Still here, and then some

March 8, 2011

Busy time for RB in winter 2011. Let me catch you up, in no particular order.

I have a widget on my phone that tells me how many days till my sabbatical begins.
Last weekend, Daniel and I went to San Diego (where he likely got the bug) to attend the NWEAMO Festival, sponsored by San Diego State University, Joseph Waters, Director. Tod Rewoldt did the premiere of my MIRABELL for clarinet and electronics — this time for soprano saxophone. OMG: it was an amazing performance. The hall was packed with all kinds of folks — ok, a university community. The event opened with all of us standing outside in the rain, waiting to get in, while this little quintet of instruments created in MIT’s Media Lab (think self-powered electronic devices of different ranges [tuba, trombone, sop sax] placed in white plastic paint buckets [sic], and they sounded really good. We arrived, cold and wet, to the sound of this ensemble playing “Row, Row, Row your Boat” walking around the entrance. It was great fun, hilarious, and entertaining, but we were COLD, and ran inside to procure our tickets, and we sat down in the comfortable Smith Recital Hall. The MIT Ensemble came in as all eventually came into the (now filled) hall.

Director and Professor Joseph Waters introduced the concert, its context and menu, and let us know that he was the second generation of artists from Sirius (K Stockhausen being the 1st). We knew we were in for a good night. Hearing that the concert would not be much over 60 minutes was also a good sign.

My MIRABELL opened the program. My music tends to open programs because it is “up” engaging, leads forward, and probably makes people smile. I was representing UCLA, and felt proud to have such a cool piece represent it, and hear the audience respond so positively.

The festival features “East Meets West” and the second piece featured an East Coast piece for electronics and piano. It feature sound clips perfectly synchronized with the piano excerpting some late night infomercial. It was completely entertaining and the audience loved it. Next was a movement from a megawork for solo vibraphone (thank dog) that covered the “bleep blop” aesthetic. It dutifully went through its pitch information; no goose bumps noted.

There was an electro-acoustic piece from the new head of electronic music at Juilliard that was a kind of new-age travelogue. I’m proud of that school hiring such a cool person who seems so UN-Persichetti-like.

Joe’s piece ended the concert: two veiled dragons in drag played mouth keyboard instruments; a Unitarian bell choir from a local church, and a fun chamber ensemble guaranteed a good closer. Joe’s eclectic finale was fun: somewhere between the bar-room scene in Star Wars and Stockhausen’s MOMENTE with a grin.

We drove back to LA with a stunning view of all the snow-covered mountains from the recent storm.

My husband got a bug that kept him home for a week. Nurse Roger took care, and Josie (his mother) was the guardian angel.
I keep reading about the abnormal number of solar flares occurring at the present time. Makes me believe in astrology, at least in solar astrology. So many things “happening.”
On Tuesday, we had our annual UCLA Faculty Composers concert. Such a dull name, but it was a terrific concert. Carlson’s masterful “Batik,” Krouse’s bachanal for flute, viola and piano, Lekfowitz’s tumescent sax quartet, Chihara’s profound and cosmic piece for sax quartet and string quartet (it worked: it really worked!), and the concert ended with my THREE IMPROMPTUS performed by Walter Ponce. Walter, like Franz Liszt, is not afraid to say to a composer: let’s try it like this. And THIS composer said SURE. And 93% of the time it was great fun. The other 7% we both realized I should have just said NO. He is a great pianist and I am fortunate to have worked with such an artist.
As we are putting our house up for sale, we have to “stage” our house [a verb meaning, show your house to potential buyers with not too much of your junk in it]. So I packed, labeled, stacked, loaded into a truck, unloaded from the truck into a storage container this week: my butch factor has skyrocketed. At the commercial storage place, I really felt as though I were in some art movie. I punched in my code to open doors so I could drive my [rented] truck through the big gates. Finally, I parked across from the elevator where I could bring three cart-loads of my boxes up to my new 5X10 locker. As I went up the first time, I noticed the smell of some really bad cologne in the elevator. I realized that there are people who are homeless who keep their stuff in these small lockers, and then sleep on the streets. I took several wrong turns down aisles and found such folk with their stuff cast around, listening to a radio in front of their “property.” Other times, I’d get off the elevator [that took 80 seconds to rise four floors] and feel that I could possibly be knocked over the head by someone who would steal my boxes of books [yeah, right: it didn’t happen].
At school, I’ve had a good time teaching [for the last time] the technique of harmonizing a melody in four parts for SATB. The students seem to be actually listening to me and doing a good job. Always gratifying to know that the students ARE listening. I have immensely enjoyed challenging our bright freshmen by giving them two-part melodic dictation and they get it.
As Chair, knowing my successor, it is good to have this time to transfer information to him for minimal transition trauma. Coming down from “power” seems to be going fine.
Duarte’s Love Songs will be premiered this weekend. Rehearsals have begun. We did our first run-through tonight. My Russian brother, Vladimir is doing a wonderful job. Excited about its premiere.
It was creepy going to San Diego on another front. I have an old friend who is now homeless in SD. As we drove around, I kept looking at all the homeless settlements thinking; is that Bobby? We ate at a lovely restaurant and I positioned myself so that I wouldn’t be looking out the window, wondering: is that Bobby?
I have been watching the Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell and this passion for myth. They never articulate it, but music can very often behave like the mythic characters they describe. Susan McClary was right to dismiss the notion of masculine and feminine themes in classical works: themes are really characters; sometimes we might be able to say THIS theme is masculine and this, feminine. But personalities, and especially musical personalities are much more than gender tunes.
We are in rehearsals for DUARTE’S LOVE SONGS and it’s going well. Vladimir has sung in 14 languages, English is one of them. I celebrate working on pronunciation and logic-and-lack-thereof in English. “Thee or thuh?” “Ay or uh?” “Ac-quaintance” no A-cquaintance. Stuff I never thought about. Robert Thies pored over the piano part and gave me wonderful feedback on the notation of the piano part, 95% of which I took.

Tonight, Vladimir had to leave rehearsal early, so I had a chance to go be the singer. It turned out that I sang along with this fabulous trio. No, I don’t have the power that Vladimir does: I’m a wuss. But is was great fun to sing the melody that I wrote and be able to sing with the trio.
I worry less and less about “signs” — cosmic signs, that is. But one thing after another in my life of late tells me that I have made the right decision to move on to the next chapter in my life. No blame; just a collection of clear messages.
My fitness guru, Teresina, told me today that we are just that [showed a pinch with her fingers] far away from all becoming Charlie Sheen. You go girl. I think I’ll survive, but I know what you mean.
I met a VC recently whose team of CFOs advisees predicted that the first quarter of 2015 would be a financial collapse in America: America will no longer be able to pay its debts. Not Armageddon or the Apocalypse, but a major financial melt-down.

That night Daniel and I watched a show on TV called “The Prophets of Doom” all predicting that the way things are going in the world — economically, water, power, and other factors — our lifestyle and creature comforts are not sustainable. So I sez to myself: gee, what really matters right now?

It makes a boy wonder.

An old classmate of mine once warned me: “Roger, you can’t live in fear.” And she was right. Let’s move forward as though the economic crises I see everywhere, will stabilize, and all will be well. But what is clear from all my uninvited cosmic signs this weekend, is that it would be a good idea to BE READY.

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