Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stepping Away from the Table

After an exhausting 16 or so comments on my quite reasonable concern over the President Designate's fractured take on education (including, apparently, Lou Reed's gardner--who might be Bill O'Riley) I think I shall refrain from more political commentary, esp. considering most misread what I wrote, or at least failed to answer the question. Besides, I've got music to write--which is, I am still convinced, a reasonable thing to be doing.

So this is me, stepping away for a bit to handle some pesky deadlines. The Odd Appetite concert was great--good music, excellently played (in an unforgiving room, alas)--and there will be plenty more to report when I return.

Until then, a few weeks hence, enjoy the sunshine, New Yorkers!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Felsenmusick PSA: Odd Appetite

Galapagos presents Odd Appetite (Ha-Yang Kim and Nathan Davis) in a concert of works for amplified cello, percussion, and electronics.

Wednesday, March 29, 8:00 (sharp - galapagos has a late show after our sets)
Galapagos Art Space - 70 North 6th St., Brooklyn, back room

Odd Appetite (NYC) makes music which is inspired by their experience with Balinese and Karnatic music and infused with a fascination for acoustic phenomena. Giant gongs, microtonal bells, drums, pipes, and hammered dulcimer are heard alongside a de-tuned and amplified cello, processed with stomp boxes - all played with virtuosity, passion, and spirit.


Ha-Yang Kim - Oon
Nathan Davis - Kebyar Untai
Matt Tierney - Cant
Ha-Yang Kim - Sotong
Nathan Davis - Diving Bell

Tickets $12, at the door or reserved here.

more info at www.oddappetite.org.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Disturbing News from the Education Front

An article on the front page of the New York Times explains that, due to Bush's much vaunted "aid" to education, the so-called "No Child Left Behind" act, schools are scrambling not to educate their children but to prepare them for the program's difficult (even impossible) tests. Of course, education in the arts and humanities are the first to fall from the cirruculum, preparing our children to be good soldiers or middle managers rather than thinking, creative people. And if they don't pass these egregious tests, no doubt our fearless leader will find a way to privetize the schools. Get ready, lovers of culture, for Haliburton High and Pepsi Prep, it's on the horizon in the coming half decade.

Of all the offenses of this administration--and I cannot see anything but offenses--this is the most long-range harmful, because if you change the way education works (as they've already done with the electoral process) than the future of the country is doomed. We will all be able to say we were there at the end of the Empire. Perhaps it's deserved.

If ANYONE can show me an upside to No Child Left Behind, I'd certainly be open to it. Please, someone persuade me to it's merit, because from where I sit it's the most evil thing since racism. Please. And if anyone can point to something positive in all of this mess, I'd also love to hear, because I grow more shocked and repulsed daily.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Picture Yourself in a Boat on a River

The most impressive site I've seen in a long time is Allan W. Pollock's analysis of literally every song the Beatles ever wrote. It took him over a decade to do. Fascinating, endless reading for the inclined. This internet thing, I think it's pretty incredible. In fact, mark my words when I say It's going to be huge!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

God Bless the New York Festival of Song

Who among us is not a sucker for a good song? Songs are everywhere. Music is, to many generations, portioned out into songs. Songs, songs, songs. In classical music we've got tens of thousands of them by some of the greats. Schubert wrote 500, the largest part of his output. Ives published 114 in a single book, which represents, to my understanding, about half. Poulenc, Auric, Debussy, Faure, Schoenberg, Rorem, Webern, Argento, all composers deeply invested in the song form. So why do these pieces not get the special attention they deserve? It has always baffled me.

Enter the New York Festival of Song where, under the aegis of pianists (slash fonts of knowledge slash bastions of charisma) Michael Barrett and Steven Blier, these small-but-special compositions have been getting their due for years. Live music in a concert hall should always be a special event, and at the concert called The Banquet Years (named after the impressive and important exegesis of Belle-epoque Paris by Roger Shattuck) events were on long order. It was nice to see a concert where the music was properly looked after, treated with respect, admiration, and occasionally tough love. Blier, accompanying Mezzo-soprano Marie Lenormand and baritone Hugh Russell through a kaleidoscope of zany adventures, shaped an evening of jewels encrusted into a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts experience par excellence, and did it without a dash of pretension or preciousness. Watching Blier play or narrate or kibbitz is watching a man in love with his material--even material he to which he is not overtly well-disposed. (Of a little tune by Auric, he said "...it may not be the best song on the program, but it is the rudest" and took us completely, rudely, there.)

