New Music Gathering 2018, Day 2

Blue Dracula?

I totally screwed up the day!  My first events began at 2pm, after lunch.

I arose at 6am, able to sleep no longer.  I had coffee and breakfast and completed a crossword.  It was early, I went back to bed thinking I’d get up again in 10 minutes to shower.

I slept for 3 hours.

I attended Chamber Music Grab Bag II.  Transient Canvas completed the set with wow.  They will have a new album out this Fall.  I’ll need to check that out, and maybe you, too.  You cannot believe what a marimba and bass clarinet can do on their own until you hear it yourself.  I will offer a taste, but nothing compared to the meal they shared live.

I attended the Journalism Panel, What we Write About when we Write about New Music.  Hosted by Amanda Cook ( and Zoe Madonna (Boston Globe).

Generally, they reinforced some of my own thoughts.  Write so people can read and support musicians needing the love and exposure.  The mission at Community Noise is simply write about anything I want to write about, but I’m definitely trying to support new talent that I come across – from different musical avenues.  At the Live Music Project, we are more focused.  We support live music in the classical and contemporary realms and write about the people, ensembles, and programs that need and deserve attention.

My personal mission is to learn to write interesting things – imagery, phrasing, stories; whatever “interesting” means in the moment.

I CARE IF YOU LISTEN sounds like a great institution.  All volunteer writers – about 50 across the US and a couple of international contributors – produce articles about live shows, ensembles, and record releases.  I’ll be checking them out.  Maybe someday I can write something for them, too.

There was a great line attributed to Mike Hall (?) a violist attending NMG2018, “Be indispensable to the community, not just somebody on the stage.”  That’s words that each of us can use in everything we do in our life.

Finally, I ended my participation with Concert II (not Concert I) in the Concerts in Parallel section.  (it’s too dark to take notes in these concert halls – I need one of those pen lights.)  F-Plus was good.   A composition, Weft, by Mischa Salkind-Pearl, for violin, harmonica, and found objects was brilliant.  A little bit of performance art and some beautiful music provided tender moments.

Tenth Intervention, featuring Paul Pinto, brought the house down with Eight Songs for a Mad King.  In fact, he was not a Blue Dracula, as the picture seems to suggest, only a mad king.

Tomorrow will come again.  I should have a fuller day immersed in new music.


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New Music Gathering 2018, Day 1

This is the fourth year for New Music Gathering, a summit of composers and musicians that work in the classically-trained, contemporary music sphere.  I am neither a composer nor a musician; there appears to be a small handful of us “other”.  (I am accustomed to being part of the “other”, part of my punk ethos.)  This year, the Boston Conservatory at Berklee is hosting the event.  (I am a huge, life-long, Red Sox fan, which has no bearing on anything, except I am watching a game on TV as I type this.)

The morning of Day 1 began with a short, maybe 60-second, introduction and welcome, then bang! the first musical exercise.  Stephen Miles, of Sarasota Florida, introduced us to his idea for “social virtuosity”.  (Go ahead, say, “Sarasota” aloud; there’s hardly a better oral sensation.)  This is not a virtuosity of performance; it is a virtuosity of listening and participating.  Try to take in the whole.  “Pitch Chess”, designed for anyone who wants to participate, is an exercise that governs space, movement, and sound.

A center line (blue tape) is marked across the stage, the “central flame”.  Every participant begins on the center line, singing the same tone.  Then, consider a grid; each participant may choose to move downstage (towards the audience) or upstage, or move stage left or stage right.  If the participant moves downstage, they must sing a higher note; upstage a lower note.  If someone moves between a higher note and the center line, then they must sing a note in between.  Et cetera.

I did not sing.  (Even though Stephen implored us that the participant does not need to be “a singer”, I was spared due to space constraints of the room, and wily maneuvering farther and farther back, behind everyone else.)

Interestingly, individual personalities come out.  One person might test their range, moving downstage, and then all the way back upstage.  I noted a woman, with pink hair, continually moving downstage, downstage, downstage; showing off the high range.

Even from the back of the room, this is an immersive experience.  Fun!

(I’m skipping a lot of content, hitting those things that I want to address this evening.)

Helga Davis gave the keynote address.  Danny Felsenfeld introduced her, saying she once delivered a version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” that fit today.

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on

A long way from “Sweet Jane”, but I love that song, damn, could Lou Reed write a line.

It was an odd keynote, in that, Helga did not lecture, really, as much as ask questions and solicit audience participation.

That’s inclusion.

Helga finished the hour with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”; while I cannot reproduce that for you, imagine a song, any song, close your eyes, and imagine what she might do with your song:

Lou Reed is never far from my consciousness, and I cannot get him out of my mind now.  Let’s take a break and listen to this.

Finally, I happened to meet Dean Rosenthal.  He gave me a flier, a composition, for you, me, everyone, anyone to perform.  Check out this piece at  There’s taste of the fluxus movement going on here, a breath of Yoko Ono.  Cool guy.  Cool idea.


I feel like we need a third song, at least, to close the article.  NMG put Lou Reed in my mind, so let’s listen to a Velvet Underground song, except, sort of honoring Helga Davis, let’s listen to the fucked-up version by Cowboy Junkies.


[A quick note about the lead photo.  I came into Boston a day early and hung out with my nephew, who lives here.  I snapped a photo of a seemingly appropriate book that I bought.]

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