Pierre Boulez, composer - part 1 (of 4)


Pierre Boulez, conductor - part 2 (of 4)


Pierre Boulez, biography - part 3 (of 4)


Top 100 Composers: Pierre Boulez - part 4 (of 4)

review of

Georgina Born's "Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde"

by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 17-26, 2018

"Born's IR-ACHE":

I got this bk b/c a friend of mine gave it to me. HE got it b/c his brother gave it to him. He skimmed thru it, knew he'd never read it, & asked me if I wanted it. He picqued my interest by telling me that the author had played bass w/ Henry Cow. Henry Cow are by far one of my favorite bands so the thought of one of their crew critiqueing IRCAM, an institution that I have some interest in, was intrigueing.

I didn't recognize her name as a Henry Cow member. I looked at her Wikipedia entry:

"Born studied the cello and piano at the Royal College of Music in London, and performed classical and modern music including stints with the Michael Nyman Band, the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and the Flying Lizards. She also studied for a year at the Chelsea School of Art.

"In June 1976, she joined the English avant-rock group Henry Cow as bass guitarist and cellist, following the departure of John Greaves. Henry Cow was in a period of intensive touring and Born toured Europe with the group for two years.

"After Henry Cow, Born performed and recorded with a number of groups and musicians, including fellow Henry Cow member Lindsay Cooper, National Health, Bruford, and Mike Westbrook, particularly as a cellist in the Westbrook Orchestra. Her playing is prominent on Westbrook's album, The Cortege. Late in 1977, Born, Cooper, Sally Potter and Maggie Nichols founded the Feminist Improvising Group. She also recorded with The Raincoats, and played improvised music with Lol Coxhill, Steve Beresford, David Toop and others as a member of the London Musicians' Collective.

"During the 1980s, Born was an occasional member of Derek Bailey's Company, and played cello and bass guitar on numerous soundtracks for television and film for composers Lindsay Cooper and Mike Westbrook, as well as the soundtrack for the Stephen Poliakoff play Caught on a Train (1980). She had a walk-on part in Sally Potter's film The Gold Diggers (1983)."


That led to my pulling out the records that I have by some of the groups mentioned above so that I can listen to them while writing this review. Of the 5 Henry Cow records I have, "Henry Cow" (Red 001), "UNREST", "In Praise of Learning", "Western Culture", & "The Last Nightingale", she appears to be only on 1 track of 7 on "Western Culture": "1/2 the Sky". Alas, I missed her era. She is, however, on the Art Bears's "Hopes and Fears" but not listed as on their "Winter Songs". I think of The Art Bears as the successors to Henry Cow. I love The Art Bears too. She doesn't appear to've been an 'official' member of The Art Bears but more of an added player. She's not on either of the 2 Mike Westbrook records I have: "Marching Song - An Anti-War Jazz Symphony" & "Metropolis". She's also not on the only National Health record I have: "National Health". I don't know of her being on any of the Derek Bailey or Lol Coxhill records that I have either. This leads to my thinking she was more of a guest musician than a band member in many instances. Whatever the case, she must've had pretty impressive chops given that she wd've been in her early 20s when she played w/ Henry Cow. I wd've never been able to meet their level of musicianship at the time. Her discography, according to her Wikipedia entry:

With Art Bears

· Hope and Fears (1978)

With National Health

· Of Queues and Cures (1978)

With Henry Cow

· Western Culture (1979)

· The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set (2009, 9xCD+DVD, Recommended Records, UK)

With Feminist Improvising Group

· Feminist Improvising Group (1979, Cassette, UK)

With Bruford

· Gradually Going Tornado (1980)

With Stormy Six

· Macchina Maccheronica (1980)

With Mike Westbrook

· Bright as Fire (1980)

· The Cortege (1982)

· On Duke's Birthday (HatART, 1985)

With Lindsay Cooper

· Rags (1981)

· The Golddiggers ­ original soundtrack to the film The Gold Diggers by Sally Potter (1983)

· Music for Other Occasions (1986)

With The Raincoats

· Odyshape (1981)

With Peter Blegvad

· The Naked Shakespeare (1983)

With News from Babel

· Work Resumed on the Tower (1984)

I've just listened to "1/2 the Sky" & now I'm listening to "Hopes and Fears". Her career as a recording/performing musician seems to've spanned 1978 to 1986. What happened? It seems that writing this bk is what happened. She also had a child. The primary period of IRCAM under inspection is 1984 but the scrutiny continues up 'til the early '90s. The bk wasn't copyrighted until 1995 when it was published by the University of California Press. I'm somewhat impressed that it was published at all.

When I started reading "Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde" I was expecting a heavy dose of class analysis of how cultural elites funnel money & power into their own notion of what constitutes important music - & that was what I was looking forward to. AND I was expecting it to be academically written. THAT I wasn't looking forward to - &, in fact, for me, the 1st 56pp or so were well nigh insufferable. It took extreme devotion on my part to plough thru it. Keep in mind that people are taught to write this way but I really have to wonder about these 'teachers'. I'll explain what I mean as I go along.

In her acknowledgments she states that "My thinking on music and cultural politics remains deeply marked by the following people and groups with whom I have worked: Henry Cow, the Feminist Improvising Group, Lindsay Cooper, Mike Westbrook, and the London Musicians' Collective." (p xiii)

As a personal aside, I performed at the London Musicians' Collective on Wednesday, May 23, 1984 as part of the Popular Chapati Circus wch was part of The 8th International Neoist Apartment Festival. There's vaudeo of that on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: . This was definitely not popular. It was boycotted by Andre Stitt & his friends, who nonetheless hung around outside in a car. As I recall, the toilet facilities were reached by going outside & walking a bit to a different bldg. The LMC people weren't particularly friendly & made a point of just letting us in to the space & then going across the street to a pub for the entirety of our "circus". They showed no interest in what we were doing whatsoever. Perhaps their politics were one of snobbishness. Contrarily, when I screened 16mm films at the London Filmmakers Collective in 1988 as part of an open screening the collective members were receptive & friendly & it was a pleasure to be there. I'm sure the LMC was a great place too so it's too bad I didn't spend more quality time there.

"I am profoundly grateful to these people for their efforts and warmth and for their commitment to a dialogue with someone whose beliefs were, in different degrees and ways, at odds with their own: Tod Machover, who made the study possible and has been a frank and generous friend; Jean Baptiste Barrière, for his friendship, help, thoughtfulness, and loyalty during the entire research; Adrian Freed, George Lewis, Stephen McAdams, Alejandro Viñao, and David Wessel, for many hours of serious talk, insight, and fun; and Gerard Asseyag, Laurent Bayle, Gerald Bennett, Denis Lorrain, Yves Potard, Mark Seiden and Marco Stroppa as well." - p xiv


In the interest of protecting the anonymity of the people written about & quoted, Born uses initials that don't correspond to the actual initials of the people referred to. Hence George Lewis = PL & Jean Baptiste Barrière = WOW. I didn't go to the trouble of figuring out who everyone was although at this point in time w/ the internet as a resource doing so wd be somewhat easy. Since I have recordings of Machover's music I became curious enuf just now to figure out that he's HY. Doing so only took a few seconds.

Born's introduction starts off w/ a quote from Boulez putting forth his philosophical vision of IRCAM's basis:

"The creator's intuition alone is powerless to provide a comprehensive translation of musical invention. It is thus necessary for him to collaborate with the scientific research worker in order to envision the distant future, to imagine less personal, and thus broader, solutions. . . . The musician must assimilate a certain scientific knowledge, making it an integral part of his creative imagination. . . . At educational meetings scientists and musicians will become familiar with one another's point of view and approach. In this way, we hope to forge a kind of common language that scarely exists at present.

"Technology and the composer: a collaboration between scientists and musicians . . . is, therefore, a necessity. . . . " - p 1

My review note re the above is "whatever". In other words, I find blanket statements like "The creator's intuition alone is powerless to provide a comprehensive translation of musical invention." to be essentially w/o value. There are an infinite amt of ways of making things of interest. A recurring pattern w/ Boulez is his tendency to make pronouncements as if he's taking you thru the jungle w/ his flaming sword to hack the only-possible-path. It's all bullshit (or, if you prefer, horse puckey).. but it gets the money when sd w/ the requisite amt of chutzpah.

NOW, cf Boulez's statement to this excerpt from my review of Joan Peyser's biography of Boulez wch came out in November, 1976, shortly before IRCAM opened & the same yr that Boulez made the above publicity statement:

"When I mentioned an American composer whose work he dislikes, Boulez suddenly came to life, launching a virtuoso attack on various facets of U.S. music.

""Electronic music: "The same frenzy for technology began in Europe about 1953. By 1958 it had all died down. The idea of electronics as the big future of music is just an American trick of fashion. Next year they'll discover the viola da gamba. Playing Bach on the computer doesn't interest me at all because it's artistically irrelevant. All this indicates a simplistic way of thinking-an appalling low level of thinking."

""As for "Perspectives of New Music," an avant-garde journal published by the Princeton University Press: "'Perspectives' is similar to 'Die Reihe,' begun in Germany about 1953. Its writers think they are great scientists. They are not.["]" - p 181

"Whew! If those are real quotes, Boulez was suffering from diarrhea-of-the-mouth - or his listener(s) were suffering from having to listen to it. Boulez displays the same type of behaviors over & over: he disses other people's work & then imitates it later as if the way he's doing it is the 'right' way & the other people can be dismissed as imbeciles. He did it w/ chance music, here he's doing it w/ electronics - something he clearly knows next-to-nothing about. Then he cofounds IRCAM wch is supposed to link music w/ science & technology & wch gets millions for this purpose ­ after dissing Americans for linking music w/ science & technology. The dating of European electronic music as from 1953-1958 is just ludicrous. His apparent purpose is to say that Americans are Johnny-come-latelies when, in fact, the Teleharmonium was invented by an American, Thaddeus Cahill, in the 19th century. To then act like one single acoustic instrument wd faddishly replace an entire resource is ridiculous. That's like saying: "Oh they're all about drinking fluids, those inferiors, the next thing you know they'll be discovering orange juice & forget fluids in general.' THEN he mentions playing "Bach on the computer", wch also doesn't interest me, but is probably a reference to Walter Carlos's "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" wch is hardly representative of all that was going on in electronic music in America at the time."


Born's 1st paragraph sets the stage:

"This book centers on an ethnographic study of IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique). IRCAM is a large computer music research and production institute in Paris, which opened in 1977, and which is handsomely funded by the French state. IRCAM was founded, and until 1992 was directed, by the renowned conductor and avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez." - p 1

Not knowing Born's work at all, even as a bass player, I was feeling my way thru this bk - alternately enticed, as by the promise of the above, & annoyed:

"In recent decades, and with increased vigor since the early 1970s, there has been a split within the world of serious composition between, loosely, the advocates of scientistic postserialism and its critics and dissenters, the latter the proponents of various forms of postmodernist aesthetic and composition.

"To leave it at this, however, would not convey the chronic sense of impasse, the profound doubt and loss of confidence, that have accompanied this split, especially for the many composers who have experienced a disenchantment with the high-modernist project and with the perceived failures of serialism. The sense of a threat to the continued existence of western art music has, despite certain differences, been widespread in both Europe and the United States."


"The character of the split between the extremes of the pro-serialist, modernist and anti-serialist, post-modernist camps can be grasped by comparing two notorious articles by American composers who have been seen as prime representatives of the two sides: Milton Babbitt and George Rochberg." - p 3

My note about this is: "She's almost as bad as Boulez!" There are several things that people jockeying for power typically do: 1. Express themselves as if they're telling the absolute truth, as if they're 'objective'; 2. Express themselves using the royal "We" as if it's not them writing but some greater power beyond them; 3. Reduce everything to dualities; 4. Avoid qualifiers that might show the situation to be more complicated than the position expressed. Born does all these things almost constantly. No doubt this helped her maneuver herself into a well-pd 'educator's' position but it doesn't do much to enhance the value of her opinion, wch she doesn't present as such, for me.

A serious problem w/ academics then becomes the tendency to use critical language that oversimplifies dramatically. Born is all about avant-garde vs pop, modernist vs post-modernist, serialist vs anti-serialist - but is everything so clearly divided? I think not. The "world of serious composition" is far more complex than the "split" she describes. It seems to me that what happens is that writers like Born describe things in reduced terms & then take that description for 'reality'. It's convenient for a critic to divide work of the 2nd half of the 20th century into "modernist" & "post-modernist" but how many people other than academics take such terms seriously?!

Academics have to show that they're 'w/ it', they don't want to be trundled off to the no-longer-intellectually-valid dept at their university where their opinions won't matter anymore. As such, they try to ride the trends that will enhance their careers. I remember Tony Conrad coming to Pittsburgh to show films & deciding to only show a few minutes of one of his works b/c it wasn't "post-modernist" enuf - as if the latest critical lingo invalidated the work.

Born's statement reminds me of the typical: 'Communism's dead so now there's just Capitalism' statement that I've run across so many times. In other words, the pseudo-intellectual process involves: 1st, divide everything into only 2 possible camps; 2nd, proclaim one of the camps dead in order to justify any & all excesses of the 'remaining' camp. I hope it's obvious that there aren't just 2 possibilities in either politics or music. Life & Death? Ok, I'll accept that as a duality - but I'm open to other opinions. But Serialism & Anti-Serialism? To pull a quasi-reductio ad absurdum here, that's like saying there are only 2 notes: C (for Communism) & C# (for Capitalism) & then dividing the world into camps that fight over wch note to play.

I've been d composing work w/ audio since approximately 1974. That wd make me relevant to the period under discussion. Is it Modernist? Or is it Post-Modernist? Is it Serialist or is it Anti-Serialist? To me, it's none-of-the-above. Then, of course, there's the chance that it's not "western art music" &, therefore, it's not 'relevant' to the discussion. I agree that it's not "western art music" but add that it is extremely relevant to the discussion precisely b/c it doesn't fit into the neat little boxes that these academic critics try to shove entirely too much into.

Are the "TESTES-3 Broadcast Tapes" Modernist or Post-Modernist? Check out "Quasi-Documentation of Testes-3's End of Library K & M Series" {version 3} (YouTube version) - 10:09 - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: & I think you'll immediately understand what I mean about how outside the box TESTES-3 was - &, yet, for me, it definitely related to the lineage of both music & politics that I was so passionately immersed in at the time. That was 1979.

In the description of my "Low Classical Usic" playlist on YouTube I state:

"Some people call it "music" but that's not very interesting is it? I prefer (M)Usic, the root word is "use". Low Classical Usic is (M)Usic for people who don't really fit into the conservatory, into the academy. It's class playfair, it's sound art w/o the art, it's high brow low classicism. It's not for everyone b/c everyone's against it but it's egalitarian nonetheless."

There are 104 movies on the playlist as of today, May 17th, 2018. There's even an "Ordinary Piano Solo" on there: . But how "ordinary" is it really? What boxes does it fit into? The visuals are almost entirely black. When I appear playing the solo I'm naked & playing a MIDI-Guitar that's triggering a sampler to play an electric piano sound. Musically, it doesn't sound that exceptional. It probably wdn't rub a tonalist the wrong way. But a moment's thought wd make a person realize that the technique used to trigger the sounds on a guitar neck are far more limited in terms of harmony than they are on a keyboard. Furthermore, this MIDI-Guitar doesn't have strings over the frets: it has thin rectangular buttons. That cuts out various string-player techniques like glissandi. The point is that the 'ordinariness' isn't so 'ordinary' after all.

Or what about "cellfeed 01", , in wch the tool for documenting the Uncert becomes an instrument for producing the Uncert? The boundaries that both Boulez & Born depend upon to make their positions rigid are just impediments to creativity.

Or what about "Something That Dissolves the Shadow of Something That was Next to Something That Combusted Once. Twice" ( )? Were we a Pop Group or Serious Western Art Music Makers? After all, we were a band, 4 guys playing music that had drums, bass, & guitar - how much more 'pop' can you get? But our name alone was enuf to lead to our being rejected from either of the above 2 categories even if we wanted to be there - wch we didn't. & that's not even mentioning the (M)Usic.

Or what about "Po"? ( ) That certainly takes the "text" that Boulez was so obsessed w/ to a new level - but I doubt that Boulez wd've liked it - or that Born wd.

As for using Milton Babbitt and George Rochberg as prime representatives of the 'two sides'?! For me, that's even more ludicrous. They're just 2 composers. They have their opinions. They might have been influential intellectuals & theorists but that doesn't make them representative of everybody. Neither of them represent the vast majority of the composers that I find interesting. They're certainly irrelevant to:

Artman, Gilbert

Avram, Ana-Maria

Bandt, Ros

Bayle, François

Brant, Henry

Braxton, Anthony

Brown, Earle

Cage, John

Captain Beefheart (van Vliet, Don)

Curran, Alvin

Detoni, Debravko

Doctor John the Night Tripper (Rebennac, Mac)

Dodge, Charles

Dumitrescu, Iancu

Dun, Tan

Dunn, David

Ellington, Duke

Feldman, Morton

Gaburo, Kenneth

Harrison, Lou

Hendrix, Jimi

Henry, Pierre

Heron, Mike

Hunt, Jerry

Ichiyanagi, Toshi

Kagel, Mauricio

Kamin, Franz

Kraft, William

Lockwood, Annea

Lucier, Alvin

Malec, Ivo

Mayuzumi, Toshiro

Miki, Minoru

Mimaroglu, Ilhan

Mingus, Charlie

Mitchell, Joni

Nancarrow, Conlon

Parmegiani, Bernard

Partch, Harry

Reich, Steve

Rzewski, Frederic

Scelsi, Giacinto

Spear, Roger Ruskin

Stanshall, Vivian

Stapleton, Steven

Stockhausen, Karlheinz

Sun Ra


Williamson, Robin

Wilson, Olly

Wishart, Trevor

Wolff, Christian

to name some of the composers whose work might be relevant to the period under study. (See my list here: ). The "sense of a threat to the continued existence of western art music" is like the problem of the person who can't figure out how to get their clothes off over their head - to them the whole world must be going blind.

"The musical avant-garde thus inhabits several contradictions. On the one hand, being no longer marginal and critical of the dominant order as in the earlier period of modernism, but itself established, it has not only undermined its initial raison d'être but it must also continually legitimize its present position of official subsidy in the absence of a large audience." - p 4

There you have it, Born defines the avant-garde's current existence as "no longer marginal and critical of the dominant order", as "established", & as having "undermined its initial raison d'être" but then goes further to say that it must "continually legitimize its present position of official subsidy in the absence of a large audience". But what's wrong w/ this picture? This sort of thing happens to me all too often. I tell someone that I'm not an artist & they then turn around & criticize me for proclaiming that I'm an artist when I'm really a bad artist. In other words, critics can make whatever statement they want to as long as their own logic defines the world of their criticism. Born is 'absolutely right' precisely b/c her logic's tautological.

My point here isn't to defend the "avant-garde" - it's rather to critique the usefulness of such terms. Sure, I use them from time-to-time - but I don't swear by them - in other words, I don't act like they successfully describe reality. Why can't a composer, regardless of whether they're lumped by oversimplifiers as "avant-garde" or not, simply create a piece that interests them, for whatever reason (or lack thereof)? That's much harder to do in academia b/c one is under scrutiny by peers for things like tenure - as such, academia tends to generate a critical language that enables judgments to be made. That's what Born does here &, for me, the categories are mostly disposable. Nonetheless, she's a meticulous & thorough analyst. If she'd been more careful about the categories she used this bk wd've been much better - but it wdn't've been published by a university press.

"The investigation of how IRCAM continually legitimizes itself in order to reproduce its current dominant position, in the absence of great public or industrial success and while at the same time enunciating avant-garde ideology, is thus at the heart of the book." - p 4

& that's where Born starts to interest me. I worked for over 22 yrs for 6 different museums & one traveling museum display company. I was certainly steeped in the politics of how such places justify their existence. One of the only things that distinguishes IRCAM from other places is that it was essentially founded & headed by a person whose cultural cred is truly substantial. Most museums are bureaucracies staffed by people posing as people of cultural substance - Pierre Boulez has a body of work to back himself up. Regardless of how much I find Boulez arrogant & manipulative he still has great compositions & conducting to his credit. That made his ideological investment in IRCAM more than just a matter of making himself rich & powerful.

"To what extent should music be considered a science? How far is it appropriate to use scientific analogies in composition? Sociologically, questions arises from the crises in both the production and reception of avant-garde music. How should serious composition be supported? By the market (in which case it would barely continue to exist)? By the universities? By the sphere of subsidized cultural life?" - p 5

Again, whatever. IMO, the only people who have any responsibility to take care of anyone else are parents - who shd take care of the children they bring into the world until they're able to go out on their own. If a person, such as myself, creates things of complexity that're of no interest to anyone else then it's unreasonable to expect them to support it. Alas, if only life were that simple. People who succeed financially in this world are the ones who have advantages from the get-go who then force other people to increase those advantages. Such disparities are reinforced by all sorts of injustices. The only people, such as myself, who're essentially penalized for not participating in the dog-eat-dog are the ones who refuse to acknowledge the validity of the stacked deck. The world is full of malignant morons whose sole 'contribution' to culture is the retardation of it. Look at President Rump. Still, whatever. I'd rather have Boulez & the people at IRCAM get government money (robbed from the people of course) than other likely candidates.

"In the past decade, critical views of modernism such as Rochberg's have become increasingly prominent in the United States. There has been a concerted effort by many to argue that postmodern pluralism has become the equal of, if not surpassed, postserialism as the dominant trend in American serious composition." - p 5

Born uses terminology that she seems to imply is somehow 'universal': in other words, she doesn't write: 'In the past decade, critical views of modernism such as Rochberg's have become increasingly prominent in the United States amongst the few people who think in such terms. There has been a concerted effort by the same few people to argue that postmodern pluralism has become the equal of, if not surpassed, postserialism as the dominant trend in American serious composition as defined by the people whose reputations as 'serious' are what enables their privileged lifestyles. If these people were truly intelligent, they wd realize that such reductionist contextualizing is completely irrelevant to any true creativity. If they were honest they might even admit it - but that wd endanger said privilege.' Born writes as if she's making a generalization that applies to the entire population of the US rather than to a very small minority. Despite her apparent politics, I suspect that she's firmly a part of that privileged minority.

W/ the above criticism aside, this hypothetical conflict between postserialism & postmodernism isn't that different from the earlier days of unpopular dodecaphony & the more populist Americana. I write about this at greater length in my review of OPEN SPACE 15/16 ( ). Here's a quote from the relevant OPEN SPACE article:

"Curiously enough, Americanism [at that time] went hand in hand with political leftism. . . . Now it should be obvious that the demands of a proletariat [sic] music required greater accessibility than could be vouchsafed by the type of music emanating from Vienna." - p 325

"The recourse to ideas ranging from ethnomusicology to sociology of culture to art history to semiotics to psychoanalysis has, at each point, been necessary to account for the particularities of the phenomena to be understood. For such a pragmatic use of theory I am unapologetic. Rather, I attempt to show the productivity of engaging what are often considered-unnecessarily, in my opinion-discrete and incommensurable domains." - p 8, Rationalizing Culture

To wch I reply: "Of course!" b/c I see the divisions between these disciplines to be of little or no value & the whole issue of referring to all of them as a non-issue. Born, however, seems to only find such intersecting of "discrete and incommensurable domains" to be objectionable when she's criticizing IRCAM practices:

"I passed an American composer, a squatter who was keen to find a place within IRCAM. He talked with excitement about a new branch of genetic biology that promised to provide beautiful conceptual models for composition."


"It is clear, then, that in comparison with the inarticulacy and sensory immediacy of lower-status workers' discourse, IRCAM intellectuals did not in fact enjoy sophisticated and articulate musical-aesthetic forms of talk. There was a lack of specifically musical and aesthetic discussion, and in its place a proliferation of scientific and technological theory and talk." - pp 166-167

It's w/ framing language such as "It is clear, then" that Born presents her statements as 'objective truth'. What may be clear is that she tells stories her way, w/ hidden subtexts that may or may not be intrinsic to the subject matter, & then reaches conclusions from them that the reader is presented as 'fact'. BEWARE.

While we're on the subjects of compartmentalization thru use of critical terms not always applicable & the use of discipline-bending terminology why not mention Charles Ives, eh? Below he's quoted as discussing his "Holidays Symphony" (1897-1913):

"In his Memos, Ives summarized his approach as follows: "...I did what I wanted to, quite sure that the thing would never be played, and perhaps, could never be played-although the uneven measures that look so complicated in the score are mostly caused by missing a beat, which was often done in parades. In the parts taking off explosions [two such explosions occur, in the middle and at the end], I worked out combinations of tones and rhythms very carefully by kind of prescriptions, in a way a chemical compound which makes explosions would be made."" - liner notes to CBS Masterworks MK 42381 CD "Charles Ives Holidays Symphony" as performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, notes by Paul C. Echols

IMO, Ives qualifies as both proto-modernist, partially b/c he started composing pre-20th century & anticipated much of the modernist complexity, & post-modernist b/c his music is such a pastiche of popular culture. His analogy of orchestrating explosion effects by comparison w/ a chemical process is akin to the IRCAM composer's enthusiasm for using genetic biology as a guiding inspiration for music. AND WHY THE FUCK NOT?! So where does Ives fit in? Nowhere as simple as the critical categories that Born & Boulez force their subject-matter into.

"I decided at the outset of the study not to speak directly to Boulez, for several reasons. First, and pragmatically, because when I began I considered it wise not to draw attention to myself from the highest in command. I was fortunate to gain entry through the mediation of a young IRCAM director who gained permission for my visit from the higher executives on my behalf." - p 9

In other words, she knew she'd be writing a critique of IRCAM from the get-go as a hierarchical institution. I don't blame her for that but, hey!, let's drop any pretenses at 'objectivity', eh? I have to wonder how phony she was to people as she got her 'dirt'. Not everyone in her acct is treated nicely.

