David Loeb & Stranded Assets

David Loeb Website

I care if you listen, I don't care if you read. Please click the links to the music, below.

Ganya is for viol da gamba and sho. A sho is an asian harmonica. Typical of David Loeb to pair western Renaissance instruments with ancient instruments from Asia.


Mayumi Miyata, sho; Yukumi Kambe, viola da gamba

Between Sea and Sky

Srdjan Berdovic, Carlo Valte, Mariano Aguirre, guitars

We strand aesthetic assets when we insist that they are anachronisms. Often enough that insistence is something learned. Boulez & Leibowitz issued a diktat and those who did not follow were working against history. Now, it's amusing to observe that some composers, late in life, some now gone, did their best work after subsequent revolutions stranded their aesthetic assets-- minimalism, German noise, microtonal/spectral stranded those who remained faithful to the Boulez diktat.

This doesn't have to be; it comes from learned habits of historical thinking and from our tendency to industrialize everything--turn everything into a business model. I don't mind these industries as long as I can advocate for quiet shadow industries. We can buy into as many industries as we like.

David Loeb defied Boulez' International Style and created his own rich and strange Tokyo-New York international style.

Although David Loeb began composing at the age of six, he destroyed everything he had written prior to beginning his studies at Mannes (not to mention some things written much later). Nevertheless the works written since then now number well over one thousand, and he continues to produce new compositions in diverse media frequently. Moving back and forth between residences in New York and Kyoto and often making shorter trips from both places actually increases his output rather than slowing it down. Changes of climate, cuisine, culture, language, art, and above all music seem to provide considerable stimulation for creativity.

I can testify. In the 80s, the International Style was beginning to falter. Phillip Johnson made his chippendale ATT building. But I was learned & was taught to love the International Style. I understood the Boulez Diktat. All the same, I owned my love for David Loeb's music. That frisson was postmodern.

I've always loved David Loeb's music, but it's taken 35 years to understand just how deep that goes.

Industries went off-shore and the factories became stranded assets in the rust belt.

People were stranded. The factories were less important than the stranded people. The asset is the laborforce with its skill set.

This is the theme of Kafka's The Hunger Artist. Robert Walser's Der Gehülfe gets around the subject from another angle. Walter Benjamin points out Walser's influenced Kafka, mentioning that in Kafka's work we find many of those curiious "assistants". There is hope, but not for us--for those assistants. Walser, Kafka, Benjamin had an uncanny prescience with regard to where democracy and capitalism would take us.

Some composers never join the revolution. David Loeb is off by himself in his own universe, and I must come out and say that his music slays me.

Fantasy on a Rondeau of Dufay--


Defying the revolution? Perhaps it's defying a business model. Loeb has much in common with Bartok. Loeb salvaged some Bartok assets, and transformed them into his very special thing. Traditional elements from Asian music inform everything he does. Perhaps best to say, "traditional rhetorical elements"? These shape Loeb's music much as Eastern European folk music is in Bartok's blood.

How do assets get stranded? Something to do with Fashion & karma? It took a very interesting and daring person to salvage Barok aesthetic assets by being there (by not spurning that space) and taking it somewhere.

Let's re-purpose a bon mot of Michael Torke, adding the Kafka/Walser twist--"Why leave a good party?"

The pizz passage at the end kills me--

I blame The Business Model. Spare us business models.

Loeb's approach to large scale form seems catch as catch can? I am always dazzled, and left feeling that he succeeds on the large scale by not worrying about it too much. All the gestures are very local, but some have considerably more heft than others. He is so good at transitions, he can wriggle out of anything.

The form has to do with --introducing the tune, --forgetting the tune and --bringing it back. Symboliste form. Sometimes it feels like the intro simply becomes the outro.

There's fauxbourdon. Loeb's music might be a cosmic Fauxbourdon joke on the world. Sad and descending, often Phrygian fauxbourdon.

Loeb's forms come from a tradition of gestures and melodic figurations that are new to us. Jo ha kyu is an example. Because it's alien to me, I can't knew exactly how for it goes in an attempt to understand how Loeb's music works.

Was it a revolution, or was it a business model?

For a few weeks or months we admired the minimalists for defying the academics they defied. The hipster industrial complex has become academic, in turn. It is ensconsed. It has become a business model.

David Loeb went quietly amid the noise and haste and he skipped several revolutions in our fast paced, future-shocked age.

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