Author Topic: The 'Downtown' New York School & Beyond  (Read 4528 times)

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snyprrr

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The 'Downtown' New York School & Beyond
« on: December 30, 2012, 10:56:13 AM »
I fell into the unhappy task of getting to the bottom of the seemingly endless noodling of the '60s American Experimental Composers. I'm currently in the process of listening to, what sounds like to me, hours and days of drones and bleeps and plucks and snaps and whistling whines.

We all know The New York School, at least by name:

John Cage
Morton Feldman
Christian Wolff
James Tenney
Earle Brown


I'm just going off the top of my head, so bear with me. But, I am curious about what you think of the latter three: Wolff, Tenney, and Brown. Go ahead from there, then, and also add:

Frank Denyer (UK; but grouped with these Composers)
Alvin Currier
Alvin Lucier

Robert Ashley


and:

LaMonte Young
Terry Riley



Names that I've heard, but are new to me:

Gordon Mumma
Kenneth Gaburo

Then there is what I'd call the 'Bang On A Can' Composers:

Julia Wolff
Nik Dikovsky
David Lang
Tina Davidson
Eve Beglarian
'The Balloon Lady'
Larry Polansky
Rhys Chatham

...the list is endless. I have been listening to sample after sample from the widest array of this group, and I think it's safe to say I'm not a big fan of New York in the '80s-'90s,... at least if the CRI/NewWorld/Albany/Bridge catalogs are any indiction of what's going on.


So, here's my dilemma. So much of what I've heard sounds like... aye... 'unfinished' might be the best word... directions on a page, interpreted as 'improvisation'... the same sounds heard over and over from different sources... one gets to a place where one feels one MUST accept EVERYTHING, and listen to EVERYTHING... when, after a looong time, one wonders if one's time is being taken up by cds who sound pretty much like opening the window and hearing what's outside. At one point  realized that I hadn't listened to any... MUSIC... in weeks,... just these records of 'sounds'. When I finally heard a snippet of a violin, it was as lightning going off.

All of a sudden I tire of this Thread, but I am not mature enough simply to erase it, so, I foist it upon thee! I hope it doesn't devolve into me, someguy, and James,... but, hey, at least we'll have a home!! ;D

I'm most interested in Wolff, Tenney, Brown,...
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 10:59:35 PM by snyprrr »

Offline PaulSC

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2012, 01:57:46 PM »
We all know The New York School, at least by name:

John Cage
Morton Feldman
Christian Wolff
James Tenney
Earle Brown

Cage, Feldman, Wolff, and Brown are the central figures. Tenney, an important experimentalist, had only loose ties to this group. Are you thinking of David Tudor?

I'm a big admirer of Feldman's music, especially from the 1970s onward. I have a more selective appreciation of the rest, but there is some great stuff: Cage's String Quartet In Four Parts, Sonatas & Interludes, Music of Changes; Brown's Available Forms - those are some of my favorites.
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Offline petrarch

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2012, 04:09:21 PM »
Aside from Cage and Feldman, I enjoy some of Brown's works quite a bit, such as Folio, Four Systems, the various month/year pieces and more recently, Tracer. Wolff I find a hit or miss thing, and I didn't delve too deeply into his music for that reason.

Alvin Lucier has some interesting pieces, of which I am sitting in a room is probably the most well-known.

There are a number of composers you haven't listed, such as Robert Ashley, of whom you can watch the mildly interesting Perfect Lives video opera on Peter Greenaway's documentary Four American Composers. His series of interviews of other american composers Music with Roots in the Aether, available on ubuweb, is probably a good introduction to a few other names.
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snyprrr

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2012, 09:32:31 AM »
Aside from Cage and Feldman, I enjoy some of Brown's works quite a bit, such as Folio, Four Systems, the various month/year pieces and more recently, Tracer. Wolff I find a hit or miss thing, and I didn't delve too deeply into his music for that reason.

