Self interview


What is this opera about?
Why now?
Are you a Jungian?
How long does it take to write a normal opera?
What exactly is the nature of the physics incorporated into the dream music

Is there a research agenda or are you just hacking for fun?
What’s going on with the music, besides the dream music?
So is there a Manifesto,  some Big Ideas underlying the work?
Are there literary works that inspired you?
What is your music training and history?
Do you have any background in psychology?
What else have you done musically?
Is there music that inspired you?
What is this opera about?

It’s a blend of history and invention, strongly inspired by the life and writings of Wolfgang Pauli, his physics colleagues, and the analytic psychologists Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz. Pauli is the anonymous dreaming scientist analyzed in Jung’s “Psychology and Alchemy”.  He won the Nobel prize in 1945 for the exclusion principle discovered 20 years earlier, predicted the existence of the neutrino, and developed the first version of quantum field theory.  He is the first atomic  scientist to receive the Nobel prize after the use of the bomb in August 1945; his later correspondence with Jung in the period of synchronicity eventually invokes the I Ching hexagram “Chên / The Arousing” (Shock, Thunder), which he appears to use to reconcile his feelings of guilt with the possibility of a transformation of society.

It is simultaneously a postmodern and feminist Faust,  and like the Goethe template, is involved with alchemy and of course transmutation.  While much of the story and dialog is drawn from biographical materials and writings, there are occasional extrapolations and excursions into magical realism in various conversations and scenes which are not documented in history.  The libretto is in a sense “haunted” by the two works of literature that emerged from the same period in Zurich – Joyce’s Ulysses and Mann’s Dr. Faustus.   It is interwoven with thinking about music and the inspiration of music loving physicists, including Pauli and Heisenberg.  I don’t know how accurate my readings of Pauli’s thoughts on music are. I will admit to using him as a vehicle to kick around ideas that are partly my own, and partly from the milieu of my formal music education in Urbana when Mann’s novel “Doctor Faustus” was the hot reading.  But there are clues leading me to believe that he might agree.

A serious science engineering project lives inside it, related to the transmission of meaning in music.  I suppose that’s the strangest thing.

Is it complete?

It is a work-in-progress workshop.  I thought originally it would be “selected scenes”, and an opportunity to try out various production concepts.  In software terms, it would be an alpha release.  It’s starting to look more like a beta version.

It is not feasible that the 2014 edition could be entirely  “through composed”, though by virtue of finding/being found by a trained opera singer and improv wizard Emily Breedlove, we may go to an interesting place, and improv’s emphasis on “Yes And” makes an interesting joining with the No principle of the doubting Pauli.  It’s one of many conjunctios in the project.

The first workshop will be at Vortex Theater in Austin in April 2014.   The third weekend is part of Austin’s wonderful Fusebox hybrid arts festival.

The libretto contains about 80% of my first outline, but turned out to be a lot – probably
three hours if through composed.  In the end two hours of music were written and recorded.

What makes it interesting or novel?

I conceived it as a modular piece for two composers, one working in the standard intuitive mode and the other producing music through physical models – mirroring the relationship of Jung and Pauli.

Because the libretto is unusual and I have a lot to learn, I thought it best to have the first go myself.  I think the text may be interesting for other composers.  For me, at least, it didn’t prove impossible to set.   I didn’t have a good idea of how many words make an opera, so there is a lot of pruning going on.

The libretto is partially produced according to constraints,  as in the Oulipous school of mathematically inspired literature.  Symbolically, this expresses the rational way of  life, which is dropped as the intuitive or feeling functions emerge, as the world becomes chaotic, and an increasing interest in symbolism and archetypes are foregrounded.  The constraints derive from the sequence of electron shells, so each stanza corresponds to an element in that section of the work.  After Pauli’s psychoanalysis these constraints are abandoned.

It has a performing “character”, The Homunculus/Euphorion/Honest Molly,  whose underlying code is available on the internet today, though not in release form.   We are open to collaborators on the next round.  It is unconventional music software, being more or less a  model brain that we listen to rather than rules for the production of music.

There is a behind the scenes group of programmer alchemists creating a homunculus,   with the express goal of creating music that makes us cry with no explicit instructions or training on other music.  We’re also trying to make it beautiful and tied to some other simulations. The theories on music and emotional transmission of Manfred Clynes are guiding us in this early-stage work.

