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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The As-Always Fearless Neil Young

In an era where too many of even our greatest 60s radicals have shied from speaking against this unjust and mercenary war in which we're too deeply entrenched, Neil Young, on something of a musical roll, is about to release his gorgeous, flagrant, angry, hopeful and downright moving Living With War. Click here to listen to the whole thing--but please, if you believe it, run out in two weeks and buy this one. It will be worth it.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I Suppose I Will Never Understand...

In the New York Times, Bernard Holland's un-positive review of Lowell Liebermann and J.D. McClatchy's operatic adaptation of Miss Lonleyheats, has this to say:
"Both composer and librettist declare their enormous admiration for West's original. One can argue that the most potent expression of that admiration would have been to leave "Miss Lonelyhearts" the novel alone, not laboriously twist and reshape it into something it was never intended to be. Why is opera driven to such possessiveness, so compelled to take ownership of something that is not its?"

What baffles me is how so many critics--Americans all--are mystified when an American composer and American librettist deign to take on an American novel, as if it were part of some cheap Nationalistic Dog and Pony Show wherein we turn second rate tomes into second rate operas en masse with intent to harm the properties. Are we supposed to adapt things we hate, because if we love something we should leave it alone? And why is an adaptation, in the eyes and ears of Mr. Holland, an act of violence to the original if it simply does not work well?

Now, if you don't love the adaptation (and I was not so smitten with Miss Lonleyhearts in the interest of full disclosure) say so, but do not condemn the mere act of making an American opera on an American book. "Take ownership" of something that is not it's? Tell that to Mozart, who did not concoct the story of Idomeneo; or to Britten, who did not inflict the suffering on Peter Grimes; or to Wagner, who (despite what he thought of himself) was not a Norse God. Did Strauss "own" Salome? Does John Corigliano "own" the French Revolution? What of a white New York jew writing of Catfish Row? Does opera, as a genre, have a claim on anything, from the story of Jesus to the making of the bomb? Who makes these purchases? Who decides who owns what?

Or if you do, offer us a solution: are we to take films? Icelandic sagas? Collections of review columns? Honestly, what are we to do if not take our own literature and adapt it to the stage. These are our stories, and if soemthing was not meant to be an opera, that does not mean it cannot be an opera. There are great operas out there on topics never imagined as musical endeavors, from the Grail to Nixon's visit to the East, Greek gods to a moor who kills his lover.

Help me out, Mr. Holland--or anyone reading--and tell me what are we to do? What stories should we tell? Or are we to just, as you seem to imply over and over, to leave composing to the Europeans?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Good Turn by Uncle Davy

Thanks so much to composer and all around genius David Rakowski for mentioning my piece Smoking My Diploma in his excellent article about titles on New Music Box. For the record, the piece does not reflect my thoughts on education, but was intended in the spirit of the person whom it memorializes, the hon. late Dr. Timothy Leary. But then again, what has that diploma done for me lately?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Here it is, my first review of a New York concert that is longer than two words (wish I were exaggerating). Thanks to Sarah Cahill, who pointed out that this is not a local but a national citation. Music Web is a largely British site, but they do dip over to our shores from time to time. Good for me that they do. Thanks to Bruce Hodges for these kind words.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sorry Felsenreaders...

In the past 48 hours, I've been in five states, three cities, and at a lot of family functions regarding holidays. So blogging has been somewhat far from my mind. But for those who have not yet seen it, check out the newly minted www.danielfelsenfeld.com, my own personal website. And yes, those are my glasses.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Math & Music

Old friend James Newman, a physicist, biologist, poet, music lover and all around genius, sends this site where Pi is made into music (among other things). Solfege along if you like--and I dare someeone out there to make a quartet or symphony out of these melodies. Or better--a math opera!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I mean, if this was at least a newly commissioned work...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Felsenmusick PSA: Either/Or Festival, April 6 and 7

AT TENRI CULTURAL INSTITUTE 43A West 13th St. (tel. 212-645-2800)
APRIL 6 AND 7, 2006 – 8:00 pm
Tickets are $15 at the door, $10 for Students/Seniors, and $25 for both nights

“Either/Or are making a splash with superb programming etched by some the city’s best musicians....this is a hot new group to watch."
Bruce Hodges of MusicWeb.UK

"Either/Or have taken on a startlingly ambitious program"
Alan Lockwood of New York Press

Either/Or present their first festival with two evenings of contemporary chamber music at Tenri Cultural Institute 43A West 13th Street on April 6th and 7th, 2006. This Spring Festival features two world premieres, a varied selection of cutting-edge New York Composers, and the rarely heard instrument; the cimbalom.

Thursday night (April 6), Either/Or continue their survey of the trios of Morton Feldman with a performance of his major work “Crippled Symmetry,” a concert-length work for flutes, piano/celesta, and percussion. The Friday night (April 7) program pairs two monolithic solo works, Elliott Sharp’s 2004 piano piece “Oligosono” and John Zorn’s 2000 percussion solo “Gri-Gri”. with the seldom-heard cimbalom duo miniatures of György Kurtág, Eight duets for violin & cimbalom, Op. 4, and Trei Pezzi for clarinet and cimbalom, Op.38, and world premieres by New York composers Richard Carrick, “in flow” for solo violin, and Daniel Felsenfeld, “First Scenes from Red Room” for violin and piano.

Either/Or will feature performances by New York new music veterans Andrea Schultz on violin and Anthony Burr on clarinet, Jane Rigler on flutes, and founders David Shively on percussion and cimbalom and Richard Carrick on piano and celeste.

There will be reception following Friday evening’s performance. Both evenings are presented at 8pm at the Tenri Cultural Institute (43A West 13th Street, tel. 212-645-2800), located between 5th and 6th Avenues, and easily accessible by subway (1/2/3/9/F/N/R/W/Q/4/5/6 to 14th Street.) Tickets are $15 at the door, $10 for Students/Seniors, and $25 for both nights.

Either/Or is a new music ensemble drawing its membership from a pool of active soloists in New York City. Founded in 2004 by composer/pianist Richard Carrick and percussionist David Shively, Either/Or has already received rave reviews for its cutting-edge programming and performances. E/O specializes in music for unconducted chamber ensembles. Its programs focus on American experimental music, its influence on European composition, and the works of emerging composers. For more information, please visit


This festival is made possible in large part by Harry and Alice Eiler (www.eilerfoundation.org)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"If we can just find a way to get rid of these writers and directors, we'd really have something"

I am not sure if I ought to be horrified or amused by this article in the Times which takes up ever-dwindling space in the Arts section to discuss the creation of a song by a thoroughly untalented, untrained writer via some fantastic new looping software. Apparently it is, according to Nic Harcourt of Morning Becomes Eclectic, good that people flex their creative muscles, it tears down a barrier, and it is in line with the fact that people who don't have musical training write a lot of hit songs already.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: one can only blink. Just another example of the MySpace-ization of the Times, and another example of how easy putting of block A and block B next to one another passes for "creativity." Breaking down a barrier? How, from those talented mongrel hordes who keep all the art to themselves--let us who don't want to learn have a piece as well?

I do understand that there's a difference between writing a song for MySpace and making a good string quartet or opera. But soon, will there be a program for that as well?

I move for amatuers to take over Morning Becomes Eclectic. After all, those people with culture and purview who have spent time investigating their topics have hogged the mic long enough.