Sunday, December 16, 2012

HISTORICAL POST: November 20, 2006


NOVEMBER 20. Breakfast this morning was coffee from McDonald's. Lunch was a little box of Kung Po noodles from Trader Joe's. Dinner was Chunky Grilled Chicken soup with salad. TEMPERATURE EXTREMES THIS LAST TWO WEEKS: 34.5 and 67.8. MUSIC GOING THROUGH MY HEAD AS I TYPE THIS Absofunkinlutely. LARGE EXPENSES this last week include dinner and Corsendonks with Jay and Marilyn, $149, lunch with Hayes, $40, lunch with Marilyn, $55. POINTLESS NOSTALGIC REMINISCENCE: Back in our Princeton grad student days, Andy Milburn had a Commodore 64 with a voice synthesis program -- pretty primitive by today's standards. We delighted in attaching it to the TV and making it say things in its ... well, robotic ... voice. We played a game with Martler and Alison where we would type things with numbers in them to hear the computer pronounce them: 4nik8, qui9, 6ual, etc. -- and Alison topped us all with 0ber took my jewels (zero-bber took my jewels, think French accent). Eventually we recorded our answering machine message using this thing, which included the robotically spoken phrases "Davy is bouncing on his bed. Martin is doing limey things". Paul Lansky thought it was so funny that he used to call us just to hear the message -- and then he would leave a message saying, "Oh, it's Lansky again. I just called to hear the message. Hee hee." Dunno why he didn't just hang up. THIS WEEK'S COSMIC QUANDARY: How many pins will fit on the head of an angel? THIS WEEK'S MADE-UP WORD: cirren. THINGS I HAVE GROWN WEARY OF are not being with my STUFF. RECENT GASTRONOMIC OBSESSIONS: are celery with Buffalo wing sauce, single size packets of microwave popcorn, Real Pickles, water with powdered citrus twists. DISCOVERY OF THE WEEK Flatness and rolling hills both on Long Island and Kansas. THIS WEEK'S NUMBER BETWEEN 1 AND 10: 19 (I broke the rules). REVISIONS TO THIS SITE: This page, Performances, Recordings. NUMBER OF HAIRCUTS I GOT LAST WEEK: 0. DENTIST VISITS THIS SEMESTER SO FAR: 5. FRAGILE THINGS DESTROYED BY THE CATS THIS LAST WEEK is the back of my computer chair, actually accomplished over about a four year period. RECOMMENDATION AND PROFESSIONAL LETTERS WRITTEN THIS LAST WEEK: 7 (and still no Guggenheim letter requests). DAVY'S BAROMETER FOR THE FUTURE OF MUSIC this week is 65 out of 100. WHAT THE NEXT BIG TREND WOULD BE IF I WERE IN CHARGE: Republican presidents and vice presidents understand the phrase "you lost". PHOTOS IN MY IPHOTO LIBRARY: 9,946. WHAT I PAID FOR GASOLINE THIS WEEK: $2.37 in Stony Brook, $2.34 on the Merritt Parkway, $2.23 at the local Mobile station. OTHER INANIMATE OBJECTS THAT WOULD BE A BETTER PRESIDENT THAN THE CURRENT ONE a personal anecdote, fifteen of the widest cantaloupes in the field, intransigence, the big thing we haven't given a name yet.

The big news, of course, is that as of yesterday afternoon, this year's raking is finished, for all intents and purposes -- though I may go over the apple tree yard a bit later to clean out some accumulated detritus. Yesterday (Sunday) Beff and I spent time hauling away the issue of the neighbor's big oak tree, which is always last to give it up. I did not keep a running tab of barrels raked this year, but I think it stopped around 90. Compare that with 104 last year, and we see the effect of the big windstorm that knocked down the ailanthus.

It is just short of two weeks since I last posted, and here I affirm that I am writing in the first person singular (synchronize your grammars). Two extensive trips happened in the interim, as well as plenty of driving, flying, being driven, listening, etc. In the middle of all that, I was informed that BBC Radio 3 was broadcasting a recording of the American music concert by Lontano from last May, with commentary, and that it would be available in streaming audio on its website for a week thereafter. Well, I was curious, and when I got to the site, I discovered that a bunch of composers were in front of me on the concert, I was an hour and fifteen minutes into the program, and there was no way to scroll or fast forward into it. So one night I just let it play, turned down the sound, and set an alarm. After about an hour, I checked on it, and it was in the middle of some deadly boring Virgil Thomson choruses. Ten minutes later I saw the message "network timed out. Probably congestion". When I clicked OK, the program started again FROM THE BEGINNING. So I didn't get to hear it. I did check the user comments online, though, caught someone asking who these Americans were, a user mysteriously named "Martle" piped in that Rakowski was pretty good, and someone else reported on all the composer websites -- including one saying that "Rakowski's website includes what he ate on November 7. Apparently he likes to share". Oh, those great unwashed. Literally. 


