Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Monday, August 30, 2021
I obviously think of Edward Said as a political thinker with searing contempt, but as a cultural thinker he is extremely different from 'his children' who clearly use his ideology as a cudgel to dismiss the entire canon with no love or even knowledge of it. His ideas about literature were genuinely destructive, but one cannot deny that he formulated them out of extraordinarily deep knowledge and love of the canon and the not entirely mistake conceit that there was no place in it for people with little Western bloodline. And as a classical music critic, he was better still, and his writings in The Nation are nearly without parallel in my lifetime (UCM's dear and valued Tim Page being one of his major rivals and equals of course).
Friday, August 27, 2021
Courtesy of the Piano Files FB group comes more great Chopin from that interwar period when great Polish Jewish pianists were like fruit growing on the trees who somehow played Chopin as though it was natural as breathing.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Long as (the royal) we are going though another bout of Wagner fever, let me just sing the praises for a moment of another musical figure who is only relatively underrated.
Monday, August 23, 2021
Michael Morgan was probably the first conductor I ever saw live, at a BSO 'tiny tots' concert for kids aged 4-6 when he was an assistant either in Baltimore or Washington - I forget which. To this day I remember him very well. But all the sudden, he was gone. Georg Solti seemed to call him up the big time and he became assistant conductor at the Chicago Symphony for seven years. It was the highest profile job he was ever to have.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Somebody posted an Asahina Ring Cycle. After the first hour of Götterdämerung, it is as to be expected. It's slow, but the orchestra seems exemplary if perhaps a little small, and even the singing - however small-voiced is wonderful by the cow-mooed standards already in place by the 1980s. You will never hear chording, blending, and balance this skillfully applied. Every moment is full of overtones.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Friday, August 20, 2021
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
A nebulous musical post indeed... Perhaps this is synesthetic...
I don't agree (for the moment) with putting this on Biden. You cant put something on someone in office for eight months after three Presidents spent their whole tenures doubling down on making withdrawal as awful as possible. But I do agree with putting this on absolutely everybody else. You didn't care. If you're a Democrat you bought the old Soviet lie that all Western foreign policy is imperialism without even the Soviet Union to feed it to you. If you're a Republican, there wasn't a single malpractice you weren't willing to excuse in the name of a fight for freedom abroad that you did everything in your power to stop within in your own country. Before 9/11 was even five years ago, you'd all forgotten that the rest of the world exists. Why? Because we're Amurrikans damnit and even the ones of you who are ultra-critical of America don't give a shit about anywhere else. An Arab Spring couldn't make you look elsewhere, neither could a ten year war in Syria with three million refugees that involved the very people who interfered in our election. Global warming certainly can't do it, and the only people who cared about the world economy opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and put 5 trillion dollars into the Chinese dictatorship's pocket. Hell, even Russian interference in an election can't make you think about anything but whatever side you take in a futile battle to change masculinity..., even a virus from halfway across the world that's going to kill more than a million of us can't make you stop thinking about whatever side you take in a futile battle to change law enforcement.... In the bubble of your privilege you got to pretend small issues were large, you read slogans and political memes when you should be reading policy briefs. And now, the chess pieces are all in place for war everywhere, genocide everywhere, dictatorship everywhere, and all it takes is one natural disaster to light the whole world on fire. So now we all get to watch a genocide for which we are responsible, a genocide which may well be a pre-echo of what's coming for billions - including us. Billions of dollars of equipment and economic stimulus get to benefit the very people who sponsored 9/11. If you're feeling sick right now, good. Don't get angry, get nauseous. Whatever you see in Afghanistan, that could be us.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Saturday, August 14, 2021
So I suppose my name's still Evan Tucker: a self-hating nice Jewish boy from Baltimore, Pisces, five-foot four, he/him, and a not particularly professional composer, violinist, singer, writer, and journalist. I don't make money from music, I lose money, and any chance to recoup costs will be well into my dotage and perhaps well thereafter. This is my fourth NMG, third panel, and second presentation.
As is the LD way, I've put off writing this for months only to encounter writer's block, and therefore crammed the writing into a 72 hour coffee marathon which set my hairline an inch back. It was torture of an entirely different form than the even more tortuous process of last year's speech, before which I was six-foot three.
Last year I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and all I needed to do was take dictation from a text that seemed read into my mind by someone else. The torture last year was the vulnerability of giving the speech. I was an emotional wreck for two weeks before and a week afterward. I have a video of that speech which if anybody asks for it I can post to my website: evantucker.bandcamp.com, run by my invaluable engineer, Mat Lefler-Schulman, without whom I'd still just be hearing musical shadows on a wall.