One thing that struck me throughout this bk was her seeming ignorance of contemporary classical music. There's a pretense there that she knows it but I get the impression more that: 1. she doesn't know it, 2. she doesn't listen to it, & 3. she doesn't like it. Many of her statements about music in general seem underinformed:

"I refer, in rock, to the avant-garde experimentation with atonality, electronic noise, and complex meter found in some groups from the early 1970s, which led into one kind of punk." - p 21

Oh, really? What "kind of punk" is that?! Perhaps you cd give us some examples? It seems to me that when punk is "atonal" it's simply b/c the punk musicians don't know what tonality is & the "electronic noise" means distortion pedals & feedback - but "complex meter"?! really, I need an example b/c I can't think of a single instance. Born goes on to claim that:

"However much an avant-garde attempts to produce work that is unclassififable, shockingly different, it is a truism that in order to be meaningful it must, by definition, ultimately be classifiable as "art" by an audience; or, it may be understood as the negation of art - the reaction that the avant-garde typically sets out to provoke in the "Philistine" audience. The latter "against art" classification appears, historically, to be particularly permeable, so that by the intervention of critics, "against art" comes eventually to be understood as "part of art."" - p 21

I just find statements like the above to be mind-bogglingly specious. What about the work that IS "unclassififable" but ISN'T "avant-garde"?! Is that possible? To me it obviously is. But Born, as the academic critic, has to 1st make it "against art" so that she can eventually make it misunderstood as "part of art." What if it's simply NOT ART? Is that so hard to imagine? For Born, the answer is probably yes.

What about "WARNING: TV Suffocates the Senses like a Bag over the Head"? ( ) Is it "art"? Is it "anti-art"? In "order to be meaningful" must it "by definition, ultimately be classifiable as "art" by an audience" or can the text be simply listened to as a criticism of the negative effects of TV?

What about "El Departamento de Quizás Presenta: una Demostración de Soluciones de Rompecabezas"? ( ) Is it "art"? Is it "anti-art"? In "order to be meaningful" must it "by definition, ultimately be classifiable as "art" by an audience" or can it be experienced as a stimulus for the brain independent from an art/anti-art context?

Or what about "The Struggle to End Death by Incarceration"? ( ) Can't the perceiver just witness this presentation of people's stories as just that - w/o the extra baggage of what aesthetic categories they may or may not fit into? Born is so trapped in conventional categories of presentation that she can't even imagine life outside her gilded cage.

"Williams (1981, 206-33) discerns four linked, major tendencies in modern cultural production that span the subsidized and market spheres. First, the development of priviliged cultural institutions. Second, the expansion of cultural bureaucracies and the enlarged role of administration. Third, the increased scale of cultural production. Fourth, the development of international cultural flows (the prototype of which he sees as the rise of an international avant-garde early in the century), focuses the analysis on the centralization, rationalization, and uneven development of culture, as well as on issues of cultural authority and legitimation. Williams also discusses the relation between market and public/subsidized sectors of culture. The subsidized sector guards cultural legitimacy, "classic" works, the canon, at the same time supporting esoteric avant-garde work that lacks an immediate public. The market sector seeks more direct economic reward and measures success in terms of large sales." - p 26

Perhaps the market does the saturation bombing & the museums build the prisons. I'm not sure what's meant by "uneven development of culture". Does it mean that whoever has the power amplifies their position w/ it? While those who don't are suppressed? As for the "subsidized sector" "supporting esoteric avant-garde work that lacks an immediate public" I'm not so sure I'd describe it in exactly that way. E.G.: By having an On Kawara date painting in a museum's collection on display, it seems to me that there's less 'support' happening than there is a type of hidden market speculation. The very act of 'legitimizing' a work by adding it to the canon serves more long-term market interests. Both the public/subsidized & the market sectors are pursuing cultural domination for economic gain.

I suppose the important question here for me is: What else is there? I find both the market & the public/subsidized sectors inadequate for providing the culture that serves the most positive purposes in my life. Nonetheless, I read bks & listen to recordings available for sale & find these to be very high in stimulation value - so I don't write off the aforementioned sectors completely - they've been very valuable to me. Nonetheless, something important is missing. What's missing is cultural promulgation w/o ulterior financial motives. As long as money is the motivator Money is God - & as I like to say: When Money's God Poor People are the Human Sacrifices.

Is it possible for cultural production to be motivated by purposes such as having fun? Manifesting liberation from dominant paradigms? A desire to make physical ideas that one has that one wants other people to know about? A desire to have more power over one's own life rather than over that of others? I think so. Consider this: Here's a link to a documentary I just finished a few days ago about the "Spit'n'Polish Hill May Day Parade 2018" ( ). This was the 9th annual May Day Parade in my neighborhood. The parade is unpermitted but the police, quire sensibly in my opinion, leave us alone. People go to a great deal of effort & excercise their not insubstantial talents to make the parade interesting & fun. Most of the participants are probably anarchists but it's not like we require an entrance exam to be part of it. There have been conflicts between people & maybe those conflicts weren't always resolved to everyone's satisfaction. That's unfortunate but we're trying to do better. The point is that there are ways of doing things that're outside of the market / subsidized 'duality' - wch isn't after all, much of a 'duality' in terms of polar opposities. That 'duality' is like that between the Republocrats & the Demmicans, 2 sides of the same coin - w/ the minting done by people wanting power over others.

As the reader will've probably realized by now, this review/article is for people who're seriously interested in how culture is shepherded & it's written by a person who doesn't want to be a sheep. Just as reading Born's bk carefully might require going to the plethora of endnotes even though that disrupts the linear flow of the narrative (&, yes, I read all the endnotes), so does reading this review carefully work at its best if you go to the links & experience their content. I've been working very hard for over 40 yrs to set examples of people rebelling against the oppressive dominant paradigms in many, MANY areas & I think that if you're interested in such things you might find the full experience of this review/article rewarding/stimulating.

"As for commodification, even with growing pressures of performativity this is not a dominant dynamic. We will see instead other kinds of alliance with powerful corporate capital, for example IRCAM having been "inadvertently" enrolled as a research wing for the French military industrial giant Dassault and for the Japanese Yamaha corporation." - p 30

This dynamic of cultural researchers having their work turned to military advantage is obviously problematic for anti-war activists such as myself. In Pittsburgh, robotics research is common & I'm provisionally in favor of it - but the cultural uses of robotics go hand-in-hand w/ the military ones. I've met a roboticist at a party, e.g., who used the age-old dodge of "I don't know what they do w/ my research" in order to excuse his really knowing that it's used for military purposes - i.e.: w/ a high probability of people getting killed by it down the road.

"From his account, it seems that denial-the tendency to obliterate from consciousness such problematic and, indeed, potentially violent and persecuting realities-is an apt term to describe the phenomenon of the collective unconscious of computer music." - p 163

The very existence of any military, most of them hypothetically for 'defense' even though 'the best defense is an offense' seems to be the dominant mindset, stimulates the question: Will there ever be a time when there aren't brutal people eager to dominate the vulnerable?! Sadly, I find it hard to believe in such a future. Even apart from the endless wars & those responsible for them there're the sex slavers, the pimps, people who manifest the same ruthless overbearingness. Any progress away from the slaver dynamic is going to be a slow one, an evolution in consciousness. Let's hope it's possible & work toward it in whatever ways we can. It helps to have an imagination.

There were several reasons why I found, as stated earlier, the 1st 56pp of Rationalizing Culture almost insufferable. One of the main ones was b/c she kept writing that she 'had' & she 'will' w/o ever doing much simply in the present. Here're some examples:

"In chapter 2, I outline a discursive characterization of modernism"

"Later, in chapter 7, I discuss more immediate discursive antecedents to IRCAM"

"In chapter 3, I focus on a series of more local histories with a bearing on IRCAM: aspects of French culture and cultural politics, state music policies, postwar French contemporary music, and IRCAM's relations with the American computer music scene. Finally, I examine Boulez's history, his rise to cultural power, and the development of his ideas for IRCAM." - p 31

"In what follows I sketch, first, an analysis of the key discursive features of modernism and postmodernism in general, tracing a set of dominant, recurrent characteristics at the heart of these discourses." - p 40

I mean, was that really necessary?! Cdn't she've just written those things as they came & not announced them? It seems like filler. Furthermore, does she even deliver what she promises? I know a fair amt about "American computer music" & I don't remember her touching on it very much at all. I also know a fair amt of "Boulez's history", having just read & reviewed Joan Peyser's excellent Boulez biography, & I don't remember Born really saying much of significance about that either.

"Both criticisms are to some extent met in this study. With regard to power/knowledge, rather than granting "ontological priority to power" (Dews 1987, 175), my analysis suggests that the specific system of knowledge at issue emerged prior to its later association with power: that modernism came increasingly to attract institutionalized cultural power-the classic narrative of the successful avant-garde. But the key point is that the character of this knowledge system was extraordinarily well suited to this augmentation of power, and through the mutations it became increasingly so." - p 34-35

WTF?! "modernism came increasingly to attract instiutionalized cultural power-the classic narrative of the successful avant-garde": My reading of this statement is that Born is defining "success" as "institutionalized cultural power", an equation I completely disagree w/. Was dadaism an "avant-garde"? If so, was it "successful"? Born might consider having dadaist works exhibited in multiple museums a form of "institutionalized cultural power" but what I think of is Tristan Tzara's library being sold off at auction after his death. In other words, the "institutionalized cultural power" of having work in museums can be pretty misleading if one of the movement's primary movers & shakers had his legacy treated like just another sale item. To quote from Monty Cantsin AMEN: "Long Live Failed Revolutions!" ( )

"Thus, while individuals' internal states will have an impact on the institutional culture, the latter cannot be reduced to the former, and unconscious group dynamics will profoundly influence individuals through their introjection of the "social defense system." In this way the psychic mechanisms of the institutional culture mold the subjectivities of its members." - p 36

Yup. That's what the Street Ratbags call having "the ruling elites occupy your mental real estate". Ya gotta evict them.

"In all the modernist arts there thus arose a self-conscious experimentation with form founded on a sense of the necessity of revolutionizing the "language" of art itself."


"The celebration of technology is clearest in early twentieth-century movements such as Soviet constructivism and Italian futurism, both of which advocated new media and drew analogies between industrial production and cultural practice." - p 41

Gimme summa that Old School Futurism: .

"Certainly the majority of modernist movements centered on formal experiments designed to subvert and shock the avant-garde's dual enemies: the academic and official art establishment and the bourgeois audience. They sought no broader social engagement or political effect." - p 42

Uh, except maybe Russian revolutionary art, Italian Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Situationists, &, at least, the more Maciunas-oriented end of Fluxus, to name a few. But maybe those aren't "modernist movements"?

"Bürger suggests that although modernism has become hegemonic, a few historical movements-Russian constructivism, Italian futurism, dada, surrealism-did present broader critiques of the social functions and institutional forms of art. He reserves the term "avant-garde" for these politically engaged movements, distinguishing them from formalist or aesthetic modernism, and so retains a political reading of the avant-garde, arguing that it is still a viable concept." - p 44

I seem to feel a bit closer to Bürger's page.

"Haskell relates the perception of the avant-garde as "critical" to artists' gradual internalization of an ideology which proposed that art must attempt to subvert the (aesthetic) status quo, since artistic value depends on being "ahead" of current tastes, which implies that it must necessarily be incomprehensible to the present audience. He traces the institutionalization of the belief, still strong today, that "an instinctive hostility toward contemporary art . . . [is] the necessary breeding ground for true art" (1983, 25) Thus avant-garde artists have sought to alienate the general audience as proof of the value of their work." - pp 43-44

I find the above position to be a cliché that's used by art historians of little direct engagement w/ the subject matter to enable the shocked audience to pat itelf on the back & dismiss things they don't understand by saying: 'Oh, they're just trying to shock me.' End of story, right? No need to think about it any further. This is the kind of simple-minded dismissive crap that I run across all too often. Here's an excerpt from my introduction to the "Reactionary Muddle America" section of my bk "footnotes" in wch I describe my reaction to student reactions to a performance of mine:

"Call me naive but I actually believed that since we'd put so much effort into making such an extraordinary event that the students wd've appreciated that & at least respected it. But, NO, that was very much NOT the case. Most of them loathed & feared us - especially me.

"When their responses were handed in, the Prof showed them to me. I was SHOCKED. Really. It was like reading the minutes to a lynch mob meeting. Some people were friendly but NOT MANY."

The point is that I think many statements about creative people deliberately shocking their bourgeois audience is putting the cart before the horse. It's just as realistic, if not more so, to say that the bourgeois audience's narrow-mindedness shocks the performer. Hence the statement that "avant-garde artists have sought to alienate the general audience as proof of the value of their work" seems more like what the bourgeois art historian & critic says in order to devalue & debase sophisticated work that they don't understand. If they're shocked by it it 'must be b/c the creative person is merely trying to shock & has nothing going on otherwise.' Born seems to share this attitude - so, Henry Cow & the Feminist Improvising Group aside, her position strikes me as bourgeois - both in the sense of status quo middle class & in the sense of underinformed.

She refers to the avant-garde as dismissing pop culture but never mentions the reversal: pop culture dismissing the avant-garde - wch strikes me as just as prevalent if not more so. It goes both ways. E.G.: Right now I'm in the process of trying to collaborate via internet w/ 2 other musicians who I don't know as participation in a friend's project. I proposed something, 1 person complained that it lacked tonality & rhythm. I explained that I was open to any & all proposals. None followed. Eventually, I made a realization of my piece & sent it out to the 2 collaborators. One of them downloaded it, the other had to be reminded at the last minute to do so before the download wd no longer be available. Progress is slow (or nonexistent) - except at my end. I'm fairly knowledgable about music theory. I can play a sizeable variety of scales & rhythms. I can play tonally or atonally or klangfarbenmelodie or whatever. I was willing to respond to or try out something tonal & in common time if that's what one of the players wanted. But no suggestions were forthcoming. Not only does that strike me as an uncreative negating passive aggression, it also reinforces my experience of pop musicians as having extremely limited music theory understandings & a feeling of intimidation when exposed to modes of (M)Usic outside their limited experience.

I'll happily play w/ a blues guitarist, e.g., as long as the blues guitarist doesn't mind that I'm playing what I like to play - wch might have 'nothing to do' w/ blues as it's conventionally thought of. & I don't even call myself "avant-garde". Listen to my 41 yr retrospective CD entitled "Significantly Different from the Other One" on wch a recording of my stomach growling is followed by my playing Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues" wch is in turn followed by a sampling piece in Russian. Such a combination isn't meant to shock the bourgeoisie, it's meant to appeal to people whose tastes & interests are as eclectic as mine are.

Another recurring terminology annoyance for me in Rationalizing Culture is Born's emphasis on the other: "Modernist assertions of difference from mass culture are expressed variously as simple "uninterest" in that culture, hostility, and also in the occasional surfacing of fascination, envy, and borrowing of the "other."" (p 45)

Despite her unconvincing presentation of her critique as 'objective' (shown in various ways that I'll comment on throughout this review) her own hostilities seem transparent to me. She doesn't like work that posits itself as 'above' or separate from "mass culture". Well, nazism was mass culture exemplified, does she mind people distancing themselves from that? My theory (or cheap psychoanalysis) is that she thinks of herself as having been a musician operating in "mass culture" b/c she was in bands & b/c she's the "cousin of the pop singer Olivia Newton-John" as her Wikipedia page tells it.

But are the bands that she was in really exemplary of "mass culture" & was she much more than a supporting musician in (m)any of them? Personally, I wdn't call Henry Cow or the Art Bears or National Health "mass culture". Nor wd I call them "avant-rock", a term that's used in this bk. The more common term, & the one I use, is probably "prog-rock", short for "progressive rock". I like prog-rock - but when it comes down to class politics, I associate prog-rock more w/ the central or upper middle class: people w/ some music training & the money to buy expensive gear w/ - like analog synths when they 1st came out that were well beyond the means of people in my income bracket. How expensive was Born's music training? How expensive were her bass(es) & her cello? Not to mention her carrying cases for them?! People who don't have to struggle to afford things tend to overlook the privilege of being able to have a hard-shell cello case, e.g.. Maybe she didn't have one. I, on the other hand, have carried a friend's contrabass w/o a case on the subway that I cdn't afford to pay the fare for & had to get off before my destination when the fare-collection police came on. Has Born ever been there? These things matter.

"There are two main senses in which proponents of postmodernism claim that it represents a radical departure from modernism. The first argument itself has two inflections. One is that postmodernism involves an overcoming of the historical division between high and popular culture, a new cultural pluralism and heterogeneity in which those distinctions become obsolete." - pp 45-46

There's always going to be a difference between a painting produced by a person who's 80 yrs old who's dedicated to knowing as much about painting as they're capable of, someone who paints for many hrs every day, someone who studies many, MANY other paintings, someone who's obsessively dedicated AND someone who dabbles in painting, who doesn't think about it, who doesn't try very hard, who pays little or no attn to the craft or the history. In some instances, the paintings of the latter might be more popular than the paintings of the former. The general public may not be sensitive to the nuances or even the blatant differences between the 2. Perhaps the latter paints clowns or Elvis Presley & people like clowns & Elvis Presley.

How many people can recognize & like a commissioned Warhol portrait? Hell, they can even make their own w/ a Warhol app. Generalize the areas & posterize the color garishly, et voila! Instant popular 'masterpiece'! But do I, personally, prefer a Warhol to a Vermeer or a Bosch or a Bruegel or a Carrington? Nah. So is the Warhol "pop culture" & the Bruegel "high culture"? If so, the difference bewtten them, i.e.: the difference between mass manufacturing technique that cd be duplicated by the unskilled & highly skilled dedication is going to exist regardless of whether 'political' theorists delude themselves that it's all the same b/c, nope it's not all the same at all. But calling it "high culture" & "pop culture" is misleading, it acts as if the main issue is just whether it's for the plebes or not.

For me, the main issue isn't whether it's "high culture" or "mass culture", it's whether the work is produced w/ imagination & passion & skill or whether it's just cranked out like junk food. Was Frank Zappa's music "high culture" or "mass culture"? He used reverse psychology to say it had "No Commercial Potential" but still managed to become a multimillionaire. I say that he was simultaneously "high culture" & "mass culture" & that that was part of his genius. What about Hollywood movies? Or any movie by Terry Gilliam? Or Monty Python? They, too, are both as far as I'm concerned. I don't think they overcome "the historical division between high and popular culture", I think they just appeal to a broad variety of people & that they're made w/ substantial talent.

"My discussion of experimental music is particularly indebted to Nyman's detailed and insightful account (Nyman, 1974)." - endnote 16, p 349

She's referring to Michael Nyman's bk entitled experimental music - Cage and beyond, a bk that was very important to me too. This is at least the 2nd time I've run across mention of it. The previous time was in Benjamin Piekut's Experimentalism Otherwise - The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits. Here's a relelvant part from my review of that:

""In Michael Nyman's influential formulation, a set of "purely musical considerations" sets off experimentalism from its close cousin, the avant-garde. Experimentalism, he writes, offers fluid processes instead of static objects; antiteleological procedures instead of goal-driven works; new roles for composers, performers, and listeners instead of the hierarchies of traditional art music; notation as a set of actions rather than as a representation of sounds; a momentary evanescence instead of a temporal fixity; an ontology that foregrounds performance over writing; and a welcoming of daily life instead of its transcendence." - p 5

"While I 'have to say' that Nyman's experimental music was a great companion to the music I was listening to in 1977, I also 'have to say' that I find the above distinctions to be more idiosyncratic of Nyman than otherwise useful. In other words, "experimental music" is music that involves experimentation & "avant-garde music" is music that's on the 'cutting edge' of new developments. IMO, both terms are mostly interchangeable altho I think an argument cd be made that not all experiments are cutting edge (imagine music performed using an attempted improvement in violin tuning pegs). Then again, there's plenty of music that gets labeled "experimental" & "avant-garde" that, IMO, is neither but is, instead, an imitation of earlier music that was. Personally, I've chosen to use the term "avant-garde" infrequently b/c of its military associations since I'm anti-military.

"Lest the reader think that Piekut adopts Nyman's "influential formulation", we then come to this:

""Rather than reinscribing the usual distinction made between American experimentalism and European avant-gardism, I use the two terms interchangeably here because doing so otherwise would naturalize a difference that has been discursively produced." - p 14"


Back to Born:

"An infamous occasion was the first performance of Berg's Altenberg songs in Vienna in 1913, which provoked such a riot that the police were called out, as did the Parisian premiere of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" soon after. The extreme public hostility caused defensive attempts by composers to get their music played. Schoenberg and his circle founded the "Society for the Private Performance of Music" in 1918. Performances were by invitation and unpublicized, and critics and the public were barred. Thus they created an elite group by which their music was judged" - p 50

The term "elite" is often used in a critical sense by political activists to mean undemocratic people who rule w/o transparency. Hence, economic leaders who meet behind closed doors & make decisions that financially effect almost everyone are an "elite". But is the use of the word "elite" here really accurate? Wdn't something like: 'a group of friends w/ shared interests' be more like it? Berg & others were happy to present their work to the general public but the public reacted negatively. Why expect Berg to seek out such an experience again? Mightn't that just be masochism? Why does the general public even deserve it?

"Xenakis criticized total serlalism for complex incoherence: "[It] destroys itself by its very complexity; what one hears is in reality nothing but a mass of notes"" - p 51

I love Xenakis's music (see my review of Xenakis's Formalized Music here: https:610289-henry-cowell?chapter=1 ) but I still find his critique above of total serialism preposterous. After all, Xenakis used stochastics to determine his orchestrations in some cases - in wch "what one hears is in reality nothing but a mass of notes".

"With Brecht, Weill and Eisler advocated reworking the aesthetics of popular music in order to reach and influence the popular audience. As we have seen, although aesthetic borrowing of this kind occurred among other early modernists, it was not linked to a wider cultural politics, while such aesthetic strategies were altogether absent from mainstream midcentury modernism. Their experiments in critical musical populism, and Weill's work in particular, remain an extraordinary example of a politicized modernist intervention in popular music, an intervention so heartfelt that when Weill later arrived in the United States, alone of all modernists he "crossed over" completely and became a composer of the popular song that he had been parodying (Sanders 1980). It was not until the 1960s that any nonformalist cultural politics reemerged in the work of some experimental composers, and of a few Europeans." - endnote 21, pp 349-350

Wow, Born really doesn't know what she's talking about here!!!!! (Note that she also uses "As we have seen" again when "we" haven't necessarily seen anything in the sense of being convinced that her arguments represent 'reality'.) There was so much work in the United States that grew out of modernist composers attempting to reach a mass audience thru using popular forms that Born's ignorance is astounding. Her setting forth these opinions as if she's an expert is depressing (but common in academia). I'm tempted to quote at length from writings of mine & others but this excerpt from my review of a Henry Cowell biography shd do the trick:

"Not every composer is born & raised w/ a silver spoon keeping their nose propped away from the smell of sweaty work. Cowell's parents were anarchists, Harry Partch was a hobo, Conlon Nancarrow fought in the Abe Lincoln Brigade on the side of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, I'm an anarchist from a lower middle class family.

""The Degeyter Club's members and the twenty-four members of the Composers' Collective pursued the specific goal of creating an American version of the successful proletarian music by European composers and writers such as Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, and Bertolt Brecht . They were convinced that the excellent training of the group's member-composers would help them create mass song "dealing with immediate social issues, to be sung at meetings, on parades, and on picket lines. Prominent figures in addition to Henry, Schaefer, and Charles included Lan Adomian (an ardent communist emigré from Ukraine), George Antheil, Marc Blitzstein, Henry Leland Clarke, Wallingford Reigger, Earl Robinson, Charles Seeger, and Elie Siegmeister. Major theoretical statements by Seeger, Siegmeister. and Blitzstein were published in communist daily papers and cultural magazines. Copland attended frequently; Eisler, a former Schoenberg student and recent refugee who was the spiritual leader of the European workers' music movement, was a guest." - p 245"

- review of Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 7-19, 2017: "Henry Cowell":

Keep in mind that the band that Georgina Born toured w/ was named "Henry Cow", a name I've always assumed was a take-off of "Henry Cowell" (am I wrong?). Therefore, one might think that Born wd at least know about Cowell!!

Born's practice of announcing what she's going to do is still going strong on page 56 - but this is also around the time when she started just doing it instead - wch was a huge relief for me.

"In other words, I use postserialism to designate the discourse that followed on from total serialism and that, even if explicitly rejecting serialism at times, attempting to salvage and reinvigorate dominant features of that approach, primarily by reference to science and technology."


"As we will see in chapter 3, it is the discourse that Boulez began to enunciate in the late '60s"


"The main alternative from the 1950s on was the tradition of experimental music that focused on the American composer and guru John Cage and his followers, including Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, and later La Monte Young and Cornelius Cardew." - p 56

Just as Born calls the "Society for the Private Performance of Music" an "elite group", here she refers to "guru John Cage and his followers". Can't the composers listed more accurately be described as 'fellow travelers along a musical & philosophical path similar to Cage's'? Are they really "followers" of a "guru"? Wd Born be offended if I called her 'a cult follower of the rock guru Lindsay Cooper'?

