Ph.D. Playlist

You have an Avicii fixation. Your hipster friends only listen to the latest in Albanian folk metal. Who should be repenting and who should be rocking out? FM spoke to three professors to settle the score: John T. Hamilton, creator of “Frameworks: The Art of Listening,” Vijay Iyer, a jazz composer, pianist, and 2013 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, and Hans Tutschku, an electro-acoustic composer.
By Henry S. H. Shah

You have an Avicii fixation. Your hipster friends only listen to the latest in Albanian folk metal. Who should be repenting and who should be rocking out? FM spoke to three professors to settle the score: John T. Hamilton, creator of “Frameworks: The Art of Listening,” Vijay Iyer, a jazz composer, pianist, and 2013 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, and Hans Tutschku, an electro-acoustic composer.

What are you listening to right now?
Hamilton: My listening habits have always been dictated by the fact that I perform. I’m not sure where my performance ears stop and where my pure, recipient’s listening ears begin. If I had to name three contemporary composers, I would list: Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Luigi Nono.
Iyer: This morning, I was listening to Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band—”Live in Saalfelden.” They tend to focus on experimental, avant-garde music. This ensemble is a lot of my friends and mentors. I’ve learned from them and worked with them for the past 20 years.
Tutschku: Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “For Times to Come,” Georg Friedrich Haas’ “in vain,” and Francis Dhomont’s “Frankenstein Symphony.”

Who do you think is the most underappreciated contemporary musician? What contemporary work has your ear?
Hamilton: Nothing contemporary’s really grabbing me right now. Generational constraints [on music preference] are no longer applicable. Our tastes are developing in new ways, towards a new eclecticism.
Iyer: I actually bought some music last night… FKA twigs… Another thing I was listening to was U. Shrinivas, who just recently and tragically passed away. [He was] one of the greatest Carnatic musicians of the last 20 years.
Tutschku: It’s hard to apply these popular models of music to classical music. It’s probably not the same mindset as a contemporary classical composer. “Underappreciated” isn’t really a concept that’s applicable. If you look at composers, they’re probably all very much appreciated in a different audience which has some attachment to their work.

The infamous desert island question: you can only listen to 3 pieces for the rest of your life. What do you choose?
Hamilton: The Beatles’ “White Album,” King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King,” Mahler’s 4th Symphony.
Iyer: Jimi Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsys,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle.”
Tutschku: Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Inori,” a recording of a Buddhist temple ceremony, Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

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