A Companion to Slug
Frog Peak Newsletter #16
PEAK PICKS (contents)
* New members, new Frog Peak scores
* New CD by Jody Diamond: In That Bright World
* SALE: Peter Garland’s musical travel diaries
* Frogspeak: Larry Polansky on New Music Box
NEW MEMBERS, NEW WORKS
Composers recently welcomed to Frog Peak include John King, William
Brooks, Clarence Barlow and Mike Winter.
New scores include Barbara Monk Feldman’s “String Quartet I,” and
two beautifully hand-crafted scores by Eric Richard's: “In the Pocket”
and “gawainquest.” Other new additions are listed below, and on our
The Frog Peak /Johanna Beyer project continues with the release of
three new annotated editions: Beyer’s “Movement for String Quartet,”
“Percussion Suite,” and the important set of piano pieces “Clusters.”
We thank all the editors (listed on the Beyer artist page) for their
fine work on these pieces. Beyer was a 1930s experimental composer
closely associated with Henry Cowell, Percy Grainger and Ruth
Crawford. Frog Peak is delighted to make available her important and
often overlooked work.
Selected NEW FROG PEAK SCORES
* Few Gaa. Indeterminate instrumentation.
* From a Forgotten Dance. Violin and piano.
Anne La Berge
* Urban Doldrums. 2 improvising musicians and 2 computers.
* Brokenheart. Guided improvisation for musicians and Max/MSP/jitter
* String Quartet No.1.
* Ballad. Amplified singer, flute, tenor sax, 2 trombones, string
bass and 2 percussion.
* 30 Rounds (MacDowell Diary)
* Ontslaan (toontood). 4 or 5 guitars.
* Rotating. Vietnam War chamber opera for power trio and 2 voices.
* Vis-ą-vis. Photo opera for power trio and photographs by Edward S.
* Sonata ii: Compositio ut explicatio. Piano.
* Mediaeval Lyrics. Women’s choir.
* Magnificat. Viola and piano.
* 2,4,8. Trombone quartet.
New CD by Jody Diamond
In That Bright World: Music for Javanese Gamelan
Compositions by Frog Peak co-founder and co-director Jody Diamond,
recorded with the musicians of ISI Surakarta, the National Institute
of the Arts in Central Java, Indonesia. New World Records 80698-2.
(Complete notes and samples of each track are on line at
www.newworldrecords.org. (Available from Frog Peak, New World Records,
Notes by ethnomusicologist Judith Becker (excerpt):
This CD is both a tribute to the profound musical influences
that Javanese gamelan traditions have had on Jody Diamond as a
musician as well as an exploration of their impact on her
compositional creativity. What she has done is not so much to create a
hybrid tradition, but rather to do the work of translation. The aim of
the translator is not to be original, but to make transparent to an
outsider what was formerly opaque. The translator approaches his/her
job with humility, and must be steeped in the original language. The
translator reveres the original, it gives her joy and moves her to the
point of wanting to share her joy with others. … [T]hese recordings
were made in Java, with Javanese musicians playing all the parts
(except for Diamond herself, who is the female singer). Her “American”
pieces are elaborated upon with gusto by Javanese musicians, in
Javanese idioms. What does it mean when a translation is returned to
its homeland and then elaborated upon in the idiom of the original?
This is globalism gone wild in joyful, enthusiastically realized
performances of Diamond’s pieces by Javanese musicians.
SALE: Travel Writings by Peter Garland
Regularly priced at $160, the complete travel writings of Peter
Garland are offered at a discount of 25% for $120. Please mention this
newsletter when placing your order.
Gone Walkabout: Essays 1991-1995 (2 volumes). Gar25.
Field Work, Vol. I. Gar26.
Field Work, Vol. II. Gar27.
Field Work, Vol. III. Gar28.
Field Work, Vol. IV. Gar30.
Food for Thought: Writings 1988-2002 (2 volumes). Gar29.
FROGSPEAK: Larry Polansky on Frog Peak Music (a composers' collective)
Excerpts from an Interview by Frank Oteri.
New Music Box, January 2010, American Music Center
FJO: How and why did you start doing [Frog Peak]?