"Nicholls (1990) traces the American experimental music movement back to the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. He argues that profound tensions were already apparent within American composition during the 1920s between the "radicals," such as Ives, Cowell, and at times Ruggles, Varèse, Slonimsky, and others, and the "acceptable Europeanised modernists" (1990, 2) such as Copland, Piston, Sessions, and Virgil Thompson. These two groupings were quite self-conscious and carried strong ideological overtones. The "radicals" saw themselves in this period as pioneering an American national music: as Cowell put it, a music produced by "men who have studied in America, and who, although often cruder in technique than [those with French training], are building up a style distinctly rooted in the feelings and traditions of the country"" - p 350

Of course, Varèse & Slonimsky were both immigrants so they're out of Cowell's description even though Varèse's 1st piece in the US was "Amériques" (1919-1921) - a title inconveniently in Français. Unfortunately for both Born & Nicholls I have the advantage of considerable hindsight. As such, adding to the ultimate dissolution of the oversimplification cited above, consider this excerpt from the liner notes to "Gay American Composers - Volume Two":

"the composer Ned Rorem, a former student and assistant of Thomson, recalls: "Manhatten during the war and up through the early 1950s was governed by Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, the father and mother of American music. Young composers joined one faction or the other, there was no third. Both were from France through Nadia Boulanger, but Copland's camp was Stranvinsky-French and contained a now-vanished breed of neoclassicist like Alexei Haieff and Harold Shapero, while Thomson's camp was Satie-French and contained a still-vital breed of Neo-Catholic like Lou Harrison and John Cage."" - p 10, Joseph R. Dalton's liner notes to CRI CD 750

In the Nicholls version the split is unspecified as being between hetereosexual & homosexual composers (w/ Cowell being hypothetically bisexual) whereas in the Dalton version the split was between 2 gay camps. Adding to the confusion is that Cage studied w/ Cowell (American) AND Shcoenberg (European expatriate). I already quoted Sachs mentioning the Degeyter Club and the Composers' Collective earlier & Sachs's noting that Copland & Cowell were somewhat connected there. Even Cage enters into this whole 'American music' biz as a reviewer. Here's an excerpt from my review of the Richard Kostelanetz edited "John Cage, An Anthology":

"Cage, too, wrote some reviews.

""I did however hear Cadman's Pennsylvania Symphony. This has a variety of themes-of the forest or lurking Indian; of the pioneer, the river, the factory, the happy worker; and, finally The American Theme. The only things missing were moving pictures. It is sad to think how seriously the work must have been written and how little of this seriousness comes off." - pp 62-63

"Now what Cage is really addressing here is Americana Program Music. I've been against it myself. But a few yrs ago I started to appreciate it more & I made a piece called "Tex-Mix (Giddyup Americana)". You can witness a movie of my only performance of it (+ some rehearsals) here: . What might escape younger readers is that Cage is taking an implied pro-Modernism position in wch representationalism is rejected in favor of abstraction. That wd've been fairly knee-jerk in intellectuals of the time.

""The composers mentioned here all find their material in the land and the people around them. The sources from which the music has been conceived account for some of the differences in the results. Miss Britain and Mr. Cadman have adapted certain literary and intellectual concepts of the American scene, which they have illustrated musically. The music is recognizably regional according to one's knowledge of the conditions that prompted it; it is not an expression in musical terms of a close contact with the country. When Chavez, on the other hand, quotes Indian melodies directly, as he does in the Sinfonia India, he has gone to a source that is essentially musical to begin with." "(March-April, 1942)" - pp 63-64

"I'm not familiar w/ the Britain or Cadman pieces. I am familiar w/ the Chavez. Some of you might be interested in my in-progress website "Top 100 Composers": or, more specifically the page for Chavez: . I think Cage's point is well-taken & well-considered. Nonetheless, 2 of my favorite pieces of Americana are Lukas Foss's "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (1950) & Lejaren Hiller's "Jesse James" (1950). It's interesting that Cage went on to collaborate w/ Hiller on a dramatically different piece.

"Again, what might not be obvious to younger readers is that any Americana composed during or shortly after WWII wd've probably been composed somewhat to support the 'war effort'. In other words, there was some heartfelt propagandizing going on. People like Lukas Foss were grateful to be able to escape the nazis & come to the US. It seemed only fit to pay homage to the US as a place for refuge (for those lucky enuf to not be turned away).

"That's one of the things that makes Hiller's "Jesse James" interesting: he's not glorifying America, per se, he's making reference to an outlaw who fought back against the railroads & their railroading of farmers who were cheated & bullied off their land. That's a part of Americana that wd've typically been glossed over in Americana propaganda. Although, strictly speaking, the words to Hiller's piece glorify James w/o getting into the politics. Here's a sample:

""Jesse James rode hell for leather;

He was a hawse an' a man together;

In a cave in a mountain high up in air

He lived with a rattlesnake, a wolf, an' a bear""


The point is that deep study of the complexity of American music might reveal a much more complicated intermingling of musical philosophies & practices than the duality referred to in the quoted endnote. According to Sachs, there was even a somewhat vicious powerplay pulled by Varèse to Cowell's detriment - marking yet-another schism. Once again, I'm trying to show that any duality, of wch there are many in Born's bk, is ultimately unworkable. The problem, for me, is that under the guise of 'expertise' Born is constantly misinforming the reader:

"The most extreme example" [of "a crucible for experiments in collective and democratic social relations" - p 59] "was the Maoist Scratch Orchestra started by Cardew in 1969, in which the performer's role was democratized and "demystified" to the extent that anyone motivated to come together, whatever their skills, could play in symphonic works." - endnote, p 351

1st off, the Scratch Orchestra didn't start off as Maoist; 2ndly, using the description "symphonic works" to describe what the Scratch performed is highly misleading. Someone who doesn't know better might think that the Scratch somehow played Beethoven à là Mao or "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy", "a Peking opera, and one of the eight model plays allowed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution." ( ) instead of pieces like "Nature Study Notes", wch're much closer to the Intuitive Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen & are often for any size group. Here's a relevant excerpt from my review of Stefan Szczelkun's Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books' to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Nature Study Notes'. Collective practices 2011-2017:

"In the Scratch Music book edited by Cornelius Cardew (another of the Orchestra's founders) the following introductory paragraph from Cardew is found:

""The Scratch was saved from liquidation by two communist members. At the August 23/24 discussions of the [Catherine Williams] Discontent documents John Tilbury exposed the contradictions within the orchestra, and proposed the setting up of a Scratch Ideological Group. I and several others were glad to join this group, whose tasks were not only to investigate possibilities for political music-making but also to study revolutionary theory: Marx, Lenin, Mao Tsetung. Another aim was to build up an organisational structure in the Scratch that would make it a genuinely democratic orchestra & release it from the domination of my subtly autocratic, supposedly anti-authoritarian leadership." Note the absence of anarchist theory. Ho hum."


In other words, the Scratch Orchestra "was saved from liquidation" after it had been around for awhile by becoming Maoist. From my own perspective, the Scratch wasn't saved at all but was reduced to authoritarian idiocy far beyond "the domination of" [Cardew's] "subtly autocratic, supposedly anti-authoritarian leadership." It's nice of Cardew to be self-critical but substituting some demagogues for himself wasn't an improvement. Here's more relevant intertextuality from my review of Improvisation Rites

"Can you hear the death bell knelling? I recently wrote a review of Joel Sachs's excellent biography entitled Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music (the 1st chapter of this review is here: ). In it, this issue of control freaks pretending to represent the masses trying to boss people around in the name of 'revolution' is gone into in some detail. Here's a very small excerpt:

""Not surprisingly, Henry, ever the free thinker, didn't ultimately fit in w/ the p(r)ogram:

"""Henry could not imagine how revolutionary ideas could be expressed in "unrevolutionary" music.

"""In addition to opposing the requirements of the Workers Music League, Henry now was defying Moscow's line, promulgated in the summer of 1934 by Cultural Commissar Andrei Zhdanov and Maxim Gorky. The new concept was "Socialist Realism," a political theory that art must be "uplifting." Modernism was terminated; folk art was embraced. The New York composers' goal of using modernist techniques now constituted open rebellion." - p 252

"""& then there was Trotsky. He was in charge of militarily suppressing the Kronstadt uprising wch was partially about freedom of speech for anarchists so I'm not exactly a fan of his - but he was reputedly in favor of NOT suppressing artists so he had that going for him & he even lived w/ painters Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo until shortly before he was assassinated.

"""Trotsky's sister Olga Kameneva, the former chairwoman of VOKS" [the American Society for Cultural Relations with Russia] "who had saved the day for Henry in 1929, was imprisoned along with all the other associates of her brother. Her sons were shot in the mid-1930s; she perished in 1941, in a mass execution of political prisoners." - p 257

""Uh, I think the world cd do w/o yr cultural guidance, Stalin." -

"My point is that nothing but oppression is going to come out of communist or socialist or Maoist or Leninist or Stalinist or Pol Pot, etc, etc.. &, IMO, the "Marxist-Leninist"s of the Scratch Orchestra took a good thing & buried it alive for their own narrow-minded purposes. I can say this w/ some impunity b/c I don't live in London. As usual, I'm sure I've just made some enemies."

Born just digs her grave deeper & deeper w/ her faux expertise - but who's going to call her out on it other than me?:

"Some of the main elements of experimental music practice-improvisation, live group work, the empirical use of small, commercial electronics in performance-were pioneered in the jazz and rock of the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, the politics of experimental music are similar to those of the advanced black jazz of the '60s. Its musical collectivism, for example, was prefigured by the Chicago black musicians' cooperative, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which became a model for later progressive, cooperative music organizations. The fact that these influences often remain unacknowledged and subterranean, even within experimental music, signals their status as deriving from an "other" culture and the reluctance of the postmodern sphere of legitimate music to admit its indebtedness to the "other."" - endnote, p 351

I'm all for acknowledging black musicians for their accomplishments but what's the point if what's claimed is historically inaccurate? Born's claims serve to establish her as leftist & anti-racist & that's the real purpose here. Her intended audience, academics like her, just want to make sure that they're all riding on the same liberal bandwagon - there's no need for accuracy. When I think of the use of "commercial electronics in performance", I think of the Theremin & the Ondes Martenot - both of wch were used in classical music in the 1930s, the 1940s, & beyond, rather than in any "jazz and rock of the 1950s and 1960s". If they don't qualify as "small" then I think of John Cage's use of records in "Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939):

"Player 1 should have two records, a Victor Frequency Record 84522 B and a Victor Constant Note Record No. 24 84519 B. These two records consist of just one note being played, and the performer has to manipulate the speed at which it is being played using a clutch to change the note. The speed oscillates between 33? RPM and 78 RPM. Rhythms were initially planned to be played by raising and lowering the needle, which caused undesired sounds. Player 2 was meant to have only one record, a Victor Frequency Record 84522 A, oscillating between 33? RPM and 78 RPM." -

When I think of electronics used in jazz, I think of Sun Ra's use of electronic keyboards. Here's an excerpt from an online article that gets into this:

"While several individual jazz artists of the early 1960s (e.g., Roland Kirk, Bob James) began to combine their jazz music with taped electronic sounds, Sun Ra was pushing the envelope toward the live performance of electronically-enhanced jazz. Sun Ra had been experimenting with free jazz since the late 1950s and by the early Sixties had augmented his sound with a variety of electronic keyboards including the electric piano, electric Celeste, Hammond organ, and the Clavioline, a specialized organ with vacuum tube oscillators and frequency modifiers designed primarily for novelty effects" - Thom Holmes, "Sun Ra and Early Synthesizer Jazz (1969-70)" -

More specifically, I think of Sun Ra's records called "The Magic City" (1960), on wch he plays Clavoline, & "Atlantis" (1960), on wch he plays "Solar Sound Organ". Whether Born considers these to be the pioneering "small, commercial electronics in performance" is unclear to me. Ra's use of the Clavoline in 1960 doesn't predate the invention of the Ondes Martenot in 1928 & its use by clssical composer Olivier Messiaen in "Fête des Belles Eaux" in 1937. For that matter, Pierre Shaeffer & Pierre Henry invented Musique Concrete in 1948. What was "pioneered in the jazz and rock of the 1950s and 1960s" that predated that?

Born mentions the AACM, certainly an incredible & vitally important organization. That was founded in 1965. Born claims that the AACM "became a model for later progressive, cooperative music organizations". What organizations is she referring to? Let's take the ONCE Group as an example:

"The ONCE Group was a collection of musicians, visual artists, architects, and film-makers who wished to create an environment in which artists could explore and share techniques and ideas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group was responsible for hosting the ONCE Festival of New Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan, between 1961 and 1966. It was founded by Ann Arborites Robert Ashley, George Cacioppo, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds and Donald Scavarda." -

OOPSIE! They predated the AACM. Now I don't mean to steal any thunder from the ACCM who I thoroughly respect. I'm sure an argument cd be made that it was much easier for the more privileged academics of the ONCE Group to've done what they did than it was for the AACM. Still, the point is obvious, Born is fudging the history to suit her ends.

One cd argue that jazz & rock pioneered the use of the electric guitar. I won't argue there. But Born refers to the "fact that these influences often remain unacknowledged and subterranean, even within experimental music," [& this] "signals their status as deriving from an "other" culture". How accurate is that? Igor Stravinsky, a classical composer, composed a piece called "Ebony Concerto" for the Woody Herman band known as the First Herd. The Wikipedia entry regarding that has this to say:

"Stravinsky's engagement with jazz dates back to the closing years of the First World War, the major jazz-inspired works of that period being L'histoire du soldat, the Ragtime for eleven instruments, and the Piano-Rag-Music. Although traces of jazz elements, especially blues and boogie-woogie, can be found in his music throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it was only with the Ebony Concerto that Stravinsky once again incorporated features of jazz into a composition on a far-reaching scale. The title was originally suggested to Stravinsky by Aaron Goldmark, of Leeds Music Corporation, who had negotiated the commission and suggested the form it should take. The composer explained that his title does not refer to the clarinet, as might be supposed, but rather to Africa, because "the jazz performers I most admired at that time were Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, and the guitarist Charles Christian. And blues meant African culture to me."" -

Now that last quote is attributed to 1968. Do you think Stravinsky hid the jazz & African inspirations to those pieces before then?!

What about Rock'n'Roll then? Let's look at Les Paul:

"Les Paul's contributions to the music industry are legion ­ tape delay, phasing effects, multi-track recording, and overdubbing, or Sound on Sound ­ all techniques that are still in use today, and that have helped to evolve music and recording technology over the past half-century.  Of these, his Sound on Sound was the most revolutionary ­ never before had recording allowed, or been used for, making multiple recorded tracks that could be played in tandem, creating a whole new sonic world for musicians and engineers to explore.

"In 1945, Les built a recording studio and workshop in the garage of his Hollywood home.  Bing Crosby, Les' friend and a top-charting singer and movie star, gave Les one of the first Ampex Model 200A reel-to-reel audio tape recording deck to experiment.  Les took the cutting edge technology of the day ­ this mono tape machine ­ and engineered a multi-track tape recorder. This forerunner of all multi-track tape machines was used until computer technology rose to prominence.  Adding a second recording head to his Ampex tape recorder was pivotal to the "Sound on Sound" recording technique. Later, Les expanded the concept to build more robust devices, including the eight-track tape recorder.

"In 1948, Capitol Records released "Lover", a recording that had begun as an experiment in Les' garage. It featured Les playing eight different parts on electric guitar, layered one over the other. This was the first time that Les used "multitracking" in a professional recording. Les' multitrack recordings were made not with the traditional magnetic tape, but with acetate disks or "lacquers" the progenitor of vinyl records. Les would record a track onto an acetate disk, then record himself playing another part along with the first.  Using this acetate-disk method to record parts at different speeds, with delays and half-speed and double-speed sounds, he created what would become his signature sound: multi-track, echoes, with fast trills and riffs.  It was with this recording technique that he was able to record, asynchronously, performances of singing or guitars playing multiple parts in tandem ­ something that could not be duplicated in live performance (yet)." -

Now we're getting somewhere (maybe). In 1948 Paul released his 1st multitracked recording - simultaneous w/ the invention of Musique Concrete in France & using the same techniques. But was it Rock music? I reckon that depends upon who tells the story & how they tell it:

"The foundations of rock music are in rock and roll, which originated in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to much of the rest of the world. Its immediate origins lay in a melding of various black musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues and gospel music, with country and western. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music (then termed "race music") for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music.

"Debate surrounds which record should be considered the first rock and roll record. Contenders include Goree Carter's "Rock Awhile" (1949); Jimmy Preston's "Rock the Joint" (1949), which was later covered by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1952; and "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (in fact, Ike Turner and his band the Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951. Four years later, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture." -

We're told by this Wikipedia entry that the "foundations of rock music are in rock and roll, which originated in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s" but then we're told that the term "Rock and Roll" is credited as having originated in 1951 w/ DJ Alan Freed. To me, that means that the related music before 1951 was probably more correctly called Rhythm & Blues. Perhaps that comes across as nitpicking so let's just say that there was a black music called R&B that started in the 1940s that can stand in as a precursor of the rock that Born credits. That still doesn't establish that some "of the main elements of experimental music practice-improvisation, live group work, the empirical use of small, commercial electronics in performance-were pioneered in the jazz and rock of the 1950s and 1960s". Improvisation has been around for a long time.

"Throughout the eras of the Western art music tradition, including the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, improvisation was a valued skill. J.S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and many other famous composers and musicians were known especially for their improvisational skills. Improvisation might have played an important role in the monophonic period. The earliest treatises on polyphony, such as the Musica enchiriadis (ninth century), indicate that added parts were improvised for centuries before the first notated examples. However, it was only in the fifteenth century that theorists began making a hard distinction between improvised and written music." -

"live group work"?! What the fuck does that even mean? Is she saying that groups of musicians playing live didn't start until rock & jazz?! That's too idiotic to even bother w/. "empirical use of small, commercial electronics in performance"?! Is the word "empirical" really necessary there? Ok, she presumably means in practice instead of in theory. I've already addressed that above.

On page 63, the reader is presented w/ a chart that illustrates "The antagonistic counterpoint of musical modernism and postmodernism." I've already railed against the pseudo-value of this duality but, oh well, I may as well take a few shots at the oversimplifications provided here:

The chart is divided into 2 columns: "Modernism/Serialism, Postserialism" on the left & Postmodernism/Experimental Music on the right. Under the left there's "Cerebral, complex" & "Text-centered" (etc) & under the right there's "Indeterminism, nondeterminism" & "cyclical, repetitive, static" (etc). Under a heading of "Within a unity of difference to popular music" on the left there's "Nonreference, absolute difference, nonacknowledgment" & on the right there's "Reference, transformation". Under a heading of "Institutional base" on the left there's "East Coast universities" & "Institutionally and state-backed" & on the right there's "West Coast, art colleges, art institutions" & "Self-employed, performance-backed". That's not all the chart but it's enuf for my purposes here. I'm not going to quote the whole bk, you shd read it yourself if you're interested.

Notice that the East Coast / West Coast duality seems to restrict this to American composers even though the caption of "The antagonistic counterpoint of musical modernism and postmodernism." doesn't specify this. SO, restricting myself to only the USA composers of the list I provided earlier + Americans that I left off the list but that're on my "Top 100 Composers" website, consider the following & ask yourself how many of these the above breakdown applies to:

Antheil, George

Brant, Henry

Braxton, Anthony

Brody, James Mansback "Sarmad"

Brown, Earle

Cage, John

Captain Beefheart (van Vliet, Don)

Carter, Eliot

Cowell, Henry

Crumb, George

Curran, Alvin

Davidovsky, Mario

Doctor John the Night Tripper (Rebennac, Mac)

Dodge, Charles

Druckman, Jacob

Dunn, David

Ellington, Duke

Erb, Donald

Feldman, Morton

Foss, Lukas

Gaburo, Kenneth

Graettinger, Robert

Harrison, Lou

Hendrix, Jimi

Hiller, Lejaren

Hunt, Jerry

Ives, Charles

Kamin, Franz

Kraft, William

Lockwood, Annea

Lucier, Alvin

Mimaroglu, Ilhan

Mingus, Charlie

Mitchell, Joni

Partch, Harry

Reich, Steve

Reynolds, Roger

Rzewski, Frederic

Shields, Alice

Sun Ra


Varèse, Edgard

Wilson, Olly

Wolff, Christian

Wolpe, Stefan

Wuorinen, Charles

Zappa, Frank

Now, when I 1st thought of using that list here I thought it wd be easy to discuss each of the composers in relation to what I excerpted from Born's chart. Nah. The immediate problem I run into is 'What's the period of Modernism?' & "What's the period of Postmodernism?'. In other words, I didn't want to include composers that I thought weren't composing when those concepts were in critical use. For me, 'Modernism' started around the 1920s & 'Postmodernism' started around the late 1970s or early 1980s. How little did I know. So I decided to doublecheck my own sense of the chronology by looking online. Under "Postmodern music" on Wikipedia I found this:

"One author has suggested that the emergence of postmodern music in popular music occurred in the late 1960s, influenced in part by psychedelic rock and one or more of the later Beatles albums (Sullivan 1995, 217). Beard and Gloag support this position, citing Jameson's theory that "the radical changes of musical styles and languages throughout the 1960s [are] now seen as a reflection of postmodernism" (Beard and Gloag 2005, 142; see also Harvey 1990). Others have placed the beginnings of postmodernism in the arts, with particular reference to music, at around 1930 (Karolyi 1994, 135; Meyer 1994, 331­32)." -

Um, if postmodernism involves a breaking down of the barriers between 'high culture' & 'mass culture' wdn't we be able to call the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk postmodernist? Consider this:

"Gottschalk's music was very popular during his lifetime and his earliest compositions created a sensation in Europe. Early pieces like Bamboula, La Savane, Le Bananier and Le Mancenillier were based on Gottschalk's memories of the music he heard during his youth in Louisiana. In this context, some of Gottschalk's work, such as the 13-minute opera Escenas campestres, retains a wonderfully innocent sweetness and charm. Gottschalk also utilized the Bamboula theme as a melody in his Symphony No. 1: A Night in the Tropics." -

Considering that he died on December 18, 1869, that makes his 'postmodernism' before the time of 'modernism'.

Under just "Postmodern Art" I found this:

"Many critics hold postmodern art emerges from modern art. Suggested dates for the shift from modern to postmodern include 1914 in Europe, and 1962 or 1968 in America. James Elkins, commenting on discussions about the exact date of the transition from modernism to postmodernism, compares it to the discussion in the 1960s about the exact span of Mannerism and whether it should begin directly after the High Renaissance or later in the century. He makes the point these debates go on all the time with respect to art movements and periods, which is not to say they are not important. The close of the period of postmodern art has been dated to the end of the 1980s, when the word postmodernism lost much of its critical resonance, and art practices began to address the impact of globalization and new media." -

That, at least, defines postmodernism as having started after modernism wch makes sense semantically. Under just "Postmodernism" I find this:

"Postmodern critical approaches gained purchase in the 1980s and 1990s, and have been adopted in a variety of academic and theoretical disciplines, including cultural studies, philosophy of science, economics, linguistics, architecture, feminist theory, and literary criticism, as well as art movements in fields such as literature and music. Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction and post-structuralism, as well as philosophers such as Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Fredric Jameson, though many so-labeled thinkers have criticized the term.

"Postmodernism arose after World War II as a reaction to the perceived failings of modernism, whose radical artistic projects had come to be associated with totalitarianism or had been assimilated into mainstream culture. The basic features of what we now call postmodernism can be found as early as the 1940s, most notably in the work of artists such as Jorge Luis Borges. However, most scholars today would agree that postmodernism began to compete with modernism in the late 1950s and gained ascendancy over it in the 1960s. Since then, postmodernism has been a dominant, though not undisputed, force in art, literature, film, music, drama, architecture, history, and continental philosophy." -

However, in response to the query "When was "Postmodern" coined?" I get this:

""Postmodernism" was a term coined by Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) early in the century to refer to the last quarter of the 19th century, a time where capitalism and imperialism and Western civilization in general began to decline.  For Toynbee, this new period, beginning in 1875 actually coincided with the modernist avant-garde in the art world of Paris. However, Toynbee examining a larger swarth of history and noted the rise of "mass:" mass culture, mass education and mass culture. When he died in 1975, the "post-modern" was already ninety years old but the intellectual world was just beginning to incorporate the concept. At first, in the art world, the term simply meant, "after" Modernism; but by the mid 1970s, Postmodernism came to refer more and more to a theoretical stance, rather than to a temporal event." -

SO, it's presented as history that Toynbee sd that postmodernism began in 1875. SO, I ask: When did Modernism start? Of course, there were many answers but here's an excerpt from the one I found most useful:

"Composers, including Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, sought new solutions within new forms and used as-yet-untried approaches to tonality. In dance a rebellion against both balletic and interpretive traditions had its roots in the work of Émile Jaques-Delcroze, Rudolf Laban, and Loie Fuller. Each of them examined a specific aspect of dance-such as the elements of the human form in motion or the impact of theatrical context-and helped bring about the era of modern dance. In the visual arts the roots of Modernism are often traced back to painter Édouard Manet, who, beginning in the 1860s, broke away from inherited notions of perspective, modeling, and subject matter. The avant-garde movements that followed-including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism, de Stijl, and Abstract Expressionism-are generally defined as Modernist." -

Do you see my problem here? Toynbee, who is reputed to've coined "Postmodernism", sd that "this new period, beginning in 1875 actually coincided with the modernist avant-garde in the art world of Paris". That wd put Postmodernism as starting at roughly the same time as Modernism meaning that Postmodernism did not arise "after World War II as a reaction to the perceived failings of modernism". The idea that when Toynbee died "in 1975, the "post-modern" was already ninety years old but the intellectual world was just beginning to incorporate the concept" fits into my notion of the thing. However, since there are so many ideas about it I've left in USA composers who were working before 1975.

