long as your throat is not affected, you can do a damn good gig with a head cold. It seems that one of the keys to doing that effectively is to embrace the limits that illness imposes and to work within your constraints.

I have seen Suzanne Vega in concert for at least 20 – 25 years. Her performance on Monday night was not the highest quality singing I’ve heard from her. But, you know what? It was a great show and it certainly was memorable. I have a lot of respect for Suzanne, in general. But, I had extra respect for her on Monday night. With a head cold in full force, and what was either water or a cup of tea on stage,  Suzanne took the stage, knew she had some limitations, and gave her audience a really wonderful performance. Monday’s show in Portland was not the makings of her next live album. What it was, was a demonstration of how beautiful a performer can be when she respects her fans enough to get on stage and admit that she might have some limitations, to sing with all she can muster, to accept her limitations with a great sense of humor, and to perform well by not trying to perform perfectly. It was a great show and I want to say thank you to Suzanne Vega for being there for we, her fans, even when all is not perfect.

Speaking of giving thanks, I also want to thank Scott Docherty at http://www.redhare.com for taking this photo for me:

With Suzanne Vega at the Aladdin Theater-3

I have waited since the mid-80’s to actually get a photo of me and Suzanne. I hope she’ll be happy to know that this is as cool to me as are my photos of me with the likes of Eric Owens, Dawn Upshaw, Chris Rothko, Jennifer Larmore, Stephanie Blythe, and Morris Dees. So, thank you Scott!

Of course, the real thank you goes to Suzanne Vega. Next time I think of taking a day off of work when I have a cold, I’ll remember that there is a precedent set by someone I respect a lot, for just pushing through and kicking ass!

Come on back anytime; and get well soon!!!

 

Dartmouth, May 1964 – The original BASIC computer programming language turns 50 years old this month! It’s hard to believe that it was only 16 when I wrote my first program on punch tape for a Data General Eclipse. I’m feeling old but, in the spirit of history, here’s a summary of the life of BASIC and a little bit on my relationship to it (yeah, yeah, yeah… I know that only I care about the latter but, hey, it’s my blog 🙂 )

1964 – Dartmouth BASIC by J.G Kemeney & T. E. Kurtz @ Dartmouth College

1969 – Dartmouth BASIC fifth version by J.G Kemeney & T. E. Kurtz @ Dartmouth College

1970 – General Electric ships the fifth version of (Dartmouth) BASIC with their systems.

1971 -BASIC the Sixth by J.G Kemeney & T. E. Kurtz @ Dartmouth College

1974 – ANSI committees form to standardize both minimal BASIC and Standard BASIC.

1975 – TinyBASIC by B. Albrecht & D. Allison (takes only 2K of memory and is loaded from a punch tape and Altair BASIC is introduced by Bill Gates and Paul Allen

1976 – Bill Gates writes “An Open Letter to Hobbyists” complaining that Altair BASIC was being copied all over the place before Microsoft even made it available. This is the first ever case of software piracy!

1977 – Commodore BASIC was developed by Microsoft for the Commodore PET computer. This was my first computer!

1978 – ANSI issued the Minimal BASIC specification (ANSI  X3.60-1978)

1981 – I wrote my first BASIC program on a Data General Eclipse I found in a storeroom at CalArts. It was called “RMUSIC” for “Recursive Music” (hence my license plate on my Volvo). The program resulted in a sadly un-singable vocal piece of the same name for my friend Liz Lindenfeld, MS-DOS 1.0 ships with BASICA on August 12th and GW-BASIC is introduced.

1982 IBM releases BASCOM 1.0 and I wrote my first BASIC program to profile the Acoustics is a theater space on my Commodore PET.

1983 –  J.G Kemeney & T. E. Kurtz release TrueBASIC based on Dartmouth BASIC 7.0 and Microsoft releases the BASIC Compiler v5.35 for MS-DOS

1984 – Microsoft BASIC Compiler 5.36 is released and the ISO issues ISO 6373-1984 for the Minimal BASIC and Microsoft releases BASIC  for the Apple Macintosh

1985 – Microsoft releases QuickBASIC 1.0, IBM releases BASCOM 2.0, and Commodore BASIC is introduced on the Commodore 128

1986 Microsoft QuickBASIC has 3 releases for the Mac

1987 Microsoft QuickBASIC has 3 more releases for the Mac and releases Microsoft BASIC 6.0, ANSI issues the Standard BASIC specification (X3.113-1987), and Borland releases Turbo BASIC.

1988 – Microsoft QuickBASIC has 4 more releases for the Mac

1989 – Microsoft BASIC Professional 7.0 is released

1990 – Microsoft BASIC Professional 7.1 is released and PowerBASIC Inc. forms fro the development of Borland Turbo BASIC

1991 – Microsoft ships QBasic 1.0 with MS-DOS 5.0; the ISO issues ISO 10279-1991 for Full BASIC; Microsoft ships QuickBASIC 1.0e for the Mac; Microsoft ships Visual Basic 1.0 for Windows

1992 – Microsoft Visual Basic 2.0 and VB version 2.0 for Windows

1993 – Microsoft ships VB 3, VB 1.0 for Project and Excel, and QBasic for DOS

1995 – Microsoft ships Visual Basic 4.0

1997 – Microsoft ships Visual Basic 5.0

1998 – Microsoft ships Visual Basic 6.0

2002 – Microsoft ships Visual Basic .NET 7.0 and DarkBASIC – brings DirectX 9 into the BASIC world

PLEASE post comments on this post if you find errors or omissions.