Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

One Note

February 28th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Music

I spent most of the day sorting through the papers, publications, and files that have piled up this winter, perhaps in wishful thinking that spring and spring cleaning are on the way. It’s tax time and financial aid day, and I filled out the FAFSA and PROFILE forms online to put in our financial aid requests for another year.

As I went through a stack, I found a program from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert that Lilli and I attended over her Winter break. On Thursday Jan. 14, we went to hear Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The program included Alban Berg’s “Violin Concerto,” with soloist Kyoko Takezawa.

I had not ear the Berg piece and looked forward to it. Now six weeks later I still remember Miss Takezawa moving, almost contorting her body, throughout the entire piece. There is little if any break for the soloist during the XX minutes of this remarkable piece.

What I remember most–and what Lilli and I both remembered vividly after leaving Symphony Hall, was the last note. One note. I saw Miss Takezawa run the bow down the high string for what seemed to be minutes, without wavering the tone at all, and I wondered in my amazement and awe if she would bow back. She did, without a break.

One high pure exquisite note.

A memory jogged by finding a saved program and making the sorting worth the effort.


Harry Partch

January 10th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Music

American composer Harry Partch wrote marvelously strange soundscapes, compositions that are a surge of percussive rhythms, subtle washes of stringed strums, and a bodily sense of motion and movement. The tones all sound right but not quite, as indeed they are not to Western ears, given that Partch divided the octave we normally hear in 8 tones into many more smaller divisions, generally on instruments of his own design and making.

I have not heard Partch’s music in many years and likely would not have for many more, but I came across him today from what seemed to be a most unlikely source. I have been listening to Beck’s latest album, Modern Guilt, over and over for months now.

I love the drums and the slightly psychedelic guitar and the overall flow of the CD. I decided to look at the Beck website, and there in the news, I ran into . . . Harry Partch.

Beck has an excerpt of a 1968 TV documentary on Partch and his instruments, and he has his  new song, “Harry Partch” (bottom of the page), described as a “tribute to California bred composer Harry Partch’s concept of ‘Corporeality’—the integration of the body with all art forms.” In Partchian fashion, it uses a 43 tone scale, and it’s interesting.

But not nearly as interesting, fascinating, and breathtaking as the posted recordings from Partch himself, clips from one of his last compositions, Delusion of the Fury. You have heard nothing like it, and you should.


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Twitter Music

January 3rd, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Music

I am announcing the first musical composition performed through Twitter, with me as the composer and first performer. The composition is called “John Cage Meets Social Media,” and here’s how it goes:

John Cage meets social media. Click link, then click each of the first four videos in turn, in 2 second intervals:

I wrote this and posted it to my Twitter account on December 22, 2009. I was quite amused by the sounds made when the video answers to four questions on social media play at the same time, how the words go in and out of phase and the ending of the fourth question almost sounds like it belongs with the answer to the first question. I felt like I had much too much time on my hands that evening, even though I did not.

It isn’t yet a famous composition. Bitly recorded 15 clicks on the link, and my friend Andrew Ettenhofer, Sales Director at fig media, told me he actually played it. I can say it’s been performed at least twice.

I am not a big John Cage fan, but I love the idea of indeterminancy in his compositions. When I was in high school music theory class, and George Hattendorf, our instructor and assistant band director, told us about Cage’s composition, 4’33”, I was captivated. It was one of those moments, a flash of pure understanding: that music was all around us, and all we had to do was listen closely.

For a full and complete treatment of 4’33” as well as  Cage’s philosophy and aesthetic, read “The Sounds of Silence,” by Larry J. Solomon.

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October 25th, 2009 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in History, Music

I hung around artists and musicians in school. I listened to concerts and records, and Indiana University is was wonderful place to listen to concerts because there’s generally several excellent recitals a night. Here are profiles I wrote of some of the artists I was privileged to have as friends and neighbors.

Jane Fox. Jane was the old lady who lived in the apartment on the second floor of our building when I moved off campus as a sophomore. I got to talking to her and found that she had been a modern dance instructor at the university for more than 50 years. It was also my first page-one feature.

Philip French. Mr. French was a classmate of my dad’s when he was at Indiana University in the 1950s. I met him several times when he came to the States from London. I remember his visit when I was a sophomore, and I asked him about the British view of the American Revolution. In his refined London accent he said, “Well, you know the British Army never lost a war. The Revolution was just one we happened not to win.” I reviewed his book of on three critics, and wrote a profile for the paper.

Paul Sturm. When I first saw him, Paul was the crazy looking guy turning the electronic dials and playing with tapes. I reviewed a “happening” he and some of his artist friends put on, and then interviewed him. He was engineer for a late night radio station, and I’d visit and talk about music and help with tape experiments. We had broad tastes, not like the narrowly focused, in his words, “jazz Nazi’s and classical fascists.”

David Baker. Professor Baker is a pioneering jazz educator and composer. He was flamboyant and mischievous, especially in a music school of symphony musicians. He was my next door neighbor and would invite me to his student parties. He called me one of the best music writers he had seen at the school.

I took his jazz history class as a junior, and during our exam on avant garde jazz, I kept turning my head and looking at him as he laughed in the back of the class. I was baffled. He’d play a piece, and we had to identify it by style. Nothing he played that day was jazz. He was joking with the symphony students, playing Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Conlon Nancarrow. I kept looking back confused because I wondered why he was playing composed music and not improvised jazz. I wanted to point that out. “You should have,” he told me later. “You were the only one in the room who knew what I was playing. I would have loved it, you dig?”

I last saw David for the first time in more than 25 years in September 2006, at the premier in Chicago of his Concertino for Cell Phones and Orchestra.