Much was going on in the actual classroom teaching, although nothing at all was going on in my Thursday composition lessons -- being that I was away both Thursdays. One is being made up tomorrow, another on Wednesday, and both again during exam week. So there, smarty pants. It was chorale writing in theory, and percussion and harp in orchestration. Meanwhile, as much could be done as could be done about that which was done.

So first, a week ago Thursday I drove to Stony Brook starting at 6:45 in the morning, and arrived around noon. There were four major delays on the Hutchinson Parkway, and then a major tie-up exiting 95 for the Throg's Neck, but everything else was okay. It's a four and a half hour drive that was stretched into a stupidly long one. I followed Perry Goldstein's directions to campus and went to the parking garage where I was directed to park, which was marked FULL. After a bit of help, we made our way to the alternate lot, I did some e-mail, we had lunch with Bob Gibson (so good in the 1967 World Series, dontcha know), and I went to my hotel, paid for by Stony Brook. It was a Holiday Inn Express with a lot of amenities, none of which I had time to do. Swim? Not me. Have a conference? Not me. Go to the bathroom? Definitely me. So I then made it in to hear a rehearsal, got there a little early, and saw Rich Festinger -- also with a piece on the concert, and whom I had to direct to the hall ("that way", I said). I then got to hear my rehearsal, and the players were really good -- I just had to make small comments and explain the thrown bow notation (I forgot to say the first time around what it meant), and the performance was stunningly good -- even though I wanted the finale to go faster. Afterwards at the reception, the players kept asking me what else I wanted that they could do, and I said all I wanted was beer.

The day after, in the morning, I checked out and drove into Manhattan, parking near the apartment of Jay and Marilyn, in the 112th Street garage. I had to deliver a Schoenhut toy piano (Model 6637MB) to Marilyn, and she was going to be in her office at NYU all day, so I had packed light -- all I had was the toy piano and a few clothes in a backpack. I cabbed my way to Marilyn's building, and she had said to call her cell phone when I got in. Naturally, it was off, since I got there about 45 minutes early. So I stood at the door to the building with the toy piano on the sidewalk, fielding comments and questions from innocent passersby ("Gift"? "Boy or girl?" "Does she know she's getting it?" "Can you PLAY that?"). Soon Marilyn let me in, we set up the toy piano, and went to the Bowery Bar for lunch. I paid. We both ate. I then spent some time at bookstores and Tower Records before hopping back uptown with Marilyn for dinner with her and Jay. And dine we did. As is usual, we broke out the Corsendonk at the Abbey Pub, and unfortunately they no longer have the "every fourth one free" policy.

The next day I had lunch with Hayes in Chelsea, played with his cats, saw Susan, and went back uptown, picked up Jay, and we both went to a vegetarian restaurant near the Tenri Center for dinner. It was good. The show itself was even better -- the Tenri Center being small, I had a seat very close to the players -- I was cleaning rosin out of my nose at intermission from the viola's bow, and I got to see harp pedaling action up close for the first time. There were a whole bunch of friends and former students there (some of them both) like Jim and Judy (with whom I sat), Spencer Schedler, Rick Carrick, and "Not" Adam Marks. My performance was yet mo' betta, and the Gibson and Festinger pieces sounded quite good this close. Sophie, the pianist, informed that my piece would be on her recital after Thanksgiving, and I solicited a recording from that, too -- not as if I have recordings yet from either performance. She also gave me Rich G's Christmas album, which I treated as an earring for a little while. Jay and Marilyn and I cabbed it back uptown, we stopped for a beer, and went to bed. Next morning I drove off to Maynard before the predicted rainstorm hit.

All that while Beff was at a computer music conference in Utica, New York, and met some of our favorites -- Brian Bevelander, for starters -- and she also just barely beat the approaching rainstorm. Which eventually gave us stormy rain. So for the half day that we actually got to see each other that weekend, we had a fire in the fireplace, and I made salmon burgers from patties I got at Whole Foods. Yes!

