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NEXUS WORLD TOUR _ 1984 Takemitsu and Nexus’ repertoire, A Diary, Part 15

diary

 

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.

12:45 PM

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.

 

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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Composers, Contemporary Music

 

NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 14. JAPAN, Takemitsu and WE.

May 25 – 10:20 AM

Finally got some sleep. Woke up at 9:30 AM but stayed in bed until John brought some vitamin C. Things a little looser this morning.

11:40 PM

Eleanor called and I was a little startled. I expected the call resulted from some trouble at home. To the contrary, she has the lawn tractor together, is expecting Ed and his friend back from Algonquin Park and, best of all, Bryce has been accepted at Fanshawe College. It was so good to hear her voice. It is time to go home.

I bought two skirts for her in the hotel boutique. Checked out cameras and calculators with Russ and Dave and we had lunch at Parco – seventh floor. No bargains in cameras these days. The Nikon F3 is well over $1000 Canadian. Calculators are good bargains. Went to a building called Wave, owned by Seibu, and containing the theater in which we play, is convenient. I am continually amazed by things and the way the Japanese do them. Eight floors of records, scores, books, tapes – and display of bird calls – very expensive – and sound effects. I could easily spend a small fortune there. The stairwells are lined with photos of Toru and original fragments of his scores – friends, photos, and memorabilia.. The concert is in Cine Vivant, a small, 185 seat movie theater in the basement. A beautiful theater. Concert is sold out and wonderful warm responsive audience with a sense of humor.

Our dressing room has cable TV and we watch a funny installment of the Muppets on English language TV. Just before we go on – first-half Rags, second half “Teddy” – just one hour. The audience, after one encore won’t stop applauding so after our last encore, Bill does his shtick of holding up his hands for silence and when the audience responses, he walks off stage. Always gets a laugh.

Asaka and Maki are at the concert. Toru asks what my plans are for the weekend and says he is coming to our hotel for two days. Maki says. “Ohhhh”  and tells me to give her father my key. I tell her that she has an American mind and what she says is jive. She blushes, Toru laughs.

Louis Hamel, Canadian Cultural Attache is at the concert and presents us with bouquets of flowers and then takes them back. Big laugh. I tell Toru I’m getting all the flowers from the people going to Kyoto and will arrange them around me in bed and spend the whole weekend watching them die. Toru loves stories like that. We will get together. It could be a very fun weekend.

Louis Hamel comes back to the hotel with us and we go to a sushi bar just behind Tobu. I can’t possibly describe the meal. A small place and there are only three men – buddies at the bar. They are all classmates of the owner and play baseball on weekends. After quite a few beers, much conversation, and compliments on our chopstick technique, we get into questions about the odd shellfish in his refrigerator. One is called Oh Gai. The owner, Yanagi, from very old family from Edo period, hits the protuberance with his finger and the thing retracts partially. It looks so much like an old shriveled penis, it’s hilarious. He brings some smaller shellfish out that are partially opened – reddish orange in color and look like vaginas. He puts a chopstick in one and it clamps on the stick. Then he lays the “penis” on the “vagina” and presents them to Joanne. He asks her to hit the penis and for once Joanne is nonplussed.

He opens a huge shell and inside is a very large scallop but with an incredible digestive tract and a reddish spleen or liver. He takes a piece of sashimi, palms it and slams his palm on the glass counter. When he removes his hand, the sashimi curls up. They are all still “alive”.

Jean asked the men to guess the oldest member of our group and they guess me. This startles everyone and John says they are the first to ever guess correctly. They explain that I am the most civilized in my eating and drinking and therefore am more experienced and older. I bow and “Domo Arigato”. We toast and applaud each other. John presents the owner and his son with marimba pins and a photo of the group which will be go on his wall. A very funny, warm, beer boozy evening. Hope I get a lot of sleep tonight.

May 26

Had coffee and morning paper with Russ. See ad for Iannis Xenakis concerts. Wonder if he is in town. Russ looks up and Iannis is sitting at a table behind us. We join him and talk of Chinese and Korean music. Will probably go to his concert tomorrow. Sylvio Gualdo is playing percussion amplifier with amplified harpsichord.

Went shopping with Russ. Just about finished except for Dorothy and I know what I want. Dinner with John, Jean, Russ at Seibu, seventh floor. Drinks later with Toru who is now with Iannis interviewing for magazine.

Miniskirts are in. Many Japanese women are knock-kneed and, from the knees down, bowlegged. Most of the baseball games I’ve seen are played on grassless infields. The Mitsubishi Gallant golf tournament was played on what appears to be a rather uninteresting course. Most of the male Japanese golfers do not seem to generate the fluid powerful body motion and hence, a seemingly slower clubhead speed and awkward appearance.

Just saw a Christine McVey rock video – nice vibe.

May 27th – 9 AM

Here in the center of Tokyo – cement – cars – people, lives a solitary raven. Each morning he walks the brick wall outside the coffee shop and his caw can be heard inside the hotel. Sunday morning early, and less traffic, my window open to the sixth floor, his caw echoes as against hills across water. He is a foot-long and he seems to be the only significant, omnipotent resident of Shibuyu. This one bird – circling the hotel makes Shibuyu small. In the paddling silence of an Algonquin river, a blue heron pounds the air and reeds in a startled take-off, and remains, still, only a fragment of the whole.

May 28 – 12:30 PM

Lunch and dinner with Toru – lunch of barbecued eel in Akasaka – dessert in Shibuyu ice cream parlor. I ask if Toru would write a piece for John and me. He is delighted, accepts and immediately suggests the title “We” (Wyre and Engelman). Toru wants John and me to give him a list of instruments for which he can write “WE”.  We both promise to practice.

 

 
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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 13. Japan, Takemitsu and friends.

