21st Century Sound: "Reconcile sounds that modernists exclude with sounds that minimalists exclude, as well as sounds that both exclude; on the technical plane, divorce a technique from the sound world of the technique's first use. These are, broadly, the principles that keep my music from falling into any currently entrenched circle."
America vs. Europe: The USA is still the wild wild west, an improvisation, with an uproarius din of trashy ephemera ever intruding. What echoes strongly and cuts through that?-- Emerson, Whitman, Dewey, Edmund Wilson, Wallace Stevens. This line hits us with great force: Maimonides/Averroes/Aquinas--Spinoza--Goethe--Emerson. In music, America inherited displaced European giants--Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Krenek, Hindemith. It's not too late to prevent the traditions sown by these from dying on the vine. Pay attention to the descendants of these composers and the remarkable profusion of compositional techniques that emerged from them in the 20th C. I come from that, but there I am also, by temperament, an Ivesian.
How to be an American comoser? I am critical of Babbitt's early adoption of a German abstract expressionist poet, August Stramm. Babbitt soon got over that and adopted the Emersonian John Hollander.
Truths, values, concepts, from far flung places and times hit us, and we can then work to set those in motion here. Like Ives, I often use found musical objects as a way to be here, in the wild wild west, trusting that my sensibiltiy, particualrly my modernist background, will meet that object in a musically authentic way. Without simple, publicly traded musical coin of the realm, I'd be in danger of being as rarefied and irrelevant as those famously rarefied and irrelevant modernist heroes from the 20th C.
My setting of Johann Peter Hebel's short, short story Unferhofftes Wiedersehen (Unexpected Reunion) brings its proto-Wagnerian Eros & Thanatos to these American shores by re-casting the story in baby-boomer era USA, and by launching the piece with 3 bars of a bluegrass guitar solo by Tony Rice.
Djuna Barnes is an authentic American Expressionist, and in that sense she is absolutely unique in American poetry. We don't need to import an August Stramm.
William Kentner Anderson
William Anderson, composer, guitarist, ensemble director, and champion of new American music, soaked up contemporary American music for 30 years, working directly with composers from all over the map. In the last 15 years Anderson began composing works that draw on that experience, with a particular concern for finding a coherent way to make maximalism and minimalism work together; how to make embarrassingly simple and charming music work with the most complex musical modalities? Pastiche is not an option.
The latest attempt is here:
Djuna Barnes Settings
William Anderson began playing chamber music at the Tanglewood Festival at age 19. He now plays solo recitals at guitar festivals and new music festivals in the US and abroad.
Anderson was a guest on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show; and on NPR's All Things Considered, when excerpts from his Overture to Sounding Beckett were broadcast nation-wide.
--Anderson has performed with many of New York City's finest ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Players, Sequitur, the Group for Contemporary Music, the Da Capo Chamber Players.
--He founded the Cygnus Ensemble in 1985. Cygnus has built a substantial repertoire of chamber music with plucked strings. He became Artistic Director of the Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music in 2011.
--As a composer and arranger Anderson was the first to use a multiply-partitioned array as an accompaniment to a 3-chord pop song (My Morphine--Welch/Anderson), This and other experiments in adapting modernist techniques to subversive, even populous ends, led Paul Griffiths, in the NY Times, to say:
“The mindful voice of Ives, of Stravinsky and of Mr. Wuorinen’s music would not seem to be implied much by such a song as “Night and Day,” but Mr. Anderson’s extraordinary arrangements of this and other numbers by Jerome Kern and Richard Rogers set them squarely and astonishingly in the same tradition...”
Anderson performed at Tanglewood from 1981 through 1988. In 1982 he began studying with America's premiere guitar pioneer David Starobin, who introduced him to the music community in New York City. His first solo recital was presented by the League of Composers/ISCM at Weill Hall, New York City (1990). He was also presented in recital by Music From Japan at the Asia Society (1993). He regularly appeared in Washinton D.C.with the Theater Chamber Players at the Kennedy Center, performing both solo guitar and chamber music repertoire. Mr. Anderson has been a soloist in festivals and ensembles such as the Bang on a Can Festival, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Modern Works! He has been heard on radio broadcasts on WNYC, WKCR, WGBH, and National Public Radio, Polish National Radio, Radio Bremen, and others.
Mr. Anderson appears on numerous recordings, and has given recitals and radio broadcasts in Europe, Mexico, Japan and the U.S. With Cygnus, he has performed in Denmark, Holland, Poland, Russia, Mexico and California. Cygnus also offers a series of three concerts each season at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, presenting important new works by America’s best composers. In the New Music Connoisseur, Leo Kraft wrote a review of a Cygnus performance in New York, saying, “If Mr. Anderson’s aim was to show how the guitar can play a significant role in chamber music, he certainly succeeded.” Anderson teaches guitar at Sarah Lawrence College and Queens College.