Several years ago, Robin wanted to enter his diary on his website. Because of his poor eyesight he could no longer read. So I have entered the text from his diary. In the months before his death, he was very concerned about finishing them. I had started on this Part 15 before he died and this part ends the Asian part of the tour in Japan. I will continue on to the European part of the tour as time permits. Robin wrote this on the websites shortly after we started this process a few years ago.
“My wife has been entering pages of text from the diary I kept during the 1984 Nexus “World” tour, and have recently published China number five. We went to various cities in China, Korea and JapanIn and then flew to Europe and Finland. ‘Twas a long haul, but interesting. I decided to publish the texts in order, unedited, because leaving out an incident or day caused the threads of my thoughts to unravel and become less coherent. There are hundreds of pages to come and I’ve tried to help the brave readers and myself to keep track by listing the major events of each posting at the top of the article.
The grammar, spelling, punctuaation are execrable, but you can read my apologia in the preface to the first article. All the postings are on my Home Page: Articles – All Articles Alphabetized – “Nexus World Tour’”.
May 29, Continuing lunch and dinner conversation with Toru Takemitsu
John asked if we can add to one of our programs the Rudimental Drumming. Jean shows Toru a picture of our drum line he says “Yes” and asks “History?”. I explain briefly about Crusades, Saracens, Switzerland, Haydn’s “Military Symphony”, leopard skins in British bands and Arbeau’s “Orchesgraphy.
Dinner at a rather undistinguished Japanese modern restaurant. One dish is lobster tail, halved with egg salad topping. Drinks in hotel bar. John asked if there is any suggestion Toru can make for improving Nexus. Toru says we should play more new music and there are now some good composers in England. Russ, John and I agree it is time for change but we are building new repertoire and it is slow. John says he must know composer – otherwise it is difficult to play piece. I explained that what we do not have is worldwide awareness of music and composers and he should give us a list of composers he would recommend. He agrees. One problem is pieces too cluttered with instruments. Toru says “Yes – too many colors make bad picture”. Jean says we should write more pieces ourselves. I say it’s okay but we need pieces with depth that can be played over and over so they can – I pause, Toru leans forward and says “So they become anonymous”. I would not have said that. In fact, I wasn’t even sure where I was headed, hence the pause. Toru’s statement was so right it did not startle me. He said it as if he were merely helping me think of a word – helping me through a momentary lapse. But this of course is true. I mention that there is indeed no substitute for genius. A great work is capable of becoming for everyone – beyond composer and performer.
Xenakis was known as “Grand Libre” to many students and composers when he began mathematical theories in music as opposed to 12 tone system. He has glaciated with years and is now rigid in composition. Still his theories are interesting. Too many composers think only of their own ideas. They treat performers as slaves – do my idea – realize my piece. Performer becomes merely machine through which music is fed and execreted.
Composers do not hear. In percussion they write flat ———five tom-tom used as scale high to low. But they do not understand sound of one drum. They do not hear sound of one drum. They do not understand stroke. One tom-tom is not one note but infinite notes. Debussy understood cymbals. Mahler also. Writing for percussion is very difficult because of the variety of instruments. Percussion can be the most creative of music making.
Besides not knowing enough good composers, it is important that pieces written for Nexus be simple in instrumentation for touring. Harrison Birtwistle’s “For 0, for 0, the Hobby-Horse is Forgot” may be okay as a piece – I’m not so sure, but how can any group hope to tour with it? Six base drums – 30 tom-toms. This is crazy. Are six bass drums louder than one? Capable of more expression? Toru says his music is very simple – very detailed instructions on playing – not so many instruments and notes.
I go to sleep at 12 o’clock midnight and wake up two hours later with a terrible fit of coughing. Very dry. I breathe very deep and slow for one half hour sitting with pillow at my back. Finally go to sleep. The next morning I sleep until 10 o’clock and meet Russ for some shopping and we all are driven to the music school for small concert and question and answer period with students, faculty, composers, some professional drummers. And then dinner at the Chinese restaurant with Keiko Abe and her students -13 girls and one boy. Keiko’s students play an arrangement of hers for four marimbas and base marimba. Fantastic ensemble playing -memorized. Some very good questions but I fear much is lost in translation.