 

 

May 22 – 10:20 AM en route to Tokyo

Did some duty-free shopping before leaving airport. Three giggly girls want to know what I have in my shoulder bag and I show them – Bob’s hand drum. Bob says,”You can have it”. She bows and takes it. I buy ginseng powder and the girl wants to sell me the store. She shows me jade earrings and knocks the price down to 1000 won when I tell her it’s all I’ve got. Also purchased a 750 mL bottle of Majuang for 3000 won. Half bottle at the hotel was 5800 won. I see an ad for Majuang wine and it says it’s made from Riesling and Muscat grapes.

12:20 PM – Narita airport and Mr. Koyanagi (Toru’s manager) after eight years – he looks good. On the bus for an hour’s ride into Tokyo. Toru (Takemitsu, composer and friend) is at the hotel.

May 23 – 1:15 PM

Welcome Shibuya Tobu – tiny prefab rooms stacked up floor after floor. It feels good to be in Tokyo again and great to see Toru. We go to the hotel bar and talk for a while and then Toru calls his favorite sushi bar for reservations. Two cabs to Ginza.  Incredible sushi. Perfect. I’ve never had sushi that can come close to this. The man behind the bar explains to me how to sharpen the Japanese knives. Finally I’ve got it together. I haven’t been wrong, but not dead on. Huge, brown, fine stone looks like woodblock.

We leave for a bar and it turns out to be the same one Toru took John (Wyre) and I to when we were here with the Toronto Symphony  – GASTRO. The Chinese firewater with the lizard in bottle is no longer there, but the vibe comes back. Great bar! Nine stools. When seated, one can lean back and rest one’s back on the wall. Jasper Johns and other artists’ work on the walls. Still sick, with headaches, sore throats and slight fevers, Russ and I order Drambuie. Unasked, the owner serves us side glasses of ice water. I’ve never had ice water chasers with Drambuie – very good. Russ and I have two before the evening ends. Bob drinks Old Parr.

Toru remarks that Japan is too far gone. Two successful. China and North Korea is hopeful. He cannot get a visa for South Korea because of his North Korean friends. He recalls congratulations on his “successful concerts” in America. He says “What do you mean successful?”  We comment that Nexus has been avoiding success for 14 years! We discussed banquets – receptions – speeches and ponder the realities.

Toru believes people now are removing themselves from sex. “Too bad”, he says. Biggest problem now is language. All talk is politics -political. He quotes John Cage’s expression “Friends for life”. I remark that it is good to get mad – really mad once in a while and he agrees. It is good in personal relations to fight but not war. “Have you ever hit Eleanor”? he asks.  “Never,” I reply and he says he has hit Asaka and he laughs and says, as he throws a fake punch, “To show you how much I love you”. Maki (Toru’s daughter) is starting comparative culture and has developed a Boston accent. (Maki stayed with Seiji Ozawa while she studied in Boston.) Toru says America has become very conservative.  Bob objects that it is just a fad. We try and run that down but the close air and booze are interfering.

While we are there, an art critic comes in (a good one according to Toru)  and later three artists. Joanne (Tod, artist)  tries to make contact but no one is really in the mood. During the cab ride back to the hotel, Bob suggests she should carry her slides with her. Joanne says she doesn’t want to act like a parent showing baby pictures.

The coasters for our drinks say GASTRO for gastronomy or gastronomic. Bob takes the pen and adds: Fidel,interitis and layout artist. Toru likes this very much and leaves the coaster on the bar opposite him before we leave. We get back to the hotel around 11:30 PM  and I call for a massage. The desk clerk says in 30 minutes. I wait an hour and call back. He said my name is not registered for massage and massage will be impossible tonight. I’m pissed off but go to sleep and pass out.

Still sick in the head, but 2 cups of Brazilian coffee get me started. Joanne and I hit the streets, but department stores are closed today. Joanne is looking for hard core Japanese pornography. Specifically, bondage. Toru says he does not know where to find this. I suggest she ask the Canadian consul at tonight’s reception. Strictly for art’s sake, of course. (During a later trip to Tokyo I found a book of photographs devoted entirely to bondage and upon returning home, I gave it to Joanne.).

Before going to bed last night, I went to the Dunkin Doughnut shop across the street and got two chocolate covered and a cup of coffee. Terrible doughnuts – coffee okay. McDonald’s is still in business down the street. The people in this area of Tokyo look like parodies of men’s and women’s clothing ads in the New Yorker.

When we arrived at the airport yesterday, we left Bill there to wait for Ruth (Cahn, wife) who was arriving three hours later. Still haven’t seen them. I guess they are out roaming. Something they like to do in every town they hit. They always get the subways together.

Joanne asks Toru if he knows where she could find an arrigata, a Japanese dildo. Toru explained that this is an old word and he did not know where to find one.  He said that years ago John Cage met a sailor who brought one back from Japan and it had a tiny bell inside. According to Toru, John said that hearing that bell made him decide to be a composer!  Toru was doubtful, but swore that is the story John told him.

12:25 AM

I’m waiting for my male masseuse here after an incredible evening with Toru, Yasanori (percussionist) and his wife Sumire, and Jo Kondo (composer).  We go to yakitori house near the hotel. Beautiful food and conversation. It is raining as we gather for reception. We need four cabs and some of us get wet hailing in Shibuya. Victor Feldbrill (conductor) and his wife, Costa Pilavachi (booking tour for NAC Orchestra) and Fred Marrich from Kori Marimbas, various embassy officials – one wife from Youngstown Pennsylvania. A rather mindless evening – lots to drink – I had glasses of Chablis – medium quality. Victor seems very happy in Japan. Toshi Ichiyanagi (composer) is there and it’s nice to see old friends.

