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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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Linda Catlin Smith, Sandy Baron, Rick Sacks and Array Space.

 

MOKEE (MOKI, MOQUI) DUGWAY SAN JUAN COUNTY, UT.  [1.] Photo by Sandy Baron. Used with permission of the photographer.

MOKEE (MOKI, MOQUI) DUGWAY
SAN JUAN COUNTY, UT. [1.]
Photo by Sandy Baron. Used with permission of the photographer.

26 April, 2015

Last night I attended a memorable concert of new music. One work, a duet for violin and percussion by composer Linda Catlin Smith, titled Dirt Road, was performed by violinist Sandy Baron and percussionist Rick Sacks. Calgary born, Ms. Baron has played in the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra for 19 years. During the summer months she plays with the Santa Fe, New Mexico Opera Company and when not in the pit, she drives around New Mexico’s outback photographing desert landscapes intersected by the dirt roads she travels in her 1971 vintage Ford blue and white pick up. When Ms. Baron returns to Toronto, the pick up is left to winter in the south-west.

With Sandy to one side and Rick to the other, Dirt Road (2006-15) was performed in front of Array Music’s new, very large and very clear rear projection screen upon which Baron’s lonesome dirt road photographs appeared in and out in an approprately slow accompaniment to the music. Dirt Road was written in 15 movements, any number to be played in any order. It is one hour long and occasionally I began to fidgit. My lack of control aside, the work was mesmerizing. Linda’s Dirt Road is generally quiet and slow. It demands patience, nuanced control and a lyrical, expressive sound. [2.] All these were provided by Ms. Baron.

Rick Sacks played vibrphone, large gong, four cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel and bass drum. On the whole, these were played sparingly as accompaniments to the violin. The vibraphone part was difficult, frequently four mallets, closely voiced and not easily memorized. The solo percussion movement, placed about mid-way, was a highlight. Many non pitch percussion instruments produce short or unanalyzable sounds, or both. In order to bridge the inherent silences or distractions created by these anomalies, a listener must retain sounds in order to attach them to the next. Rick’s phrasing provided the necessary continuity and the movement hung in space. Ms. Baron’s solo violin movement was a melodic gift, elegant yet casually proffered. A judiciously rendered foil to the percussion sounds. For me, these two movements formed the works apex.

The concert was pretty well sold out and even with my poor peepers, I saw John Beckwith, Kathleen McMorrow, Henry Kucharzyk, Adele Armin, Beverley and Austin Clarkson.

 

Notes:

[1.] “MOKEE (MOKI, MOQUI) DUGWAY, SAN JUAN COUNTY, UT.  (southeast Utah)

The Mokee Dugway is located on Utah Route 261 just north of Mexican Hat, UT. It was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company. The three miles of unpaved, switchbacks descend 1100 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa from where the photograph above was taken.

The term “mokee” is derived from the Spanish word moqui, which was a general term used by the 18th century Spanish explorers and settlers in this region to describe the Pueblo Indians they encountered and the vanished culture which had left behind the numerous ruins they discovered during their travels.

Today the standard term used to describe these prehistoric Native Americans, who lived in this region more than 1000 years ago, is “ancestral Puebloans”. It is based on present day Puebloan tribes and archaeologists believe these people were the ancestors of the today’s Hopi, Zuni, Acoma and Rio Grande region cultures. You may also see them commonly referred to as the “Anasazi”, a Navajo word meaning “enemy ancestors”. note by Sandy Baron, edited by R.E.


[2.] I hope one day a recording is made of Blue Sky (2006) a percussion quintet Linda wrote for Nexus.  In my opinion, percussion repertoire would be enhanced by its inclusion. It is an aesthetic experience percussionists have for too long been deprived.

 

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Cage Encounters

Variations III, No. 14, a 1992 print by Cage from a series of 57.

Variations III, No. 14, a 1992 print by Cage from a series of 57.

Long before I met John Cage, there was a wash of popular scuttlebutt clinging  to him. He was one of the 20th centuries’ most talked about musicians. Cage was a man whose name my teacher refused to speak. During my first year of college I suggested performing one of Cage’s percussion works and his response was a withering look that shivered my timbers.

That was in 1958. I had not seen a photograph of Cage nor heard any of his music. My ignorance was rectified somewhat in 1960 when I saw Cage on the television show I’ve Got a Secret. Cage’s secret was “I am going to perform one of my musical compositions. And he did. It was Water Walk (1959) and the performance can be seen on You Tube. [1.]  My teacher had certainly known about the infamous “silent piece”, 4’33” .(1952) His objection to Cage, though never voiced, made some sense considering his academic rectitude,.

