Dreamy fag music

June 5, 2006

In the summer of 1978 I was a composition student at Tanglewood, studying with Gunther Schuller.

I also had seminars with Henri Lazarof, Theodore Antoniou, Jacob Druckman, George Crumb, and a few others. I was awarded the Koussevitzky Prize for my composition “Seven Pollock Paintings.” It was a good summer. That was the summer I met Lenny. I also met Angus Whyte.

RB Tanglewood.jpg

One day I was sauntering down the grand hall in the old Koussevitzky mansion (called Seranak –– the place where all the student composers live while the Berkshire Music Festival is in session) I heard this alluring music wafting through the halls. It was a piano. There were beautiful harmonies flowing through the hot humid western Massachusetts lake-humidity afternoon air. It was Angus playing the opening of the Schubert B flat major sonata. I didn’t know the piece at the time. I introduced myself and asked “what is that dreamy fag music?” Angus roared with laughter and told me it was Schubert. I said “Schubert must have been gay.” “I think he was” Angus replied with amusement.

Here is the opening of Schubert’s B flat piano sonata as played by Wilhelm Kempf.


Schubert: Sonata in B flat, D.960, Molto Moderato, performed by Wilhelm Kempf.

Later we smoked a joint. Angus took this picture. No I wasn’t naked. I had on shorts but Angus clipped them out of the picture. It was 95 degrees and 100% humidity. No air conditioning.

Angus continues to play dreamy fag music: Poulenc, me, Ravel, John Fields, and many more. I now write it. There are stretches of my music that tap into that dreamy fag music feel. (Listen to my “Poem” if you need convincing.) I hear it in a lot of Beethoven’s music and for that reason alone I’ve always thought he was gay (takes one to know one).
[I asked Angus permission to share this story, and here is his response:]

“Yes, Darling. You may print it, with one caveat: It’s “John Field” singular, just as it’s “Julia Child” singular…And I’m still playing Mendelssohn, Field, Schubert, and occasionally Haydn slow movements as if they’re ALL dreamy fag music! Big Love, XXa.”


I should point out that I have no interest in making “dreamy fag music” a phrase for common usage. I don’t say the word “fag” but have the right to do so much as blacks can say nigga.

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