From the Bins: Three West Coast Composers

2016-04-30 19.06.04I had just paid for an armful of LPs at Iris Records, my local vinyl emporium in Jersey City’s Village. I was turning to leave when Steve, sitting behind the stacks of records crowding around the cash, stopped me. He pulled a record from the pile “This just came in,” he said with that slightly fiendish grin he gets when he knows he’ll hook me into buying another record. I’m sure I’m not the only customer who regularly flips through Iris’s avant-garde bin, but I’m probably the most consistent. It is my work, and my passion, and Steve knows to keep an eye out for me.

One of the challenges of listening to avant-garde music is finding avant-garde music to listen to. Most major cities have some kind of contemporary and experimental music scene. You can usually find something going on in a gallery, at a local conservatory (like the Juilliard School here in New York), in a particularly adventurous performance venue (like Le Poisson Rouge, also in New York), or as part of a contemporary music festival (there are still a few of those). There’s always radio and, with the Internet and smartphones, you can listen to WQXR’s Q2 stream pretty much anywhere. The challenge is listening to recorded avant-garde music on your own time.

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Listening in the Dark: The Avant-Garde at the Movies

Click play for the third episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. “Listening in the Dark: The Avant-Garde at the Movies.” Host Matthew Friedman explores the intimate connections between avant-garde music and cinema. Since the early days of the 20th century, avant-garde music has provided the soundtrack of the world’s cinematic imagination.

The soundtrack album for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) stimulated unprecedented interest in adventurous avant-garde music, and sold 500,000 copies within a year.
The soundtrack album for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) stimulated unprecedented interest in adventurous avant-garde music, and sold 500,000 copies within a year.

Episode 3 Playlist: Listening in the Dark

ligeti_requiem_aventuresGyorgy Ligeti, Requiem, Hessian Radio Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Michael Gielen
LigetI: Requiem/Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures,  ‎WERGO – WER 60045-50


ANTHEIL_FIGHTING_THE_WAVESGeorge Antheil, Ballet Mécanique, Ensemble Modern
Fighting the Waves: Music of George Antheil, BMG Classics ‎– 09026-68066-2


cage_prepared pianoJohn Cage, Works of Calder II, Giancarlo Simonacci
John Cage: Complete Music for Prepared Piano, Brilliant Classics ‎– 8189


forbidden_planetLouis and Bebe Baron, “Ancient Krell Music,” Forbidden Planet
Forbidden Planet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),
Small Planet Records ‎– PRD-00


herrmann_scoresBernard Hermann, “The Knife,” Psycho, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen
Bernard Herrmann: The Film Scores,
Sony Classical ‎– SK 927767


rosenmanLeonard Rosenman, “The Planetarium,” Rebel Without a Cause, London Sinfonietta, John Adams
The Film Music of Leonard Rosenman: East Of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, Nonesuch ‎– 7559-79402-2


planet_of_the_apesJerry Goldsmith, “Main Title,” Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes Soundtrack
, The Masters Record Label ‎– Masters 1249


takemitsu_filmToru Takemitsu, music from Woman in the Dunes
Film Music of Takemitsu
, Nonesuch ‎– 79404-2


2001Gyorgy Ligeti, Atmospheres
2001: A Space Odyssey (Music from the Motion Picture Sound Track)
, MGM Records ‎– S1E-13 S


adams_violin_concertoJohn Adams, “A Final Shake,” Shaker Loops, Orchestra of St. Lukes, John Adams
Adams: Violin Concerto/Shaker Loops, Nonesuch ‎– 79360-2

Rites of Spring: The Concert Season at the End of the World

Nicholas Roerich's costumes for Le Sacre du Printemps
Nicholas Roerich’s costumes for Le Sacre du Printemps

Outrage flooded into the aisles of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées on the night of 29 May 1913, and spilled into the streets of Paris’s 8e Arrondissement. The premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, a new ballet staged by Sergei Diaghilev’s Les Ballets Russes, with choreography by Vaclav Nijinsky and a pulsing, dissonant score by 31-year-old Igor Stravinsky, had incited a riot. The well-heeled patrons from the 16e, the tony, bourgeois quartier around the Trocadero Palace, howled in disgust, demanding a refund for their tickets and the heads of the men responsible for the travesty of taste that they had just witnessed, though not necessarily in that order; the bohemians from Montmartre shouted back in defence. Epithets flew, backed with fists, umbrellas and handbags. One of the greatest works of musical theatre of the young century debuted in chaos.

It was, Diaghilev gaily commented, “exactly what I wanted.”

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Order From Chaos: Modernism and Rationality in 12 Tones

Click play for the second episode of No Sounds Are Forbidden. “Order From Chaos: Modernism and Rationality in 12 Tones,” explores the radical conservatism of Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone composition method, and its impact on western avant-garde music before, and after the Second World War.

Modernists in exile in America. From left to right: Rudolf Kolisch, George Szell, Max Horkheimer, Felix Khuner, Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler, an unidentified person, and Eduard Steuermann
Modernists in exile in America. From left to right: Violinist Rudolf Kolisch, conductor George Szell, Max Horkheimer, violinist Felix Khuner (squatting), Arnold Schönberg, Hanns Eisler, an unidentified person, and pianist Eduard Steuermann.

This episode features music by Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Hanns Eisler, Luigi Dallapiccola, Igor Stravinsky, Milton Babbitt, and Donald Martino.

Episode 2 Playlist: Order From Chaos

schoenberg_hillArnold Schoenberg, Five Piano Pieces, Op. 23, Walzer, Peter Hill

Berg/Schoenberg/Webern: Piano Music, Naxo – 8.553870


stravinsky_shadowdancesIgor Stravinsky, Octet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Stravinsky: Shadow Dances, Deutsche Grammophon –  453 458-2


schoenberg_boulezArnold Schoenberg, Variations for Orchestra, Variation 1, BBC Symphony, Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez conducts Schoenberg, Sony Classical ‎–  88765429572


webern_completeAnton Webern, String Quartet, Op. 28, 2nd movement, Emerson Quartet

Complete Webern, Deutsche Grammophon ‎–  457 637-2


berg_mutterAlban Berg, Violin Concerto, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine

Berg: Violin Concerto/Rihm: Time Chant, Deutsche Grammophon – 437 093-2


dallapiccolaLuigi Dallapiccola, Variations for Orchestra, Andantino Amoroso, BBC Philharmonic

Dallapiccola: Tartiniana; Due Pezzi; Variazioni per Orchestra; Piccola Musica Notturna; Frammenti Sinfonici dal Balle, Chandos – CHAN 10258


eisler_kammermusikHanns Eisler, 14 Arten, den Regen zu beschreiben, Op. 70, Berlin Deutsche Opera Chamber Soloists, Friedrich-Carl Erben

Hanns Eisler: Kammermusik, Berlin Classics – 0093542BC


stravinsky_craftIgor Stravinsky, Agon, Bransle Double, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Robert Craft

Stravinsky: Three Greek Ballets, Naxos – 8.557502


babbitt_quartetMilton Babbitt, Quartet No. 2, The Composers Quartet

Ruth Crawford Seeger / George Perle / Milton Babbitt String Quartets, Nonesuch  ‎– H-71280


martino_wuorinenDonald Martino, Notturno, Speculum Musicae

Martino: Notturno/Wuorinen: Speculum Speculi, Nonesuch ‎– H-71300