Set-up for Water Walk.

Set-up for Water Walk.

As time passes, a chronology of life’s events can become skewed. I cannot remember how or when I first met Cage, but I do recall an after concert reception in someone’s Toronto home where most of us, including Cage, were seated on the floor. Nexus had just released a recording and I offered a copy to John who said, “I don’t like recorded music, but I’ll donate this to the University of Chicago Library.” On another occasion, a casual hello may have passed between us during a Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (1984) I remember Cage having a meal with Percussion Group Cincinnati, which may not have been their name at the time. As they left the restaurant, a greeting might well have passed between us.

I know I met and spoke with him at length during a Celtic Festival in Toronto when he performed ROARATORIO (1979) with a wonderful group of Irish musicians including Paedre Mercier and his son Mel playing Bodhran.[2.]

John Cage, Paeder Mercier and R.E. during a Celtic Festival party in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 198?

John Cage, Paeder Mercier and R.E. during a Celtic Festival party in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1982.

Convocation Hall on the campus of the University of Toronto was the venue for ROARATORIO, January 29 and 31, 1982, and as a warm-up, members of Nexus played Third Construction  (1941) while John and Merce Cunningham sat first row center. As might be expected, it was a very special performance. Afterwards we congregated backstage to share the moment. Merce was crying. “I have not heard this since I played the first performance. This is the part I played” he said to me, referring to my Lion’s roar, ratchet and maracas etc. Cage said, “I didn’t think the piece was so clear”.[3.]

In 1984, I was one of four conductors in Cage’s Dances for 4 Orchestras. [1982] Convocation Hall is circular with a balcony and the orchestras were positioned in various places with mine on the main floor stage. As conductor of Orchestra 1, it was my duty to begin the piece. I gave a downbeat and almost immediately the hall’s cavernous space was cleaved by a raw edged sarcasm. “Robin, is that what you call piano?”  From a distant balcony, it was Paul Zukovsky in high dudgeon. Cage came to my rescue with his distinctive, mellifluous voice,. “I think it’s soft enough Paul.” [4.]

For a television show, I had recently conducted in full symphonic dress, an orchestra of 25 automobiles performing O Canada in a stadium with their horns. Someone told Cage about seeing a newspaper photograph of this event and Cage asked me for a copy which I gave him during our first rehearsal. He was delighted.

Before leaving Toronto’s Celtc Festival, I must mention the great Celtic harpist, singer and historian, Gráinne Yeats. She was married to Michael Yeats, the son of poet and playwright William Butler Yeats.(1865-1939) I had the honor of improvising music with Gráinne for the W. B. Yeats play Cuchulain. Gráinne explained much to me about the Celtic or Irish harp history. For instance,Irish warriors fought naked and were driven to fighting frenzy by the sound of the harp. She also casually mentioned her father-in-law sitting on his porch composing poetry by humming. This past March, 2013 I phoned Ireland to speak with her but she was too frail for a phone conversation. Gráinne died 18 April, 2013.

Part of the lore surrounding Cage was his tolerance for and acceptance of accidental sounds occuring during performances of his music. It was this “anything works” dictum that I accepted as truth. Nexus members, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger and I, played his work Amores (1943) in 4 movements for Prepared piano and 3 percussionists 7 October, 1977. The opening movement for Prepared piano is followed by two movements for percussion trio. Cage was again in the audience and our first , the 2nd movement, was a stunner. The audience spontaneously applauded after the last note. When all had settled down, we were ready for the third movement when the pianist began playing the last. Cage rose from his seat and slowly made his way to the stage. He whispered to the pianist, “the percussionists have another movement to play”. Embarrassed, the pianist stopped playing and when Cage was once again seated, we continued on. So much for urban myths.

I participated in Musicircus, Cage’s 75th anniversary celebrations during the Los Angeles Festival (12 September,1987) and was asked to play in “but what about the noise of crumpling paper etc.” (1982) [5.] I believe John prided himself on his penmanship and clarity of expression. He approached me during the first rehearsal and complained about my not playing the way he had explained in his performance note. He was, for Cage, quite exercized and I was apologetic. I told him I had read his note and was conscientiously playing as I had understood it. He told me what he wanted and that was that. After the evening performance John approached and said,” You were correct. I reread my note and there was a missplaced comma which I have moved to its proper place.” Alas, I never asked him to show me the revision.