But the result of last year's presentation was that the great Sarah Bob, guardian angel to un-performed composers everywhere, was in the audience, immediately went about hearing my music, and responded so enthusiastically that she immediately programmed it. I feel a bit like Conan O'Brien after he was plucked from obscurity to host Late Night. I have no idea how it happened, I just know my life has changed immeasurably for the better by her championship.
Last year's experience was yet another example of the New Music Gathering being one of my life's great blessings, and I'm sure there are hundreds who'd say that. Without NMG I can almost guarantee that hardly a single composer would even be aware of my existence. 5 1/2 years ago, I stumbled upon NMG in Baltimore on the very week I resolved to be a composer again, it seemed like fate, and I resolved that NMG will have my lifelong loyalty as long as they'll have me.
I'd really prefer to speak about anything else. Unfortunately, my debilitations are a large part of why I'm here, so the subject is annoyingly unavoidable. So I regretfully must give a bullet-point version of what I said last year: extreme intellectual facility from the earliest age, even more severe learning disabilities in late childhood, calamitous emotional infirmity by early adolescence, deception into a cult disguised as a boarding school in my late teens, leading to a lifetime of cognitive delusions. It is only through obsessive consumption of culture that my Mach 3 delusive spirals ever slow down.
When it comes to the most basic tasks, like figuring out how to use music notation software, how not to lose sheet music or files; how to remember the actual terms of harmony, counterpoint, formal analysis which my musical memory lets me understand implicitly; how not to arrive anywhere an hour late, how to deposit a rent check, clean a house and not to hoard, I have the same ability to manage tasks I had as a child and can only fulfill them with the most severe anxiety, depression, tics, even delusions. I needn't tell you, this renders jobs and romantic attachments nearly impossible, and I've certainly tried. And even were a relationship successful, I must abandon hope of raising a family or even pets... And yet just in music, I have perfect pitch so absolute that I can identify the missing note in an eleven-note chord, I can write out a plurality of standard rep in full score by memory, and can write out any recorded avant-garde improv. My life would be much easier without useless abilities like these. But Voltaire said that God is a comedian playing to an audience too scared to laugh. So here I am, coerced by fate to laugh as best I can, every day of my life.
It finally occurred to me on Thursday why writing this presentation was difficult: as a profoundly learning disabled person, I am the very last person able to give advice on this subject. By definition, the community of severe learning disability is hamstrung in its capacity for self-advocacy. We can't even explain how we're organizationally challenged, because if we understood the problems, we could master them. So how can I tell you what to do to help? There is no way for the severely learning disabled to band together in advocacy as others understand it - not even because of organizational difficulties, though those obviously would be hard... but because, whatever ancillary gifts in our brains, the nature of learning disabilities is that we're incapable of understanding what's happening to us, even after living with these difficulties our entire lives, and because we are incapable of understanding them, so too is everybody. There are literally billions of people who relate to the learning disabled in the worst conceivable faith, and believe that our deficiencies are an absence of character rather than neurons - which then, of course, depletes people like us of morale and convinces millions of us that even the attempt to make something worthwhile of ourselves is guaranteed to result in still more humiliation. .
I can't speak to what it would take to make a profoundly LD composer into someone with a chance of making a living in the currently constituted field of classical composition. I could barely explain the forms of help I received, and I obviously haven't made any living in it. But, rather than bring LD students to the music, is it possible to bring the music to LD students?
I here submit a dual thesis:
1. As grateful as the LD students are for extra help, equal footing in classical music is unattainable to people in the LD community because the very way classical music has always been made rewards traditional learners, particularly in a university setting.
2. Classical music has made exponentially more use of electronics as a delivery system for acoustical music than for its true potential as an artistic medium, and I submit that Learning Disabled musicians are the perfect types of people to discover the full potential of electronic music.
'What is composition?' is not only a complicated, loaded question, it's also a very different question now than it's ever been before, a question with so many different answers from what it ever was in 1900. All those twentieth century answers would have been to the better except that almost all the new answers trended in the direction of more organization, more preparation, more repetitive skill, more academic training. However small the windows before World War I for classical musicians to be creatures of the moment rather than of planning, those windows shut down.
And as classical music grew ever more planned, the new presence of electronic recording allowed the improvisatory music of untrained musicians to be etched permanently without need for any printed music at all - so what used to be ephemeral music for a folk community of a hundred became popular music for a consumer audience of millions. And classical music became ever more subsumed by erudition and training during the very era when spontaneity was more required to hold the attention and love of its audience.