The yakitori house dinner is the climax to this entire tour. We all feel very close and many stories are told. We sing old songs. Between Jean (Donelson), who has a remarkable memory for lyrics, and Toru, who is famous for knowing old songs, we had an evening of reminiscence. John sings “April Showers” while some conduct. The last few lines are harmonized. Much sake. Toru was born in China. He flew to Japan when he was eight years old. His parents separated – date unspecified. His mother died recently. He was in the US at the time and had to fly back. We toast friendship forever. Toru’s research into Bryce’s (my son) name is related. (To learn about Toru’s composition Bryce, see on this site, my article titled Toru Takemitsu.)

Yasunori (Yamaguchi, percussionist) and I feel very close. Last time in Tokyo, he was not in such good shape. Now he is father of a boy, Toma (winter horse) and his wife Sumire is a great keyboard player (marimba). Toru says son must be a percussionist.  I tell Jo and Yasunori I will give them ginseng. It is very expensive in Japan so will be a good gift. Toru says when you reach 50 years, happiness comes. He repeats that he is free of sex – free of everything. Most of us say we are not free of sex. Very drunk, we close the place and walk back to hotel in the rain. Jo, Yasunori and Sumire have missed the last train and have to take taxis. Jo lives in Kamakura. I get my massage by male masseuse. Very firm, sometimes very painful. My neck was particularly tight and I go to sleep as soon as he leaves.

May 24 – 9:10 AM

Woke up coughing at 6 AM. The phlegm in my throat is like glue. Have two coffees with my Japan Times “All the news without fear or favor” and slide it under Russell’s door. Black drummer with orange shades leads the band on kiddies TV show. He is also one of the hosts. Speaks perfect Japanese. This morning we meet with representatives of Yamaha to learn if they are interested in supporting Nexus with some of their electronics in return for our endorsement. Then we rehearse in theater – other side of Meiji Shrine for our concert tonight. This concert is not part of Music of Today, but was arranged by Toru’s manager. Music of Today starts on the 29th. At 10 AM we had a meeting with Mr. Takeguchi, manager of R&D for Yamaha. We told him what we wanted in electronic percussion instruments. We will visit Yamaha tomorrow morning to play their instruments. Very interesting discussion. He understands problems of attack – sound – duration – overtones and is trying to sell Yamaha on developing this field. He was happy to have spoken with us. We help to confirm his approach to the company.

After meeting, Russ, Dave (Campion, roadie) and I have tempera lunch at the hotel. Dave buys. Now we go rehearse – meet with Kori people and play concert. Nice hall, but strange separation of sound on stage. Each of us feels isolated, but sound quality is good. Toru programmed the concert for us: Drumming, Part 1; Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood and Marimba Phase;Takemitsu’s Rain Tree; Intermission, Cage’s Third Construction; some Rags and the silent film, Teddy at the Throttle. No translator for Teddy. Toru says most Japanese read English but do not speak. Fred Marrich and people from Kori are at concert as well as Victor Feldbrill and his wife, Louis Hamel and his wife, and local drummers. Much applause for Toru’s piece. Long applause after concert. Three bows and encore of Xylophonia.

Fred Marrich was with us all afternoon and evening.  Also Toru.  Asaka came to the concert and is speaking English very well.  After concert, we go to a Spanish restaurant for a beautiul meal.  Costa Pilavachi accompanies us.

A friend of Bob’s owns a vineyard and bottles red and white wine under his own label. He gives Bob a bottle of red and Bob leaves it at the hall and notices only when we get out of the cab at the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant asks for our autograph. Toru writes Nexus in Japanese characters and signs his name in a like manner. Then we all sign and John asks me to draw a drum. Finally, Toro writes NEXUS. The card is pretty well filled up by the time we’re finished. We’ve drunk 15 bottles of beer and Toru ordered garlic soup for Russ, Bob and me. He says it will help Shanghai flu. I was soaking wet after the Cage and wondered if I’d make it through the rest of the concert. Actually it felt good afterwards to have sweated that much.  Tomorrow we play Cine Vivant, a tiny movie theater, book and art store in Roppongi district. We will play a few rags and Teddy. Just one hour. They have displays of Toru’s scores and photos of him as a child and with Cage and Ichiyanagi in the early 1960s. It should be interesting and a lot of fun.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in Unassigned

 

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Concerts in Toronto – No. 3, October 28, 2015.

On October 28, a cabbie with too few miles in the driver’s seat and too little command of the English language, dropped me off in the dark of night on a street unfamiliar to me, somewhere in Toronto. With directions from individuals I met in an alley, I found my destination, the Australian New Zealand Club on Brunswick Avenue.  Commonly referred to as The Tranzac, the club is a bleak concrete rectangle that looks as if it could house illegal activities.

The corridor from the entrance to the main performance space is narrow. Jerry rigged curtains are only partially successful as sound barriers or as masks to hide staff and cases of beer. A few right angle turns add to the illusion that I’m in a carnival fun house or a Murray Schafer opera.

I like this place. Though the room is a bit seedy, it has a friendly feel and a rather large crowd has turned out to hear TorQ. TorQ audiences are made up of music professionals, students, friends, sponsors and the curious. They are always an important part of a TorQ  concert, providing a refreshing blend of  good humour and a bit of frisson.

TorQ member Dan Morphy greets and directs me to a chair along side his father Frank and Michelle Hwu, a former percussion student. Directly in front of us is Ray Dillard, percussionist, composer, recording engineer and producer and President of the local Musician’s Union. Further on is solo percussionist Beverley Johnston and her husband, composer Christos Hatzis. Rick Sacks, Artistic Director of Array Music is also in the house.

Tranzac’s bar is in almost every respect, in need of a serious upgrade; imagine no Campari on the rocks with a slice of orange, but then, Aussies reputed drink of choice is beer. I settle for a diet Coke and accept Ray Dillard’s offer to pay. Tranzac is a good place for small ensembles to proffer their wares and expect some return on their investment.