Nexus played Branches (1976) for a Cage celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.c. (17 November, 1982) We discussed Cage’s performance notes which I understood to mean each of us was to toss the iChing coins to determine how we would interpret our parts. One of our head strong members objected to this reading and insisted we toss the coins just once to arrive at a group interpretation. We tossed one series and played. Cage later said, “Nexus does things their own way. They played  Branches linearly, not the way  I intended.”  Upon reading this, my respect for Cage blossomed and as well, his comment provided me an ah ha, I told you so moment.

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During the writing of an article about percussion ensembles in North America, I called John at his home in New York City. After the usual greetings, I asked him if he had invented the percussion ensemble as we in North America knew it. He said he did not. “It was in the air” he said. Continuing, ” I suppose I was the first to have an ensemble that rehearsed regularly. That was to play my music.”

Nexus spent an afternoon in Amsterdam shopping for cactus, an adventure that blew away my mid tour doldrums. Local technicians provided exceptionally sensitive contact mics and a very good sound system. All the prep was for Child of Tree.(1975)  After our evening performance of Child of Tree, an audience member with bravura vocal chords, called out “Bullshit”. After moving to our next set-up, I looked at the audience and said,”Cactusshit”. Next day, that was our concert review headline.

L. to R. roadie, Dave Campion, R.E., John Wyre, 2 technicians, Bob Becker.

L. to R. Our roady,, Dave Campion, R.E., John Wyre, 2 technicians, Bob Becker.

ASLSP, for piano or organ (January 1985). This experience with Cage is related on this site in my article: John Cage Goes As Slow As possible in Halberstadt, Germany.

[1.]  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSulycqZH-U

[2.]  Before Paeder left Toronto, he sold me his Bodhran and gave me a couple of lessons. Years later we were scheduled to meet in Liverpool, but his brother’s death called him home. We never met as Paeder himself died a year or two later. One can hear Paeder’s wonderful playing on early Chieftain recordings.

[3.] Cage limited his critique of our performance to the almglocken used in place of the Cow bell. “I had in mind an old farm cowbell. This sounds too pure.”

[4.] Paul Zukovsky and I remain long distance friends. He now lives in Hong Kong. From my perspective, his major contributions to 20-21st century music are his interpretations of violin music, his conducting and the Musical Observations Inc. CP2 digital recordings which he owns and which demonstrate both his playing and conducting skills. Nexus recorded Jo Kondo’s Under the Umbrella for CP2, each movement recorded in one take, no edits. Paul also conducted and recorded the Cage Sixteen Dances (1982) also available on CP2. Nexus played the latter work with Paul in Toronto, 30 Jamuary, 1982, ( during the Celtic Festival) 15 November, 1982 in Symphony Space, New York City and two days later on the aforementioned Kennedy Center concert, November 17..

The CP2 catalogue consists of 18 splendid CDs  encompassing works from our two most recent centuries. All containing rare musical gems played and produced with the highest professional standards.

http://www.musicalobservations.com/recordings/index.html

[5.] The complete title: But what about the noise of crumpling paper which he used to do in order to paint the series of “Papiers froissés” or tearing up paper to make “Papiers déchirés?” Arp was stimulated by water (sea, lake, and flowing waters like rivers), forests, for percussion ensemble (August 1985).

 

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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 4. 2nd Beijing Concert

May 7–5:50 AM

An interesting change of mood at our rehearsal this morning. The lights stay on and there is quiet while we practice. During our set up and breaks, the stage crew and visitors ask us about our instruments and provide information about the Chinese instruments, details of which we were not aware.

After lunch, I slept until our 5:30 PM bus to the hall. Concerts are at 7:15 PM. During my siesta some of the group visited a music store.  Bob bought some thin gongs and Bill purchased a keyboard string instrument. The keys are numbered 1 to 12 and you pluck the strings at one end. Very much like an autoharp but “twangier”. About 15 inches long it has a sopranino sound.

The concert begins with what is called Revolutionary Drumming. We now have four large rope field drums and bass drum. Because of the resonance of the hall the sound is huge and all the low partials come out. We play Palta and then in improv. It’s good to improvise again. The last time was Cardiff in Wales over a year ago? They are listening–polite applause but when we come back for the 2nd half a lot of people have left. Bob’s Tabla playing was good as was the performance. A lot of good things happened in the improv. Something beautifully strange and the communication in the group was good. I felt comfortable playing my C’hang or C’hung depending on dialect. (Note – My C’hang was purchased in Hong Kong. It is small, very light and has 19 wire strings, each supported by a movable bridge, the sound board is curved Koto like and the wire strings are tightened with a T shaped tuning key.)

