Fanfare Contributor Bio
For as long as I can remember, music has been the only thing that I really understood. When human interaction and its implications mystify me, and when the rules of the game change suddenly and so completely as to be baffling, music has sustained me, brought me solace, and helped me to construct a frame around situations whose inherent contradictions can often seem malevolent without it.
I’ve played the piano since I was five, but if I have an instrument, it is the synthesizer. I’m a musicologist by training and a music history teacher by trade, but I actually consider myself a listener above all. Listening is becoming a lost art, and I’m proud to practice it. I came of age while exploring the multifarious worlds constituting that music we still assemble under the inappropriately loose term “progressive,” already antiquated when, in the middle 1980s, I began devouring Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, and Henry Cow. All of that paved the way to the “classical” canon, which I learned backwards. I journeyed happily from Webern to Pérotin while pursuing an English degree at Ithaca College; my obsession with Finnegans Wake eventually made it clear that my path led toward sound rather than word and toward a musical graduate degree, which UNC Chapel Hill granted me in 2008. My main interests are in recent composers, from John Coltrane to Michael Pisaro, and much of what I’ve written involves the study of improvisation.
Given my increasing distrust of written and spoken language, no one was more surprised than I when I began to review discs in 2004. Though music remains my life’s blood, I have come to terms with the written word adequately enough to employ it in the service of what I hear. I love to watch styles and genres grow, morph, and regress, and nothing pleases me more than to find unity in what is accepted as disparate.