Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Los Angeles - New Music Backwater

I confess that my previous post wandered aimlessly. Eventually I touched on the history of new music in Los Angeles during my years. I also discussed who controls what music gets performed here (as if it matters). This post by Daniel Wolf and this post by Roger Bourland (to which I added a comment) tell the whole story better than I can.

Daniel appended this comment here at Mixed Meters:
Someone, someday, has to do the definitive Southern California new music history, with all the details, because that's where the music lives.
A few months ago I had a conversation with Carl Stone and Richard Amromin, both leading lights in the Independent Composers Association back then, on the subject of such a history. We were all for it - as long as someone else did the work.

Since then I've been reminded that a lot of equally invisible things were going on new-musically besides those I was aware of. There's a lot of material to be uncovered.
the Basses R Us truck in a Trader Joes parking lot
Such a book would be tremendously satisfying to the egos of anyone who gets mentioned. Here's the drill, the first time you open the book you turn immediately to the back index and check the number of mentions of your own name. I do this with Zappa books. You would too.

The big problem with such a book is that it would have no hook for snaring a readership. No earth-shakingly famous new music composer came out of the scene. No influential style evolved here. (Nor could it ever, but that's another rant.)

Even the Monday Evening Concerts (which had at least one book written about it) had the hook of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. To my knowledge Arnie and Igor were never labeled as "California Composers." All they did was live here. If the MEC ever had a hey-day it was because of them. Plenty of California musicians have shaken up the world, for example John Cage and Charles Mingus whose music shook me up personally. Would they have had such successful careers had they remained L.A. residents?

Claudio Abbado and Fleetwood Mac together again in a Best Buy CD rack
So I wonder, does new music really "live" in Los Angeles - or does it just manage to survive? Our vast metropolis never seemed conducive to a small, intense, creative forward-looking musical scene. It doesn't seem so now. I fear it never will.

SoCal is a nice place to live if you like dim sum or soba noodles or Korean seafood pancakes or tacos al carbon. We have lots of sun and lots of green plants. You'd like that. We also have lots of isolation from places where new music seems to actually matter to people. This is a huge boon to us. We can keep tabs via the Internet on all you other guys as you do important stuff.

a hip young cellist on a discarded McDonald's bag
Alex Ross, in his blog, today mentioned Princeton as a place where new music IS REALLY happening. He linked to a music theorist whose "groundbreaking theoretical explorations" have discovered voice leading. That's pretty funny. Voice leading was the single most important issue in my earliest studies of harmony. Could we take up a collection and send some hymnals to Princeton?

Ross has written a "big article" on Esa-Pekka Salonen in the current New Yorker. That's the magazine with the good cartoons. I'll try to get a copy. The last "big article" I remember reading in a New Yorker (a very long time ago) was about Nicolas Slonimsky, another "California composer".

Here's my ancient post about the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. - including links to my 30 second spot "The Laptop in Live Performance?" and to my failed graduate piece for clarinet and electronics "Voluntary Solitude."

Here's my ancient post about Nicolas (and Frank and Edgard).

Backwater Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P.S. The pictures will be more interesting if you click on them so some of the words are readable.

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