Judging from the number of  guest artists and the amount of equipment on stage, I doubt TorQ made anything much beyond a couple of beers each. The programme was titled OCTET, their guests being ARCHITEK a quartet of percussionist friends whose base of operations is Montreal. As usual, TorQ provided no printed programmes, preferring to announce everything from the stage. I must remember to bring a pad of paper and pen to their next concert. TorQ’s announcements have devolved upon Adam Campbell who is informative if at times loquacious.

The program consisted of a couple of very good works and a few not so good. The two bookend works were octets by Tim Brady and Michael Oesterle, both winners. Brady’s Spin (2012) was arranged from a large ensemble comprised of electric guitar, harpsichord, percussion, harp, electric piano, viola and bass clarinet. Rhytmically exuberant, it provided an exciting start to the concert. The Oesterle work took the grand prize. Titled California (2015) it was a mesmerizing stream of long tones and subtle harmonic progressions that never flagged. My question was whether or not this work could  be played as a quartet?  Funds for California were donated by Daniel Cooper who was in the audience and acknowledged.

Oesterie’s other work, Cepheid Variables for Quartet with Quarter Tone Glock soloist (2008), was not as successful. According to my source, a Cepheid Variable is a star that pulsates radially, varying in both temperature and diameter to produce brightness changes with a well-defined stable period and amplitude. It seemed to me that those brightness changes were the glockenspiel and its notes in quarter tones created startling moments when played with traditionally tuned notes.

Time Travels Light (2015) by Andrew Stanilan and Drum Dances (1993) for Piano and Drumset by John Psathas and arranged in 2015 by ARCHITEK member Ben Duinker, filled out the programme.

TorQ Percussion Quartet continues to thrive. Their collective imaginings create programmes and  performances which communicate directly with  audiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 12. KBS Concert and Hanyang University.

May 19 – 8:56 AM

I woke at 7  a.m. Still getting up early. Had breakfast for the first time since the tour started. Eggs and corned beef hash, toast, butter and jam. Today is one concert.

May 20 – 12:47 AM

Terrific concert. Good feeling from the time we step out on stage. Huge hall, 3200 people, Canadian ambassador there and his wife, all of Dong-Wook’s students and Salmunori, the Korean folk group. Standing ovation – lots of autographs. KBS televised the show. Great performance of Mather, Cage, Takemitsu,Improv, Drum line, Kobina –  two outbursts of applause in Birds and great Rags.

Dong-Wook is ecstatic. “We did it, we did it!” he cries. Embraces all around. He has been a dim light in the forest preaching percussion in South Korea for 10 years and finally has been vindicated for all his preaching. We have done it for him. A lovely moment.

All his students help us pack up under the supervision of his former students who are now professionals. One of his former student’s wives presents us all with a rose. This morning we take a bus with his students to a Korean folk village. By taking this trip we miss the telecast of the fifth game of the Stanley Cup from Edmonton. The Oilers could win it with this one.

May 20 –  9 AM (watching television)

Obviously a modern piece for c’hung (c’hing) solo and traditional orchestra with conductor! Flutes with the pieces of bamboo from the inside joints posted over a hole below the blowhole thus producing a buzzing quality. An instrument that looks like the player is blowing into the stem end of a small pear. This is a gourd flute with finger holes around the surface.

Percussion includes a marktree (western) and a large Paiste tam tam. Here the c’hung are played with the with a wooden bow (traditional), a string bow (western) and plucked. One model of c’hung had individual bridges under each string and another type has violin like bridges which many strings pass over. Another technique is to play with a small stick in the right hand.

A not too good percussion quartet playing traditional instruments. A crane dance – costumed dancing chorus of women singers. Probably this is Sunday morning folk shlock but some of it is interesting – taped in the same hall as our concert. On the US channel is an interview with a rock star. The men’s comedy singing reminds me of scat. I had the thought at Korea House that Louis Armstrong would have fit right in.

I must remember to bring some Fisherman’s Friends with me on the European part of the tour. Three fifths of the group has developed a minor flu and sore throat.

4:30 PM

We’ve gone to the Korean Folk Village. A Pioneer Village but larger – very nice to walk in  – beautiful walls. Dong-Wook complains of the use of Western instruments in traditional orchestra. We have lunch in the market square – a large space under tents  supported by poles. The food is grown and prepared by the people who live and work in the village. Lots of people  – children, parents, grandparents – a very friendly atmosphere in the shade – delicious food. First course is a fritter – pancake thickness – with scallion greens in the batter.  Reminds me of Eleanor’s oyster fritter batter. A soya type sauce with seasoning for dipping the pieces.

Kimshi is a beautiful dish of pale radish cubes with some kind of orangish red hot liquid and pepper flakes. Very refreshing. Trays of brownish cubes of bean curd and made from chestnuts. Very good with the relish with which it is served.

A sweet rice liquid served cold with grains of white rice floating in it. The grains are the consistency of Rice Krispies and are white. Desserts for us are inedible. I tell Dong-Wook this is the first meal I had where the main courses were like desserts and the desserts were like medicine. Another aspect of the meal was that it was vegetarian. The entire meal was served by Dong-Wook’s students who otherwise sat in a group at the end of the table and showed that usual distance a student has from their master.

Before lunch, there was a performance of peasant village drumming and dancing. And oboist stood to one side and played a simple melody accompaniment. Very exciting stuff – some of the players wore hats with wands from which long ribbons flowed. They would move their heads around and the ribbons would twirl in large circles and undulate in various patterns. The leader of the group was an older fellow who would signal the changes with a small, handheld gong. The drums are shaped like large western military drums, suspended from a strap that is attached to either end of the drum and over the player’s shoulder.  One head is struck with a curved mallet, the other head is struck with a strip of bamboo. The drumheads are held over shell of the drum with a rope which is tensioned by pieces of leather, exactly like our rope-tensioned military drums in the west.

