Although Ned Rorem had composed little organ music until he was in his 50s, his output for the instrument since that time has been considerable, making him the most prolific living U.S. composer for the organ.
Rorem says that he writes music that he wants to hear, and composes out of necessity because no one else is making what he needs.
This according to The organ works of Ned Rorem by John David Marsh, a dissertation accepted by Rice University in 2002.
Today is Rorem’s 90th birthday! Below, Jung Jin Kim performs “Mary Dyer did hang as a flag” from A Quaker reader.
Robert Craft progressed with remarkable speed from being Stravinsky’s assistant to serving as his adviser, collaborator, and defender.
While Craft has been castigated for suppressing or misstating information, his actions must be viewed in the context of his complicated relationship with the composer, which has no clear parallel in music history. Craft was ethically bound both to interpret Stravinsky to the outside world and to ensure his status as a 20th-century hero.
This according to “Boswellizing an icon: Stravinsky, Craft, and the historian’s dilemma” by Charles M. Joseph, an essay included in Stravinsky inside out (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 233–265).
Today is Craft’s 90th birthday! Below, he recalls Stravinsky’s California years.
Although he was best known as the guitarist and leader of The Mothers of Invention and other rock bands, Frank Zappa grew up with a keen interest in 20th-century concert music and aspired to be an orchestral composer as well; his scores have been recorded by Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Modern, and others.
Appropriate listening strategies for Zappa’s pieces for acoustic concert ensembles should be based primarily on models developed from his more abundant commercially successful output, and less so on the music of early–20th-century composers, such as Stravinsky and Varése, whose music he admired.
This according to “Listening to Zappa” by Jonathan W. Bernard (Contemporary music review XVIII/4  pp. 63–103). Above, Zappa at the Lumpy gravy recording sessions in 1967; below, conducting his G-spot tornado in 1992 with Ensemble Modern and dancers Louise Lecavalier and Donald Weikert.
Related article: Frank Zappa and Uncle Meat
In 2012 Verlag Lafite, a division of Musikzeit, launched the series Webern-Studien with Wechselnde Erscheinung: Sechs Perspektiven auf Anton Weberns sechste Bagatelle, edited by Simon Obert.
The series will serve as a supplement to Musikzeit’s edition of the composer’s complete works, providing relevant correspondence, journal entries, and so on, in addition to detailed analyses of the works themselves.
Below, the Tesla Quartet performs all six of Webern’s bagatelles.
Historians have based their explanations for the tumultuous 1913 première of Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps on the accounts (none published before 1935) of the participants—Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, and Monteux.
Due to these accounts, for years it has been believed that either the choreography or the revolutionary score was the cause of the riot in the audience, and that the uproar was a spontaneous reaction to the performance.
However, an examination of contemporary newspaper and journal reviews and an understanding of the personal and political characteristics of Sergei Diaghilev reveals that the riot was actually anticipated and encouraged by the management of the Ballets Russes. The earliest reviews published in Paris offer a wealth of material relating to cultural values of the age.
This according to “The riot at the Rite: Not so surprising after all” by Truman C. Bullard, an article included in Essays on music for Charles Warren Fox (Rochester: Eastman School of Music, 1979, pp. 206–211).
Today is the 100th anniversary of Le sacre’s premiere! Above, a photograph from the original Ballets Russes production; below, part of the BBC’s dramatization from 2009.
György Ligeti freely acknowledged the influence of African music on his work—an influence that is seldom readily obvious, though it can be teased out by analysis.
After he listened to recordings of African drumming, Ligeti began exploring the use of various rhythms through multiplication of the basic pulse, a concept that resonated with the additive rhythms of the traditional music that he grew up with in Hungary.
In one of his few passages involving the use of an African-sounding instrument, the third movement of Ligeti’s piano concerto includes an Africanesque pattern played on bongos. He marked the part to be played very quietly, so rather than being foregrounded it serves almost imperceptively to reinforce patterns being played simultaneously on other instruments. Unlike most African drumming, this bongo pattern evolves over time, so that its end is quite different from its beginning.
This according to “Ligeti, Africa, and polyrhythm” by Stephen Andrew Taylor (The world of music XLV/2  pp. 83–94).
Today is Ligeti’s 90th birthday! Below, Mihkel Poll performs the movement in question.
Stravinsky has been widely characterized as enigmatic, a composer whose stylistic transformations were impossible to anticipate. He cultivated this image, not in a disingenuous way, but because his eccentricity was central to his self-definition.
More than any composer of 20th-century art music, Stravinsky was able to make the leap from a rarefied intellectual world to the status of a pop icon, widely respected by people who largely did not understand his music. He needed to be public, accepted, and popular, and a surprisingly large proportion of his archival documents reflects his efforts toward these goals.
Television producers in Europe and North America found in Stravinsky the ideal nonconformist film icon: droll, quirky, conversational, contentious, and pedestaled as the epitome of the rebellious hero. He was drawn to them as well, as a natural performer who needed and commanded the spotlight.
This according to “Truths and illusions: Rethinking what we know” and “Film documentaries: The composer on and off camera” by Charles M. Joseph, two essays included in Stravinsky inside out (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 1–34 and 162–195, respectively).
Below, the composer works the camera with some of his favorite things to say about Le sacre du printemps.
Nicolas Astrinidis (1921-2010) is a free online resource that documents the life and works of the Greek composer, pianist, and conductor.
Edited by Ilias Chrissochoidis and mainly in English, the site presents a biography of Astrinidīs along with audiovisual documents, lists of works and performances, and a discussion of his life and works in Greek. Below, a work influenced by Greek traditional music.
In 2011 Schott launched the series Stuttgarter Musikwissenschaftliche Schriften with Was bleibt? 100 Jahre Neue Musik, edited by Andreas Meyer.
Noting that the musical revolutions of Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg are over a century old, and that the experimentalism of the 1950s belongs to a bygone era, the authors assess the current new music scene and demonstrate how audiences have changed in recent years.
Below, Stockhausen’s pioneering Gesang der Jünglinge (1955–56).
Negativland is a group of sound artists who mix fragments and samples of sounds from the mass media to produce a parodic critique of contemporary culture.
The group’s 1991 single U2 combined samples from and a vocalized parody of the band U2’s I still haven’t found what I’m looking for with studio outtakes of Casey Kasem verbally abusing his staff on the American Top 40 radio program. Soon after the single was released it was pulled from stores and Negativland was sued by Island Records, Warner-Chappell Music (U2’s label and music publishing company, respectively) and by their own label, SST.
Over time a community arose that provided a loose distribution system for the recording, along with a medium for producing and disseminating an oppositional discourse to the dominant legal and economic system that had stopped its legitimate release.
This according to “Negativland, out-law judgments, and the politics of cyberspace” by John Sloop and Andrew Herman, an essay included in Mapping the beat: Popular music and contemporary theory (Malden: Blackwell, 1998).
Below, the recording in question. Warning: Negativland is not shy about using profanity.