Himalayan Miscellany

– Go here to view the trailer for the remarkable “Scriabin in the Himalayas” project featuring pianist Matthew Bengston.

– Music by Paul Moravec and Ethan Iverson can be heard in this NPR feature on pianist Anthony de Mare‘s new album of Sondheim re-imaginings.

– Read the speeches given by Michael Chabon, Terrance McKnight, and Yehudi Wyner at The MacDowell Colony’s Medal Day celebration in honor of the late Gunther Schuller here.

More Gunther Videos

The e-mail I got this morning from the MacDowell Colony reporting on its recent Medal Day festivities including a link leading to a page about Gunther Schuller who was to have received the MacDowell Medal that day, had he lived. There are several videos on that page; the following, revealing Gunther in his home, is particularly moving.

Gunther gave the commencement address at the Cleveland Institute of Music this year:

CIM has also posted some chats Gunther had with Joel Smirnoff and Keith Fitch:

Enough talk, here’s some music – The Miro Quartet playing Gunther’s 2014 String Quartet:

More Gunther videos here.

Gunther Schuller In Memoriam

UnknownI had planned to post today about how Gunther Schuller would be receiving the Edward MacDowell Medal at the MacDowell Colony this coming August. Instead, I must sadly acknowledge his passing yesterday at the age of 89.

I will always be grateful to Gunther for his generous support, beginning with my time at Tanglewood some 31 years ago, including publishing some early pieces of mine with his firm Margun Music. I will continue to learn from his writings and transcriptions (despite the flaws of a few of the latter). And I will continue to admire his music: powerful in expression and expertly crafted.

I previously posted about Gunther here, here, here, here, and here.

Schuller’s Errors

It saddens me to read about errors in Gunther Schuller’s books about jazz, as Darcy James Argue lays out in this post. I have a great deal of respect for both Argue and Schuller. I’m not qualified to dispute Argue’s points, but I can say that Gunther’s transcription of Mood Indigo is so far off that I wonder if it was an editorial oversight, a placeholder put into the manuscript until the real thing got inserted – or if it maybe refers to some other recording of the piece. I have to admit both of those hypotheses, especially the latter, are unlikely. 

I wish Gunther was in a position to respond to Argue’s and Iverson’s points, but he is very old now, not in the best of health, and quite focused on writing his own music. I know I will have to approach his books with less blind faith in the future.

Gunther Schuller online

I’ve been re-reading the relevant sections of Gunther’s book The Swing Era prior to working on a possible post on Woody Herman, and was inspired to go roaming around looking for some Gunther links and videos – here are a few:

Gunther on recording The Birth of the Cool:

The first movement of his String Quartet Nr. 2 (I believe this is an early Emerson Quartet recording):

The Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra playing the first performance of Gunther’s Dreamscape in summer, 2012 is here. (The embed code at that page and WordPress seemed unable to cooperate.)

New Music Box and Do the Math interviews with Gunther.

Rifftides post on Gunther and Leonard Bernstein, including video of Gunther’s composition Journey Into Jazz.

From the Reading Journal, #13

In 1944 Mitropoulos had programmed, on one of those summer Carnegie Hall concerts, one of his specialties, Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony… At one of the more climactic moments in the Symphony’s first movement, a series of heroic, fanfarelike fortissimo calls are initiated by the horns, followed by canonic responses in other brass and woodwind instruments. It is always a hair-raising moment, especially if you are sitting in the orchestra, enveloped by the full acoustic onslaught of the music. But Mitropoulos raised the experience to a maximum, almost terrifying level, and with an unimaginable intensity that I had never witnessed before. As he turned to the horn section, his deep-set blue eyes shone with an extraordinary clarity; they seemed to be on fire. Moreover, suddenly the skin on his bald head, shiny with the reflected glow of Carnegie Hall’s ceiling lights, began to move, crawl back and forth across his pate. I could hardly keep playing; it was such an amazing sight. But, believe it or not, when the horn fanfare is repeated a few bars later, but now a minor third higher, with even greater intensity, Mitropoulos’s eyes crossed!

– from Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty, Gunther’s fascinating memoir.

Get up! Get Up! You Sleepyhead

… Then I spent the rest of my childhood years waking up in the middle of the night with a book half open on my chest, and I still do it. I read between two and four every night. I sleep and by the time I get to two o’clock now I have to read. I read for two hours and [after] I sleep for another two hours, then I get up and work two hours.

FJO: That’s extraordinary.

BR: It’s a crazy life. Augusta’s even worse. She gets up at three in the morning or four, when I’m still reading. I hope this is not too trivial for you.

– Bernard Rands interviewed by Frank J. Oteri for New Music Box


As if exploring that exhibit [a Constable and Turner show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts] wasn’t overwhelming and exhausting enough, we plunged ahead to examine the museum’s famous collections of Oriental and Asia art, Persian fourteenth – to sixteenth-century paintings and manuscripts, and Egyptian tombs and statues. Our senses were reeling from all this magnificence; and I can’t explain how we had the energy and persistence to take it all in – all in one day. To confirm how truly crazy I was – and perhaps still am – my diary recounts that after that museum visit, I copied quite a bit of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms into one of my notebooks – that is, before dining at O Sole Mio, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Boston, then catching a show at the Casino Burlesque, and then heading out to the Totem Pool [a dance hall] – all in one day!

– from Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty [Gunther’s autobiography]

So, what time did you get up? and what did you accomplish today? Reading stuff like this, I feel very lazy indeed.

More about Gunther’s book soon. And, this will explain the post title.

Feldman at the NY Phil

I was saddened to read of the New York Philharmonic’s unprofessional behavior at rehearsals of Morton Feldman’s Coptic Light in 1986. I was at the performance of that piece. It is worth noting that the conductor for that concert, if I recall correctly, was Gunther Schuller. It is hard to imagine Gunther participating in that kind of unprofessionalism, even though this would have been music rather distant from his own principal interests. Note too, that (again, if memory serves), Gunther conducted Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa on the same program; this two years after I heard him conduct Andriessen’s De Staat at Tanglewood. I have heard some label Gunther as one of the big bad high-modernists, narrow-minded both in his own writing and in his programming, but the fact is a rather more nuanced picture would be more accurate.