Julius Eastman’s Guerrilla Minimalism 

Source: The New Yorker.

Minimalism, the last great scandal-making revolution in twentieth-century music, has become venerable. This season, Steve Reich and Philip Glass are being celebrated worldwide on the occasion of their eightieth birthdays. (Reich’s was in October; Glass’s is on January 31st.) Arvo Pärt, the auratic “mystic minimalist” from Estonia, received similar genuflections when he turned eighty, in 2015. Boxed sets have been issued, academic conferences organized, books published. Kyle Gann, Keith Potter, and Pwyll ap Siôn’s “Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music,” the most comprehensive treatment to date, covers everything from John Adams’s “Harmonielehre” to the electronic drone pieces of Éliane Radigue.

The major revelation, though, has been the brazen and brilliant music of Julius Eastman, who was all but forgotten at century’s end. Eastman found a degree of fame in the nineteen-seventies and early eighties, mainly as a singer: he performed the uproarious role of George III in Peter Maxwell Davies’s “Eight Songs for a Mad King,” in the company of Pierre Boulez, and toured with Meredith Monk.

Artifacts from the Musical Life of Moondog 

Source: The Hum Blog.

Louis Thomas Hardin, widely known as Moondog, was one of the great visionaries of 20th Century music. Beginning his creative life humbly during the mid 1940’s as a street musician orbiting around Midtown Manhattan (and later Greenwich Village), his efforts went on to have wide-reaching influence within the bohemian musical avant-garde which emerged in New York during the 1950’s and 60’s – particularity among the young group of composers who form the core of the Minimalist movement – Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, etc. His presence in the narrative in American creative life has sweeping importance, but is not without its difficulty. Moondog’s life, career, and work are windows into the complex legacies of negotiating the past – of our willingness to embrace only the most convenient truths, and the word of others.

The Self-Evidence of Kamasi Washington

Source: Tucson Weekly.

In 2015, Kamasi Washington emerged from Los Angeles with an increasingly rare thing: a breakthrough jazz album. Following a 2014 Nielsen year-end report declaring “jazz the least-popular genre in the US,” the saxophonist managed a heroic feat, turning on young fans to cosmic jazz, igniting stalwarts, and in an age of streaming singles, garnering fawning attention for a three-volume, nearly three-hour album.

Though it was the saxophonist’s debut, The Epic carried significantly more weight than the average introductory statement. Steeped in spiritual jazz traditions of John and Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, the funky fusion of Donald Byrd and Wayne Shorter, and the free jazz explorations of Ornette Coleman, it rang out like a declaration.

Daniel Levin Profiled and Interviewed


Cellist Daniel Levin has been a major presence on the New York scene for nearly two decades as an active bandleader and as an innovative sideman. His quartet has been active since 2001, having released an incredible eight records, the most recent of which, Live at Firehouse 12, will be released later this month on Clean Feed. His new solo record, Living, will appear on Smeraldina-Rima later in the Spring. Daniel plays in a duo with bassist Henry Fraser at Downtown Music Gallery on January 8, at 7 pm. He is also embarking for Norway later in January to play duo concerts there with violist Mat Maneri as well as a duo concert with Torbjörn Zetterberg in Stockholm on February 10, before the three of them join vibraphonist Matt Moran in Munich to kick off an extensive European tour with the quartet.

Ben Johnston Hears The Notes Between The Notes

Source: NPR.

Ben Johnston doesn’t follow the rules of music. Sure, he’s got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. “I played by ear and I invented my own chords,” he says.

In Western music, we’re taught that there are set notes in scales, but there is actually an infinite number of pitches in between those notes. They’re called microtones, and those are the notes Johnston likes to work with.

Kamasi Washington Interviewed and Profiled

Source. The New York Times.

Kamasi Washington began this year literally hobbled: After breaking an ankle on tour in Europe, he followed doctor’s orders and canceled a series of shows. Still, that pause hardly slowed the onrushing momentum that Mr. Washington, a commandingly charismatic tenor saxophonist and bandleader, has gathered since the release of his momentous debut, “The Epic.”

That aptly titled triple album — a horizon-scanning jazz opus girded with funk and soul — was one of the biggest stories in music in 2015. Mr. Washington spent much of this year carrying its message forward, both in legacy settings, like the Newport Jazz Festival, and places where a jazz musician can rarely be found, like Coachella.

Iannis Xenakis: Musical Sorcery Using Mathematical Totems 

Iannis Xenakis

Source: WilderUtopia.com.

Iannis Xenakis (May 29, 1922 – February 4, 2001) was a Greek composer-architect and musical theorist and a major figure in the postwar development of musical modernism worldwide. He was an important influence on the development of electronic music, particularly remembered for the pioneering use of stochastic mathematical techniques and computer means of handling large numbers of events in his compositions, including probability: Maxwell-Boltzmann kinetic theory of gases, aleatory distribution of points on a plane, minimal constraints, Gaussian distribution (ST/10, Atrées), Markov chains (Analogiques). He also based compositions on game theory (Duel, Stratégie), group theory, Boolean algebra and Brownian motion.