Don Gillespie R.I.P. – A True Champion of New Music

Screen Shot 2019-10-26 at 8.45.55 PM

photo by Sabine Matthes

Don Gillespie R.I.P. (1936-2019) ~ I’m very saddened to learn of the passing of new music champion Don Gillespie. He was a friend. Don was Vice President of C.F. Peters music publishers when a very young me got a job there in the late 80s. He taught me so much about music, especially John Cage, Lou Harrison (he was good friends of both and introduced me to them), an expert on Delius, and my gateway to lesser known (to me at the time) composers like Nancarrow, John J. Becker, and Ruth Crawford Seeger.

I remember drunken music nights at his apartment where we’d have Busoni sight-reading contests (The Piano Concerto), debate the non-narrative structure of Robert Ashley‘s “Now Eleanor’s Idea“, and then he’d turn around and make us listen to a 1920s recording by The Skillet Lickers. The week that Lou Reed’s “New York” album came out, we listened to it at his place while eating the freshly smoked mozzarella he’d pick up for us from Joe’s Dairy on Sullivan Street. Let’s not even get started on his fascination with Sorabji!

Don and C.F. Peters’ Evelyn Hinrichsen were amongst the first supporters of my Silent Treatment concert series, my first productions, in the East Village back in 1989-90. He supported all kinds of new music up-and-comers, he connected many of us, young and old, near and far.

I would continue to see Don over the years either at concerts or get togethers at Margaret Leng Tan‘s house in Brooklyn for a performance of Lucier‘s Strawberry Fields Forever-inspiredNothing is Real.” I remember Don and his then wife Sabine coming over to gorge ourselves on caviar that I had just smuggled back from Russia and playing “Cage’s “Ophelia (1946)” on the piano for him on the 41st floor looking out over Central Park.

Don got really mad at me one time when, on the newly invented internet, I spoke for him (incorrectly) in an argument with Howard Stokar. He had every right to be really mad because I did something dumb. Something good came out of it. When asking him for forgiveness I was able to tell him how much he meant to me and everything I learned from him. We got back on track, but I wish I could tell him all over again.

The last time I saw Don I was playing a piece of music of mine on Cornelia Street in an ensemble that was celebrating Terry Riley’s “In C”‘s 50th anniversary. I saw him in the audience, he lived around the corner, and we just smiled. I haven’t seen him since, though I thought of him often. It was fitting.

When I think of all the hell he caught at C.F. Peters (it was an ugly scene back then for non-serialists; Don called it Fort Dodecaphonic) for supporting tonal, rhythmically innovative, non-European-inspired forms of new music, I’m glad he held his ground, and even put his job on the line a few times (truth), for the music he believed in.

So, seeing him there that sunny afternoon, with new compositions playing in the air inspired by “In C” to a diverse and interested crowd of New Yorkers, it felt like a victory for all of us who followed the musical pathways he showed to so many of us.

That fight’s over.

You won, Don.

Thank you.

Rest in Peace.

“John Cage at 100” by Don Gillespie
http://www.johncage2012.com/speakers/gillespie.html
“Don Gillespie New Music Box Profile”
https://nmbx.newmusicusa.org/new-music-advocate-don-gillespie-steps-down-at-c-f-peters/

Don’s middle name was Chance

Interview: Patrick Grant – Fireworks

firewoks-logo2

INTERVIEW – Fireworks Magazine (UK) interview with musician and producer Patrick Grant, creator of A Sequence of Waves (twelve stories and a dream) released on the Peppergreen Media label.

Patrick Grant is an American composer living and working in New York City. His works are a synthesis of classical, popular, and world musical styles that have found place in concert halls, film, theater, dance, and visual media over three continents. Over the last three decades, his music has moved from post-punk and classically bent post-minimal styles, through Balinese-inspired gamelan and microtonality, to ambient, electronic soundscapes involving many layers of acoustic and electronically amplified instruments. Throughout its evolution, his music has consistently contained a “…a driving and rather harsh energy redolent of rock, as well as a clean sense of melodicism…intricate cross-rhythms rarely let up…” Known as a producer and co-producer of live musical events, he has presented many concerts of his own and other composers, including a 2013 Guinness World Record-breaking performance of 175 electronic keyboards in NYC. He is the creator of International Strange Music Day (August 24) and the pioneer of the electric guitar procession Tilted Axes.