In one of the Village homes is shown two women kneeling on either side of a low table each with a small club, the size of our hammer handles but shaped like a long flat shoe horn. Dong-Wook collects these and uses them in his music. The women pound clothing that had been washed and dried in order to stretch and smooth the cloth. Similar to ironing. They would pound very fast and play highly intricate rhythms and variations, much like jazz.

A candy maker nest to a large tray of rice confections is playing the scissors he uses to cut the long strands. The blades are very loose and shaped similar to large tongue depressors and rattle easily against each other. Bill said he had heard these “scissors” in the city as far as a block away. The fellow played a few licks for us.

One of the country gentleman’s home complex has an interesting heating and ventilation system.  All the smoke from the various fire in the complex is vented under the floors for heat and the excess smoke from all the fires is vented underground to a smoke stack in a corner of the compound.

Carl Rustrum mentioned a similar technique on the much smaller scale which he learned from an Indian tribe in northern Canada. When snowbound, and their tent is closed, the Indians would dig a tunnel under the floor to the outside and the smoke was invented down and out rather than the opposite.

At Korea House, the floors were heated with hot water run through pipes. I did not learn the system for moving the water but it was continuously re-cycled and reheated. Mr. Li said that this would heat the entire room and the only inconvenience of having to be careful not to step on the floor with bare feet.

Also at Korea House, we tasted the Korean rice wine – milder then Japanese sake and slightly thicker in consistency. We were introduced to the Korean dry white wine –”Majuang””. This wine is certainly competitive and could be imported with good chances of being popular. It reminded me  of the Greek wine Appelia – woody flavor, very smooth with a reasonable body. The grape from which it is made is the Seibel. It is almost twice the price of an imported white Burgundy. 5800 won as opposed to 3400 for the burgundy. In fact, it is more than twice the price because the 5800 is for a half bottle. A little over eight dollars US.

May 21

Another practically full day of the guys spending money and having lunch with hosts. We leave in a few minutes to give our concert clinic. Early day tomorrow with a 10 AM flight to Tokyo.

Salmunori gave us lunch at a fine restaurant on a very tiny street near the traditional music shop where we purchased instruments. The street and the restaurants reminded me of Tokyo. I began to get a rather severe headache soon after lunch began – perhaps an MSG rush. Salmunori is starting to get jobs in the West and will make their first trip to Europe this summer.

After our drum shop experience one of the members presented each of us with an autographed hand-drum of the type used by the farmers in the dance we saw at the Korean folk Village.

Back at the hotel, I ran into one of the embassy staff who teaches English to the staff of the Hilton Hotel.

One thing that has become abundantly clear, is the tradition of ensemble music performance without music and non-playing conductor. We have heard incredibly complex and lengthy compositions involving 2- 20 players, all memorized and played without conductor.

The first thing that struck me about the composition for c’hung which I heard on TV the other day was the tentative and stilted way in which it was played. The close up shots of some of the ensemble performers gave further proof to this.

The level of ensemble playing here and in China is far superior to most of our symphony orchestras and chamber groups. Usually, when we get a piece together in terms of intonation and rhythm, the performance lacks the final quality of spontaneity. Only with the finest orchestras and conductors do we have a chance of hearing a really convincing performance and even then, only once in a while.

Seoul is very hilly and Hanyang University is on top of one of those hills. The lecture concert is given before a full house and is very well received. We played music for” Pieces of Wood”, Cage “3rd Construction and three rags and “Imbira”  There are questions from the audience – music students,Dean of Music, composers and various teachers.

After the performance there is beer, soda pop, and nibbles in the lobby with a couple of hundred students and faculty. Many autographs and questions. A girl approaches and wants to question me about the Cage. I call over our lecture’s translator and the girl wants to know what the title “3rd Construction” means. That one’s easy enough, but then she asks how she, as a Korean, should react to the piece. Both the translator and I smile at this one and the translator explained that Orientals – she is oriental – must know first before they can react. whereas Westerners feel first and then react. I tell her of my conversation with Kwang Chao in Shanghai concerning friendship and Kwang’s reaction to that as being abstract. The translator relates this story about our improvisation and the girl says also that friendship is abstract. In China, I was told that audiences required the music to have a story, be programatic, and know the story before a performance.

As we’re talking, a young girl who plays percussion in the Pusun Symphony asks if there is anything I can tell her – any advice I can give her – a student of percussion. I tell her to trust herself and concentrate on sound. She asks if there is a different between European and North American percussionists. I say that generally European percussionist are concerned with percision.

Russell now has our flu. Bob and I are very flushed – sore throats, headaches. John, Jean and Bill go to dinner with Dong-Wook and some faculty and we returned to the hotel. I just had seafood gumbo, tenderloin steak with noodles carrots, zucchini. Perfectly prepared, very rare.

I’m all packed except for my shaving kit. 7:40 AM bus to airport. Despite my touch of flu, I’ve been fortunate in the main concern of travel. Good bowel movements. I’m still waking up at 6:30 AM. Christ, I wish I could sleep late just once. Speaking of Christ, Dong-Wook Park is a devout Catholic. He gave a long speech after one concert. I think he was making as much political hay as possible for the percussion department. He went down the line shaking our hands and giving each of us a big hug. I felt a little uncomfortable with that kind of display under such public circumstances but, what the hell he’s the one who has to stay behind.

PS – Students wearing masks and holding hands over face as we drove on campus. Yesterday a student demonstration was tear gassed. 15 hours later, the smell still hangs in the air.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Articles, Commentaries & Critiques, History

 

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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 11. From Narita to Seoul and Miss Korea.

May 17 – 12:01 AM, Seoul, Korea

I slept some on the two hour 10 minute flight from Narita and am in fairly good shape. I’ve just ordered scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and chives. For the last few days I’ve been eating only one meal per day.

