Tony Conrad


The Theater of Eternal Music performing in 1965. From left, Mr. Conrad, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and John Cale.
FRED W. MCDARRAH / GETTY IMAGES

Tony Conrad Was Such a Good Minimalist, He Was Almost Forgotten
By WILLIAM ROBIN
MARCH 24, 2017

In February 1963, a 22-year-old experimental violinist named Tony Conrad stood outside Philharmonic (now David Geffen) Hall in New York wearing a signboard that read “Demolish Lincoln Center!” With the composer Henry Flynt and the filmmaker Jack Smith, Mr. Conrad formed a three-man picket line that spent a day marching at the center, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They were protesting, Mr. Conrad later recalled, “the imperialist influences of European high culture” and gesturing toward “the dismantling and dispersion of any and all organized cultural forms.”

Anti-authoritarian actions soon became typical for Mr. Conrad, whose significant legacy in music, film and performance remained relatively unknown when he died last April at 76.

“Tony Conrad is as punk rock as anyone who ever had the audacity to call themselves punk rock,” said the writer and musician Henry Rollins, formerly of Black Flag, who moderated a post-screening conversation for the new documentary “Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present” in Los Angeles earlier this month. On Friday, March 31, the film has its American theatrical premiere at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village.

At the time of the Lincoln Center protest, Mr. Conrad was playing a formative role in the sound of Minimalism as a performer in the improvising ensemble Theater of Eternal Music. The next year, he and his roommate, John Cale, were recruited to join a rock group with Lou Reed known as the Primitives, the precursor to the Velvet Underground. Rather than joining that band, Mr. Conrad moved on to other art forms, becoming a pioneer in structural film with “The Flicker” (1966), a trippy juxtaposition of black-and-white frames that reportedly caused some audience members to become physically ill.

“It seemed to be the thing that drove almost everything: There was just an incredible resistance to authority,” the new documentary’s director, Tyler Hubby, said in a recent interview. “It got very deep, the idea of resisting these established institutionalized ideas. Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t we do something different? Why can’t we make something new or see something in a different way?”

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Steve Reich

Steve Reich was recently called “our greatest living composer” (The New York Times), “America’s greatest living composer.” (The Village VOICE), “…the most original musical thinker of our time” (The New
Yorker) and “…among the great composers of the century” (The New York Times).. From his early taped speech pieces It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) to his and video artist Beryl Korot’s digital video opera Three Tales (2002), Mr. Reich’s path has embraced not only aspects of Western Classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. “There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them,” states The Guardian (London).

In April 2009 Steve Reich was awarded the Pulitzer prize in Music for his composition ‘Double Sextet’.

Performing organizations around the world marked Steve Reich’s 70th- birthday year, 2006, with festivals and special concerts. In the composer’s hometown of New York, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center joined forces to present complementary programs of his music, and in London, the Barbican mounted a major retrospective. Concerts were also presented in Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Baden-Baden, Barcelona, Birmingham, Budapest, Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen, Denver, Dublin, Freiburg, Graz, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Paris, Porto, Vancouver, Vienna and Vilnius among others. In addition, Nonesuch Records released its second box set of Steve Reich’s works, Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective, in September 2006. The five-CD collection comprises fourteen of the composer’s best-known pieces, spanning the 20 years of his time on the label.

In October 2006 in Tokyo, Mr. Reich was awarded the Preamium Imperial award in Music. This important international award is in areas in the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize. Former winners of the prize in various fields include Pierre Boulez, Lucian Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Richard Serra and Stephen Sondheim.

In May 2007 Mr. Reich was awarded The Polar Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of music. The prize was presented by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Swedish Academy said: “…Steve Reich has transferred questions of faith, society and philosophy into a hypnotic sounding music that has inspired musicians and composers of all genres.” Former winners of the Polar Prize have included Pierre Boulez, Bob Dylan, Gyorgi Ligeti and Sir Paul McCartney.

In December 2006 Mr. Reich was awarded membership in the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and in April 2007 he was awarded the Chubb Fellowship at Yale University. In May 2008 he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Born in New York and raised there and in California, Mr. Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University in 1957. For the next two years, he studied composition with Hall Overton, and from 1958 to 1961 he studied at the Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Mr. Reich received his M.A. in Music from Mills College in 1963, where he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud.

During the summer of 1970, with the help of a grant from the Institute for International Education, Mr. Reich studied drumming at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana in Accra. In 1973 and 1974 he studied Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang at the American Society for Eastern Arts in Seattle and Berkeley, California. From 1976 to 1977 he studied the traditional forms of cantillation (chanting) of the Hebrew scriptures in New York and Jerusalem.

In 1966 Steve Reich founded his own ensemble of three musicians, which rapidly grew to 18 members or more. Since 1971, Steve Reich and Musicians have frequently toured the world, and have the distinction of performing to sold-out houses at venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the Bottom Line Cabaret.

Mr. Reich’s 1988 piece, Different Trains, marked a new compositional method, rooted in It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out, in which speech recordings generate the musical material for musical instruments. The New York Times hailed Different Trains as “a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description….possesses an absolutely harrowing emotional impact.” In 1990, Mr. Reich received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Composition for Different Trains as recorded by the Kronos Quartet on the Nonesuch label.