FM: The last time we spoke, you were talking about your Detroit origins in classical and rock music, your early avant-garde theatrical work in New York City, but mostly about your album Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars. How was that?

PG: I could not have been happier with the response that album received. It was a crystallization of five years work, the end of a Phase One. If anyone is not familiar with the project, it began as a procession of electric guitars with portable amps for the winter solstice in 2011. It is part concert, part theater, and part street spectacle. Musically it encompassed everything from rock to classical to non-western, all written my me. It a way, it is a huge theme and variations. It became popular and we’ve performed versions on three continents so far. The album was a way of getting the music out to people and radio stations far beyond the scope of the live performances we did.

FM: What has Tilted Axes done since then?

PG: A couple months after the album came out, the USA was scheduled to have its presidential elections. The album was peaking in the press and we just finished performing for over a quarter of a million people in the NYC Village Halloween Parade. That’s a big thing here. Then we had the election and you-know-who won. That was highly unexpected. I was in shock for a number of weeks and it’s fair to say that a number of people are still in shock. I felt there was going to be a change in the coming year, maybe years. It was a good time to hit the brakes and re-evaluate. It seemed clear that the current models of professional music making were going to change and I wanted to stay ahead of that curve. I greatly reduced live performances so I could concentrate on recordings and took some formal training in film sound and associated disciplines. So, to answer your question: Tilted Axes has been on hiatus but will return in 2018. Currently, that’s the plan.

FM: What do you mean when you say “film sound and associated disciplines?”

PG: I needed to get current with my Pro-Tools skills. It is the industry standard for film and TV. My albums have been mostly Ableton, Reason, WAVES and other plug-ins up until now. My engineers were handling anything pro-Tools up until recently. They were better, faster, and has more experience. Then there’s dialogue recording and editing, sound design, ADR and Foley, as well as musical scoring. On top of all of that is the mixing and mastering for film and TV. It’s very different than music alone. Everything used is being used in service of a narrative, even if it’s abstract. It’s all about stories. Telling stories in sight and sound, even before language, could be argued to be the oldest art we have as human beings. Everything else is just detail and decoration.

FM: How has that affected your current work?

PG: I decided to do something concrete about it. Like a number of my avant-garde colleagues, I accepted a position at institute of higher learner. OK, I’m being funny. What I mean to say is that for two days of the academic week, at am a professor at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film School. NYU Tisch is pretty famous if those readers outside of the USA don’t know it. Its students include Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee, and a slew of others. It keeps me sharp and on top of the tech. I have studios and rehearsal rooms within which to experiment. The students are full of great ideas so I feel hopeful for the future of film, music, the arts. Really, I do.

FM: So that’s two days a week. What about the other five?

PG: Like I said, it’s been a time of re-evaluation. I’m pretty much the same writer, performer, and producer that I’ve always been. I’ve been consciously upping my game in the studio. I’ve been going back and forth between four projects and the first of these, a 13 track instrumental album, has been released, “A Sequence of Waves.” Its subtitle, (twelve stories and a dream), shows some influence of the film school. It’s also the title of an H. G. Wells short story collection, a connection I don’t mind at all. It feels like a pop album in duration and form. Many of the tracks have a verse, chorus, middle feel, even though I try to twist that around. The tracks themselves have a lot of variety in terms of style: prog rock, classical, blues, ambient, EDM, samba, cinematically inclined… there’s many cross-pollinated genres on it. It’s chamber prog! Supposedly no one listen to “albums” anymore, they just flick through playlists until they hear a track they like. However, there is a strong programmatic element as to the order of the tracks. It’s not just “a sequence of wave files.” [Dryly] Ha ha. That’s storytelling, plain and simple.

FM: What do you think are the standout tracks on the album?

