Like a lot of Americans, this week I headed Home (not to be confused with my home of Madison) to spend a few days with my parents. (Sure, the holiday of Thanksgiving has a sordid and not entirely wholesome history, but its purpose and role today is one of the purest of holidays: relatively free of commercialism and religious dogma, it's an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the company of others.) For me, Home is the icy tundra of rural northwest Minnesota. I left Madison on Monday 45 degrees and raining, and found Pennington County eleven hours later 2 degrees and snowing. Spending so much time isolated in a vehicle--often on deserted country roads, staring into the bleak darkness through splatters of ice that were quick to form on the windshield--provided a great opportunity to spend some time reflecting on the slurry of events that preceded this week.
On Nov. 12, I had an adventure driving a different direction, due south, to Florence Alabama, to perform at the Electroacoustic Juke Joint festival. This was my first real experience traveling to perform at a music festival, and I couldn't be more glad this was the one. Everything added up: I was visiting a state I'd never been to before, (one warmer than the one I live in) I was traveling with two of my dearest friends and favorite collaborators, Anna and Eric, and I got to hear some new and creative music by a very inspiring and personable group of talented composers. The event was hosted by composer/performer Mark Snyder, a really amazing person who was gracious enough to put us up at his house, and whose heartwrenching pieces represented some of the best moments of the weekend for me. (A composer after my own heart, he's actually written a bass concerto!) All of the other composers and performers at the festival were amazing as well, and I highly recommend spending some time looking them up through the EAJJ website.
We made the trek back north on Sunday, Nov. 15th, and arrived in Madison at about 3:30 Monday morning. I took a shower, threw on a shirt and tie, and got a ride to the airport, (thanks, Pat) from whence my plane departed at 6 for Hartford, CT. (I wear a tie and jacket when I fly, because I've found that I'm treated much better that way. Go figure.) While at Hartford, in sort of an excited haze of adventurous sleepiness, I met and had a lesson from a hero of mine, Robert Black. I also got to hang out with the bass studio there, and sit in on Professor Black's free improv class. Really inspiring! That evening, I hopped the bus to Boston.
I went to Boston to visit a dear friend of mine from back North, Derek. Derek's a bang-up violist--really probably the best musician I know (don't tell anyone) -- and spending time with him is always really great. While visiting, I got to sneak in to the MFA (thanks to Chris, whose student ID we found on the street), take in an amazing concert at NEC that celebrated Gunther Schuller's 85th birthday, visit a great (if a bit claustrophobic) used and rare bookstore, and see the aquarium. (In case you'd forgotten, sharks are terrifying.) Gunther Schuller's music is some of the greatest I've heard, and his level of talent and sense for detail are mindblowing. Here's a great interview with Schuller by Ethan Iverson. It's lengthy, and worth it.
Here's a video of me performing his Quartet for Double Basses at the Richard Davis Foundation Bass Conference this past April with some of my UW bass comrades (feel free to skip to 1:45 to get past my blithering at the beginning):
I flew back to Madison on Thursday, Nov. 18th, where I had to almost immediately run to the tech rehearsal for the UW Dance Faculty recital that was on Friday and Saturday. The Weather Duo made an original piece of music to accompany a piece for choreographer Li Chiao-Ping. This was a really exciting project for us--it's really amazing to work with a dance, trying to come up with material that is appropriate, but not distracting, interesting, but not busy. Li Chiao-Ping's piece was an amazing and complex display of interlocking and contrasting movements. The dancers were really impressive. Here's the Isthmus review of the Friday performance. It is very positive about Chiao-Ping's piece, which is exciting, and the Weather Duo even gets a flattering mention. ("Engrossing!" -Isthmus) It describes well the other pieces on the program also, which I was really happy to be able to see three times. Especially notable for me was "Here/So (12 lines)" by Bill Young. The piece covered a lot of ground, from humorous and sporadic dog-barking, to really moving and eerie interactions. Also great was Jin-Wen Yu's "March Into Sunlight," which featured not only great narrative choreography and nice use of projected visuals, but the music of Prof. Steve Dembski (played live by the Gramercy Trio) and the dancing of my great pal Kenny, who can be seen on my left in the video above!
Getting a preview of the holiday season, that weekend marked the start of rehearsals for A Wonderful Life, which is being put on by the Children's Theater of Madison this December. As much as I love avant-garde and challenging music and art, good old musical theater can be really refreshing sometimes. The music for A Wonderful Life is surprisingly fun and endearing, and the people involved are great. As one more artistic treat before embarking for Home, I contributing some bass tracks to a project of ambient guitarist Chris Bocast. The atmospheres he's creating with this project are really beautiful, and I can't wait to hear the finished album.
And this brings me back to where I started this post, in the blustery plains of rural Minnesota. It was really peaceful and centering to spend some time up in the white silence, with time to read and get a grasp on who I am. I spent 18 years of my life waiting to leave my home town, but whenever I go back, I feel like a sea turtle surfacing to fill my lungs with air for another plunge out into the real world. Sea turtles can stay underwater without breathing for like 10 hours--holy shit!
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