mutterings; pontifications; humblebrags


Here's a new music video from The Source by Daniel Fish, Juliet Lashinsky-Revene and Jim Findlay.


This premiered in this great article about The Source in one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Dot.


I just got back from my hometown -- Chicago -- although really I never left the -coiffed suburb of Evanston because I was participating in "NUNC! 2" -- the second-annual new-music conference led by the composer Hans Thomalla. [I never got a straight answer on whether NUNC! is actually an acronym.... or the origins of the exclamation point, if there are any.]

This was a big ambitious undertaking. I joined Kate Soper, Rick Burkhardt, Ann Cleare and Donnacha Dennehy as one of five invited composers. (As different as their music is, from each other and from mine, I'm a big fan of all their work.) Three days were packed with discussions, lectures and performances, and Northwestern's contemporary music ensemble (along with some truly excellent student vocalists) performed about 75% of my piece Katrina Ballads on a concert Saturday night, conducted by Alan Pierson.

I've never been present for a performance of this piece (Katrina Ballads) in this particular type of academic environment, and it proved to be sort of a lightning rod. The (super generalized) gist was this: all the performers seemed to really love the experience of playing/learning the piece, a good chunk of the audience responded positively and I got a lot of comments after, but there was a distinct *vibe* (negative) from the academic set (many of the composers/musicologists present at the festival).

Because NUNC is a conference for discussing musical ideas, it seemed like the perfect place to open up a discussion about the issues/problems raised by a piece that appropriates primary-source text (some from individuals experience great pain or grief), that deals with politicized topics and blending of styles -- and I did, in a 40-minute session slotted for me to present my music. But that forum felt way too short, and more than anything I think it reminded me of all the (sometimes silly, sometimes legit) strife that can divide members of a community that is, in truth, extremely small.

I wish I could say confronting all these issues was a healing process, but it only scratched the surface, and the more I think about it the more it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Or at least it makes me want to continue a discussion in a real way - about what it means to use political (or even just extramusical) content in a piece of music today, and what the political/aesthetic implications are of mixing styles or playing with style. I've continued the discussion with a few great minds I encountered at Northwestern last weekend -- notably the conductor Michael Lewanski, musicologist Ryan Dohoney, and Danielle Taylor, who played viola in the performance of Katrina Ballads -- but I dunno.... I want something more from this. Hopefully I can find a way to write meaningfully about these divisions, or at least begin to articulate the problem.


Here's a live video, by Tyler Kinney and Karlos Rene Ayala, that we shot a few weeks ago in preparation for the release of The Source(Album drops this week!)




One of my favorite musicians, the voraciously-appetited pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, recently blogged a really thoughtful and thorough review of Red Light's new album Barbary Coast. This was so great to read because I've been such a fan of Iverson's playing for a long time. My brother from the old country Ron Wiltrout first turned me on to The Bad Plus when we met 10 years ago, and I've seen them several times since then and followed their surprising trajectory ever since. This album in particular, juxtaposing renditions of Ligeti Etudes and Milton Babbitt's Semi-Simple Variations with covers of classic rock songs featuring singer Wendy Lewis, is refreshing and bold, and a model for looking at familiar music through an unfamiliar lense. Read Ethan Iverson's review here.

Also, my new piece Coloring Book for Roomful of Teeth was premiered last weekend at National Sawdust, and the folks at Classicalite had some really nice things to say about it. Read that review here.


I couldn't be happier that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has programmed my piece Law of Mosaics for their first MusicNOW concert of the 2015-16 season! Adding to this delightful news is that they've asked my friend, the conductor Chris Rountree, to do the honors of leading the orchestra! Law of Mosaics will constitute the second half a program that also includes Daniel Wohl's string quartet Glitch, and Kaija Saariaho's cello+electronics work Petals. This will all go down on November 23, at the Harris Theater in downtown Chicago. 

This concert is a big deal for me. I grew up listening to the CSO of course, attending their concerts and aspiring to their general musical boss-ness. The CSO blogged a little interview with me about it.

What's more is that Chicago Magazine has listed the show as one of their 25 "must-see" events of the fall. 


I conducted the Red Light Ensemble in their first concert in 2005. The group was started by Scott Wollschleger and Vince Raikhel, two of my best homeys from Manhattan School of Music, who had asked me to conduct Gerard Grisey's Vortex Temporum on their first concert. That experience - learning, rehearsing, performing such an incredible work of contemporary music with my friends - was super important for me, and after that, the fun never stopped.

Well, unfortunately it did stop in February 2014, when the Red Light Ensemble played its last show as a conducted group. However, as we were preparing that final show, we spent some time in the studio recording an album of new works by the four composer-directors of Red Light, all written for Red Light - Chris Cerrone's The Night Mare and Liam Robinson's Chamber Concerto, along Scott's Brontal No. 3 and Vince's Cirques, and we threw in my piece Crispy Gentlemen for good measure. 

It feels like it's been an eternity, but the result of those recording sessions - Barbary Coast - is now released on New Focus Recordings!