When asked what she’d be if she weren’t a poet, Salter said: “I’m a writer because I’m not a composer. That’s what I’d really love to be — a composer of long, complex symphonies and operas! To produce the wordless power of music, to move people in that way, has always seemed to me the highest artistic goal. I’m stuck with being better at words.”

From a post on The Writer’s Almanac on poet Mary Jo Salter.

Not playing chord changes, but changing this blog quite a bit. The goal is to make this not just a blog, but to bring together the material currently housed at jamesprimosch.com – which is currently not a WordPress site –  and the blog, which is. The important thing for readers of the blog is that the URL for this combined blog and general purpose webpage will become jamesprimosch.com. I will look into how to make the old WordPress URL re-direct to the new WordPress version of jamesprimosch.com. UPDATE: WordPress tells me the re-direct will happen automatically. I guess that means you don’t have to change your bookmark(?)

Most of the material from the old jamesprimosch.com is available via the menus at the top of the home page, along with some new material – reviews, for example. I am gradually transferring the links that used to appear in the right sidebar of the blog to the “links” pages accessible from the home page menu. I’ll also be adding more audio to the site. Please be patient as I gradually get things polished here.

It’s time for a little break from blogging, to resume in a few weeks. Here are a couple of  items for your consideration:

- Jed Perl makes the case for the “freestanding significance” of the arts. Whether it be scholars who care more about context than that which is being contextualized, or grant-giving foundations that think art is a delivery system for social services, rather than prioritizing artistic excellence, the pressure to “hyphenate” the arts is tremendous. UPDATE:  a typically thoughtful reply to Perl by Alex Ross here in which he lays out a wise middle ground. I don’t have anything to add about Wagner or Strauss, but I still think the scholarly and grant-giving pendulums has swung too far away from notes ‘n’ rhythms. If you want to help homeless people, it is probably more efficient to mop the floor at a shelter, than to write a string quartet, despite what some foundations seem to think.

- Nicholas Payton on a reprehensible, unfunny “humor” piece on the New Yorker website.

- I’ve added a video page above (see the links just below the blog’s header photo) so you can readily find YouTube performances of my music, including Times Like These and the Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus.

- Here’s a new organization that sounds pretty interesting.

- something interesting to me in the 1949 chart that accompanies this article is the listing of records in the “highbrow” row: “Bach and before, Ives and after”. I agree that this captures a certain sensibility, but I would never have guessed Ives would be a marker at that time. Stravinsky or Schoenberg or Bartok (records of music by the latter two are depicted in the chart), but Ives in 1949? True, the Concord had premiered in 1939, the Pulitzer was awarded in 1947. So maybe these brought him enough recognition to be cited in a chart of this kind? I don’t know what the Ives discography looked like at that moment, maybe there were more records of his music in 1949 than I would have thought.

- to make up for the lack of fresh posts on Think Denk, here is a recent piece by Denk on Ives, and here is an older one on Bach. The Bach score you will want to refer to is here.

- Hayes Biggs has a nice post on Mario Davidovsky and the Composers Conference here.

- some amusing procrastination devices here, here, and here.

Very happy to say that The Crossing‘s remarkable performance of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus has been posted on YouTube:

Many, many thanks to all the singers and to Donald Nally, the conductor for their fantastic work on this piece.

Read more about the Mass here, here, and here.

CD cover

Lisa Oberlander, clarinet, and Tatiana Muzanova, piano, will be performing my Times Like These this coming Sunday, August 3, as part of the International Clarinet Association‘s ClarinetFest 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This convention is a big deal in the clarinet world, with tons of concerts, lectures, exhibits, and so forth. Lisa’s performance will be part of a 12 noon recital in Shaver Theater on the campus of Louisiana State University.

Lisa, with pianist Yien Wang, has recorded the piece for Potenza Music. (That’s the lively cover art above.) The release is imminent, so far as I know; I’ll post the relevant links for getting the disc as soon as they become available. Lisa and Yien have a fabulous command of the piece; check out the video of their performance:



Originally commissioned and premiered by Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling, and recorded by them for Albany, Times Like These was recently published by the Theodore Presser Co. However, I don’t see it listed yet on their website, nor at Sheet Music Plus – if you are interested in the piece, I suggest contacting Judith Ilika, head of promotion at Presser: jilika@presser.com. I know they have the PDF file of the score that I sent to them, so be persistent and I’m sure they will eventually get you the music.

Kids have their summer reading lists, and I have my self-assigned summer listening list. There’s recent listening here that I have enjoyed, and also discs I haven’t gotten to yet, but am very interested to hear.

I wish I could offer more than a few words about some of the discs, but that’s not practical; at least this bare bones list makes you aware of a few options that you might have overlooked. While some of these are relatively new, many are not – it’s simply a list of what happens to be stacked around my desk at the moment.

Recently heard and enjoyed:

- Undercurrent: Bill Evans and Jim Hall.
Live at Blues Alley: Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Robert Hurst, Jeff “Tain” Watts.
The Great Divide: Von Freeman, Richard Wyands, John Webber, Jimmy Cobb. Freeman is an elder statesman of the tenor who was new to me.
Eternal Interlude: John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. Brilliant writing and playing. Much for “classical” composers to learn here.
An Exaltation of Larks: Jennifer Higdon; Lark Quartet, Gary Graffman, Blair McMillen, Todd Palmer.
Go: Dexter Gordon, Sonny Clark, Butch Warren, Billy Higgins.
Our Man in Paris: Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Pierre Michelot, Kenny Clarke.
This and Go are essential Blue Note classics. Check this re: Sonny Clark.

On deck:

- Crackpot Hymnal: Dimitri Tymoczko; Corigliano Quartet, Amernet Quartet, John Blackow, Kevin Weng-Yew Mayer, Daniel Schlossberg, Illinois Modern Ensemble, Stephen Taylor.
Beyond Quantum: Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Milford Graves
Written on Skin: George Benjamin; various artists.
Piano Music (1960-2010): Bernard Rands; Ursula Oppens, Robert Levin.
Time Machines: Sebastian Currier; Anne-Sophie Mutter, New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert (disc includes works by Penderecki and Rihm).
Clouds: Chou Wen-Chung; Brentano String Quartet, Boston Musica Viva.
Out of Chaos: Jason Eckardt; Ensemble 21.
Body Mandala: Jonathan Harvey; Anu Komsi, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov, Stefan Solyom.

The performances page has been updated, with dates now in place for spring concerts by Peggy Pearson/Winsor Music, and the Philadelphia Sinfonia. A few more events will likely flesh out the schedule a bit, including a possible performance of the Piano Quintet at Penn, and a revival of a motet at Emmanuel Church. I’ll also be participating in an Exquisite Corpse project for Network for New Music, but more about that in another post.