I was honored to be asked to celebrate Network for New Music’s 30th anniversary by composing, with 29 others, an exquisite corpse, along the lines of the literary parlor game of a whisper-down-the-lane story construction. Each of us had 48 hours last summer to write 6–8 bars of music, having only the last bar of the previous person’s effort to go by.
Jan Krzywicki administered everything, chose the order of composers at random (or so he claimed), and put the final score together for flute, cello, and piano. He also cobbled together 9-second videos we all sent in, each of us using just the last word from the previous submitter. The video and music orders were the same; none of us knew the order until the concert.
The performance was Sunday October 26th at the Settlement School on Queen Street, and has just been written up in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Daniel Webster.
Two aspects of the project delighted me. (1) Jan’s random choosing (or so he claimed) placed me immediately after my teacher, Maurice Wright (for the video, he stuck me with the word “dodecaphonically” or something or other [I just checked: dodecachotomies], which I had to practice saying over and over before I hit Record, and which makes me also believe that he paid off Jan for the ordering). (By the way, Maurice and I put our heads together at the reception afterward and agreed that our two musical offerings comprised the most inherently organic two-fer of the bunch, but we haven’t told anyone else, so it’s our secret. I think that means, yes, I’m sure that means, that I didn’t compose anything new.) Jan wondered if I had been inspired by the tango from Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale. I thought I had stolen something from Ravel.
It was funny to see how many of us (myself included) threw in a curveball at the end of our offering, but what was most lovely was (2) the very real sense of personality that came out of these snippets of music. It was astounding, actually, to see the names pop up on the screen and to hear the music. I smiled the entire time. The word I think I’m looking for is exquisite.
Thanks to Edward Schultz, Priscilla Lee, and Susan Nowicki, for their lovely and enthusiastic playing on flute, cello, and piano.
Jim Primosch would’ve won the video award, if there had been a video award, and if I had been in charge of awarding it. I have no idea what he said, as we were all laughing, but his full-face in camera, sunglassed, low-voiced hopping recitation called to my mind Gil Scott-Heron, Rod Serling, and the Unabomber.
Congratulations most of all to Linda Reichert, the engine and heart behind Network for New Music, on 30 years!
The suspects, on the roof of the Settlement Music School, Queen St., Philadelphia, from left to right:
Richard Brodhead, Daniel Dorff, Philip Maneval, James Primosch, Robert Capanna, Jennifer Barker, Van Stiefel, Maurice Wright, Jay Reise, Cynthia Folio, Jeremy Gill, Anna Weesner, Andrew Rudin, Robert Maggio, Ingrid Arauco, Evan Solot, Kile Smith, David Bennett Thomas, Roberto Pace, Tony Solitro, Adam Vidiksis, Gerald Levinson, Gene Coleman, Jan Krzywicki (who put the music and video together), Paul Epstein. Not pictured: Kyle Bartlett, Luke Carlson, Andrea Clearfield, Joo Won Park, David Shapiro, Augusta Read Thomas, Thomas Whitman.