“Damn” Tool

This Friday night, Stuart Sims is conducing two of my pieces on the same concert at California State University Stanislaus. He’s opening with “Damn,” and closing with “Redline Tango.” He’s also doing an awesome piece by my friend Jonathan Newman — “Chunk.” I think this is the first time I’ve shared a program with Newman since our Juilliard days.

As many people have heard me say in the past, I’m a big fan of the rock band Tool. The problem I often have, though, is articulating why I appreciate their music so much, both intellectually and viscerally. Stuart Sims has finally articulated it for me in his program note for Friday’s concert:

In the contemporary rock scene, the band Tool is widely acknowledged as recording some of the most interesting, substantive music in the sub-genre of alternative rock. Tool’s music is typified by a layered texture, where complexity is developed by adding ideas and intensifying the quality of sound as an idea repeats itself. The lines in their music are typically highly and asymmetrically rhythmic and drive forward with an unmistakable urgency. As composer John Mackey has discussed, their music is an influence in his writing, as can be found in Redline Tango, particularly in the repeated figure, scored in bass voices, that drives the outer sections of the piece.

Nicely put. About Damn, Stuart writes:
Opening with a piece for four percussion and amplified clarinet by a rising young star of American music, Damn, by John Mackey, is a five minute romp. Originally composed for a dance company, the kinetic nature of Damn really ignites mind and body, and Mackey’s affinity for the music of the rock band Tool is readily evident: the pounding rhythms, odd meters, and incessant drive can be found in much contemporary alternative rock today.

He makes the piece sound a whole lot hipper than I ever could! Elsewhere, Stuart writes:
Can works of music have substance and broad appeal? Can one say anything of lasting value in a vocabulary intended to thrill and divert? Can concert music sound more familiar to a contemporary audience and still have substance—in short, can art be cool, and still be art?
Tonight’s program offers an emphatic answer in the affirmative.

Is it any wonder why I like this guy?!

Man, I wish I could be there for the concert! It’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait to work with Stuart on “Sasparilla” next fall…


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