Brian Eno: Active Surrender

Brian Eno (Photo by Matthew Anker) A category of music referred to as “ambient”—made popular by musicians including Brian Eno, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, The Orb, Aphex Twin, Tangerine Dream, Popul Vuh—is often coupled with the music of the “holy minimalists”—Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Górecki, Alan Hovhaness and Sofia Gubaidulina. Whether electronic or contemporary […]

Slow Gestations

Images of emergence: Hall’s Pond in January The gestation of a project or a body of work—how it starts, forms and then comes into existence—is mysterious and unpredictable. Some jump into their fullness quickly, in a flash. My poet friend Nicole Long describes this process as egg-like: A whole thing that emerges out of us […]

The Proud and Futile Wake

Continuing the theme of music and its multifarious explorations… I follow with my eyes the proud and futile wake. Which, as it bears me from no fatherland away, bears me onward to no shipwreck. –Samuel Beckett, Molloy What an evocative quote to start Alex Ross‘ most recent book, Listen to This. His columns in The […]

Forms Change

Robert Plant I call it “squinting”—you will have your own term. You’ve chosen a favorite musician, probably in your teen years, and the relationship grows through awkward phases…Along the way, you find yourself squinting to keep seeing what made you fall in love…In pop music, which is a worse deal for the aging than painting […]

Coyne’s Law

Lowell Lieberman, composer My sister Rebecca is a musician and composer, and I’ve been piggybacking off of her exquisite ear for most of my life. She first introduced me to the music of Lowell Lieberman 20 years ago and we have followed his music making with a quiet reverence ever since. His approach to tonality […]

Something to Fasten Upon

Sarah McLachlan in 1998. Her 2010 Lilith Fair tour has had to cancel dates. Lady Gaga, whose influence is pervasive among many female pop singers. (Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage—Getty Images; Andy Paradise/Associated Press) Sincerity. I knew it was beleaguered but who knew it was on life support? The Sunday Times‘ Arts & Leisure above-the-fold article is […]

Wisdom Teacher

A few remembrances from the inimitable John Cage: “The sound experience I prefer to all others is silence,” he says in this short clip on You Tube. And for most of us on the planet, says Cage, the sound of silence is actually traffic. He rhapsodizes that the sound of traffic is constantly modulating and […]