David Grundy

  • Brandon López, Fred Moten, and Gerald Cleaver performing at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn last year. Photo: Cameron Kelly McLeod/ISSUE Project Room.
    music April 19, 2023

    Muse of Fire

    THIS MONTH, a year to the day since the release of their debut album, the trio of Fred Moten (poet), Brandon López (bassist), and Gerald Cleaver (drummer) came to London for a weekend residency at Café Oto. Recorded during the Covid pandemic at New York’s GSI studios and released on the Reading Group label, the group’s self-titled album exemplifies what Anthony Reed, in his book Soundworks, has called “phonopoetics,” a more capacious term than previous indicators like “jazz poetry.”

    During its flourishing from what Reed calls the “Long Black Arts Movement,” peaking in the ’60s, the phonopoem has

  • Hans Werner Henze in 1963.
    music October 13, 2022

    Night Music

    FOR PIANIST IGOR LEVIT, music always opens out onto a social context. In 2020, when the pandemic temporarily shut down concert life, he put on a series of hauskonzertes livestreamed from his flat. These were models of what a classical concert could be: intimate, accessible, with an ear to the music of leftist composers such as Cardew, Dessau, and Rzewski alongside canonical repertoire. Levit’s latest release likewise reclaims a strain of dissidence within and against the tradition, pairing pieces by Liszt, Wagner, and Mahler with the late Hans Werner Henze’s piano concerto Tristan, a work written

  • Pharoah Sanders playing at Carnegie Hall in New York, 1972. Photo: K. Abe/Shinko Music/Getty Images.
    passages September 26, 2022

    Pharoah Sanders (1940–2022)

    THE DAY AFTER what would have been John Coltrane’s ninety-sixth birthday, his most famous disciple left the planet. “Trane was the father,” saxophonist Albert Ayler famously remarked, “Pharoah was the son, and I am the Holy Ghost.” Pharoah Sanders, who was eighty-one, first came to prominence as an integral part of Coltrane’s mid-’60s turn to free jazz on recordings like Ascension and Meditations and in the performances of Coltrane’s final quintet. Like Ayler, his use of multiphonics and other extended techniques harked back to R&B “screamers” while simultaneously sounding as if they’d come from

  • AMM, seen here ca. 1960s, played its final concert last month in London. Photo: Fraser Pearce.
    music August 11, 2022

    Nowhere Band

    THE BRITISH IMPROVISING GROUP AMM has had an impact as mysterious as it is evident on the world of experimental music. Formed in the mid-’60s by what founding member Keith Rowe called a group of “skinny white European street kids” influenced by African American free jazz, AMM grew out of series of workshops at London’s Royal College of Art, its early performances attended by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Paul McCartney, and Syd Barrett. Rowe, a musician and painter who’d played in Mike Westbrook’s big band, turned his guitar flat as Jackson Pollock had laid flat his canvas and also sneaked in

  • A performance of Claude Vivier’s Musik für das ende (1971) at London’s Southbank Centre, May 2022. Photo: Claire Harvie.
    music May 16, 2022

    Child of Light

    LITTLE ELSE COMPARES to the music of Québécois composer Claude Vivier. His work offers, in the words of composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher, “great brilliance, great severity, great archaism, great emotions”: glimpses of other worlds firmly rooted in our own. Though he was admired by leading composers such as György Ligeti, Gérard Grisey, and Louis Andriessen, Vivier, who was murdered in 1983 at the age of thirty-four, remains regrettably obscure. A three-day Vivier festival at London’s Southbank Centre earlier this month offered a welcome opportunity to redress the balance.

    For the opening

  • Zubin Kanga performing Michael Finnissy’s Hammerklavier with a film by Adam de la Cour in the background. The Royal Academy of Music, London, January 28, 2022. Photo: Robert Piwko.
    music February 21, 2022

    Immortal Homosexual Poets

    COMPOSER MICHAEL FINNISSY’S CAREER has been a lifelong rejection of the divisions drawn up in and around the world of classical music. Growing up in London in the 1960s, Finnissy did not pursue academic training in composition until the age of eighteen, and was influenced as much by Hockney, Rauschenberg, Ginsberg, Genet, and Godard as by the wide range of music that he absorbed from public libraries, from family and friends, and from the radio. In the years since, his large body of compositions has referenced folk, jazzspirituals, and the European avant-garde, his approach to music at once

  • John Coltrane circa 1965. Photo: Photo by K. Abe/Shinko Music/Getty Images.
    music October 26, 2021

    The New Thing

    JOHN COLTRANE IS OFTEN HELD UP as a sui generis figure, A Love Supreme his magnum opus. Yet overemphasizing the Coltrane’s individual aura obscures the true force behind his music. The release last week of a previously lost live version of A Love Supreme, recorded at the Penthouse Club in Seattle in October 1965, provides an opportunity to redress the balance, locating the saxophonist within a collective history still not often told.