The dream music involves a large amount of unpredictability due to the nature of high-dimensional nonlinear systems.  It is capable of surprising me, and I hope to make that happen more often.

It also involves a larger than usual component of improvisation by the singers, though I gather that pre-Wagnerian opera often operated in such a mode.

One piece in the score is to some extent “dictated”,  in the sense that tonal suggestions and constraints, come from The Piano Lesson:   a literary work,  an “active imagination” written by Pauli.   It’s simplicity suggests Cage’s “In a Landscape” .   I ignored some of the obvious suggestions and tried to read between the lines at what was implied.  They lyrics include the hints that were used to constrain and elaborate the modes used in the song.

Do I need to understand quantum mechanics to get it?

In many ways it’s a backstage drama for physics.  There is comedy, tragedy, drinking songs, bar-room brawling, ghost stories, curses (unintentionally effective,  smothered and gone wrong),  love, temptation, jealousy and dreams.  There are layers and puns you may not get unless you’re a Physicist, Jungian, or Jungian Physicist, but It is intended to be enjoyed by all. The extended version may have a couple of comedic scenes not included here,  as well as approaching more abstract physics regarding symmetry and the developments of physics in the 50s.

I and the design team are trying to convey an imagistic sense of the problems people are working on,  their relationship to music, but not the deep mathematical methods employed in their solution.  Some mathematical drawings, graphs, formulas and language are on display but really as impressionistic objects.

Why now?

I’ve thought about it for some time and finally started working on it seriously in July last year.  Circumstances have conspired to give me a sabbatical period suitable for getting it done.

In another sense,  as I began to review the progress in neuroscience and physics since 2003 when I became less engaged, I get a sense that the common language sought by Pauli and Jung may in fact be approaching, or already here.  If there was a breakthrough in neuroscience at this higher abstraction level ( neural fields, neural population models)   the potential for very intelligent systems to rapidly appear in the ocean of computing devices we all swim in might be cause for concern.  I’m generally skeptical of the singularity and transhumanism movements, but if it happens in my lifetime I suspect it will be because of advances in this framework, rather than the big supercomputing efforts in Europe and the US.   Who better than the spirit of Lise Meitner to sound the call?

On the other hand, understanding of how intelligent and adaptive behavior emerges through the interplay of simple forces may have impacts across many fields at the human scale.  To the extend that the ending is a ritual, it is to call this positive outcome into being, in the spirit of Pauli’s New House:  Laboratory,  University  and Cathedral conjoined.

Much of the biographical material and Pauli’s letters are published rather recently, and most letters are in German.  It would have been impossible to produce this work much earlier than now in any form.

Are you a Jungian?

I have read Jung as one of many scholars in what I’ll generally call the study of symbolic form.   In trying to understand cognition,  I read widely on topics  including psychology of art, music symbolism, anthropology,  psychology of altered states.  I thought of myself as a computational Gestaltist.  My biggest influence in symbolism in psychology is the lineage from Ernst Cassirer, Susan Langer, Rudolf Arnheim.   It’s interesting to imagine how things might have gone differently had Pauli gotten involved with the Gestaltists rather than Jung – they were working more with field ideas,  and today a lot of people use synchronization in neural systems to study the Gestalt principles of grouping in vision, for example.

Before blogs,  I made an annotated bibliography and considered making my extensive library available as the seed of an  “Institute for the Study of Dynamics and Symbolism”.   Perhaps it will happen,  and can now have a more serious computational component.

How long does it take to write a normal opera?

Barber of Seville : 13 days
Ring Cycle:  4 years each

My timeline is roughly  2013 August Outline, and programming research, Sept coding and exploration,  October-November libretto,  December – April ongoing music development and scene pruning.

I am composing arias first for each character, then prioritizing scenes for more or less work. Some recitative scenes may be through composed, others have an ambient underscore and heightened speech or improvised vocals wil be employed in this version.

What exactly is the nature of the physics incorporated into the dream music?

The formalism used is called coupled map lattices,  a technique first appearing in the physics literature in the 80s.  It also incorporates various quantum and statistical mechanical ideas.   Drilling down a level,  I use non-stationary hybrid local-global CML and coarse graining, a method derived from statistical mechanics.

