Bourland update: July 2019

July 27, 2019

Jackson Pollock's paints
Jackson Pollock’s paints

Greetings all! As you see here, I have taken a break from blogging for a few years but I am still alive and well and still working hard. Well, truth be told, I have retired from UCLA and given myself permission to slow down my frantic pace of composing after a life of it. I have fallen in love with sewing. Yes, sewing. No, there are no plans to make a new company, but I have filled two closets with jackets inspired by Japanese jackets and vests using old fabric from Japan and other Asian countries, and bringing new life to otherwise abandoned garments and material. So I will sell them all some day in a gallery or on Etsy.

I am posting many of my sewing projects on my Instagram account along with lots of photographs. I was amazed to learn that both my mother and my paternal grandmother were both avid sewists, so I may have inherited the bug from them.

Mitchell Morris and I are still working on our Frida Kahlo project but are rethinking the format. Today, our working title is SMOKING MIRROR. The title refers to the chipped and polished obsidian mirrors used by holy people in Aztec societies that held magical power to see the future and speak with people long dead.

In opera repertoire, there is already Roberto Rodriguez‘s opera on Frida Kahlo called Frida which is still enjoying success and performances here and there. It follows a similar story arc to the terrific movie by the same name. Gabriela Frank is about finished with her Kahlo/Rivera opera, El último sueño de Frida y Diego scheduled for a 2020 premiere. With these other works in the public eye, we needed to pull back for a while and reassess our project and determine whether to continue, to abandon, or to refashion it into something new. We have decided on the latter, and will update you when we are ready to announce it. My musical language is so utterly different than either composer, so I think there is room for another Frida piece.

Although in my sabbatical from blogging, I have posted many things on Facebook, the change in the US political climate has made the experience of reading and posting to FB extremely stressful. Hence, my choice to post photos of things that bring me joy on Instagram and follow like-minded people. (I enjoy looking at pet and family pics on FB, but not IG. I avoid news these days as it is so grim, preferring to skim headlines.) Many of my close friends are media addicts, watching news all day. I can’t imagine anything more stressful that I have control over.

We left our home in Los Angeles and are now living in the Bay area with two Italian greyhounds, two African grey parrots with many new friends and an abundant garden. My husband and I are coming up on 25 years together. We have been world travelers, blessed to see so many amazing places on this planet. Our next destination is Japan. I find it interesting that over the past 15 years I have fallen in love with two cultures that are very different from my own heritage: Mexico and Japan. Both have amazing histories and have been around far longer than our young country.

And, at age 65, I got my first tattoo: a half sleeve by the internationally renown artist, Ben Volt: my fourth midlife, uh, exuberance. I did it to celebrate retiring; surviving a devastatingly painful disease called synovial chondromatosis, finally cured by a team of doctors at Stanford; and turning 65. Having been in a wheelchair for my final term at UCLA, I’m happy to report that I have healed, have no pain, and can walk again.

I’m working with my husband to revisit this blog and update it. And although blogging seems to have faded as a past-time of many in favor of “social media” I find myself returning to it, in hopes that those who’d like to “follow” me can keep up with me without being under the mixed bag of Facebook and all the drama, meltdowns, fake news, tracking, and venting that seems to go on.

I don’t attend contemporary chamber music concerts any longer, nor teach. We do attend new and old opera performances offered by San Francisco Opera and Opera San Jose (CA). I have Madonna’s new album, Madame X, playing like a radio station constantly in my head. So sexy! (Especially, “Crave”.) I met Rufus Wainwright briefly before his recent concert in San Francisco. My book about his early songs is about 2/3rds done and may finish it someday. Janelle Monae is my favorite new performer whose acting career is also going great guns. So smart, sexy and brave.

My new friend Bert Keely invited me to play keyboard in a band where our first gig was to perform Pink Floyd’s DARK SIDE OF THE MOON as a trio. After the third gig, I begged him to add a bass player so that I didn’t have to cover that part in my left hand while trying to do the keyboard part as well. He agreed. I had never known this material as I was a college student studying Stockhausen, Stravinsky and Bach in school, turning up my nose at my pop music past. After retiring, I realized that I knew thousands of songs that many would kill to know how to play, so I got over myself, built up my callouses and started playing guitar again.

A year ago, I sold 17 of my synthesizers on eBay and used the money to buy two beautiful acoustic guitars. Um, and then I bought some more guitars. Now I need to sell some of them so I can afford my next tattoo!

My first “hit”, championed by the late Gunther Schuller, was SEVEN POLLOCK PAINTINGS (1978). I finally got to visit the Krasner/Pollock house on Long Island and visit his studio. My Instagram account has some “paintings” that I excised from the floor. The image above is a display of the paints he used—all purchased at the local hardware store that is still there.

That should give you a personal update, and forgive me for abandoning this blog. I’ll be back.

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