Academic journal article Current Musicology

"Words for Music, Perhaps"? Texts, 1975-2013

Academic journal article Current Musicology

"Words for Music, Perhaps"? Texts, 1975-2013

Article excerpt

   forM(a music)     articulate    is incarnate    form     fingertips    articulate voices    incarnate     articulate incarnations    articulate incarnate    articulations incarnate     voice    forms    fingertip    fingertips    form    voices     B.A.B.    March 1975 

Marjorie Tichenor, for whom this text was composed composed a remarkable vocal composition out of her recorded reading of it.

On Hearing FORUM82 * or Symphony Space, New York November 13, 1982, from 3 to 6 P.M.

Things are coming down os pieces

that shouldn't be pieces.

They shouldn't be coming down as pieces.

what should they be?

There shouldn't be pieces.

What should there be


Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 18 September 1985


My idea of a useful composer is someone who leads you to your own music--makes a composer of you.  Not all personal acts are private. But all personal acts are not public.  Masterpiece composition is obsolete, as a usable social medium. Formal acts which assert the obsolescence of masterpiece composition are on identical grounds obsolete.  Reputation is the public space. What's left over that's needed is the personal space. Badly needed but not adequately or authentically being attended to by anyone with ego or talent enough to not compose an opera. (DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT: something I, personally, needed to know to know why, personally, it wasn't, isn't, something I needed done for me.) 

(NEWS OF MUSIC, March 1986)

PROLOGUE TO ('Whose Time, What Space"): [A Seminar Talk at Eastman]

Benjamin Boretz

Olivia Mattis was giving a historical seminar at the Eastman School of Music on composers who were also cri tics; Bob Morris suggested she invite two such living people who--not quite coincidentally--live next door to each other in the surroundings of Bard College in upstate New York--Kyle Gann was the other--to talk to the seminar about their accumulated insights from within that role--Kyle for the last fifteen or so years writing for The Village Voice and elsewhere, I having been Music Critic for The Nation during the 1960s. Kyle talked first, recreating expansively, in the terms of his personal history, the celebratory story his book tells of the rise of "his" new generation of American music (Later on he did remark that he had once tried to live in [my] world, but it was too suffocating--he needed more oxygen, he said.) Our listeners were graduate students and professors--I saw among them my old friend Bob Morris and my new friend Mar tin Scherzinger; Martin in particular leapt into the post-lecture discussion, with familiar laser-energetic sharpness, indicting and convicting my texts of an interesting if possibly illicit fusion of naive romantic mysticism and manipulative disingenuous duplicity, perhaps accounting for their strange transformation of the sound of the music we listened to at the end. The talk after that went on so long that Olivia had to disappear to get her bus home to Buffalo well before we all finally subsided to the coffee shop next door. [My offering, slightly modified by afterthoughts, follows]

Composing music, playing music, listening to music, thinking and writing about music: each and all plausible as a persons possible self-gratifying, self-fulfilling occupation. Writing public music criticism or professional discourse, like teaching, create a radically different existential condition: a projection of self-presence--the public enactment of a consciously constructed, self-overlayed persona rather than the localized being of a person--into the consciousness of others, where the effect at the receiving end is the main output of consequence. That's a vastly more complex and ambiguous social, ethical, intellectual, expressive situation And pretty dubious and unpromising ground for self-realization, too. …

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