Summertime and the living is…BUSY!

Riding through life on a wave of wonder does not always support the routines that the thinking, identifying mind lays out. Thus, I have not blogged for several weeks. Up to this point, I devotedly published a post EVERY Wednesday. This was a self-imposed deadline that felt well disciplined. The wave of wonder, from here on referred to as The WOW, breaks down my cycles of discipline on a regular basis. So I celebrate that for six months, I carried out my intention to blog every week!! And I celebrate that I can now relax my grip on the blog and let it flow with The WOW.

So, what have I been doing these last several weeks if not being with “In C” and writing about it?

I volunteered with Girl’s Rock NC camp for a couple of days. I worked with adolescent girls on writing and performing an original rock song. This was an amazing experience on many levels. I played hooky for most of my junior high school years by pretending to be sick. I was teased at school and The WOW took me right out of there. Girls Rock NC gave me a chance to repair and reformulate my feelings about adolescent girls. The girls in the band that I worked with were caring and respectful of each other, they knew how to brainstorm, and they created and performed a really cool song. Kudos to Girls Rock NC for creating the space that encourages creativity, experimentation, taking risks and celebrating each other. When I visited some of the other bands, I learned that not all of them worked together as well as the group I got to witness. We are nothing if not diverse. At one point I was pulled in as teacher of the drum methods class, which served to remind me that I do not like teaching. I got the class started on the fly and was very happy when the regular teacher showed up. And I learned pretty quickly that I am NOT a rocker. While I appreciate all music, rock is not my main squeeze. Good to know.

The second week was a major WOW experience facilitated by my friend and co-creator, Jody Cassell. Jody has been deeply immersed in the American Dance Festival all summer, taking classes, and attending workshops and performances. ADF began in 1934 in Bennington, Vermont with the mission of supporting established and emerging modern dancers and choreographers. ADF has been headquartered in Durham since 1982. Jody has performed and studied with ADF for 40 years. She hooked me up with her Composition class who needed musical accompaniment for their final presentation. The class was taught by Rodger Belman, a Professor at Florida State University, who has danced with numerous professional companies in addition to teaching and composing choreography all over the world. He is a warm and generous creative spirit.

The class was structured around the idea of collage. Each dancer had a personal notebook covered in a collage made the first week of the class. The collages were like vision boards of words, colors, images. Inside the notebook, the dance students kept a journal and conceived dance phrases and movement patterns. During the 6 weeks they spent together, they exchanged notebooks and worked with their own and each other’s phrases, taking them apart, extending and reshaping them. I joined them in the sixth and final week when they had shaped a performance that was a collage of the whole group’s ideas.

What an intense week of creation, as I observed the class on Monday to get ideas, then went home and began shaping a soundscape. When I watched the dancers on Monday, I heard shiny, shimmering slashes of sound. I started with cymbals in a rhythmic swing pattern and worked from there. I brought my sound system and computer to class each day and played what I had come up with. Rodger asked for more unusual non-instrumental sounds and random drum hits. The swing cymbals were transformed into a hollow pecking sound to mirror a birdlike feeding gesture that was part of the dance. Water poured, beads clattered and rolled, a knife was sharpened – all recorded in the reverberant bathroom. I found some prerecorded files from an Ipad app that worked really well in a couple of sections. An incomplete Ableton sketch called Molecular worked for one duet that I particularly enjoyed. By Friday, I had a sound collage that underscored and supported the dance collage.

I told Rodger I would have loved to work with them the whole 6 weeks going through the collage process as a musician. The sound piece would have been shaped and sculpted with more layers. I would have added live sound. As it happened, the creative experience was very satisfying and I am grateful for the generous feedback from Rodger, Jody and the dancers. This was my first time playing a soundscape live with a dance performance. Some of my cues could have been tighter, so it was a learning experience. This is what I want to do and I will continue to work toward collaborations with dancers. And if Rodger does this class again next year, I will take it as a musician. Maybe other musicians will as well. Now THAT would be interesting!

Another wonderful part of this week was being with Susan Gitler, a 94 year young dancer who I played percussion for a number of years ago. She was part of Glenna Batson’s pickup performance group The Wisecracks. Susan had a dancing story to tell and I provided the drums and sound sparks for her performance. Jody Cassell was in the audience for that performance, but we did not know each other until several years later.

It has taken me a while to understand and appreciate the vortex of creative cohorts who move into and out of my life. I appreciate all these vibrant and constantly shifting connections. I welcome the new and cultivate the old or simply let go when the time together is done. That is how life and The WOW flow!

The Premiere of “In C” November 4 and 6, 1964

(Thanks for your patience while I emphasized the “My” in “My Year ‘In C'”. I am ready to refocus on the piece itself now, but will always maintain the perogative to express what is happening in my life as this year progresses.)

Two important synchronicities occurred in early 1964 that opened the door for the premiere of “In C”. First, Terry Riley returned to San Francisco from Europe where he had been living and working for several years. Second, the San Francisco Tape and Music Center decided to devote its 1964-65 season to music by local composers. (The story of the SFTMC will be the subject of a later post.) Morton Subotnik, one of the mainstays of the Center, said of this time:

…we decided that in the 64-65 season it would be time for all the local composers to do a concert of their own music. So I did a concert, Pauline (Oliveros) did a concert, Ramon (Sender) did a concert, and I knew that Terry was coming back, so I wrote to him or called him, I can’t remember, and said, “Will you be back by November?” He said, “I’ll be back in time for November” and I said, “Why don’t we do a concert of your music and you write a piece that we can all play?”