PG: While we don’t really live in a time where there are “singles” as such any more, it could be argued that there are four singles on the album. The first would be “Seven Years at Sea.” On an album of instrumentals, it actually has vocals. It contains a 1930s field recording of three Creole sisters singing the ancient sea shanty “Sept ans sur mer.” I added piano, guitars, and other electronics to it. The end result is unintentionally Eno-esque.

The second of these four would be “Lonely Ride Coney Island.” It was originally created for a film but I recorded an album version here. I used every retro synth I have on it though it has real drums like all the other tracks. “Lonely Ride…” has turned out to be a hit in the EDM community. I wasn’t going for that but I’m happy that they picked up on it. Third would be “To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess.” I’ve been saying that “every track has a story.” The story of this tracks actually begins with the one before it, “Prelude II”:

“Prelude II” began as an assignment from Robert Fripp. A few years ago at one of our Guitar Craft events, he pulled a number of us newer folks aside and said he had a “performance challenge” to give us. We all sat down and he pulled out The Hat.

The Hat is rumored to have once been worn by Bowie on one of his tours (Serious Moonlight?) and is now used in Guitar Craft to pull out names and numbers for random draws on slips of paper for such on-the-spot assignments. In this case Robert had written on little slips of paper words that designated quartets, trios, duos, and one solo. He pulled them out and assigned them to us at random. I was the lone soloist, a composer and performer who usually hides within layers of other guitars. That irony wasn’t lost on anybody. Robert swears to this day it wasn’t a set up. I believe him.

The challenge was that we had 24 hours to write a new piece of music and perform it in front of the larger group after dinner the following night. Being the lone soloist amongst the group, I announced the title of my piece as “Dude, Where’s My Band?” Robert laughed so hard. He himself calls it a Guitar Craft classic. That’s an honor of sorts. That’s how that piece was born. I renamed it “Prelude II” for the album, I multi-tracked it in places in the recording, but it is essentially a solo piece.

I liked its themes so much that I developed most of them further in “To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess,” into which the original became the prelude. So, this new piece, “To Find a Form…” became this Post-Prog mini epic with a lot of orchestral textures. It also contains many elements from all the previous tracks. It’s a way of summarizing the experience of these twelve “stories.”

FM: And the fourth “single”?

PG: That would absolutely have to be “One Note Samba” by Antonio Carlos Jobim. By default it’s the “dream” on the album though, I like to say, any one of these tracks could be the dream depending on your perspective. The track began as a demo for a radio show here in NYC. I found a lot of sounds that I could render into the same pitch. It got played once on a Christmas special. I was invited to create a Tilted Axes performance in São Paulo, Brazil at the 3rd Música Estranha (Strange Music) Festival. I was able to record a number of found sounds there and incorporate them into the track with similar sounds found in NYC. I’ve always been a fan of original sounding covers whether it’s Joe Cocker doing The Beatle’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” or Devo doing The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” So these four tracks represent four different ports of entry into the album no matter what your main style of interest may be.

FM: Anything else to say about the other tracks or the album as a whole?

PG: It’s true that “every track has a story.” A quick run-down would be: “Lucid Intervals” began as a live looping piece but is now performed by orchestral instruments, the album contains a mini-suite called “Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms,” “Primary Blues” was created for the 100th anniversary of the first blues piece. There’s a few more tracks but that’s the gist of it. Like its predecessor “Tilted Axes,” this new album has somewhat of a mirrored sequence in the tracks. That is, track 1 mirrors track 13, track 2 mirrors track 12, and so on inwards with track 7 as a stand alone in the center. BTW that track is “Seven Years at Sea.” It’s no accident that it is in that position. All of this gives the work a sense of cohesion. Again: it’s storytelling.

I should speak more about the instrumentation. Those who know my work through “Tilted Axes” will hear more than the electric guitars, basses, and drums that make up that album. On “A Sequence of Waves” there is all that but there is also piano, organ, violin, viola, cello, synthesizers, percussion, and sampling. In a certain sense, it’s a more colorful album. I tried to reflect this in the album art and design.

I used the same production team as on the last album. Garry Rindfuss engineered much of the recording and was present for all the mixes. I rely on his ears a lot. Sheldon Steiger did the album mastering. He has a long list of credits working within a number of classical and popular styles. I think it’s because of this he is able to balance of the eclectic sets of tracks I give him.