A part of the question here is: Just how useful are the terms "Modernism" & "Postmodernism"? For me, close to not at all. I mean, am I being too pragmatic when I categorize composers in ways like: has composed electronic music, has not composed electronic music?

In the list of "Musicians cited as important to postmodern music" on the "Postmodern music" page on Wikipedia again, there're these USA composers that're in my above list:

· Henry Brant (Gagné 2012, 44­45, 208)

· Earle Brown (Born 1995, 56)

· John Cage (Born 1995, 56; Pasler 2011) (Also cited as a modernist composer)

· Elliott Carter (Beard and Gloag 2005, 143)

· Morton Feldman (Born 1995, 56)

· Charles Ives (LeBaron 2002, 59) (Also cited as a modernist composer)

· Harry Partch (Gagné 2012, 202)

· Steve Reich (Connor 2001, 479­80; Kramer 2002, 14; Mankowskaya 1993, 91) (Also cited as a modernist composer)

· Charles Wuorinen (Carl 1990, 45, 48­51)

· Frank Zappa (Gagné 2012, 305)

Note that Cage, Ives, & Reich are "Also cited as" [..] "modernist composer"[s]. But let's not stop there: remember these are Musicians cited as important to postmodern music", there's a separate "List of postmodernist composers". Here're the ones that are on my original lust of composers to be addressed:

· Henry Brant (1913­2008)

· Earle Brown (1926­2002)

· John Cage (1912­1992)

· Elliott Carter (1908­2012)

· Morton Feldman (1926­1987)



Might as well look for a List of modernist composers too, eh?!:


· John Cage (1912­1992) (Bernstein 2002, passim; Williams 2002, 241) (Also described as a postmodern composer)

· Henry Cowell (1897­1965) (Lien 2002, 51)

· George Crumb (born 1929) (Petersen 2010, 311, 313)

· Morton Feldman (1926­1987) (Ross 2007, 355) (Also described as a postmodern composer)

· Charles Ives (1874­1954) (Botstein 2008)

· Harry Partch (1901­1974) (Lien 2002, 51­52)

· Steve Reich (born 1936) (Schwarz 1990, 247, 271) (Also described as a postmodern composer)

· Edgard Varèse (1883­1965) (Lien 2002, 52)


Note that Steve Reich is a musician "cited as important to postmodern music" AND as someone also "cited as a modernist composer" but that he's not listed on the "List of postmodernist composers" even though he is listed on the "List of modernist composers" where the reader is told that he's also "described as a postmodern composer". Now, I cd go on & on pointing out the confusion in the use of these terms but my purpose here is to specifically address Born's chart captioned as "The antagonistic counterpoint of musical modernism and postmodernism." Remember that? It seems so looonnnnnggggg ago.

What we learn from the above is that John Cage, Morton Feldman, & Steve Reich (maybe) are in conflict w/ themselves b/c they're in both camps. To recap (so you don't have to find the earlier part of this critique/review:

"Modernism/Serialism, Postserialism" on the left & Postmodernism/Experimental Music on the right. Under the left there's "Cerebral, complex" & "Text-centered" (etc) & under the right there's "Indeterminism, nondeterminism" & "cyclical, repetitive, static" (etc). Under a heading of "Within a unity of difference to popular music" on the left there's "Nonreference, absolute difference, nonacknowledgment" & on the right there's "Reference, transformation". Under a heading of "Institutional base" on the left there's "East Coast universities" & "Institutionally and state-backed" & on the right there's "West Coast, art colleges, art institutions" & "Self-employed, performance-backed".

Since the above 3 named composers are apparently both Modernist & Postmodernist that means that according to Born's chart:

John Cage is "Cerebral, complex" & "Text-centered" (YES) AND uses "Indeterminism, nondeterminism" (YES) & "cyclical, repetitive, static" (Not so much). As for connections to popular music, he's inclined to ""Nonreference, absolute difference, nonacknowledgment" (Mostly) & "Reference, transformation" (That depends on how you think of the pieces involving radios). Finally, his "Institutional base" is "East Coast universities" & "Institutionally and state-backed" & "West Coast, art colleges, art institutions" & "Self-employed, performance-backed" (That might be a YES to all & we might as well mention support in the middle of the country too). I was going to go thru my entire list but I really don't want to dwell on this much longer. I hope I've made my point about how preposterous these categories are.

I will further note that I've already called Ives both "Proto-Modernist" & "Post-Modernist" but I'm not sure I'd call him "Modernist" as he's listed on Wikipedia. Calling Earle Brown, Eliot Carter, & Morton Feldman "Postmodernist" just seems ludicrous to me. Furthermore, composers like Kenneth Gaburo & Jerry Hunt aren't from the West or the East Coasts so how does that fit into the British Born's geography of the USA wch conveniently leaves out more than a few thousand square miles of the country? You get the idea.

It might seem like I'm being primarily negative about both this bk & its author but that's not my intention. When Born actually writes about her inside knowledge of IRCAM I feel like 'we're getting somewhere', like there's something to be learned from this.

"The decision to use Stanford was taken by Max Mathews, director of Bell Telephone Laboratories' Acoustic Research department, who is known in the vernacular as the "father of computer music." Mathews became, around 1975, IRCAM's first Scientific Director, from which time IRCAM and Bell Labs have also had close contact." - pp 66-67

I found this interesting b/c I was already familiar w/ Mathews b/c of his "Music from Mathematics" record:

"Originally released in 1960 and 1962 on two unique formats with over-lapping tracklists, the seminal Music From Mathematics Showcase Project marked the phonographic introduction of computer generated music for the first time in the public arena. Almost exclusively created at Bell Laboratories using an electronic to sound transducer and a state of the art IBM 7090 (complete with a gargantuan 32KB of disposable memory!) Music From Mathematics featured multiple random-not-random sound assaults preconceived by a host of technicians-cum-musicians eager to challenge the way humans would make and create music at the turn of the New Millennium. Amongst a list of pioneering composers, the two original limited releases pressed by Decca and Bell Telephone Laboratories feature a majority cross section of recordings by two leading composers ­ project instigator Max Mathews and Bell Laboratories' stalwart vacuum tube scientist John Robinson Pierce.

"As a tutor to many experimental electronic composers who studied at Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (including Suzanne Ciani) and as an inspiration to the subsequent generations that followed the original electronic music boom, Professor Max Mathews' legacy began with the birth of computer programming technology for music composition (his method known as MUSIC-N) in the 1950s which was showcased amongst other performers on these seminal recordings from 1960. For a man with as many protégés as personal electronic music achievements Mathews maintained a strict behind the scenes role despite perhaps his most notable public endorsement when referenced in Stanley Kubrick's 2001 which paid homage to his haunting robotic version of Daisy Bell/Bicycle Made For Two (which appears here) sung by the Hal anti-character. As the man who taught the robot to sing it is fair to state that a vast portion of the electro or techno made by today's musicians can be technically (undeniably) attributed to Mathews' early achievements exemplified here, and not least substantiated by the fact that the leading visual programming language found in music production software known as Max MSP remains a testimony to his legacy. It's time for microchip pop fans to visit your grandparents." -

For experimental music enthusiasts, at least this one, this record isn't interesting to listen to, it's mainly a 'demonstration record' proving that a computer can be programmed to play things like "Joy to the World" & "Bicycle Built for Two". There is a piece by a composer, James Tenney, called "Analog #1 ("Noise Study")" wch is described online by Jeremy Grimshaw as follows:

"A pioneer in the realm of electronic music and computer-aided composition, James Tenney began his professional career at Bell Laboratories, where he helped create important materials and methods for creating music with computers and furthered the development of digital synthesis tools. His first composition created at the lab, Analog #1: Noise Study, was inspired by Tenney's daily routine in New York City: passing through the Holland Tunnel in his travels between New Jersey and lower Manhattan.

"Despite the narrative title, the piece is constructed according to rather complex algorithms, of the kind which Tenney had developed as a graduate student of Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and expounded in his groundbreaking theoretical work, "Meta+Hodos." (In fact, the piece was originally released as part of a collection entitled "Music for Mathematics.") The piece is constructed of washes of broadband noises of various "widths"; that is, sounds consisting of a spectrum of frequencies within a certain range. Individually, these sound like generic whooshes and whistles, but gradually, as the ear becomes accustomed to their sonic properties, they begin establishing relationships with each other. A sense of pitch emerges from the blasts of noise, particularly as these are counterpoised with each other and overlapped into blurry melodic shapes. Tenney likewise applies electronically generated "Doppler effects," shaping his whirring bands of sound into curving frequency contours. Thus, his carefully calculated sonic landscape actually assumes the appearance of the sounds that supposedly inspired it: the busy traffic speeding through the resonant, echoing space of the Holland Tunnel."


Note that Tenney studied w/ Lejaren Hiller who cocomposed the "Illiac Suite" (1957) w/ Leonard Issacson & cocomposed "HPSCHD" (1967-1969) w/ John Cage:

"Illiac Suite (later retitled String Quartet No. 4) is a 1957 composition for string quartet which is generally agreed to be the first score composed by an electronic computer. Lejaren Hiller, in collaboration with Leonard Issacson, programmed the ILLIAC I computer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (where both composers were professors) to generate compositional material for his String Quartet No. 4.

"The piece consists of four movements, corresponding to four experiments: the first is about the generation of cantus firmi, the second generates four-voice segments with various rules, the third deals with rhythm, dynamics and playing instructions, and the fourth with various models and probabilities for generative grammars or Markov chains (see stochastic music)."


Back to Born:

"Throughout the early period and until the mid-1980s, IRCAM remained heavily dependent on American computer music expertise and also on the tecnologies that these researchers brought with them." - p 67

I've already commented on the irony &/or hypocrisy of Pierre Boulez in connection w/ this but it bears repeating:

"Peyser is somewhat undiplomatic in her presentation of Boulez's vitriolic nature. She discusses his reaction to American composers & American new music in general:

"When I mentioned an American composer whose work he dislikes, Boulez suddenly came to life, launching a virtuoso attack on various facets of U.S. music.

"Electronic music: "The same frenzy for technology began in Europe about 1953. By 1958 it had all died down. The idea of electronics as the big future of music is just an American trick of fashion."


"But whether academic or commercial, a key difference between these American outfits and IRCAM is the smoother relations that obtain between basic computer-audio research and its industrial and commerical exploitation. For years, IRCAM's attempts to industrialize the products of its research were frustrated, and this proved one of the key sources of internal and external contention. In comparison, the characters of Bell Labs, Lucasfilm, and Stanford show the very different links between basic research and commercial applications in the United States. A significant example from the academic sector was the development by the director of Stanford's CCRMA, composer John Chowning, of a very powerful digital-synthesis technique by freqency modulation (FM) in the '60s and '70s. The FM technique was sold to the Japanese Yamaha corporation in a very profitable deal that effectively made the CCRMA self-financing." - p 69

This leads to an endnote:

"Chowning and the CCRMA were glad of the freedom granted by the substantial FM royalties. For political reasons, Chowning had earlier divorced CCRMA from its parent institution, SAIL, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, since his group objected to SAIL's heavy defense funding; so for a period before the Yamaha deal, the computer music studio had been poorly funded." - p 352

"As we saw in chapter 3, a technique of digital synthesis by frequency modulation (FM) had also been developed by Chowning at Stanford. Digital FM brought efficient ways of generating rich and complex timbres in real time and became the basis of the new Japanese consumer digital synthesizers starting in the early '80s." - p 181

"The Yamaha DX7, for example, was renowned for innovative gestural control. It was the first widely available, medium-cost digital synthesizer to provide a pianolike touch-sensitive keyboard that could be programmed to control various parameters of the sound (e.g. attack, intensity, vibrato). It was much lauded by IRCAM's small-machine enthusiasts in 1984." - endnote 2, p 359

The Yamaha DX7 FM synthesizer features heavily in Rationalizing Culture as a commerical electronic instrument on the 'affordable' end that was 'easy to use' & that the upper management of IRCAM was resistent to b/c of its accessibility to the masses. The 1st piece I ever did for synthesizer, drum machine, & sequencer used a DX7. It's called "Neoist Funeral March for Hope(less)" (1986) & it's used as the soundtrack for a movie of mine called "Hindsight" ( ).

I had access to this gear thanks to my friend & collaborator John Berndt whose wealthy parents had given it to him, probably for his 16th birthday in 1983 when the DX7 was released. The cost was $1,995. That certainly wasn't 'affordable' to a working class guy such as myself. Despite the impression that one might get from reading Rationalizing Culture, it also wasn't very 'user friendly'. Around the same time that I created "Neoist Funeral March for Hope(less)" I also created a series of 8 pieces called "Sound Thinking: Phase II: Program Notes" wch consisted of my saying aloud what programming I was doing w/ the DX7 (w/o knowing what the results wd be) for about 5:00 & then 'playing' the results - wch were usually silence. I published at least 4 of these 8 versions on 3 K7 compilations & one DVD-R mp3 retrospective. The idea was to show that if you didn't have fairly signficant knowledge of what all the programmable controls meant you weren't likely to be able to use the FM synthesis to any accomplished degree & might very well just end up w/ no sound at all. Of possibly no interest to anyone other than myself is that on one of the K7 compilations the editors felt free to add reverb b/c they mistakenly thought that what I was doing was describing the generation of reverb in the piece.

"AV jokes ironically about how computer music is the hghest state of human experience because one has just to engage with and enjoy the actual process of work, rather than it being about the end result of a piece: renouncing the gratification of a result." - p 243

"In the early '80s, the motor fo development in computer music became the commercial Japanese sector, which produced increasingly sophisticated real-time consumer synthesizers based on digital FM. From the crude Casio range, to the Yamaha DX range, to the more ambitious Fairlight synthesizer, these were oriented toward nontechnical users" - p 183

While I'm sure that the DX7 (& even the DX27S that I have) may've been "oriented toward nontechnical users" in contrast to whatever was being used at IRCAM it was by no means technically simple. While a nontechnical user cd make something w/ it & probably be satisfied w/ the results, I, personally, have found things like Kawai K1m wave-table synthesizer modules (1988) & samplers to be much more versatile & user-friendly.

Casio's admittedly very limited but wonderfully cheap sampler, the SK-1, is listed on Wikipedia as having been made public in 1985 but I remember something available in 1981 so maybe I'm remembering the Casiotone 201 (1980) or the Casio VL-1 (1981). I think it was more likely the latter b/c the prefab rhythms were a remarkable feature at the time & had high kitsch value. At any rate, the 1st sampler piece (in its current sense) that I made was thanks to the SK-1 & was done in 1986. It's one of the silliest things I've ever created but I appreciate Casio for making it possible.

Chowning & his collaborators's resistance to military funding is something that I applaud. This is a recurring theme in Rationalizing Culture. While being able to not be wiped out by the bullies-of-the-world is an excellent idea, it's also excellent to not become a bully-of-the-world too.

In my notes, it's not until page 70 that I tell myself that this is "where it starts to get good":

"The existence of centralized, highly privileged institutions has long been characteristic of the organization of French cultural life. More generally, the French polity consists of a highly centralized bureaucratic administration centered on Paris, with local administration largely an extension of central government. The origins of this situation go back to the French Revolution of 1789, from which time centralization and rationalization of administration, education, and so on came to be assoicated with the progressive goals of ending inherited privilege and extending equality of opportunity to all citizens." - p 70

Born's historical backgrounding is particularly fascinating for me:

"Saint-Simon first applied the term "avant-garde" to culture, referring to reolvutionary "artist-engineers.""


"Saint-Simon's utopia thus centered on a dialogue between artists, scientists, and engineers, with artists having a leading role in the imaginative exploration of reality." - p 71

"IRCAM thus became the music wing of the new Centre. The institute was the result of personal contact between the president and Boulez as a leading artist-intellectual, of a convergence of their distinct visions, and of placing power directly into the hands of Boulez-an indication of the prominent role French intellectuals have been able to claim in public life and political office." - p 73

In some respects, the French people compare unfavorably w/ Americans in Rationalizing Culture. Here's one instance where the French are much more to my liking. It seems to me that there was a time when an American president had to at least give the appearance of being even-tempered & intelligent. Now there's President Rump, the harbinger of the Idiocracy if there ever was one. If he even knows what "intellectual" means it's b/c some greedy white supremacist Christian nazi is 'explaining' to him who they might be able to imprison if he manages to get re-elected.

It seems to me that having Boulez as the director is faaaaaaarrrrrrr preferable to the people I've seen come & go as directors of cultural institutions in the USA. In my experience, such directors are never "artist-intellectual"s & their main qualifications seem to be their willingness to milk the institutions for their own personal gain. It's great to be able to spend, embezzle, & waste public money! Then again, Boulez cd be such an assssshhoooooole:

"Boulez, by contrast, did not continue an involvement in electronics and made known his strong reservations about the GRM. He created a stir by denouncing Schaeffer's aproach to electronic composition as unsophisticated and inadequate. The main criticism was that musique concrète was untheorized and empiricist. The '50s were a period of serialist ascendance, led by Boulez, Stockhausen, and others, and any compositional technique not integrating these concerns was subject to question." - pp 75-76

Ha ha! I'll take musique concrète over serialism anyday!! IMO, the serialist music composed by academics scrambling to be "with it" in the US is drek in contrast to most musique concrète. Milton Babbit's "Ensembles for Synthesizer" (1960-1964) is probably groundbreaking but it's not that far away from the 'demonstration record' characteristics of "Music from Mathematics". Boulez's dreary ongoing character assassination of his 'competitors' is transparent - but, HEY!, it worked for him!!

"We can now perceive the relations between the GRM and IRCAM as it came into being in the 1970s. On the one hand there are continuities largely unacknowledged by Boulez at the time." - pp 76-77

In other words, the Groupe de Recherche Musicales, from whence musique concrète originated, was something that signficantly predated IRCAM so Boulez had to diss it so that he cd channel the money & glory his way - just like he did w/ everyone else who was more of an innovator than he cd ever be.

Now I'm not the biggest fan of Socialism given that Nazism was National Socialism & that Mussolini's Fascism grew out of his being a Socialist 1st but consider this:

"When the Socialists came to power in 1981 and doubled the state budget for education and culture, IRCAM's funds also doubled from about fifteen to thirty miilion francs a year. But rather than simply increasing the funds to existing institutions, the Ministry's new director of music, Maurice Fleuret, set up a number of new music research centers and augmented their funds by a comparitively higher rate than IRCAM's. They included a couple in Paris, notably two studios from the composers Eloy and Henry (cofounder of musique concrète). But the majority were in regional cities (Lyon, Marseille, Aix, Grenoble, and so on). The move expressed the desire on the part of the Socialist administration to lessen the "monopoly" enjoyed by IRCAM and Boulez and the dominance of Parisian centers." - p 86

Can you imagine any American political administration doubling the state budget for education and culture?!

"In his first budget proposal, released Thursday, President Trump proposed drastic cuts to many of the nation's agencies and programs to offset nearly $60 billion in additional spending on defense, a down payment on the border wall and funding for school choice programs, among other things. If enacted, the proposal would be one of the most dramatic redistributions of funds since Reagan's military build-up during the Cold War in the early 1980s." -

The Education Department funding was cut by 14% . Witness my reading of my parody about Rump's appointee for Secretary of Education: . For the part specifically referencing her, go to 6:09. Anyway, I wdn't be surprised if Rump got rid of education altogether - Who needs it? If you aren't born w/ vast inherited wealth you don't need an education, you're only good as a servant or slave. I can imagine educational opportunities offered as unpaid 'interns' at Rump Towers coming soon to wipe out a neighborhood near you! As for "Culture"? Does the USA have a department for that? I'm sure Rump has his trolls working on a plan to funnel all cultural monies into 'Reality' TV shows that star his various relatives & fellow travelers & a healthy quantity of Miss Universes & other shapely bodies for sale to the highest bidder. All sarcasm aside, consider this:

"On January 19, 2017, The Hill reported that the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities would be "eliminated entirely" under plans from incoming President Donald Trump."


"The 2014 National Endowment for the Arts budget was just $146 million. This represents 0.012% of federal discretionary spending-about one one-hundredth of one percent. This is also the amount the government spent in 2013 for federal employees to upgrade their flights to business class. Both of these costs are a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $357 million­$500 million spent annually on military marching bands. Ultimately, the endowment costs each American a paltry .47 cents a year. When placed in an international context, consider that Germany spends roughly $20 per citizen a year on arts programs, Northern Ireland spends $37 and Australia spends $311."


Now, as far as I know, the NEA is still alive but that doesn't mean that Rump wasn't trying to get rid of it at the beginning of the yr:

"Today the Trump administration released the first official documents draft of their plan to fund the federal government for the coming fiscal year (FY2018). The Trump proposal includes massive budget cuts (more than $54 billion in cuts to domestic programs in one year alone). The Administration's proposal calls for termination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the first American President in history to propose zeroing out all funding for the nation's federal cultural agencies." -

This isn't exactly a personal matter for me: the NEA wd NEVER fund me so from my POV it might as well be the NEVA instead of the NEA. Still, that sd, it gives you an idea of the cultural political agenda of the ruling political elites of this country. There's not even a pretense that culture or education (or the environment) are important.

Back to Born:

"The most stinging critiques of Boulez's "regime" were twin articles by Xenakis and Eloy that appeared in the pages of the newspaper Le Matin in January, 1981."


"Eloy's article exemplifies the harsh tone of the polemic. Called "The reign of lies," it consists of a series of denunciations. Boulez has "always shown a distrust, indeed a dislike, for electro-acoustics." His aim is for IRCAM to follow the path of the United States, where computer music has been the "ultimate refuge for academic postserialism....IRCAM [is] nothing but a projection of the will for power" (Eloy, Le Matin 26 January 1981, my translation)." - p 88

I'm feelin' ya, Eloy. Boulez had been electro-acoustic-bashing, that does strike me as both musically moronic & power motivated. As for the US being the place "where computer music has been the "ultimate refuge for academic postserialism["]" (as of 1981)?: I'm not so sure about that. But maybe that's just b/c I've pd attn to a different trajectory? Significant computer music pieces for me leading up ro 1981 wd've been things like anything by Lejaren Hiller - all of wch is too individualistic to qualify that much as "academic postserialism" even though Hiller was an academic & had composed serial music. Then there're pieces like Charles Dodge's "Earth's Magnetic Field" (1970) & "Cascando" (1977) ( ). It seems to me that even by 1981, the computer music in the US was too diverse & nonconformist to really fit Eloy's cynical description. Still, his critique of IRCAM & Boulez seems justified.

"this is clear from his first speech in France touching on the IRCAM idea, given on 13 May 1968 at the height of the revolutionary events (Boulez 1986, 445-63). He speaks of the need for a renewal of musical sound materials to match the new post-tonal serial system and its forms. He calls for research using new technologies on three interrelated fronts: on new, particularly microtonal, intervals and scales, on new instruments, and on new sounds using the means of electronic music. In passing, he scorns the "takeover" of electro-acoustics by a "curiosity-shop aesthetics, this bastard descendant of a dead Surrealism" (Boulez 1986, 456), by which he implies musique concrète at the GRM." - p 97

SHEESH! The guy is tenacious. I like "curiosity-shop aesthetics", I see nothing wrong w/ "bastard descendant"s, & Surrealism is far from dead, even today. Maybe Boulez shd've organized a "Degenerate Music" program at IRCAM, he doesn't seem that far away from doing so.



I have the above 2 records from IRCAM. When I 1st got the records (the "György Kurtág / Harrison Birtwistle" one in 2010, the "Antiphysis / Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco / Modulations" - Dufourt / Harvey / Grisey in 2013) I was hoping for impressive greatness, I didn't really hear it - but the work was still strong, I wdn't call it mediocre. The Jonathan Harvey piece, "Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco", is electroacoustic. Given Boulez's typical stance against musique concrète, it's funny to see one the main pieces representing IRCAM be Harvey's. Rationalizing Culture addresses this:

"RESEARCHER:" [..] "On the other had, I think that Harvey's piece is the best that has been done at IRCAM. But it's not something that will last into the future because it's more on the end of [certain developments] than something new. It's amazing, musically wonderful, but probably it could've been done anywhere else as well as at IRCAM! [laughs] I mean, it proves nothing for IRCAM.

"GB: Do you mean that it's basically musique concrète, a treatment of existing musical objects?

"RES: Yes, yes exactly. So Harvey has a fantastic intuition and ear. . . . But [the unique resources of] IRCAM [were] used for nothing in that [laughs ironically], except for having the computer and tapes!" - p 170

"Privately divided among themselves, IRCAM music intellectuals colluded in putting down outside composers, a classic form of reinforcing community by united it against the outside. Tutors, for example, maintained a flow of mocking comments on the progress of visitors' pieces. Sitting down at a musicians's meeting, the group joked about the recent IRCAM premiere of a major GRM composer whom they considered to have still produced a musique-concrète-like piece, despite having access to the advanced technology of the 4X. Laughing, they ridiculed the premiere as boring and the composer for his omnipotent pretensions: he sat on a raised dais with a spotlight trained on his head and hands as he controlled the mixing deck. Continuing the theme, a tutor joked that the 4X designer had produced a 4X program called MusCon, at which all present collapsed with mirth. This "MusCon" was densely packed with meanings: both "musique concrète," implying that this music is so routine that it can be churned out automatically by machine; and "con," meaning "bloody stupid,"" [That's "fucking stupid" to those of you who speak American English] "implying that such a program churns out "bloody stupid music"-and therefore that musique concrète is bloody stupid." - p 168

[reviewer's note: "con" actually means "cunt" so the implication is that women are "bloody stupid". Born, the feminist, seems to prefer to leave that one alone since I'm sure she must've known what it meant.]

