Miguel del Aguila's Pacific Serenade: at its best it's a quiet, delicate, sensuous clarinet tango which reminds me of the clarinet solo in Verdi's Forza. His blues is beautiful functionally tonal writing.
Jehan Alain wrote the Ballade of the Hanged Man early in life but he died in WWII at the age of 29. He might have become something because the Ballade is interesting.
La Citta by Alfonso Belfiore is continuous but interesting white noise (the best part of the piece) over which is a pointillistic improv of acoustics (including an intriguing conchshell).
Karl Birgen Blondahl wrote a Pastoralsvif for string orchestra with a natural melodic line like Menotti. He was the leader of the Monday Group (
Paul Bowles was music critic for the Herald Tribune as well as a novelist. He was friends with everyone. He wrote music for silent films as well as Welles' Mercury Theatre. His Scenes D'Anabase is very precious and very French. His 2 Pianos, winds and percussion concerto is pure Bernstein's Candide: rumba ostinati, chinoiserie, jazz. He wrote a nice Night Waltz that would make a good encore piece on a piano recital. If only he had spent less time socializing and more time writing...
Theodore Chanler's 8 Epigrams is understated, naturalistic and economical. Bloch was his teacher. Sanford Sylvan sings these lovely songs.
I don't know what to make of Barney Childs. His Take 5 is an early chance piece. The score is a set of cards with instruction: "pause" "change timbre" "fluttertongue" etc. A Music that it Might Be for clarinet and pre-recorded clarinet predates Steve Reich's counterpoint series. At one point the two lines are tuned an intriguing quarter tone apart in an isorhythmic canon. Grande Fantasie de Concert is a parody on atonal clarinet solo pieces (Carter? Babbitt?). London Rice Wine must be a take off on Yoko Ono. Written for any instrument, the score is "Play a pitch. Bend it a little...then let it come back. Stop it harshly" etc. Pastoral is a clarinet modal improv. Instant Winners is a solo clarinet piece with various squeaks, speaking, multiphonics, etc. to be played in any order. Changes for 3 Oboes is just that" ringing changes for oboes. Quartet for Bassoons: how could it not be pure Hitchcock with that combo? The Golden Bubble is the only piece for solo Eb contrabass sarusaphone I know of. He wrote voluminously on new music. He studied with Carter and Copland. I admire his wealth of ideas--although I'm not sure if they're musical ones or merely novelty ideas.
Bernard Herrman's Etudes is his Elgar Enigma Variations. If he sounds like background music to Vertigo it could be because he really did write (very successfully) Vertigo and others like it for
Hugo Distler is one of the "degenerate composers" under the Nazi regime. They destroyed his manuscripts and killed him at 34. I was expecting something dissonant and angst ridden. Actually, Orgel Partita is quite a like-able piece: no barlines, modal.
Peter Eotvos' 2 Monologues is lyrical, atonal. Harawakiri is very Kabuki, bent tones, drum claps out of silence, intriguing.
Cantos Vivos by Milton Estevez is Bartokian night sounds, a nice maraca solo, delicate, refined, great chords for massed flutes.
Domenick Argneto's 6 Elizabethan Songs recalls Purcell and Byrd, is often quite beautiful and vocally sensitive.
George Benjamin: Messiaen loved him. Antara sounds like Boulez, proper music samples, some beautiful moments. I'd like to hear more.
Lawrence Fritts's Minute Variations: uses voice in a percussive way to accompany another voice used properly as a voice.
H.K. Gruber's Frankenstein is described as a pandemonium but it sounds like out-takes to Three Penny Opera with a touch of Cabaret. Gruber as the "singer" takes Lotte Lenya's place excellently. His Violin Concerto for all its literary pop allusions is a nice, middle of the road violin concerto. Three Mob Pieces, scored for seven interchangeable instruments and percussion, has the pop singer’s matter-of-factness Reich made famous in his work. 3 Songs from Gomora is Weill again but I want to hear more.
Scott Gresham-Lancaster studied with Gene Tyranny and Robert Ashley so he has the credentials. Whackers is a "large sound sculpture." By this he means that he uses a percussion section of large suspended sheets of steel with brass rods, a piano harp, suspended automobile fuel tanks, circular sheets of suspended balloons. It sounds like a nice, middle of the road percussion piece. I want to hear more of him, however he names his work.
Annie Gosfield's The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory features de-tuned piano sounds, very Russian Constructivist, lots of ostinati and timbre changes, slow kabuki theatre lines, folk melodies and driving rhythms.
Heinz Holliger's Come and Go is an opera for female voices, flutes, clarinets, violas. The libretto is by Samuel Beckett. I found intriguing that the play is repeated three times—like kabuki. The instrumentalists participate in the action---like Partch.. The voices are spoken, sung, everything in between---like Berio. There’s extreme economy of gestures and movements in a closed universe---like Beckett. Still, after you get past all this--Stockhausen did it better. In What Where, with another Sam Beckett text, I discover that trombones really can blend well with the voice if treated correctly.
Alexander Rugajev's Petite Suite Parisienne is a Milhaud inspired jaunt with a fun French baroque overture finale.
Chant des Rochers by Gerald Levinson is a homage to Messiaen and sounds like him. There’s a little Tibetan ritual music thrown in (I love bass chanting, big horns and percussion) and lovely woodwind chords.
One improv group I do like is the Hub: the first microcomputer network band. They pass messages between one another on their laptops which store common memory. In Hot Pig Chris Brown plays gazamba. It’s a soup-ed-up prepared electric piano which sounds way cool. Phil Stone plays an axe-thing, which he says is like a guitar which processes and plays back sampled sound. Finally Tim Perkins plays the mouse guitar, another soup-ed-up synth controller. Their Dove Tail improv’s not bad either. Borrowing and Stealing by Phil Stone is just melodies all sent to the Hub's shared memory and improv-ed.
Am I the only one who thinks Brian Ferneyhough is a bit of a put-on? I mean, have you seen the scores? There’s nothing easier than writing impossible-to-execute notation. I wrote reams of it as a student until I realized that the goal of notation is not to make things more difficult for the performer but to make things as simple as possible. Besides, big-time notation has already been done to death (see Stockhausen’s early Klavierstuck for big-deal notation that actually makes sense). Anyway, Ferneyhough’s Adagissimo throughout has pointillistic high notes over long held chords. If you like angst-ridden European dodecaphony he’s your man.
I’ve played Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata but I’ve never recorded it. Every pianist on disc plays it like a respectful funeral march. I mean, just because it happens to be a glorious example of German expressionism doesn’t mean it can’t swing.
I’m impressed with Jonathan Harvey’s work. His Song Offerings has some beautiful moments: microtonal fluctuation in harmonics evocative with unique harmonic underpinning; nice contrasts of dark harmonies and light voice; a sweet color of bells, whistles and crotales: transparent high sounds like much more than the nine instruments its scored for; the crotales are played with the piano’s upper range; sprechsung usually dated but here it works; some beautiful harmonies that remind me of Messiaen. The Sufi Dance is for microtonal guitar: you wouldn’t think it does but it works.
A little distraught God’s Breath by Beatriz Ferreyra is a little gem.
Navai by Susan Deihim: the Andrew Sisters in Persian, what I mean is close female western harmonies to Persian melodies. She works with Elliott Sharp.