FM: What are your interests outside of music?

PG: I’m interested in anything that can tell a story using non-verbal means. This includes all kinds of visual and graphic art, design, and architecture for example. A well-designed household item can speak volumes. This spills over into the realm of semiotics and this is a branch of philosophy I use a lot in our work. I’ve written a lot of music for modern dance and for experimental theater. That last one interests me a lot because it’s the only art form I can think of that contains all of my interests under one umbrella: every aspect of the visual, of music, of movement, of text, live performance, projection, and political commentary.

Another intentional aspect of the album was to suggest music that would be good for visuals. I am looking forward to creating music for film again. I have been away from it for a couple of years when Tilted Axes was at the center of my work. Now that I’m working with the NYU Film School, things are set up for that return.

FM: What’s in store for the future?

PG: I feel that I have put 2017 to good use and that I have a firmer foundation upon which to build. I’ve already spoke of a return to film scoring so there is that. There are also a number of recordings that need to be finalized for early 2018 release. One of these albums has members of the California Guitar Trio, King Crimson, and the Adrian Belew Power Trio on a number of its tracks. Also appearing will be my Tilted Axes and Guitar Craft regulars. You’ll also hear a lot more of my keyboard playing on future releases. Many people forget that keyboard were my main instrument for years. It’s time they should remember!

Tilted Axes will be making a return in a Phase Two sense. A tilt shift? I have partnered with a Canadian company that is making a new kind of portable amplification for electric guitars. It’s in prototype now and should begin production after the new year. We’ll begin working with these new amps in February.

One thing is for sure is that I have missed live performance a lot. Then again, I wouldn’t have this improved base of operation if I hadn’t put my attention toward other things for a while. Duty now for the future.

The next album’s working title is “The Velcro Variations,” because, after all, what is Velcro but hooks and loops? Yes, it’s hooks and loops.

December 2017

imposs

International sTRANGE mUSIC Day 2014


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

International sTRANGE mUSIC Day 2014 Performance Soiree
Sunday, August 24th @ SPECTRUM, 121 Ludlow St., NYC

Tickets $15 – Doors open at 6:30 pm with trouble to begin at 7:00 pm

Web site: http://www.strangemusic.com/ISMD2014.html

PDF Press Release

NEWSFLASH: All attendees of the INTERNATIONAL STRANGE MUSIC DAY performance at Spectrum NYC on Aug. 24th are eligible to enter our FREE raffle. The Grand Prize? A single ticket to the KING CRIMSON concert on Sept. 21st in NYC, Orchestra Center, Row GG, Seat 101. Why only one ticket? Out of sympathy for the poor date that always gets dragged along. We’re showing some mercy.

AUGUST 24th is International sTRANGE mUSIC Day. It’s a real holiday, yes it is. To celebrate, some of the NYC area’s best and brightest composers and performers are getting together to have a very unserious session of music making. This as an opportunity to for them to share unusual sounds, unusual instrumentation, and unusual compositions rarely heard or new ones that will never be heard from again.

For the 2014 celebration, creator Patrick Grant/Peppergreen Media partners up once again with NYC’s Lower East Side high-tech chamber-salon Spectrum NYC where the 2012 event was held. This is the perfect venue for such an event since its capabilities will enable strange musicians and performers of all stripes to push the envelope into uncharted territory.

Celebration in São Paulo: Making this a truly international event, there will be a Strange Music Day sister spectacle taking place at exactly the same time at the Paco Das Artes in São Paulo, Brazil presented by the Orchestra Descarrego. More iNFO via their Facebook event page HERE.

A SPLENDID ORCHESTRA
is in town, but has not been engaged

MAGNIFICENT FIREWORKS
were in contemplation for this occasion, but the idea has been abandoned

A GRAND TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION
may be expected; in fact, the public are privileged to expect whatever they please.

