I had a great time at the symposium of the Philadelphia Avant-Garde Studies Consortium on December 7, 2018. I read my paper "Abstract Machines in Experimental Music," on the idea of the machine in the writings of Ross Ashby and parallels in the work of British composer John White. This is the first paper I've presented as part of my new research project on music, systems, and cybernetics in twentieth-century music.
My book Instruments for New Music has been reviewed by Erica Scheinberg in the journal Twentieth-Century Music. It's an excellent summary of the book, and includes some sound critiques as well. Here are a few excerpts:
Thomas Patteson’s monograph, based on his 2013 dissertation, brilliantly illuminates this fascinating but little-known chapter of German music history. Readers with special interest in the music of the Weimar Republic or the history of music technology no doubt will be captivated by the details of Patteson’s case studies. He describes the machines and careers of individuals who are often labelled ‘pioneers’ in surveys of electronic music, but whose experimental endeavours rarely have been described in detail in textbooks or scholarly literature.
Patteson’s book positions the ‘instruments for new music’ of its title not within a modernist historical trajectory, but as products of a particular time and place. Never before have the instruments of the 1920s and 1930s been so richly contextualized within a broader view of German intellectual thought. [...] Patteson conveys the status of the instruments within music institutions of the period: contemporary music festivals and radio exhibitions, the Bauhaus, the November Group artists’ organization, and the research departments established in 1928 at the Berlin Academy of Music and the Berlin Institute of Technology. He also situates the new instruments and their reception with respect to the German national politics of the interwar period. [...] As musicologists today seek to de-emphasize and demystify the archetype of the ‘genius’ composer, Patteson’s book presents an approach to music history that is neither composer- nor work-centric.
Winner of the American Musicological Society’s 2017 Lockwood Award, which recognizes a ‘book of exceptional merit’ published by an early career scholar, Instruments for New Music is an essential book for anyone who studies, writes about, or teaches topics in music technology, modernism, or Weimar culture. Patteson beautifully summarizes concepts in German intellectual history without assuming that his reader has read the relevant texts, and he includes many accessible technical discussions of the music machines and processes he writes about, breaking concepts down for readers and not assuming advanced understanding of the principles of electricity and engineering. Patteson has published the book with Luminos, the University of California Press’s open-access publishing programme for monographs, which no doubt will encourage a wide range of readers to explore this fascinating book.
Karlheinz Stockhausen's monumental composition cycle KLANG will be performed (twice) this weekend at FringeArts in Philadelphia and I'll be along for the ride, giving a few short talks, interviewing performers, and hearing as much of the music as I can.
I wrote a very short blog post for University of California Press to explain why I chose open access publishing for my book Instruments for New Music.
My book Instruments for New Music has won the 2017 Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society, which recognizes "a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career." Thanks to the AMS for this honor and (again) to all the people who helped make this book possible.
One of my favorite composers of all time, Roland Kayn (1933-2011) has a lovely new website, and my essay about his music is prominently featured in the bibliography section. Go check it out now!
This post is long overdue, but better late than never! For the last 18 months or so, I've been working closely with Dustin Hurt, Liz Huston, and a great group of Philly musicians to launch a new ensemble dedicated to presenting experimental and "contemporary classical" music in Philadelphia.
The Arcana New Music Ensemble officially launched in June 2016 with concerts of Moondog and Morton Feldman. We are just wrapping up our first full season, which featured the music of Galina Ustvolskaya, John Cage, Julius Eastman, Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, George Lewis, and many more, plus collaborations with local groups Prometheus Chamber Orchestra and Variant Six.
Part of the concept behind Arcana is that the musicians themselves are involved in the planning and programming of concerts, in particular through a series called "Begin Anywhere," which is organized entirely by musicians.
For more background, check out this article from last year, which gives a good introduction and includes video clips from the Moondog concert.
Thanks to everyone who came out for my four-part lecture/workshop series "Humanophone" at thefidget space in Philadelphia. Here's a brief description of the event:
HUMANOPHONE: Toward an Algorithmic Music for Humans
“I like two things, clarity and complexity, which are almost mutually exclusive.” – Christian Wolff
How can we formulate clear, elegantly stated rules that both constrain performance and allow for surprises and meaningful contingencies of form? How can we create musical frameworks that are robust and flexible with regard to the number of performers, instruments, levels of skill, and venue? How can principles such as iteration and feedback enable simple musical interactions to generate complex results?
In this series of events, we will explore the possibility of algorithmic, emergent, rule-based, and generative forms of music performable by human beings. The goal is to work toward an idiom in which the sophistication of certain post-1950 practices is fused with the social and collaborative aspects of vernacular music-making. Although we will consider such relevant historical and theoretical phenomena as cybernetics, cellular automata, change-ringing, and the American experimental music tradition, the focus will be on making music, with an eye to laying the foundation for an enduring performance collective.
Each session will consist of a mix of discussion and workshop performances of model compositions and new works contributed by group members. Participants are encouraged (but not required) to take part in both components.
I had a great time at AHEM at the Science Museum in London, where I presented my paper on organic and mechanical metaphors for musical instruments. Great group of people and a fun exchange of ideas!