The Tuesday that followed was the day for Kansas. I set the alarm for 3:30, since I was being picked up at 4:15 for a 6:35 flight. Geoffy had gotten in late the night before, since he was in town for Musica Viva concerts again, but we did not interface at all. I got up at 3:30, and at about 3:40 as I was in the shower, the phone rang. I hopped out and dripped all over everything, but did not answer it in time. I heard on the answering machine, "This is Orbitz. Your six .... thirty-five ... flight to ... Kansas City .... is on time". They had to CALL me? At such an ungodly hour? With a houseguest trying to get some sleep? Crap, Orbitz is off my list for future bookings. Anyway, I made it to Kansas City on the very nice Midwest Airlines (leather seats! No first class! Cookies!) with a stop in Milwaukee (an "airport that makes up for its lack of amenities with its lack of charm"), and Mary Fukushima was right there to pick me up (I gave her my energy bar from the plane). I had wondered about Midwest's schedule -- since all FOUR of my flights backed away from the gate about ten minutes before the scheduled departure time -- but nobody complained, and all the flights were full except the last one back to Boston. Anyway, Mary took me through the flatness and expanse of the midwest to the Cambridge of Kansas, that liberal bastion Lawrence, and to the home of Dave and Gunda Hiebert -- avid music department supporters, and with beautiful Asian sculptures and structures in and around their house, and a bed on which I got some really sound sleep. At this point I met Mike (Kirkendoll) and Nathanael (May), the pianists, for the first time. I had already met Mary, playing the flute and piccolo part -- for she was the one driving. Duh.

And I was set up to do a thinly-spread residency -- from watching rehearsals and concerts to much dining at the expense of others (it averaged four meals a day), to doing a composer masterclass to talking in an orchestration class. One thing that was a little hard to get used to at first was NOT being in a place where "composer" and "band composer" are two different things (that, and when passing strangers and your eyes meet, they smile at you or even say hi). And one thing that was NOT hard to get used to was having excellent performers to play my piece, at least a time zone away from New York.

Anyway, I got taken to the 75th Street Brewery for lunch by Jim Barnes because I expressed a hankerin' for buffalo wings -- and emerged with just a hint of Southern accent. I then got to hear a rehearsal, and the piece already sounded quite good -- I mostly just made comments about balance and a few things about phrasing. I was sorry that the pianists had to go to so much trouble to deal with the inside the piano stuff -- but unlike other non-New Yorkers, they didn't complain. Not even once. The Guinness book of sports records was used to prop the sostenuto pedal up for Nathanael, and it was the job of the page turner to kick it away when it was no longer needed. I'm sure there's a joke there, but I'd rather make fun of Berlioz.

Hanging out was also David Fedele -- now the flute teacher there -- who recorded Sesso e Violenza during his New York days, and who returned for the encore performance by the Columbia Sinfonietta a year and a half ago (I have pictures), and it was good to reconnect. And make fun of his early 90s promo photo evident in the department. David made lots of appearances, and it was always cool to see him. We did dinner at Indo's with Forrest Pierce, the new junior composer there -- who seems to be making things run really well, at least in terms of the new music ensemble (it is called "Helios" -- or sunflower, as in, Kansas, the Sunflower State) and ... well, standards -- and he is what they call vertically advantaged. After some sort of show, we made a brief appearance at the Free State Brewery, since Gregg had recommended it, and I had an amber. And it was good, brother. Meanwhile, Mary gave me a Kansas Jayhawks big spongy glove and a Kansas Jayhawks frisbee -- I was never to be seen without the glove.

The next day there was lunch at the student union with the piano faculty, who were there explicitly to be shown my etudes. And show them I did, using a Combo-Pak of all 74 (it was agreed that that was a bit many all at once), and there was more rehearsing. The Crumb Music for a Summer Evening was on the show, and beautifully done, though I was falling asleep during it and remembering why I never really got interested in his music during my undergraduate years (it was said he wrote the same piece over and over, and I couldn't find many grounds for disagreement). That said, it had lots of beautiful stuff -- though the slide whistle duet played into the pianos was almost comically dumb -- and the ending came off beautifully.

The concert itself had been scheduled at the same time the KU basketball team -- ranked #3 nationally -- was playing Oral Roberts University, and as it turned out, while the new music was being done, KU got its but soundly kicked (or kickly sounded), and that probably made it easier to get into bars that night. The concert started with a Rzewski piece that was very fun and not at all deep or pretentious, and followed with the Crumb, which sounded even better. After intermission came me, and boy did things click -- listening to the recording, I am actually quite astonished at her nice piccolo sound, which she kept trying to say she didn't have much of, and her control of the harmonics in the final section. David Fedele said the piece was better than Sesso e Violenza, but of course it is only half as long. So I didn't have to try as hard. The concert ended with a Messiaen Oiseaux Exotiques, and it came off very, very well, and finally seemed to be as funny as Messiaen intended. Poor Mike was in every piece, and he had to cram on this piece before the concert. And Mary was the piccolist in the group, and I noticed from my poor vantage point that Mary was the only one in the group whose head moved and bobbed with the musical gestures -- as if she was really playing the music. And Mike either learned the part really well, or faked it incredibly. Afterwards, much of the group went to Old Chicago restaurant, which had lots of beers on tap. And I had some.