We are 120 years into the age of musical recording, and thus far, 99% of everything classical music ever did with recording has been a reaction to the record rather than an embrace of it. We thought of the 20th century as a revolutionary century, but it increasingly seems as though we were the arch-conservatives. We burrowed ever deeper into traditional forms, and even revolutions like atonality, 12-tonality, polyrhythms, were only revolutions if you already knew the musical tradition being revolutionized. All the while, we've been staring at the biggest revolution of all and doing everything in our power to ignore it. This whole time, we've been writing basically acoustical music for concerts when when we could literally be recreating the experience of music itself from the very root, and the tool which we, with classical training, could do the most with.
Whatever the systemic problems are now, the system is likely about to be uprooted as it has not been since living memory was in its childhood. If COVID is just the first in a long series of world tragedies, and it may be, the system we've always known is about to disappear, and there will sadly never be concerts in the lifetime of many people here as we've ever understood them before. Every genre will have to rethink what music is both in creation and performance, because soon there may not be gatherings for us to perform at for much longer than a year. And yet at the same time, there will be more need for musical community than ever before.
I've reluctantly come to believe that the answer to all these problems lies in electronic, reproductive music. Electronic reproduction already revolutionized everything else about the world except for classical music.... But here it is: an almost completely unwritten field in which the rules of composition can change as they have not since Machaut showed what could be done with four-voice polyphony. Meanwhile, we're still discussing musical analysis in the same way Debussy did at the Paris Conservatoire. Classical composers are beginning to awaken to electronic possibilities as so much more than an interesting diversion, and much of the new electronic music, like Sam and Tis, is extraordinarily good, but virtually all genres of music still think in traditional, linear terms - rhythm, counterpoint, form, but we are now face-to-face with a colossus, a whole new order of musical technology.
A neurotypical person thinks in linear terms, in which thoughts are followed unidirectionally to a logical conclusion that makes sense on its own terms and needn't relate to anything else - 'This is therefore that.' And to this day music is almost always composed in manners that either make sense as worlds unto themselves, or in relation to lyrics in a way that makes the form even more linear - just a verse, chorus, and bridge. But I'd venture that most learning disabled people think in quantum terms. They associate not by logic but by metaphor - 'this is like that,' and hold their entire storehouse of knowledge in their heads at all times and cannot dissociate one subject from the totality of what they know, and so they make completely disparate connections between seemingly unrelated fields that would never occur to neurotypical people.
So rather than thinking of music terms of linear, cellular, syntactical terms, the incorporation of different sorts of learners involves a wholesale embrace of conceptual, interconnected, semantic thinking. In electronics, music can now be organized entirely by extra-musical themes, collage, juxtaposition; the very fabric of ideas themselves that previously seemed to have nothing to do with music can now express themselves musically. In electronics, all things become music, of this world, the next, and every other. Electronic music operates not by the exquisite order of four-voice polyphony, but the beautifully diverse chaos of a thousand voices. It is a wholly new music for a new millennium.
Classical music always dances around embracing the conceptual and electronic. But now, in an age of infinite sounds, there is no limitation to what instruments produce. Classical composition and performance has a golden opportunity to get in on what is still the ground floor of what the whole field might eventually have to embrace anyway - committing to electronic music for consumption elsewhere than a performance, and commit to it as an equal partner to acoustic and instrumental, written with a bare minimum of traditional notation. Such a music would not only include the learning disabled, but people of every unprivileged demographic who did not have the opportunity to learn how to master classical music from the cradle.
Arnold Schoenberg used to say that he was not a modernist - he was an arch-conservative forced to become a revolutionary. I'm probably the only person at this conference who'd say he has simple, uncomplicated love for the classical canon. I've listened to more contemporary classical music than I could ever know what to do with, but my daily bread is Schubert. It's because I love this music dearly that I advocate we need to blow the whole thing up in order to save it. The inclusive progress we seek in classical music will only be made if we create an entire track that does away with the very fundaments of music as we've thus far thought of it with much more funding allocated to electronic music from its current totals. Traditional classical musicians can still learn by traditional models, but electronic music need to be fully incorporated into classical music rather than a small sideshow, with an entirely different set of curriculum requirements so they and we may be taught anew how to write music. Paradoxical as it sounds, people of musical ability but non-traditional background need to learn just the technology of how to compose in a way that doesn't involve traditional harmony, form, and counterpoint, because with such a revolutionary technology, musical rules completely rewrite themselves, and learning disabled musicians may be the ideal people to figure out what the new rules are.
I thank you for your time, your ears, and your generous presence. Please try out my music at evantucker.bandcamp.com, that's evantucker.bandcamp.com, and let me end with a very brief prayer that may we all be able to listen to each other in person next year and that whatever music is in the future, we all make it there together, in one piece, able to find appreciative producers, performers, audiences, and able to make livings from our music.