Cuong Vu - January 31st, 2010
Most people who are familiar with my musical work, don’t realize that classical music (particularly contemporary classical) has had a gigantic impact and influence on how I think about improvisation as well as in my writing. Most of my stuff sounds like some kind of mix of jazz and rock. While the trappings/trimmings are from the rock music vocabulary and the improvisational approach has its roots in jazz, it’s classical music that is at the core and is the engine that drives my music.
It started with Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, particularly the “Funeral March” movement.
Then Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” realigned the planets in my little jazz solar system and made it a vast universe of possibilities.
From Stravinsky, I moved to Schoenberg and the 2nd Viennese school and eventually to the more contemporary guys like Ligeti, Lutoslawski and my new composition hero, Richard Karpen (who happens to be our new fearless leader at the UW School of Music).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that classical music has a bigger over all impact on me than anything else. I like everything…I mean anything that I think is good, anyway, and there was a stage where I couldn’t get enough of Bjork, Radiohead and Sigur Ros to where their music really shaped important aspects of my thinking.
But! Just following the path of the greatest jazz musicians throughout jazz’s history, I’ve spent a great deal of time in my musical research, checking out classical music. This tradition is the most thoroughly documented and is arguably the most advanced, having broken new ground again and again and again. It’s just so easy to look at innovation through all of that history through the lense of jazz (and rock) and come up with something that stretches my thinking.
So there you have it. This is why, for my turn curating, I would like to have as many people, as thoroughly as possible, in the few days that you have, check out some of the music that has given me so much to draw from.
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