Archive: Kyle Gann's Miscellaneous Early Articles

From 1983 to 1995 I wrote 137 reviews, interviews, and advance pieces for the Chicago Reader, all but three of them by 1988 (I had started at the Village Voice in November 1986). The Reader was a wonderful paper back then; editing was loose, word-count was endless, my editor Pat Clinton was generously encouraging, and the heady freedom granted to an inexperienced writer resulted in some articles that make me cringe today. But I was given chances for some wonderful interviews, and I got away with a level of musical analysis few journalistic publications would have countenanced. Here are some of the ones I'm proudest of:

1983:
"Flashes and Stirrings" - Katharina Wolpe plays Stefan Wolpe, February 4, 1983 - my first published article
"In memory of a retrograde revolutionary" - advance for a Cornelius Cardew memorial concert, April 29, 1983
"Handmade in Poland" - premiere of Witold Lutoslawski's Third Symphony, October 7, 1983

1984:
"Diamanda Galas's Homicidal Love Song" - an interview with Diamanda Galas, February 24, 1984 - she was still unknown in the US at the time
"Solti's Schoenberg: An Evening of Great Art" - a review of Moses und Aron, May 4, 1984
"AMM's Continual Quest for Failure" - an interview with AMM, May 25, 1984
"Height of the Opera" - review of Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All, June 1, 1984
"Records: Wolpe, Schoenberg" - review of Stefan Wolpe"s Enactments and Symphony, October 19, 1984
"Radical Escapism" - review of Strauss's Arabella, October 26, 1984
"William Harper reinvents the opera" - Harper's Crimson Cowboy, November 23, 1984
"Two artists explore Alcatraz" - Ingram Marshall's Alcatraz, November 30, 1984

1985:
"When Words Collide" - review of an etymological dictionary, March 22, 1985
"Records: Adams, Reich" - untitled review of John Adams Grand Pianola Music and Harmonium, Steve Reich's Octet, March 8, 1985
"Jack Smith's Outrages-in-progress" - interview with Jack Smith, March 8, 1985
"A vital slice of Chicago history" - an Alexander Tcherepnin retrospective, March 22, 1985
""Local composers expose themselves" - a post-NMA Chicago Salon des refuses, April 19, 1985
"The Crucible, a rare American opera" - May 24, 1985
"Seeing Through Glass" review of the Philip Glass ensemble and Robert Ashley's Atalanta, November 1, 1985

1986:
"Ralph Shapey Doesn't Live Here Anymore" - a long interview with Chicago's grand old man, January 10, 1986
"Our National Folk Opera" - review of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, February 7, 1986
"The architect of serialism and his digital processor" - interview with Pierre Boulez, February 14, 1986
"Clang of the Century" - review of the Chicago premiere of Boulez's Repons, February 28, 1986
"Music for Metal, Mallets, and Violence" - interview with Z'ev, February 28, 1986
"Day of Atonement" - review of George Rochberg's Fifth Symphony, March 28, 1986
"Composer William Schuman at 85" - an interview with the great man, April 11, 1986

1987:
"Peter Gena makes a scene" - an interview, April 2, 1987
"Harold Budd, unclassifiable musician" - an interview, April 10, 1987
"Giancarlo Cardini, the Italian Hellion" - an interview, December 11, 1987

1988:
"The Arditti Quartet, an underground legend" - March 4, 1988
"Nicolas Collins plays the radio" - an interview, March 11, 1988
"Neil Rolnick's checkered career" - an interview, April 21, 1988
"A pianist who gets her body into it" - an interview with Margaret Leng Tan, July 28, 1988

1989:
"Guy Klucevsek plays polkas for weird people" - an interview, March 23, 1989

1991:
"Sampler in a Sea of Sounds" - an interview with Henry Gwiazda, February 8, 1991

My one article for the Los Angeles Times:

"A Bold Force in Foursomes" - an interview with the string quartet Ethel, February 20, 2005

My one article for Musical America, actually the first article I wrote that was published:

"Soundpieces: Interviews with American Composers" - a book review, March, 1983

An article for Pulse, Tower Records's in-house magazine:

"Hyperion's Commitment to Franz Liszt" - Leslie Howard's complete Liszt project, April, 1999

1971-81:

With some trepidation I put up some papers I wrote as a student - to document that I was into Boulez by age 15 (he hadn't even written Rituel yet), to show that I was well trained in analyzing classical music, and to suggest that some of my lifelong concerns were in place well before my professional life started:

"Contemporary Music: A Neglected Art" - an essay written for my tenth-grade (1971) American history class when I was 15; for all its adolescent deficiencies, it shows that I was well set on my life's course by that age
"Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 106, Third Movement" - possibly my best grad school paper
"Zen and Op. 111" - this paper on Beethoven's last sonata, written in grad school at Northwestern circa 1980 (and with an absence of footnotes that shocks me today), is pretentiously erudite and certainly not publishable, but it shows how deeply involved I was by age 24 in correlations between musical technique and mental states, and in the contrast between goal-oriented versus non-goal-oriented musical styles, that have continued to inform my writing (and composing) all my life.
"Rhythmic Transformation in the Adagio of Bruckner's Seventh Symphony" - this paper (circa 1979) was written for a Rhythmic Analysis class, and my fellow grad students were astonished that I chose Bruckner as a subject rather than something 20th-century; but the paper has informed my sense of large-scale rhythm ever since.
A Formal Analysis of the Third Movement of the Ninth Symphony of Gustav Mahler - in my senior year at Oberlin (1976-77) I took an independent study with Professor Warren Darcy analyzing Mahler's Ninth Symphony, and wrote a 21-page paper on the third movement. The ending is marred by a dubious conclusion about the proportions of the sections, but I remain impressed with the way I drew out the rhythmic unity of the themes, and the influence of the 4:2:1 ratio on so many aspects of the movement. And since the paper was typed on a manual typewriter with the musical examples drawn by hand on the page, I use it to make my students feel guilty about how little they accomplish and how easy they have it with their laptops.
"A Comparison of the Missae 'Ecce Ancilla Domini' of Dufay and Ockeghem" - a paper for my 15th-century music class with Theodore Karp.
"Plato's Artistic Ethics" - I continued taking philosophy courses in grad school, and wrung an A from a reluctant philosophy professor with this compendium of Plato's mutually contradictory references to art.

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