Review: Talking Music by William Duckworth

Talking Music: Conversations with John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, & Five Generations of American Experimental Composers [1995]★★★★

Experimental music is defined as “any music that pushes existing boundaries and genre definitions“. Though the term originated in the 1950s, the US of the 1960s saw certain music artists emerging that can be said to be loosely associated with the “experimental music” movement. This book by American composer and educator William Duckworth compiles the author’s interviews with experimental composers and performers from the US, including John Cage, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Meredith Monk and Laurie Anderson. The interviews shed light on the artists’ backgrounds, major works and inspirations, and many of the interviews are frank, interesting and inspirational.

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Frank Churchill (20 October 1901 – 14 May 1942): Snow White: “Someday My Prince Will Come”

Frank Churchill was an American composer known for his years’ long partnership with Walt Disney. He provided scores for Disney’s animations Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Bambi, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (posthumously) and Peter Pan (posthumously and not included), not to mention scoring many uncredited short animations. Churchill’s song Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? for animation The Three Little Pigs achieved an unexpected commercial success.

Churchill’s Someday My Prince Will Come is a beautiful, catchy tune full of hope and longing for a better future. It has many melancholic, “heart-breaking” notes, but the overall impression is one of endless reverie, of a desire that tomorrow brings a better day. Churchill’s contribution, including his musical pieces Heigh Ho and Whistle While You Work, helped make The Snow White the world’s first great animation.

Frank Churchill was an immensely talented musician, but also a sensitive soul. He took his own life on 14 May 1942 at the age of just 40. Though at the time of his death he was involved in a dispute with Disney over his Bambi pieces, the cause was most probably depression after the deaths of Churchill’s two closest friends. However, his music lives on, uplifting and touching millions around the globe.

Philip Glass: Mad Rush

 “The activity of the artist is about transcending the ordinary world. The world of appearances” (Philip Glass). 

My previous music post highlighted American composer Philip Glass, and I am now sharing his beautiful, minimalistic composition Mad Rush. This piece was first written by Glass in 1978 for an organ of the cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York) for the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s first public address in the US in 1979. It has since been re-recorded and titled Mad Rush (which can now be viewed as encapsulating our frantic modern lifestyles). I love the way this piece intertwines the themes of peace and chaos – meditative and sublime. Philip Glass said that that these two contrasting themes represent “the play of the wrathful and peaceful deities in Tibetan Buddhism“.