I noticed quite a change in the appearance of my fellow travelers. The businessmen particularly, are on the whole, a very different breed. On our flight to and in China, the Westerners were conservatively dressed, subdued in their demeanor and tentative in conversation and eye contact. By comparison, these fellows on their way to Seoul are sharks. They are out to score in an environment with which they are familiar. The hustlers are reving up for the game. I haven’t seen this many unique characters since my last viewing of “The Godfather”.

To compliment this cast of characters are Marines, Army and Navy personnel returning to their posts. It’s been a long time, perhaps my tour with the North Carolina Symphony, (Ft. Bragg.) since I’ve been on and I’ve been this close to the regulars of the United States Armed Forces.

A lot of young mothers and wives, some with children – heading towards their reunions with spouses. Two empty seats away from me is a young, but quite tall and big boned wiry blonde in shorts. About 45 minutes out of Seoul, she makes her third trip to the bathroom – returns to her seat and puts out a make-up kit on her folding airline tray. Eyebrows – cheek blush – lipstick. Then contact lenses fluid – removes her lenses – douses them with the fluid (too much, her palm is dripping with the stuff)- replaces them. Then a large bottle of skin cream – arms thighs – knees – calves. Come on sister, you got a guy over here that hasn’t been laid in two weeks. A few minutes before we land our eyes meet and she smiles. That’s okay for her. As Amaryllis once remarked, “She’s gonna fuck until the top of her feet are raw”. I want to follow her off the plane and see if she is met at the airport and by whom.

I have to let that go because we are met just inside the arrival lounge by our Korean consul – David Hutchinson and his Mr. Fix-it – the amicable, but impatient Mr. Park. They are both in a hurry and by the time we cleared Customs and Immigration, I stopped counting the number of times they had looked at their watches.

I can understand Mr. Park’s attitude. It is obvious that harried is his normal operational mode. But David is pissing me off. He seems rather laid-back and we seem to be inconveniencing him. Finally I pulled the plug and give him the good ole boy routine. “Ya got a tight schedule tonight Dave”? He doesn’t fluster and tells me that a couple of old friends dropped by tonight unexpected, and he and his wife were entertaining them. He wants to get back to the party. That’s straight ahead – and I give him a few points but he looks kind of slow and when he speaks Korean to the immigration officer the guy doesn’t seem impressed. If we are lucky we won’t have to deal with him too often. He doesn’t need five drummers in his life, who does? – besides he is shipping out in a few months.

To say that Seoul is uptight is to understate the feeling at the airport. Everything is handled by the Army (Korean) – and these guys let you know they are not kidding around. The airport looks new and clean. It could be Toronto Malton airport.

A bus is waiting for us and we could take right off except for Bill. He had his scissors confiscated at Narita because they were too long. He remembers at the last minute and runs back into the terminal to find the Northwest Orient office where they should be holding them in an envelope. 15 minutes go by and Bill returns empty-handed. He says he will call the airport tomorrow and perhaps take a cab to pick them up. The damn scissors cost 2 or 3 bucks at the most!

It’s dark as we drive into Seoul but it feels like New York and we arrive at the Seoul Hilton International. Marble, brass, stainless steel, carpeting, and classically subservient bell boys and desk clerks.

Dong-Wook Park, Mr. Percussion of South Korea, and a really warm, dedicated guy has met us at the airport and arrived just ahead of us at the hotel. It is late but we speak with him for a few minutes. He greets me by name and I feel strangely out of kilter because it seemed so natural. I spoke with this guy for 10 minutes  – 2 years ago in Dallas, Texas. Our official hosts –  Korean Broadcasting System – have three representatives at the hotel and we are given are per diem checks – some ridiculous sum, like 200,000 won which equals about $250 US. I cash mine at the hotel desk. The hotel manager introduces himself to us and says “Room service –  money exchange on 24 hour services – and the bar is open until 3 AM. There are 100 people on duty to provide you with any service. Welcome to our hotel”.

Welcome to capitalism. I love it. We walk towards our bags and pass the elevators. Hold on – who is that silver haired image from our past? Well, holy shit it’s Sprio T. Agnew, conviccted felon, former Vice President of the U.S. of A. with a few cronies. A fallen angel and he’s in Seoul – still wheeling and dealing. I wonder if he’s paying his own way and who he is working for now? He surely isn’t looking the worse for wear. Taller than I thought.

After I walked in my room I realize I would like to close the door and not come out for a week. We’re not fooling around here – Triple A first-class. No curtains on the windows, sliding screen Korean style, TV in a very expensive Korean chest. Full bar, refrigerator, folding Oriental closet doors with solid brass handles. Expensive hardwood desk with real brown marble top with matching coffee table, glass topped. Shoehorn, brush, shoe bag, shampoo, skin cream, bath foam, lint remover. Brass lamps, ceramic lamps, brass rose vase, couch, easy chair, full-length dressing mirror with soft yellow brass lamp. Upholstered trash cans, bathrobe (good quality), two pairs leather slippers. Marble and hardwood bedside table with built-in digital clock and state-of-the-art controls for every electrical fixture in the room. High powered shower with big plush towels – not Howard Johnson – but Bloor Street boutique plush. Adapter plug in a wicker basket on the full-length green marble vanity. All lacquered Kleenex box – silent, perfectly balanced and adjustable air-conditioning. Hip print in brass frame and touch tone phone in olive. Rattanish wallpaper and enough pillows to keep a Girl Scout troop happy. The telephone information book and all the hotel service books – usually in vinyl or clear plastic – are stitched leather. The bar is inset and lined with mirrors.

My eggs come in two portions drowning French pastry shells perfectly made – you could count the layers. The salmon, chives, capers, horseradish, lettuce leaf could only be better at home. 4 cups of coffee in a beautiful shape stainless steel pot. Real butter, salt and pepper shakers – China – good quality linen napkins – lemon wedge – two rolls nice and crisp and flaky outside – good consistency inside.

