The Whistling Blackbird

The Whistling Blackbird

Essays and Talks on New Music

Robert Morris


University of Rochester Press



A collection of essays on new music, composers, and issues in American music criticism and aestheticson by composer and music theorist Robert Morris.
The Whistling Blackbird: Essays and Talks on New Music is the long-awaited book of essays from Robert Morris, the greatly admired composer and music theorist. In these essays, Morris presents a new and multifaceted view of recent developments in American music. His views on music, as well as his many compositions, defy easy classification, favoring instead a holistic, creative, and critical approach.
The Whistling Blackbird contains fourteen essays and talks, divided into three parts, preceded by an "Overture" that portrays what it means to compose music in the United States today. Part 1 presents essays on American composers John Cage, Milton Babbitt, Richard Swift, and Stefan Wolpe. Part 2 comprises talks on Morris's music that illustrate his ideas and creative approaches over forty years of music composition, including his outdoor compositions, an ongoing project that began in 1999. Part 3 includes four essays in music criticism: on the relation of composition to ethnomusicology; on phenomenology and attention; on music theory at the millennium; and on issues in musical time.
Threaded throughout this collection of essays are Morris's diverse and seemingly disparate interests and influences. English romantic poetry, mathematical combinatorics, group and set theory, hiking, Buddhist philosophy, Chinese and Japanese poetry and painting, jazz and nonwestern music, chaos theory, linguistics, and the American transcendental movement exist side by side in a fascinating and eclectic portrait of American musical composition at the dawn of the new millennium.

Robert Morris is Professor of Music Composition at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester.


December 2010
7 black and white, 114 line illustrations
442 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580463492
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS007000, MUS050000
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Robert Morris is a composer with a long and active career writing music who has through his writings about music established himself as a major figure in the field of music theory. The Whistling Blackbird both reveals how his renown came about and illustrates vividly why he deserves such recognition as a theorist. One hopes that it will prompt further serious interest in him as a composer. Each essay reaches far beyond the workshop to engage reasons why the music was made at all. Since much of the book seems to be engaged with placing surprising ideas in conversation with each other, the reader will feel invited to join in. AMERICAN MUSIC (Andrew Mead)

These wide-ranging essays (are drawn) from a lifetime of thinking and teaching about all music, (including) John Cage, Milton Babbitt, (and) "the confluence between Western art music and ethnomusicology.". . . The book holds together nicely, not least because of Morris's direct, informative writing style. CHOICE (William K. Kearns)

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