A conservatory teacher was at our rehearsal with his son and I asked if it would be all right for me to play this ancient instrument my way. When I bowed the instrument he very seriously said,  “this is a new way, a creation”. It is proper for you to play this way. I stressed again that I played no melodies but used it purely for sound purposes. He assured me that it was all right. Another man hearing the bow asked if my intention was to make the sound of wind.

At intermission, a stunning woman from Vienna came backstage to ask for literature on the group. She said she had never heard a Chinese audience so quiet, following a tone to its very end. She almost refused to come when a friend offered her a ticket. She said she would never have forgiven herself if she later heard what are concert was like.

Most of the people who stay for the 2nd half are young. The hall still looks full because the audience is everywhere but there are lots of empty seats scattered about. “Music for Pieces of Wood” is well received. I also believe the African double bell piece was appreciated. Mbira enthralls them and when Bob shows the instrument to the audience after the performance, there is extra applause. Now, “Clos de Vougeot”. We smile knowingly to each other. The rehearsal was very good a great Hall for the piece. Bill sent out front and said the piece never sounded better. All the voices can be heard clearly. One problem with the piece is the blend. Sometimes on stage it is difficult for me to hear the other marimba. It is a fantastic performance. There is almost absolute silence during the performance and we moved as one. The last cadenza is really a dream world. The piece is well received.

The Rags cook along and the joint is starting to jump, relatively speaking. When we play the Chinese piece the audience begins to clap after the 1st measure. Rhythmic applause, a lot of smiling faces that disperse quickly. All we can do is do what we do, Scooby-Doo.

(Today we have a workshop.) A large group of girls from Australia are staying on our hotel floor. It is 6:45 AM and their chaperone goes down our hall knocking on each door. Knock, knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time” unquote.” Knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time. Patty are you awake?”,

The ubiquitous Mr. Wa. Stage manager? His own 4 door Japanese sedan and driver. Nicely tailored Western sport jackets–leather attache case. Today he moved a music stand for us. Otherwise it is difficult to know his function. No doubts about his authority. Kwang Chao was born in Hong Kong.

In a couple of hours we go to the hall to meet about 60 professional drummers who have been gathered to play for us. Sixty? National radio taped our concert last night. So too a fellow traveler. Heard a little bit of the rudimental drumming. Strong and together!

 

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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 1. Adventures flying from Toronto to Beujing.

Preface:

Although “world”  is hyperbole, we did slog many a mile to perform in countries east and west. I decided beforehand to keep a diary which given the length the tour, became two diaries. I purchased one in Tokyo called “UNIVERSAL TAPE OF UNIVERSAL” a typical example of 1984 contemporary Japanese advert-speak.

The first part of the tour included Beijing and Shanghai China, Seoul, Korea  and Tokyo,Japan.

When my wife decided to type these diaries for my web site, she convinced me to leave the entries as I had originally written them. I wrote the diaries before lap top computers in cursive script and ball point pens, late at night or very early in the morning. The entries were often spur of the moment jottings by a jet lagged stranger in a strange land who was trying to get things down before memories fled. Thus there are errors in grammar, tense, punctuation, etc.  Never-the-less, their lack of literary distinction contains a certain frisson and immediacy. Further posts will be made as the remaining 270 pages are typed.

NEXUS World Tour  May – July 1984

Nexus members: Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Robin Engelman, Russell Hartenberger, John Wyre.

And two fellow travellers, Jean Donelson and Joanne Todd.

May 4, 1984    Toronto to Beijing via Japan  3:30 AM

Bill and I sat together for 14 1/2 hours discussing politics of financing symphony orchestras and personnel problems. He is concerned that the Rochester Philharmonic will lose Zinman and be unable to replace him with quality talent. He is concerned that this will be the end of any potential worthwhile musical experience for him and he is wondering what he will do when this way of musical life becomes a reality for him. (P. S. The R.P.O. has lost Zinman.)