For those familiar with everyday statistical methods, it’s essentially computing a histogram of the states all cells are in at some sampling time.    Coarse graining is related to symbolic dynamics,  which bridges the worlds of physics and language.  A “correct” symbolic dynamics typically requires irregular bin spacing, in particular what is called a generating partition.

Hybrid local-global means that there is some influence on each cell from the average of all cells – a kind of non-locality,  while most of the influence is from neighboring cells.

As a musical analogy,  the whole lattice statistics corresponds to a chord;  the concentration of states into one partition or subspace results in a chord with fewer notes.

High coupling can naturally produce a melodic sequence,  or we may observe and measure the states of the lattice in some way to produce melodies. There may be feedback mechanisms from these observations to the dynamics, resulting in some naturally evolving form.

By non-stationary,  I mean that the nonlinearity or bifurcation parameters change with time.  Of course, this ties into the ideas of alchemy … shh!

I began to use those as both a riff on the idea of “the edge of chaos”, but mainly inspired by Walter Freeman and colleagues’ observation that breathing is in effect changing control parameters in concert with stimuli, memory, and the conditioned state of a stimulus entering memory.  I worked with the idea that systematic changes in parameters might be the explanation for the function of slower waves (alpha, beta) in the brain.  This is currently a hot topic in neuroscience to my great satisfaction, but I don’t see anybody looking at the waves as dynamical control parameters.   Meanwhile since 2007, Dr. Freeman has proposed that the brain functions as more of a quantum system; specifically that spontaneous symmetry breaking is required to explain long distance synchronization because signals cannot propagate fast enough.

In recent years CML have been used used in a physics community “emergent quantum mechanics”.  One of the key findings is that the key phenomena of quantum systems can emerge on classical systems under the right conditions.  For example, the double slit experiment and wave particle complementarity can be reproduced in fluid dynamics systems.

Many  will be familiar with Conway’s Life,  and the persistent and sometimes moving states referred to as particles.  CMLs are the continuous valued relative of cellular automata, and are primarily studied as models for pattern formation.  You will certainly see things particle like emerging from and receding into waves, with appropriate parameters.

Steven Wolfram is perhaps the most well known advocate for re-thinking particle physics along the line of cellular automata , but others (Christian Beck, the Vienna Emergent QM group) use coupled maps as a sub-particle model.

The science page on this site has a collection of links.

So does this kind of nonlinear field physics have anything to do with dreams?

When you read Pauli’s descriptions of his abstract physics dreams, you can imagine that if his brain was wired in such a way as to project activity of various regions into visual cortex something like the field simulations in a CML, you would experience the stripes, particles and so on.  I don’t think it’s a stretch that such a connection architecture would be characteristic of mathematicians and physicists, giving them a strong  insight to internal geometries and group phenomena.

Is there a research agenda or are you just hacking for fun?

Yes and Yes.

I’ve long been interested in the theories of Manfred Clynes on emotional expression in music.  We are explicitly trying to ground his methods of modifying timing and dynamics in physical processes.  So for example the timing on various scales and expressive dynamics is controlled by various dynamical measures and statistics, including spin.

We are in a very early stage of implementing this, having devoted a lot of attention to getting audio and graphics to play well together.   Unless there is a breakthrough,  I don’t expect a lot of weeping – but I feel pretty good about the Faustian level of striving and hope we’re forgiven!

If there is some more bio-physically motivated generative music system, I’d like to know about it.  It will involve deep thinking about the possible connection of emotion and dynamical systems.  I’ve just begun pulling together recent imaging studies on musical cognition to post on this site for the next round of work.  As expected, there is little in terms of concrete functional proposals for how the implicated regions or frequencies actually get the job done.

There is some hacking for fun stuff going on as well – I have coupling kernels derived from the Lo-Shu square,  and we get visually interesting results by evolving magic squares, prime sequences and so on.  I can’t really justify these things on a scientific basis,  but certainly interesting things happen that I don’t see with random starting conditions,  or by transforming the kinds of forms I worked with in grad school (mathematical functions and visual psychology experimental data used to study similarity and confusability in humans).

What’s going on with the music, besides the dream music?

The intuitive music is polystylistic and evolves according to appearance various techniques and schools of 20th century music,  though some things appear a bit out of order.  It starts as romantic art songs, gets jazzier and more dissonant, synchronistic and Cagean,  and finally the dream music is produced from statistics – in some sense an update of Xenakis.

