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from Sunday, January27th of the year2008.

So, I am sitting here in Seattle at an ur-Coffee Shop bookstore situation, the art on the wall is an exhibit of paintings of splotchily rendered Big Events in the News, including “Mission: Accomplished” and the famous napalm jelly shot from Vietnam. Also, the Abu Ghraib torture shot, obv. Charming, right? I sort of love “coffeeshop culture,” such as it is, though. I wish we had something similar in my neighborhood with Working and Free internet; sometimes I need to be in a dander-free zone for a few hours, no offense to my beloved Duane & Reade.

On Friday, starting at 10 AM, in forty-five minute intervals, about eight composers presented our works. Poor Mason had to go first and evidently about seven people were there. I think it increased in numbers as the day went on; by the time I got there (after a harrowing five mile walk up and down the hills of Seattle) there were more people lurking around. Max was prepared and made hand-outs for his presentation!

23047562.jpgAfter my post from yesterday, I got a bunch of emails from people who promised that they were going to come to most if not all of the seminars followed by the performance. I guess I owe a lot of people a roast chicken! Maybe what I’ll do is have somebody videotape it and then put it online; a theoretical chicken. Around 2:30 PM, a bunch of Younger Folk walked in who must have been high school students, which was Warming to the Heart. When I was in High School, in a sense I was the only composer my age I knew; I had met people (Judd, in fact, and my dear friend Morgan Staples) at Tanglewood, but they were scattered around the country and I never felt like I could ever have a casual dialogue with a composer my age about music, or, decadently, not music. I was really heartened to see such young people there; I had nothing like that when I was in high school!

Judd and I decided that we would combine our adjacent talks into a conversation between the two of us; this was for reasons of mixing it up, first and foremost, but also serves to dispel the myth that composers are these solitary beasts, acting like modern heroes. In different senses, both Judd and I are composers who consider our immediate communities when writing; Judd has his own ensemble (NOW Ensemble) devoted to playing this community’s works; I try to collect my friends together in exciting combinations and see what we learn (for instance, Nadia’s important but subtle presence as a foil to Sam Amidon on The Only Tune), which is fresh in my mind because I presented it at the end of the talk.

By the way, talking in front of an audience, no matter how small, is exhausting. After the concert, we had a post-concert Question and Answer period. You can look at the picture below to see me slumped in my chair, fading:

[photo credit: Kyle Gann]

Last night’s concert was the Gann-curated evening; it’s interesting to see how the older generation (everybody on our concert was under 40; everybody on Saturday was over) actually had way more wires and plugs and gizmos on the stage. Also, two of the pieces (the Giteck and the Duckworth) involved performers breaking “the fourth wall” or whatever, getting up and parading around the space and singing with their shoes off (an amalgam of what happened, but you get the drift). Additionally, it was Duckworth (who is like 60 or more) who had onstage during his piece a trombonist/didjeridooist, two laptop performers, an untz-untz beat, and a DJ playing what looked like 3 decks and a giant spine of thick cables running up the width of the stage. Our Friday-night concert seemed pretty tame in comparison; I think that in a sense my generation (or actually, I’ll leave them out of it and just speak personally) is going to develop in such a way that technology is folded into the music more seamlessly, as computers get smaller and audio sources get more flexible. I played a concert in a church once that involved electronics triggered from an iPod the size of a quarter; I think if the “classical” post-minimalists feel the strong desire to express themselves in opposition to the orthodoxies of the Academy through a strong visual linking to rock music (cables, microphones) and a strong link to theatrical games (wandering around the audience with a cowbell), you’ll see a resurgence of more orthodox stage setups, separation between audience and players, and, I think, a greater interest in a truly intimate encounter therebetween, rather than the (sometimes very awesome) abstract theatrical remove you get in music born in the 60’s and weaned in the 70’s and 80’s in the experimental spaces of downtown Manhattan.

I also think that John Luther Adamsis so amazing and that he should be celebrated by as many new music ensembles as can get their hands on his pieces. His piece last night The Light Within was completely ravishing; there was this one chord that happened only twice (I think) where a cello harmonic rubbed against a non-vibrato violin note a half-step below, all over a really really fat subwoofer growling away.

I don’t have access to the fresh, printed New York Times via delivery in my neighborhood, so I always read it online. However, my host family here in Seattle got the paper in the mornings, and I was so much happier with the print version than I am with the online. Did everybody read this article about the Palestinian border crossing? The images were striking online but really quite amazing in print:

A nocturne:

A camel making the crossing via crane:

Another gorgeous image from this morning’s Sunday Times was from this Ankole cow article:

1 Comment

  • Hey! that coffee shop is my work. (Well, it’s in the basement of my work.) We were fortunate enough to be associated with the event at On the Boards. I know I mentioned this before but I found your talk with Judd to be among the most interesting and illuminating. (Along with Alexandra and Mason) So thanks again.

    Anyway, the paintings. Very controversial. Not only because no one wants to eat vegan chili while staring at napalm-jelly woman, but because the exhibit has gone on about 2 months longer than scheduled. (For some unspeakable reason, the cafe manager thought it would be an appropriate holiday display. Provocative!)

    There you have it. Feel free to contact me anytime you need Seattle bookstore gossip.