Last June, an extraordinary thunderstorm ripped through my fair city, leaving half a million without power and downing an astonishing number of beautiful old trees.
On my daily walk to the coffee shop, a tall tree lay across 34th Street, door-sized chunks of sidewalk split like a drawbridge over the gaping hole where its dangling roots once ran. The top of its canopy, previously the domain of birds, insects, and exceptionally brave squirrels, was half-flattened against the asphalt just shy of the yellow center line. I walked up to it, and touched my finger to leaves that had never before felt human hands. They were still firm and green, and remained so for many days.
When a tree falls, it lives on long after its death is sealed.
Watching the Minnesota Orchestra, I cannot shake the feeling that this tree fell many months ago, and we are now watching it die slowly on the asphalt. The roots are in the air. The trunk is horizontal.…Read more
I’m starting up a new composer organization, The New Ruckus. The mission statement says it best:
We are composers, improvisers, sound artists, and songwriters. Our mission is to help each other achieve a sense of purpose and satisfaction in our musical lives, by providing moral support and practical help in creating our work, getting it heard, and making personal connections through it.
We specifically focus on non-selective activities that benefit the whole composer community: nothing we do is judged, juried, curated or auditioned. Our programs are either open to all, or first come first served. If we do it for anyone, we do it for everyone.
There are lots of organizations doing a great job of mustering resources and funneling them into music, but The New Ruckus’s exclusive focus on mutual support and community building is … well, like the name says, it’s new!
Get yourself on The New Ruckus mailing…Read more
Tucked into today’s encouraging tidbits of news about the Twin Cities orchestras is one telling detail. The MN Orchestra board wants to restore the organization’s mission statement to its former proper state (they removed the word “orchestra” last year, if you can believe it), but “with two changes to emphasize community service and financial stability.” In that proposal is laid bare the philosophical chasm that originally lead to this fiasco.
The words “financial stability” do not belong in any arts organization’s mission statement.…Read more
Nothing prepares you for what the doctor says:
“You have brain cancer. The tumor is large and growing. We need to remove approximately one third of your brain, and we need…Read more
The NYT ran a dialogue called “Is Classical Music…Read more
During hurricane Sandy, I tweeted (yes, I have a Twitter account; can you believe it?) about how wonderful it is that pianos still work when the power is out. Turns out that while I was thinking it, one In the Hands listener was living it. I will let him tell his story in his own words:
Since we last emailed.... we were hit with Hurricane Sandy. (I live in Jersey City NJ just outside of NYC). If you followed the news... we were basically in a war zone out here without power, heat, phone, internet for a week... with miliatary coming in and out with trucks, water and food.…Read more
As the lockout of Minnesota’s two world-class orchestras continues, I’ve given a lot of thought to the dilemma. A credible outside perspective is hard to find, and we’re left in a “he said / she said” back and forth between management and musicians. Listening to it all, I believe them both on their key points: yes, an organization that is drawing heavily from its endowment cannot last —and yes, the proposed cuts would be an artistic kneecapping for the orchestras.
I’ve thought hard, and I’ve made up my mind. To accept the financial status quo is to doom the orchestras to a slow death — but to accept the proposed cuts is to kill them now. I wish the orchestras could last forever in their current state. But if that cannot be, if it comes right down to it and we are truly forced to choose, the orchestras should draw down their endowments. I’d…Read more
Astute readers of this blog will notice that it’s been a really, really long time since I've posted a new recording. I have not been musically idle, however! Oh no. I have been working my little pianist tusch off.
One of the projects I've been working on, years in the making, is now finally coming to fruition. It is a composition for bass clarinet and piano called The Broken Mirror of Memory. Here’s my attempt to describe the piece, from the score’s performance notes:
Entanglement, soliloquy, tango, flight: each movement poses a problem from which the next unfolds. Themes continually resurface, transformed, as the music reinvents its own past — the endless process Gabriel García Márquez described as “piecing together the broken mirror of memory from so many scattered shards.” The coda gathers everything together, grappling, burning down — and then, from the embers, a simple benediction emerges, present all along, now laid bare. We…Read more