In June 1997, in celebration of Mr. Reich’s 60th birthday, Nonesuch released a 10-CD retrospective box set of Mr. Reich’s compositions, featuring several newly-recorded and re-mastered works. He won a second Grammy award in 1999 for his piece Music for 18 Musicians, also on the Nonesuch label. In July 1999 a major retrospective of Mr. Reich’s work was presented by the Lincoln Center Festival. Earlier, in 1988, the South Bank Centre in London, mounted a similar series of retrospective concerts.

In 2000 he was awarded the Schuman Prize from Columbia University, the Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College, the Regent’s Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley, an honorary doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts and was named Composer of the Year by Musical America magazine.

The Cave, Steve Reich and Beryl Korot’s music theater video piece exploring the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac, was hailed by Time Magazine as “a fascinating glimpse of what opera might be like in the 21st century.” Of the Chicago premiere, John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The techniques embraced by this work have the potential to enrich opera as living art a thousandfold….The Cave impresses, ultimately, as a powerful and imaginative work of high-tech music theater that brings the troubled present into resonant dialogue with the ancient past, and invites all of us to consider anew our shared cultural heritage.”

Three Tales, a three-part digital documentary video opera, is a second collaborative work by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot about three well known events from the twentieth century, reflecting on the growth and implications of technology in the 20th century: Hindenburg, on the crash of the German zeppelin in New Jersey in 1937; Bikini, on the Atom bomb tests at Bikini atoll in 1946-1954; and Dolly, the sheep cloned in 1997, on the issues of genetic engineering and robotics. Three Tales is a three act music theater work in which historical film and video footage, video taped interviews, photographs, text, and specially constructed stills are recreated on computer, transferred to video tape and projected on one large screen. Musicians and singers take their places on stage along with the screen, presenting the debate about the physical, ethical and religious nature of technological development. Three Tales was premiered at the Vienna Festival in 2002 and subsequently toured all over Europe, America, Australia and Hong Kong. Nonesuch is releasing a DVD/CD of the piece in fall 2003.

Over the years, Steve Reich has received commissions from the Barbican Centre London, the Holland Festival; San Francisco Symphony; the Rothko Chapel; Vienna Festival, Hebbel Theater, Berlin, the Brooklyn Academy of Music for guitarist Pat Metheny; Spoleto Festival USA, West German Radio, Cologne; Settembre Musica, Torino, the Fromm Music Foundation for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman; the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Betty Freeman for the Kronos Quartet; and the Festival d’Automne, Paris, for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Steve Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta; the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas; The Ensemble Modern conducted by Bradley Lubman, The Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by David Robertson, the London Sinfonietta conducted by Markus Stenz and Martyn Brabbins, the Theater of Voices conducted by Paul Hillier, the Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Spano; the Saint Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin; the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Neal Stulberg; the BBC Symphony conducted by Peter Eötvös; and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Several noted choreographers have created dances to Steve Reich’s music, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (“Fase,” 1983, set to four early works as well as”Drumming,”1998 and “Rain” set to “Music for 18 Musicians”), Jirí Kylían (“Falling Angels,” set to “Drumming Part I”), Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet (“Eight Lines”) and Laura Dean, who commissioned “Sextet”. That ballet, entitled “Impact,” was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, and earned Steve Reich and Laura Dean a Bessie Award in 1986. Other major choreographers using Mr. Reich’s music include Eliot Feld, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Bejart, Lucinda Childs, Siobhan Davies and Richard Alston.

In 1994 Steve Reich was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in 1995, and, in 1999, awarded Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et Lettres.

http://www.stevereich.com

Pierre Schaeffer

The father of musique concrète, French composer Pierre Schaeffer was among the most visionary artists of the postwar era; through the creation of abstract sound mosaics divorced from conventional musical theory, he pioneered a sonic revolution which continues to resonate across the contemporary cultural landscape, most deeply in the grooves of hip-hop and electronica. Born in 1910, Schaeffer was not a trained musician or composer, but was instead working as a radio engineer when he founded the RTF electronic studio in 1944 to begin his first experiments in what would ultimately be dubbed “musique concrète.” Working with found fragments of sound — both musical and environmental in origin — he assembled his first tape-machine pieces, collages of noise manipulated through changes in pitch, duration and amplitude; the end result heralded a radical new interpretation of musical form and perception.

In October 1948, Schaeffer broadcast his first public piece, Etude aux Chemins de Fer, over French radio airwaves; although the public reaction ranged from comic disbelief to genuine outrage, many composers and performers were intrigued, among them Pierre Henry, who in 1949 joined the RTF staff, as well as future collaborators Luc Ferrari and Iannis Xenakis. (Olivier Messiaen was also a guest, bringing with him students Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez.) Schaeffer forged on, in 1948 completing Etude Pathetique, which in its frenetic mix of sampled voices anticipated the emergence of hip-hop scratching techniques by over a generation; by 1949’s Suite pour 14 Instruments, he had turned to neo-classical textures, distorted virtually beyond recognition. In 1950, Schaeffer and Henry collaborated on Symphonie pour un homme seul, a 12-movement work employing the sounds of the human body.

