For some time now, I’ve described “experimental music” 1 as a social club that sometimes puts on concerts and engages in other activities. Describing it as a club may make it seem exclusive, when, in fact, it’s very inclusive. All you have to do is show up, and if you keep showing up, you’re part of the club. No one is going to invite you to be a member, but neither are they going to disinvite you.
I remember the first time I met Mari. She came to one of these hour-long piano concerts that Michael Pisaro did at CalArts. I don’t remember exactly what that one was, but it might have been, for instance, pieces by Tim Parkinson, James Saunders, Laurence Crane, etc., or maybe it was stuff by wandelweiser composers, or whatever – this is what I mean; I remember the club, not the specific pieces on the specific day. Mari was just looking for an evening’s activity, and saw this listing of a concert of piano music, so she came. She’d never heard stuff like that before, and she loved it. She kept coming back to these concerts we put on, and then, eventually, she started playing with us (I remember working with her, Mark So, and Madison Brookshire on parts for Christian Wolff’s “Changing the System,” in a CalArts practice room). After that, she started making scores, some of which have dedications in them. That’s the topic of this article; dedication(s).
Along with personal anecdotes, like the one about meeting Mari, I’ve also made a graph of a network of people who composers have written dedications to in their scores. Dedications exist in scores in myriad ways, but the most common is in a liminal way – somewhere between title and notation. What counts as a dedication in a score? This liminal nature of it means there is no firm answer. When considering this, I’ve had to come up with some of my own rules. I think if the words “to ___ (person)” or “for ___ (person)” are in the score, that’s certainly a dedication. To begin my work on this graph, I sent the following email to those composers and performers I have dedicated works to:
I’m working on a magazine article about the function of personal dedications within musical scores, and I’m hoping that you’ll have some information that will help me with this. Along with the text for the article, I’m making a chart of the networks that are established between individuals through these dedications. So, if you would be so kind as to let me know of any scores you have dedicated to individuals or of scores dedicated to you, please let me know, and it may make it into the chart.
To be clear, the dedication must be mentioned in the score. Just knowing that a piece was written for you doesn’t cut it – I’m looking for things that can be confirmed through the score as documentation. Further, in this instance, I’m only interested in dedications to individuals, as I’m interested – in the case of this chart – with networks of individuals. So, a piece dedicated to an ensemble that you’re in doesn’t cut it. A piece dedicated to a non-musician, however, is. So, something “For Samuel Beckett” is good, “For John” is good (especially if you could tell me who the particular John was… ), but “for Toyota drivers” is not.
In some cases I’ve found this information in catalogues and composers’ works lists, but this information isn’t always included in those, as the dedication seems to exist in this liminal space between title and notation (something else that I’ll touch on in the article, but that I covered in greater detail in an earlier paper). Any information that you might have that could help would be appreciated.
Some people responded, some didn’t, and some I couldn’t get ahold of. So, this is admittedly an incomplete mapping of this network of dedications. However, I think it is still a proof of how this network springs into being through positive affirmations made by composers of individual personal relationships.
For your project I have lots of candidates. All “to”s and “for”s are stated on title pages (I may not remember exactly which is “to” and which is “for”). […] I’ve probably missed some dedications (can’t look over all those scores). […]
For Cornelius (1983)
Long Peace March (1986-7) to (the memory of) KW [= Kurt Wolff, my father]
For Morty [Feldman] (1987)
Emma (1988-9), to the memory of Emma Goldmann
[…] John, David (orchestra + per solo), are in memoriam Cage and Tudor (but only referred to in title) […] Also Keyboard Miscellany is made up mostly of short dedicatory pieces often for occasions like birthdays, sometimes memorials.
The list includes Alvin Lucier, John Ashbery, Charles Dodge, Jackson MacLow, Takehisa Kosugi, Daniel Goode, and a variety of family members and friends.
[…] sounds like a nice project, but sorry, there’s too many from and to in my case, and too long a life, it would make a kind of serious research project, one that I can’t really undertake now. There are hundreds, and list-making is maybe not high on my list as I get older and time gets more precious. You’re welcome to go through my list of scores on my website and pull out things though. Nice idea.
The most recent composers I’ve been working with don’t write scores, like Pascale Criton and Eliane Radigue. I had some dedications from Philip Corner, Marco Marinoni, Tim Parkinson, for solo and duo works.