Riley returned to SF in February of 1964, recieved” “In C” in March and this became the piece that everyone would play. There were runthroughs and tryouts at various venues, including several house concerts, throughout the spring and summer of 1964. The ultimate players for the November premiere included Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnik, Ramon Sender, Jon Gibson and others, 13 musicians in all. An additional performer was Tony Martin, who designed and performed a collage of movement and color during the piece. As Robert Carl points out in Terry Riley’s In C, the inclusion of Tony Martin’s visual component made the premiere of “In C” a multimedia event.

The final instrumentation for “In C” was two trumpets, sopranino recorder, clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, accordion, two pianos (with two players each) and Wurlitzer Chamberlin organ. Ramon Sender played the Chamberlin which was housed in the upstairs studio at the Center. As it turns out, the Chamberlin is a type of analog sampler that could play prerecorded loops. Again from Robert Carl: “Reich remembers a ‘kind of roundness’ in the overall sonority, and it seems likely that the background wash of sound from the organ may have been responsible for much of that effect. It is thus important to realize that In C from its earliest incarnation had an electroacoustic component, and so was a pioneering instance of live electronic performance integrated into an ensemble of acoustic instruments.” I was very excited to read this as this is the vision I have for this 2014 celebratory version as well. I like synchronicities like that.

The official premiere happened on November 4, 1964 with a two part program. The first half included Music for The Gift, three short electronic works and a solo piano piece. The second half of the program was devoted to a 45 to 60 minute rendition of “In C.” Reich remembers that the players worked together very well:

There’s alot of listening to other people, alot of laying out when it made sense, and alot of trying to play the same pattern as someone else but to sound interesting in a canon way, and to be aware of where people were and how far ahead you were. I think it was very good ensemble, good listening ensemble.

One signifigant feature of this performance, as recollected by Pauline Oliveros, is the tempo. The first performance of “In C” moved along at around 138 pulses per minute about half as fast as the initial 1967 recording. I have found playing this piece at slower tempos creates a spaciousness that allows more changes in dynamics. Slower tempos allow and encourage the kind of deep listening Reich describes. Faster tempos result in a frenetic feeling that never lets up, especially with that pulse pounding throughout.

The audience for the premier numbered about 100 and Subotnik remembers:

The audience response was wonderful. There was a buzz…It was a kind of warm, vibrant, happy…it was like something had happened, maybe not historical, but something had happened that night that was really special. It was different than other concerts.

But it was the second performance, two nights later, that garnered the now famous review by Alfred Frankenstein with the title “Music Like None Other On Earth.” Next post I will discuss the importance of this review not only for “In C” but for minimalist/avant garde music in general.

Foibles Fables Part 2 – Life Patterns

The past has my attention at this moment. Gently looking at what life has vibrantly offered to me, what life continues to offer. Gently remembering those frequent infusions of wonder that always guided me forward even when I was deeply suffering. Now, I am seeing more clearly how all of this suffering was created by my mind. And how those infusions of wonder were/are actually waves that lift and CARRY me forward. I have to laugh at how the poor little unappreciated ego mind was only willing to be GUIDED by the wonder. No wonder there was so much suffering going on. (heh-heh)

Looking a little deeper, I see how I shared my suffering with those with whom I loved. This is the arena that has my unwavering attention right now. The sense of that very strong desire to impose my mind’s idea of what was happening over what was effortlessly unfolding before my very eyes, emanating from my very heart and from the hearts of those with whom I have had the privilege to share deep love. And here is what I see: I am comfortably indifferent to gifts of great love. And I am passionately attentive when I feel great love is denied. This is the seesaw of suffering I rode most of my adolescence and into adulthood. And while it felt more like a rollercoaster, I know now that it was a seesaw.

What was the story that my suffering mind told my loving heart? You know how sometimes you meet someone and there comes a moment in your budding acquaintance when you suddenly feel your entire being reach for that person. Oh my, such a rush of joy, gratitude, recognition, expansion. I do believe my heart opens and releases every time I feel this yearning. At its best, this feeling is a yearning to know God in another human being, and to share the God within yourself as well. At its worst, it manifests as a neediness that cannot be satisfied, a wound that will not heal, a sense of being incomplete that can ONLY be satisfied by merging with the beloved. This is the place of that exquisite, sacred suffering that my mind loved to fixate on.

So I am giving attention to how my need to ride the seesaw really got in the way of my life’s purpose of learning to love unconditionally. Or maybe it was part of learning to love unconditionally. Either way, my actions were too often less than loving. I withheld attention and love from those who loved me best. And I can still hop on that seesaw with the right people in the right circumstances, this gives me continuing opportunity to practice waking up to myself and my number 1 pattern of engagement.

I have never been very good at maintaining loving connections with people who are not with me right here, right now. I am grateful for Facebook because I can be connected with many people with whom I have had the life experiences that enriched me. I would not be able to share and witness the beautiful wild ride that is this thing called life, with all of these people who are so very important to me, without technology. While I wish I could come over to your house and sit and talk over a nice cup of tea, I will settle for the softly lit window into your life that technology allows as I lovingly read through your posts and sharings. With each reading, I say to you:

I am sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you