Before ordering, I put on a shirt and tie, jacket and slacks before looking for some ciggs. This joint is big and all marble and brass. Whatever happened to China? Austrian gourmet show downstairs. Cabinets are empty now but they are selling sausages, truffles, pate –  all kinds of fancy stuff.

This morning, or rather this afternoon, we had a rehearsal at the KBS studio and a reception at the Canadian embassy residence. Got to put the “Do not disturb” sign on my door. The Chinese do not have a word for privacy. Somehow I feel the sign in this hotel is going to work. PS – found a flashlight, for Christ’s sake, on my bedside table! Well I’ll retire with my Hong Kong edition of the International Tribune. Whoops, almost forgot – the brass desk lamp switch which is a reostat and earlier, when I took a hot shower,  the bathroom did not steam up.

May 18 – 9:40 AM

KBS is deja vu of NHK in Tokyo -post World War II architecture. In the control room of the studio where our videotape is being made, a disc jockey is churning out US hits from the 60s.

The Canadian Embassy party is at Mr. and Mrs. L.A.K. James’ home – 330 – 363 Sungbuk-Dong, Sungbuk–Ku – telephone 741 1980. A beautiful view from their backyard – down a mountain over one section of Seoul – ours. He explains that originally he assumed he was seeing the city from here, until he drove over his hill and came upon another vista. The city sprawls.

Bill Bauer is the ambassador and his humor and good sense attract the entire group. He has a large Gallic nose on a rather thin face – small eyes. He reminds me very much of the man from whom we rented a cottage on Canning Lake for a few summers – Kurt Morlock. We discuss traveling to Thailand, Burma – his experiences there. Then he says, with the perfect inflection of Michael in Tokyo* – “It’s a living!” We all toast him with true affection and good humor. Later I explain why we were so moved by that expression. *(Michael Craden, former member of Nexus who died in 1981.)

One comment he makes is interesting,”A secret is something you keep in your back pocket until you put it on the table out of desperation”.  “Desperation is the operative word” he says to me when I later, repeat the phrase to him. We are the first Canadian group to play Korea. There are a lot of people on the lawn by now, up. Must be 60 or 70. I ask one of the embassy wives to explain the interests they represent. Korean English paper – Canadian bank – KBS executive – a lot of Koreans she does not know – embassy staff and the Korean folk group in traditional dress, What colors and interest their costumes add to the gray western suits!

11 AM after calling Eleanor

I talked to the President and VP of KBS. They tell me directly that we should have sent them a videotape of Nexus (they are sponsoring us partially). I realize that we had been of little help to them and they are concerned about profit and loss. I am then very direct and tell them we are sorry – we owe them and that besides guaranteeing our concert will be a success, we will make it up to them if we ever come back. They respond very positively to my bluntness in my apology.

After the reception we return to the hotel to have a group birthday dinner for John at the Japanese restaurant. We go to the coffee shop for dessert – ice cream in brandy and chocolate cake

Tonight the president of KBS is giving us a dinner. Overweight, slightly disheveled, ashes wafting on to his suit, perspiring and eyelids pinched shut, he looks like a rather dull, but dangerous owner of a wonton fast food chain, fronting for cocaine trafficking. His VP is the perfect foil. Short, thin, bespectacled -neat -, warm, smile, good sense of humor, comfortable conversationalist. I so desire an end to reception dinners, tours and organization in general.

My spirits are lifted by my call home. So good to hear Bryce’s and Eleanor’s voice. Time to “Shawn-Lay-Bah”.

PS – As we departed the Canadian Embassy reception there is a large circle of flowers on a stand with a sign welcoming Mr. …., President of Hyundai Motors. Placed directly on the front walk, it was not there when we arrived. Who is the honored guest at this reception? I look at my invitation and it says  “In honor of the Canadian percussion ensemble Nexus. Mr. and Mrs. etc. request the pleasure etc. etc.”

Seems the  James’ are doing double duty tonight. As we leave the next shift comes in, either way we lose. There was no bouquet for us. Ah, Vanity, Vanity, thy name is ego. Hyundai makes the Pony automobile that is being imported into Canada next year. There are priorities in this world.

4:30 PM

Our rehearsals are turning into taping sessions. More videotaping, more interviews. I think KBS is more interested in the gate then whether or not we are properly rehearsed.

The dinner at Korea house was spectacular – very traditional Korea. I think it is second only to the meal in Kyoto given us by the executives from Seibu department store. We discuss the powers of ginseng and the recommended brand is deep red. I was guaranteed its restorative powers, given usage for at least one month.

We leave the table and go into a large wing that is a theater. A traditional Korean orchestra is seated on either side of the stage and the performance begins of mime, fan dance, drumming, scarf dance, instrumental pieces. Some of the most incredibly powerful, exciting theater I’ve ever seen. What in God’s name do they want us for?

The building in which the meal and the theater performance takes place is in the former house of a nobleman and is very beautiful. Even more beautiful than the Chinese structures we saw – because of simplicity, to my eyes, a lack of gaudiness. Less painting – more dependence on natural wood grain use of wood design.

May 19 – 12:03 AM –

Miss Korea was chosen tonight. She gasped and cried. The presentation was an exact copy of Miss America. The American TV channel is run by the Armed Forces. Very few commercials and they are designed to warn the service personnel against loose talk and drugs. As Miss Korea was being interviewed they show Bob Barker announcing Miss USA  – a girl of New York and Oriental ancestry.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in Articles, History

 

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Concerts in Toronto – No. 2, October 27, 2015.