And by the way, you can click on the red links above to hear the performance and see the score. This offer holds only for a week.

Then was the business of earning my keep. I spoke to a general music gathering on Thursday morning, introduced by Forrest, and played a bunch of stuff. And I did masterclass in the afternoon, which had a few priceless moments -- first, Beff called me and my cell phone was on, so it played her special ringtone: Beff saying "Davy? Davy? Davy? Davy?" Actually, usually only Mary heard it, and I didn't -- including later, at the Hieberts' house. I tried to get a sense of each composer before I looked at his music; one was introduced as being an organist who was composing, and I tried my utmost to connect: "I took one organ lesson when I was in high school, and I bought the special shoes. Needless to say, I got a lot more use out of them later than I did for playing the organ." The response: "For wrestling?"

That night I was taken to Chinese by Jim Barnes, picked up a little bit more of Southern accent, got deposited at another concert with another performance of the Messiaen, after which Mike and Mary and I went to another dinner and drinks -- I got some good beer on draft, and some textured guacamole (not whack-a-mole). This place closed at 10, and many of the players from the concert wanted to continue, so another venue was used, pool was played (not by me), and Mike and I ended up by ourselves just talking, while margaritas did their dirty work on the bloodstreams of others. Friday I went to the orchestration class, said some things and played some things, went to an open lunch, hung out in Lawrence with Forrest (book stores and Free State Brewery yet again), got taken to dinner at a Mexican place by the Composers Guild (I got the sizzling fajita), caught the end of a flute recital Mike was accompanying, and then went to Mike 'n' Mary's place on the outskirts for some wine. Where we played the game "don't spill your wine while their big dog Kona jumps all over you" -- all of us seem to have won that one. The wine was really good -- I had frankly gotten tired of beer. Briefly.

And Saturday Mike and Mary picked me up at the Hieberts, Mike drove me to the airport, and I had an utterly eventless flight home, with another layover in Milwaukee, which I spent entirely on the plane. I got driven back by AAA, part of the the Mass Pike was closed because of Big Dig crappola, and Beff and I walked to the Quarterdeck for dinner -- I had the clam roll, as usual. Speaking of seafood, I was informed that in Kansas, catfish is considered seafood. Hmm. Where to categorize that?

Meanwhile, on THAT weekend, Beff had driven to Vermont in a rented cargo van with her bro' Bob to get some stuff out of her dad's condo, take some donated books to Norwich University, and bring a few little pieces of furniture back (including a partially spent jar of honey -- okay, that's not furniture, but you get the point). On Sunday morning we dropped the van off, did a Thanksgiving shop, and did the raking thing, and Beff left for Maine, since she promised to watch a dress rehearsal of the concert band (guess what -- they were doing a piece by KU's own Jim Barnes) and I spent most of the afternoon preparing Monday's teaching (lots of Xeroxing, making up a quiz, etc.)

And today, Monday, was a type of day I hate -- drive to school in the dark, and return in the dark. I didn't even raise the shades. And here I am now, and I admit, I am listening repeatedly to the recording of the Kansas performance because a) it was great and b) I have it. I can only say ONE of those things about the Stony Brook performances.

Among other more mundane things -- the Capstone CDs of Michael Lipsey's hand drum CD arrived, as well as a box at the artist rate of Jim and Judy's new CD on Bridge. Both are now available, see links in Recordings. Both are fantafunkingtastic.

Coming up: the Wiemann siblings, possibly all of them, for Thanksgiving. And lots of grading of chorales. Based on my random sampling, I calculated that if all the assigned ones came in, I have 13 hours of grading over Thanksgiving break. Saturday, Maynard door and window takes a look at the pantry in preparation for converting it into a half bath. Tomorrow morning it's dentist time again (number six). Beff gets back either late tomorrow night or during the morning on Wednesday. And then, aw, geez, just a week and a day of classes left. Cool.

As to this week's pictures -- all were taken from my cell phone except the first, taken on Carolyn's (ka-ching!) camera -- it's Carolyn playing the piece of stump as a guitar. Then we have Marilyn Nonken at the Bowery Bar, two shots of the Free State Brewery, Mary Fukushima after being taught how to suck chips to her face, and a bottle chandelier at the place of too many margaritas. Check the red "Uccelli" links above for score and recording of the Kansas experience. For the Stony Brook experience, stand there very still. And for a very, very long time.


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