Reflecting on my 2008

December 28, 2008

Roger Bourland at Haleakala

RB at Haleakala

What a year!

The highlight of my year had to be the premiere of HOMER IN CYBERSPACE, my new musical written with Mel Shapiro. I don’t have the interest or connections to try to send it to Broadway, but am certain it could have a huge audience if put in the right hands.

A trip to Hawaii with Daniel, Mitchell and Mark was thrilling. We loved it so much we are considering getting a time share on Kauai. Prices are lower than ever with people trying to sell theirs with the downturn in the economy.

I got married to Daniel Shiplacoff, and after the passage of Proposition 8, I guess we are still married but I’m unclear what our legal status is. I’ll keep it as married.

This year Daniel took a job at Palm Inc. (of Palm Pilot fame) and is working on some mysterious new things that will be announced at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in a few weeks. I wasn’t sure how his commuting back and forth from Sunnyvale would work. I had visions of our marriage falling apart but it just got stronger. It gave both of us concentrated time to do our own research, and could look forward to spending quality time together over long weekends.

I have enjoyed seeing the growth of social networking resources like Facebook and MySpace. It is especially gratifying to reconnect with old friends, and to follow my own students in their post-graduate lives.

This year my brother Andy’s health went into a final decline. He is now in a hospice in Reading MA. Yesterday we had a wonderful birthday party there for his daughter Hannah. We were a noisy bunch and were a bit worried that we were disturbing the other people there but the nurses assured us that it was welcome. Andy couldn’t have been happier. He got his picture taken with everyone. This may be his last party, but who knows. He’s been an amazing survivor. He has faced his imminent death with courage, grace, intelligence, and candor. He has been good to finish the unfinished business in his life. His blog and especially, his recent posts have elicited a remarkable response from the many people who have known him in business and life.

I was upset about being excluded from a top 50 Classical Blog list because I write about other things than classical music. I am a composer, and composers have lives, but as far as this anonymous blogger is concerned, I don’t belong. Fine. I dealt with it, but I find myself wanting to start another blog where I can write about things that may not be appropriate for the Chair of the UCLA Department of Music to write about, like “sex, drugs, and rock n roll.” I keep putting off posts in this category to my retirement when I can write without worrying about what my students’ parents (or my parents, who are faithful readers) might think. To that end, I’ve decided to start a new blog in January where I will be anonymous.

I have rejoined the new music scene in LA after some 15 years of avoiding it. I am thrilled to go to these concerts and see a new audience. I have been somewhat baffled by the rise in single, often widowed, retired women who flock to hear new music. The wilder the better for them. Whodathunk? I refuse to change my musical language so that my music can be programmed by Esa Pekka and Pierre Boulez. I am more than happy with who I am musically, and have seen how my music touches people.

I finished my first year as Chair of the UCLA Department and anticipate I will continue in this post for several more years. I find it challenging and rewarding. I am happy to be at the helm during our transition to becoming the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. I have enjoyed working with our Deans and with Tim Rice, the school’s director. Designing a radical new curriculum has been exciting and long overdue.

I am amused to see the world’s enfatuation with texting. It seems all I see are people shuffling down the street texting or looking at their cell phones like zombies. Young people can’t hold concentration to have real conversations, preferring to check out and text with some other bored friend. I’m ready for this technology to move to eye glasses, and for a return to real conversation, but I know texting is here to stay. (I text regularly.)

I am thrilled to see the Bush era end and for Obama to become our new leader.

I, along with many other music teachers, am puzzled as to the lack of passion and obsession in young composers with regards to learning new music. Why, in my day, I remember trudging home from the music library with oversize scores in my arms, spending hours poring over the notes, the orchestration, the invention, the craziness. I would be obsessed over a composer and listen to everything they had written: Ives, Stockhausen, Boulez, Berio, Stravinsky, Webern, Schoenberg, Berg, and the rest. Nowadays, young students barely know who these composers are, and don’t really seem to care. Where has all the passion gone?

I am horrified that young people today don’t know folk music. People from my generation grew up on it and know thousands of so-called folk songs. Young mothers are singing rap and hip hop to their infants. I just find that weird.

I’m fascinated by the widening gap between theists and agnostic/atheists especially in young people.

I have no interest in pursuing more involvement in composing film music. I am happy to help train young composers who ARE interested, but scoring one every so often is fine. That being said, I’m thrilled to see the rise in interest in film music, worldwide. I dare say film music is far more popular (and perhaps relevant) than most of the so-called classical music being written today. For young film composers, studying metal music today is just as important as studying Bach harmony. I’m puzzled to see that USC is now offering a BM in popular music. Why? Since when does one need to go to school to learn how to be a pop/rock musician or songwriter? None of the songwriters they will be studying did, so why should anyone else?

I am fascinated to see the old world order crumble — politically, ecologically, economically, musically, and socially — and feel fortunate to have been alive during the period I’ve been alive. I wish I were optimistic about the way the world will be in 100 years. I hope I’m wrong. I hope the world can begin acting like a single, mega organism. I wish that corporations will learn to have a heart. I hope the world can learn to become more tolerant of social diversity — that it should be assumed that other people are not like you, and that that is ok, and normal.

[Photo by Mark Carlson of RB at Haleakala, in Maui]

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