I don’t really remember it, but I met Deborah Walker at an improv gig on a boat in Paris. I was in town to do my opera, and Tonia Makatsianou and I went to this gig. Well, Deb and I then really met in an elevator in Brussels. We got to talking and realized that we’d met the year before at that one gig.
I remember Charles Curtis saying in 2007 that Eliane Radigue didn’t make a score for the piece she wrote for him, but simply taught him how to play it through conversation. That’s how I’ve heard she works in general on her recent instrumental pieces, however I’ve got this picture from Rhodri Davies:
He sent it to me when I asked him about dedications, when I asked whether or not it was a score, he wrote, “re: OCCAM I – you are right there is no score. Radigue drew this score after the piece was finished as an aid to remember.”
For my purposes, I would call that a score, so Eliane Radigue is in my graph, as others in the network have dedicated works to her. I think it’s important to note, because of cases like this, that this graph isn’t an attempt to present an entire community, and not even a way that the entire community could be presented. However, it is one of the few ways that we within this community can assert a place within it.
It’s funny how composers make scores. Some make scores and give them to performers, and that’s the the end of that. Some make pieces without scores (like Eliane Radigue), and may only later make a score. John Lely seems to often take a middle ground, constantly refining scores based on performer feedback. I only ever change my scores when there’s a pronounced grammatical or logical problem with the notation. I did this with a piece that was initially part of a suite for a flutist and three percussionists – it became the piece “hocketting,” which is part of my larger group of pieces “Odd Objects.” It was Christian Wolff who pointed out the problems with the original score.
I think I met both Rhodri Davies and Lee Patterson one night in a pub in Huddersfield (the pub was the Rat and Ratchet. For a time, they had a landlord who was a musician. He would put things into the pub quiz about John Cage and stuff, but I never won, as I know next-to-nothing about famous English footballers). We were fast friends. I also met Charlemagne Palestine that night – he was a riot, but his wife dragged him away from me. He elbowed me quite a bit. Years later, when I was in Brussels for a time, I looked him up, and he invited me over to his house for “whiskey time.” We drank booze (uncharacteristically, I think I drank a fine grappa over my normal whiskey) and talked about music, travel, stuffed animals, etc.
The project is interesting in terms of my own practice not to include dedications in my scores. I have always refrained from this practIce because years ago I regarded it as a maintaining of conventions as an act of underlining the structure composer – performer. I was always interested in pure material to be solely constitutional for a score be it just dashes, dots or words.
At our (Stefan, Jürg Frey, Manfred Werder, and I) concert in Winterthur (at the amazing Villa Stäuli), Stefan Thut gave me a small bottle of pre-prohibition absinthe. Of course I know the “proper” way to drink absinthe, but I still made him take a small shot from the bottle with me. He and I played a duet that night – a piece for which I still haven’t finished a score (it’s called “homophones”). When I composed it, I was thinking of – through a long series of thoughts that composers go through – Rhodri and Angharad Davies, but, perhaps when/if I finish the score, I should dedicate it to Stefan.
We’re all drawing on something to make our work – we’re all drawing on the work of other composers, performers, etc. The question is how we choose to acknowledge this, both publicly and privately.
Just acknowledging that we are drawing on the material of others is not the same as making a dedication – we are always drawing on the material of others, as we are not composing in a vacuum. So, for my purposes of what to include in this graph Udo Kasemets’ “Guitarmusic for John Cage” counts, but his “Elaborations on Erratum musical of Marcel Duchamp” does not.
It’s interesting to note in cases like James Saunders’ piece “with the same material or still, to vary the material” which includes a bit in the score called “program note” which mentions that it was written for Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes – as it’s in the score, I think it works as a dedication.
Sometimes we don’t know, and likely won’t know who these dedicatees are. I have no idea who “Marilyn, Brian, Mike and the cats” are in Michael Finnissy’s piece of that name, but they’re probably real people and real cats (the poor cats don’t even get name-checked. For shame, Mr. Finnissy. Cats command respect – or maybe you’re just respecting their privacy. Cats can often be very private). In Michael Pisaro’s “to coco,” I know that coco was a real cat, because I met her. She was cross-eyed. James Tenney had a cat named Smokey, but I don’t think anyone ever dedicated a piece to him. He was a really good cat though.
