Quick Links and News: (1) The MacArthur (so-called “genius”) grants were awarded this past week, among the recipients UC San Diego history professor Emily Thompson, “an interdisciplinary scholar whose work focuses on the often-overlooked subject of sound and fills an important gap in contemporary American history, reaching into domains as diverse as urban design and cinema studies” (macfdn.org). From her webpage at the UCSD website: “Her research explores the cultural history of sound, music, noise, and listening, and focuses on how these phenomena and activities intersect with technologies like the phonograph, motion pictures, and architecture.” Her book The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933 was published by MIT in 2002. Her Music Quarterly article “Machines, Music and the Quest for Fidelity: Marketing the Edison Phonograph in America, 1877-1925” inspired Tone Test, a chamber opera by Nicholas Brooke that premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival in July 2004 (operaprojects.org/tonetest.htm). Author Jonathan Lethem, whose fiction and non-fiction have both referenced Brian Eno, also won a MacArthur. … (2) William Thompson helped pay for his degree in music by joining the National Guard. Deployed in Iraq, he is composing music on his Apple laptop and uploading it to the web at wativ.com. (Thanks to Rob for the tip.). … (3) NPR on the military’s sonic weaponry (npr.org), plus (4) a science-art project using sound and other factors to conduce parapsychological phenomena (haque.co.uk), both via boingboing.net. … (5) Sound performances with fluorescent light bulbs (at createdigitalmusic.com). … (6) The Internet Archive, at archive.org, which contains a massive collection of freely downloadable netlabel releases, has reorganized its homepage, emphasizing four key categories, two of which are the live concert archive and the general audio archive. … (7) Highlights from the upcoming season at the Miller Theatre in New York: George Antheil‘s Dream ballet (October 7); Alarm Will Sound‘s John Adams retrospective (December 3); a Gyorgy Ligeti festival (various dates), which will include a cadenza by John Zorn; a Giacinto Scelsi 100th-birthday celebration (November 4); Magnus Lindberg (March 24); and an evening focused on African and European musical exchanges, featuring work by Kevin Volans, Iannis Xenakis, Steve Reich and others (January 21). More info at millertheatre.com. … (8) Six members of Roxy Music are pictured on the cover of The Thrill of It All, David Buckley‘s band biography published earlier this year; Brian Eno is not among them. (Thanks to Eric for the tip.) … (9) The state of music education, courtesy of Kyle Gann (artsjournal.com/postclassic): “Yesterday I started to tell a class about this Greek composer named Iannis Xenakis, and someone piped up, ‘You mean Yanni?’ Whew.”
… Good Reads: (1) What’s Matthew Herbert up to? Sampling cancer (mg.co.za). … (2) An overview of the Decibel Fest in Seattle (thestranger.com). … (3) An overview of the Washington, D.C., area’s experimental scene (washingtonpost.com), covering, among others, Scott Allison, Pete Blasser and Mikroknytes. (Thanks to Mike for the tip.) … (4) Bob Moog spoke with the magazine Robotspeak (robotspeakmagazine.com) about making theremins as a kid, people who he felt pushed the envelope of his namesake synthesizer, and the downside of analog electronics.
… Select New Releases: A few new releases of note this week: (1) Are You (Variations) from minimalist Steve Reich (Nonesuch). … (2) Some websites suggest that Robert Pollard‘s soundtrack to the new Steven Soderbergh movie, Bubble (Recordhead), is due out Tuesday, though others list it as an October release. … (3) Vladislav Delay‘s The Four Quarters (Huume).
… Keeping Score: (1) Philip Glass is reportedly scoring The Inner Life of Martin Frost, a film to be directed by author Paul Auster. … (2) David Holmes (Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven) has scored The War Within, about a suicide bomber, directed by Joseph Catelo. … (3) Raz Mesinai has scored Sorry, Haters, a post-9/11 drama starring Robin Wright Penn. … (4) Gustalvo Santaolalla (The Motorcycle Diaries) is attached to North Country, about the first sexual harassment case in the United States.
… Disquiet Heavy Rotation: (1) Due out October 10, Christopher Bissonnette‘s stellar Periphery (Kranky) is acoustic-derived ambient music, built from recordings of piano and orchestra. … (2) Steve Reich‘s Are You (Variations) (Nonesuch) includes his usual, excellent mallet-driven minimalism, plus a piece for eight cellos, performed by one cellist to taped accompaniment. … (3) The Disquiet Downstream entry of the week was Pestopan‘s tasty “Bon Appetit,” for sampled guitar, turntable and beats (link).
… Quote of the Week: The quote of the week was an extended silence. Ray Kurzweil, the keyboard inventor and deep-futurist, was lecturing Friday evening at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, as part of the Long Now Foundation’s free series. The subject was that of Kurzweil’s new book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, how change occurs over time at an exponential, rather than merely linear, rate. In an apparent attempt to emulate the topic at hand, he spoke rapidfire throughout, spewing streams of data about human evolution and technological adoption and what it means when the two meet up. In the Q&A session at the close of his talk, a question from Stewart Brand brought Kurzweil to a sudden, silent, uncharacterisic halt. The question was, What does Kurzweil think should remain slow?