“Like any classic videogame, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level. A new level often required an entirely new strategy.”

If you love a book, it is a good policy to avoid seeing the cinematic adaptation. Within the past few years I’ve refused to see Gone Girl and World War Z, and now have no reason to see Ready Player One.

Walter Chaw’s dense analysis of pop movies can be provocative and entertaining. Apparently his current ruthless take down has gone viral. One comment stuck out: “Adapted from Ernest Cline’s terrible novel…”

Ready Player One was a huge bestseller. Naturally, there was backlash. Some of that backlash must be connected to what Chaw claims is “the book’s self-satisfied checklisting.”

From where I sit, that “checklisting” is no more self-satisfied than in any other book that uses elaborate paraphernalia to tell a story. Two examples from novels I read recently: Robert Harris used the byzantine politics of the Vatican for Conclave; Megan Abbott dived into the world of high-school cheerleading for Dare Me.

What bothers Chaw (I think) is that Chaw interfaces with the paraphernalia of Ready Player One for his own sense of self and aesthetic. He doesn’t like the details of Cline’s opinions, and especially he doesn’t like how the act of processing retro culture is used as scaffolding to tell a straightforward cat and mouse thriller. It’s just too close to Chaw’s daily bread. This is fine: A pope probably won’t like Conclave, a cheerleader might not like Dare Me. (Naturally, I myself have little use for novels about jazz…or movies about jazz, either! My only significant act of movie criticism addressed Whiplash.)

Anyway, all this is to say: I love the book Ready Player One, and if your own own sense of self and aesthetic isn’t defined by 80’s pop artifacts and how they are processed today, then you might love it too. It is a perfect clockwork mechanism that nails every beat and achieves the final goal with grace and style. Every time I read it I am filled with joy.

Kenny Wollesen Plays the Waterphone For You

At a session yesterday, I took candid video of Mr. Kenny Wollesen playing a legendary outré instrument, the Waterphone.


The session tracked incidental and background music written by Bill Frisell to accompany a new production of Saint Joan by Manhattan Theatre Club directed by Daniel Sullivan and starring Condola Rashad.


(It’s not clear if Kenny’s Waterphone will actually make it onto the final score. However, Hank Roberts’s lovely cello will certainly be featured.)

In Parallel and in Contrary Motion

Reminder that all conventional gig spam goes out reliably from Floyd Camembert Reports. The next edition of that newsletter will have more about Concerto to Scale, my first modest orchestral work, premiering at Zankel Hall with the ACO on April 6. The rest of the program looks really cool as well.

HITOMI OBA September Coming (World Premiere)
ETHAN IVERSON Concerto to Scale (World Premiere)
STEVE LEHMAN Ten Threshold Studies(World Premiere)
TJ ANDERSON Bahia, Bahia (NY Premiere)
CLARICE ASSAD Dreamscapes (NY Premiere)

[tickets here]

Varied Air and Variations

Three unusual tracks came across the radar recently. In every case I was profoundly surprised by the procedures used. In reverse chronological order:

Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, and Marty Morell start a 1974 “So What” with searching free improv in the manner of Bitches Brew.

On the radio I heard the Brubeck/Desmond doing “Take Five” where they improvised in major! WHAT. I couldn’t find that version on YT but here’s a long boring version with Mulligan and Dawson in 1972 that proves that, yes, blowing in major on “Take Five” is a thing.

Finally, Coleman Hawkins imitated Stan Getz for a 1962 album of bossa. It’s really great — but when I heard it on a friend’s Pandora station, I had no idea what the hell it could be. Now I know.