    Throughout the history of jazz, its musicians have been subject to systematically exploitative labor conditions. At the time the Seattle recordings were made,

  • Jemeel Moondoc at the Sons d'Hiver Festival in Arcueil, France, 2016. Photo: Paul Charbit/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.
    passages September 18, 2021

    Jemeel Moondoc (1946–2021)

    “EVERYTHING ENTERS INTO THIS MUSIC,” the saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc once observed. “It could be anywhere or anything, everything enters into the music.” A self-proclaimed “melodic storyteller,” Moondoc, who died in August a few weeks after his seventy-sixth birthday, was a font of prodigious invention, his nearly fifty-year career in free jazz one of the music’s lasting, though little-known, achievements.

    Born in Chicago in 1946, Moondoc’s surname derived from his great-great-grandfather, the original “moondoctor” who sang, danced, and sold cures in “moonshine medicine shows” at the turn of the

  • Frederic Rzewski. Photo: Michael Wilson.
    passages July 06, 2021

    Frederic Rzewski (1938–2021)

    “MUSIC PROBABLY CANNOT CHANGE THE WORLD,” wrote composer Frederic Rzewski. “But it is a good idea to act as if it could.” Born to parents of Polish descent in Westfield, Massachusetts, he studied music in a series of elite institutions, from the Phillips Academy to Harvard and Princeton. Attending the Darmstadt Summer School in 1956, Rzewski was exposed to serial composition, as well as the more anarchic work of composer-performers John Cage, David Tudor, and Christian Wolff. Studying with Luigi Dallapicolla in Italy (1960–61) and Elliott Carter in Berlin (1963–65), he established an early

  • Cover of N.H. Pritchard’s The Matrix, 1970 (Primary Information, 2021).
    books April 27, 2021

    Matrix Revolutions

    N.H. Pritchard, The Matrix. New York, New York: Primary Information and Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021. 113 pages.

    THE MATRIX is one of the most radical—and most important—books of poetry of the 1960s. It’s also one of the most mysterious. A new facsimile reissue of N. H. Pritchard’s first collection—along with DABA press’s republication of his only other book, EECCHHOOEESS (1971)—provides an opportunity to re-examine an extraordinary and extraordinarily neglected poet whose work continues to evade capture. Born in New York and of West Indian descent, Norman Henry Pritchard II considered attending

  • Milford Graves plays at the 9th annual Vision Festival Avant Jazz for Peace at the Center at St Patrick's Youth Center, New York, New York, May 29, 2004. Photo: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images.
    passages February 19, 2021

    Milford Graves (1941–2021)

    AS A CHILD IN JAMAICA, Queens, Milford Graves played on tin cans in the woods, “sending signals, trying to get everybody’s attention.” This spirit of adventure, showmanship, and defiance of convention never left him. Beginning on conga drums, he learned about Afro-Cuban music through a distant cousin, viewing it as the missing link between bebop and the African diaspora, and studied with tabla player Wasantha Singh. Forming a Latin group with pianist Chick Corea, who predeceased him by a matter of days, he gravitated toward jazz for its greater harmonic openness, switching from conga and timbales

  • Jacques Coursil in the Studio, 2019. Photo: Raisa Galofre.
    passages July 28, 2020

    Jacques Coursil (1938–2020)

    “YOU CANNOT BE AN ARTIST,” said the trumpeter, scholar, and world-traveler Jacques Coursil, “if you don’t have one foot on the ground and the other outside the planet.” Pursuing a career across three continents, he and his work embodied the principles of Black diasporic internationalism. Opposed to the notion of roots as guarantor of authenticity, he nonetheless traversed the routes of world history. “I don’t like identity things,” he insisted. “I don’t have to claim where I am from, it’s so evident.”

    Coursil was born in Paris in 1938 to Martinican parents, his father a trade unionist and member