Narita is a welcome change to Haneda.  Is Japan more American now than it was 10 years ago? Lots of English on TV ads.  Crowds more demonstrative, The Narita Prince is an American style hotel–big rooms. My feet, from midsole to my toes were swollen like blowfish. They looked like overweight fatty women. They were hot and itchy. It took hours for the swelling to subside. This is the 1st time this has happened. I went to bed and slept at 6:30 PM Tokyo time–woke up at 3:30AM. Swelling down. I will have to stand and walk more when faced with hours of confinement.

I ordered coffee 40 minutes ago. Should I call again? I am in a foreign country. I called–he sounded slightly alarmed. I think he forgot. Just as I placed the period at the end of ” forgot” the coffee arrived–less than 1 min. from my call.  ¥495. In Vancouver I got ¥176 for one Canadian dollar. No I think one US dollar. I found my receipt. I received ¥16,000 for $94.70 Canadian. Is that ¥160 per Canadian dollar? Or $3.10 roughly for 2 cups of room service coffee?

Well, in a few hours we take Japan Airlines to Beijing. We arrive at 11:55 AM. Tonight in Beijing, a banquet. Russ asked if I would wear my new suit to the banquet. I expressed some concern about that. I’ll probably be eating food in unfamiliar ways and might spill something on it.  He laughed and mentioned the extra care one always takes with the new automobile.

When I arrived at my room the first thing I did was turn on the TV. I was looking for the baseball game that was being shown in the Narita airport when we arrived. No game. Saw some volleyball between Fuji film team and another team with only Japanese characters on their shirts.  The latter team won. During the closing ceremonies I heard Olympics mentioned. Perhaps this tournament was to pick  Japan’s Olympic team and the audience cheered in rhythm to a big drum when points were scored. Lots of young girls giggling over certain players. Switched channels and found a golf tournament – somewhere beside the ocean. Watched some fairly decent swings – many not so balanced. Then Isao Aoki came on. Saw him make par after a rather poor bunker shot  – dropped a 40 foot putt.  Seemed like an interesting course. Not tight, but very hilly. Not green and overly landscaped like some of our Architectural Digest’s courses but lovely, high above the ocean. The Japanese are crazy for golf.  I wonder how many actually get to leave the massive practice ranges in urban centers for a round of golf on a real course.

Read a chapter in ‘The World of Golf BBC” about William St. Clair of Roslin. I knew he was a grand master Mason from reading about the Holy Grail but I was astounded to learn he was a four-time winner of the Silver Club presented by the city of Edinburgh – the 1st golf trophy, and was Captain of the Royal Company of Edinburgh golfers during the 1760s. One of my favorite pieces of music is the “Roslin Castle Dead March”. His connection with the Masons led to a contemporary belief that he gained his skill at golf from witchcraft. Bill believed that Mozart was criticized by the Masons for divulging its secrets in the “Magic Flute” but could not give me a synopsis of the story. I’ll have to look that up when I get home. Scottish mysticism–masonry–golf–Magic Flute–Debussy –the holy Grail–Rosicrucians–Crusades–Roslin Castle–Japan–China–South Korea–currency exchange, a niblick to the forehead!

May 4 3:00PM Beijing

I noticed this morning that Narita airport is an armed camp. Chain like fences topped with barbed wire, armed guards standing at intervals of 200 or 300 yards on the side of the approach roads behind riot shields that extend upwards from the ground to a height of the Japanese man’s navel.  The highways that cross over the airport grounds also have fences. * (The farmers rioted when they learned so much land was being used for the airport,

I saw one woman in a kimono but everyone else in Western dress. Perhaps Narita caters to a more worldly group of travelers. With pleasure I inspected the windows of restaurants with their plastic representations of cuisine offered.

Window display, Tokyo coffee shop circa 1969.

Window display, Tokyo coffee shop circa 1969.

My daughter, Dorothy had asked me to price Nikon cameras and the Nikon F3T with 36–70 mm lens was ¥300,000. Perhaps the days of bargaining camera prices for the tourists are over.

We had a very fine flight of 4 hours to Beijing on JAL. Boned breast of chicken and mushroom sauce–tiny pea pods with the peas still inside–soba noodles with shrimp – sushi–a bottle of barely good Bordeaux red–coffee and custard pudding.  Guy St. Jacques from the Canadian Embassy met us at the airport. Young, handsome, polite, brief and to the point. Suit and leather briefcase. After immigration, met our stage manager Mr. Wa.  I liked him immediately –  my height–broad build–clear gaze.  A man used to work and confident. He is most important to us and it is fortunate I like him. (And he likes us!)