Hhmm.. That gets a feller to thinking: What type of music wd I make w/ the 4X if I had access to it? Given the 4X's connection to the military-industrial complex I become inspired: you've probably heard about those rumble strips placed on highways so that cars running over them cause a melody, right? ( ) - & you've read here about the 4X being sold to the French military-industrial complex "to simulate aircraft noise": Welllll, what if the 4X w/ its vast capabilities were used to produce the equivalent of jet fighter rumble strip melodies?! Imagine something like the sonic boom passing over the ridges of bomb craters to play La Marseillaise! Since the IRCAM folks hate musique concrète as "bloody stupid music" this wd give 'smart bombs' a new meaning to fit right in w/ the IRCAM-GRM competition. "Smart Bomb Music" wd help w/ the denial too. Then, of course, there cd be "Bloody Smart Bomb Music".

"Finally, musical uncertainty was most clearly expressed in the chronic dissatisfaction with most IRCAM music that was pervasive even among IRCAM's intellectuals and that seemed to exist back-to-back with an uncritical reverence for Boulez's Répons, so that his music alone was exempted from the general gloom."


"The composers and pieces mentioned here were among the four often cited when subjects were asked to name their most valued IRCAM music. The four were Boulez's Répons, Jonathan Harvey's Mortuous Plangas Vivos Vocos, York Höller's Arcus, and WOW's Chréode 1." - p 170

I don't have a big problem w/ IRCAM existing, there're worse things to blow public money on, but I do have to wonder how much each piece that's come out of there has cost when one looks at overall expenses of keeping the place going. I think there's a high probability that if one were to place a price on the pieces & to then comparison-shop w/ music produced by people w/ little or no budgets that the IRCAM results wd be a high-priced luxury that wdn't taste any better than the cheap stuff.

STILL, IRCAM kicked off its existence in 1977 w/ a series of concerts called "Passage du Vingtième Siècle" & the list of composers whose work was performed that's presented by Born is PDI (Pretty Damned Impressive). From my PDI POV (Pretty Damned Impressed Point-Of-View) IRCAM can ride for a looooonnnnnnnggggggg time on that series alone (the parenthetical numbers are the quantity of pieces presented by the composer):

Arnold Schoenberg (16), Anton Webern (15), Alban Berg (9), Bela Bartók (4), Igor Stravinsky (4), Charles Ives (3), Claude Debussy (2), Edgard Varèse (2); Luciano Berio (9), György Ligeti (9), Karlheinz Stockhausen (8), Pierre Boulez (7), Eliot Carter (6), Luigi Nono (4), Olivier Messiaen (3), Iannis Xenakis (3), John Cage (3); Bruno Maderna (2), Henri Pousseur (2), Mauricio Kagel (2), Vinko Globokar (2).. etc..

The list is much longer & isn't, itself, complete. If there's ever been a more amazing series of concerts that're to my taste I don't know of them. I doubt that every orchestral concert in the USA in that entire yr combined wd've impressed me that much.

In endnote 21 on page 354 it's stated that:

"Somehow, then, for Barthes as by implication for Boulez, the problem of meaning resides not in the character of the text, since avant-garde music, film, or painting can be experienced either way, but in the unanalyzed difference between reading as active, "practicial collaboration" or as "consumption.""

That strikes me as one of the main premises of "Language Writing", a mvmt I've been involved in, but it doesn't strike me as something really relevant to Boulez. If Language Writing (or, as it's more often called "Language Poetry") seeks to stimulate a more critical & active role for the reader by having the text be less 'transparent' &, by implication, less propagandistic & manipulative then the relationship between the writer & the reader becomes hypothetically less one of salesperson & consumer. It seems to me that Boulez has never manifested any intention of being anywhere but in the role of 'genius' making 'masterpieces' for the audience to (hopefully) adore. The implication being that if the audience is even capable of understanding the work enuf to adore it then they've earned their Boulez merit badge for exceptional intelligence.

"In Adornian fashion Boulez equates large audiences with commerciality, with easy listening and a lax aesthetic pluralism. Thus, in an interview from the mid-1980s that criticizes the minimalist and "repetitive" school of post-modernism, Boulez rejects what he calls the "supermarket aesthetic."" - p 98

Again, I take exception to the terminology: "the minimalist and "repetitive" school of post-modernism" makes it seems so agreed-upon that there's such a thing as a "minimalist and "repetitive" school of" it. I think that's obviously not the case. Even among what's generally called "Minimalism" there're significant differences in influences: Terry Riley & LaMonte Young (& many others such as Henry Flynt) were influenced by the Indian musical practice of Pandit Pran Nath; Steve Reich studied Ghana drumming; Glen Branca might've come more out of rock music; John Adams more out of the "New Tonality" end of things (which, to me, borders on muzak). Michael Nyman certainly has an expertise in experimental music & Gavin Bryars might come from similar roots. I don't think of either of them as being that similar to the aforementioned Americans except for Adams. Nyman & Philip Glass have both composed many movie scores that've garnered them somewhat popular attn.

Besides wch, what's meant by a "large audience" either by Boulez or Born? Certainly, as a conductor, Boulez has had what I wd consider to be large audiences & I'm sure that he wd've been offended if his large audiences were considered of the same ilk as Minimalist "large audiences" wch've probably rarely or never been as large as Boulez's. When Born toured w/ Henry Cow did they have "large audiences"? I doubt it. They certainly weren't selling out stadiums like the Rolling Stones. The relativity of these countings are manipulated to mean whatever's convenient for the propaganda of the demagogue.

"IRCAM is physically unusual: the main building lies underground on four descending levels below the Place Stravinsky, adjacent to the Centre Georges Pompidou. In 1984 IRCAM had two buildings: this new one and an old building, a red-brick former schoolhouse. In the late '80s a new tower was added neighboring the old building. Both overlook the kinetic Tinguely sculptures that adorn the Place." - p 102

There are several things about the above that appeal to me, one of them isn't the building's being underground, I'd want to be where there's sunlight & windows to look out of. But, HEY!, the Centre Georges Pompidou has an unusual design, it took some courage & vision for city planners (or whomever) to ok it. It's below the "Place Stravinsky" - France is a country that respects its cultural producers, its poets, composers, musicians, painters. The US cd use more of that, waaaaayyyyyyyyyyy more of that. & there are Tinguely kinetic sculptures. I love Tinguely's work.

"Berio, for example, invited a compatriot scientist to design him a real-time digital sound processor-which developed into IRCAM's major computer hardware project, culminating in the early '80s in the production of a powerful machine called the 4X." - p 103

Maybe I'm being too romantic but it seems like IRCAM does have sincere qualities of looking for & supporting talent. Berio is important. He's a great composer, my personal favorite for composing vocal music. It helped that he was married to the great vocalist Cathy Berberian. My own observation of cultural hierarchies in the US is that the medicore rise to the top by being Yes Men (& not in the political activist sense) & then cling there tenaciously - suppressing any advance by anyone more talented, more knowledgable, more imaginative, & more passionate than themselves. Maybe it's like that in France too but even Born's obviously critical take on IRCAM doesn't reduce it to a dead bureaucracy, there's some meritocracy there. Here's an example:

"Boulez used musical judgments to access both workers and technologies, so that a good piece might suddenly promote the composer and the technologies used, as well as feeding back prestige to IRCAM itself. A squatter's tale can illustrate this process, A young woman composer, the girlfriend of a junior worker and so able to gain unofficial entry, produced a piece with IRCAM technologies that won a prize at the prestigious Darmstadt festival. Word came out that she had made it at IRCAM, and the artistic management looked foolish for not being aware of the piece or her talent. Yet after a mock reprimand, they were pleased that she had won this important prize. Within a short time, she was working officially at IRCAM." - p 114

That, to me, is more or less how it shd be. There shd be some possibility of an in to the institution that's unofficial. There shd be some possibility of recognition for a person's achievements based on criteria other than how ass-licking they are. There shd be some possibility of career advancement based on one's talent.

NOW, here's a story from my own personal experience working for a museum. I'd been working there for almost 20 yrs. During this time not a single promise made to me had been kept. I was consistently denied any advancement b/c my 2 bosses knew that I knew & cared far more about the area that we were working in than they did. The top boss cd barely be bothered to show up for work & had been so lazy & incompetent that all funding for the dept had been lost beyond the salaries of the 2 deadbeats. I was told by some people that they'd tried to call them for as much as 6 mnths w/o being able to get thru to anyone or get a callback. I was cut back to ZERO hrs - only called in when there was actual work to be done. I had as many as 7 other jobs at the peak of all this. My life revolved around my own creative work so these jobs were only important as sources of income.

Very importantly, I dressed as I liked. Also very importantly, I tried to do some labor organizing at the museum. A new director wormed his way into power. He was a very dull human being who dressed in such a way that he was barely noticeable. I think it bothered him that when we had events the clients wd come & talk to me deducing that I was an important artist b/c of the apparent freedom I had in my appearance. They didn't pay any attn to the director b/c he was so unnoticeable. This had to stop so he passed a rule that I had to wear what I call 'servant clothes', all black. My immediate supervisor told me nervously that he'd be fired if I didn't comply. I complied for a few mnths & then I shifted myself into one of my other jobs & left that museum completely. My supervisor left soon therafter. This exemplifies my experience w/ that museum. Anyone w/ any actual talent wd be suppressed, hoping we'd go away. The scum rise to the top.

IRCAM's big electronic music device of the time was the 4X. There was some interest in commercially producing it, I'd be vaguely interested in playing w/ it. It's much to Born's credit that she ferreted out this:

"A company called Sogitec expressed interest, and drawn-out negotiations took place in late 1983 and early 1984. Significantly, Sogitec was not interested in the 4X's musical capacities. It manufactured aircraft parts and was closely linked to the defense industry. VO sold the 4X to Sogitec by finding a way to use the machine to simulate aircraft noise, and the company bought it to become the basis of a flight-noise simulator. In July 1984 Sogitec was suddenly taken over by the giant defense company Dassault-makers of aircraft and high-tech weapons"


"A very few workers mentioned confidentially that they were upset by the militarist implications of the deal, and equally by the failure of the 4X to reach a larger musical public, but most remained silent. The 4X designer, BU, was angry, and word had it that he refused to give Sogitec any written designs for the machine, so they had to work out its operations from scratch" - p 110

I've already mentioned the issue of peaceful work being converted to military purposes both in connection w/ Dassault (if it were an English word it wd be hard to resist a pun yielding Defense Assault) & John Chowning's work w/ the CCRMA. Funny how so many creative people have a conscience about doing things to kill. Anyway, kudos to BU if the apocryphal story is true. By the by, these takeovers of partially innocuous companies by more blatantly military ones is a pattern to watch out for. I worked for a medical lab, they were approached by the US government about doing specific biological warfare work wch they declined. The business was then bought out & the original owners who'd done the declining were kept on as advisors.. but not for long. How much do ya wanna bet that the biological warfare research then went on unimpeded by anyone's conscience?

"When I mentioned the militarist links of the 4X deal, the researcher ID responded with an eloquent, self-explanatory discussion of the practical, moral, and political dilemmas at stake:

"ID: Oooh! [Sighs] It's a very, very thin layer that separates the technological base of computer music from that used in advanced radar systems for things like cruise missiles."


"You know, I'm a pacifist, a Quaker! [laughs at the irony] So I had to determine my position . . . "


"But when I'm dealing with people from General Dynamics who are interested in CARL software, I'm basically trying to lure them away from their activity-by proposing alternative utilizations of the technology." - p 160

As w/ so many things here, this is another area where I can relate. In 2001, I was approached by a man who had taken a sabbatical from his missile radar development job to pursue his interest in making documentaries. He'd made a ahort one for pay about a Christian summer camp for people w/ Down Syndrome. He wanted his 2nd documentary to be about me.

On a tip from his acquaintance Skizz Cyzyk, he'd attended a screening that I had of my 16mm films at the Charles Theater in BalTimOre. He approached me after that. He decided that he wanted the doc to be about me as an anarchist political activist. We worked on it together for 7 mnths & then he abandoned the project b/c it was more complicated than he felt able to delve into. He returned to his missile radar job where he was reinstated w/ full pay but wasn't allowed to do anything until he passed an investigation that I remember as taking 2 or more mnths. If I remember correctly, he did pass but then decided soon thereafter to quit the job b/c he'd been thinking about the issues brought up by his exposure to activism. I was sorry the doc never came to fruition but I was happy that he'd stopped working for the military-industrial complex.

"ID:" [..] "I suspect" [Los Alamos's use of the CARL software] "is related to speech research with a view to allowing fighter-bomber pilots to give verbal commands." - p 161

I wonder if my own "Speech Defect Synthesis" can be used the same way?

There is a touch of humor to be found in Rationalizing Culture but I'm not sure whether Born appreciates it or not. Is my review as bad?

"Given that a commission is likely to represent more than six months' work, payment is not high, despite additional living expenses. The different treatment given to "star" composers may be illustrated prior to Stockhauen's 1984 visit. In advance of his arrival, secretaries reported being issued with extraordinary, mythic instructions for his hotel accommodation, redolent with sexual innuendo: to find a bed big enough for three, and a bedroom with an antechamber just off it to which Stockhausen could retire to compose. Collective fantasy or not, much awe and hilarity passed between the secretaries. Ordinary visiting composers are simply given a list of recommended hotels and CGP flats." - endnote 7, p 356

I hope Stockhausen got was he was looking for out of that - perhaps just a comfortable night's sleep. I don't begrudge Stockhausen good conditions, he's a very inspired & hard-working composer. While "much awe and hilarity passed between the secretaries", I have to wonder whether they had any sexual fantasies about Stockhausen too. When I worked for the aforementioned medical lab one of my coworkers had spread the word around that I was a "porn star". This wasn't true, it was more of a distortion of my having made a personal sex movie & some other things. However, I was treated to what struck me as exceptional friendliness by the 2 women receptionists. I had to wonder what they were imagining b/c I knew that they were the people who'd been told this story about me.

Born provides statistics regarding women at IRCAM. There were a total of 16 there at the time: 12 secretaries, assistants, & receptionists; 3 administrators, production, diffusion; one on the Systems Team. The obvious &, presumably, correct point is that women were underutilized for their skills b/c of sexism. Again, my own experience in American cultural institutions is somewhat different. Having, as I stated previously, worked for over 22 yrs for 6 different museums & one traveling museum display company, my bosses were often women. They were also often dumb & ignorant as you can get. I'll give an example. One day I was wearing a t-shirt w/ a picture of John Cage laughing on it. To anyone who knows who Cage is he was clearly recognizable. My woman boss sd very sternly to me: "I'm a liberal & I don't like your wearing a t-shirt of Ronald Reagan." This was a reprimand that I wasn't to wear such a thing in the future. Given that I'm an anarchist I'm sure that my opinion of Reagan was considerably lower than hers. I explained who the image was actually of. I don't recall her knowing of Cage.

To drive the point home a little more: the owner of the traveling exhibits company was a woman; my boss at a science museum was a woman; my boss at an art museum was a woman; the last overall director of a group of museums that I worked for was a woman; 3 of my bosses at another museum were women; my boss at another arts museum was a woman; one of my bosses at a historical museum was a woman; the winners of my personal award for most-obnoxiously-sexist-&-demeaning-to-me-personally were a woman at an art museum & a traveling exhibit boss who I had the misfortune of working with at another museum (although I can think of plenty of men who deserve similar awards). Not all of these people were incompetent, at least one was excellent (she got let go), some I even liked, not all of them abused their power - but most of them did & most of them were unqualified - just like the higher management men.

Born's info about differences in treatment for people working differently statused jobs is something that I can deeply relate to:

"The office day was kept strictly by all administrative and clerical staff. Secretaries felt that their timekeeping was being monitored by the Personnel director, who sometimes hung around the entrance hall, fetching a coffee and chatting amiably. Directors and research staff were less reliably available. They wandered in later, had long lunch engagements. Meetings and consultations filled their office days." - p 121

This, indeed, is a problem. Personally, I think that if anyone has to come to work on time then everyone shd come to work on time. If it's not important for someone to be there at any given moment then perhaps they're not necessary at all. I'd fire people who come in late under those conditions. Again, some examples:

A woman boss made an appointment for someone to come meet her at 1PM. The boss was probably expected to be there at 8:30 or 9AM. The person w/ the appointment, another woman as I recall, was on time at 1PM. The boss didn't stroll in until 2PM. She cdn't be bothered to even come to an appointment she'd made, she was 5 & 1/2 hrs late for work. I wish I had been in a position to fire her for this one incident alone.

A woman coworker at another museum routinely didn't come in until 2 or 3 hrs later than everyone else. The rest of the workers were there by 8:30AM. Around 11AM one day, one of the women bosses that I liked asked me where my missing coworker was. I didn't want to inform on her even though I cdn't stand her so I avoided the question & the woman boss filled in the blank w/ her own explanation that went something like this: 'Oh, she probably has to get her kids off to school & that takes time.' That wasn't actually the case, the absent employee was just fucking-off.

When she finally came in she justified her late arrival by saying that she'd work later than everyone else to make a full 7.5 hr day. I knew she was lying. One day, I left work at 5PM, as was usual. She was still there working. I realized after I left that I'd forgotten my bag & I turned around & went back. As I was re-entering the bldg at 5:15 she was leaving. She'd waited until she thought she was 'safe' from observation to leave. This same woman was always trying to convince our supervisor that she shd be promoted to a boss of a particular area. There was no need for a boss there. Fortunately, the supervisor saw thru her machinations & affably denied her request.

A dept that I worked for at another museum required its workers to come in at either 7:30 or 8:30AM. There was usually work that needed to be done before the museum opened so these hrs were reasonable. A woman was hired to be a part of the crew, wch had been mainly men. She came to work whenever she felt like it & was rarely to be found. It's possible that she wasn't comfortable w/ the men, some of whom took a quick dislike to her. That becomes a which-came-1st-the-chicken-or-the-egg? question b/c people definitely disliked her for not coming into work whenever the rest of us did but there was probably also some sexism involved. There was sexism both ways: she wasn't reprimanded for being so late b/c she was a woman & her boss was a woman & b/c she had sold herself as having superior skills & was, therefore, treated as being exceptional.

She was exceptional, exceptionally moronic & oblivious. I had started a labor organizing group in the museums a few yrs before in response to the museum abuses of employees in adminstrative efforts to avoid paying health care under the Affordable Heath Care Act. I'd founded the group, reached out to labor organizers connected to a union, named the group, had the 1st 2 meetings at my house, attended all meetings, arranged for newspaper coverage, written a well-researched article, made props, given a speech, attended events for struggling workers in other fields to build solidarity, & solicited signatures for a petition, etc. Only 2 other people helped me w/ this, both women. The rest of the people were apparently just there for the free food & booze.

The above-mentioned oblivious woman coran a gallery where this labor organizing group met twice. When she & I were working together at the museum she mentioned 'Back when I was making the revolution..' & then she paused, confused, & sd: 'Oh, you were a part of that too, weren't you?' She had never done ANYTHING for the cause whatsoever & was so oblivious that she didn't even remember my connection to it all. Despite this, she thought of herself as a 'revolutionary'. It was ridiculous. Thank goodness, she was eventually fired by her woman boss so the sexism in her favor only went so far. Lest you misunderstand, some of the greatest political activists I've ever known have been women. She just wasn't one of them.

Perhaps it seems like I'm being too snarky here but I'm just trying to make the point that whether it's men or women, & I'm all in favor of equal opportunites for both - w/o sexism interfering one way or the other - the people in power are probably going to just be the people who want power & not the people who're actually qualified to use it to best advantage for the community they ostensibly are guiding. There's a saying: "Women are crazy & men are stupid" but I think that 'stupidity & craziness' is an equal opportunity employer. Born can be snarky too & her biases often strike me as transparent:

"One hacker could often be glimpsed working into the night in a darkened room, his hair and grubby anorek disheveled, sometimes with a half-eaten baguette in his hand dripping crumbs into the keyboard, until he fell asleep slumped over his terminal." - p 121

That description contributes to my impression that Born is less of a rocker than her CV shouts b/c she seems to have a bourgeois repulsion for the hacker that, in my experience of the world of rock, wd ordinarily qualify the hacker as one of her peops affectionately witnessed. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Here's another example:

"Squatters worked at night to avoid official notice, and to gain maximum computer freedom while they learned the ropes of computer music and produced their first, inelegant sounds." - p 122

"inelegant"? What exactly are her standards for "inelegant"? That strikes me as another bourgeois snotty statement coming from somebody who's classically trained. Such musicians have the chops but they don't necessarily have any imagination. Remember, this bk has serious pretentions at being 'objective' & 'authoritative' so calling the work of an entire group of people "inelegant" seems like a classist thing to say.

"Bourdieu sees "education" and "culture" as the distinguishing factors between his two kinds of art perception, with culture the more obviously inherited and unconscious class trait. He also considers educational achievement to be structured by class (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977), yet with education he leaves some space for the acquisition of cultural capital. Within IRCAM, we will see that the concept of a "need for education into understanding" avant-garde music was the main form in which lower-status workers expressed their sense of lack of cultural mastery, of "not knowing about" or "not understanding" the music." - p 123

Again, it seems to me that my considerably more extensive museum experience has been different. It's not just the "lower-status workers" expressing "their sense of lack of cultural mastery", it's also the upper-status workers simply not caring whether they know shit from shinola. Take the curator who gets their position b/c they're married to someone in upper management or the curator who has no interest in 'their field' whatsoever. They'll present whatever comes their way from other institutions more prominent. That way they don't have to risk making their own cultural judgments wch might be 'wrong' & face ridicule. What matters is collecting the paycheck.

At one museum there had been a bk behind the ticket counter laying around as if someone had looked at it & then abandoned it. It had been there for mnths. I looked at it & was delighted to find that it was about a short-lived gallery in Pittsburgh of major importance that I knew nothing about. A supervisor then gave it to me b/c he found it a bit of an eyesore & b/c it had been annoying him that it was laying there for so long.

"Whereas workers from the reproduction sphere considered themselves without any substantial involvement in art and intellectual work, it is striking that those poised between reproduction and production-the male technicians, and two women artistic directors-shared a background of work in the arts, or engaged in external professional cultural activities. They were thus far from culturally naive and professionally and pragmatically involved in artistic work. So they did not express the mystified reverence for all things artistic that was characteristic of reproduction workers." - pp 123-124

Again, my own museum experience is somewhat different from that. The lower-status workers tended to be involved in the museums not b/c they were ignorant as much as b/c they wanted to be around the culture more. They may've been naive b/c there was a tendency to think that being around the culture more wd be good for their own artistic careers. One person became disillusioned quickly enuf when she complained to a museum director that she cd get better pay & better work conditions working for a McDonald's in reply to wch the director told her "Get a job at McDonald's then.' The low status worker quit soon thereafter & started making money off her art instead.

In general, though, I think apathy is more common than "mystified reverence". When I asked one graphics designer at an art museum what their own personal art was like they replied indifferently that they did so much graphic design at work that they had no interest in doing it outside of work.

By this point in Rationalizing Culture, once the text is largely free of cultural theory that I strongly disagree w/ & musical history that I find extremely inadequate, I enjoyed the observations & interviews much more:

"The American director of Pedagogy also described his emergence from the cultural surroundings of his family, in Belleville, Illinois, a lower-middle-class white suburb, and how his parents began to stimulate his interest in both science and music; but in rather different terms:

"My dad was very "science oriented"-a manager on a local air base. I got science from my dad: I got interested in space-this was the '50s-when I was a kid. My mother brought music to me: she was a pianist, popular music mainly. She had a lot of sheet music, collections of Gershwin tunes. She didn't play too well. . . . My first musical experience was Tex Ritter [giggles at the absurdity]-a country 'n' western singer. At four or five years old I liked to listen to certain licks. There was a Tex Ritter lick-"Frog he went a courtin' "! [cracks up laughing]" - p 131

Ahem. I actually know a little something about the subject of Tex Ritter & this is where I get to go into my Mr-Smarty-Pants routine & correct the above. I made a sampling piece called "Tex-Mix (Giddyup Americana)" (check out the movie version!: ) in wch I used 11 audio samples of simulated horse hooves & of my playing instruments & also using 50 audio samples from these 6 Tex Ritter movies: "Song of the Gringo" (1936), "Arizona Days" (1937), "Sing, Cowboy, Sing" (1937), "Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen" (1937), "Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts" (1937), & "Rollin' Plains" (1938).

But what's really important to me here is Smiley Burnette. Burnette was a comic actor who played the sidekick to quite a few Singing Cowboy stars such as Gene Autry & Roy Rogers. In these Westerns, his songs & his inventions were usually a highlight for me. To quote his Wikipedia entry:

"Burnette devised and built some of his unusual musical instruments in his home workshop. His "Jassackaphone", for example, which he played in the film The Singing Cowboy, resembled an organ with pipes, levers, and pull mechanisms." -

Burnette was also known as "Frog" ("Frog Millhouse") b/c he cd sing an extremely low note that reminded people of a frog croak. So, "Frog went a Courtin' " refers to him. I don't know who wrote the song, I don't think it was Tex Ritter & I don't think it was Burnette either. Smiley Burnette is one of my favorite pop musicians so if I can direct readers of this to checking out his work I'll be happy. He was even on TV & I still like him. Given my extreme distaste for TV that's really saying something. The official Smiley Burnette website is here: . I'm not totally sure wch of the Smiley Burnette movies that I've witnessed has my favorite novelty song sections but I remember that there's great stuff in "Public Cowboy No. 1" (directed by Joseph Kane) (w/ Gene Autry) (1937) & 2 good novelty song scenes that use Burnette's instruments in "Man of the Frontier" (directed by B. Reeves Eason) (w/ Gene Autry) (1936).

"The result of the majority experience among IRCAM intellectuals of achieving, sometimes against odds, a close relationship with contemporary music is that IRCAM's higher production sphere was imbued with a strong sense of classless meritocracy and of cultural commitment, rater than inherited cultural privilege."