Alvin Lucier has some interesting pieces, of which I am sitting in a room is probably the most well-known.

There are a number of composers you haven't listed, such as Robert Ashley, of whom you can watch the mildly interesting Perfect Lives video opera on Peter Greenaway's documentary Four American Composers. His series of interviews of other american composers Music with Roots in the Aether, available on ubuweb, is probably a good introduction to a few other names.

What prompted this Thread was The Barton Workshop, a group that records all these Composers for Mode, Etcetera, and NewWorld. All I have is the Feldman set 'Ecstasy of the Moment', but, I'm such a sucker for these things. Wolff has three sets by this group, and from the samples I just get a sneaking suspicion that there's not actually a lot of REAL interest to be had from listening to random plucks and scrapes.

I recently got the NewWorld disc of Robert Ashley's 'orchestral' music (MIDI orchestra), which sounded a lot like Harold Budd to me.

Offline San Antone

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2012, 09:38:25 AM »
Milton Babbitt
Stefan Wolpe
Elliott Carter


These three composers along with the others mentioned I could consider members of the NY School.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 09:47:29 AM by sanantonio »

Offline Lisz

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2012, 09:44:05 AM »
hmmmm...

would you consider Ellen Taaffe Zwilich New York School?

dyn

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2012, 09:49:36 AM »
What prompted this Thread was The Barton Workshop, a group that records all these Composers for Mode, Etcetera, and NewWorld. All I have is the Feldman set 'Ecstasy of the Moment', but, I'm such a sucker for these things. Wolff has three sets by this group, and from the samples I just get a sneaking suspicion that there's not actually a lot of REAL interest to be had from listening to random plucks and scrapes.

I recently got the NewWorld disc of Robert Ashley's 'orchestral' music (MIDI orchestra), which sounded a lot like Harold Budd to me.
i've only ever heard two pieces of Wolff's done live. one was a world premiere whose title i've forgotten. it was a long piece, largely a patchwork of not overly interesting ideas, which only particularly appealed to me in the moments when the performers were given the most freedom. for that reason i also liked the realisation of For 1, 2 or 3 People i heard.

Hildegard, Zwilich stands rather apart from other composers mentioned in this thread... most of them are "experimentalists" (Cage and Feldman's later work, which derives its structure from the states of being of the listener rather than the sounds themselves, veers into the Lachenmann-ish "performative" tradition albeit in a very different way) whereas Zwilich's work falls more within the Western concert music tradition. as such, her music is rather different than that of any "New York School" affiliated composer.

Offline San Antone

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2012, 09:51:31 AM »
hmmmm...

would you consider Ellen Taaffe Zwilich New York School?

Never heard of her.  But, I now see that I was not entirely familiar with the phrase "New York School", and all that it implies.   For my money, Milton Babbitt is the quintessential NY composer - despite the artificial connotation that phrase seems to have.


dyn

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2012, 09:57:36 AM »
Never heard of her.  But, I now see that I was not entirely familiar with the phrase "New York School", and all that it implies.   For my money, Milton Babbitt is the quintessential NY composer - despite the artificial connotation that phrase seems to have.
it's a rather odd turn of phrase and one i always put in quotes for that reason. every composer part of the "New York School" worked in New York, but not every composer in New York is part of the "New York School".

musicologists define it vaguely but i've most commonly seen it connected to terms like John Cage, Morton Feldman, Fluxus, happenings, Black Mountain, graphic notation, 1950s, 1960s, topless cellists and smashed pianos.

(some of that may have actually been in California, making the term even less descriptive)

Offline Lisz

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2012, 11:16:28 AM »
Never heard of her.  But, I now see that I was not entirely familiar with the phrase "New York School", and all that it implies.   For my money, Milton Babbitt is the quintessential NY composer - despite the artificial connotation that phrase seems to have.

