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Music Downtown

Writings from the Village Voice

Kyle Gann (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 333 pages
ISBN: 9780520229822
February 2006
$34.95, £27.00
This collection represents the cream of the more than five hundred articles written for the Village Voice by Kyle Gann, a leading authority on experimental American music of the late twentieth century. Charged with exploring every facet of cutting-edge music coming out of New York City in the 1980s and '90s, Gann writes about a wide array of timely issues that few critics have addressed, including computer music, multiculturalism and its thorny relation to music, music for the AIDS crisis, the brand-new art of electronic sampling and its legal implications, symphonies for electric guitars, operas based on talk shows, the death of twelve-tone music, and the various streams of music that flowed forth from minimalism. In these articles—including interviews with Yoko Ono, Philip Glass, Glenn Branca, and other leading musical figures—Gann paints a portrait of a bristling era in music history and defines the scruffy, vernacular field of Downtown music from which so much of the most fertile recent American music has come.
Preface: New Music and the Village Voice
Introduction: The Importance of Being Downtown


Shouting at the Dead: Robert Ashley’s Neoplatonist TV Operas
The Part That Doesn’t Fit Is Me: Yoko Ono, the Inventor of Downtown
Midtown Avant-Gardist: Philip Glass Sails Columbus into a Clash of Keys and Cultures
Trimpin’s Machine Age: A Revolutionary Tinker Revives the Dream of Infinitely Fluid Music
Dancing with the Audience: Carman Moore’s Mass Attempts to Heal the World
Harps from Heaven: Glenn Branca Reemerges from the Thick of Theory
Shadowing Capote: Mikel Rouse
The Dance Between: David First
Raising Ghosts: Leroy Jenkins Brings the African Burial Ground to Life
Opera Meets Oprah: Mikel Rouse Hawks Salvation in an Opera for Real People
A Difficult Woman: A Cosmic Piano Concerto from the Outspoken Composer of Vagina
Monkey Business: Fred Ho De-Europeanizes Opera with Martial Arts
Music and/versus Society
Sampling: Plundering for Art
Mozarts Live! “Performing Mozart’s Music”
Killers in the Audience
Letting Euro Go
What Normal People Hear: Rose Rosengard Subotnik
Dysfunctional Harmony: Creativity
Don’t Touch that Dahl: Classical Radio
Spin It Around: New Music in the Public’s Hands
Paradise at Our Fingertips: Voltaire’s Bastards
What’s Your AQ?
Dump the Multicult
No More Heroes
Music of the Excluded Middle
Medicine Music: The Uses of Art
Who Killed Classical Music? Forget It, Jake—It’s Uptown
Musical Politics
Paradigms Lost: Rhys Chatham/John Zorn
Blurred Out: On Language
Rock Rules: Bandwagonism
Pulitzer Hacks: Amateurs/Professionals
Composer’s Clearing House: The Pulitzer Prize
Obitchuaries: John Cage
Totally Ismic: Totalism
The Last Barbarian: John Cage
Berlitz’s Downtown for Musicians: New-Music Performance
What Are We, Chopped Liver? The New Generation
The Great Divide: Uptown Composers Are Stuck in the Past
Y Not 2K?
Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead: Modernism Loses Its Grip as the Odometer Turns Over
Let X = X: Minimalism versus Serialism
A Tale of Two Sohos: Plato/Aristotle
A Secret Manifesto: Fred Lerdahl
The Modernist Dance: War in the Brain
It’s Only as Good as It Sounds: Richard Rorty
Noises of Fate: You Don’t Need a Sampler to Recontextualize
Sounding the Image
Waiting for Monteverdi: Minimalism
Dads versus Shadows: James Hillman
Vexing the Purists: Vexations
Musical Amnesia Cured! Imagism
End of the Paper Trail: Scores
Reflections on Books, Figures, and Events
No Shortcuts: John Cage
E.T., Go Home: Tuning
Composing the Lingo: Harry Partch, American Inventor
Modernist: Morton Feldman’s Abstract Expressions
One-Note Wonder: A New York Retrospective for Italy’s Saintly Mystic, Giacinto Scelsi
Minimalism Isn’t Pretty: Tony Conrad Makes a Truculent Comeback
Father of Us All: The Critic as Composer
Grand Old Youngster: Turning the Century at Lincoln Center
Concert Reviews
Maximal Spirit: La Monte Young
Big Machines, Little Issues: The 1987 International Computer Music Conference
First Flight: John Adams
Admiring the Waterfall: David Garland
Yawn: R.{ths}I.{ths}P. Hayman
Mottos and Models: Morton Feldman/Rhys Chatham/Anthony Coleman
Searching for the Plague: Diamanda Galas
Oceans without Walls: Laurie Anderson
Insiders, Outsiders, and Old Boys: New Music America ’89
Dark Stormy Night: Nicolas Collins
Let There Be Noise: David Rosenboom/Trichy Sankaran
Music in Time of War: The Composer-to-Composer Symposium
Don’t Worry, Be Hopi
Enough of Nothing: Postminimalism
Voltage High: Ron Kuivila
Isn’t That Spatial? Henry Brant
The Limits of Craft: Frederic Rzewski/Philip Glass
Opera Is Relative: Einstein on the Beach
Well-Tuned Blues: The Forever Bad Blues Band
Voice of the Unutterable: The S.E.M. Ensemble
How Peculiar? The American Eccentrics
Flutes and Flying Branches: The Taos Pueblo Powwow
The Tingle of p {mult} mn {mi} 1: La Monte Young/Marian Zazeela
The British Don’t Have Oral Sex: Now Eleanor’s Idea
View from the Gap: Emerging Voices
Regarding Henry: The World’s First Multicultural Modernist Conservative Patron Saint of Outsiders
What Our Pulses Say: David Garland/Billy Martin
Mistaken Memories: Tony Conrad: One-Idea Composer or Late Bloomer?
Legacy of the Quiet Touch
That Which Is Fundamental: Julius Eastman, 1940–1990
Philosopher No More: He Quietly Started a Spiritual Revolution