The concert, not-so-neatly divided, was rooted in either pre- or post-Dada. This served as a hotbutton educational tool: we learned about an important epoch--and how the "prettiness" of the Romantic era gave way to the "rudeness" of the 20th century--without a whiff of dusty didacticism. Not an easy stunt for a curator (or in this case, more a wiseacre pianist cum emcee cum educator) or performers to pull off. But they did.

Highlights were Poulenc's Appollinaire collaboration "Le Bestiere" and Ravel's "Trois Poemes de Stephan Mallarme," which can stand alone as a subtle tonality-begat-astringency-begat-atonality lesson, and is sumptuously gorgeous as such. But the evening was not to more common fare alone: Stravinsky's "Pastorale" (a vocalise) as well as generous offerings by Satie, Saint-Saens, and Cabaret songs from the now forgotten Marcel Bloch and Leon Xanrof rounded out this generous, thoughtful, smart concatenation of a program.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Best to the Box

I must commend NewMusicBox and the American Music Center for offering several things which are deeply practical and effectively (and importantly) trade-journalish. One is Paola Prestini's article about non-profit status, which is, along with Derek Bermel's piece on getting foreign performances and Todd Reynolds' take on composer-performer relations, one of the most important pieces of practical advice the Box has offered to date.

Another important offering is their newly released directory of new music ensembles, available for a small fee ($15 per year to AMC members; $30 to non-members). For those trying to cut through the morass of submissions, this will no doubt prove an invaluable resource. For those enterprising souls who actually run ensembles. this will be a divine outlet to let the bulk of American composers know you exist. Subscribe here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


"Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic." - Jean Sibelius

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

God Bless Kentucky

Just when you think everything totally hip is going on in or around the major coastal cities, I discover that WUOL out of Louisville, Kentucky, has a program dedicated to living composers. Details:

Broadcast Sunday’s at 7:00pm, Brave New World features today’s living composers.

Each week Daniel Gilliam will program music that challenges and excites, but above all gives voice to those writing for these present days.

If you are a composer, we would love to hear from you. Broadcast quality recordings can be sent to:

Daniel Gilliam
619 S. Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Be sure to include a resume (with complete contact information) and program notes on your piece(s) with your recording. While no guarantees can be made that your music will be aired, you can be assured that we will consider it and add it to our library.

The Louisville Orchestra has always been extremely friendly to contemporary composers (as evidenced by the First Edition Recordings series), but I've yet to hear of a radio hour devoted only to contemporary music--especially one so open. Am I wrong? Please do inform me otherwise.

Hate to Complain, but...

After all the hoo-hah about the Met's new direction under Peter Gelb--much of which sounds at least eyebrow-raising, and some of which is downright thrilling--the forthcoming season for the New York City Opera snuck in under my radar. Now I adore this institution, largely for their bravery in repertoire choices. However, in 2006-7, the fare is, shall we say, rather typical. Not one work by a living composer, and their most adventurous choice is Korngold's Die todt Stadt, a returning favorite. Yes, they do continue their excellent Handel exploration series with Semele, but really, no Britten, no Adamo, not even a hip Sondheim. One does wonder what made them pull so far back. Not even a Little Prince or anything remotely like it. Plenty of Carmen and Cosi and Boheme, but where is the vision?

A bit of a dissapointment, especially with their forward-thinking VOX program looking so souped-up and better-than-ever this year.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Like many bloggers, I occassionaly enter a wormhole wherein blogging is an impossibility. In this case, I've been laboring hard on two pieces, one of which (piano and violin, First Scenes from Red Room) I at last finished, written for the Either/Or Festival this coming April 6-7 to be performed by Richard Carrick and Andrea Schultz--more on that later, but do save the date.

More on Mark Adamo's presentation/public master class when I am less morphetically drawn.