There have been threads about her and her works on this Forum. Here is one link: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,10011.20.html

Definitely worth a view and some listening. Unfortunately, some of her recordings may be "out of print."

Whether she should be considered New York School is left undefined for me.


Offline lescamil

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2012, 01:03:49 PM »
hmmmm...

would you consider Ellen Taaffe Zwilich New York School?

While she does write solidly crafted music, she would not fit into this so-called New York School to me. She is more in the field of Neo-Romanticism, which is a label you can't put on any of the so-called New York School composers. The same would go for Nico Muhly, a young New York-based composer who may not be Neo-Romantic, but is also too far outside of the composers named at the top of this thread.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2012, 01:51:49 PM »
While she does write solidly crafted music, she would not fit into this so-called New York School to me. She is more in the field of Neo-Romanticism, which is a label you can't put on any of the so-called New York School composers. The same would go for Nico Muhly, a young New York-based composer who may not be Neo-Romantic, but is also too far outside of the composers named at the top of this thread.

I've listened to some of her work on Spotify - I would tend to agree with your description.  Her Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players has something of a Stravinsky influence.  I've also listened to her Double String Quartet, which has less Stravinsky, but is still in the Druckman, Schwantner, Corigliano mold.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - I enjoy all those guys.   :)

Odd (to me) that I've never run across her before now.   ::)

Offline San Antone

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2012, 01:59:31 PM »
Carter was a lone rogue, and more international in outlook, of the American maverick mould (i.e. Ives, or even Nancarrow) .. it's wrong to associate him with that school, he found Cage & and like to be embarassing & uninteresting on musical grounds. Deeply trained in Paris with Boulanger. In the early part of his career he tried to adopt a neoclassical/nationalistic style a la Copland, with some jazz influence .. as his earlier compositions illustrate .. and he looked up to Stravinsky, and admired Varese (who lived in NYC). And he also admired Boulez, Stockhausen & later Lachenmann. The famous American so-called "minimalist" types Glass (also Boulanger trained), & Reich, and less famous ones Young & Riley (already mentioned in OP) ..  are more closely tied to the NY school. I don't think Babbitt (or Wolpe) was really of that "click" either, Babbitt was a creature of the academic world mainly, and his work reeks of that.

I admire Milton Babbitt's work; also Elliott Carter, who while it is true all you wrote, I still think of him and Babbitt as typifying the New York energy and sound.  Stefan Wolpe is a very fine composer, someone whose work I think is underestimated.  You think academia "reeks"?    ::)  You are too hung up on labels if you ask me.

It doesn't really matter if we agree on this stuff.  It is interesting to hear what others think and like even if I don't feel the same.  I discovered a composer that I'd never heard before - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich - and I'm happy for that.

I was merely stating my own ideas about who I thought of as "New York" composers.  And my ideas obviously were not formed by the sub-category "The New York School" coined to include specific composers mentioned early on in this thread.

Offline Dax

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2012, 10:52:45 PM »
Frank Denyer is in fact a British composer who lives and works in the UK.

snyprrr

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2012, 10:57:34 PM »
Frank Denyer is in fact a British composer who lives and works in the UK.

DOH! :o

Sorry. I see his name along with all the others and it's so incestuous... is he like Fred Frith in a way?... any other recommends?...



I admire Milton Babbitt's work; also Elliott Carter, who while it is true all you wrote, I still think of him and Babbitt as typifying the New York energy and sound.  Stefan Wolpe is a very fine composer, someone whose work I think is underestimated.  You think academia "reeks"?    ::)  You are too hung up on labels if you ask me.

It doesn't really matter if we agree on this stuff.  It is interesting to hear what others think and like even if I don't feel the same.  I discovered a composer that I'd never heard before - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich - and I'm happy for that.

I was merely stating my own ideas about who I thought of as "New York" composers.  And my ideas obviously were not formed by the sub-category "The New York School" coined to include specific composers mentioned early on in this thread.

