Over the weekend, I learned in a post by Kyle Gann that composer James Tenney had succumbed to lung cancer. I don't know the bulk of Tenney's music as well as I might, but I have a healthy respect for the recordings that I've heard, foremost among them the Frog Peak compilation on New World that Alex Ross mentions in his short but typically eloquent eulogy, and an ambitious set on the hat[now]ART label that combined Tenney's Form 1-4, from 1993, with works by Varèse, Cage, Wolpe and Feldman, the dedicatees of Tenney's four pieces. I also have vivid memories of a remarkable concert that pianist Jenny Lin mounted at the Whitney Museum's midtown space at Altria, across the street from Grand Central Station, last summer. Lin and a group of local luminaries filled the tall, resonant space with a dizzying swirl of furtive sound. Composer and NewMusicBox maven Frank J. Oteri conducted an endearingly rambling live interview. I was particularly taken by the fact that, unless my eyes were deceiving me, there was a sizeable pocket knife sheathed on Tenney's belt -- a detail that seemed in keeping with Tenney's maverick aesthetic.
From an e-mailed press release received at the TONY office this afternoon, I learned that Jesse Pintado had died on Saturday night in a Dutch hospital, of causes as yet undisclosed officially. A Mexican-American guitarist who'd been a founding member of the seminal death-metal band Terrorizer, Pintado bravely uprooted himself to join the British extreme-metal band Napalm Death in 1990, and was a crucial element in that group's maturation from crusty grindcore roots to earth-shaking death-metal profundity. Pintado vanished from the Napalm Death lineup in 2004 -- not officially commented upon until last year, in which it was revealed that he'd been fundamentally absent since 2002. Pintado turned up on a Terrorizer "reunion" CD, Darker Days Ahead, issued last week on the Century Media label. Disappointing on any number of levels, the disc is still notable for the guitarist's dense, dark tone and mechanistic chug. His best work, however, is to be found elsewhere, most notably on Napalm Death's crowning glory, the 1992 album Utopia Banished.
Later, Mwanji thoughtfully e-mailed the sad news that Pip Pyle had also died in Amsterdam over the weekend, reportedly of natural causes. This seemed nearly unbelievable, given how youthful, healthy and spry the Canterbury-prog scene's house drummer seemed when he played with a reformed Hatfield and the North at the Bowery Poetry Club in June (about which I posted here -- scroll down). During the show, as on those cherished Hatfield records, Pyle demonstrated his enviable knack for playing rock music in complex time signatures without grandstanding. A consummate team player, Pyle also penned some of Hatfield's most memorable lyrics, full of whimsical wordplay and self-referential blank verse about not taking the rock 'n' roll life too seriously.
You don't expect my life's a mess
You prob'ly think it's groovy
Meeting people every day
See some place abroad
And I admit that when the time is right
It can be quite a laugh
But you know, that's not often
Eventually, I think that you will agree
I'm only putting lines out
And shifting gears, missing years disappear.
(From "Fitter Stoke Has a Bath," Hatfield and the North, Rotter's Club, Virgin, 1975)