In this week's issue of The New Yorker, I write about the San Francisco Symphony's American Mavericks festival at Carnegie Hall — a largely triumphant undertaking that drew encouragingly big, responsive crowds. Back in 1996, I reviewed Michael Tilson Thomas's first "mavericks" jamboree for the New York Times; although the series was then entitled "An American Festival," with subsections called "Soundscape USA" and "An Afternoon with America's Musical Visionaries," MTT was already deploying the m-word. At the start of my New Yorker column, I make the ritual terminological complaint: "If Madonna, Sarah Palin, the Dallas basketball team, and the Tom Cruise character in Top Gun are all mavericks, then everyone is, and no one." Originally, I wrote this:
. . . then so is the period at the end of this sentence .
On reflection, it seemed a not very New Yorker thing to do, but I enjoyed the conceit while it lasted.
Sedge Clark has a fuller description of that amazing So Percussion Cage-o-rama, not to mention valuable reminiscences of MTT's 1973 Four Organs performance at Carnegie Hall, the last great Skandalkonzert of the twentieth century. Justin Davidson waxes intelligently enthusiastic about the Mavericks series in New York; Sidney Chen, aka The Standing Room, who performed with the Meredith Monk vocal ensemble in the festival, has a commentary at NewMusicBox. The American Mavericks site set up by American Public Media in 2003 remains a superb resource; the feature on George Antheil's Ballet mécanique allows you to watch the Antheil scandal scene in Marcel L'Herbier's film L'Inhumaine.
Happily, a two-CD set of the complete works of Carl Ruggles — recordings originally made for CBS, under MTT's aegis, back in 1980 — just arrived in the post from Other Minds. The official release date is April 24. Collectors have been clamoring for a CD reissue of these LPs more or less since the CD was invented, to no avail. At some point I will try to write down more thoughts about Ruggles's Sun-treader, which really stunned me on this occasion; let's hope that a CD is on the way. MTT has already recorded the piece twice — with the Buffalo Philharmonic, for the Ruggles set, and with the Boston Symphony, for DG — but a successful capture of one of the latest performances should prove definitive.
Update: A San Francisco Symphony press release reveals that a CD is indeed in the works: it will include Sun-treader, the Lou Harrison Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra (with Paul Jacobs), and the Henry Cowell Piano Concerto (with Jeremy Denk).