Bach is back, again

This is unrelated to the primary purpose of this blog, but it’s too good not to mention:  recordings of the complete organ works of J.S. Bach by James Kibbie, recorded on various Baroque era organs in Leipzig, may be downloaded free at Open Culture. If you aren’t ready to tackle the complete downloads, a Favorite Masterworks album is available.

Death of a science fiction composer

Ansible, a science fiction newsletter published in England, reports on the death of composer David Bedford: “UK composer who was fond of fantasy, sf and astronomical themes, died on 1 October aged 74. Explicitly sf work included the 1989 concept album Rigel 9 with Ursula K. Le Guin, and a 2001 cantata adaptation of The City and the Stars with Arthur C. Clarke narrating between movements.”

Although Bedford combines two interests of mine — I’m a science fiction nerd from way back — I’m afraid I wasn’t familiar with him. Official site is here.


Spotify and modern classical

I’ve been checking out Spotify, the new Internet music just made available in the U.S., and I’ve discovered that it has more modern classical music than I would have expected. Four albums with music by John Luther Adams. Four albums with music from John Luther Adams. Quite a bit of music by Magnus Lindberg. Obviously, there are plenty of gaps, but it’s still a better showing than I would have expected.

Spotify requires free users to request an invitation via email; you can get one here. My invitation took about a week to arrive.




A new recording of ‘Time Curve Preludes’ out soon

A new recording of the “The Time Curve Preludes” by one of my favorite composers, William Duckworth, will be out this fall. The piece has been recorded by pianist R. Andrew Lee and will be released by Irritable Hedgehog, a new label that specializes in modern music.

I like other Duckworth pieces such as “Mysterious Numbers,” written for chamber orchestra and recorded by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, but “The Time Curve Preludes,” 24 short pieces for piano, is probably his best-known work. (Mr. Duckworth even Tweets as @timecurve.)

There’s only been one full recording of it, Neely Bruce’s original recording. Bruce Brubaker’s recent recording pairs the first 12 with an excellent rendition of “Six Etudes for Piano,” by Philip Glass. There’s nothing wrong with Bruce’s recording, which I fell in love with when I heard it. But I’ve longed for another pianist to record the whole work, to give it wider exposure and to hear what another pianist would make of it.

I haven’t heard the new recording, of course, but R. Andrew Lee’s recording of Tom Johnson’s “An Hour of Piano” was excellent. (He worked hard to make sure the track is exactly an hour, making it the first recording that matches the composer’s intent.)

Another good sign is that Lee is enthusiastic about the new album.

“We’re looking to have that CD out sometime in September,” he told me. “I think you’re going to really enjoy it.”

“The resonance this piano was giving me was incredible. Much more than I had gotten from other 9 foot Steinways,” Lee said.

The cover image I’ve used was posted on Twitter by Lee. I love it, but note that Lee says it’s “provisional.”

Lee’s new recording of Ann Southam’s “Soundings for a New Piano” also will be out soon. It’s the first commercial release of the piece.

Composers honor Steve Reich

The Guardian has a nice article about Steve Reich, including interviews with other composers influenced by him and musicians who like his music. Here’s the comment from composer David Lang:

“I worked in a record store when I was in high school. The first Columbia recording of [Reich’s] It’s Gonna Rain and Violin Phase was in the cheap section. I didn’t know who the composer was and it had a funny cover, so I decided to buy it. Like all 16-year-olds I thought I knew everything about the world. But It’s Gonna Rain – a piece of two tape loops gradually running out of phase – really knocked me out because nothing I knew about how music was made, about how composers worked, about what you do with melody and harmony prepared me for it. It was the first piece I’d heard where the idea generated the sound. I associate Reich forever with opening my eyes.”

‘Other Minds’ — It fell from the shelf edition

“Music From Other Minds” Richard Friedman reveals his finely-honed system for selecting the music for his show: While searching for an elusive music CD, “A pair of  CDs from from the shelf into my hands. And when I looked, I knew I had tonight’s program.”

The show features viola concertos by Krzysztof Penderecki and Giya Kancheli, “both quite remarkable works,” Friedman said.

The previous show featured John Cage, but this appears to be a new definition of chance music.

New Duckworth, others available as download

As critic and composer Kyle Gann writes on his blog, there’s a new boxed set out of 11 CDs, Minimal Piano Collection Vol. X-XX, of music written for multiple pianos, recorded by Jeroen van Veen and others. As Gann notes, it includes two good Duckworth pieces not available elsewhere, “Forty Changes” and “Binary Images” as well as music by many other composers, including Gann himself. I don’t do expensive boxed sets, as a general rule, but I discovered that the CDs tracks are available as MP3 downloads from Amazon.