NYC PERFORMERS TO INCLUDE…

Cristian Amigo & Angela Babin

Guitarists Angela Babin and Cristian Amigo perform Empty Form Duo #5, a piece based on the non-dualistic idea of form/emptiness. Babin was a founding mother of the band The Ordinaires who received critical acclaim in the 80s in the Downtown NY music scene. She met Amigo (Guggenheim Fellow, guitarist, and songwriter) while playing Elliott Sharp’s Syndakit. During an extended wait for the subway they formed their collaboration for the Gotham Roots Orchestra via a mutual appreciation for the blues. They will keep it sTRANGE.

Lynn Bechtold

Violinist/composer Lynn Bechtold has appeared in recital throughout NA and Europe, and has premiered works by composers including Gloria Coates, George Crumb, John Harbison, Alvin Lucier, and Morton Subotnick. She is a member of groups including Zentripetal Duo, Bleecker StQ, Miolina, and SEM, and her performances have been broadcast on various TV/radio, including WNYC, 30 Rock, CBS Morning Show, and Good Day NY. She has appeared at venues from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to LPR and Joe’s Pub. Her electroacoustic compositions have been performed on festivals such as the Composers Concordance Festival and Kathleen Supove’s Music With A View.

Jason Belcher

Jason Belcher is a composer & multi-instrumentalist who studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He led several performance projects as a student, including a revival of music by Burr Van Nostrand, a composer whose most adventurous scores went unheard for 42 years. As a result of this project, a disc of Burr’s work was released by New World Records in 2013. Belcher currently lives and works in New York, where he is active in projects with other young improvisers.

Tom Burnett

Chime’s Swing Number 89, inspired by a set of chimes given to Tom Burnett in 1989 by the late performer and artist Winchester Chimes, is part of a continuing series of performances dating back to 1989. This performance is coincidentally the eight-ninth. Other venues have included the Bardavon Theatre, Joe’s Pub, the Kitchen, the occasional rock quarry, church, and the Canal Street subway station.

Ken Butler

Ken Butler is an artist and musician whose Hybrid musical instruments, performances, and installations explore the interaction and transformation of common and uncommon objects, altered images, sounds and silence. He has performed and exhibited throughout the USA, Canada, and Europe including The Stedelijk Museum, The Prada Foundation in Venice, Mass MoCA, The Kitchen, The Brooklyn Museum, The Queens Museum, Lincoln Center, and The Metropolitan Museum as well as in South America and Asia. Butler has been reviewed in The NY Times, The Village Voice, Artforum, Smithsonian, and Sculpture Magazine and has been featured on PBS, CNN, MTV, and NBC’s The Tonight Show.

Constance Cooper

Constance Cooper improvises instrumentally and vocally, in concert —today, Solo With Stadium Blanket — and for theater, using two keyboards tuned a quartertone apart. She belongs to ArtStar, which includes live painting and audience drawing, and to the women’s a cappella acoustic trio Arc Welding. Some years ago she designed an improvisation work for the cellist Ernst Reijseger, who began the performance, then stood up, walked around while playing, and then deliberately got entangled with the branches of a large potted plant. He later said that he had always wanted to be a tree.

Glenn Cornett

Glenn Cornett runs Spectrum NYC, the performance venue/gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that supports innovation and virtuosity in the arts. He is a composer/performer, playing guitar, keyboards, electronics, etc. Founder of two biotechnology companies – Pastorus (autism, other CNS disorders) and Navitas (cardiovascular, metabolic diseases). He has worked at McKinsey and Eli Lilly. Education: MD with Distinction in Research from the University of Michigan; PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, dissertation on human deep-brain responses to musical stimuli. He has a black belt in karate and has run nine marathons, including Istanbul in November 2013.

GangBhang

GangBhang is a collective of inattentive plus ultra performers from different “walks” of life that include secular and non-secular attitudes and fashions. This time presents a very exciting, but hopefully boring, performance with the very devices that (usually) break our connection with the real world. The performers are Balldie on iPhone, Mojas on Maschine, and Preachermac on iPad.


portrait by Ted Berkowitz

Patrick Grant

Patrick Grant creates musical works that are a synthesis of classical, popular, and world musical styles that have found place in concert halls, film, theater, dance, and visual media. Over the last three decades, his music has moved from post-punk and classically bent post-minimal styles, through Balinese-inspired gamelan and microtonality, to ambient, electronic soundscapes involving many layers of acoustic and amplified instruments. He is the creator of International Strange Music Day (August 24) and the creator/pioneer of the electric guitar procession Tilted Axes.

