Dave Douglas: American Maverick Playlist at WQXR

“American Mavericks” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and with good reason. America’s musical history is filled with bold original thinkers, composers who court enormous risk by departing from ‘standard operating procedure,’ musicians who take it upon themselves to envision an unfettered way forward in music, and sound artists who venture to the very roots of hearing to find their own modes of expression.

“True to the maverick esthetic, each of these composers has his or her own story to tell. Not one of them has the same working process–in fact, one of the most inspiring things about this list is how different each of them are. In the case of Mary Lou Williams, the 30 year span between these two pieces demonstrates how freely she was able to work with vastly different materials and still come up with music that was wholly her own. Maybe that is the American maverick spirit: the freedom to define oneself as one sees fit, and to draw strength from that individuality, ultimately feeding it back into the universal parade that is our ongoing culture. I had to leave many out, but for me these are a few gems, listed in chronological order.” -Dave Douglas

The Playlist

John Cage, Imaginary Landscape No. 2, 1942, Works for Percussion – Quatuor Helios
Mary Lou Williams, Aries (original version), 1943, The Zodiac Suite
Harry Partch, Wayward: III The Letter, 1943
Earle Brown, Octet I for Eight Loudspeakers, 1953
Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette, 1966, Sound
Carla Bley, The New Funeral March, 1967, Genuine Tong Funeral
Conlon Nancarrow, Studies for Player Piano No. 5, c. 1968, Studies – Ensemble Moderne
Wadada Leo Smith, The Bell, 1968, 3 Compositions of New Jazz
Mary Lou Williams, Lamb of God, 1972, Mary Lou’s Mass
Anthony Braxton, Composition 40(O), 1976, Quartet (Dortmund)
Henry Threadgill, Award The Squadett, 1987, Easily Slip Into Another World
Mel Powell, Setting for two pianos, c. 1990