Our translator is a young girl with a smile. (Kwang Chao)  I must pause here to say that I had the television set on in my room while writing–a math class, in Chinese of course. The program has just ended and the music played while the test pattern is showing is Suppe’s  “LIght Cavalry Overture”. Now they are playing an excerpt from “Hansel and Gretel” by Humperdinck.

The drive to our hotel was about 40 minutes. Interesting experience. The world’s largest square. When I get the names right I’llget back to those points. We have tours arranged for the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, the Ming tombs and Forbidden City.  Our hotel is funky but not as bad as anticipated. There is a banquet tonight at another hotel and John has memorized a short speech in Chinese. He tried it out on us at lunch and even with our breakups he did a noble job. John has been here for 2 days and has eaten all his meals alone. He asked our translator if she would join him but she said she could not. Our lunch was very good–fish in black bean sauce–Chinese pieces in honey garlic–spicy clear soup with greens. Pieces of pork with tiny mushrooms and 2 varieties of beer, both very smooth and light. Most of the group has gone for a walk. I stayed in my room to write and rest. I want to bath and put on clean clothes for the welcoming banquet.

 
 

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ToruTakemitsu Vignettes.

Seijii Ozawa, Toronto, 1969

Seiji Ozawa, Toronto, 1969

During the fall of 1968 Toru Takemitsu and I met for the first time on the stage of Massey Hall in Toronto. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa, was recording Green, Asterisms, Requiem for Strings, and Dorian Horizon, all works by Takemitsu.  John Wyre was timpanist and I was principal percussionist. These recordings are on Japan RCA Victor Gold Seal CD 90-2-21.

Green needed 4 or 5 small bells of different pitches and I found old telephone bells and suspended them. During a break in the rehearsal, Toru approached John and me and we began to speak. I do not remember what we talked about. We liked each other and he visited our homes. I gave him the little bells as a going away present.

In the spring of 1969 we met again in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo during the Toronto Symphony tour. In Kyoto, Toru and Asaka met my wife and me at our Ryokan, took us to lunch, to temples and a traditional cemetery on a hill overlooking the city. In Tokyo, Toru and Asaka took us dining and shopping.

Toru asked me, John and the Lyric Arts Trio to perform in the Space Theatre of Expo 70 in Osaka. I went to Toru’s apartment and it was there I heard his hilarious version of I Left My Heart in San Francisco for tape and for the first time saw his colored paper book Munari by Munari (1967-72). Toru explained the cut out designs and how they were to be played. This was all rather heady stuff for a symphony musician, but it would not be long before events brought the revelations to fruition. After our performances, Toru invited me, John and Yuji Takahashi to stay with him and his wife Asaka for a few days in their summer home in Karuizawa.

Yuji Takahashi, Space Theater, 1970

Yuji Takahashi, Space Theater, 1970

On the trip north from Tokyo our train stopped briefly at a station and Yuji suddenly motioned for us to follow him.  We left our car and hurried to a vendor where we bought hot soba noodles and quickly returned to our train. When we were all on board, Yuji explained our haste, “These are the best noodles between Tokyo and Karuizawa”.

Toru wanted to show us a waterfall. An automobile arrived at his home and we drove into the mountains. Stopping along the road, we followed a small stream through a forest. It was a short walk to a cliff about 20 feet high. There was a lovely shallow pool of water at its base.  Two feet above the pool was a tiny crack running horizontally for about forty feet across the face of the cliff. From out of that crack came a thin sliver of water. The flow was so gentle, the water never left the rock face as it made its way down to the pool. There was no sound. This was Toru’s “Waterfall”.
(“Shiraito-no-taki” water fall down like a “shiro[shira]”=white  “ito”=thread”. Taki means fall. Trranslation by Yuji Takahashi sent to me via e-mail from Mitsuo Ono.)

The year was 1971 when Bill Cahn, John Wyre and I drove to Chicago to hear Stomu Yamashta play the North American premier of Cassiopeia (1971) at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra directed by Seiji Ozawa. The day after this performance Toru joined us for the trip back to Toronto with a stop in Ann Arbor to meet the senior musicologist William P. Malm whose analysis of traditional Japanese music were in opposition to those of Takemitsu. Malm believed the traditional music of Japan such as Gagaku was governed by logical formulas. After a very pleasant visit with Malm and his wife, we resumed our journey. A brief time passed and Toru quietly said. “He’s wrong.”

