Time for an Ear Cleaning


Occasionally, I find it important to start a class with a fresh perspective, especially in an introductory class for a topic with which I know students are not familiar.  For example, in our introductory computer music class, I have often put together what I call an “ear-cleaning” CD or playlist to give the students a taste of what they can expect. Sometimes, I do this to challenge their assumptions about a topic, or to upset their own sense of normalcy. But in any event, I always try to make these fun and interesting listening sessions that ultimately motivate a student toward success in the course.

Today, I started my Contemporary Compositional Practice seminar for new composition graduate students. It’s a course that in a mere 15 weeks reviews and studies the varying aesthetics and techniques used by composers in music from about 1950 to the present day. We move fast, and there’s never enough time to cover everything.

So this year, I decided to start with an ear-cleaning of some of my favorite contemporary works which when taken as a whole give a nice overview of the recent compositional repertoire. I tweeted about preparing the ear-cleaning playlist last night, and had several requests to post the list.

Let me just say, this list is (a) by no means complete, (b) not meant to be complete, (c) not necessarily the best exemplars of styles or techniques, (d) limited to recordings I had on hand, and (e) meant to pique curiosity, not define genres.  With all of those qualifications, here is my Fall 2011 Ear Cleaning playlist. Enjoy.

  1. New York Counterpoint: mvt 3, by Steve Reich
  2. Speech Songs: The Days Are Ahead, by Charles Dodge
  3. Le désert, from Des Canyons Aux Étoiles, by Olivier Messiaen
  4. Répons: section 1, by Pierre Bouléz
  5. Black Angels: section 2 (Absence), by George Crumb
  6. Short Ride in a Fast Machine, by John Adams
  7. Und So Weiter: part 3, by Luc Ferrari
  8. Jeux Vénitiens: mvt 4, by Witold Lutoslawski
  9. Lix, by James Paul Sain
  10. Fanfare (19-note ET), by Easley Blackwood
  11. Rapid*Fire, by Jennifer Higdon
  12. Kammerkonzert, mvt 4, by György Ligeti

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