Breaking Bolcom: Structural Similarities between William Bolcom and Breaking Bad

In actuality, William Bolcom – a prominent living postmodern composer – and the creative forces behind Breaking Bad – a critically acclaimed TV drama about a cancer-stricken former high school chemistry teacher who resorts to manufacturing meth – probably have very little in common.  Both are have been pampered with awards and praise for their respective works, and both have created art that responds to modern life in unique and fascinating ways.  Yet, I have no idea if Bolcom watches Breaking Bad, and there is a good chance that few (if any) of those in the show’s writers’ room have ever heard of Bolcom.  There is a good chance that very little inspiration passes from one side of this arbitrary connection to the other, and there is an even better chance there is none whatsoever. But art is funny like that.  Sometimes artists use similar abstract processes in their creations even when they achieve wildly different concrete results. Take, for example, “Scherzo Vitale” (the second movement from Bolcom’s Third Symphony) and “Shotgun” (the fifth episode from Breaking Bad’s fourth season, written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Michelle MacLaren).  The former comes from a remarkable larger work, but this movement more »

Structural Dissonance in John Zorn’s “Spillane”

“The overhanging sonorities, as one section bleeds to the next, help give my pieces a sense of unity; you can almost feel the sections growing out of one another. It is much more organic that way, and so, easier to listen to.” – John Zorn, Spillane liner notes “As for the listener, ultimately the most subjective response is the best response. Eventually, total subjectivity becomes total objectivity. That’s the way I see the world.” -Zorn ***** Perhaps the most interesting thing about music from the past hundred years is the expansive diversity of styles, genres, and independent voices that have emerged.  It is virtually impossible to organize various trends in music from this past century like musicologists have done with each preceding century without using the broadest of brushes.  However, regardless of specific end results that each composer achieves, there are some general musical concepts that most either confront directly or react against.  Arguably the most vital of these concepts is that of dissonance. This is a concept that has evolved throughout music history – after all, what seemed dissonant to Mozart would be relatively consonant to Wagner.  Yet the climax of composers’ willingness to embrace all facets of dissonance more »