Native American Perspectives in Music – Post #1 (1 of 2)

Although I was born in Chicago, I was raised in New Jersey.  I grew up at the end of a dead end street.  As a kid in Plainfield , NJ in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, my friends and I ran around the neighborhood visiting our neighbors, many of whom were first or second generation immigrants from around the world.  Being a skinny kid, my friends mothers wanted to fatten me up.  Every place I went I was fed.  And every house had different music being played.  So  I heard music from many places in the world.  I remember enjoying traditional Irish music, Louis Armstrong, Top 40, R&B, Motown, Tito Puente, The Beatles, Tom Jones, Wes Montgomery, Bossa Nova, Swedish folk songs,  Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, classical music, 1950′s Doo-Wop and rock and roll,  and more.

As a teenager, now living in a rural area of NJ,  I visited local libraries to read about and listen to more jazz than I could ever find at nearby stores.  Additionally, I also borrowed music anthologies released by The Library of Congress and The Smithsonian Institute.   These anthologies focused on music from various parts of the world.  I enjoyed these recordings and learned a bit about the music from the liner notes and learning songs by ear.   Some of these recordings were engineered by scholars trained in ethnomusicology.  However, most of these recordings were older than the established field of ethnomusicology and thus were made in a predecessor  discipline such as comparative musicology or folk song studies.  Although the distinctions are significant with respect to the scientific and cultural conditions employed during the learning and transmission of the research, it is not the purpose of this paper to delve into those distinctions here.  Future essays will.

This is the first of three papers originally written in the fall of 2011 for a course called, “Native American Perspectives in Music”. As a prerequisite for this course I studied Anthropology. My ‘go to” text was Anthropology: A Global Perspective by Raymond Scupin and Chris...

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Critical Theory And The End Of Noise – Post #1 – Reading Review #1 (2 of 2)

(this post is continued from last week)

Giving value to Noise allowed electronic music pioneers to experiment with and establish new forms of musical expressions. The innovative power of electronic music lies in the hands of those composers who use the medium for experimentation in order to scrutinize musical axioms. French composer, musicologist and experimental electronic pioneer Pierre Schaeffer coined “music concrete”; ‘concrete’ meaning “directly” as opposed to dealing with the detours of notation and conductors (xiii). Many influential musicians worked with Schaeffer in his electronic studio including Varèse, Györgi Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio. Composer Makis Solomos notes, “It is true that the electro-acoustic practice of the 1950s made Ligeti, Stockhausen, and Berio discover radical new ways of conceiving music in general, and that they applied these new ways of thinking to their instrumental music” (245). In this way composers used Noise as the sound upon which they would build from. In essence, this is the ‘grain’ that Barthes wrote about. Some composers were captivated by new sounds before they began experimenting with electro-acoustic music. Solomos notes, “Xenakis is more like Varèse, who wrote radically new music before the introduction of the new technology, a music that is no longer composed with sounds but composes the sound” (245). After World War II, new theories about music composition and production thrived simultaneously.

Iannis Xenakis

Iannis Xenakis

Solomos mentions, “I will say with [music theorist] Theodor Adorno that the evolution of the new, electro-acoustic means of artistic production converged with the independent evolution of music itself ” (245). The power of experimental music was found in the new Noise. Solomos notes, “With Xenakis, as with some other composers of his generation, music became partially experimental. A traditional composer is supposed to recreate, by means of “interior audition,” pre-existing sounds of course in new combinations...

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Critical Theory And The End Of Noise – Post #1 – Reading Review #1 (1 of 2)

End Of Noise, Theory on Post Modern JazzIn the winter of 2012 I took a course called “Critical Theory And The End Of Noise”.  This post, a reading review, is the first of six papers from that heading which will be published here.  These papers have been edited or modified since I originally wrote them.  I added a few commas and tied some points together a little better than before.    There is always more I could do, but my hero Bruce Lee is whispering in my ear , “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”  People get ready, a variety of high-brow and low-brow sources are cited.  Sheesh, this essay runs the gamut from German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin, to French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician Roland Barthes to French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic Michel Foucault to composer Edgard Varèse to French economist Jacques Attali to champion of experimental music Henry Cowell to French composer, musicologist and experimental electronic pioneer Pierre Schaeffer to music critic Simon Reynolds to pop singer Adele to prolific musician, writer and editor Merzbow.  The street artist Banksy wrote, “Some people criticize me for using sources that are a bit low brow but you know what? ‘I’m just going to use that hostility to make me stronger, not weaker’ as Kelly Rowland said on the X Factor.” Thanks Banksy!  Did you know that in 2013 my co-led trio TOTEM> released  a CD called “Voices Of Grain”?  Barthes and some other writers, but especially Barthes, sourced in the following paper,  inspired that title.  Thanks RB.  By the way, some readers may not know that I was fortunate to study with composer Gheorghe Costinescu who received a Ph.D. with distinction from Columbia University and also received a Post-Graduate Diploma from The Juilliard School, where his main teacher was Luciano Berio.   Berio was a student of Schaeffer...

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Publishing Schedule


old photo 48th street NYC

I have 18 papers that I’d like to publish here. I wrote these between 2011-2012 and have subsequently revised them a little bit for this blog. Some of these papers read more academically than others because I was exploring a variety of styles of technical academic writing.  My publishing schedule will be on an alternating cycle involving four topics or headings. Each heading has numerous essays: three to six. Furthermore, each essay may be divided into two or more parts which will be posted on consecutive weeks. So for the next six to twelve months, the topics or headings I’m going to cover include:


Critical Theory And The End Of Noise – 6 essays


Native American Perspectives in Music – 5 essays


Anthropology Of Music – 3 essays


“How and What I Learned” Essays:

  Music Composition and Structured Improvisation

            Theory and Harmony

            Western Music History From Antiquity Through The 18th Century

  Intro Guitar Technique and Advanced Guitar and Performance Techniques


Consequently, as the blog develops, I will post more about my own compositional strategies such as:

The Musical Atlas Of Inner Constellation

Development of String Quartet #1

Thanks for your interest and please stay tuned.

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Mission Statement

    This blog is about my involvement with music and functions as a forum of expression where I hope to illuminate how I engage with and use music. This is a big topic for me because I have been playing music, and specifically the guitar, for most of my life. For me, a guitar is an instrument for evolution and revolution.  An evolution of consciousness and self-realization through the manifestation, manipulation and use of sound.  Evolutionary processes give rise to a diversity of musical expression. These processes take place over relatively long periods of time.

    Furthermore, guitar and musical revolutions for me emerged from fundamental changes in power and organizational structures.  These changes took place in a relatively short period of time. Aristotle described two types of political revolution:

  1. Complete change from one constitution to another.
  2. Modification of an existing constitution.

    For me the “constitution” may be my own personality, the general musical marketplace, or the musical culture with which I participate.  Many of the essays I publish here will illuminate my personal course of evolution and revolution.

    People make music what it is. So for the most part, this blog is especially about how I make and use music with others. In this blog I’ll strive to touch on the ways in which I make music meaningful and useful in my life.

    My hope is that readers will be attracted to the diverse perspectives that I express about music, my own music history and the music history of others, my participation with other musicians, how and why I make music, music composition, improvisation, the economics of the music business, issues of identity and authenticity, guitars (probably lots about guitars!), guitar gear, recording and engineering techniques, new music technologies, sheet music, the books I’ve written and the books I’m working on, transcriptions, opinions, reviews, etc. My hope is that this blog helps you to think musically.

    I am uniquely qualified to talk about these su...

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