I have fixed the Thread Title.

snyprrr

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Re: The 'Downtown' New York School & Beyond
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2012, 11:19:17 PM »
I do appreciate the 'Downtown'/'Uptown' debate, very interesting. Zwilich is Uptown for sure,... Glass,... Babbitt, as has been mentioned, Wuorinen, and so on,...

Many of the Composers in the other camp would be wearing t-shirts and jamming with Sonic Youth (probably a key point here, no?).

I was going to saves this, but, the electric guitar 'work' by the American (and I guess UK, bla bla) so-called Composers,... ugh, it's horrifyingly, mind numbingly obsessive,... usually with echo-plex set at 'feedback 100%', droning on a 'low E'. Rhys Chatham and Polansky, and frankly, every electric guitar album I come across that is supposed to be by art composers,... apparently Sonic Youth IS the best of this sort of stuff, and at least they wrote a good song ('Strangers of a Train/Shadow of a Doubt'... "kiss me").

There's a lot of this on YouTube, and I'm always hopeful, but it's sinfully bad what passes for Serious Composition in the electric guitar field. Frankly, 'Eruption' is The Truth compared to this stuff,... really?, does every piece have to have a Digital Delay so we can call it a 'Canon'? ::)

Not one piece with distortion, or any effects used interestingly. It seems they like the plain clean guitar sound with compression and delay loops causing feedback patterns. I get the impression that no real guitar technology scientific thinking goes into their, sorry, 'noodling'. From Murail, to the New York Composers, I'm just not impressed with the elite's conception of what can be done with an electric guitar.

Actually, Aperghis has a nice gnarly toned one in his opera. I remember the Mingus 'Epitaph', which has good Orchestral Guitar, and LaMonte Young's 'G Blues', or something,... I had the 2cd set a while back, anyone remember, it was pretty good guitar, but it sounded like raga blues, so, it was taking a cue, which is what the rest of these people need, a clue, that the electric guitar sounds GREAT when

snyprrr

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Re: The 'Downtown' New York School & Beyond
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2012, 11:20:18 PM »
And don't forget bad boys Zorn and Sharp.

Offline Dax

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2013, 04:12:42 AM »
DOH! :o

Sorry. I see his name along with all the others and it's so incestuous... is he like Fred Frith in a way?... any other recommends?...

Please excuse the off-topic reply. I don't know Frank Denyer's music at all well, but I do know that it's well worth investigation. He is one of the mostly independently-minded composers in the UK today and his music is impossible to link with anybody else's. His independence and tendency to write for unusual instruments/combinations has probably resulted in reputation which is severely underpublicised which is a pity.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Denyer will provide a bit more info and he does have his own website.

Offline Lisz

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Re: The New York School & Beyond
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2013, 08:17:40 PM »
i've only ever heard two pieces of Wolff's done live. one was a world premiere whose title i've forgotten. it was a long piece, largely a patchwork of not overly interesting ideas, which only particularly appealed to me in the moments when the performers were given the most freedom. for that reason i also liked the realisation of For 1, 2 or 3 People i heard.

Hildegard, Zwilich stands rather apart from other composers mentioned in this thread... most of them are "experimentalists" (Cage and Feldman's later work, which derives its structure from the states of being of the listener rather than the sounds themselves, veers into the Lachenmann-ish "performative" tradition albeit in a very different way) whereas Zwilich's work falls more within the Western concert music tradition. as such, her music is rather different than that of any "New York School" affiliated composer.

Dyn, TY for your insights about Zwilich. I do think her works have paralleled events in her life, with her music taking a very sharp turn in the late 70s. I hope to have the opportunity at some point to delve much deeper into the evolution of her musical style and essence.     

Offline 7/4

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Re: The 'Downtown' New York School & Beyond
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2013, 05:34:19 AM »
I could never get into Earl Brown's music, it never really did anything for me.

I tried with Music for Piano(s) (New Albion)