Soon after our arrival Toru visited my home north of Toronto where he met our son Bryce. Their greeting was formal and quiet. Later Toru asked me, “What is the meaning of Bryce?” I told him my wife Eleanor and I had chosen the name simply because we liked it.

Early next morning I picked Toru up for a rehearsal. When he got in the car he said, “Bryce means the centre of feeling. I will write a piece for him.” How he came to this information in such a short time, I’ll never know and I was too surprised to ask. During the next two days Toru gave presentations of Munari by Munari for composition classes in the Faculty of Music University of Toronto and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.  Bill, John and I accompanied him and played what was essentially an improvisation presented as Munari by Munari. I came to understand the work was at that time not finished.

Bryce and Takemitsu playing. ohn Wyre on the left, 1971

Bryce and Takemitsu playing. John Wyre on the left, 1971. Photo, R.E.

Four years later Bryce was completed (1976) and premiered in Toronto on 20 March by myself playing marimba, John Wyre bells and gongs, Bob Aitken flute, Judy Loman and Erica Goodman, harps. The title page reads, “Bryce, for flute, two harps, marimba and percussion. This work was commissioned by the Canada Council and dedicated to Bryce Engelman.” A couple of years later, after playing Bryce In Germany, I met Heinz Holliger who had heard the performance. He said, “Now I understand.” After a pause Holliger continued, “I think Bryce is Toru’s best work.”

Toru invited Nexus to tour Japan in June-July of 1976. I will always remember this first tour with fondness because Toru’s manager had arranged for venues, advertising, our hotels and transportation – luxuries Nexus rarely savored. However most memorably, Toru traveled with us, sharing “the road.” He acted as our Master of Ceremonies, introducing us to our audiences.

Toru on the Nexus tour  bus, 1976

Toru on the Nexus tour bus, 1976. Photo, R.E.

Also in 1976 Jo Kondo wrote Under the Umbrella, commissioned by Toru for Nexus and written for 25 cowbells. Nexus premiered this in Toronto 8 November, 1976. We made a superb recording of this work for Paul Zukofsky, available on CP2, 123.

Toru felt Toronto was a special city. He enjoyed the musicians, the way they played and their attitudes. During the years before his death, he made many visits to Toronto. In 1982 he introduced Jo Kondo to  New Music Concerts audiences. I heard again Jo’s predilection for cowbells. This time the work was Knots (1977) scored for two guitars, electric piano and cowbells. Jo recently said that Toru had  encouraged him and had been “a big help to my career”.

Takemitsu seated behind Jo Kondo in Toronto, 1982

Takemitsu seated behind Jo Kondo in Toronto, 1982

Toru assembled a group of Japan’s most dedicated and proficient players of new music  for his ensemble Sound Space Arc. (1.) In July 1988 he brought this group to New York City for a series of concerts sponsored by the Japan Society. The concerts consisted almost exclusively of Japanese music chosen chronologically by Takemitsu as a history of Japanese music. My wife and I booked tickets early as we not only knew Toru, but many of the players such as pianist Aki Takahashi, flutist Hiroshi Koizumi, Ayako Shinozaki, harp (with whom I had played Bryce in Japan), and my friend, the percussionist Yasunori Yamaguchi.  Sound Space Ark gave five concerts in as many evenings. The longest and most fullsome applause followed Yamaguchi’s performance of his solo work Time of Celestial.  Yamaguchi premiered most of Toru’s works with percussion. He is a very special musician and can make time stand still.

Just days before my wife and I left Toronto for New York, Nexus learned that in honor of its 100 anniversary, Carnegie Hall had commissioned Toru to write a work for Seiji Ozawa, The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Nexus. The work, premiered 19 October 1990, was titled From me flows what you call Time (capitalizations correct). The man behind the scenes whose idea it was to bring everyone together was Costa Pilavachi. At the time Costa was Ozawa’s liason with the management of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Costa would go on to become head of Decca and EMI Classics and later senior vice president, classical artists and repertoire for Universal Music Group International. His name is not on the score, nor is it in any reviews I’ve read, but Costa’s foresight and efforts would prove to be responsible for the creation of the most profitable piece of music in the history of Nexus and perhaps, among the most influential works for percussion and orchestra.

In my opinion, the best performance of Bryce was given twenty years after its premier on 25 September 1996. The original players were assembled in honor of Takemitsu being posthumously awarded the Glenn Gould Prize. Toru had died the previous February. His wife Asaka and daughter Maki had flown in for the presentation. Toru had many friends in Toronto and the theater was full. The performance was spellbinding. Unfortunately, the recording, though captured beautifully by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, will probably never be released to the public.