On Sunday, Toru asks if we want to go to the Xenakis concert that evening. I say if I really wanted to go I would know and there would be no question. John said he does not like much of his music. Toru says “I will not go either. Let’s have dinner”. We wait for Russ to return from having “Paganini Personal” rehearsal. Toru related as how Sylvio Gualdo asked for a piece. Toru put it off for a couple of years because he did not care for Gualdo’s playing. Gualdo asked again and finally Toru dedicated “Raintree” to him. Gualdo told Toru he would not play it because he was a soloist. Gualdo is in town with Xenakis and is playing “Psapha”. Toru asked him to stay and hear Nexus play “Raintree”. He said he had to get back. He couldn’t stay.
At the bar Sunday night Toru related and how he was first to introduce Stockhausen to Xenakis. They would not speak to each other. Later Xenakis said that Toru should not have introduced them. Toru does not understand composers who will not speak to each other. Xenaksi hates Penderecki, Penderecki hates Stockhausen etc. etc.
Toru thinks new music is in danger. I agree. More about this later. Must go to Seibu.
Tonight is our concert with Music of Today. Rehearsal at noon. Lighting setup for “Raintree”. It will be a long day. Entire afternoon TV rehearsal. We arrived at 12 o’clock noon – didn’t begin until 2 o’clock. Most pieces we did not need to do, but TV had to have lighting, picture and sound checks for each piece. Bob almost went over the edge and walked out. Toru gave John and I TV interview – two questions.”Do you feel different playing music and folk music and do you like contemporary music”. Interview lasted 44 seconds. I have a tooth ache, upper back left which is affecting my left sinus just below my eye and a headache. Also my eyesight is getting worse. That may account for the headache.
Toru had interesting observations about “Clos de Vougeot” by Bruce Mather. Blend is good – like marshmallow. Better play whole piece without any dynamic changes whatsoever. Oh hell, bigger contrasts in sound. Dynamics are too “Common”, (his word). Since changing sticks for louder passages is not possible, we would have to play entire piece without dynamic changes. I’m going to suggest this to the guys. We could play it that way without rehearsal. Blend is very good and Toru says his ideas are quite clear. He is happy about the piece.
Coming back from theater we meet Yasunori and Sumire. They just finished rehearsal for Ichiyanagi’s “Wind Trace”. It is good to see them
Perhaps I understand dilemma of many musicians, who tour at great length – tiredness. Perhaps never quite feeling healthy. So one drinks, takes pills. We do not do this but sometimes temptation is great – to get away -physically and mentally from stress and demands of new halls – time for everything as necessary and sometimes the least important thing is the music. Very hard.
In relation to tiredness mentioned earlier, I should say tiredness from inaction and too much action.
Saw an envelope and written below written across the bottom without punctuation was “Creative Art Think.
We decided to play the Mather with extreme dynamics rather than flat. It is a good hall, dry but clear and the pianissimos are still heard. We cannot play louder but we can play softer.
“Pieces of Wood” is incredibly defined. All voices are very clear but because of dryness – energy seems to be lacking. Improvisation is beautiful for the first two or three minutes but then goes flat. It is a relief for me when everyone finally stops playing and I am embarrassed for me and Toru. That is my feeling before we go on stage to play Mather, the third and last piece before intermission. Bruce’s piece does not feel-good. We have played many better performances. The second half is “Birds”, “Raintree”, Cage’s “Third Construction”. Perhaps we can still salvage the “Event”.
Toru is backstage as usual, unflappable. After discerning my state of mind he says “You can play encore”? I laugh,wryly, and asks if he thinks we will need an encore. He says, “Oh yes, please play ragtime”. He says there are so many people in the audience that he had to speak to the people turned away and explain they can come tomorrow night. Intermission is almost over and Russell says, “Are the people out there now the same as the ones for the first half”. Toru does not understand jive. Sure enough the place is packed people sitting up and down the aisles
“Birds” brings laughter and “Raintree” with lighting is gorgeous. Bob is under tremendous pressure to play perfectly. The vibraphonist for “Raintree” recording is in the audience – a great player. Keiko Abe’s students, best composers in Japan and who knows who else. I feel Bob’s control slipping and I encourage him forcefully in my mind. The section of free crotales and marimba shone with lights on and off repeatedly is very soft and magical. A delicious performance. The edge of disaster enhances the piece. Wonderful applause. (In traditional Noh drama, applause was forbidden. There is nothing to say if performance touches one deeply.) How true and yet how difficult to accept. The Cage really burns and audience will not let us go. Rhythmic applause. We play “Charleston Capers” for our encore. we cannot undo the first half but second-half was so good – maybe we came out better than ever.
After the concert is reception in the lobby of theater. Tomorrow is wholly different program but easier to deal with. I must remember to ask Bob to start the Cage a little slower. My first clave entrance is very beautiful but difficult -too fast. At reception, Toru introduces each one of us individually with a short comment on our professional history. Perhaps 40 or 50 Japanese – artists, teachers, critics, executives. Interesting group.
