Last week in this column, I rued that not a single college or university in Washington has an ensemble dedicated to one of the chief innovations in 20th-century music, graphic scores. Music made with nontraditional notation—lines, symbols, and sometimes cryptic instructions—may seem needlessly arcane, but there is no better way to get nonmusicians making music.
I should have also bemoaned the long dormancy of the Seattle Creative Orchestra, which granted composers a rare gift: read-throughs and performances of experimental symphonic music. Without access to a live, risk-hungry orchestra, Seattle composers remain stuck with computer-based realizations or shopping their work to groups only partially interested in new work. Sure, sample libraries like the Miroslav Vitous Symphonic Orchestra can sound realistic, but there are things musicians can do—adapting their ensemble sound to an acoustic space or playing like their lives depended on it—that doesn't happen in software.
I also regret not writing enough about Seattle record stores that sell classical, jazz, and experimental music: Wall of Sound (315 E Pine St), Dissonant Plane (5459 Leary Ave NW, upstairs from Resolution Audio), Silver Platters (I prefer the store at 701 Fifth Ave N to the Northgate location), Sonic Boom (2209 NW Market St), Everyday Music (1604 Broadway), and Half-Price Books (I go to 4709 Roosevelt Way NE, though the Capitol Hill store is good, too). All have "bargain bin" used sections where I've made marvelous finds, though looking back, many favorites cropped up at the now-closed Cellophane Square in the University District, including Coltrane Plays the Blues, drummer Pete Zeldman's cult solo disc Other Not Elsewhere, Lennie Tristano Quintet Live in Toronto 1952, the obscure Hodge-Podge Vol. 3 by the Beatles, Music of the Maasai, and Pole's Steingarten.
I stumbled upon my other main regret of 2009 several weeks ago after hosting Flotation Device on KBCS 91.3 FM mere minutes after midnight. Usually I drive home to Bill Barton's out-jazz show Bright Moments, but I hadn't heard Jazz Theater in a few weeks, so I tapped the radio seek button to KEXP. I was surprised and disappointed to hear Sonarchy, formerly a Saturday-night mainstay at 11:00 p.m. and a perfect accompaniment for driving home from a concert or party. I love Sonarchy (full disclosure: I performed solo on the show back in 2003) and regret KEXP has gradually shunted the show from 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, then to midnight, and now to Sunday at midnight. The long-running Sonarchy joins Flotation Device (which I used to cohost and still adore) as another experimental music program lurking too close to the witching hour.
Internet stations like Hollow Earth Radio (www.hollowearthradio.com) or Iridian Radio probably portend the future for broadcasting and championing the avant. Yet I wish one Seattle radio station would risk an 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. slot and feature freely improvised music, field recordings, postclassical composition, and other unclassifiable aural phenomena. Serendipity happens more often on the radio dial.
I have a few miscellaneous regrets: While the Music of Remembrance spring performance of Steve Reich's Different Trains moved me, the vocal samples were foggy and difficult to discern. In June, David Robertson helmed the Seattle Symphony in a splendid performance of The Firebird and a new violin concerto by Thomas Adès, Concentric Paths, but the alphorns were MIA from the roof-raising climax. Also, more people should have turned up for Paul Hoskin's annual contrabass clarinet solo in October. Hoskin was fiery, injecting gaps of silence, and even duetted with a distant elevator cable that squeaked periodically. Hoskin cocurates a night of the Seattle Improvised Music Festival on February 20. Don't miss him.
Finally, I regret missing Morton Subotnick in Seattle last April, but instead got to see (and chauffeur) him in Bellingham, which reminded me of what Schoenberg once told his students, that even the ordinary deeds of great men, like watching Mahler tie his tie, can enlighten and inspire.