In 1998, I wrote music for a production of Friedrich Schiller’s play Mary Stuart at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. The director was my friend Carey Perloff, the music was sung by the spectacular men’s vocal ensemble Chanticleer, and the translation of the text was by the writer and Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold. There can be a lot of down time for a composer and a translator during theater rehearsals so Michael and I passed the time telling each other stories about books we should be reading, and Michael suggested I read Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser…continue reading
I had two jobs my senior year in high school—a music-related job and a film-related job. All these years later, both are on my mind, since I have been spending time in Los Angeles helping to promote Paolo Sorrentino’s new film Youth, for which I wrote the music.
I live in New York, but I grew up in Los Angeles, in Westwood, which is the neighborhood that surrounds UCLA. These days Westwood is a kind of anonymous shopping district, but in 1973, when I worked there, it still felt like a college town…continue reading
I didn’t like it.
School was over and I was sick of it, and I thought it was about time to go to work. I had gone straight from high school to college to graduate school, and I was pretty burned out. I had loved everything I had been doing in school, but as I got further along I became confused.
The paradox of a musical education is that the more sophisticated you become about how it all works, the further away you move from the things normal listeners actually hear…continue reading
It’s spring and baseball season is under way again — for me, always a welcome event. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the game and its history. Which reminded me of the recent passing of the baseball legend Duke Snider. And, surprisingly, that made me think of classical music. Honest! I grew up in the 1960s in Los Angeles, a die-hard fan of the Dodgers. I loved baseball, loved going to the games, but I identified with the team in other ways as well…continue reading
Two weeks ago I received a sad email, telling me that the composer Donald Martin Jenni had died, from a long and painful cancer. My first thought was that I was sorry I had not kept in closer contact, my second was that I was surprised to read in his obituary that he had ended up in New Orleans, with a new life and an adopted family. His life had changed so much since I had known him. I had been a masters student of Martin's from 1978 to 1980 at the University of Iowa, and although we had stayed in touch after I left Iowa—we would send each other music and he would come visit whenever he was in New York—the second that he retired he vanished…continue reading
I want to begin this speech with a little aphorism translated from the Hebrew: ”Say little, and do much.” This is from an early book of the Talmud called Sayings of the Fathers. I wish I could say that I learned it from my own Hebrew studies, but I
can’t. I learned it from Steve Reich. This little phrase — say little and do much — is the entire text of the last movement of Steve’s most recent and remarkable piece, You Are Variations…