LP: My wife, Jody Diamond, and I started it. It was in the early days
when I was at the Mills Center for Contemporary Music and Jody was
working at the other end of the building with Lou Harrison, as Lou's
gamelan director. At that time there was a whole community of people
who really had no outlet for their work. And there were a couple of
significant theoretical works that I thought should be made available,
like Jim Tenney's Meta-Hodos and John Chalmers's Divisions of the
There were no personal computers at the time. Jody and I had just
gotten a Kaypro, which was an early CPM machine. And we started with
this idea that composers would take control over the distribution of
their own work. Not to be so much a publisher, but to be what I like
to call an availability site. That by pooling resources, instead of
composers going to a photocopy store and mailing it out when somebody
asked you for something, there'd be one place where people could get
it. Make it a collective and dedicate ourselves to having no interest
in advertising or promotion whatsoever, and also to try to eschew,
reject, the notion of imprimatur. We don’t certify anything. David
Mahler joined Frog Peak and David controlled everything about David
Mahler. Or David Rosenboom, or Anne LaBerge, or whoever came in. It
was a philosophical, social, artistic experiment in every possible
And as it has remained an experiment, it remains fun. Not so
parenthetically, but somewhat surprising, it has started to become
some of the things it intended to avoid—that is, being at Frog Peak
may have a certain kind of non-functional importance to people that we
never wanted it to have. But it still serves the community. It gets a
lot of people's work out into the world in an honest, simple, sincere
way, with no cosmetic nonsense and no hype. I've been committed to
that all through my life—never selling anything, never convincing
anybody of anything, of really staying true to the musical idea as
much as possible.
FJO: So how does one sign up with Frog Peak?
LP: Well, one asks us [laughs]. We try to take people, but it's hard.
The overhead of taking someone in is pretty significant. We lose
money. We subsidize it personally. We're not a non-profit. We decided
at the beginning to never apply for a grant and to never devolve into
arts administration… We move slowly, so seldom, but regularly, take
people. We try to take people who are committed to their music and
sincere. I try to avoid careerist sorts of motivations,
resume-building, that sort of thing. In hindsight I have noticed that
the composers we tend to work with are those for whom the music is
paramount, the business of music secondary or non-existent. We have to
like them, because they become a part of our family. But the other
abiding principal when we started was, since there is no imprimatur
involved—we're not saying anything about these people, it's just a
collective—if we're not a comfortable fit for someone, we can very
easily say, "Do it yourself." That's all we're doing. Buy or rent a
copy machine, or go to Kinko's like we did for the first ten years in
the 1980s (or whatever the copy stores were called in Oakland!).
There's nothing we're doing that's not completely transparent.
FJO: So what is the difference between being published by Frog Peak
and being self-published?
LP: It's whatever distinction you want it to have. [laughs] None as
near as I can tell, except that you don't have to send out your own
score. … Stamina is everything in the world. … I think with Frog Peak,
its main virtue is that we've stayed afloat for a very, very long
time. We've kept small. We've kept to our basic principles, as high in
integrity as we possibly can. And to our surprise we've gotten
noticed. We have a lot of standing library orders. Complete
collections are in a number of good libraries. So it's a good thing
for composers because they get out in the world, to safe, widely
available places. But really now with the web, there's no reason not
to put all your pieces on the web as well, and certainly we encourage
FJO: Of course the tricky thing there is if the scores are all
available for free, isn't one of the few revenue streams a composer
could have gone?
LP: That's a matter of some contention, and one that I think is widely
misunderstood. I don't think most composers make much money from the
physical sale of scores. There are certain cases where they do, of
course, if you're a choral composer for high schools for example. But
most of the composers we represent are not like that. And if they want
that kind of relationship, they can go to a traditional publisher. We
don't own anything (for the most part). We have no rights. In a few
cases we do, but it's sort of accidental. So there's no notion of
exclusivity. We don't even have contracts. People don't sign anything
when they come to Frog Peak, because nobody's bound to do anything. I
didn't, don’t want that kind of relationship with anybody. These folks
are my friends. I play music with them, I have dinner with them. I
don't want to do business.
FJO: With the roster of composers that you have—a lot of them are
friends or at least kindred spirits in some way—is there something
that links all of these people's musics somehow?
LP: Quite honestly they're the people that we decide to invite to this
family. Of course we like their music but it may not even be that, we
may like the way they deal with the world, their integrity, how
serious they are. Some of the people are very, very different. Some of
them can occasionally be a bit annoying, but all of them are, most of
the time, amazingly thoughtful and helpful. [laughs] But they're all
friends. That's the criteria. I can't not like someone in some
profound way and commit so much of my life and resources to them. On
the other hand, I tend to like most people for a lot of different
reasons. So we're fortunate in that way.
FJO: So it might be an oversimplification to say that most of this
music is coming out of the American experimental tradition.
LP: I don't know that that term means much to me anymore, or ever did.
We all use it as a kind of shorthand, but more importantly, the music
in Frog Peak comes from a community, and that community is
ever-expanding and ever-malleable.
Previous newsletters are at www.frogpeak.org. The current title from
the text of a Shaker song; "Slug" is one of many Shaker monikers for