Towards the end of the evening I approach Toshi and Toru. Toru says, “I will speak frankly”.Nexus should not improvise. I say, “Do you mean never, ever, anywhere, anytime?” He says “Yes”. Toshi says, “We believe your playing of written music is so much better. The true Nexus comes in written music”. Improvisation is a gamble and a poor gamble. It is filled with traps like following others and not expressing the individual. “Perhaps”, Tour says, “You should improvise one at a time while the others watch and then react to the previous person. I hear voice of Asaka behind me saying “They talk like this because they are composers”. Maki says she knows nothing of music but she could tell improv was different but not “Fantasy” which it was called on program. “Rather it was of the earth – instinctive and she said, “It was interesting”. I say that I think concert should be more than interesting. People come to concerts to lose awareness of themselves and to be able to say something interesting is far short of ideal. She understands but asked why one piece on program cannot be interesting. I say to Toru and Toshi that we will go to air-conditioned bar and, with Maki as chairperson and Asaka casting the deciding vote in case of tie,we will have this out.
May 31 12:30 AM
After the reception we go back to the sushi bar where we had so much fun a few nights ago. We presented the owner with a photo of the group which we had autographed and continued the discussion which had started with some comments made by Toru and Toshi at the reception immediately following our concert. We leave the hall and arrived at sushi bar. I left my shoulder bag in the hall and Akiyama, the music teacher, insists on accompanying me back to the hall. I find my bag and we make it in time to find the conversation on improvisation once more being expounded. Akiyama listens intently and I wonder how much he is picking up. He is one of the most astute critics in Japan and wrote wonderfully perceptive things about our performance eight years ago
We leave and get back to the hotel at 1 AM. Bill is a little disturbed by the conversation and we stay up for an hour discussing the issues. Finally get to bed at 2:00 AM. Wake up at 4 AM with incredible fit of coughing. Get back to sleep at 5 AM, sleep until 10 AM and have coffee. Russ and I have gotten into the habit of putting the English newspaper under the door of the person sleeping late. There are only three or four copies each morning and they are all gone if you don’t get one by 8 AM
I go to the theater and listen to Russ’s rehearsal of Toshi’s “Paganni Personal” with Kaori Kimura. A very good pianist and good rehearsal. I stick around and get ready for our TV run through. The setup is simple and we look forward to a less strenuous concert than last night. We are finished by 4 PM and I come back to the hotel to shower and get the rest.
I showered and put on my Japanese robe. It is moments like this when I began to feel the intensity of being away from Eleanor for so long. I set the alarm for 6 PM but don’t sleep. I do however have a good rest and write in this diary until I run out of ink.
The concert is “Ancient Military Airs”, “Adzida” “Mbira” and “Kobina” (Toru likes the flute) – Intermission -– 8 Rags and finally “Terry at the Throttle” followed by “Xylophonia” encore. All the performances have a special quality of great clarity and sensitivity of playing. Two of the newer rags – “Keep Movin” and “Frivolity” really take a giant leap forward. A very successful concert and Toru was happy. Yasunori and Sumire bring me a stone for sharpening my knives. Yogi Sadanari, a friend of Stewart Hoffman’s whom I met in Toronto, says hello and presents me with a recording of a percusion group he plays with. Three girls who heard us play in Kyoto eight years ago have come to Tokyo for our concert and have seats in the front row. They came to the hall for our rehearsal and stayed all afternoon to get seats. They had brought five bouquets of flowers and present them to us as we take our next to last bow.
Toru says there have been many interesting people at our concerts. The poet who wrote the novel from which the “Raintree” quote is taken. Many artists and tonight, a famous Japanese jazz saxophonist David knows of but whose name is unfamiliar to me.
The response and support which Toru is able to attract is really incredible. Jo Kondo comes tonight and I give him a can of ginseng. We all go back to the yakatori house we first went to with Yasunori and have another fabulous meal. We discuss language – geishas and friendship forever. Louis Hamel is with us and seems quite amazed with our thoughts. I hope he, as a diplomat, is encouraged by the thoughtfulness of musicians.
We discuss some of the signs – The things the Japanese do with the English language are incredible. English is very hip on T-shirts, sweatshirts and advertising. One restaurant on the third floor of the building behind the hotel had a big neon sign which said “Spaghetti and Chocolate”. A bistro is called “Lem-On-Tea”. A men’s shop “Ivy League”. Motor scooters call “Jog Tracer”, “Happy Ride”. Cigarettes called “Peace Hope and Tender”. Sweatshirts with the most convoluted statement. One phrase we saw in ice cream parlor was “Mind Fancy Arbitrarily brought to Action”. Makes you stop and think.