Amy & Alex Hamlin

Amy & Alex Hamlin are a husband and wife team who enjoy their cats, Walter & Boris, their garden, & traveling to exotic places. They are the founders of the 7-piece soul/rock band Amy Lynn & The Gunshow. The duo is enjoying experimenting more with voice and baritone sax with the music from The Gunshow. Together and apart they have played all over the country with acts such as Yo La Tengo, St. Vincent, Beth Hart, Duffy, The National, Spoon, and Red Barrat.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh

Niloufar Nourbakhsh started learning piano at the age of nine at Sarang Institute of Music located in Karaj, Iran. At the age of fifteen, she won the 2nd Prize of Iran’s National Piano Biennale Competition and performed at Tehran’s Roudaki Concert Hall twice as a participant of The Music Festival from Classical to Modern. She is a music and math graduate of Goucher College and Oxford University. She has participated in numerous music festivals as a pianist and a composer such as New Paltz Piano Summer, Atlantic Music Festival, and the Rhymes with Opera Workshop. She is currently working at Brooklyn Music School Summer Institute as a teaching artist.

Lorin Roser

Lorin Roser is a multimedia artist fascinated with the expression of mathematics. He utilizes algorithms in his musical compositions and physical simulations in his 3D animations. Recent music is created with realtime manipulation of polynomials. This work began in the 80s and was ported to Reaktor in 2004. The realtime was not possible until recent advances in computing. As a musician, Roser has performed at CBGB’s, Bowery Poetry Club, the Emily Harvey Foundation with Larry Litt, White Box with Elliott Sharp, and events for curator/performance artist A. Schloss.

Zero Boy

Zero Boy is an East Village icon who uses a unique blend of sound and mime, the results being something akin to a performed comic book. He can be seen on the upcoming Nickelodeon show Alien Dawn as the evil Dr. Drago. He appeared Off-Broadway in the Yllana Production of ‘666’, and has performed regularly on NPR’s The Next Big Thing in a special “Stump Zero Boy” segment. He has been seen on the Fox and Friends, Good Day New York and MTV.

“In 1999 I declared August 24th randomly as Strange Music Day. It gave me an opportunity to come up with a cool graphic and drive home a point that I still believe in to this day: it is always good to listen and play music that we are unfamiliar with. It keeps our ears and outlook fresh. Around 2002, I started noticing that various summer schools were picking up on it as an actual holiday….Once I started seeing postings coming from Europe, I changed the name to International Strange Music Day. It’s just been getting bigger every year….” – Patrick Grant

“Recently I’ve been taking it a step further and we had the first International Strange Music Day Performance Soiree in 2012. I asked the New York new music community to submit their ideas and apply for spots on the concert. I wanted to see a lot of new music notables perform music that they were not usually associated with, to be willing to explore uncomfortable places, to reveal their guilty pleasures and hidden parlor tricks to the public. It was a blast! It was just one those things that came together and happened so well. I and everybody involved are already looking forward to raising the bar for the next event. You have been warned!” – International sTRANGE mUSIC Day creator, Patrick Grant, Exploring the Metropolis

“International Strange Music Day was created by Patrick Grant, a New York City musician. The premise is simple: to get people to play and listen to types of music they have never experienced before. The ‘strange’ part can mean either unfamiliar or bizarre – the choice is entirely yours. Patrick believes broadening people’s musical spectrums can also change the way we look at other aspects of life – his mantra is ‘listening without prejudice’. This growing movement has concerts, a record label and strong support from summer schools, where it is appreciated as a great way to stimulate young minds. Have you ever wanted to combine a tight Wonder Woman costume, a frozen turkey drumstick and an inflatable wildebeest into a percussion concert? International Strange Music Day gives you the perfect excuse. What you do with these items once the music stops, of course, is your business… “ – Days of the Year

www.peppergreenmedia.com