Kyle Gann is music critic for the Village Voice and Associate Professor of Music at Bard College. He is the author of American Music in the Twentieth Century (1997) and The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (1995).
“Brilliant”—Alex Ross New Yorker
“Gann's astute collection deserves to be savored.”—Publishers Weekly
“All [topics]are rendered fresh and compelling by Gann’s passionate commitment to the experimental vision.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"This is an indispensable piece of living history, documenting an absolutely crucial moment in the development of 21st century music. For many of these pieces and composers, Gann's discussion is the only record we have. The criticism is at the highest level: careful yet uncompromising, historically informed, erudite, and well-expressed."—Robert Fink, University of California, Los Angeles

"A highly intelligent and vividly engaged depiction of the new music scene over the last several years. The music Gann discusses is some of the most important being produced today, as well as the least attended to by scholars and the media. The 'you are there' feel of these articles conveys the intellectual and artistic rigor behind the music, as well as the passion and commitment of its makers. The writing is polemical, emotional, advocatory; Gann is often provocative, and always honest and forceful."—Evan Ziporyn , Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clarinetist and Composer, Bang On A Can All-stars

"The late 1980s and the 1990s were probably the most contentious years in the history of American music, especially in New York. The Soho News had folded. The New York Times had opted out. During this time, Kyle Gann was consistently the most interesting, reliable and honest reviewer in all of New York. Everybody read him. Probably every composer mentioned in this book would want to "correct" what has been said about her or his music. But you can't argue with Kyle. His opinions are too deeply felt. He is too well-studied. He writes too well. And he is too smart."—Robert Ashley, Composer

"No one else could have written this marvelous book. No one else has been so completely immersed in "new music" as has Gann for some twenty years—and moreover likes it. No other music critic is so courageous, communicative, compelling, and candid (if now and then contentious)—or writes such consummately crystalline, convincing prose. Hurrah! Huzzah!!"—H. Wiley Hitchcock, Distinguished Professor of Music emeritus, CUNY, and founding director, Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College

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