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Sudden Music:
Improvisation, Sound, Nature

by David Rothenberg

ISBN 0820323187 / 9780820323183 / 0-8203-2318-7
Publisher University of Georgia Press
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

Music, said Zen patriarch Hui Neng, "is a means of rapid transformation." It takes us home to a natural world that functions outside of logic, where harmony and dissonance, tension and release work in surprising ways. Weaving memoir, travelogue, and philosophical reflection, Sudden Music presents a musical way of knowing that can closely engage us with the world and open us to its spontaneity.

Improvisation is everywhere, says David Rothenberg, and his book is a testament to its creative, surprising power. Linking in original ways the improvised in nature, composition, and instrumentation, Rothenberg touches on a wide range of music traditions, from Rob Nachman's stories to John Cage's aleatory. Writing not as a critic but as a practicing musician, Rothenberg draws on his own extensive travels to Scandinavia, India, and Nepal to describe from close observation the improvisational traditions that inform and inspire his own art.

The accompanying audio disc features eleven original compositions by Rothenberg, none of which have been previously released on CD. Included are a duet with clarinet and white-crested laughing bird, and another duet with clarinet and Samchillian TipTipTip Cheeepeeeee, an electronic computer instrument played by its inventor Leon Gruebaum. Also featured are multicultural works blending South Indian veena and Turkish g-clarinet with spoken text from the Upanishads; a piece commissioned by the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival with readings of texts by E. O. Wilson accompanied by clarinet and electronics; and improvisations based upon Tibetan Buddhist music, Japanese shakuhachi music, and the image of a black crow on white snow.

Sudden Music is a concise and delicate work of beauty. It will help all readers experience the world as a musical place, full of wonderful events that come out of nowhere to create a strange and rhythmic harmony.

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