My point is that these things are personal – they may seem like formalized relationships between a composer and performer or a token gesture to someone who has commissioned a work, but when this same space of dedication also is given to individuals outside of that territory, I think it highlights just how personal it is as an act in general.
I know, for instance, when looking through James Fulkerson’s list of works that “Five Pages for Petr K., any ensemble, 1970” is for Petr Kotik – what other Petr K. could it possibly be for?! I’m not so sure about other things – people who know the history of contemporary choreography as well as I know that of contemporary composition may easily recognize dedicatees by composers who often work with dancers. I know lots of bartenders though. Not so many people dedicate pieces to bartenders, but some do (when I was asking Mark So to elaborate on the people some of his pieces are dedicated to, I’m pretty sure one was a bartender).
I remember asking my friend Alex (musician/musicologist Alexandra Richardson, that is) if she was going out, and she responded with something like, “I’m going home, but everyone else is at the office.” That of course meant that everyone else was at the bar we always went to, and “we/everyone” meaning the crew we ran with. In this case it wasn’t really the experimental music crew, but rather the Huddersfield rock/garage/soul music crew, but it’s about the same – besides, Alex and composer Richard Glover were both keyboard players in the soul band, Fat Stanley, at various times, and composer Chris Ruffoni was their trumpet player.
There was basically an entire year where I didn’t leave Huddersfield. I left once for some immigration bullshit in Sheffield, and once to see a Nam June Paik exhibition in Liverpool, as a sort of field trip with edges ensemble. My favourite part of the exhibition wasn’t any of the work (as good as it was), but the various ephemera related to the work, like letters between him and George Maciunas (I remember that one included a funny little drawing of a crashed car). On the train ride home, I sat next to Maria Gkotzampagiouki – she was surprised that I wasn’t British and had to deal with all of this immigration bullshit. I’m now writing a piece for her, dedicated to her.
I thought I had avoided dedications so far. It seemed to me to contain too much pathos when a piece is dedicated to someone. But I had a look and noticed, there are dedications noted in some scores. Mainly dedications to the performers who first performed the pieces, especially when they commissioned them. So, apart from ensemble dedications there are dedications to individuals only in solo works of mine. […] 1999/2002, “zunge lösen [releasing the tongue]”, “for Karl” — this is the only true dedication: Karl Kesten-Jahr is my older brother. The dedication is followed by a quote of my sister, and a quote of J.D. Salinger, a writer my younger brother was really into at a certain period. The piece might have been a statement to clarify my own family system at that time. (But only for me, and nobody can read that when listening/seeing the piece — that’s what I call ‘pathos’.)
Looking through Mark So’s works, many of which are dedications, I asked if Soriano Uy So was a family member of his, to find out that it was his father. I nearly left it off of my list of names, as it wasn’t likely that another composer would have dedicated a work to him, but then I found Mari’s Recollections, which is “for Mark and his father.”
I first met Mark So at Canter’s Deli, in Los Angeles. I had dinner or coffee with him, Mike Richard (who was already a friend), and a man whose name I can’t remember. It was either before or after a California Ear Unit concert at LACMA. Mark was circulating a text he’d written, denouncing the Getty Centre.
Simply using a name as a title is something I would consider to be a special kind of dedication – that’s definitely how it seems to be done by some composers. Numerous of Mark So’s works are examples, but to pin some things down, consider Marc Sabat’s Gioseffo Zarlino lying in the same place as his Bob Gilmore, Elisabeth Smalt. People separated by hundreds of years may take the same place in a composer’s work. Of course they can’t take the same place in life, but this is how we can demonstrate both that we have a real, undeniable history, and a chosen, asserted history.
Those who a composer dedicates pieces to can tell you a lot about that composer – who/what they consider to be important to their own background. By tracing these connections between people, we may discover a sort of liminal background; one’s practice may be indirectly informed through this series of connections; rather – perhaps more pointedly – this is culture – this is how culture is made, no?
Malcolm Goldstein’s a cultivation of field (for Morton Feldman) (2005) was written decades after Feldman’s death, which in a way brings it in line with a work written by Mark So dedicated to Feldman. Goldstein, however, also wrote “Sounding the Fragility of Line (in memoriam Morton Feldman)” in 1988, when Mark was just a child and not involved in composition.