I last spoke with Toru while he was hospitalized. Bob Aitken called him from Toronto around Christmas time 1995 and we talked casually about every day things because we soon expected to hear of his release from the hospital. Nexus learned of Toru’s death the morning of its 25th anniversary concert in Kilbourn Hall, the Eastman School of Music. We were shocked by the news. Toru’s immune system had been weakened by his cancer treatments. His doctors had not prepared for this exigency and though free of cancer, Toru developed pneumonia and died.  Seiji said Toru’s death was a “scandal”.

In December 2010 my wife and I flew to New York City for the Japan Festival organized by Seiji Ozawa. In Carnegie Hall Seiji conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra in performances of the Benjamin Britten War Requiem and the Berlioz Symphony Fantastique. Maki had organized another concert in Zankel Hall with Japanese jazz musicians who improvised on themes by Toru. The accordionist had played on the Seri recording Toru Takemitsu pop songs. (Denon, COCY-78624

I sat with Maki, Asaka, the wife of the accordionist and the poet Shuntara Tanikawa who had provided Toru inspiration for many of his songs. It was a good concert, as were they all, but Maki was now a grown woman, Asaka and I were growing old, and Toru who had always been our nexus, was missing.

1990-Takemitsu next to a picture of himself in traditional Japanese dress taken in1969.

Toronto,1990-Takemitsu next to a picture of himself in traditional Japanese dress taken in Tokyo,1969.  Photo, R.E.

These vignettes,, reminiscences were written at the request of Mitsuko Ono who is writing a book about Takemitsu.

NOTE:

(1.) Ryan Scott, Artistic Director of Continuum Contemporary Music, interviewed composer Jo Kondo in the Fall of 2014. During that interview the origin of Soun Space Ark was broached. Ryan may have been referring to this article when he mentioned that “Takemitsu had assembled a group”, ” for his ensemble Sound Space Arc”. Kondo strongly objected to this portrayal by declaring Sound Space Arc to be an independent group, not Takemitsu’s group. They “got together spontaneously” and made recordings of concerts and commissioned composers. “Toru was not behind it”.

Indeed, Kondo is correct. Soun Space Ark  was founded in 1972 by  pianist Aki Takahashi, flutist Hiroshi Koizumi, Ayako Shinozaki, harp, and percussionist Yasunori Yamaguchi. Takemitsu invited them to New York for the first  New York International Festival of the Arts in 1988. It was at that time my information unwittingly became skewed. I apologize to everyone who may have been negatively affected by my mistake.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Articles, Contemporary Music, History, Unassigned

 

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Wine Diary, October 10,1979

One of the best ever.

One of the best ever

Orchestra rehearsal in the morning – Strauss Alpine Symphony and a rehearsal of Catulli Carmina in the afternoon.  Bill Cahn came up to the farm after Catulli  for supper and to spend the night. The first game of the World Series was rained out so everyone watched “The Tycoon” with Anthony Quinn.   We took some cheese into the living room and opened this bottle which Bill had bought in Rochester.  What a bouquet!  I wish I had a vocabulary descriptive enough to satisfy my experiences with smell.  So earthy and rich but there was much, much more to come. Each sip was different and over a two hour period of sniffing and tasting, the wine began to die. But what a slow and dignified death it was.  We quaffed the last as its bouquet began to vaporize into the night air.  This is the first time I have experienced this with a wine. The next morning (October 11) Bruce  [1.] showed us his list of collected Medocs and he has some of this wine from 1928.  Later Bill and I listened to an Ottawa Nexus concert.

Footnote:

[1.]  Bruce Mather, distinguished Canadian composer, oenophile and member of  the Burgundian wine fraternity, le Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin –  Brotherhood of Knights of Wine-Tasting Cups , is a good friend and has composed many works for Nexus and members of Nexus, all named after great French or Italian wines. le Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin is headquartered in the twelfth-century Château du Clos de Vougeot in the Côte d’Or region of France. Bruce maintains wine cellars in Montreal and in Saint Lin Réffanes, France.

1984 - Bill Cahn en route to Newcastle on the North Sea. A toast through our cabin window with Laponia Bramble berry liquor

1984 – Bill Cahn on the North Sea, en route to Newcastle, says “prosit”  in our cabin window with a splash of Finland’s Laponia Bramble berry liquor.

 

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