Working with the classically-trained Henry on subsequent pieces including Variations Sur une Flute Mexicaine and Orphee 51 clearly informed Schaeffer’s later projects, as he soon adopted a more accessible musical approach. Together, the two men also co-founded the Groupe de Musique Concrète in 1951; later rechristened the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, or GRM, their studio became the launching pad behind some of the most crucial electronic music compositions of the era, among them Edgard Varèse’s Deserts. However, by the end of the decade most of the GRM’s members grew increasingly disenchanted with the painstaking efforts required to construct pieces from vinyl records and magnetic tape; after later, tightly-constructed works like 1958’s Etude aux Sons Animes and the next year’s Etudes aux Objets, even Schaeffer himself announced his retirement from music in 1960.

Leaving the GRM in the hands of Francois Bayle, some months later Schaeffer founded the research center of the Office of French Television Broadcasting, serving as its director from 1960 to 1975; in 1967, he also published an essay titled “Musique Concrète: What Do I Know?” which largely dismissed the principles behind his groundbreaking work, concluding that what music now needed was “searchers,” not “auteurs.” In later years, Schaeffer did explore areas of psycho-acoustic research which he dubbed Traite de Objets Musicaux (TOM); these experiments yielded one final piece, the 11-minute Le Triedre Fertile. He also hit the lecture circuit and agreed to produce radio presentations. Pierre Schaeffer died in Aix-en-Provence on August 19, 1995.

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/pierre-schaeffer-mn0000679092/biography

R. Murray Schafer

R. Murray Schafer is Canada’s pre-eminent composer and is known throughout the world. In an era of specialization, R. Murray Schafer has shown himself to be a true renaissance man.

Born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1933, Murray Schafer has won national and international acclaim not only for his achievement as a composer but also as an educator, environmentalist, literary scholar, visual artist and provocateur. After receiving a Licentiate in piano through the Royal Schools of Music (England) in 1952, he pursued further studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, followed by periods of autodidactic study in Austria and England which encompassed literature, philosophy, music and journalism. A prolific composer, he has written works ranging from orchestral compositions to choral music as well as musical theatre and multi-media ritual.

His diversity of interests is reflected by the enormous range and depth of such works as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Flute Concerto (1984), and the World Soundscape Project, as well as his 12-part Patria music theatre cycle. His most important book, The Tuning of the World (1977), documents the findings of his World Soundscape Project, which united the social, scientific and artistic aspects of sound and introduced the concept of acoustic ecology. The concept of soundscape unifies most of his musical and dramatic work, as well as his educational and cultural theories.

His other major books include E.T.A. Hoffmann and Music (1975), Ezra Pound and his Music (1977), On Canadian Music (1984), Voices of Tyranny: Temples of Silence (1993), and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education (1986). He has received commissions from numerous organizations as well as several prizes. He was the first winner of the Glenn Gould Prize for Music and Communication as well as the Molson Award for distinctive service to the arts. In 2005 he was awarded the Walter Carsen Prize, by the Canada Council for the Arts, one of the top honours for lifetime achievement by a Canadian artist.

Murray Schafer’s new creation (opera), “Patria 8 – The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix” was very successfully premiered September 13-16, 2001 in four shows, recorded by CBC Radio. Eight shows were presented from August 31 to September 10, 2006, in Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. It was magical and beautiful (see photos and press reviews).

http://www.philmultic.com/composers/schafer.html

LUIGI RUSSOLO

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Luigi Russolo with his assistant Ugo Piatti and their Intonarumori (noise machines)

The Art of Noise
by Luigi Russolo February 22, 2004

 

Luigi Russolo (1885 – 1947), Italian futurist painter and musician and inventor of the “intonarumori” expounded his musical theories in 1913 in this manifesto entitled “L’arte dei rumori” (The Art of Noises) in which he presented his ideas about the use of noises in music.

Dear Balilla Pratella, great Futurist composer,

In Rome, in the Costanzi Theatre, packed to capacity, while I was listening to the orchestral performance of your overwhelming FUTURIST MUSIC, with my Futurist friends, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carrà, Balla, Soffici, Papini and Cavacchioli, a new art came into my mind which only you can create, the Art of Noises, the logical consequence of your marvelous innovations.

Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.

Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites. And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.
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Dan Lander


Dan Lander – Talking to a Loudspeaker

Dan Lander studied art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax (Nova Scotia) with a focus on performance, video and sound. After leaving school he set up a modest recording studio in his apartment and developed a method of composition which sprang from his interest in phonography and the referential in recorded sound. This interest also led to his involvement as an editor of two anthologies: Sound by Artists (1990) and Radio Rethink: Art, Sound and Transmission (194). He was the producer of the radio art program The Problem with Language (CKLN, Toronto) from 1987 to 1991. His works for radio and loudspeaker are dependent on sound recordings gathered from real life situations, organized with an ear to the ways in which meaning circulates through the invisible conduit of sounding and hearing. His works have been widely aired in North America and Europe.


Dan Lander – Composition


Dan Lander – Decomposition