The following people are included in the accompanying graph:
Jennifer Walshe, Sarah Hughes, Mat Martin, Ryoko Akama, Christopher Cundy, Martijn Voorvelt, André Cormier, Deborah Walker, Tim Parkinson, Dominic Lash, Scott Mc Laughlin, Daniel James Wolf, Harold Budd, Franz Schubert, Linda Catlin Smith, Udo Kasemets, Malcolm Goldstein, Philip Corner, Lou Harrison, Irene Kurka, Taku Sugimoto, Daniel Brandes, Aaron Copland, Dick Higgins, Charlotte Moorman, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Elliot Carter, Charles Curtis, Larry Polansky, Philip Thomas, Pete Seeger, Erik Satie, Jasper Johns, Daniel Goode, Jackson MacLow, John Ashbery, Takehisa Kosugi, Frederic Rzewski, Stefan Wolpe, Gordon Mumma, Rainer Maria Rilke, Eliane Radigue, Samuel Beckett, David Tudor, Howard Skempton, Nam June Paik, Bunita Marcus, Luke Storm, Andrew Tholl, Earle Brown, Giacinto Scelsi, Alison Knowles, Andrew McIntosh, Alvin Lucier, Emmett Williams, Stéphane Mallarmé, Anastassis Philippakopoulos, Arthur Jarvinen, Christian Kesten, Istvàn Zelenka, Eva-Maria Houben, George Brecht, Soriano Uy So, Christa Graf, Giuseppe Chiari, Merce Cunningham, Mari, Patrick Farmer, Manfred Werder, Robert Ashley, Pauline Oliveros, Petr Kotik, Dante Boon, Socrates, Arnold Schoenberg, Boudewijn Buckinx, John McAlpine, James Fulkerson, Tobias Liebezeit, Ernstalbrecht Stiebler, André Möller, Louis Couperin, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Anthony Fiumara, Blinky Palermo, Andrew Toovey, Antonin Artaud, Aki Takahashi, Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, Jessica Catron, Anton Lukoszevieze, Sebastian Berweck, Laurence Crane, Joseph Kudirka, Mark So, Rhodri Davies, Cassia Streb, April Guthrie, Jason Brogan, Michael Pisaro, Jürg Frey, Taylan Susam, James Orsher, John Lely, Antoine Beuger, Mauser, James Saunders, Ben Patterson, Christian Wolff, Tashi Wada, Christine Tavolacci, James Tenney, Stephen “Lucky” Mosko, Sam Sfirri, Cornelius Cardew, Radu Malfatti, Agnes Martin, Stefan Thut, Craig Shepard, Kathy Pisaro, Morton Feldman, Marc Sabat, La Monte Young, Bob Gilmore, Ben Johnston, Adam Overton, Catherine Lamb, Michael Finnissy, Andrew Sparling, Michael Parsons, Charles Ives, James Clapperton, Igor Stravinsky
One name on the graph can take many places, depending on the personal (or not) relationships that person had to others. I know Mark So, James Saunders, Taylan Susam, Christian Wolff… I don’t know Alison Knowles, Linda Catlin Smith, Daniel Brandes… I didn’t know John Cage, David Tudor, or Nam June Paik. I did know James Tenney, Arthur Jarvinen, and Lucky Mosko. I did see – many times, when I stayed in their studio – the beautiful drawing Alison Knowles made of Lucky and Dorothy’s wolf-dog, Nadya (I knew their dogs well enough).
I don’t want anyone to mistake what I’m doing here for musicology; musicology, I imagine, is far more formal, far better documented, and doesn’t involve quite so many tears. I just want to tell you about what’s important to me. Experimental music is important to me, but it’s primarily important to me because of the people I’ve been able to share it with.
It is not only because he was an important musician, performer, and theorist that Jim Tenney is revered by those who knew him. Jim was a downright wonderful person. Period. I believe it is because he didn’t play The Game that he never got the wider recognition that he deserved. He had other, much more important things to do…
My first exposure to Jim’s music, through Barney Childs, was “Blue Suede”. This was before it was commercially available. When Barney introduced it, it was with the hushed tones of a clandestine event: this work was an unauthorized use of a popular song and may not exactly be within legal bounds. (It was played to us before “plunderphonics” gained the ire of Michael Jackson’s mob, before Negativland’s woes, and before the common use of appropriation.) It was auditioned off of a 7-inch reel-to-reel tape – kind of like it was a single on its own. After some discussion about the piece (and there was plenty to think about for those of us just getting our fingers dirty with the splicing block), we were regaled with stories of Jim’s exploits which, yes indeed, included a bit of drinking. I think the Redlands New Music Ensemble scheduled a performance of a piece called “In Case of Beer…” which is dedicated to Tenney 2 , if I’m not mistaken.