I think I’ve always worked this way, as have many jazz artists in 3rd stream.

There are some specific constraints employed as a kind of “re-imagined serialism”.   Prior to 1926, the era of three quantum numbers, the songs and underscore are constrained to be in 3/4 and to use three note harmonies.   Four notes harmonies are allowed after spin is discovered.  The tension between 3 and 4, an obsession of Pauli and the Jungians runs throughout the opera.

Actually I got bored with the constraints, and in the spirit of science finding something that doesn’t quite fit the model,  I allowed myself exactly one deviation from the constraint.

There are some superpostions or mashups of styles,  which is part of the historical avant garde;  I’m trying to do it in a slightly different way than Ives.

Because of it’s nearly insane ambition and the length of the first draft it may qualify as a kind of New Complexity work.  See Big Ideas (Symbolism, Superposition)

What is Atom Speak?

The stanza form spoken by Pauli and other physicists in the daytime is governed by the shell saturation sequence 2,8,18,32, … and in Bohr’s aria,  the nuclear saturation sequence 2,6,6…

It’s intended to symbolize the rational mode of being – but by using it as a constraint in writing arias  (along with 3 note constraints before the 1925 scene) it produces a strange kind of music, though in some sense familiar and tied to the long drifts through harmonic space in late romantic music.   It’s another of those conjunctio points, I suppose.

So is there a Manifesto,  some Big Ideas underlying the work?

There are a few ideas I’ve been fascinated with for a long time that are in the mix.

Logical Depth is a concept borrowed from complex systems and information theory.  The basic idea is that the complexity of an object is a function of the time it takes to construct it (by computing) and the length of the smallest program that could generate it.   To generalize it to arts, we can look at certain objects (like the libretto with it’s structural devices,  dense concepts, appropriation) and consider the enormous amount of civilization and effort that is somehow “in there”.   I spoke about it in the context of art in a documentary on painter Paul Laffoley, whose works are extremely dense and capture or invoke a huge range of Western Civilization.

Symbolism  (Ambiguity)  is the poetry movement originated in late 19th century France, culminating there in Mallarme and Valery.  Ambiguity and multiple readings are highly prized, and the text should work as music even if you don’t know what it means.

Superposition in quantum mechanics indicates the co-existence of multiple possible states, which must be collapsed by an observer.  From a psychological point of view, when we make a decision about what conflicting or ambiguous signals mean, we’re doing something like this; there is a school of physics based psychology which purports that we are doing exactly this, with portions of the brain acting as universe while others act as observer.

Conjunctio is an old idea re-animated by Jung in his studies of alchemy as psychological metaphor.  It means that opposites are balanced.

In complex systems theory as it was exploding in the ’80s, there was a trend toward finding a balance point between ordering forces and chaotic forces.  Dynamics at the ‘edge of chaos’ are considered to have the most complexity, longest transients, and thus more life-like.  This is used in both the physics based music,  and in the production as a whole which conjoins and strives for balance of opposites.

Are there literary works that inspired you?

I’m pretty sure  the libretto would not have emerged without reading Joyce, Pynchon,  Valery Lem,  P.K. Dick, and bold appropriationists like Kathy Acker,  the paintings of Paul Laffoley, and viewing Malick’s “Tree of Life”.   And a few special mentions:

The first novel I read after finishing my undergraduate degree was Mann’s Doctor Faustus, which is also very present in the engagement with music, music and myth as a cultural form acting like a pilot wave.  I’d say the libretto is “haunted” by the structure of Ulysses and the content of Doctor Faustus, as well as the more obvious literary intrusions of Goethe’s Faust.

The first novel I read was Shelley’s Frankenstein: Prometheus Unbound, at age 7.  I suppose I was set on the path to make a homunculus, and a stitched together postmodern collage.

Probably Goethe should get a nod since there are some direct excerpts and there is a play within a play which is a very brief reduction of a collaborative Faust parody produced in 1932.  (I should say was, the parody was cut from this version.)  I became rather obsessed with Valery in the early 90s and his “Mon Faust” was probably a bit of an inspiration.   Shouldn’t everyone do their own Faust opera?

I’ve drawn on a wide variety of scholarly and more popular literature on the era and the characters portrayed.

I have Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy – when I got it some years ago I didn’t know about the Pauli connection.  I also have Man and His Symbols, and Psychology and Eastern Religion.

