Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Trappings of Conventionality

I received a reminder in the intertubish-mail of the weirdness of the Classical Music World.  A benefit for Dawn Upshaw, which is fine and dandy, as she has been a great supporter of new works, but the oddnesses are legion, the most noticeable being (1) the incredibly long list of famous people on the benefit committee, which I'm sure holds court every Tuesday afternoon at the local Round Table Pizza just after the SCA get-togethers to argue for hours about who sits where and by whom and the gauge of the needles used to knit the tablecloths and whether they will have those disposable cameras at every table for the candid tit-flashing shots of the guests as the drinking progresses, (2) The priciness of the tix [Ed: of course] and (3) the small font tag under "Click image to respond." to the effect of, and I quote: "Business Attire. " Enough said!?  Well, actually not enough at all.  Let us please remember fondly a few Tom Wolfe quotes, from The Painted Word, which my wife and I read to each other in the car one long drive from LA to SF while lost in the fog.

"...the [art mating] ritual has two phases: (1) The Boho Dance, in which the artist shows his stuff within the circles, coteries, movements, isms, of the home neighborhood, bohemia itself, as if he doesn't care about anything else; as if, in fact, he has a knife in his teeth against the fashionable world uptown. (2) The Consummation, in which culterati from that very same world, le monde, scout the various new movements and new artists of bohemia, select those who seem the most exciting, original, important, by whatever standards -- and shower them with all the rewards of celebrity." 

" we have the classic demonstration of the artist who knows how to double-track his way from the Boho Dance to the Consummation as opposed to the artist who gets stuck forever in the Boho Dance. This is an ever-present hazard of the art mating ritual. Truly successful double-tracking requires the artist to be a sincere and committed performer in both roles. Many artists become so dedicated to bohemian values, internalize their antibourgeois feelings so profoundly, that they are unable to cut loose, let go ... and submit gracefully to good fortune; the sort of artist, and his name is Legion, who always comes to the black-tie openings at the Museum of Modern Art wearing a dinner jacket and paint-spattered Levis's . . . I'm still a virgin!" 

Right. My paint-spattered Levi's are the corset and the frock coat and the riding crop and the bunny tail and other unwelcome non-business-attired choices couture. 

When Sub Pontio Pilato had its West Coast Premiere, I wrote a bio for the program that started with the phrase "Erling Wold has been called a pathological liar and a bisexual sex addict..."  After one of the performances, I oversaw and overheard a colleague point to the bio in the program and whisper to another colleague, "Well, he's not ready for prime time."

Now that I've reach my Grand Old Age I believe I am free to pontificate on all topics and so will drop this small pearl of wisdom: Make gol-durn sure that you always dress and speak and be the person you are and that you want to be or you will find in short order that you have gotten on the wrong train and you can't get off, that you will have to dress in business attire and hang about with people hardly like yourself and then your life will be over and will not have been lived but you will have a nice long list of achievements which can be repeated in the long loop on your video-enhanced tombstone until the servers are unplugged, the water shorts out the cables, and the acid rain washes away the last carved crying angel and all the rest.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Unsolicited testimony

Mordake opened last night.  Everything worked, John was great, Kathleen's costumes were great, Frieder's software and the video and Lynne's rooms meshed with the action and Missy's lights and all.  In the few days before, there were many catastrophes: laptop dying, software that had been working for years crashing horribly in many ways unimagined, but we prayed to as many gods and saints and ancestors that we could bring to mind just before and they led us through.  I hadn't really even experienced the gestalt of the piece until yesterday and it seems to work, following once again the path through hell and redemption that both our Lord and Jim Bisso and my Pontius Pilate followed.

Leslie Isaac was moved to testify on yelp.  And did I mention that I was on the front page of the Chronicle last Sunday?  Maybe I did, but did also mention that the phrase was "plus Erling Wold and Indiana Jones?" As in the top of the bill?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Freeloading gigolo

I'm quite smug and pleased with myself as seen above in Noah Berger's shot for the Chronicle. I am imagining myself as Erling and also seemingly as a person who has a rod jammed deep into his bowels. Joshua Kosman has written a lovely feature on me and the opera and I am allowing myself a bit of vain rodomantade and narcissism.  In fact, I am going to go outside into my backyard right now and lean over the pond where the Gambusia are leaping through clouds of mosquitos and just stare at my own reflection, possibly falling in love with it and, unlike the love featured in my typical but-I-just-have-so-much-love-to-give story, this love will be a love that excludes all others. In this quiet beautiful space I can't hear Lynne's remonstrations as to how it's her house in Potrero Hill and her Garden and her etc and how I am just a freeloading gigolo and so on and so forth.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pirate Cat Tonight

Once again on Bunnywhisker's show on Pirate Cat Radio.  John was supposed to come with me to plug the opera, and I pestered him about it, feeding him prawns from my own hand and soaking his gut with alcohol to get him in the mood, but unfortunately this caused in him the opposite reaction, and he crashed bad, limping back to his hovel to sleep off the long hours of rehearsal day after day.  The show has been fun as usual, broadcast booth filled with interesting people, like the stage at a house music concert, or maybe more aptly like the gaggle of oddballs in the Howard Stern studio. 