Thankfully, many of Jim’s friends and former students helped get the word out about his work. The two most important for me where Jim Fox who published one of my favorite Tenney pieces — “Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow” – on his label Cold Blue, and Larry Polansky, who introduced me and my peers to “META Meta/Hodos” (Frog Peak) at Mills. 3
Everyone is the son of many fathers. There was the father we hated, which was surrealism. And there was the father we loved, which was dada. We were the children of both. 4
If this is true, in my case, it’s maybe clear there’s the parentage that I don’t really embrace – that of the “classical” music world. It’s there; the liminal connections exist. Then, there’s this parentage that I do embrace, which is that of the world of the composers and performers who I was drawn to outside of what I was taught in school, my colleagues, and those composers I chose to study with (I think some people just want to study composition and get dropped in with a teacher – that didn’t happen for me. I was an unfulfilled double bassist who stumbled into Michael Pisaro’s experimental music workshop, because my friends said it was fun; the first pieces we did were by George Brecht and John Cage; there was a period where we were really interested in jelly doughnuts; we went on a derive and wound up at the Holiday Inn bar (ok, that was the regular bar for some of us, because I think they knowingly served us under-age, zero fucks given)).
Michael Pisaro taught a class at CalArts, in the music school, which was various readings, mostly not about music. At the end, he had us students suggest things for him to read, and I suggested Jean-Michel Mension’s great book “The Tribe,” which is about the origins and personal history of the Lettrist International. I remember he said that he was surprised about how informal/casual so much of it was; they were basically a bunch of punks and ne’er-do-wells stirring things up. They were smart, but their practice wasn’t exactly academic; or rather, it was purposefully removed from academia.
I also remember, probably about ten years ago, Madison Brookshire saying something like, “I used to read about these artistic communities, like at the Cedar Bar, in New York, where all sorts of interesting artists hung out, and wish I was a part of it. Now, I don’t wish for that anymore, because I have it.” Earlier this year, someone said I was something like, “part of the Studio 8 scene.” I didn’t know we had a “scene.” I thought we were just friends. This business of naming things like “The New York School,” is now silly, if it ever wasn’t. We can now all share scores and recordings almost instantly, talk across continents for nearly free, etc. We don’t need these one-on-one personal connections to get access to the work, but we still seek them out. It’s not just about the work – it’s the hanging out after gigs and things where we get to know each other; the work and the social club go together, and this is embodied in these dedications – this is one way we establish what is important to us.
The Foggy Bobby: different people have different opinions. Some people think the Foggy Bobby is made with vodka, but I think the original involved Ouzo. Other stuff is also in it. I had a dream that ended with me flying over terraced gardens and a soccer pitch, but earlier on in the dream, I had been a CIA agent or some such, tracking people on a boat. I remember being surprised in the dream that when I walked past the ship’s bar, someone ordered a round of Foggy Bobbies, and the bartender said, “Coming right up!” In the dream, I thought to myself, “there’s no way she knows how to make a Foggy Bobby.”
[7/10/16, 2:42:26 AM] Mark So: yeah, bleak old days! when the tribe was necessary
[7/10/16, 2:42:38 AM] Mark So: now they don’t answer when i call…
[7/10/16, 2:43:39 AM] Mark So: and i walk alone, ever alone, out into bleakest night
[7/10/16, 2:44:29 AM] Mark So: but what’s this? canter’s in the fog-enshrouded distance? no, only a mirage.
I use the term “experimental music” over “concept music,” as I consider my field to be experimental music. However, I am aware that this term often has different connotations in continental Europe than it does in the US and UK, if not the Anglophone world in general, where the term “concept music” is virtually non-existent. ↩
Khaleef Ornerian’s (one of these people who seems to have simply disappeared from the world of music) “In Case of Beer Call Jim Tenney,” published in Soundings #6 ↩
Marcus, Greil, Lipstick Traces : A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA): Harvard University Press (1989), p.181. ↩