What is your music training and history?

I have a bit of theory, music history, and formal training in electronic music composition. Otherwise I’m self taught, with thirty five years of playing piano semi-professionally.  I play guitar, trumpet, and hand percussion as well.

This is the first time I’ve written for voice and it’s a bit of an adventure.  I’m experimenting with a variety of methods and collaborative approaches.

I was in a jazz group Alien Time Ensemble that I thought of as “full spectrum” jazz;  we did free jazz,  standards,  weird mashups of Monk and Lou Reed (before Bad Plus made a big splash with indie rock covers).  We once played with an analog synth and power tools;  another time we played a wedding and learned “Girl from Impanema” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance”.  The couple never showed up.  A radio DJ heard us play once and shocked me by telling me my favorite jazz  artists were George Russell and Henry Threadgill, who were definitely high on my list at the time.  The best thing anyone ever said about the group was “We were lying in our tent (at a camping festival) and you played all the music”.   We also used promo material like “jazz at the edge of chaos” and had an alchemical woodcut for our CD cover.

How is the dream music done from a tech/programming standpoint?

It is built using python libraries for scientific computing (scipy, numpy)  and music (pyo).  There is remarkably little code involved, given the high level nature of scipy.

We’ve also used the pyQtGraph package which allows better coexistence of audio and graphics, and some openGL integration.

Pyo was chosen after a good deal of research because of the ease of doing CML and statistics in scipy and the fact that it is low level.  It doesn’t impose a model of composition, but does offer some levels beyond waveform synthesis.   Getting it to do music that’s not rigidly clocked is a bit painful.  More than a bit.   We have tried to tame the glitches.

How was the music produced?

It is all composed and rendered with software synths in Cubase,  including Pianoteq physical modeling piano, various physical modeling and sample libraries.

Are you a physicist?

In the larger pool of people who don’t have physics degrees or publications in peer reviewed physics journals, I’m a physicist.  My knowledge is focused in a few areas, and traditional quantum field theory is not one; I’ve been a bit, but not completely, surprised by the adoption of coupled chaotic maps as an underlying generator of waves and particles.  There is certainly precedent in the “particles” of Conway’s Life and Stephen Wolfram’s work.   I have been fortunate to have conversations with many physicists I admire whose work is related to the topics explored.  I’ve been an invited speaker at biophysics conferences, and was offered a job in 2001 at Riken Brain Science near Tokyo to work at the intersection of perception and physics.

I have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, which entails some knowledge of physics.   Nobody on my committee was comfortable with the physics content, so I had to get a physicist.  (His comments about how it might work were poetic:  “forgetting the difference” between different views of an object, which is something you expect chaos to do).  High dimensional coupled chaos and its structure forming properties was not well known outside a small complex systems community.  Genetic algorithms found something that worked, but it’s not easy to articulate what’s going on except in metaphoric terms, at least for the scientist I was in 2001.   I think now that permutation group theory might be an underlying explanation, but it wasn’t part of my training.  I’m comforted by discovering that Pauli felt inhibited early in his work by not understanding enough group theory.

I came of age in the era when chaos, nonlinear dynamics and complex systems theory was emerging, and read both popular literature and spent a lot of time in the physics library.  I co-taught a course on neuro-dynamics, which operated more like a journal club.

It is possible I may have a novel observation regarding formation of stable patterns domains in spatio-temporal dynamics during the course of working on the opera.

My dissertation involved simultaneously handling invariance in 3D object recognition,  treating the nonlinear waves and transients as a way of handling the binding problem.    Evolutionary learning (genetic algorithms) were used to find parameters to discover invariance, treating the statistics of images evolving in a CML as a metric space.

Given the constraints for representation,  categorization of objects in the metric space was emergent;  ‘paperclip’ objects with the same number of bends would wind up with similar representations in the space.

If I turn out eventually to have stumbled onto something significant that correlates well with neural function, there’s a slim chance I’ll get credit.  Advances in imaging and analysis methods are making it more likely that such a hypothesis could be confirmed or denied.  When I look at that work and the implications of  “emergent quantum mechanics”  it suggests the brain may function as a kind of multiverse generator, where a particular universes statistics are matched to some geometric invariant of objects in the world.  Nice!