We talked of Dante and Alexander Theroux and asked questionnaires of Proust and each other and I played a number of recordings featuring John, including Founders came first, then profiteers from Nixon in China, Pilatus Beatus Est from Sub Pontio Pilato, and I'm no murderer from Mordake. Note that I've been filled with regret since John turned down an offer to reprise his role as Mao in Opera Colorado's production of Nixon for some real money. We talked about the fear of fear and plumbing the depths of the psyche. And I couldn't resist playing the Epilogue from Queer featuring Trauma, who is looking utterly lovely in his photo as Honorary Grand Marshall in the Pride Parade, which I have snuck in above. 

John and I are both going to be on Sarah Cahill's show on KALW on Sunday evening. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Slow slow and slower

My friend George Zelenz, who once informed me that he seriously considered ending our friendship after I gave up on the true way of Just Intonation, wrote this after Lou Harrison's death a while back.  I remembered it as I needed to take this path myself.

In 1995, Lou and Bill came to visit me in Joshua Tree. I picked them up at the Palm Springs airport in my small truck, and Lou volunteered to sit in the back. On a thin cushion, al fresco. Upon arrival at my house, Bill promptly did his impersonation of a man with narcolepsy, and fell asleep in a chair by the kitchen table. Lou asked if I would drive him around, and show him Joshua Tree the town. "Bill can sleep the whole goddamn day for all I care" said Lou, with some exasperation. We jumped in the truck and took off driving, with no real goal or destination.

Driving around, we talked about all the usual stuff we always talked about. Pretty much everything except music. We rarely talked about music. About an hour into the drive, he did ask me how my composing went. I told him about this dancer I was writing for up in Berkeley. It paid very little, but I was doing my best I said. I told him about the structure being mostly whole notes, sung quietly, in a 3 voice part. He said, "I have a poorly compensated commission of my own right now, I think I as well will just write a lot of whole notes."

Monday, May 12, 2008

How I am perceived by the Slovak press

In the Hungarian-speaking community, that is.
Michael Kaulkin took a bit of steel wool to his rusty Hungarian and pried off a bit of the above:

Wold succeeds in achieving a surrealist atmosphere using a number of eclectic tools, but consistently reaches back to such naive ancient narrative forms as legend, miracle and parable.  It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that Wold deals with post-Romantic American transcendental images with tragicomic overtones, such as one encounters in Menotti's The Saint of Bleeker Street, but at the same time his musical language strongly approaches the world of electronic pop and rock, as well as the minimalist tradition.

My boy

He's the one with the picture of the married couple captioned by GAME OVER T-shirt.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Two faces turned away from each other

My longtime friends Carola and Henry and Lou Lou and George are featured in the local weekly this week. Online here and worth a look-see.  They are a high-achieving family, lives of epic proportions with fingers in many many pies, here, there and around the world. The kids are the latest stars.

I met them all (well, those of them who actually had been born) back in the heady early days of the Just Intonation Network. Years later, Henry asked me to write the music for one of Jon Jost's films - the history of which has been covered here. After the fallout cleared from the death of that movie-making marriage and my actual marriage, I ended up as Henry's tenant in a cute little cottage south of Market, hanging out with him and his wife at many an event, the details of most of which will have to wait until the deaths of all the participants, or at least until the statute of limitations has run its course.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Sousa Variations

The SFCCO commissioned a number of us to write a set of variations on Stars and Stripes Forever, the one that goes as follows (yes, I get them all confused, the tapestry of Sousa marches, each cut from the same cloth, but what a fine cloth it is, akin to the cloth of the Strauss waltzes, so please sing along): be kind to your web footed friends etc. It was due last week but I am late, very very late, but I do have the program notes done, which I suppose is something, so here they are:

DAVID BLAKELY IS DEAD.; Manager of Sousa's Band Stricken with Apoplexy.


David Blakely, manager of Sousa's Band, died suddenly yesterday afternoon in the Carnegie Building, Fifty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, from an attack of apoplexy. Mr. Blakely was in the best of health until stricken. At about 4 o'clock his typewriter went out on an errand. When she returned, she found Mr. Blakely lying on his face on the floor of his office.

Loss of my virginity

I had taken to the affectation of a cane lately, a rather lovely golden cobra-headed number which actually did aid my stride, ameliorating a small foot injury I suffered in Barcelona in 'ought-3 at the hands of the green muse and its cousins.  Using the cane of course brought to mind the riddle of the sphinx, asked before she strangled and devoured those who failed to answer correctly, to wit: which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?  Greek grammarians tried to make the connection between sphingein (to bind tight) and sphinx, but according to my old Britannica, the etymology is dubious. But drawn into this associational vortex is the recent clamoring of a number of my women friends to serve a fantasy of mine in the leading of a public deflowering, to be bound tight inside my body (ahem, as it were), much like the Vugusu who required the bridegroom to deflower the virgin bride in public, until the poison of modernity left too few virgin brides available for this ritual‡, but Lynne has maintained that this right of possession is hers and hers alone. So this fantasy, like so many of my tired life, has disappeared, as the cane also has gone the way of all things, broken and left under the glaring eyes of the oh-so-watchful Swiss TSA-equivalents.

African Marriage and Social Change, Lucy Philip Mair, p. 50 and Black Hearts, The Development of Black Sexuality in America, Nick J Myers III, p. 3.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Name in Print

Theatre Bay Area Magazine is featuring Mordake on the cover as part of an article about the SF International Arts Festival.  The article quotes me quite a lot, even going so far as to extemporize a bit beyond what I may have actually said. But what the hey.  

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