Tuesday, August 29, 2006

John Moran

In the New York Times today There is an article about the composer / (choreographer) John Moran and his latest opera Zenith 5. Philip Glass said "I am convinced that there is no more important composer working today, than John Moran. His works have been so advanced as to be considered revolutionary." Moran is often see as a protégé of this composer.

Maybe I am showing my stupidity here, but I really haven't heard of John Moran until now. I went to Amazon to hear fragments from The Manson Family: An Opera, with Iggy Pop as the Prosecutor. He seems to work with taped and found sounds, as well as music instruments, which he then organizes into musical patterns. The result is a wild mix of styles, from chaotic traffic noises and birds to soft piano patterns underlayed with quiet noise.

I shall order this CD and check it out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Paris Hilton, on her new album release, Paris:

It's like so good it makes me cry.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Occam's Razor

Since I am thinking about "laws":

entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem

translated as:

entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

This is Occam's Razor - here is the basic entry in Wikipedia as well:

Occam's razor (also spelled Ockham's razor) is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. Originally a tenet of the reductionist philosophy of nominalism, it is more often taken today as a heuristic maxim that advises economy, parsimony, or simplicity in scientific theories. Occam's razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or "shaving off", those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. The principle is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (law of succinctness).
Furthermore, when multiple competing theories have equal predictive powers, the principle recommends selecting those that introduce the fewest assumptions and postulate the fewest hypothetical entities. It is in this sense that Occam's razor is usually understood.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Matthew Effect

"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (Matthew XXV:29, KJV).

I took this description from Wikipedia:

In sociology, Matthew effect was a term coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists will often get more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher even if their work is similar; it also means that credit will usually be given to researchers that are already famous: for example, a prize will almost always be awarded to the most senior researcher involved in a project, even if all the work was done by a graduate student. An example is given by the story of the isolation of the antibiotics streptomycin by Albert Schatz in 1943, and the attribution of all the credit, including the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1952, to his supervisor, Selman Waksman.

So, recognition tends to be given to those who already have it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Early Musick

Here is an article about early music ensembles - Trevor Pinnock, etc and etc. I've always been interested in early music; I played the sackbut in an ensemble, I have a friend who plays theorbo and I've written a heap of pieces using early instruments. Writing for the instruments is not just like writing for the modern variety. I wrote a piece for Northwest Baroque, a Seattle-based ensemble, and the hardest parts were the guitar and the theorbo. That little guitar has the, Excuse my French, weirdest tuning in the universe, and one almost has to know how to play the thing in order to write for it. It doesn't look weird on the link page, but, believe me, it is. But the sound of the ensemble was very nice.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Brains and Music

David J. Levitin, head of the Laboratory for Musical Perception, has written a book called "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession" (article here), about the cognitive perception of what we call music. An interesting book on music - although he gives atonal music a hard time - and you can listen to him discussing the book here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Of course, commenting more on Purpose Music (I don't know if I like that, sounds too much like "Porpoise Music"), nothing is wrong with writing music for orchestra, or for string quartet, or for MIDI trombone etc. I myself have written many of these pieces; just last year (as an example) I wrote "Loop and Swirl" for flute, guitar, theorbo and bass gamba - it's meant to be performed on stage, not during any kind of event or anything. So does it have a function? Is it meant to be only admired as a piece we hear on the radio or on stage? Why shouldn't we write pieces which people simply go to in this fashion? After all, we race off to the museum to see works of art, or run down to the bookstore to buy books. Why is it that music is seen differently?

And why am I poking holes in my own discussion about how music should have a purpose?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Practical Music? Purpose Music?

I have been lately composing music for the church calendar - at the moment music for the Advent season. It has opened up a little thing for me I have often thought about - writing music which has a function inside the culture. Not Gebrauchsmusik (shudder), but music which which fulfills a purpose. Purpose Music sounds nice. Writing music for parties, or for film, or for church services or music which is part of the whole. Of course, nothing is wrong with "concert" music, but sometimes I find this strangely detached from my life.

I certainly don't want to write "elevator music" or "shopping music", but then again, why not? I also don't want to be John Williams (except for the money part!) I don't want to write "ordinary" elvator music. "Music for Airports" by Brian Eno is an excellent example of Purpose - even though the Purpose has been taken away by the passing years.