Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Isolated Composer

I thought I would take a cyber-moment and pay homage to the place where I do all of my composing – my specially designed Composer Isolation Chamber in the sub-basement below the regular basement of the Hotel Cadillac. Even when I’m supposed to be teaching courses at the Hotel Cadillac’s world-renowned School for the Natural and Inhibitive Arts, I have been known to spend weeks at a time submerged in my Composer Isolation Chamber, churning out my cerebral machinations and (yes) on occasion, my classical pontifications!

I built my Composer Isolation Chamber in 1987 and stocked it with complimentary computers from the Tandy Corporation. These computers are obsolete only in the sense that there is nothing else like them! They are extraordinary sinetone-powered devices, able to execute even my most complicated musical procedures, which are beyond human capacity. I haven’t completely shut out the hustle and bustle of recitals and concerts, but, having converted this former fallout shelter into a space for creative and mathematical thinking, I need not concern myself with the inadequacies of common performing musicians.

Occasionally I allow my students to use the Composer Isolation Chamber for a small rental fee, and a prime number of them have indicated that it is indeed a fine workspace – inspiring but not necessarily in a banal, inspirational sort of way; comforting in its constant claustrophobic sameness. It is a space where a composer feels free, in part because he is confined by so many limitations. For as the great composer, Held Projansky, once said, “Music always has the potential to be free, but first it must be notated correctly.”

Thursday, May 03, 2007


It is amusing to me, dear readers, that so many well-meaning musical citizens get so “huffy mcpuffy” about the Pulitzer Prize being awarded to a non-composer such as Ornette Coleman and his big band orchestra. The Prize itself is only $10,000, and with a required entry fee of $50 and between 100 and 200 applicants in each category, the Pultizer makes almost as much money as it gives away!

Ten thousand dollars is not a lot of money, especially for a tenured professor such as myself. And as for “honor”... well, it remains to be seen if receiving the award gets you prestige, or if being prestigious gets you the award.

Given his gambling addiction (common among jazz “improvisers”), Mr. Coleman has probably already lost the money. The Pulitzer Prize committee has squandered its well-earned entry fees by handing them over to a drunken bum. It should come as no surprise to the committee that a drunken bum who refuses to follow the rules of music composition will certainly not follow the rules of the Pulitzer Prize application process.