the necessity of a musical score

Michael Schell discusses a duo performance of Cecil Taylor and Pauline Oliveros and questions why Oliveros is classified as a classical composer and Taylor is not, when they are working in the same conceptual tradition:

"At the same time, though, this coupling highlights a prejudice that continues to haunt conventional narratives of Western art music. Of these two musicians -- both of similar age and similar stature among musicians, and both clearly capable of articulating a shared musical language in a public space -- only Oliveros is consistently mentioned in textbooks and retrospectives on contemporary classical music (see, for example, the otherwise admirable surveys by Paul Griffiths, Jennie Gottschalk, and Tim Rutherford-Johnson). The omission reflects the idea that art music requires a score, that it must be 'fixed in some sort of notation for a performer or creator to interpret or execute' (Rutherford-Johnson) to be authentic. This was a legitimate premise prior to the 20th century, but it has become obsolete in the age of audio recording, radio, and digital media. Nowadays the record, not the score, is the real 'text,' and the persistent conception of classical music as an exclusively literate tradition has pushed the music of Taylor, and his fellow improvising avant-gardists (many of whose backgrounds were impediments to the academy), to the margins of the canon.

"Ironically, Oliveros also emphasized improvisation in her work, and almost all of her published scores use verbal instructions rather than musical notation. But she was still invariably described as a 'composer,' and was able to achieve success in the milieu of universities, concert venues and foundations, whereas Taylor was always a 'jazz musician' who mainly performed at night clubs and festivals. And so his eminence languishes in the domain of jazz history, jazz radio, and jazz CD bins. Despite today’s well-publicized efforts to improve diversity in musical opportunity and programming, it seems that the segregation borne of professional biases can be just as intractable as the cruder chauvinism of social bigotry. Taylor’s music, so powerful and innovative, deserves recognition that transcends these boundaries."

Jerry Hunt update

jerry hunt performance

Added to other sites (blogroll): a page dedicated to the late Texas-based composer Jerry Hunt.
The page has been mentioned here a couple of times but it seems to have expanded over the years with more content, including some amazing interviews and a full, up to date discography/videography.
Bandcamp has an audio excerpt from a Hunt performance available for seven bucks, which includes a nice PDF brochure with photos (such as the above) and explanations.
I think about Hunt frequently, after having seen him perform three times in the early '90s. The Hunt website gives some helpful background on his methods, which I was far from understanding at the time, and am still not completely clear about, if anyone is. His stage persona sticks in the mind: an unlikely, conservatively-but-carelessly-dressed quasi-shaman moving erratically about the stage, picking up an array of strange sculptural objects, shaking them, or pointing them meaningfully at the audience. Yet his real interest was in a flow of unpredictable musical events, with the physical gestures (and the objects in his hands) acting as focal points, or as he put it, seeds for audience attention. As for the unpredictability of his gestures, he says:

Every piece I've ever done has involved what I regard as a rational translation of something that's happening in the space (picked up through sensors) into a consistent rational schedule of changes. I don't do direct translation, which I think is vulgar after three minutes. It's fascinating to watch somebody go like this (wave arm) and hear a sound connected with it for a minute or two, but then it becomes compositionally appalling after a while. It's like watching etch-a-sketch, you know, it's wonderful for a few minutes and then it limits itself. It becomes so self limiting that no matter what you do in way of effects, it just gets increasingly self-defining until it just keeps getting tighter and tighter and after 30 minutes you're almost ready to scream, because you say, I got the idea. Oh hey, he did a new sound. I got the idea. Oh hey, he did a new sound. I got the idea ... (etc.) That's all you can think of at a certain point. So, I wanted to stay away from that.

As an antidote to this, Hunt developed systems, originally for tape cassettes and later digitally, for how certain sounds could be triggered at certain times (or not triggered -- accidents were built into the process) as he moved around the stage. In the interviews he goes into detail about how he used time codes on the tapes, and external randomization sources such as alchemical texts, to achieve this. In his formal writing about the pieces he relied on scientific-sounding jargon to mystify the proceedings, but in the interviews he is much clearer, and very entertaining with his Texan gift for gab.

some editing after publication

"iiscla," by disconnector

"iiscla" is a track from disconnector's new release, muitvl.

Thumbnail review: Trashcan-style beats with reverb; more electro than sample-driven, with some glitch and drill-n-bass elements. Full- and crisp-sounding production.


Funkstörung - "A Bottle, A Box And A Mic" [hooktube]

Phoenecia - "Suite D256" [youtube because for some reason the hooktube link was causing crimeflare to "check your browser"]

more disconnector

"Harpsichord Solo (Poulenc Remix)"

"Harpsichord Solo (Poulenc Remix)" [2.9 MB .mp3]

Made these harpsichord samples a few years ago, from a vinyl version of Francis Poulenc's Concert champêtre. This remix includes some passages "straight" except for tempo changes and a middle section where the sampler does its thing. I don't own the rights, fair use, etc. (Poulenc himself was a known "borrower.") This hybrid exists as a thought-experiment-hopefully-with-entertainment-value.

"Moon Joker"

"Moon Joker" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

My second experiment in converting a lengthy atonal work into a short tonal work. The first cut up maestro was Stockhausen; this one is the original Ahr-nuld (Schoenberg).
I took snippets from a vinyl version of Pierrot Lunaire, op. 21, then looped, layered, and timestretched them onto a 120 bpm timeline/grid.
This is a raw, possible first draft. Normally if something feels missing percussion or reverb would be added. Here the clips were left unenhanced, including all the room tone, artifacts, turntable noise, and hiss from increasing gain on very quiet passages. Hours went into manually de-clicking the loudest pops from the vinyl, but no de-noising or de-crackling software was used (it's expensive!). The remaining noise then becomes part of the piece, in some cases adding rhythmic interest without the need for extraneous percussion.
In his liner notes for the Nonesuch edition of Pierrot Lunaire, Charles Wuorinen describes the work as a culmination of Schoenberg's "contextually atonal" works before the arrival of the composer's 12-tone system. Wuorinen's definition of contextual atonality isn't very clear -- he seems to be saying that each work has its own rules of tonality, as opposed to the Western canon's rules up to that point (1912). He says that Schoenberg made intuitive, ad hoc choices in the arrangement of notes and phrases, causing the music to be unpredictable from minute to minute, while unified by the poetic text and the organization of the work into sections.
Nevertheless, individual runs of notes are quite musical, when de- or re-contextualized. I made 24 clips of varying lengths, and ended up using most of them. Phrases from different sections "stacked" surprisingly well -- that is, shared the same key signature without having to transpose notes.
Why do this? Software makes tonal experiments possible without having to hire musicians. And the noise component adds new timbres and content. Ultimately, though, it's low grade revenge porn.