"And in fact, workers with both humble family backgrounds and a lack of relevant high educational qualifications had done well. Thus, as well as the French composer and American director of Pedagogy discussed above, several other key music-related intellectuals came from lower-class origins, and some lacked formal education both in music and in computer science."


"Other workers had either one or the other kind of privilege. For example, American workers with lower-class roots tended to have been through elite American universities-Stanford, Yale, or Harvard.

"Thus the meritocracy thesis must be modified by regard to these shifting dimensions of privilege. Nonetheless, the fact that all higher-status production staff, whatever their background, sincerely believed that they had meritocratically and individually atained their particular attachment to contemporary music countered the potential within the institute for a sense of cultural domination of nonintellectual workers" - pp 131-132

Born's presumably accurate description of the "strong sense of classless meritocracy" above appeals to me. Her modifying it by mentioning that "American workers with lower-class roots tended to have been through elite American universities-Stanford, Yale, or Harvard" is also important to me. It's a little hard for me to accept students of these universities as having "lower-class roots" b/c the struggles of the impoverished are much more of an obstacle to such opportunities than might be obvious to privileged people who don't share these struggles. In other words, I wonder if what passes for "lower-class roots" here may be more accurately called 'lower middle-class roots'. It's probably in keeping w/ the illusion of objectivity in academic writing that she doesn't mention her own class background - despite that's being potentially relevant to how she read the IRCAM situation.

"Salaries were generally not discussed between workers, so they remained ignorant of their relative positions." - p 134

Isn't that pretty much the same (almost) everywhere?

"Musicians were in a far weaker position since, crudely, apart from the well-known, IRCAM did not need them."


"For musicians, then, the risks and the self-exploitation were higher, but the potential rewards also appeared greater, than for all other IRCAM workers."


"By contrast, they argued, IRCAM's musicians and higher researchers should not enjoy a permanent or secure realtion with IRCAM. As creative and intellectual workers they should be contracted so thay they remain on their toes and have to prove themselves wth results of artistic and scientific value." - p 138

That's interesting, isn't it? Being a musician in such a context (& there are others) is highly competitive. I have mixed feelings about that: on the one hand, if more & more ambitious goals are to be reached, hard work & a fantastically natural talent are both needed. It seems that Boulez, e.g., did & had both - but that he also had a somewhat vicious & manipulative competetiveness that ultimately established him in a position of higher power; on the other hand, what about the people who just want to 'be themselves', the people who, like myself, think that competitiveness is inevitably vicious & who prefer to not engage in it b/c of that?

Competetiveness is a double-edged sword: it can be useful for encouraging lazy apathetic people to go elsewhere but it can be harmful to people who might have other qualities, such as kindness, that are valuable w/o being directly beneficial to ambitions. It's odd that creative people & athletes are usually expected to excel while people in other professions seem to have their inadequacies tolerated indefinitely, I think of fund-raisers in museums: while larger museums are usually or always operating w/ budgets in the hundreds of millions they're also always pleading a lack-of-cash for paying low-status employees. I tend to think that if that's the case they shd obviously fire their fund-raisers, who tend to make good salaries, b/c they aren't doing their jobs. Maybe such people are gotten rid of when they don't deliver more often than I realize. Musicians, esp in difficult classical music, are often faced w/ new challenges: pieces that're increasingly difficult to play. Do administrative jobs have the bar constantly reset too?

"The musicians' groups's heady mixture of self-exploitation with concepts of cultural leadership and pure, disinterested research reveals a layer of mystification reminiscent of Bordieu's analysis of the avant-garde. For Bourdieu, this position rests on the belief that the highest cultural capital and the best strategy for its long-term accumulation come from disdaining immediate economic reward or a large market by adopting the marginal, prophetic role associated with youth, iconoclasm, and asceticism. Hence for the musicians' group, IRCAM's internal avant-garde, self-exploitation became a sign of dedication to higher values and of self-belief. The gamble for all who adopt this bohemian strategy of willed marginality is that asceticism and devotion to the unrecognized now may later win recognition and "consecration." At IRCAM this generated ambivalence. For some, marginality and self-exploitation became imbued with a hope that, eventually, accumulated cultural status would convert into economic value-that artistic or scientific success would bring high rewards. Others clearly wished to remain marginal by deferring endlessly or disdaining altogether this more profane validation." - p 141

That's an important paragraph to me b/c I can relate, I can 'see myself in it'. At the same time, I question the terminology used. I've known creative people who won't work on a piece unless they get funding - then, they hire other people to do whatever work they don't have to do themselves. I have no problem w/ saying that that's not "self-exploitation" but is, instead, exploitation of others. Such people are often considered 'smart' & they will 'go far'. They'll continue to get funding, they'll continue to have easy lives. But what about those of us who have what might be called 'visionary goals' who avoid exploiting others in the sense just described & who work themselves very hard in pursuit of them? Is this "self-exploitation"? Or is it ambitious self-development?

When one perceives mainstream society as too dog-eat-dog, "willed marginality" is a way of not participating in a mean-spirited destructiveness. As such, when "Chowning had earlier divorced CCRMA from its parent institution, SAIL, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, since his group objected to SAIL's heavy defense funding" they took the "bohemian" "gamble" of having "the computer music studio" be "poorly funded." In a situation that lacks funding there's always the resource of the talents & imaginations of the people who share a collective vision. Hence, it's not always a matter of disdaining the "profane validation" of "accumulated cultural status" "convert"[ing] "into economic value" as much as it is simply recognizing that "economic value" usually comes w/ a price, the price of being co-opted by the society that one is trying to create an alternative to in the 1st place. Is that "mystification"?

For me, & I think for many others w/ a similar mind-set, the "gamble" is that the withdrawal of one's labor from the mainstream, w/ the accompanying loss of the mainstream's financial perqs, will function like a strike that encourages the mainstream to grant terms that it wdn't otherwise &/or it simply puts our talents to use where we want them applied. This may very well be farfetched or "bohemian" but it seems preferable to me than just going along w/ the dominant (& domineering) program. Bourdieu's opinons as fitlered thru Born that "the highest cultural capital and the best strategy for its long-term accumulation" can be an aspect of "self-exploitation" etc strikes me as a rather excessively Stock-Marketesque way of perceiving a cultural process. For me, this "Stock-Marketesque" language carries a cultural baggage that encourages not so much analysis as much as dissection.. of a living subject.

"On the music side there were people with important roles who were not musically trained. For example, one junior tutor who produced a piece that led to sudden high promotion and Boulez's patronage was musically an autodidact and had trained in philosophy. Similarly, people qualified only as scientists fund themselves given important music-related, and especially tutoring, work. One official tutor had trained in computer science, another junior tutor in mathematics.

"The Systems team also contained anomolies. The new Systems manager, an American who took over in mid-1984, was a composer rather than a computing specialist. Lower down the group, an eastern European vacateur trained as a composer had gained a place inside IRCAM by teaching himself enough computing to be hired as a Systems technician. Other such misqualifications and overqualifications included".. - pp 144-145

Born is a believer, she believes in the established system of 'education' that now provides her living. I'm not a believer. For me, the most creative activity usually comes from outside the box of the established system. A music academy can train someone to jump thru the hoops & can help develop fine skills - but it can't give a person an imagination. There're plenty of "musically trained" composers whose work I find completely boring. It might have good craft but no vision. Born's use of the term "misqualifications" is yet more proof to me of how conventional her thinking is. What wd she have sd about Harry Partch when he started making his own instruments? What wd she've sd about Conlon Nancarrow when he started composing for player pianos?

I cd be called an "autodidact": I trained myself to think & to cultivate the pursuit of my imagination. I don't particularly give a shit about how the academy perceives the results. An autodidact is a person who learns from everything & everyone, a person who only values the conventionally approved schooling learns only what it has to offer & nothing more. Is Born a composer? She seems to have very little presence in that area online. If Boulez recognized the talent of an autodidact then that's to his credit. 'Qualified' people can be as stagnant as they get. How wd Born perceive "Sleeping Together" (w/ Pamelia Stickney) ( ) or "Exorcising Capos" ( ), 2 recent UNCERTS of mine? Wd they be too outside of standard musical practice? Wd they be too undramatic for theater? The things that Born lists as "anomolies" are outside the box of what passes for imagination in an unimaginative world.

Born addresses the non-democratic proceedings of IRCAM. I don't blame her.

"an hour into this meeting, having first allowed those present a say, Boulez began a monologue in which he entirely redefined the structure of the department, including a new rotating director or "secretary." To a stunned room, he summed up: "We've agreed, I think, on the idea of a rotating secretary. . . . I propose WOW [a junior tutor] as the first. . . . We'll decide all this democratically, and work on the question of how to implement a democratic structure. So you must decide for yourselves if my proposal of WOW is OK." However, Boulez's suggestions were taken as faits accomplis, and those present relished the irony whereby, despite a rhetoric of democracy, nothing-not the way the decision was made, nor the structure, nor the person selected to be new head-was democratically agreed." - p 148

That must've been very annoying. I've had a similar experience. I was asked to be on the Board of a well-funded art space in a city I'll leave unnamed. We then had a meeting at which programming for the art space was to be decided. The person who was ostensibly the decision-maker about this programming was at the meeting but a prominent member of the board wasn't. I had previously discussed programming ideas w/ some of the other people involved so we presented our proposals. Every one of them was hemmed & hawed about by the decision-maker & then rejected. I didn't really understand what was happening. The meeting seemed completely pointless & nothing was decided.

The time for the next meeting came & none of the other people involved wanted to go so they asked me to go as their representative. I was new to this scene & didn't understand why nothing had been decided before & why I was the only person to go this time. I thought it was going to be another meeting like the last one where nothing was accomplished. I got to the meeting & there was the decision-maker, the returned prominent member, & me. The prominent person rattled off a series of proposals, all of wch were immediately okayed, & then I was asked what I wanted to do. Since every idea the other people & I had proposed before had been rejected I sd that I had no new ideas. Then, the prominent artist sd, w/ an astonishing level of hostility: "Then what are you doing here?!" I was particularly taken aback by this since it was obvious that any group process was a sham: the 'decision-maker' was completely weak-willed & only served to give the ok to the bullying prominent artist. The pretense at participatory democracy was just for appearances. It then became obvious that the other folks knew this & wanted me to solve the problem but didn't tip me off so I went into it w/o much of a clue. That was the end of my participation b/c I moved away soon thereafter. If I had stayed, I wd've tried to counteract the bully.

Born addresses the issue of unionization at IRCAM:

"LK: To have a union inside IRCAM, we would have to have a leader, and no one in here wants to be a leader. Many people would like to have a union here . . . because they realize that in case of problems, injustices, the Administration and Direction-Pierre Boulez-are very powerful. . . ." - p 156

As I eventually found out when I tried to labor organize at museums the artists were against unionization. There were no articulated reasons but it soon became clear that the ulterior motive was b/c people were secretly hoping that they'd be able to rise in the glamor hierarchy & lord it over their coworkers w/ an increased level of privilege that they'd ostensibly 'earn' by displaying more 'talent'. Unlike the meritocracy described above, however, these increases in power were really anticipated to be the result of not rocking the boat that they were hoping wd take them to the yacht.

"From the beginning, computer music aimed to transcend the limits of tape and electronic music and their analog technologies, whether those of the French school, musique concrète, or those of the German Elektronische Musik. The former school was thought to use rich sound materials with poor control, while the latter applied sophisticated controls to poor sound materials. The trade-off between richness of sound and complexity of control appeared irresolvable until computer music technology promised an integration that could overcome it. In fact, hybrid technologies-using both tape and electronic synthesis-provided more satisfactory electronic music results. But throughout the history of these fields, their proponents have -often polemically-rejected mixed technologies, preferring to adopt purist stances and to proselytize for one kind or another." - p 180

I often disagree w/ blanket statements. I'm sure that many composers who worked w/ computer music in its early days had high hopes of overcoming the limitations decribed above but I have my doubts that the competitiveness was always so rigid. Rationalizing Culture was written about IRCAM ca. 1984 & published in 1995. By that yr even I had my own personal computer & by 1997 I had one that I cd edit sound w/. By then, the Mac Performa & SoundEdit 16 software that I had enabled me to do what were by my standards incredibly precise electroacoustic edits that I'm still very pleased by 21 yrs later. I wasn't, however, in the least bit concerned w/ rejecting other ways of doing things or proselytizing. I still enjoyed older work done under different conditions. I'm sure I wasn't alone in not dismissing musique concrète or Elektronische Musik or computer music from Columbia-Princeton, etc.. Despite the implications that the avant-garde are always trying to be one step ahead of each other there are other people who're similarly experimental, & I count myself among them, who're just happy to have so much interesting stuff to listen to.

"PL was the only nonwhite intellectual worker at IRCAM, and the project was his alone. He was employed at IRCAM on temporary contracts for about two years until the summer of '84. He was both a composer and a professional performer in many areas of music: avant-garde and experimental musics, improvised music, jazz, rock, and funk." - p 189

PL, as I mentioned earlier, is George Lewis. What little I've heard of his music has been consistently excellent in the senses of involving excellent musicianship (Lewis is a trombonist) & imaginative uses of technology. I've had the pleasure of meeting him once in the 2010s & of having a brief conversation w/ him then. Therefore, reading about him at IRCAM was of special interest for me. I've never heard of him playing rock & funk so that surprised me.

"PL's interests in intelligent systems and interactivity, as with Chant/Formes, linked to ideas currently fashionable in AI. A philosophy graduate from Yale, PL was well aware of these implications and his work was far from intellectually naive." - p 190

"PL had no formal training whatsoever in computing, and his abilities as a small-machine bricoleur were, he said, due to the help of his friend, the experimental technologist David Behrman" - p 286

Another story reinforcing the idea that the conventional academic route isn't the only way to go. It's strange seeing Behrman described as an "experimental technologist" as if he's a dentist's assistant using sound as a local anesthetic or something given that he's well-known as a composer:

"David Behrman (born August 16, 1937 in Salzburg, Austria) is an American composer and a pioneer of computer music. In the early 1960s he was the producer of Columbia Records' Music of Our Time series, which included the first recording of Terry Riley's In C. In 1966 Behrman co-founded Sonic Arts Union with fellow composers Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier and Gordon Mumma. He wrote the music for Merce Cunningham's dances Walkaround Time (1968), Rebus (1975), Pictures (1984) and Eyespace 40 (2007)." -

I can hardly emphasize the importance of the few things mentioned above enuf. The Sonic Arts Union, e.g., was astonishingly prescient of Sound Art. Where the Wikipedia entry gets 'weird' is here: "Behrman is known as a minimalist composer." Then there's a footnote attribution of that to Kenneth Goldsmith. I've commented before on Goldsmith's definition of Conceptual Poetry wch I completely disagree w/. Here's the beginning of my critique of Goldsmith that can be found online as part of Otoliths 27:

"Here're quotes from Goldsmith re the subject that I took offline as interrupted by me:

""In brief, Conceptual writing or uncreative writing"

"Goldsmith starts off conflating "conceptual writing" w/ "uncreative writing". It seems obvious to me that that's his personal take & that that has next-to-nothing to do w/ the meanings of the words as they're ordinarily used. In other words, what's intrinsic to "conceptual" that makes it "uncreative"? W/ that in mind, why bother to use the term "conceptual writing" at all? Why not call it "the motion of the air when a pen is falling on Mars writing" instead? That has as much to do w/ "uncreative writing" as "conceptual writing" does. Calling it "uncreative writing", however, is creative.

""is a poetics of the moment,"

"He's defining it w/o seeming to bother much w/ the etymology & other associations of the words. If "conceptual writing" were to acknowledge "conceptual art" (or "concept art") as its precursor, then it wd be defined very differently. [Amy tells me that Goldsmith does address conceptual art somewhere but I haven't read that] I think not defining it in terms of its obvious etymological precursors is almost interesting.. but not really enuf so for me b/c I'm not convinced that doing so is a highly conscious enuf choice. But, then, Goldsmith runs UbuWeb so he obviously knows his shit so maybe I'm underestimating him. I wonder what he thinks about the texts of Vito Acconci, eg, in wch Acconci used only clichés - as he did in part of his vaudeo "The Red Tapes" (1976-77). As w/ my criticism of calling "conceptual writing" "uncreative writing", I see no intrinsic reason why it 'shd be' "a poetics of the moment".

""fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies of the present, one that proposes an expanded field for 21st century poetry."

"That just reads like a grant proposal to me. Technologies, blah, blah; 21st century, blah, blah." -

I quote all that by way of introduction to saying that I've never before known of Behrman being called a "minimalist composer" & take this as yet-another instance where Goldsmith is just shooting off his mouth. Calling Behrman a "minimalist composer" is as stupid as calling John Cage one. Maybe Goldsmith does that too. There's a David Behrman website so I decided to look there: . I went to the "bios" section & looked at the "Very Short" bio 1st where the words "minimal", "minimalist", & "minimalism" do not appear. I tried the "Medium" one next. Same goes w/ that one. Same goes w/ the "Long" one. Am I the only person who gets annoyed when academics say something that'll go on public record as somehow 'authoritative' that's just bullshit?

But back to Born & "PL" (George Lewis):

"The project culminated in an IRCAM premiere in May. Four free jazz musicians played in various combinations with the system while PL controlled the overall network from the back of the hall. The concerts went down well with the audience. But the reaction of IRCAM directors was less warm, as this excerpt from my diary of the first night conveys." - p 191

"AA: [Jokey, disparaging the playing] "Bringing your instrument tomorrow night, BB?" meaning, "you could play just as well."" - p 192

Now, that's Born telling herself & then the reader that AA's statement means "you could play just as well" & I'll assume she's being accurate but maybe that's not such a safe assumption. I partially assume she's being accurate b/c I've had similar experiences. One of my favorites was when I was working in a bkstore & listening to the music of Anthony Braxton there. I consider Braxton to be one of the most accomplished reed players in the world. A customer came in & sd: "My grandson could play better than that!" to wch I replied: "You must have a very talented grandson!" Born then goes on to criticize Lewis's piece (wch I've since learned is called "Rainbow Family") for other reasons:

"One weakness of the "ear" program, for example, was that it required the player to hit a pitch very precisely. Its pitch-following device could not make sense either of notes that were slightly off pitch, or of glissandi-slides between pitches used by instrumentalists for expressivity and common in many nonwestern and popular musics." - p 192

A running theme in Rationalizing Culture seems to be that Born thinks that pop music has musical qualities that classical music, esp avant-garde classical music doesn't. Her definition of glissandi above exemplifies this to me. She mentions "nonwestern and popular musics" as using glissandi but doesn't mention avant-garde music. For me, & maybe I'm reading too much into this, there's, therefore, the implication that avant-garde music somehow missed using this wonderful technique. Such an ommision on her part is truly bizarre to me. 1st of all, glissandi are commonly used in classical music-at least as much if not more so than in any other music.

Has she ever listened to the string music of Iannis Xenakis? There's even a whole article online called "GLISSANDI AND TRACES A STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MUSICAL AND EXTRA-MUSICAL FIELDS" by Mihu Iliescu ( ) about Xenakis's use of glissandi. The article's from 2005, so it's after the time of this bk, but the main piece under discussion. "Metastaseis" is from 1953-1954 & that was certainly recorded & well-known by 1984 & beyond.

"Musically, RIG also had close and ongoing ties with popular music and with black American musicians." [..] "as a student he played drums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago-a leading black jazz improvisation group. In the past he had worked with the pop star Stevie Wonder, famous as the major innovator in the use of synthesizers in pop music. Wonder had offered RIG a job, which he declined." - p 288

I find it extremely hard to believe that a white student "played drums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago". The one time I had the pleasure of witnessing them live at the Pension Bldg in Washington DC, probably around 1981, they wore what I took to be African ceremonial costumes. Wd they've had a young white guy do the same?! Maybe he played in a casual jam or recording session. Maybe.

"RIG, who gave the lecture and who we have seen was keen on jazz, nonetheless spent all his time on a critique of this serialist approach and its lack of perceptual validity, He talked with relish, as follows.

"Boulez was a guinea pig in an experiment in complex rhythmic perception at Bell Labs. The idea was: can a composer really hear the differences if a performer of his music plays very complex rhythms right or wrong? For example, in 6/8 a 7 over a 6, or 19s over 13s, and so on-such as one finds often in the music of Carter or Ferneyhough. The results? Boulez and a well-known avant-garde violinist both showed great errors, and in opposite directions! So that shows that the ideas of rhythmic perception of someone like Carter are wrong! They are impossible to realize on two levels: that of production by a player and that of perception by a listener, even a highly skilled one!" - p 201

This is a subject that musician friends & I have discussed fairly often. I tend to refer to Stockhausen's "Klavierstücke I-IV" since I have the scores for them. In my review of Joan Peyser's bio of Boulez, there's this long analytical passage:

"As much as I love Karlheinz Stockhausen's music in general his Klavierstücke I-XI have never done much for me. I have the scores for the 1st 4 & things about them seem 'impossible' to play regardless of how accomplished the pianist may be who's trying. Nonetheless, I take it that people do play them correctly. Even so, I wdn't even trust a computer to play them correctly because I'm not sure that any programmer has ever created an app capable of delving into such detail. As such, I'm not sure I think it's currently possible to even compare a recording of a human playing it to a recording of a computer playing it in order to look for mistakes.

"I'm looking at the score to "Klavierstücke I" now. No doubt I'm a very bad person to try to analyze such a thing b/c my traditional score reading skills are so close to non-existent. Still, I'm looking at measure 48 & I see a division into treble & bass clefs in a meter of 2/8. OK. If I understand correctly, above the treble clef there's something indicating that the notes are organized in a triplet. That wd be simple enuf except that the opening designation in the treble clef is a 16th rest. That means the triplet starts off w/ silence. Right there, the difficulty escalates. The 1st note in the treble clef after the rest is a dotted 16th D4 (i.e.: the D immediately above Middle C) played forte followed by two 2 note chords in a quintuplet that start off ff & go to forte. The 2nd of these two 2 notes is made of dotted 16th notes again. This is followed by another sequence of two notes the 1st of wch is an Ab7 (i.e. almost 4 octaves above Middle C) played fff followed by a G natural played pp. These 2 notes are joined in a quintuplet. That's not even getting into the bass clef. All tolled, there're 3 quintuplets in the triplet. Similar dynamics changes happen in the bass clef. The tempo is "As fast as possible."

"I have recordings of at least 2 pianists playing this piece. One by Aloys Kontarsky & one by Herbert Henck. The Kontarsky is 2:55 & the more recent Henck is 4:01. Given that the piece is only 63 measures that means that Kontarsky's "As fast as possible" was 175 ÷ 63 = 2.777777777777778 seconds per measure. Henck's wd be 241 ÷ 63 = 3.825396825396825 seconds per measure.

"NOW, let's see what that means in terms of the note divisions described above. Let's make it 'easy' on ourselves & round Henck's time up to 4 seconds per measure. If the overall 2/8 measure is a triplet that means that three '8th' notes wd be played in the time of two 8th notes. That means that an 8th note = 2/3rds of an 8th note. The note divisions used in the treble & bass clef of measure 48 are:

"a dotted 16th note = 3/32nds in a measure of 8/32nds X 2/3rds = 3/8 X 2/3 X 4 = Wow! a whopping second in wch the note's to be played. That's not really so bad. But, I haven't even gotten to the quintuplet aspect yet.

"The longest note is an 8th note, the shortest is a 32nd. An 8th note wd be 1/2 of 4 seconds if it weren't complicated by the triplet divided into 3 quintuplets.

"an 8th note in a triplet in 2/8 = 1/2 X 2/3 = (roughly) a division of a 4 second measure of 1.333 seconds.

"a 32nd note in a triplet in 2/8 = 1/8 X 2/3 = (roughly) a division of a 4 second measure of 0.333 seconds. Think you can accurately count off 0.333 seconds in relation to 1.333 seconds in relation to 1 second?! Even that's not really so bad.

"But, HEY!, it's not as simple as that. The measure is further divided into three quintuplets. If I understand correctly (doubtful), that means that a 32nd note = 1/5th of an 8th note instead of 1/4 of it that's actually 2/3rds of a non-triplet 8th note. Got that? If there wd ordinarily be eight 32nd notes in a 2/8 measure, there are now 15.

"THAT means that:

"an 8th note is still 2/3 of 4 seconds = 1.333 seconds but a 32nd note is 1/5 of that = 0.2666.

"That means that a dotted 16th note is now 3 X 0.2666 = 0.7999 seconds.

"That applied to measure 48 means that:

"Right hand plays a rest of 0.5333 seconds followed by a D4 of 0.7999 seconds tied to a 2 note chord of 0.5333 seconds tied to a 2 note chord of 0.7999 seconds tied to a single note of 0.2666 seconds tied to a single note of 1.333 seconds.

"Simultaneously, the left hand plays a single note that's 0.5333 seconds tied to another single note that's 0.7999 seconds tied to a single note that's 1.333 seconds tied to another single note that's 1.333 seconds.

"Looked at that way it's almost swinging.. & almost 'easy'.. uh.. except for the 4 different dynamics marking for the right hand & the 3 different dynamics markings for the left hand. STILL, the pp of the left hand's opening 0.5333 seconds is simultaneous w/ a silence for the same duration in the right hand. That makes it 'easier'. THEN the left & the right hands both have notes that're 0.7999 seconds long & forte. Ok, it gets a little more complicated after that b/c the right hand has to play 1st a double forte note followed by a forte note in the same time as just one forte note in the left hand. THEN the right hand plays a triple forte note followed quickly by a triple forte note in the left hand followed by a pp note in the right hand. There's also pedaling throughout this measure so that helps the pianist cover over mistakes.