More recently I’ve worked and published on methods of correcting for the effects of diffraction, and novelty detection via dictionary learning schemes.  While I haven’t found any literature, I expect that the latter topic could work it’s way into the modern science of dreams.  Basically you update a set of images used to compose other images, kicking old ones out, and introducing new ones as you encounter them if it improves the sparsity of coding.  

Do you have any background in psychology?

I have training in psychology of vision, cognitive science, neurolinguistics, and the anthropology and linguistics of symbolic forms.   I read science literature spanning psychology and physics, with some concentration on oscillations, nonlinear dynamics, perception and language.

Do you believe in synchronicity? 

More so than before I started this project.  One of the characters came to me as a surprising internet find, posted by someone when I was looking to fill a structural “hole”, when there was no obvious reason for me to be reading about her that day.  At first I assumed she was in the news because she had just died, but in fact she died several years previously.

Do you know anything about dream research?  Do you even dream?

I rarely remember my dreams.  When sleep deprived, I experience fairly vivid hypnogogic imagery which has inspired some technical ideas about visual imagery production.  I do have a lot of intense creative ideas on first waking that were likely developed in REM sleep.

I wanted to get a sense of mainstream dream research and looked at a recent book by William Domhoff,  who is involved with   He seemed to take the position that viewed across large pools there is little evidence for much in the way of deep meaning in dreams that would justify characterizing dream analysis as science.

There are many other dream databases under construction, including one dedicated to prophetic dreams.

But I defer to the mysteries as recounted in Pauli’s letters and the play.  I’ll recall that famous dictum from Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,  than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Musical odds and ends:

The first records I bought (asked mom to buy me) were Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly.

I played Free Bird un-ironically in a VFW bar when I was underage.  The same band also played an MC5 cover.

My gateways to jazz were Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, and groups like Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears.   I stood next to Todd Rundgren at a fire pit at Burning Man in 1999 or 2000 and didn’t really feel like chatting, strangely.  (Partly I was really out of touch with his work).

After playing Satellite of Love as though it were Lou Reed and Ornette Coleman covering Monk, I saw Ornette Coleman in New York.  Lou and Laurie came up to play Satellite of Love.

I performed live-coding around 1986 with a lisp system I wrote on an Amiga.

I have a cover band project “The Wrong Johnson” waiting to be rebooted in which I mainly sing and play guitar.  It has an overture and two acts, roughly blues and gospel, sin and redemption.  Sort of early 70s Stones Fixed.  I hope we play out sometime.

I played a couple of hours of improvised organ in the “Church Trap” installation at Burning Man in 2013.

I made a pilgrimage to see Olivier Messiaen play organ improvisations on a trip to Paris – alas the organ was under reconstruction and his health was poor.

I’ve been performing improvised piano and voice songs as part of a duet troupe Symphonic Taint since 2013.

I sometimes DJ and /or do visual music as Dr. Strangevibe.   It’s mainly world dance,  afro-brazilian funk etc.  For more loungy events I do jazz remixes,  bossa nova.  I do visual music or VJing and have lectured at Berklee School of Music on this topic.   The physics simulation system is a tool I’ve always wanted for VJing.

My first DJ event was a codeathon – a friend asked me to do it thinking I was a DJ, when really I was a laptop performer and rarely used samples of other music.

I’ve played improvised piano sets on the spur of the moment in New Orleans (the Funky Butt, when the performer didn’t show up to an after hours set) and Kyoto where I was visiting the Japanese telephone research lab talking about my graduate work.

Is there music that inspired you?

In recent years I’ve discovered and really respond to the “resonance” ideas espoused by Valentin Silvestrov, as well as much of his music.  He addresses the dilemma of how we’re thrown into the world of music with such a rich past, and how we engage that and continue to write beautiful music rather than seek novelty for its own sake.  I think I’d arrived at a similar philosophy, but he has expressed or justified it very well.

I’m not the first person to mention him in the same breath as Morton Feldman; it’s like romantic music is merrily rolling along until it stops to contemplate  a grain of sand, the transition between two notes magnified to near infinity.  Schnittke and Lutoslawski are antecedents in this style, the playful reworking of romantic and classical forms.  You hear it in Takemitsu as well, another composer I’ve enjoyed a lot in recent years.

The concert music I’ve listened to most in in the last two years is by Silvestrov (Arvo Part’s favorite) and Jehan Alain (Messiaen’s favorite overlooked composer).


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