Whoever translated Coca-Cola in China did a great job. The characters for Coca-Cola means “Feels good in the mouth”. Bob saw a truck today with the sign “45 RPM Boys Club” painted on the side panel. Tour recalls a place called “Potatoes and wine”.
Tomorrow at 2 PM I’m going with Toru to hear a rehearsal of Toshi’s new piece “Wind Trace”. Nexus has the music but we did not have time to prepare it before our tour began. Yasunori, Sumire and Sugawara are performing it Friday night. A lot of good performances coming up and we are going to miss them. Too expensive to change our plane tickets.
Saturday night, a sextet of Ondes Martinot under the direction of Jeanne Loriod is performing. One of the works is a 1943 composition by Wyschinegrdsky, a favorite composer of Bruce Mather and a forerunner in quarter tone writing. He is still alive. Bruce and Pierette have recorded some of his music and performed it extensively. One of the Ondes Martinot members is an American, Mark Robson. He came to our concert tonight.
Toru’s concert is Sunday night and the concert of six duets. Russ, Jo Kondo, and I are going shopping tomorrow afternoon when trace rehearsal.
May 31 at 7:30 AM
I finished writing at 1:30 and woke at 6 AM. 4 1/2 hours sleep, not bad. I should say 4 1/2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I have a big infection in my left sinus. Very yellow drainage. Painful ache all day.
It seems as if I’ve never established an equitable relationship with this tour. My mind is one thing, my body another. I am functioning very well on four hours sleep and in some respects I feel very productive and useful. But I am very tired almost all the time. The times when I am not are when I’m playing. Since Shanghai I’ve not been well.
I told Toru about the diary and he asked if it was for the Canadian government and laughed. Keeping this diary has help me be more honest.
Last night at yakitori house we discussed the necessity of working together worldwide. The whole world is carrying the egg of the future. We must allow all differences and still work together in friendship. Toru said composers must not remain aloof with their own ideas, selfish interests – “See how brilliant I am” – but must show everyone how they feel about the world, not only in their music but in other works,. This of course is Toru in action. Bringing people from all over the world together for music making – there is in everything he does a spirit of giving – excitement, thoughtfulness. My assumptions, my lassitude, my vague ideas are continually being made clear. Feelings that lead to confusion and frustration are resolved by his clarity. The “Anonymous” story is a perfect example. I wonder how many words I would have used, how long I would have rambled on and still, frustratingly, not made myself clear to myself as well as others. He gives me confidence that basically I am on the right track. I am mentally lazy. I provide people with a couple hours of entertainment but the rest of my life, I think is rather mundane, unproductive, uninspiring.
That is not true. As usual I’m going through a not so minor trauma, associated with hanging out with some real heavies. It is interesting to me that Toru says as few words and anyone I know, except Russell, and says more than anyone I know.
I say that I think one of the reasons I play music is so people will leave me alone. Bob remarks after a thoughtful pause,”That is an interesting concept”. A furtive glance at Toru reveals a benign smile. I’m not sure I understand the statement myself, but I think it is a very true remark close to something important or, if not important something I can learn from.
Toru believes that Steve Reich’s early music is good. “The essence” – now his music is mostly cosmetic.
We walk back to the hotel and on the curb of one of the streets find a rectangular pole with a plexiglass square inset about 5 feet above the ground. Inside is a sculpture in bronze of two ears about 3 1/2 inches high. Toru mentions Japanese sculptor who committed suicide last year and mentioned huge ear he did in bronze.
After breakfast with Russ, I spent the morning shopping for Eleanor and now back in the hotel room with all the cloths spread out on the bed. I wonder if she’s going to like any of these.
June 1-10 p.m.
Heard young guitarists Sato last night. Toru introduced him by saying there are many fine guitarists in Japan but Sato is the only one who is always learning new music. I fall asleep next to Jo Kondo during the opening piece – Bach. He is a very loose dude. The last piece on the program is beautiful. At 2 o’clock that afternoon Russ and I go hear “Wind Trace” rehearsal at NHK. The jury is still out on that one. After one run through, Russ and I joined Toru in the hall outside the studio. Jo Kondo is coming at 3:00 and we are going to hang out together for the rest of the day. Yasunori and Sumire come out for a break and after a cigarette Yasunori says “Well, time for the second show.” and they go back. Toru says the piece is too classical in structure. I don’t find it very interesting harmonically. Jo comes and we all decide on lunch – seventh floor Seibu. I try a glass of Mann’s white dry wine. Really not good at all. Toru leaves and Jo informs us that Toru has asked him to write a piece for Nexus. I tell Jo to think of air freight when he writes the piece and Russell says “Ask yourself how much that note is going to weigh when you put it down on paper.” We leave for a record shop where I buy Paul Zukofsky’s recording of the Freeman Etudes, and some Yuri Takahashi’s recordings.