"The point of all that analysis is to explain why many people claim that such Serialist pieces indicate what's to be striven for rather than what can actually be played. The same thing is sd about Franz Kamin's music & about Brian Ferneyhough's music, etc. I'm not sure that I buy that argument since I think the above is actually 'playable' by somebody if one allows a tolerance for timing insconsistencies of, say, .1333 seconds. After all, there are some amazing pianists out there."


In an email exchange w/ my friend & collaborator the musician/composer Ben Opie we discussed this further:

tENT: "As much as I love Karlheinz Stockhausen's music in general his Klavierstücke I-XI have never done much for me.  I have the scores for the 1st 4 & things about them seem 'impossible' to play regardless of how accomplished the pianist may be who's trying.  etc

Ben: "It definitely pushes up against human performance limits. You know the truly impossible measure? Look at the first page, last staff system, second measure in 5/4. There's a chord with a different dynamic level on nearly every note. This isn't humanly possible.

"The overall tempo is pretty much determined by measure 6. 

"The work is laden with nested tuplets, or polyrhythms inside of polyrhythms. This is my explanation to my students: Take the first measure in 5/4, which would normally have 10 eighth notes. Now, squeeze in 11 instead. Of those 11, take the last five and squeeze in seven instead.

"It's a ridiculous degree of polyrhythmic activity. Ultimately, what he's doing is redefining tempos for different areas of the piece. I talked about this with a particular composition student. He was sympathetic to Stockhausen, but we basically agreed that there might have been a more elegant solution to the issue of shifting tempos.

"When I took the job at CMU, I was told I'd have to teach a Finale course in the spring. I thought I'd give myself something hard to do, so I laid out the first page of the Klavierstucke I. I've always loved its appearance, more than the actual work itself.

"The Finale version I created plays the work correctly rhythmically. If I was to get serious about the dynamics, I'd probably export a MIDI version from Finale into a a sequencer, and fuss over the note velocities. The pedaling is an issue on playback too, which could probably [be] fixed in the same way. If it was worth all the effort.

tENT: "The point of all that analysis is to explain why many people claim that such Serialist pieces indicate what's to be striven for rather than what can actually be played.  The same thing is sd about Franz Kamin's music & about Brian Ferneyhough's music, etc.  I'm not sure that I buy that argument since I think the above is actually 'playable' by somebody if one allows a tolerance for timing insconsistencies of, say, .1333 seconds.  After all, there are some amazing pianists out there. 

Ben: "I'm told in Ferneyhough's case, he knows the stuff is impossible to play. He wants excellent performance of course, but it's the struggle he's interested in. I know of other composers who write *hard* music, and they expect it to be played absolutely correctly.

"But that leads me to question, is there ever a truly "perfect" performance? Even of someone such as Haydn?"

ANYWAY, I tend to agree w/ RIG's claim (via Born) that: "They are impossible to realize on two levels: that of production by a player and that of perception by a listener" b/c I'm sure that I can't play such things or hear them in a concise analytic way. That doesn't, however, invalidate the music for me, wch I still can enjoy listening to. It also doesn't mean that there won't be players in the future for whom such difficulties will be easier. Each new Olympic record-breaker does something that was unachievable by their predecessors. I don't know Ferneyhough's music very well at all, I know Carter's better & have created a webpage about it here: . The beginning of my brief intro on that page says this:

"I got my 1st Elliott Carter record in 1976: the nonesuch "Double Concerto / Duo for Violin & Piano" with the latter played by Paul Zukovsky & Gilbert Kalish. I probably already knew & had the highest respect for Zukovsky's violin playing so that was a plus. Add to that that the idea of a double concerto was probably unusual to me at the time & this record would've held promise. However, I don't remember being particularly moved by it. It was all through-notation, there was no electronics, no structured improvisation - the work was complex but it was, to my ears, more academic than it was innovative.

""Elliott Carter, at present America's most celebrated composer, has frequently confided to friends that those in responsible positions in universities, on foundation boards, and with prize committees understand nothing of the new music they hear, and that one is therefore obliged to use all the resources at hand to get what every composer wants most: his music performed, published, and recorded extensively." - Joan Peyser's "Boulez, Composer, Conductor, Enigma", p 247

"Nonetheless, Carter's music was widely published & reputed to be loved by composers so I continued to be interested in it & to listen to it hoping to have that epiphany moment when I would find it profound instead of just proficient. That moment didn't come until 41 years later when I heard the CD of Ursula Oppens playing his solo piano music."

My taking 41 yrs to like Carter's music might seem to 'prove' Born's & RIG's negative points about avant-garde music but Carter is an exception for me. Most complex music is something I like immediately. Carter, to this day, is still too academic for my tastes but Ursula Oppens's playing of his piano music is phenomenal. Born does go on to criticize the lack of scientific RIGor in RIG's research but w/o specifically refuting the rhythmic claims:

"Finally, it is worth noting that RIG's experiments in timbral perception involved just nine subjects: of these, all were IRCAM workers and one was Boulez. It is on the basis of these thin experiments employing very culturally specific subjects that RIG drew data to be interpreted in terms of universals of timbral perception and intended in turn to generate apparently aesthetically independent techniques of timbral syntax. This throws into relief the claims of the research to embody culturally independent perceptual or musical universals, and it emphasizes the ideological nature of the scientific claims to universality." - p 202

"HU: [Composer-junior tutor, involved in expert systems project] I'm not interested in "abstract structures." I want structure to develop from the knowledge of the material, so if one changes the material the structure changes.

"BOULEZ: But HU, one creates a certain material with a certain internal structure in mind: the material used and structure envisaged are totally interrelated! [teasing, rhetorically] Surely no one here chooses material with no structural idea in mind, do they? No followers of Cage here, are there?!" - p 206

Ha. Ha. Cage & Boulez started off as friends but then Boulez started attacking Cage & the friendship went south. Here's a relevant section from my review of Peyser's Boulez bio:

""Boulez wrote an essay he entitled "Alea" for the Nouvelle Revue Française. It appeared in November 1957. In the first two paragraphs he attacked free-floating chance in his most violent, polemical way."


""Cage was enraged. He says, "After having repeatedly claimed that one could not do what I set out to do, Boulez discovered the Mallarmé Livre. It was a chance operation down to the last detail. With me the principle had to be rejected outright; with Mallarmé it suddenly became acceptable to him. Now Boulez was promoting chance, only it had to be his kind of chance."

""Cage still feels a sense of rage today. For, from the time of Boulez's famous essay, chance music has been widely known as "aleatory music." Cage still rejects this title. The most intolerable insult of all was that it was Boulez's erudite word with its esoteric roots (alea are dice) that gave Cage's fresh invention its quasi-official new name." - p 129, Joan Peyser's Boulez, Composer, Conductor, Enigma

"Ha ha! I love Cage's music much more than Boulez's but I still prefer the term "aleatoric". Boulez seems to be always trying to define himself as 'cutting edge' when he's really lagging behind & he does it at the expense of the real innovators. That doesn't make his music uninteresting to me. Maybe it just makes me glad I never met him personally b/c I might've found him insufferable & that might've spoiled the listening." -

It's interesting to me that HU is "not interested in "abstract structures."" but, instead wants "structure to develop from the knowledge of the material, so if one changes the material the structure changes." Isn't that abstract?! It sure seems like it to me.

Born's acct makes IRCAM seem like a hotbed of infighting & resentment. I don't find that too hard to believe b/c I've gotten into more arguments over music than possibly anything else in my life.

"Thus, while one of the musicians' group was patronizing about 4X designer BU's "little pieces," BU intensely disliked IRCAM music and resented that his machine was used to make it. BU was keen on easy listening music and had himself used the 4X to produce some jazzed up Corelli, hoping eventually to make a record like Wendy Carlos's Switched On Bach to show off the "real" musical possibilities of the 4X. BU told me a story that epitomized his contempt for avant-garde music. He said that one day, for fun, he had used the 4X to churn out a pseudo avant-garde piece in just twenty minutes-a "piece of cake," he said. A senior visiting composer had come into his studio, listened to it, and was most impressed, asking who had made it, how, and so on. BU laughed hilariously at this and ridiculed the hallucination of avant-garde music with me. Symbolizing his hostility to IRCAM music and musicians, and joking but with serious undercurrents, was a sign fixed to his studio door, shown in Photo 3: a musical note covered with a red "no entry" symbol, implying "Musicians keep out!"" - p 217


Wow (in the exclamatory sense rather than the code name acronym sense)!! That's one loaded text yes sireebob! 1st, I assume that BU is NOT the same person referred to here:

"Berio, for example, invited a compatriot scientist to design him a real-time digital sound processor-whoch developed into IRCAM's major computer hardware project, culminating in the early '80s in the production of a powerful machine called the 4X." - p 103

(but maybe he was)

2nd, "Wendy Carlos" was "Walter Carlos" as of the time of Switched On Bach & the above brings me back to requoting my Boulez bio review in abridged form: BOULEZ: "Playing Bach on the computer doesn't interest me at all because it's artistically irrelevant. All this indicates a simplistic way of thinking-an appalling low level of thinking." "he mentions playing "Bach on the computer", wch also doesn't interest me, but is probably a reference to Walter Carlos's "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" wch is hardly representative of all that was going on in electronic music in America at the time." Switched-On Bach was 1968 & The Well-Tempered Synthesizer was 1969 so he might've been referring to either or both. At any rate, can you imagine Boulez's reaction to knowing that the designer of the pride & joy instrument of IRCAM was composing similar music to Carlos's?!

3rd, I know that when I "churn out a pseudo avant-garde piece in just twenty minutes" it's more buttery than cake-like

4th, the story of the senior visiting composer being most impressed by the fake piece is apocryphal & the composer might've been being polite or BU might be twisiting the story to serve his purposes. Regardless, I'm reminded of the Ern Malley hoax. Ern Malley was a fictitious Australian Modernist poet invented by 2 poets named Harold Stewart & James McAuley. They submitted poetry 'by' Malley to a magazine called Angry Penguins b/c they hated the work in the magazine & wanted to show how idiotic it was. The problem for them was that it backfired, their parody modernist poetry was more popular than the conservative poetry they ordinarily wrote & even after the hoax was revealed their own serious poetry never made it. Did anyone ever care about BU's electronic Corelli?

5th, Note that Born writes "BU laughed hilariously at this and ridiculed the hallucination of avant-garde music with me." I emphasize the "with me" b/c, as I've already effectually claimed, I don't think Born liked or had much knowledge about avant-garde or experimental music when she wrote this bk - despite her claim-to-fame as being the bassist in multiple "avant-rock" groups.

So many of the issues discussed in Rationalizing Culture are applicable to other well-funded institutions:

"4X Industrialization director VO spoke ironically as follows of his position within IRCAM and vis à vis Boulez: "Boulez is fond of citing the Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe. . . . But I ask you, what about the little guy who built the building with his own hands, who worked for twelve years, ran the budget? He's not even mentioned by Boulez!["]" - p 217

I feel ya there, VO. That's a classical class struggle scenario that I also rebel against. I had a job working for an events company. I designed & built & installed the props. When the event was to start, people like myself were instructed to be nowhere where we cd be seen. The rich clients wd come in & say to the owner of the company, a son of a judge, "Oh, PW!, you did such a beautiful job!" despite the fact that he'd actually not done any of the designing or building or installation himself. We were the Morlocks condemned by lack of class privilege to the underworld. I never did get a chance to eat one of the Eloi. Although, VO's conflating the builder w/ the person who makes the budget is more than a bit misleading. I can say that one of the museums I worked for actually listed the people who built an exhibit in an entry plaque. My name is there. That's worthy of my respect. Another classical class struggle is in the way that Born disguises her manipulative language under accepted & encouraged pseudo-objectivity:

"We can see now that IRCAM culture contained, and was constituted by, a complex logic of oppositions." - 219

Can WE? Am I part of this "we"? B/c from my POV what I see is that Born presents her POV, disguised as 'objective' & makes conclusions that the reader is expected to accept as definitive when, as my review hopefully demonstrates, there're plenty of oppositional viewpoints.

"In the previous two chapters we saw how the rhetoric of IRCAM was imbued with more or less arbitrary intertextual reference to science and computing, including biology, maths, physics, and structural linguistics. but especially to the overlapping domains of cognitive music psychology, cognitive science, AI, and computer science." - p 223

Again, did "WE" 'see' this? I think it wd be more accurate for Born to write: 'In the previous two chapters I have attempted to make the case that the rhetoric of IRCAM was imbued.." - but such a qualifier as "I have attempted" diminishes her self-presentation as an 'authority' & endangers her future w/ a cushy job in academia & "WE" can't have that now, can "WE"?

"We have seen that there was much collaborative work in IRCAM's intellectual culture, and that for the musicians' vanguard collaboration was a utopian principle." - p 262

"We have seen that the theoreticism, concern with technology, and scientism of IRCAM's musical discourse are no spontaneous conjecture but are legacies of the continuous character of modernism through the century." - p 317

&, NOW, we get to the only part of the bk I care about (Just Kidding):

"Further stories convey the importance within IRCAM of the visual look of the score. Early in 1984 a music director told me bemusedly that Boulez was to conduct the orchestral music of the avant-garde rock musician Frank Zappa in a concert of American music. He said, "I haven't heard it, but the score's good: it looks like a real score!" Implicit here was the belief that the music's legitimacy rested on its looking like a "real score." After the concert the same director's judgment was that the music was "pretty boring really."" - p 224

Frank Zappa's music has been very important to me. He's another composer on my "Top 100 Composers" website index (I haven't gotten around to making his individual webpage yet b/c that'll be such a huge task). The music director who commented about Zappa's music "looking like a "real score"" obviously didn't know Zappa's music or he wdn't've been surprised. Zappa has been a HUGE inspiration to many musicians.

Boulez conducted 3 short pieces by him: "The Perfect Stranger", "Naval Aviation in Art?", & "Dupree's Paradise". According to the Angel record that these recordings were released on, "The Perfect Stranger" was even commissioned by Boulez. The name of the record that these recordings appear on is "Boulez Conducts Zappa - The Perfect Stranger and other chamber works performed by the ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN and the BARKING PUMPKIN DIGITAL GRATIFICATION CONSORT". I like this record but I want to give some background before I get into greater detail.

I 1st 'discovered' the music of Frank Zappa & his band The Mothers of Invention w/ their 3rd record, "We're Only in it for the Money". The music was original & complex & funny & full of commentary that I cd relate to. One song in particular seems very relevant to some of what Born refers to: the concept of the "other":


"Mother People" - Frank Zappa


We are the other people

We are the other people

We are the other people

You're the other people too

Found a way to get to you


Do you think that I'm crazy?

Out of my mind?

Do you think that I creep in the night

And sleep in a phone booth?


Lemme take a minute to tell you my plan

Lemme take a minute to tell who I am

If it doesn't show, think you better know

I'm another person


Do you think that my pants are too tight?

Do you think that I'm creepy?


Lemme take a minute to tell you my plan

Lemme take a minute to tell who I am

If it doesn't show, think you better know

I'm another person


We are the other people

We are the other people

We are the other people

You're the other people too

Found a way to get to you


At the time that I 1st heard this music, I had long hair. This wd've been around 1969-1970. In the area where I lived that meant that people felt free to insult & threaten me regularly & that sexual predators had me figured as easy prey. Lyrcis like the above coupled w/ imaginative music hit the right spot. I loved it. I began collecting every Zappa & Mothers record I cd get. Fortunately for me, they were very unpopular, at least around where I lived, so I cd often find the records in cut-out bins priced at $2 apiece. I was eager to hear every new release. It was all so fresh & exciting for me! But then, by 1971, Zappa started entering what I now think of as his more 'juvenile' phase, an apparent attempt to be more commercially successful, w/ "Filmore East - June 1971". I even cut high school on my graduation day to go hear the new Mothers play in a different state, I had to hitchhike there. They were great, they performed "Billy the Mountain".. but this was the harbinger to the later records that I found close to insufferable like "Roxy & Elsewhere" & songs like "Titties & Beer". The era of such amazing music as that on "Uncle Meat" was gone.

Every new record that returned to the innovative jazz, the musique concrète, the orchestral, the harder to classify was rc'vd by me w/ avid interest. STILL, the orchestral music that came after "200 Motels" just seemed like Zappa trying to be accepted as a classical composer. I loved & respected Zappa's music but I didn't think classical was his forté - he just didn't get the subtleties - it all had to revolve around his usual bag of tricks of fast runs & difficult meter changes. Zappa was no Varèse, a composer he admired. He even thanks Boulez, on the notes to "Boulez Conducts Zappa", for the "accurate performance of the killer triplets on page eight" of "The Perfect Stranger" score. "killer triplets" are kid's stuff to Serialists - see the anaylsis of Stockhausen's "Klavierstücke I" above. I'd pretty much lost interest in Zappa, although I always retained an affection for him, by the time "Boulez Conducts Zappa" came out & I didn't even bother to get a copy until 1993, 9 yrs after the release.

My vague impression of the record was that Zappa having his work conducted by Boulez was presitigous & helped establish Zappa as a 'real' classical composer. The problem is, I saw it as a PR job, a sortof fake. Initially, I thought Zappa might've even pd out the (Grand) Wazoo to get Boulez to do this just for the prestige. At this late date it seems possible that Boulez was making himself seem more 'hip' at the same time, that they were using each other. In my commentary on the record on the Boulez webpage referred to above, I say: "Note that it's only on the record label that the person looking at the package discovers that Pierre Boulez & the Ensemble Intercontemporain only perform 2 of the 3 pieces on side 1 & only perform 1 of the pieces on side 2. The rest are performed by the "Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort" which, as far as I can tell, is a synclavier that I assume Zappa was assisted in the use of."

I like the music, but, no, in the context of more advanced classical music it's not very advanced itself, it's too linear, there aren't any complex polyrhythms or even complex polyphony, it's more like a series of licks assembled in 'narrative' fashion. It's not really Zappa at his best. Maybe the commision was insultingly small. I'm sure someone knows the details better than I do, I'm only speculating. As such, I can't really be offended by "the same director's judgment" [..] "that the music was "pretty boring really."" Listen to "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" or "Weasels Ripped my Flesh" or "Lumpy Gravy", etc, instead.

"Nothing expresses better the modernist habit of searching in the "other" for knowledge of the "self." The distance separating Boulez and IRCAM from Zappa was satirized in an article in the CGP monthly magazine publicizing the Zappa concert. It consisted of a "purely imaginary" dialogue between Boulez and Zappa marked by profound mutual respect-Boulez likening Zappa to Wagner-and ended with Zappa asking to come and work at IRCAM: "Frank Zappa moves off. He dreams of his future stay at IRCAM" (CNAC, Jan. 1984, 33). The ending was clearly an ironic comment on the unlikelihood of such a visit." - p 284

"A visiting IRCAM composer commented cynically that he knew this score-centeredness well, that composers were steeped in it by their training. He told an apocryphal story to illustrate the hypocrisy surrounding the issue. A few years back, a well-know contemporary music quartet was playing a concert at Darmstadt. They decided to alter the order and played a piece by composer XX earlier than printed on the program. This composer was late for the concert and missed the announcement. After the quartet had finished his piece, the audience applauded and called for him to go up on stage. The composer refused, pointing to the program note and saying, "It's not my work!" The moral: the composer did not know they were playing his piece because the score was so complex that even he could not imagine the sound of his own piece; he knew only the look of it from the score." - pp 224-225

I find this "apocryphal story" hard to believe. The "moral" that "the score was so complex that even he could not imagine the sound of his own piece" is ridiculous & just reinforces stereotypes held dear by people who don't like the music. It's more likely that the score's homogeneity wd make it hard to recognize, not its complexity. Assuming this was a string quartet, the score cd be complex & start off w/ glissandi on all 4 instruments & then go to a viola solo followed by the cello playing low notes & the 2 violinists bowing close to the bridge, etc. In other words, the score cd be complex but still have clearly audible differentiated parts. At any rate, if the composer was pointing to the program notes & saying it wasn't his piece he might've been complaining about the misinformation on the notes.

That sd, I prefer to put the emphasis on the sound rather than on the score. That cd be partially or entirely explained by my extremely limited abilities to read conventional notation. I don't have anything against such notation & admire those who're highly literate in reading it but it's really not for me. On the Internet Archive, I have 7 volumes to date of my "Piano Illiterature". (Go here: ) In my introductory notes to Volume I I write:

"SO, why do I call this "Piano Illiterature"? As those of you who've read some of my (M)Usic writings have probably picked up on, I love (some) classical music but I'm also critical of the 'Golden Age' mentality that most classical radio stns perpetuate - & I like to play w/ classical music in my Low Classical Usician tricksterish way. Hence pieces like "Fuer Her" & "C Major Chord", etc.. Obviously, "Piano Illiterature" is a pun off of "Piano Literature". The term "literature", in music referring to the score, places what I consider to be undue emphasis on the way the score "reads" & too little emphasis on the way a piece SOUNDS. As a d composer who's mainly worked w/ unconventional notation & w/ recording & editing, traditional notation is something that I've never learned very well (hence I'm borderline 'illiterate' in it) &/or found much use for. Given that ORAL culture is focused more on SOUND & that LITERATE culture is focused more on visual systems of reference & that ORAL cultures are often illiterate, I embrace my own traditional notation 'illiteracy' here by designating my work "Illiterature". (Strictly speaking, though, I shd interpolate that these days I'm relearning conventional notation & playing a little Satie, Cage, Tchaikovsky, & Antheil, etc.. so I'm not REALLY so 'illiterate' after all..)" -

Born's conservatism & resistance to the new is subtle. Here's an example of where I think it's a bit more obvious:

"A recent example from computer music takes this tendency further. In the mid-1980s the computer music studio led by Boulez's rival Xenakis had produced a digital machine called the UPIC that worked by the user drawing visual designs with a special pen onto a computer screen. These visuals were immediately translated into synthesized sound: the visual becomes the aural. The UPIC raises starkly the question as to what extent visual signs deployed to produce the aural are musically appropriate." - p 225

"musically appropriate"?! WTF does that mean?! I find the UPIC exciting. My question isn't about "musically appropriate"ness, wch is an idea I find completely idiotic, but whether I find the results interesting to listen to. This (non-)'issue' of "musically appropriate"ness is just more baggage that Born seems to take for granted rather than something she examines.

Born comments on the 'social life' of IRCAM workers in 1984 that certainly presages many people's 'social lives' of 2018 (excuse me while I check my Facebook):

"Workers maintain their actual isolation while indulging in the computer's enjoyable form of pseudosociability, its substitute for direct human contact: computer mail." - p 234

"computer mail" seems like the good ole days in contrast to today's even more mediated (& surveilled) forms of "pseudosociability".

The computer business has increased preplanned obsolescence to an astounding degree & Born & others at IRCAM were in a good position to observe the early days of this:

"the changeover in mid-1983 from the PDP10 to the VAX, was caused by another recurrent symptom of technological dependence. DEC, the American corporate manufacturers of both machines, gradually raised the service charges on the PDP10 until it became uneconomical to keep it and better to upgrade and buy their new "Standard," the VAX, with its lower service charges. DEC enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the standard microcomputers of the time. Several researchers, as well as the Systems manager, spoke of the irrationality of the enforced "passing" of the PDP10, since it was working well for music production and IRCAM's software was adapted to it." - p 256

Everytime I'm stupid enuf to "update" apps I end up discovering that I also have to have a more recent computer for the apps to be able to run properly. OOPSIE! It's 'good business' but bad for the consumer.

"Just one record of IRCAM "examples" had been released by 1984, seven years after the institute's opening." - endnote 7, p 362

I have 2 IRCAM records, scans of both can be seen above. One of them has György Kurtág's "Messages de Feu Demoiselle R.V. Troussova" on one side & Harrison Birtwistle's "...agm..." on the other. I've heard work by both composers elsewhere, I have 2 records w/ work by Kurtág on Hungaraton so it was good to hear something not on a Hungarian label. The other record has Hugues Dufourt's "Antiphysis" & Joanthan Harvey's "Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco" on one side & Gérard Grisey's "Modulations" on the other. Both are dated 1984 & they have back-to-back issue numbers so they appear to've been released in quick succession. As such, Born appears to be incorrect here.

Looking under "IRCAM" on Discogs ( ) yields 24 recordings (as of May 25, 2018) most of wch seem to be inappropriately cataloged. Neither of the records I have are on the list.

Born gets into the issue of authorship & giving credit where credit's due:

"the tutor had to translate the composer's ideas into IRCAM's technological terms, communicate that to the composer, and then enable the ideas to be realized with the available tools. The tutor thus intervened conceptually, technically, and physically in the composer's plans, commonly doing much of the practical realization. The key issue here concerns the weight of the creative contribution of such "technical" realization in musics such as IRCAM computer music that are based essentially on new sound materials as much as on new forms of organization, and in which form may derive from sound materials. Tutors, in conceiving and manipulating the technology, were directly responsible for producing the new sound materials, so that their contribution was central to this music and their part in the overall creative authorship of the piece considerable." - p 266

I note that on Boulez recordings there's often a credit to Andrew Gerzso for "Electro-acoustic realization". This leads me to deduce that Gerzso is Boulez's tutor, called "BYV" in this bk.

My feelings & experience connected to the above is mixed. The tutor is not the person who has the original conception wch is what gets the whole ball rolling. In 2003 or earlier I was experimenting w/ a type of writing that I call IJT (Internal Jumbling Technique). I'd been inspired by reading that people cd correctly read words if their 1st & last letters were correct even if the inner letters were jumbled. What interested me about this was that I cd extend that to mean that words that shared the same letters w/ the same beginning & ending letter but a different internal arrangement cd be resolved correctly in more than one way when jumbled. Here's an example that I wrote at the time:


The biran of hdaes teird & selpt 'til its biarn was in a wried sacpe. It cvread the stlay crud on its berad & in its driay snak in the sitan of the bran & the bran aklie.

