Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

on history

As is the entire ensemble, I am excited about this performance at Bargemusic, the first performance of my music at this New York institution.

I'm also excited because of the strong thematics of the program connecting contemporary compositional practice to historical practices and so in turn to the historicity of of all acts of musicking.  Further, these lines-of-flight connects this historicity of work-objects to the archeologies of the self, especially as expressed in the works of Kyle Bartlett, Louis Karchin, and myself.

As I write in my program notes for the Piano Quartet #1,
“This work is for me a return to the rhetorics and formal structures of my “misspent” youth playing in punk-rock bands on the New Jersey shore in the late 80’s. The music we wrote was music with much ornamentation and embellishment, but little improvisation as the term is generally used— there was little time for expansive guitar solos in songs clocking in at under two minutes. In this temporally compressed grammar (or perhaps “syllabary” is a better term) distinctions between phrase and riff and verse were unclear, yet relevant, for this was music with a flair for form, form that could be felt in the body, not merely heard in the mind’s ear. Juxtaposition was privileged over transition, and repetition over development. Our ears brimmed with The Germs and The Minutemen, but also the more aggressive side of the British progressive rock scene. First among these groups was always King Crimson and its leader Robert Fripp. The particular harmonic and formal approaches of that group have had substantial impact on my compositional approach, and my approach to functioning and persisting as a musician in the late modern." 
Thoughts like this have been in the front of my mind of late, as you can see from this series of postings I wrote a little while ago over on Bigmouths.  (Here is the place to start the series).

It is, as ever, a delight to hear such subtleties expressed through the tremendous musicianship of the musicians of counter)induction.  Not a show to miss!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On staying on track.

Sometimes (well, often) the music I end up with is quite different from the music I intended to compose. I hope this is not from incompetence; really it is as though only by getting to know the material in a very deep way will I discover what the piece needs to be like. And then if I can’t “stay in the game,” if I can’t for some psychological or practical reason follow where the material leads, I usually end up with a crummy piece or no piece at all.

Take, for example, the piece that Miranda Cuckson will premiere on Friday’s counter)induction show (Friday, Bargemusic, 8pm). For a long time I wanted to compose a piece using some recordings I have of my grandmother’s voice. I made the recordings about a year before she died, and they are very dear to me, almost too powerful. I began with very fixed ideas about what I wanted the piece to be like, and my stubbornness combined with the power of the recordings was a formidable obstacle. Somehow, though, I found first a way to let go of the form I had wanted, and then I let go of using the actual recordings of her voice. Instead I started with sounds that I associate with my grandmother in memories and in recurring dreams, like a sewing machine, a cigarette lighter (she was a committed chainsmoker), coins being dropped, water. After beginning in that way I was able to incorporate the sound of her voice as well.

Now I am just putting finishing touches on the final two-channel version to be performed on Friday. In affect it is really very dark. My husband said he found it “disturbing” and our bandmate Steve Beck said, “If I had a bed I’d check under it!” It wasn’t my intention to make it so dark, and I don’t think it says anything troubling about my relationship with my grandmother. I just tried to follow where it needed to go. You can judge for yourself at the concert.