Jo makes his living by translating English books and articles into Japanese. He lives in Kamakura because his parents own the house he and his wife live in and they pay no rent. Father Love is at the concert, a Jesuit priest, teacher of art history and artist. He has been in Japan 26 years. He is still a young man maybe 50 or 55 but he is very frail. Toru says he is sick. He is a good friend of Jo Kondo.
This morning we meet Toru at 10 o’clock at the Tops coffee shop next to the hotel and I tell him I must get something to relieve my sinus. He takes me to a drugstore and I get some patent medicine and aspirin. I go shopping for another bag to take care of my gift overload. I am continually looking for a place to spit. China does have some advantages. It’s just a few hours before our bus to Narita airport and I see Toru in the lobby meeting the Ondes Martineau people. He is taking lunch with his next group of charges. What a schedule he has. He organizes everything and entertains the foreign artists.
Over coffee this morning he asked he asked if we spoke to Yuji Takahashi at the concert last night. We had. Toru and Yuji had carried on an angry debate in the papers. Yuji attacked Toru as old-style. Toru criticized Yuji’s politics – (Maoist). Yuji called what Toru said “Bullshit”. Toru says that after a year they are now on speaking terms.
Whilst shopping for a bag this morning I found a book of soft porn bondage and have presented it to Joanne as we wait for our bus. Joanne removes the cover, walks across the lobby and puts the cover in a pamphlet display advertising bridal parties and honeymoons at the hotel. She is seen by the bell captain and he moves in just a minute later and removes it.
5:55 PM Private cars to a downtown baggage and security check – seat assignments, bus tickets and ride to Narita. The ride is 70 minutes – half way there I fall asleep.
Armed with a calculator I make a definitive check of duty free prices on Nikon cameras – the F3 with an f 1.4 lens is $912 Canadian, the 80-200 mm f.4mm is $518 Canadian.
After airport tax, pharmacy, and bus tickets, I am leaving Japan with about ¥80. I have ¥500 note on me now but am having coffee in airport restaurant and with the price of coffee, $2.80 per cup Canadian, I’ll not have any residue of cash cluttering my bag. Toru loved my clutch bag purchase as do I and the rest of the group.
Now just before boarding I am beginning to feel a gradual but nonetheless powerful erosion of my emotional monasticism. I am beginning to have gradual erections rising and subsiding with the amount of time I allow my mind to dwell upon thoughts of fresh country air and cool clean sheets.
We were supposed to have taken off at 6:45. It is 7:40 before we are airborne. No rebate on ticket price – just an apology from an anonymous and barely audible electronically reproduced human voice which, we are told by that very same voice is our pilot. The voice actually calls itself “Your Captain”. Your Captain obviously enjoys one part not afforded our hostess. Your Captain can speak conversational English with all the natural tendencies – verbal slips and interesting grammatical constructions present in most conversations or spontaneous monologues. Obviously Your Captain is held in high esteem by the corporate image planners. He is so important and respected that when speaking on the intercom he is allowed to simulate humanists humaneness. 10 minutes have gone by and we’ve been given blankets and a meal is about to be served. The movie is “The man who loved Women” with Burt Reynolds and Julie Andrews. One of the two other choices is “Octopussy”, the third “Rueben Rueben” we’ve seen. Threee 747s land at Vancouver airport at what. Big jam up. I could have filled a declaration stating a $300 limit and had no problem. Instead I’m reasonably honest and wind up paying $50 duty on my excess. Our flight to Toronto was delayed 45 minutes; I assume to help us make the connection for our flight from Narita was 45 minutes late leaving Japan. After we board for Toronto we are delayed 30 more minutes. Right away things get snarky. Someone asks one of our hostess for a blanket and she gives a very disturbed look. Some other people see this blanket and began asking for them. Bad vibes start coming down and the stewardess gets on the phone. Slams the phone down after her call, storms into the galley and tears the curtain closed. I can’t recall one flight on CP Air that I’ve enjoyed. What is wrong with this company?
Next next diary posting June 21, 1984 Amsterdam.