That's essentially nonsense but it can be 'correctly' resolved in various ways. Here're 2 possibilities:

The brain of heads tried & spelt 'til its bairn was in a wired space. It craved the salty curd on its bread & in its dairy snak in the stain of the bran & the barn alike.


The bairn of hades tired & slept 'til its brain was in a weird scape. It carved the slaty crud on its beard & in its diary sank in the satin of the barn & the bran alkie.

I was working on accumulating a more ambitious vocabulary that cd yield 2 or more results per jumbling. I was finding the words by going thru a dictionary systematically. I was on a job talking w/ a guy about it & saying that it wd be easier w/ software & he mentioned that he was a software designer & that he cd design the app easily. He did so & he sent me a large vocabulary but wdn't give me a copy of the software. It seems obvious to me that I conceived of it & that both of us deserve credit for its existence. It seemed likely that he was planning to profit off of it & didn't want to share w/ me. I think that I deserve Intellectual Property rights for it. I didn't need the software to do what I did, I cd've done it the slow way, I conceived of it & was working on projects using this vocabulary choosing technique before meeting the software designer.

At any rate, I wrote an ambitious piece immediately thereafter called "diSTILLed Life / rfeEINr Ashairenm / reFINEr Anarchism / reINfer Arachnism" that I finished by December, 2003. This was published in February 2008 in a bk. I gave the software designer a large credit in the bk & sent him a copy of the finished product. This is an instance where I feel like I fulfilled my ethical duty thoroughly but wasn't similarly treated.

Since then, I've worked w/ computer scientist / software designer / composer / musician Roger Dannenberg. From 2008-2009, Roger was part of a chamber orchestra that I founded called "HiTEC" (Histrionic Thought Experiment Collective) for wch I needed software to do math calculations relevant to real-time score decisions. The basic idea was mine. Roger generously developed the software for me & for HiTEC & gave me a copy of it & it was used successfully in performance. Roger was always given credit. There was never any hogging of the results. This seemed like the maximally ethical & cooperative way to work.

In 2017, Roger helped me again w/ much more complicated software that I conceived of for a piece of mine called "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas" . A feature-length documentary of our working on this can be witnessed here: . The software uses a plethora of QuickTime movies that I made, 592 just of one type alone!, & involved an incredible amt of calculating, editing, & conception work on my part. It was also a huge challenge for Roger to make it work. From my POV I deserve both intellectual & labor credit for it but w/o Roger I wd've never been able to make the software. His considerable expertise & generous willingness to try to make it happen was essential to the process. As such, I think of this as a collaboration. Roger, once again, shared the results w/ me freely & I will always give him credit. I assume that he'll do the same for me. I prefer at least trying to work w/ people on a trust-basis b/c it helps create & maintain a shared ethical common ground.

In both those instances, no-one was getting pd. In IRCAM instances, both parties are getting pd. That creates a contractual situation. It seems to me that if tutors are feeling overexploited they shd have the contractual option of specifying the type of credit they want before agreeing to work on a piece.

While Born is understandably concerned about issues of authorship it's hard to not notice that only her name appears on her bk cover. How many people provided how much assistance to her in understanding the complex issues at IRCAM both technically & socially? She has an "Acknowledgments" section at the beginning, wch is the standard academic way of treating such matters, but I wonder if anyone at IRCAM felt exploited by her in the same way that the tutors apparently did in relation to composers.

"Thus, according to the logic of IRCAM's own vanguard we can see that the hierarchical ideology surrounding the tutor-composer division of labor was largely a leftover from earlier forms of music making, a mystification obfuscating and devaluing the creative contribution of the tutor or whoever does the intimate conceptual and hands-on work with the technology. This suggests another antinomy central to IRCAM: on the one hand, a reification of individual authorship replete with the romantic conception of the heroic and individualist artist-a striking romantic survival within a present modernism, and evidence of the continuity between romanticism and modernism; on the other, a practice in which authorship becomes multiple and in which it may be difficult to reconstruct the lines of individuality. IRCAM was therefore a site of absolute if repressed confrontation between the continuing power of the romantic ideology of authorship and its practical and material transcendence. We have seen forces operating in both directions. But overall, the rhetoric of individual authorship remained firmly in place at IRCAM. The strongest force for its retention was the importance of artistic charisma in the legitimation of institutionalized, nonmarket cultural production: IRCAM's need to legitimize and valorize itself by reference to a series of significant names, if not of significant musical works or technologies." - pp 268-269

Is it "romantic" for Born's name to be the only one credited as the author on Rationalizing Culture? I don't think it is. She obviously thinks that she deserves the lion's share of the credit as the person who conceived of the project & did most of the writing to pull it together. An "individualist artist" isn't necessarily an "heroic" one. To me, the tutors wd deserve more collaborative credit if they had brainstormed w/ the composers to conceive the piece in its entirety from the get-go. I don't think that was the case. As such, the composer deserves the primary credit just as Born does.

In 1990, I cofounded a (m)usical group called "The 'Official' Project" w/ Neil Feather. We changed our name systematically every time we played. I turned it into a big band & I published tapes & had a friend publish a record by us. Even though I did far more work than anyone else I always thought of it as a collective project so when the record came out I didn't credit anyone individually for the CAMUs (Cue Activated Modular Units) in the explanatory bklt that I wrote & put together to accompany the record. In fact, I composed about 3/7ths of the material, Neil composed another 3/7ths & a minority of other members of the big band composed the other 1/7th. In retrospect, I regret not giving specific credit instead b/c the way I did it creates an illusion of more collective participation than actually existed.

When I later founded HiTEC it was w/ a very specific concept that was important as what distinguished the group from other groups. As such, I tried to make my "Systems" (the Thought Experiments that we were trying to Manage) somewhat rigorous in the desired direction. Nonetheless, I left the overall piece open to contributions b/c I wanted participants, the "Systems Managers", to have the option of fuller participation. While I liked much of what the others contributed I didn't feel that most of these contributions tried to live up to the concept enuf. In some cases, people's ideas were vague & I turned them into something more practical & then gave us both credit as collaborating. In HiTEC I gave everyone credit by name. What's to stop us all from being 'romantic heros'?

Ironically, or calculatingly, I find some or most of the people who attack authorship the most to also be the ones who plagiarize the most. That doesn't then stop them from naming their websites or businesses after their given names. When it comes down to money or status it's not particularly shocking when credit becomes property. Having had some bad experiences w/ people trying to take credit from me by rewriting history to make themselves major players when they were anything but I think it's important for credit to be given as honestly as possible from the beginning & to be documented.

"The Pedagogy director recalled it thus: Berio made the famous statement, which became law, that he would have no documentation in his studio, because 'music is an oral culture.' This was cazy, but it became the standard here, so that BU [4X Hardware designer], for example, has never bothered to document his work."" - p 269

As much as I respect Berio, I definitely disagree w/ his "no documentation" policy. I made 72 documentary movies about HiTEC alone (a short version of one of them can be witnessed here: ). It is interesting to me, tho, that the tendency to think of music as "literature" is somewhat contradicted by Berio's "music is an oral culture" - I doubt that he applied that to mean no scores too.

"I have also shown how popular musics made very occasional appearances in dissident IRCAM concert series such as the Espaces Libres, and the free jazz events organized by RIG. But we will see below that despite these, the presence or influence of popular musics within IRCAM was quite severely repressed, and covert." - p 282

If Born is lumping Free Jazz, &, presumably, Free Improvisation by extension, in w/ "popular musics" I won't bother to beg to differ I'll point-blank SHOUT disagreement. Free Improv might very well be the most unpopular music there is. Free Jazz is a little more complicated b/c there're so many canaonized players that're respected by musicians but, still, HEY!, Free Jazz is not popular.

"WV programmed the main concert seasons and so defined IRCAM's canon: he was IRCAM's "aesthetic guardian." We saw in chapter 4 the cultural privilege of his earlier life. He had been the manager for several avant-garde composers. Before that he trained as an impresario at Glyndebourne opera and cofounded and managed a major British contemporary music ensemble." - p 283

Those just seem like qualifications to me, the perfect experience to have for the job he had at IRCAM.

"The key conflict over small technologies during 1984 blew up between Boulez and American Pedagogy director RIG over whether RIG could bring into IRCAM two new, innovative, small commerical digital technologies: Apple Macintosh personal computers and Yamahe DX7 synthesizers (and link to this the MIDI interface)." - p 284

Ha ha! It seems to me that Boulez's position had as much to do w/ maintaining an elite position to justify high funding than it did w/ anything else. That's completely philosophically & musically offensive to me. It was probably sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s that I witnessed my favroite musical electronics performance: Hugh Davies presenting to a class of a few people (less than 8?) at UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County Campus). He had a small container (probably less than 6" X 6" X 3") w/ a few loose electronic parts in it that he connected live for us to produce an audible improvisation. It was wonderful. I'll take that anyday oover the 4X.

Born provides a chart categorizing IRCAM personnel in terms of whether they were open to "High-Tech", "Neutral", or Low-tech".

"Two other junior tutors and composers, KF and HU, are also located here. Both were pragmatic, nonideological users of whatever technologies were available." - pp 290-291

I can relate. In 2006, Leonardo Music Journal was soliciting articles on musicians' favorite gadgets & I submitted an article on the answering machine entitled "That Newfangled Telephone Gizmo". I was completely serious about my preference for the device but I knew that to the people at Leonardo my article wd be unacceptable for the same reasons that it wd've been at IRCAM. It was too 'lunatic fringe' &/or not esoteric enuf. I knew that they wanted articles about very uncommon devices specifically made for musical purposes. My article was rejected. Here's an excerpt from it:

"But it was our own inventiveness, rather than the phone co's services, that most interests me. During the 962-0210 era, we'd acquired a type of answering machine called the "Call Jotter" (or something like that). This was a poorly designed device that had the outgoing message followed by the recording space followed by the outgoing message, etc. Its usefulness revolved around the new feature of being able to call one's own phone to hear a playback of one's incoming messages. This was done by playing a signal tone into the answering machine which then rewound the tape & played back everything on it. Unfortunately, that meant hearing the outgoing over & over again since it was repeated between every incoming message.

"Richard (the main participant other than myself at this point) realized that we could create a message chain that began with a message, was followed by an incoming space, & was ended by the tone that triggered the rewind & playback. Callers could call & hear an explanation of this process. They could then leave a message. The next caller would then hear the trigger tone, the rewinding, the explanatory message, &, most importantly, the last caller's message. This way our machine could act as an intermediary between anonymous callers & we could record it all! One guy called repeatedly offering his 9" dick, drugs, his sister's body. It didn't work for him as far as I 'know'. Other people did connect with each other though. They left their phone #s (something I thought was foolish to do) & people would call each other outside of our system.

"Some readers of this article might wonder what any of this has to do with music. To put this project into a classical continuity one need only refer to the wonderful John Cage / David Tudor collaboration entitled "Variations IV" at the Fiegen/Palmer Gallery in Los Angeles in 1965(?). In this performance, records, tapes, & radio were mixed live with sounds picked up by microphones in & around the performance space. With the phone stations we simply took advantage of the telephone network's ability to provide us with a huge network of microphones to tap into for our Concrete Mixing. I'm not truthfully concerned with whether people accept this as music or not. Calling it sound art will do just as well. Either term is disposable."


"NI brought to IRCAM a souped-up small machine, his modified Casio VL Tone-then one of the cheapest, consumer-oriented synthesizers. NI belonged to what he called the "Casio Underground," fanatic Casio owners who got inside the machines and altered them with analog devices to achieve far better effects. This knowledge was circulated internationally by an underground magazine. NI had modified his VL Tone so that it had eight octaves, could bend notes, and produced sounds ranging from the Albert Hall organ, to a harpsichord, to Jimi Hendrix's guitar. On the afternoon in question, NI sat playing his VL Tone to PL in the reception area just as BU, the Scientific Director FOL, and others were going in to a 4X seminar. NI showed it proudly to BU, expecting interest from a fellow designer. But BU's reaction was disdain. As NI recalled, BU shot him a withering look, as if to say "get this guy out of here," while FOL said sarcastically to PL, "This is your department, isn't it?"-implying it was for small-machine enthusiasts only. Thus BU (and FOL) revealed their contempt for small-system bricolage." - pp 292-293

IMO, that's a great story. I wd've loved to've heard NI's instrument. Casio did a huge service for poorer people interested in electronics. Their gear was so cheap that (almost) anyone cd afford it. Furthermore, it was so cheap that many people felt free to "Circuit-Bend" it - or to use a more obscure terminology, to make it "Recombinant Electronics". Reed Ghazala has made quite a name for himself doing such work:

"Qubais Reed Ghazala (born 1953), an American author, photographer, composer, musician and experimental instrument builder, is recognized as the "father of circuit bending,"[by whom?] having discovered the technique in 1966, pioneered it, named it, and taught it ever since."


"Ghazala accidentally discovered the technique of circuit bending in the 1960s when he left a toy amplifier in his desk and heard it start to emit sounds comparable to those produced by expensive synthesizers of the day. The amplifier's casing had been opened, exposing its inner circuitry and allowing it to short circuit when placed against the metal desk. It is this chance aspect of bending that serves as the foundation of circuit-bending."


It's somewhat ironic to me that I'm much more open to pop music or other types of music outside the 'Western' avant-garde classical canon than, apparently, the official IRCAM position encouraged b/c, for the most part, I find pop music pretty boring. Nonetheless, HEY!, let's talk about tangos:

"For HU, playing tangos was a form of leisure activity for parties and very rarely, when pressed, for late-night, marginal IRCAM events." - p 291

Ever heard of Astor Piazzolla? If you can't appreciate his tangos & his astounding bandoneon playing technique then YOU. ARE. DEAD. PERIOD. Sorry to break it to you this way. I mean you might think you're alive but you're not. & there's no after-life or even an after-dinner mint. Even Conlon Nancarrow composed "Tango?" (1983) for piano.

It seems to me that Born struggles too hard to overgeneralize in order ot give her abstractions an appearance of validity:

"There are, I suggest, four basic dimensions of aesthetic difference between musical modernism and popular music. They are: popular music's basis in tonal or modal harmony or melody; its regular, repetitive, pulse-based and pattern-based rhythmic character; its wider use of repetition at various levels of the whole-in rhythm, melody, harmony, or form; and its range of uses of improvisation-from micro improvisations, as with instrumental and vocal expressive inflections, to macro, extended improvisations, whether in solos or completely improvised pieces (Keil 1966b, Chester 1970, Middleton 1983, 1990). Any one or combination of these elements can suffice to identify the broad aesthetic character of popular music. (For example, avant-garde jazz, sometimes called modernist, employs the free improvisational component of popular music in a way very different from the restricted modernist use of improvisation.) By contrast, the modernist aesthetic eschews tonal or modal bases; it is arhythmic or rhythmically irregular and avoids pulse and sustained pattern in favor of calculated durations and complex, irregular temporalities; it avoids perceptible or simple repetition; and improvisation, if brought in, is highly constrained and determined by score-based compositional directives." - pp 301-302

"avant-garde jazz, sometimes called modernist, employs the free improvisational component of popular music": Oh, really? What "free improvisational component of popular music" is that?! Are we talking Grateful Dead here or what? In my observation, pop music is far more locked into a "restricted" "use of improvisation" than 'modernism' ever is. If a guitarist takes a long solo chances are it's in the key of the song, restricting the pitch choices immensely, w/ a rhythmic background that only expands slightly, if at all, on the narrow-focus metering, usually in common time, that's preceded it. There's almost no actual improvisation involved at all since the boundaries are so prescribed by convention. I think Born is straining at the bit to make claims for popular music that I, at least, consider completely insupportable. Popular music is usually extremely formulaic - it uses the formula that sells - & stepping outside that formula to improvise simply won't do b/c it endangers the money rolling in.

Otherwise, where does Terry Riley fit in? Apparently, if we're to take Born's statement above seriously, he's a pop musician but I wonder how many people wd agree w/ that. Or where does Monty Cantsin's "d composing Mozart" fit in? That's made entirely out of the final chords of Mozart's symphonies - wch were almost all D major chords. Does that make it tonal? Where do my "C Major Chord" & "Blues in C" fit in?

""Sequence 004: C Major Chord (tempo varied version)" - 1994 - :29

- sampler/sequencer + algorithm synthesizer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

"From 1994 to 1997 I worked on a series of modular pieces meant to be mixed live in what I called "Triple-S Variety Shows". Over 118 of these components were sequences. Their names are usually meant to be purely functional descriptions. These sequences were meant to be played & manipulated live in conjunction with other sounds (& visuals) &, as such, weren't really meant to be listened to as separate pieces. Nonetheless, they were/are short compositions - basically studies

of varied technical potentials of the equipment I was using combined with forays into musical theory ranging anywhere from simple to complex to parodistic to serious, etc.. These were then recorded: 1st in "basic" form (without any live manipulation of the sequence) & then, usually, in a less simple form. Hence, this is a "tempo varied version" in which I change the tempo of the playback slightly. There's also the added factor of a simulated harpsichord also being driven by the sequence. Some of the non-"basic" playings of the sequences are complex & some of the sequences are meant to be manipulated in specific ways. Most of the straight sequences presented in "Piano Illiterature" are deliberately simple. "C Major Chord" is a prime example of this. In my "Sequences" notebook in which I made minimal notes for myself about what I was attempting to do with each sequence I wrote:

""Taking advantage of the overdubbing capacity of the sequencer, I play only the notes of the most familiar "consonant" equal tempered tuning chord in a way that gives this simple presentation the virtuosity & sound of a "Classical" piece. On the disc [meaning the floppy disc on which the sequence is saved] I describe this as ""Random" "Perky" Arpeggiation". I recorded the sequence at the mid-tempo default value of 48 & at the slower speeds of 24 & 36 so that when it's played back at 48 parts of it are quicker than the original playing. Intended for Piano sample."

"A part of the humor of making such a simple-minded piece as this is to take the minimum of what constitutes 'Western' music & to turn it into something that sounds 'believably' like what some people might consider to be 'good' music with very little effort + a trifle of technical trickery.


""Sequence 005: Blues in C (basic)" - 1994 - :38

- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

"See the notes for "C Major Chord" as an introduction to this.

""This is very similar in technical approach to the preceding ["C Major Chord"] except that the "blue notes" are added to the C major chord: ie: the minor 3rd & the dominant 7th. Rather than 3 layers of sequence recording there are 6: 1 @ 48, 2 @ 40, 3 @ 42. Also intended for Piano sample.""


"Moreover we have seen how even world-famous American pop and avant-garde jazz and rock musicians-Stevie Wonder, Cecil Taylor, Frank Zappa-were made aware by "dissidents" such as RIG that it was not appropriate that they should work at IRCAM. It cannot be assumed this situation was accepted as "self-evident" by these musicians. For example Anthony Braxton, the leading black American avant-garde jazz musician, in a general interview given in 1988 specifically mentioned his resentment at his certain exclusion from IRCAM." - p 303

Oh, well, at the risk of boring even myself I don't really think that "we have seen" what Born claims above, I think it's more like we have her 'word' that it's true at the same time that we have her disguised biases to deal w/. E.G.: on p 5 she asks "How far is it appropriate to use scientific analogies in composition?" On p 225 she states: "The UPIC raises starkly the question as to what extent visual signs deployed to produce the aural are musically appropriate."

to wch I reply:

""musically appropriate"?! WTF does that mean?! I find the UPIC exciting. My question isn't about "musically appropriate"ness, wch is an idea I find completely idiotic, but whether I find the results interesting to listen to. This (non-)'issue' of "musically appropriate"ness is just more baggage that Born seems to take for granted rather than something she examines."

&, yet, after using this concept of "appropriate" herself she disparages the exclusion of Wonder, Taylor, & Zappa as denied by IRCAM's standards of 'appropriateness'.

Then there's calling Anthony Braxton "the leading black American avant-garde jazz musician": who, exactly, is he leading?! Braxton's great, I had the good fortune of playing w/ him at the National Aviary in the Marsh Room on June 1, 2008. If he's excluded from IRCAM then that's too stupid for words. But calling him "leading" is just another one of those irrelevant superimposed hierarchical type statements that just gets in the way of understanding & perceiving more subtle inter-relationships.

"IRCAM continues to develop more ambitious, high-level software for music conceptualization and control. As before with Formes, this has the air of an advanced area of research but one that is fragile and speculative-a fragility that threatens to deepen in the new performative context. Two projects of this kind existed in the early '90s, and both were very small. They focused on rival French composers brought in to represent two opposing ideologies: one a Boulezian postserialist, the other in the tradition of "spectral" composition, concerned with deriving musical structure and process from timbre, and particularly timbral transitions." - p 316


"We have seen that the theoreticism, concern with technology, and scientism of IRCAM's musical discourse are no spontaneous conjuncture but are legacies of the continuous character of modernism through the century." - p 317

"it is problematic to depict the "rules" derived from analysis of one musical aesthetic as either musically universal or generative of new aesthetic forms. In fact, the likely effect of applying "rules" derived from one musical genre to composition is to inhibit any possibility of profound aesthetic innovation and to encourage just variants of the extant genre. In this sense, AI-influenced composition represents its ultimate rationalization, the scientistic, high-cultural version of what Adorno (1978a, 1990) accused the cultural industries of bringing about: the standardization of music." - p 319

The "likely effect of applying "rules" derived from one musical genre to composition is to" keep a few people busy exploring the area for a little while. Why make it seem so Draconian?

"Finally, musical uncertainty was most clearly expressed in the chronic dissatisfaction with most IRCAM music that was pervasive even among IRCAM's intellectuals and that seemed to exist back-to-back with an uncritical reverence for Boulez's Répons, so that his music alone was exempted from the general gloom." - p 170

I decided that I just had to listen to this piece "Répons" that, according to Born, so much of IRCAM's reputation counted on so I got a CD of it out of the public library. I'm listening to it now. Writing as a person who listens to an enormous amt of difficult music, I can honestly say that I'm not really that impressed by it. I like it but I wdn't call it great. Music that's lauded as innovative has to be able to convince people, like myself, who respect the ability to conceive & realize original material, that they are the 1st. Not many people wd be impressed by someone who claims to invent the prepared piano, e.g., in the 21st century given that John Cage is generally credited w/ inventing it in the 20th (preparation of instruments pre-existed Cage's invention but that's a different story).

In the liner notes for the "Répons" (1980-1984) CD, the reader is informed that the following is involved: "An electro-acoustic system made up of a computer (used to analyze, transform and spatialize the sound of the soloists) and a set of six loudspeakers." In the typical hype that surrounds Boulez, the reader is further informed that:

"Boulez's main motivation for the use of technology in Répons came from his desire to maintain a coherence between the world of instrumental music and electronics. He was frequently bothered by the early attempts, in the late 1970s, to combine computer sounds and instruments, when computer sounds were played on tape during the performance. Since the perfomers became de facto prisoners of the tape's mechanical time, all life and mobility, so essential to performance, were lost. From this came Boulez's interest in real-time technology developed at IRCAM in the late 70s and early 80s, which enabled musical performance to reassert its rights in the world of computer sounds. When work on Répons began in 1980 it was possible to use the computer in real time to transform the sounds of live performers."

In other words, Boulez's effects pedal is more expensive than yours. The above paragraph implies that Boulez & IRCAM were the innovators in this area & the 1st to address increased performance flexibility thru real-time electronics. This, of course, is pure horse puckey.

Starting w/ the system of speaker spatialization: John Cage composed "Williams Mix" for playback thru 8 speakers from 1951-1953. Then there was Iannis Xenakis's electro-acoustic piece "Concret PH" (1958) wch played at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958: "In the Philips Pavilion, it was projected over 425 loudspeakers through an 11-channel sound system." Boulez & IRCAM's expensive spatialization was long since old news.

David Behrman is more of a pioneer of interactive computer-generated electronics than IRCAM: "His music has often involved interactions between live performers and computers, usually with the computer generating sounds triggered by some aspect of the live performance, usually certain pitches, but sometimes other aspects of the live sound, such as volume in QRSL (as recorded by Maggi Payne on The Extended Flute (CRI807). Many of his significant works, such as On the Other Ocean, Interspecies Small Talk, and others have been released on Lovely Music." ( )

I have the Lovely Music record of "Figure in a Clearing" & "On the Other Ocean". To quote from the notes, "In "Figure in a Clearing," for thirty-three electronic generators and cello, David Gibson improvises on six pitches (A, B, D, E, F# and G) within a rhythmic and harmonic setting provided by computer-initiated chord changes. The chord changes are made by sixteen triangle wave generators, each of which has several present tunings among which the computer can choose. The rhythm, continuously accelerating or decelerating, is modeled after the velocity of a satellite in falling eliptical orbit about the planet. Sixteen additional triangle wave generators and one drone-producing sine wave generator are also present in the mix." The piece was "Recorded at the Electronic Music Studio, State University of New York at Albany, June 9, 1977." One of the differences between Boulez & Behrman is that Boulez didn't personally develop the gear used while Behrman did.

The "Répons" CD liner notes go on to promote IRCAM w/ this glowing review: "IRCAM uses this software for artistically innovative work: each year more than 20 new pieces are produced here, their combination of electronic technology and traditional instruments creating a new experience of music." Reading Georgina Born's Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde might give you a somewhat less glitering idea of what it takes to keep IRCAM & its image plugging along. Then again, aren't we talking about human interaction in general?


Another credit for Boulez is that he produced this Stockhausen recording.


- April 24-May 29, 2018 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE








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