Some years ago a concert presented by New Music Concerts in Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre featured the music of the German clarinettist Jörg Widmann. Hearing his music was a déja vu experience for me. Widmann’s compositions used many, if not all of the instrumental dtechniques my colleagues and I had struggled with in the 60s and 70s. Yet that night they were comfortably played and sounded fresh and natural. In a few rehearsals, Widmann had taught a group of Toronto ‘pickup’ musicians to play his works with authority. The techniques demanded by Widman had not been played regulalry in Toronto for nore than 50 years, but had been if you will in the air, allowing succeeding generations to absorb them as if by osmosis. Perhaps this transference defines Array Music’s programme title, Redefining the 20th Century.

ARRAY MUSIC Artistic Director Rick Sacks, stepped forward to welcome the audience and introduce the concert. He was dressed in slacks, dress shirt, tie and jacket, clothes which for him, seemed almost formal.  This attire, however, proved to be appropriate given the gravitas of the evening, its music, its performers, guest artist violist Vincent Royer, cellist Émilie Gerard-Charest,* and Toronto’s perennial new music pianist, Stephen Clarke, and the acoustically superb venue of Saint Andrew’s Church, built in 1876 in the Romanesque Revival style, on the corner of King and Simcoe streets in downtown Toronto.

Royer began the concert with Canto del capricorno l and Il by Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88).  Playing moderately loud and irregular strokes on a small gong, he entered from just off stage, that is to say, via an open door located mid chancel. After a brief procession, Royer put aside the gong and began a kind of sprechstimme consisting of multi syllabic nonsense constructions.  I first experienced these ceremonial or ritualistic devices in the latter third of the 20th century, though at that time, the notation was sometimes of equal or more importance to composers than the effect. There were no programme notes attending, so I am not sure exactly what Royer was vocalizing.

However, I had recorded in Paris some of Scelsi’s songs with my former Nexus colleague, Russell Hartenberger and Japanese soprano, Michiko Hirayama.  She had sung Scelsi’s “Capricorno” with 2 percussion, saxophone and electronics at Walter Hall, Toronto in 1981 and had asked us to record with her the next year after a lengthy NEXUS tour of England.  As I recall, similar speech sounds dominated the Scelsi songs as sung by Michiko.

As a concert opener, Scelsi’s music and Royer’s rendition were moving and completely convincing. The sprechstimme, was delivered unselfconsciously  and without undue labour.

Following were individual works by Royer – a solo titled O Souffle and the duet S’offrir by Gerard-Charest. Played without a pause between them and lasting about one half hour, they were similar in style and content. With the exception of col legno (wood of the bow), these works showcased many traditional bowing techniques.** The works also proved to be subtle tests in ear training. Within the sustainations were sometimes delicate and slow strisciata, up or down slides in pitch. These, among other devices, maintained one’s attention which might otherwise have drifted, so simple the works seemed to be.

During an extended cello ‘coda’ , Royer, who had been seated attentively and directly in front of Gerard-Charest, moved to a group of music stands in order to play the final work on the first half, Manto for solo viola, also by Scelsi. In this 12 minute work, a brief, but startling series of pizzicati, their first appearance on the program, provided a surprising and delightful contrast to the evening’s long tones. A memorable and evocative first half.

After intermission, an exploration of the church catacombs was needed to unearth soloist Stephen Clarke who finally appeared, unruffled and took his seat at the helm of a giant Bosendorfer concert grand – its extra keys provocatively uncovered. With composer Linda Smith as page turner, Clarke prepared himself to play the Horatiu Radulescu (1942-08) 29 minute Piano Sonata 6, Op. 110,Return to the Source of Light”, whose title was taken from The Tao te Ching of Lao-tzu.

This Sonata could well be a case history for exploring compulsive angst syndrome. The moderately paced, pounding chords of the beginning were sure to end I thought, but no, they went on and on until relieved by what may have been a Romanian folk song. Unfortunately the song, very catchy, was too short lived. It was also written for both hands playing canonicaly o’er top each other. The tempo was extraordinarily fast and when the tune first appeared, even Clarke whose artistic skills reliably re-create some of the most difficult 20th and 21st century piano repertoire, found his fingers interfering with each other, creating an unintended “Here’s the Church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and Ooops”, phalangial faux pas. That part of the work went much better the second time around.

Return to the Source of Light” is the first work by Radulescu I’ve heard. I hope his journey was a success, either before or after death.

The evening’s remarkably stimulating programme resolved with Scelsi’s Elegia per Ty. This was written for his wife who had deserted him in the 40’s and was never heard from again. Royer played beautifully. The concert with Royer and Charest’s performances greatly improved my appreciation for Scelsi’s music.

Excepting the bio of Stephen Clarke, those by the other performers seemed to run on like Ole Ma Bell’s Yellow Pages. When one is young, one wants to write down everything because everything is important. But there does come a time for thoughtful culling and I think the time has come for them. At any rate they are artists on the go and have done and are doing many positive things. They are both very, very good players.

Notes;

*  Violist Vincent Royer, Cellist Émilie Gerard-Charest occasionally play together, but are not a formally constituted duo. Charest was born in Montreal, Quebec and is presently participating in a month long composer/performer colloquy in Lyon, France. This colloquy will then move to three other European cities.

Born in Strasbourg, Royer studied in Freiburg and Cologne. He is now professor of chamber rmusic at the Conservetoire Royal de Liège in Belgium.

**  sulla tastiera (over the finger board), strisciata (slides between notes), strozzata (strangled, choking), sur la chevalet (on the bridge), harmonics and chords in extreme pianissimos or fortissimos. The sounds emanating from these techniques proved a helpful tool for remembering the music. I had to look up all of the bowings in a dictionary.

*** Their compositional devices; glissandi, harmonics, multi-phonics and slowly evolving chords, were frequently used by mid-20th century composers. I cannot now remember who said “good composers borrow, great composers steal”. Thus, restoring old techniques and devices once again proves useful.

 

 

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